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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
20 Aug 1991: Louw, Eugene
POM Minister I would like to maybe start off with a couple of general political questions or questions of perception. One is that there is conflict in SA about the nature of the conflict. You have in one corner those who say that the conflict is primarily racial, it is about the racial domination of blacks by the white minority and it is that which must be addressed. Then you have those who say it is not really that, it is really the competition between two nationalisms, white nationalism versus black nationalism. And then there are those who will say yes, there are indeed racial differences but within each racial groups there are ethnic difference and we must take those ethnic differences into account because if we don't do it now they pose the probability of conflict in the future.
From your point of view, what would be definition of the problem that you would give to the negotiators if they were all assembled here, sitting around a negotiating table, what is the problem they would have gathered to resolve?
EL I would say I think it is more complicated than being just a single issue between them. There are very definitely ethnic differences and cultural differences, there is no doubt about this. But there is a western culture and there is an African culture and there is a very wide difference between the two cultures. I think it is our task to try and bring the two cultures closer to each other, but there is also the history of politics in Africa, in the states of Africa, the one-party states, the cases where you have had rule by one party leaders. It is also now a matter of western civilisation which has been established over many decades in SA, the western system of living in SA where you are now basically witnessing a sort of an uprising among black people who have had differences with other political parties; they have different views. You have those who I think would like to co-operate to find a common solution within which all people could live happily and share government; then you have a very strong element of, let us say, extreme left politics, also a matter of communism involved in it, where people are basically searching for the solution within a revolution, there is no doubt about this and I think this is the basic difference between two major categories of people in SA.
POM Do you still feel that elements within the ANC are committed to a revolutionary solution of the problem rather than one through negotiations?
EL Yes, I am afraid the ANC to my mind has been busy with a large amount of double talk. On the one hand that they preach they want to negotiate and that they want to give negotiations a chance for future. On the other hand they place all sorts of obstacles on the road of negotiation. They preach a freedom of peace and on the other hand they cause violence. There is no doubt about the fact that they are very much involved in the violence. There is also no doubt about the fact that they have a very close connection with the South African Communist Party (SACP), it is also a fact that they have a very large percentage of well known communists within their ranks, in their National Executive Committee (NEC), and it is more or less common cause that they are very much involved in a lot of active violence. At least some of the people belonging to their party - you have got your uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK), you have got your communist element, you have got an extreme leftist element there, so among all those elements it is not always possible to find peace, I don't think it is an attainable goal to combine these people around a common aim and goal of peacefulness, and I think within their ranks, their own ranks, there are many different elements, very vast differences.
POM Do you think that the ANC is more or less controlled at the leadership level by the SACP?
EL Yes, there is a very strong element of communism involved there. They play a very important role.
POM Given the discredited way in which communism is now treated in almost all of the rest of the world, except in Cuba perhaps which still adheres strictly to it, what do you see the objectives of the SACP as being?
EL I think the SACP would like to bring about an uprising among the black people whom they could convert to their ideology. They probably find that the easiest way for them to get people together is to spread the gospel of communism, that is my summary of it. That is one possibility.
POM The gospel of communism now being what?
EL The gospel of communism.
POM Now being?
EL No, no, no, the gospel of communism being prolonged and applied to SA?
POM Yes, but what do you think they mean now by the gospel of communism?
EL The ideology of communism. I think it is easier to convey to people - look here you are labourers, you have nothing, you are not part and parcel of the capitalistic system. For you to gain control over SA it is necessary for all to get together and nationalise everything and take over the western civilisation and replace it by the communist ideology. What has died in Russia has now, over the past 24 hours, probably been given a second lease on life in SA. I think they would like to revive and instil communism in the SA set up. That is the goal of the SACP. But they do not have too many members; they have about 15,000 members. They probably would have had more members if it had not been for most of the people they would like to get as their true followers being members of the ANC. You have this dual system between of them. I don't think all the black people are too keen to join both bodies simultaneously, the ANC on the one hand and the SACP on the other hand.
