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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

22 Aug 1991: Molefe, Popo

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POM     I am talking to Popo Molefe on the 22nd August 1991. You mentioned the Soviet Union and that might be as good as starting point as any. The ANC was noteworthy for the fact that it never issued a statement either on behalf of Gorbachev or for the coup, whereas most other democracies around the world were very firmly coming in favour of Gorbachev and that the constitutional process would used to if he were to be removed from power. There were pictures of 20 000 or 30 000 people throwing themselves at tanks at the Russian parliament, and some of the finest examples of mass mobilisation that you could see, yet the ANC was silent. Why was that so?

PM     Well I am not certain if the ANC was silent, I was not in the office in the last few days. It may well be that it said something but it did not receive as much prominence as what other people might have said, but I am not sure, as I said. They might well have not said anything.

POM     We have been following events pretty closely and they in fact did not say anything.

PAT     Basically what they said was that they were not ready to make a statement yet. That was what was covered in the news here anyway.

PM     No, but you see Viljoen was not challenging us to give an analysis of the situation in the Soviet Union. He was using the development in the Soviet Union to attack the alliance between the ANC and the SACP. I think the substance of his statement was that the ANC should say what is its position is now with the SACP. As I understood it, that was the substance of his statement. And, I think the ANC has dealt with that issue again and again. I don't think it was compelled to respond to that one.

POM     Do you think that considering the number of times that the question of that relationship has come up in conversations that we have had with people who did not bring it up before, people were saying that this relationship will have to clarified and they put a question mark over their support of the ANC, and yesterday, I know a number of people we talked to, who were members of the ANC, were uneasy with the fact that the ANC had said nothing about the coup.

PM     Maybe it was a miscalculation on the part of the ANC because we did not consider it an urgent issue for the ANC to deal with. We did touch on it in our meeting with the National Working Committee, and we felt that if the need arose, if we were approached by the media to comment we would comment. But, I don't know, I don't want to accept that the ANC has not done anything. I will only find out today when I get to the office.

     But in any event, certainly the ANC is a democratic organisation, it would not countenance the overthrow of a legitimate government of any country, including the Soviet Union by violent means, by means of a coup or by illegitimate means as has happened in the Soviet Union. What is quite clear is that Gorbachev had not maintained himself in power through violence. It is as a result of the popular acceptance of his reformist approach that had rallied the majority of the people of the Soviet Union behind him. Therefore, it was completely wrong for the elements in his government to have sought to overthrow him in the manner that they have done. And apart from that, I don't think that was in keeping with the modern global development. It is quite clear that for the economy of the Soviet Union to survive, it requires a lot of loosening up by way of, according to the Soviet people, greater democratic rights, the observance of human rights, greater openness in terms of what is happening in the world and within the Soviet Union.

POM     Since we last talked in December, there has been all this outbreak of violence in Alexandra. What happened that it had survived the early winter and then the roof fell in?

PM     The information we had from the beginning was that there was a definite plan between the IFP warlords and elements which are promoting this violence in the township. These elements are connected to the security forces. The plan, as was conceived, was to destablise Alexandra, to create a situation of a takeover by the IFP. That did not happen in March, many people were killed, but that did not happen for the simple reason that the people of Alexandra were united and secondly that for the IFP to take control of Alexandra it would have had to have significant support. It does not have that following in Alexandra township. Even after it had unleashed the violence in March, it could only have plus/minus 100 people located mainly within the hostel.

     The fact that violence had failed in March did not mean that they had suddenly changed their plans or abandoned their plans. We then got reports that before this other violence started recently, I can no longer remember the date, that there had been a meeting at the Denver hostel attended by a delegation of some people from the Alexandra hostel who are attached to the IFP and a warlord in Denver. At that meeting, the delegation asked the warlord to send a unit of highly trained people to have them in the attack in Alexandra township. I can't remember the date. Clearly therefore, they were still pursuing this objective of destabilising Alexandra and establishing a stronghold for the IFP. Of course before this second violence took place, it was preceded by a demonstration in the streets of Alexandra by a group of IFP supporters and members who did not come from Alexandra, most of whom came from outside of Alexandra. They had come there ostensibly to clean the township. But what was quite clear was that no effort was made to clean the township. They were carrying spears, marching in the streets throwing stones at the residents, quite clearly the purpose was to provoke a reaction from the community. It would seem therefore, that the so-called cleaning campaign was intended to precede the oncoming violence that was planned. If serious violence had occurred that day, then they would have said "You know we went into the township, we wanted to clean and ANC supporters attacked us, that is why there is violence in the township", but that did not happen, people were disciplined. There were sporadic incidences of course. But overall people behaved in a most disciplined way and therefore that violence was defused on that day. They subsequently, therefore, sent this unit of trained men to go and attack the people in the township.

