About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

23 Aug 1991: Treurnicht, Andries

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POM     Dr Treurnicht, let me jump right into the middle of this. Since the violence at Ventersdorp you have made a number of statements in relation to the incident there and to the wider use of violence in these political situations. So I would like you to, if you could summarise your statements, first with regard to who is to blame and second with regard to the practice of allowing people carrying arms to participate in the rallies and third in relation to allowing armed para-military organisations to exist and finally as to the relationship between the Conservative Party and the AWB especially with regard to the use of violence. So, can I go back to the first one?

AT     Well I'd like to start to say we warned the government to take notice of what happened at Goedgevonden because at Goedgevonden there was a clash between the farmers and members of the police and there was a black policeman shooting at one of my constituents from Thabazimbi, and we think that indicated that feelings are running very high and we should be cautious about confrontation. Secondly, I would say I don't approve of, shall I say, a call on people to come to a political meeting with arms, guns, etc., because although it's now normal in the situation we are living in for people to have an arm on them, it's quite normal, but to tell people 'Bring your guns', etc., to a political meeting, I think that shouldn't be done. So that may have been a bit provocative. But on the other hand we don't approve of the Commanding Officer telling the police to shoot them, shoot them to kill and I think it was not wise. The State President as leader of the National Party, because he didn't come as State President, he came as a political leader, to actually challenge people at Ventersdorp to say I'll have my meeting and to enforce his authority he brought along about 40 ratels, that's what we call them, and ammunition, very dangerous ammunition. I think that was overkill. That was overdone.

     So I think I've replied to the idea of bringing arms to a meeting. That's why I spoke in Queenstown and said I would appeal let's try to return to normal politics, normal politics. By which I don't mean traditional weapons. Traditional weapons in our case may be tomatoes and eggs. In any case our relation with the AWB, we are separate organisations. Many members of the AWB are members of the Conservative Party. But as to their leadership, their style, their idiom, their way of doing certain things, we have our own style. We have our own idiom, shall I say? We are a political party limiting ourselves to political strategy and political means or propaganda, etc., fighting elections. But, I think I must say, members of the AWB and ourselves basically we belong to the same people, we speak the same language, we have the same opponents, ANC and SACP and NP and we have the same ideals, that is our people, our people's right to govern ourselves in our own land should be recognised.

POM     I suppose what I find a bit confusing is the overlapping memberships and my understanding is that the AWB is registered as a political party and it would kind of be like somebody in Northern Ireland who's a supporter of the political party Sinn Fein, which endorses the use of violence by the IRA and also being a member of another Catholic party which disapproves of the use of violence. [Where does the issue of violence as a means to ?]

AT     Well actually that's something we discussed with the AWB and its leadership and they also said, no, they are not in favour of violence politics but it's sometimes a bit difficult for them draw the line, but officially they have registered as a political party but they didn't activate it as nominating candidates, etc., and it seems to me at this stage that they would rather support the Conservative Party.

POM     General support of the Conservative Party?

AT     Well they had some problem two years ago when they indicated that Terre'Blanche would stand in Rustenburg, for instance. And we simply said, well in the event of a vacancy the Conservative Party will put up a candidate. That's all. Put up a candidate. He got the message and he didn't stand.

POM     I don't know whether you probably have come across a poll that was taken by the Sunday Star in Ventersdorp immediately, one day after ...

AT     I haven't seen it. I don't know what the result was.

POM     OK. Let me just give us some - this is a poll which was carried out on 163 families in Ventersdorp, which is about one fifth of the total white population, and it said what it showed was that one in three Ventersdorp members of the CP turned against the AWB after the violence, while only one in five turned towards the AWB, so that more Conservative Party members in Ventersdorp would have been appalled by the violence rather than otherwise. So it kind of suggests that the association, a stronger association with the AWB is not something that Conservative Party members would like, at least in that sample in that region. Does that surprise you that more people might, as a result of that, might have turned against, more members of your party might have turned against the AWB than have been supportive of them?

AT     Well actually it seems to me I'm satisfied with the result that if a CP member also supports the AWB in a sort of a loose capacity, it's because there's some action in that organisation. But basically their first loyalty lies with the Conservative Party.