POM Do you see the SACP manipulating the ANC, putting obstacles in the way of negotiations so as to bring about this, while on this other hand they try to nurture and bring about this revolutionary uprising?
EL Yes, I think within the midst of the ANC there is a very strong element of people who would really like to bring about a peaceful solution. But also within the ANC, and these people are mostly siding towards the communist side, there is also the element striving for exactly the opposite. But this is the two opposite feuding sections within one big larger organisation and I don't think the ANC could hold all these varying, differing, opposing pieces and parties together within one bag. That is why there is a lot of difference and there has also been a lot of change within the compilation of the Executive Committee. Within the same set you also have the MK, let me say their army, and it is a violence provoked, inspired army. You also have that element. So within the organisation you have clashing opposites, peace searching and violence searching.
POM So you would talk of the ANC having a double agenda: on the one hand sitting at the negotiating table and on the other hand elements within it fostering violence and a revolutionary uprising?
EL Yes there are definitely elements, I think, fostering revolution or a revolutionary solution, or a threat that if we cannot come up with an agreement they will resort to a revolution. On the other hand within the same organisation you have the strong element, I think, who would really be prepared to sit around a table and discuss a common solution around the central point of peace.
POM I want to, in a way, parallel that with Inkathagate. The ANC, as you probably know, take the revelations around Inkatha, the funding of Inkatha, and some of the other allegations made by former members of the security forces as proof positive that the government has been pursuing a double agenda all along: on the one hand the olive branch of negotiations and on the other hand the use of violence or the orchestration of violence in the townships to undermine the ANC. What is your reaction to that at two levels?
EL What I think the ANC have reached, and this is my own view on this matter, this is not official policy, my own view is that the ANC, when they reorganised under Mr. Mandela, they probably had in mind what would be the quickest way for blacks to take over the rule and government of the country. And I think they probably came to the conclusion and said for us to take over, we are not strong enough; it is important for us to obtain control over the biggest and largest black population in SA, this would be the Zulus. And for them to do that it was necessary to either come to an agreement with Inkatha, with the Zulu people under Dr. Buthelezi, or otherwise if they could not succeed in joining forces with Inkatha then they should, by means of intimidation, see whether they could gain control over Inkatha, or over the Zulu people rather, because Inkatha is a strong cultural body. That has, to my mind, been the reason why there have been so many clashes between the ANC and the Inkatha, between the Xhosa speaking people and the Zulu speaking people. I am now referring to a period commencing about two years ago. There were very, very, very bloody clashes, and I think the ANC made headway, they made progress with their propaganda among the younger generation of the Zulus, especially those living in the more urban areas, whereas Inkatha has or had a very strong hold over especially the elderly people and those living in the rural areas.
This led to fierce fighting between the two sections and as a result thereof Inkatha just decided that they are not going to allow themselves to be taken over by a new force, by the Xhosas, and that has been the cause of many, many points of friction and of fighting and of feudal fighting and faction fighting between the Zulus and the Xhosas. That is why you find that the Zulus went back with Inkatha and they tackled the Xhosas in their hostels and vice versa. I think that has been one of the main causes of difference between the two sections.
POM What about the allegations of elements within the security forces helping Inkatha or directly orchestrating some of the violence itself?
EL I think the security forces have been very much involved in bringing about peace, that is point number one. Point number two, I think the security forces have probably had many negotiations with Dr. Buthelezi as a result of themselves being attacked by ANC elements; that individual elements within the security forces really went along to try and do something beyond their authority is quite possible. In fact I think the government in the process has picked up a few of these people, but they (the government) have also been very, very clearly outspoken about this: namely that we must not abuse power in this country, you must not abuse your military and your police forces; you must use them to maintain and bring about peace and order in the country. There is no doubt about the fact that the government has had a much closer collaboration with Inkatha than it had with the various elements of the ANC, and the simple reason being that Inkatha has been striving towards the same goal as the government has been doing; one of getting together and talking peace, whereas the ANC has not always been clear on this fact.
POM What has been the political fallout of Inkathagate? Who do you think have been the political winners, who are the political losers?