     I must say that we have had evidence that this group of people who came to attack the township dwellers were carried in police Caspirs. I have had a meeting with the police, I gave the registration numbers of the vehicles which are alleged to have carried the attackers. The police dismissed it out of hand. The first point they made was that as far as they were concerned those vehicles had not been in Alexandra township at that time. Later on they came back to say, "Well, we do not have vehicles with the registration numbers such as you have given to us". Now clearly one wonders what is the correct story. Is the correct story that they have such vehicles but they were not in Alex at that time, or is the story that they simply do not have vehicles with those registration numbers? Even if there were no vehicles with those registration numbers, it would not be sufficient to dismiss evidence of police involvement. It would have required an intensive investigation into the matter. We have in SA a tradition of police using false registration numbers. Most of the vehicles that they use do not have proper registration numbers. Even if you identify a vehicle, unless you are able to identify the driver or the occupants without the assistance of the police, there is no way in which you could arrive at the truth.

POM     I want to relate that to the larger question of the year long violence in the townships and relate that to a third thing which is the nature of the problem itself. When the negotiators finally sit around the table, they will all be there with their own conception of what the problem is that they are there to resolve and we would hope that they can arrive as some broad agreement between themselves as to what the problem is. You have those who say the problem is racial, the problem is white domination, white minority domination of the black people, those who say the problem is really between competing nationalisms, white nationalism and black nationalism in a broad sense, those who say, yes indeed racial dominance is a factor, but that within each racial group you have ethnic differences, potentially severe ethnic differences and future government arrangements must take those into account if it wants to avoid the possibility of conflict in the future. There are those who say, yes all that might be true, but the real problem is the lack of access of the majority to resources, huge imbalances and a social uneconomic structure. If you were asked to say what the problem is, what you would say?

PM     I think the separation that people are trying to make of these problems, these questions is very artificial. I think the fundamental problem at the core of the SA problem, is the question of white domination which is foisted upon our people by colonialism, the system of colonialism. Now lack of access of the majority of South Africans, in particular the black people, to the resources of this country is as a result of a vast arsenal of laws which are racist in nature, which were produced by the colonialists, which were used to deliberately prevent the black people from gaining access to the resources of the country, stunted their educational development, prevented them from participating in the political life of the country. If you look at the sort of education we have been given, it was one designed to prevent us from acquiring the sort of skills which would enable us to compete equally with whites in the economy of our country. The upward mobility of the black persona was deliberately suppressed in all spheres of life, if you like.

     Now, within that you then had the white South Africans emerging as a nation united, and if you look at the black people on the other side, in 1912 responded by uniting all African people to fight for their rights when we formed the ANC. But they then in 1960 banned the ANC and introduced the policy of separate development which divided, which sought to undo the work that the ANC had done. They then divided black people into a number of ethnic groups, Zulus, Xhosas, Tswanas, Sothos, Pedis, Vendas, Tsongas, Swazis, you name them, into all those groups in order that they should be able to govern them easily, so that people should not unite in demanding their rights. They went further, of course, to divide the Coloureds, Indians, set up a special organisation system for the Coloureds. You would recall that in 1964 they set up a Coloured Peoples Representative Council and in 1968 they established the SA Indian Council. When these structures failed, in 1983 they introduced a constitution in which the Coloureds and Indians would be represented as separate entities.

POM     So am I correct in saying that the ANC's position on the ethnic question is that such ethnic differences that do exist have been artificially created by the state?