POM     But this suggests that when the situation of violence arose that the members of your party became less supportive of the AWB when there was a situation where they were fighting the police.

AT     Yes well I think you're right in saying our people realise that there may arise a situation where in the extreme people take up arms but we say that isn't a political party's programme and we say don't jump the gun, and we say try the democratic process. And I think for that reason you may have had that response from the CP supporters at Ventersdorp saying, no, the members of the AWB in fighting the police went too far or something like that, because I don't think we've had the reply to the answer who initiated the shooting. But we as Conservative Party do not like to have confrontation with the police. We have our criticism of the Commanding Officer who gave instructions which we think were very dangerous.

POM     The same poll incidentally showed that there was more support for the police, more people thought more of the police rather than thought less of the police after the incident too.

AT     More support for the police?

POM     Yes. That they were more favourably disposed towards the police after the incident than they were before.

AT     Well I think there are many, many members of the police who also showed control, self-control.

POM     I was wondering, I was going to draw a very loose analogy just to hear what you would have to say about it, between the attitude of the Protestants in Northern Ireland towards their police force towards the use of violence, or the attitude of Afrikaners towards the use of violence. Protestant para-military organisations never really got off the ground in Northern Ireland, one because the Protestant community sees itself as a law and order community, as a law abiding community, and two because they regard the police force as being their police force, it's about 95% Protestant and part of their community so that an attack on the police or anything that is seen as an attack on the police is seen as an attack on the community itself. So whenever their para-military tried to get off the ground and attacked the police, any public support for them would totally disappear. Do you think that the Afrikaner might have similar attitudes? How does the Afrikaner regard himself or herself?

AT     I don't think people are acting from a certain knowledge of what's taking place in Northern Ireland. They take that as an example.

POM     Oh no, not an example.

AT     Or there's, shall I say, a parallel in that we regard the police, and we know the majority of the police are supporters of the Conservative Party so we say we don't fight the police. But we have certain difficulties with the political leadership via the police command. For instance Brigadier de la Rosa giving the order : shoot, shoot to kill. We don't regard that as typically of the whole police force. So our sympathy is with the police. I think maybe theirs is with us. So it isn't a sort of a conflict situation between the CP or right wingers and the police as such, but the police stand under the orders of the Minister of Police and the government. Now in protecting the leader of the National Party with more than 2000 members of the security forces we think that is an abuse of the security forces.

POM     There has been one view that Mr de Klerk used this occasion to re-establish in some way his standing in the international community, the suggestion being that after Inkathagate his standing among leaders in the West was diminished somewhat and that he used Ventersdorp to show that he had control of the security forces and that he was quite prepared to put down right wing violence. Do you think there's any merit to that suggestion?

AT     It's a possibility because Mr de Klerk has to prove himself and to, shall I say, gain some confidence, more confidence from abroad. But I would say that if that was his motivation he made a big mistake because if you don't have the support of your own people, what is your standing in the international world? And even if we can argue my point, if your own people don't trust you how can other people with whom you are now negotiating, how can they trust you? And I think he has done himself a very great disservice by using such, I will say, degree of military force to suppress a demonstration of dissatisfaction.

POM     And you talked about his lack of support in the white community? The Star on the 22nd reported someone in the party as saying the Conservative Party would consider violent revolt if the government denied it a white election. The CP's Free State Congress officially decided yesterday, there's a resolution passed at the Free State Congress.

AT     There is some strong language by certain of our people but it's always, shall I say, hypothetically. If the government does this or does not do this the whole issue of getting an election and giving the electorate the opportunity to replace the government, if that is not granted to the white electorate we say then you disenfranchise us. You take away the democratic opportunity of your own electorate to replace you by another government. If he refuses that we regard that in a very, very serious light.

POM     But constitutionally he's not required to do that until 1994.

AT     Yes. But I think there is a very strong moral argument and that is putting your case before the electorate and asking them to vote for me because I stand for this and this and this. And he was doing exactly the opposite now after 1989.

POM     Well I suppose, this was the case, this was the position you were at last year. You were calling for a general election and saying he did not have the support of the white community, he had no mandate to do, what he did do was in fact contrary to his entire election manifesto. Now it's one year later and he's gone further down the road in terms of reform and seems no closer in going to the electorate than he was a year ago. So what leverage do you have as a political party to bring about that election?