EL It is a pity it has happened. It is something we did not want to happen, especially now at this stage. It is a pity this took place, I was not aware of any funding taking place, I would not have been aware of any funding taking place. But I fully believe the funding that has taken place, as was made known by Minister Vlok, was to the very best benefit of what was thought beneficial towards attaining a peaceful solution. They were people working together with the government, they were people having the same goals, but they were also people very much concerned about their own independence. You won't just take Dr. Buthelezi for a ride, he is a very independent person, and a very original thinker too. But we found common ground with regard to the future, a common future of SA and in the process, it is quite feasible that the two got together and decided, OK let us help each other and work together. It is not something the government would like to do or persist with, certainly not. It has been made very clear by the President in this connection.
POM In the larger political sense, as political entities jostle for positions, was the government the loser, was Buthelezi, or was the ANC the winner?
EL It suited the ANC because they could show there was a co-operation, a very close co-operation between the government and Inkatha.
Well naturally the ANC people enjoyed what happened because it suited them well, but as far as the government is concerned, it was a nasty knock because personally we think that the whole thing has been exaggerated tremendously, and it is still being used in an endeavour to prove that it was not only a small amount of R250,000 involved, and that it was probably many millions involved, which is certainly not the case. I think both parties could not feel happy about it because it does not leave a good mark or reflection.
POM When you say both parties, you mean Inkatha and ?
EL I don't mean political parties, both sides, Inkatha and the government. It did leave a political mark as if there is a very, very secret collusion between two, involving lots of money, which is not the case.
POM Do you think that will prove to be damaging to Buthelezi's standing in the larger black communities?
EL I think for the time being it probably has a very temporary effect. But I don't think on the long term, I certainly do not think that will be the case.
POM Some people have said that the more significant revelation was the admission that the government had funded some of the opposition parties in Namibia after it had signed an agreement with the United Nations (UN) that it would be the party that conducted the elections, they were charged with the responsibility for conducting the elections. It is hard to be the referee of an election and also be a player by helping one side.
EL Yes but the government naturally was not the referee in the election, that was entirely refereed by the UN.
POM But they were monitoring it?
EL They were certainly monitoring it because we were well aware of many irregularities taking place. There was a lot of intimidation taking place and people were threatened that if they did not vote for A or B or C, your life would be taken. People were also told that no voting was secret, we will know what is taking place there, so that became a bit of problem there. And the government certainly supported anything which was anti-SWAPO, there is no doubt about that. They were quite open about it.
POM Some have argued that this has made the case more for an interim government. This might sound like a funny question, but I think I know the answer, nevertheless do you see any circumstances in which this government would resign, cede its sovereignty and become part of a broader interim, all-party government?
EL I don't think the request on interim government by Mr. Mandela carries much weight and the State President has referred to a transitional arrangement, or a transitional government arrangement which could be discussed, which could be thought of. But there is also the other aspect in this respect, in that this government got a mandate from at least the white electorate and to a certain extent also from the Asian electorate and the brown electorate and they have got to go back to them too for a changed mandate, there is no doubt about this.
POM I would like to move the subject, because I know you are rushed for time a bit, thank you for giving me the extra 15 minutes.
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and their involvement in the question of repatriating the exiles, this seems to be, I won't say an historic, but certainly a very significant agreement entered into by the government and the UN. Why was it necessary to have this? I know it involved the ceding of general amnesty for political prisoners, at least that is my understanding. Why was it necessary to go this route, one, and two, does not the involvement of the UN in this capacity perhaps open the door for the involvement of the UN in other aspects of the transition later on?
EL It has been a major stumbling block for a long time. I, in my department, we deal with the repatriation of the returnees so we are very much involved in this.
I have also been supporting the involvement of the UNHCR for a number of reasons. Firstly the High Commissioner has a record of about 60 to 70 years, a very good record indeed. Secondly, he has always been operating in an atmosphere excluding politics, he has been acting in a professional capacity. Thirdly he has got the experience. Fourthly he has got the recognition by the world in the things he does. If he would do a thing and we would do a thing, the world could very easily interpret our deeds differently as they would interpret his actions. Fifthly, they are prepared to pump in a lot of money to assist the returnees. The sixth point is they are prepared to take responsibility as to who will be allowed to come to SA.