PM     Imputing political status to ethnic differences would be artificial and that is what the government did. Let me say political status to ethnic differences is artificial in the context of our country, and that is what the SA government has done. I am sure the white people belong to different ethnic groups. You have the Italians, the Chinese, the Germans, the French, the English and all sorts of groupings. They have been able to live together as one cultural group but they have sought to prevent the Africans of that right. So that once we recognise ethnic differences in terms of language, the culture, religion to some extent, we would not elevate those differences to political status, we will not give them the status of political differences which would require them to get separate political representation in a legal system as ethnic groups.

POM     Many people would say that if you look at the rest of Africa, ethnic conflicts in post-independence eras have been endemic in one country after another, so why should the same thing not happen in SA. What is in SA that would prevent it going that course?

PM     Well, certainly that problem might arise. But what would prevent SA going that course would be for instance, the creation of a political constitution that would take into account the differences that might exist. In Nigeria I am not aware of a serious problems notwithstanding.

POM     But there were those when they broke away and formed Biafra.

PM     Yes, but you see in a period of transition that is what happens, I mean if you look at how political formations developed, for instance, even in Angola itself, you would find that initially they take ethnic lines. That is where consciousness begins and as they begin to understand the greater questions, tasks facing them, they then look at ways of uniting all the forces to address the issue. You look at Mozambique, they have never had that problem, I cannot recall, in its history. In fact it has been the best example of unity of multifarious groups representing a whole lot of small tribes and so on. I don't think we should now try to bring to the fore the issue of ethnicity in SA and use that to try and explain why SA should not appoint a real democratic constitution. Let us look at Namibia, don't they have a whole of ethnic groups there?

POM     But one group is dominant so the other groups are not a threat to them.

PM     No, one group is obviously in the majority, the Ovambos. But you don't have a situation where the Ovambos are treated preferentially because they are the Ovambos. The constitution seeks to protect everybody.

POM     OK, what I am getting is that should there be a recognition that the possibility for such conflict exists and therefore steps should be taken in the governments arrangements now in the constitution to make sure that it does not come about?

PM     Yes certainly in our movement towards our effort to produce a democratic constitution all possible flash points of conflict would be considered. Potential causes of conflict would be taken into account. Arrangements would be made in the constitution and in terms of the way in which power is devolved to enable people to prevent that sort of a conflict. We would do so. At the moment of course, we are saying that a Bill of Rights would sufficiently protect us against that. But we are obviously prepared for other options if other people feel that our Bill of Rights does not address the issue fundamentally. But you see, in the history of SA we really have never had a problem of ethnicity, it is now emerging after the release of Nelson Mandela because the government is trying to use that to justify constitutional proposals that it has deposited in the past which have been supported by Margaret Thatcher and others, one which sought to create built-in mechanisms in the constitution for minority representation in government, but of course their minority is defined in terms of race, in this regard. If you look at our history we have never had that problem. We don't have a history of ethnic organisations here. Our organisations have always been national organisations with a much broader participation by South Africans of all races. That has only emerged now. And now we know that the IFP has in fact been born in the incubator of the NIS and the security police, it was created by them. That is why they have constantly pushed as a Zulu movement.

POM     If you talk to many Zulus, we have talked to many ordinary Zulus here and some in Durban, many will talk in terms of that they see the violence going on between supporters of the ANC and Inkatha as being an attack on them as Zulus outside the Transvaal. They see it as being an attack by what they would see as the ANC dominated Xhosas trying to establish a one party state and subjugate them as Zulus. Now, this may not be true but they have this perception and they operate out of this fear. Where do they get the fear from and must you not address that in some way?