AT     No, we know legally going to the law we really cannot enforce an election. He's got to decide on that. But our opposition, I think, has grown stronger. I think he received many very strong warnings that he is going too far. Inside parliament I think we demonstrated our strongest disapproval of what he's doing and outside parliament I think he has received quite a number of warnings, not the least of which is what happened at the Hillview School. That isn't something initiated by the Conservative Party. I don't know who's done it. But I'm honest enough to say that I think the man who did the job knows what he did and I think the government got a very, very clear message. You know there are blacks who say, the day when the Boers become terrorists they are in serious difficulties, the blacks. So they realise we haven't started yet anything of the kind. It's just occasionally something happening. But because the Conservative Party sticks to the democratic process in parliament and as a party outside parliament, we cannot tell people we don't know who they are when they start similar to what the ANC is doing.

POM     Going back to the question of leverage it seems not only has Mr de Klerk moved further down the road but now he's even making noises about the fact that at an all-party conference he would be prepared to consider interim measures, or something to that effect, during the transition period. I mean he's not moving back. If anything he seems to be moving forward at an accelerating pace. I don't see where is the leverage that you work on other than what you're doing, demanding, demanding, demanding an election and he's not listening to you.

AT     Well maybe, maybe but we say he gets the message that his time is running out and judging from certain things which happen might just indicate, the by-election, for instance, parliamentary election in Ladybrand gave him a strong message. You don't have the support. In parliament you're still the majority, you try everything to gain the support of moderate Coloureds and blacks etc., but in the meantime there is less and less a party representing a specific people. And he knows, he knows that. Other results, I think the municipal by-election in Durban, both where Duncan de Boer won the election and last night in Queensbury. I think those are very strong messages. Mr de Klerk you still have the majority in parliament but at the grassroots you're losing support. And so there are others. We know that basically according to law we'll have to wait until the time for the next general election is here or a referendum. We tell our own people, don't jump the gun. Wait, wait, wait. If that opportunity arises we must be prepared. We know he can do much harm in the meantime but he has to give an election.

POM     He is committed to a referendum?

AT     He is committed to a referendum. Not that I expect very much from a referendum. I feel that we are not unconditionally committed to taking part in a referendum, Yes or No, because it depends on the question. But in any case we commit ourselves to put our case and our proposals to the electorate, both white and others.

POM     Just in a broad sense, what kind of questions would be acceptable in a referendum and what kind would be unacceptable?

AT     Well I think basically what he promised is that he'll put the proposals for a new constitution, so the new constitution would have to be drawn up and put before the electorate and they can say, all right we approve or we don't approve. But we say that won't be enough for us. We realise that we have to put alongside that, put our own proposals as we see the future of the various peoples in the country and not one constitution for all.

POM     Going back to leverage, did the party ever consider that all it's members of parliament would resign and you would force a whole series of by-elections either simultaneously or one after the other, for you to use that as a referendum to get the vote out, that even if the National Party put up nobody against you that you'd tell people to turn out in such numbers and to vote for you that whether or not the government put up a candidate the size of the turnout alone would be an indication that they had lost support.

AT     We gave consideration to that. We haven't decided against it, but at this moment we are not quite convinced that that would be the appropriate thing to do because even if our 39 members resign and the government gives by-elections in the 39 constituencies, the National Party could decide to participate or leave us on a post. And actually you don't gain stronger support inside parliament. It may be a sort of a moral indication that if we are unopposed the National Party ...

POM     Would it not be one of the indicators if a lot more people came out and voted for you than voted for the National Party, if you doubled your margin over what you had?

AT     Well certainly we did think about that because it can be a strong argument provided the government, the National Party, takes part in it. If it leaves us on a post you don't prove anything except the National Party ...

POM     If the government were to leave it on a post there would still have to be an election?

AT     There's still an election in 1994.

POM     Let's say there was a case where in one seat last time out the Conservative Party got 6000 votes and the National Party got 4000 votes out of a voting pool of 10 000 people. You have a by-election there and you call on your people to come out and to demonstrate to the government, and if 8000 people come out and vote for you and you shifted your margin [even though you're ...] 6000 to 8000, the size of the victory is a very strong indicator of what the feelings of the community is.