Now I must clarify this, they won't have the only say in that. We would also check to see whether those who do come back are people who have roots in SA, they must have a connection, be a SA citizen or an ex-SA citizen. But there are difficult cases where an ex-SA citizen has in the meantime married someone from Africa and they have children, the delicate things to sort out. There is also the situation regarding the health, the condition of health of these returnees too, where he could also become involved and play a major role, or a more important role. What is very important to me is that when you deal with different parties and different political outlooks, if things do not run exactly his or their way, they so easily transfer all the blame to a government.
In this particular case if we can get the High Commissioner to act independently and to take decisions, it is going to be very difficult for political parties to point fingers to such a High Commissioner and to his actions. In other words he should be acceptable. In the process it is very important that there must be a good understanding between the government and between him. There can only be one government. He cannot take over government functions, and he cannot exceed his powers and exceed his authority. So he must have a complete understanding as to what his area of jurisdiction is, and this has caused a long session of many rounds of talks; and that, especially in our country, where there are so many different political views, we have to make sure that his involvement, that his presence, is not interpreted as if he was now becoming involved in the political running of the country's affairs.
POM But nevertheless it does represent the involvement of the UN in a matter that is internal to the country, so that could create a precedent.
EL I don't think so. It does cause a precedent but at least the UN is supposed to be a fair body which is there to look after the interests of all peoples, no matter whether they are to the left or the right hand side. But in addition to that, it is the ideal individual, an independent person, with authority whom you could bring into the country, and whose actions and decisions and involvement should be acceptable to all the people. That is the important thing.
POM What I am getting at is -
EL The other point is this, that we have to lay down general rules with regard to who will be acceptable and who will not be acceptable. That is where this whole matter of amnesty or general amnesty comes into the picture. This is not something that has been drawn by the High Commissioner. It is something which has been in a set of rules, draft rules been drawn by our government and we had to agree on these drawn up rules, and that took a long time. It took a long time to get agreement on this.
POM But the draft rules between you and the UN are different from the draft qualifications that came under the indemnity programme?
EL Yes, it could be different.
POM Are the exiles required to apply for indemnity?
POM They still have to do that?
EL It is not necessary for them to apply but if they themselves are afraid that they could be arrested on criminal offences which they are keeping secret then it is better for them to come clear, to disclose it and to say this is where I was involved, and do I qualify in terms of the amnesty granted? If it is of a political nature, and there was a long debate on what is an offence of a political nature, then he certainly has the right to apply. But if it is just murder, rape or armed robbery, then it is something completely different and a long debate has taken place on this matter where some people wanted an entire, unqualified general amnesty, not only general political amnesty. It took a long time to sort out those elements.
POM I suppose what I am getting at is that if this works out successfully in terms of the UN involvement being very productive and things work smoothly and well, could it open the way perhaps to the UN being involved in other specific tasks?
EL I don't think so. Not at all. This is something completely loose standing. It is something in which they offered their assistance. Naturally they only get involved upon invitation, but they offered their assistance and said that if they were invited to participate, they would pay favourable consideration to it.
POM And you invited them to participate?
EL Yes, naturally. I think they indicated to us that if they are invited they would consider it. It was something completely new to us and it took a long time to sort out an agreement acceptable to both parties. The agreement we reached with them was more or less based on their standard agreement but they had to make a number of amendments relevant to the SA situation.
POM Power sharing?
EL They are also saying in this connection, and this is quite important, we also had another problem. The ANC has been quite heavily involved in endeavouring to bring back the returnees. Their organisations and their entry stations are rather hopeless, in fact very poor.