PM     I want to know where you went to, where outside Transvaal because you go into Natal, those are just Zulus in Natal. You have got Zulus leading the ANC and other Zulus leading Inkatha, they are fighting among themselves. So how do you explain that sort of a situation in Natal. You go to southern Natal, the whole of that area is ANC, Natal Midlands, Ladysmith, Pietermaritzburg etc., is ANC. The contested area is in northern Natal, very rural. But again there the ANC cannot operate because of the violence that is meted out against the activists there. Now, you are talking about the Zulus, I have had just the other day, on Monday, I had Zulus who are organising farmers. They come to the ANC office as Zulus, they want the ANC to help them to organise other Zulus, who are farmers, into the ANC. Now, it may be true that some people amongst the Zulu speaking South Africans would see this as an ANC/Inkatha thing, but it is so that is what the SA television says to them, that is what the newspapers say to them, that is what Gatsha Buthelezi says to them. He says that the ANC is an organisation of the Xhosas, they are fighting the Zulus. I am not a Xhosa, I am in the NEC of the ANC, I speak Tswana. Terror Lekota is a Mosotho, Ibrahim is Indian, Joe Modise is Sotho, John Nkadimeng is Pedi, Northern Sotho, Cyril Ramaphosa is not a Xhosa, he comes from Northern Transvaal he is a Venda, Joel, Sydney Mufamadi, we have a whole lot of these people who are not Zulus. It is true that the President and his deputy are Xhosas, but that does not make the ANC an organisation for the Xhosas. It is in the interest of the government and Buthelezi to project the ANC as such in order to justify organising people around tribal life.

POM     All of last year, the ANC first said Inkatha was involved in the violence and then there was the third force and then by Christmas you had moved on to say it was elements within the government. And then post Christmas Mr. Mandela openly accused the government of having a double agenda, of trying to undermine the ANC on the one hand and holding out the olive branch of negotiations on the other. Did you regard the revelations about Inkathagate as being irrefutable proof that the government had in fact been involved in this double agenda, that they had in fact been involved in the orchestration of and participation in violence?

PM     Yes. We regard it as proof of that involvement by the government. We are dealing with a government that has always believed that it was under total onslaught which is communist inspired. In 1977, it elaborated a strategy to counter what they called the total onslaught against them. In the 1980s, they went further to create a vast network of counter insurgency units in the townships, villages and everywhere. They used all those structures to undermine the influence of the ANC and the organisations that agreed, that shared a vision of a new SA with the ANC. The strategy included the elimination of key activists within the ANC and other formations. From 1985 coming this way, several members of the ANC, UDF, student congresses, youth congresses which supported the ANC disappeared without trace. And in the evidence that has come before the courts and before the commissioners, it has been shown that they disappeared because the killer squads formed by the government under the guidance of its State Security Council were responsible for that violence. Now, the President of the country, President de Klerk sits at that State Security Council, so does the Minister of Defence, the Minister of Law and Order, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, I am not sure about the Finance Minister, he might well be sitting there as well. They also have a number of top army generals, the Chief of the Defence would also sit there, the Chief of Intelligence and Chief of Security Police. Now, that is where all of these plans are hatched, the overall strategy developed. They agree that this is who they are going to deal with, the forces of liberation or revolution as they call it. That did not end on February 2, when de Klerk announced the unbanning of the ANC and the release of its leaders. If anything, they continued to plan as to how they were going to deal with the ANC once it was inside the country.

PM     The training of Inkatha, this is a point I made earlier on when I spoke to you, Patrick, last year, or was it early this year, sometime this year, that the training of these people in places like Caprivi, in the Northern Natal and in Phalaborwa, the training of the IFP warlords was a part of the preparation to deal with the ANC once it was inside the country. But obviously they are doing it in a manner that at the political level, the government should appear as simply focusing on negotiations, but at another level, the military and the police, the security forces, are then implementing this strategy to weaken the ANC. You had said earlier on, that in the meeting that involved Dr. Gerrit Viljoen and Herman Cohen of the USA, they expressed the deep concern about the growing popularity of the ANC, the fact the ANC was winning over traditional allies of the government such as the homeland leaders, the leaders in the black local government and so on and they wanted a way of undermining that process. Of course, in that meeting it is not clear exactly how they sought to do it. But what was quite clear was that the government, notwithstanding the fact that it wants a democratic transition, a new constitution, it did not want the ANC to emerge as the most powerful in this situation. We are suggesting to you, therefore, that the government is part of this violence that is taking place.

PM     But part of it is this, de Klerk appoints a commission, the Harms Commission and he says to these fellows, the army, give to the commission all the documents which show your activities, all the evidence that they can use to make a finding. The top chaps in the army simply refused to give the files to the commission and nothing happens to them. Ordinarily one would have taken them, put them on trial and sent them to jail and fired them from the army.