AT     Yes. That's what we did in Umlazi and Maitland and in Ladybrand and we intend doing precisely that now in Virginia. So we have all those arguments that we came out much stronger than before and we decreased the combined number of votes for the DP and the NP in Umlazi and Randburg and Maitland and Ladybrand by thousands. So that argument we've used, actually we've practised it. But it still isn't, shall I say, you cannot enforce by that a general election.

POM     As I said earlier, one of the interesting figures that was in the poll in Ventersdorp, the Sunday Star's poll, was that the relative strength it had found of the Conservative Party and the National Party was more or less the same as it was a year ago, you had 44% and the National Party had 37%. Does that go counter to your own intuition?

AT     Well I would say that the support of the Conservative Party increased over the past year. I would say so. But I think perhaps the poll's a bit limited to a small number of people.

POM     You've had talks with the PAC, have you? No that was somebody else.

AT     Unless General Holomisa is a PAC.

POM     You had a chat with him? How did you find him?

AT     Well very interesting, very interesting. But, well, very, very much certain of himself and I'm still wondering as to why he came to us. Whether that was done on purpose, wagging a finger at Pik Botha. You see I totally ignore you, I go and talk to the Conservative Party and as to whether he was advised by Mr de Klerk to talk to the CP and try to persuade them to take part in the negotiations, because he emphasised it so frequently in the talks that I asked him now, what did Mr de Klerk pay you for all this? And he only laughed.

POM     Well talking of that, since we came we've heard of the two different strands of opinion that exist within the party and the strand that would advocate looking for a smaller homeland and to use part of the negotiations to negotiate something, and the strand that says no, no negotiations at the moment, we stay aside and keep our demands what they were, i.e. pursue our call for an election. I know this a hard question to answer, what is the nature, is it a serious split, is there a real possibility that the Conservative Party as such could actually divide into two. Some members might really believe it that you have to get into negotiations and not to go to negotiations to lock the door and bolt it really marginalises you. And those who say, no we must stay outside the process, period.

AT     There's no-one who says we should go to the negotiation meeting unconditionally or something like that.

POM     Unconditionally?

AT     Unconditionally. Even Mr van der Merwe, whose name has been mentioned quite frequently, even Mr van der Merwe says we have a very definite condition. Unless the self-determination of the white people is recognised as a starting point there can be no negotiation. You don't negotiate on something you refuse to get rid of, shall I put it that way? So I don't think there's any, as far as I can judge according to Mr van der Merwe's statements, any difference between us. Mr van der Merwe is an outgoing person, he likes to talk to people, he likes to talk to people etc. and when it comes to practical situations, say for instance, when I meet Mbeki in the plane should I talk to him yes or no. We don't have rules for that. I don't specifically seek such occasions but if I meet him accidentally, OK. But that isn't negotiation. It isn't an organised form of talks. It may be just incidental and in that we all agree. But I don't think there's any serious differences as to that. There are certain academics and of course members of the Orania Werkers and Professor Boshoff's Afrikaner Volkswag was speaking about an Afrikaner land.

POM     I'm going to visit it next weekend.

AT     Are you going there? Buying a plot there? No, I've not difficulty with Professor Boshoff buying land. It's his right, he can do so. But I say don't confine the land or the territory which can justifiably be regarded as land to which we have a just claim, to confine that to your Orania or your North Western Cape. We had our discussions on that also at the Free State Congress and all agree that eventually it will be better to have a smaller land for the white people which is governed by ourselves than the whole of South Africa under black majority rule. Well that's Dr Verwoerd's statement and I don't think there's any difference of opinion. But when it comes to identifying that smaller territory I said at the congress, if our policy is being applied and the various black peoples have accepted their independence, and the Coloureds and the Indians their political independence, the remaining South Africa will be much smaller. We accept that. But if there has to be a second, a second step towards a smaller South Africa, I said that extent of the smaller South Africa is not obvious yet. It's not obvious yet. You can guess and you can investigate certain things and I encourage people, investigate. What's the density or population, of white population, of Afrikaner population in certain areas, you can do so. It's interesting but we don't define borders now. We don't think that feasible, not whatsoever.

POM     So what would be then, is this an overblown media hype of the differences between what is called the verligte (liberal) wing of the party and ...?