But you also have PAC members who are not always too happy with the ANC's organisational abilities. You have a large number of people coming back, and we experience requests very often here in my office, who would like to come back to SA, who fled from SA for whatever reason, who left SA for whatever reason, but would not like to do so under the auspices of the ANC. This has also been a very delicate point. In other words, for the time being the ANC has been trying to organise the whole thing, but many people either came on their own, funded by themselves, or obtained different sources of funding, or they applied to us and approached us with regard to methods to facilitate them in obtaining the documentation to gain access to SA and obtain the necessary funding, but they would not want to do this under the ANC because they would not want to be under the wing of the ANC after having arrived.
POM How many people are we talking about altogether?
EL We have been guessing this between 10,000 and 100,000 but lately the guess has varied between 10,000 to 40,000 but my guess is 20,000. It is everybody's guess, nobody knows.
POM The last two questions, then I have to go.
When the State President talks about power sharing, what is the understanding in the NP and the government as to what power sharing means? Does it mean that in whatever future political dispensation is drawn up the NP would continue to exercise executive authority?
EL No, it would mean that the people of SA would be governed by representation from all the people of SA in such a manner that the major groups, the bigger groups do not dominate the smaller groups. That is basically what it is about.
POM Let us say you have a parliament elected by proportional representation, and let us say that in that parliament the ANC has a majority, therefore the ANC is capable of forming a government on its own. Would that be contrary to what the government means by power sharing?
EL The ANC will never as such form a majority because all the ANC members together, they may be the biggest party participating, but they will certainly not be the majority, because if you take all the people and all the ethnic groups and all the parties, and the whole lot together, you will find that the biggest group could probably only be 20% - 30% of the whole population. So that is what makes the SA situation so delicate, so different from other people. We do not have an overall majority, you'll have a majority party but not an overall majority.
POM You have a party that has a plurality of the -
EL Yes, which would probably lead to a number of groupings like coalitions on a co-operation basis.
POM But you would not see a situation where, as part of a formal arrangement, arising out of negotiations, the NP still having an executive role in the government itself, but would still have control over a certain number of departments.
EL I cannot see them having or taking the controlling position, that I very much doubt, unless there are so many groups who are naturally there who could form a coalition. Let us say, for argument's sake, that the NP and Inkatha and let us say the coloured people and the Indians get together, there may be a complete regrouping of them, but within a new national regrouping still to come, the NP as it is today will probably be too small to have sole authority in an executive capacity.
POM No, on a sharing - ?
EL Yes, it would have to be on a shared basis.
POM What I mean is that you and I are negotiators and we have agreed on proportional representation, I representing the government will say, my position is that we must continue to share power. Therefore let us say you were elected, even with a majority, I want to share the government, maybe out of twenty portfolios I want three, I want some control over just a number of departments and I want that to be part of the formal agreement we reach before hand, because I want to make sure that our interests are looked after by the highest authority. Do you think the government would take that kind of position?
EL Yes, arrangements to that effect could take place.
POM Going back for a moment to the change between this time last year and today. I was here last July and August and at Christmas. There has been a big change in the climate that I have noticed up to the Pretoria Minutes and since the Pretoria Minutes. There seemed to be a lot of hope the first seven months after Mr. Mandela and the ANC unbanned; progress seemed to be coming rather quickly, the spirit of goodwill was there. A lot of that has gone.
EL I don't think it has gone. If I can refer to the feeling of the people I would say that people are more optimistic than they were with regard to the possibility of finding a future solution to the political problems. But the people are more concerned than they were before as a result of aspects such as violence. People have been encouraged by the fact that sanctions are slowly crumbling and that even the sports bans are crumbling and the cultural bans are crumbling, and that the whole world is now prepared to listen to us and even prepared to trade with us, and these have been the encouraging factors.
The dis-encouraging factor has been the persistence of violence which is taking place. People are not very happy about this aspect at all. It is a worrying aspect.
POM Is this the nature of fear that your constituents express to you?
EL Yes, among the people overall. Not only my constituents, also those who are not my constituents. They are concerned about the increasing amount of violence. We had a good example on the extreme right; this has shocked people. People are used to violence on the extreme left. But the violence on the extreme right has shocked people, and now you have got it on the extreme left and the extreme right. It has also shocked people within the rightist element, it has also shocked a number of members of the Conservative Party (CP). What I have now come across, and it is very interesting, is that we have this attitude among old members of the old United Party and the present DP, and they know that their party has got no future.