POM     What I am getting at Popo is that I am trying to distinguish between de Klerk, on the one hand, the government and the NIS apparatus. Do you think de Klerk was aware that he was part of a plan to undermine the ANC? Do you think he was aware of it and did not try to stop it?

PM     I think he was aware.

POM     This changes the situation rather radically from what it was on February 2nd and a month thereafter where there appeared to be a certain amount of genuine openness on the part of the government?

PM     I have said to you, when I spoke to you some months ago, that I disagreed with my President at the time he was the deputy President of the ANC when he said that de Klerk is a man of integrity, he would not do this, he would not do that, he is an honest man and so on. I don't agree with that sort of an approach. I think de Klerk remains our adversary just as much as he has always been. What has changed are the conditions in the country which are compelling him to approach the situation differently, to negotiate. But central to this negotiation is still the quest for power. He still wants to retain power for the NP as a party. He still wants it to call the shots. And to that extent therefore, he would still use the vast resources that his government put in place to prevent the ANC from taking power. For them preventing the ANC from becoming the most dominant force in the country amounts to preventing communism from taking power, because as far as they are concerned the ANC is part of the communist alliance and therefore, they cannot be sure what the ANC is going to do when it takes power. So he is committed to that. So, the fact that we had agreed to talk to him, we welcomed what we had done. I have also said so. In an interview with the BBC after his release, I said that we would be naive and unrealistic if we did not recognise that what de Klerk has done represents the change from the positions taken by his predecessors, that he is different from those. But that did not mean that I was suddenly now saying that we are now going to embrace de Klerk, he has suddenly become a Pope. That did not mean that. We go into this negotiation with them because the situation requires us to talk as adversaries, and that is why were are saying in the ANC that it was even wrong for us to begin to say that if the government does not remove each and every obstacle, more particularly the ending of violence, that we would not talk, we would not negotiate a constitution, that was a very naive approach on our part because we are dealing with a government that is essentially founded on violence. It has maintained itself in power through violence over the years. There is no way in which it is suddenly going to change and become a government of bishops. It will continue to have there within itself, this aspect of violence. It can minimise the damage, but it is not going to do so.

PM     Even if it wanted to do so, now I am coming to your point which is the point I think you want to make, that even if de Klerk wanted to end violence today, it would not happen because it took years of indoctrination to make these Generals in the army what they are, killers of the people and you are not going to change them overnight. They are convinced that they were right all these years. And they are convinced that de Klerk is wrong now. And some of them would turn against him, it is probable. That is why, therefore, that our primary task should be the unification of the forces that agree on basic democratic principles. Accepting that there would be a section that would not agree and that section might be violent. At some point it might have to be suppressed violently by a democratic government. Because you cannot allow a minority that does not want democracy to prevent the entire country from moving towards a democratic system. You cannot allow that to happen. Now, we are saying that we negotiated with them understanding that they are a government founded on violence and that violence is not going to end until we have a democratic system and we are able to deliver materially to the mass majority of the people of our country.

POM     Did Inkathagate result in a change of strategy on the part of the ANC? Our understanding would be that whereas before you had the preconditions of obstacles in the way of negotiations, but the feeling within the ANC now is that we are not throwing away negotiations unless the government does, therefore the government should resign and become part of a larger multi-party or all-party interim power sharing government.

PM     Yes, we have made that strategic shift precisely because of the reasons that I have set out.

POM     On the one hand you are saying the government must resign, end its sovereignty, cede its power, cease to exist and on the other, you have the government saying we are not prepared to do that, but we are prepared to consider being members of the liberation organisations, enter the government as a minister of this or as a minister of that, which you would regard as co-option. Is there any ground here for a trade-off or must this government resign, is that an absolute demand in the sense that you want this government and its so-called sovereignty and legitimacy out of the way?

PM     What we demand is an interim government, a sovereign interim government of national unity. That sort of a government must have the powers, the authority to repeal the repressive laws, to undertake certain tasks which are in the interests of the nation and control the security situation, control information, mass communication media like the SABC, control, for instance, budget to some extent, to determine what should happen, for instance, in respect of housing, education during that interim period. Now, we have said that this government must resign, but that is one of the options. That is one of the things that could be done if an interim government is put in place. We could explore other possibilities, for instance.