POM Which party?
EL The DP. They know that party has got no future as a party as such. And we have experiences that many of those DP followers have been either joining the NP or some of them have been joining the CP, especially those who have come from African countries such as Zambia and Zimbabwe and so on where people have had experience with black people. Unfortunately they have become very anti-black and have been joining the CP. Now, I do find that many of those people who are still in doubt, they have been opposing the NP all their lives and their forefathers have been opposing the NP, they sort of agreed with the line taken by the NP but still did not have the heart to join as a party member. They now, in my constituencies, changed their minds and say, now look here I shall never agree with the violence on the extreme left but I have seen the TV with regard to the violence on the extreme right which can never meet with my approval, and I am now joining the middle of the road party. The middle of the road party is a coalition to be formed by the NP and the other middle of the road thinkers.
POM Do you think the CP has been equivocal in its condemnation of the violence that they are engaging in at the same time.
EL They have also been playing a double role. They have never been really explicit with regard to really condemning the AWB. They have sort of been saying you know, always talking in double interpretations of what they say, because naturally when they vote, they vote together. They would not like to lose votes in this situation. But now for the very first time ever Dr Treurnicht has come out with a very straight statement when he says he can certainly never support the idea of people attending a public political meeting fully armed. He has had a lot of criticism from within his own midst against what he said there. But this has been the case and I think as a result of Ventersdorp I think Dr Treurnicht's party has also lost a bit of face because these two have been working in close collaboration. They have been denying this but they have been working in very close collaboration.
POM I sometimes make an analogy between the Protestants in Northern Ireland (NI) and the Afrikaner -
EL We do so, but not to a very large extent, but we are well aware of it.
POM The analogy I was going to give was that Protestant paramilitary organisations in NI never got anywhere because the Protestants see themselves as law abiding and they see the police as their police, which is 95% Protestant, so they would see attack on the police as being an attack on their community. It conflicts with their basic conception of who they think they are and what they believe in. Do you think the same kind of thing goes for Afrikaners, that the Afrikaner is a law and order person, that the police are their police and when they see attacks on the police it disquiets them?
EL Yes. This has always been the case but that has now received a few dents over the past few months as a result of police and military involvement which concerns a number of individuals who were almost applying an extreme rightist policy within their units without the knowledge of the people concerned and the people in charge of the force. I think we have tried to cut out this element. I think this is taking place. But the Afrikaner has always adored any person from the point of view of a Christian attitude but now, unfortunately, it goes a bit further. It is now a matter of stern violence and with stern violence, when your life or your property is threatened, you will naturally take a more outspoken attitude.
POM I have also heard the argument made, in fact even last night on television, that in Northern Ireland the IRA holds the whole country in a state of military siege, that there are a large number of British troops, divisions within the security forces, it is a very militarised place. Security is the biggest employer by far, and they are able to bring this about with only perhaps a few hundred activists at most. The point would be that it does not take very much to bring segments of society to a halt, or to undermine the way people live.
EL We cannot allow that in this country. Our latest history is tending to look in that direction and we can't allow this. We just cannot allow it. I think the moment we can get the people together at an all-party conference, when people start talking, when people start negotiating, there will be bigger understanding, a bigger will and desire to put into place a system of government representative of all the people and allowing each and everybody a chance to democratically live here and be happy. That is the only solution.
POM What do you see as the biggest obstacles at this point to this whole process?
EL I think the biggest obstacle is the fact that the ANC is not sure that they can get an overall majority, whereas they would very much have wanted to enter the negotiation table in a more powerful position, with a more powerful base. If the other parties will not yield to their requests they cannot now say they represent the biggest mass of people in SA. I think that is one of their greatest disadvantages at the moment.
POM One of their greatest disadvantages?
EL Yes, they cannot go to the negotiating table and say that we are representing the majority of people in SA which they had hoped to do, but they failed dismally.
POM Thank you for the extra time that you have given me.