     When you look at the situation, you might find that if you say to them, you all resign, that is going to call a lot of resistance and a hardening of attitudes. In the first place all these ministers would feel that they are losing their positions. Secondly they cannot justify it to their constituencies. Thirdly, within the bureaucracies that they have established you create a whole lot of insecurity for the people and that does not help us in creating that reconciliation and hope. It might well even send ripples through to the general white community that now you see what they are doing, they are pushing all of us out of power, they want to come in. This is what they are going to do in respect of everything, in factories, in the areas where we live and so on. We might in the course of negotiations look at other options which would enable the interim government not to be a token structure, but enable it to be a structure with sufficient authority to oversee the transition without necessarily forcing all these chaps to resign. We might say for instance, that well, Stoffel Van de Merwe, you can remain there until another election. But we are going to set up a commission that deals with the issue of education. You can call it a commission, you can call it whatever. But this commission would have clearly defined powers to do certain things to correct the problem of education in the interim. We could set up another commission to deal with the security forces. That commission is not a commission that would be dependent upon the Minister of Defence to effect certain decisions. That where the commission arrives a conclusion that certain changes have got to be made, the onus should be on the Minister to show why those changes are not necessary to place the security forces on a footing where it could be seen as being impartial and protecting the citizens. Or you could have an interim government existing side by side with the present government but the interim government focusing only on certain strategic aspects of government, security, information, education, health, agriculture, budget and then the rest can still remain with the government, so that then you would have the people appointed in those ministries, for those portfolios in the interim government still working with the current NP ministers.

POM     Just going back a bit, you mentioned that if the government moved in the direction of resigning it would create all kinds of backlashes in the white community and among their constituencies. Two questions, one is, when the ANC makes a demand or a compromise, does it take into account how far de Klerk can go without seriously stepping out of line with his constituency? Is there an appreciation that he must bring his constituency with him? Or do you say that is his problem?

PM     If you asked me, I would say obviously that should be a factor in determining how successful the negotiations could be on a particular position. One consideration should be whether this fellow, de Klerk can go a long way towards convincing his constituency, can he carry his constituency with him? I think Nelson Mandela has said again and again that we want a strong NP. That we want to negotiate with a NP that is strong because then it can carry the white South Africans through this period of transition, but if you are going to have the NP shedding its support, then you are making hollow agreements because you would then be agreeing with de Klerk who has got no support, and whatever agreements we would reach would be unworkable, would not be durable, they would collapse in time. And the same would hold for the ANC. When it goes into any negotiations and reaches agreements with the government, it has to bear in mind whether it would be able to carry its constituency with it throughout this period of transition. What is it that it must give to its constituency? How is it going to justify positions it takes to its constituency? So, I think that is happening within the ANC. Obviously one should insist that it should be discussed with more interest within the organisation. But, I think that with the last decision that we took after the Inkathagate we are moving closer towards understanding issues much better.

POM     Do you think that if de Klerk again moved in the direction of acceding to you demand to resign, that these elements in the NIS apparatus that you are talking about would simply step in and take power and say we are not going to have our state wiped out of existence? Do you think the Generals of the military and all these National security guys would simply stand by if de Klerk tomorrow morning walked into parliament and said the ANC have presented me with this demand, I think they are right, I move we dissolve parliament? What do you think the military would do?

PM     That would be a simplistic approach. You don't just do that. Obviously it has to be a subject of long debate and discussion within his structures. Depending on what sort of signals he gets from the military, from within his own party, he could then do that. But without that, it would be disastrous for de Klerk to move into parliament the next day and say the ANC has asked me to do this and I am doing it. There would be a backlash. They would do to him what the Russians have tried to do to Gorbachev and those chaps. They can do it. They can overthrow him. The CP can almost overnight take control of that army and security forces. So it has to be a process. But, as I say, we have to be careful. We have to look at how realistic that sort of approach is ourselves, and try to make commitments which would have a measure of fairness in them, which have a chance of being accepted by his own constituency, which can be justified in a manner that would be acceptable to the constituency.

POM     A large number of surveys show that the majority of the population, including supporters of the ANC, find a kind of coalition between the ANC and the NP to be a perfectly acceptable outcome, that the NP would be part of a government formulated by the ANC, with the NP as a junior partner in that government. Would you find that kind of an outcome acceptable in terms of what you have gone through in the liberation movement in these past decades?

PM     That may well be one of the best options open to this country. Ordinarily we would not have liked to have that sort of thing, but given the concrete reality of our country, the threat posed by the right wing and the possibility of alienating more whites who otherwise would have supported the NP if the NP is seen to be completely powerless in the new order, then we might well consider that as part of the route to be followed by our country. That might help us to establish a government of national unity. It would go along way in reconciling black and white South Africans. It would also go a long way in obviously reviving confidence, world confidence in our country. I think it would send the right sort of signals to the international community.

POM     Tell me, it seems almost amazing that you have been totally oppressed by this government for forty years. You have been humiliated, degraded, imprisoned, treated not as human beings, tortured, maintained in bonds of poverty and deprivation, and you turn around and say, OK, you can join in government. It is remarkable. Where does that forgiveness come from? Is there any other case where the oppressed went free, turned around right away and handed some power back to the oppressor?

PM     No. We don't know of such an instance, save of course during the period of decolonisation. The colonial powers, especially Britain, felt that it was becoming too difficult to govern certain colonies and then it moved out. But otherwise in countries where people have had to take up arms and fight, I cannot remember an example. But the question is not whether that has ever happened. The question is whether both parties involved in this conflict understand and accept the ghastly consequences that the alternative to a negotiated settlement would have. The way in which people in each given situation respond is not based on what has happened previously in other countries. Certainly, the experiences of other people informed the analysis and understanding of a people's fighting, but what really informs your strategies and tactics is the concrete reality in our country today.

     For us it is clear that continuing to seek revenge is not going to help us. It is not going to help me to say, well, these people oppressed me for forty years and then we must fight until the last man. I am sure that if a new opportunity arose for us to find a solution wherein there would be lesser casualties, we would go for that. If the opportunity arises for us to bury the hatchet, build our country anew, reconcile our people, we would do so. I have no bitterness against Minister Vlok. He locked me up in jail. Neither do I hate even the fellow who was the most brutal investigating officer in my case. I harbour no bitterness against a very rude, crude Afrikaner policeman I met in 1976 who told me that I was a danger to his government, I was dangerous to his white skin, and that my life was worth nothing, the value of my life was just like the one of a ball point pen. He said to me if I break this pen here, I would feel nothing, and if I killed you, I would feel the same as I would feel when I break a pen. But I cannot hate that poor boy man you know. He was taught like that. He lives like that all his life. Now tomorrow I cannot go and hunt him and want to kill him. That does not make my country better, does it?

POM     I suppose it shows an enormous degree of trust, and I am surprised that that trust or goodwill can continue to exist when in your view this government during the spirit of negotiations has been acting in totally bad faith and has been embarking in a campaign to slaughter your people and to weaken you politically, and you are still holding out the hand of partnerships.

PM     It is because you see the alternative is too ghastly to contemplate. That is why we are doing this. I think it also reflects political maturity on the part of South Africans. It also indicates our understanding that whilst trust is an important element, it is certainly not fundamental to negotiations. Negotiations do not depend entirely on trust. If it is there, obviously it helps us move forward faster, but we know that people who have fought for years, for decades find it difficult to trust each other. They might understand each other, but every time they go home, they think and worry about what the other party might be planning, what their agenda might be. But we are doing it because it has to happen. We have to move to that point of resolving our problems. The conditions in our country compel both of us to do so. I am sure the USA and the Soviet Union did not engage in all sorts of talks because they wanted to become friends. The threat imposed by their vast arsenal of nuclear weapons that they had made it necessary for them to talk. Even when they had agreed to go and inspect each others weapons, I am sure the USA was not convinced that it has seen everything. They still suspect that they have not been shown everything, so does the Soviet Union. But they have got no choice, they have to do these things otherwise they must allow the whole world to go up in flames.

POM     I know you are in a hurry. We can stop there. Thank you very much again.

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.