AT     No, no. I think that's wishful thinking. I think it's on account of that document of Koos van der Merwe which was a working document and in that document he quoted various, shall I say, problems of van Zyl Slabbert, or the National Party, or questions for the Conservative Party to which we must reply. And then in the latter part of his document he stated the Conservative Party's point of view and that is, self-determination, land of our own. We agree it doesn't make sense now to draw lines on the map and say this is our territory. It's unpractical, it's unwise.

POM     So, since last year there's really been no change in your basic position at all. It's still that your right to self-determination must be recognised before you participate in any negotiations.

AT     Well certainly. We say, Mr de Klerk you invite us to talk with you, but you have denied the very basis of our policy and our ideals for the future so why do you ask us to come and negotiate with you on that basis? In the meantime we will just build up our strength amongst the electorate and prove to you in the long run that we have the majority support so that if you go to the negotiation table you don't represent the majority.

POM     Do you think the National Party or the government, I don't draw a distinction between the two, has a policy, has an objective, has a place where they want these negotiations to go to and has a strategy developed to get there? Or do you think it's just a lot of, I mean political parties don't, especially political parties with a tradition of having power, don't just give up political power and hand things over. What's your understanding of their objectives and what do you perceive to be their strategies for getting there?

AT     As I see it there are certain possibilities for a constitutional dispensation which is being discussed amongst members of the National Party. For instance a two house parliament or something like that, proportional voting representation. That may be a suggestion but personally I don't think they have any clear cut suggestions to put on the table. Their buzz word is 'negotiation', they'll negotiate and we say there are certain non-negotiables and it seems to us the National Party has no non-negotiables. It has indicated that it would even accept serving under Nelson Mandela, they indicated they accept a one man one vote, they accepted majority blacks in the government, majority of blacks in government posts. I mean that's a denial of certain of the basic things which make a people a people or which apply to the principle of self-determination.

POM     We've been given some scenarios by a lot of people that we've talked to in terms of, just across the political spectrum, and they generally fall into one of two things (a) the government thinks that it might even be able to win a general election if it can engage in some kind of grand coalition politics and part of this would be to do their best to undermine the ANC. These people say this is why they would assert that the government is involved in giving aid to Inkatha to help Inkatha perpetrate violence in the townships to show that the ANC can't take care of their own people and that an alliance with Buthelezi and the government and maybe two or three other homeland leaders who are not pro-ANC and pulling in the Coloured vote and the Indian vote, they just might be able to pull it off. That's one scenario so they hold on to power. The other scenario would be that they strike a deal with the ANC and that at the end of the day the ANC will have maybe 70% of the executive positions in government, but the National Party would continue to hold 30%, some of those might be like Finance or Defence. Do you think that they're thinking in these directions at all or do you think they kind of directionless?

AT     That they are thinking in those directions? It seems to be the first one is a probability, that they realise if they lose white support to stay in power they have to get support from elsewhere. And to be able to use that support it will have to be one unitary system, one common voter's roll so that they could rely on, shall we say, the so-called moderate support from black, Indian and Coloured. But that would be to deny the white people what I regard as their most definite right to self-determination and to have political power over themselves. And that is something which the National Party now already has denied, relinquished and that's one of the reasons why we say, what's the sense of asking me to come and talk with you. You've relinquished the very basis of what I regard as a starting point for meaningful discussion. It seems to be that that is the direction in which the National Party is thinking. They have already departed from anything which smells like separate political structures and representation. But what they've then accepted is the very thing against which we say that is totally unacceptable to us. Totally.

POM     That would be the majority rule, black majority rule.

AT     Black majority rule.

POM     Or they would only be a partner in a broad coalition of other ethnic or racial groups.

AT      Yes. No, we have absolutely no confidence in any such system because if you relinquish your support from your own people, and by this I mean the white people, and you think you can get the support of Coloureds, Indians and black people to vote for you as a white man as president whilst the majority in the population is, how much, 6 to 5 black to white, I think that's wishful thinking. It may be just an interim stage but the next one is complete black rule over the whole country and it seems to me the National Party is prepared to accept it.

POM     To just back up a bit, I think when I talked to you last year, it was in July before the violence broke out in the townships in the Transvaal and since then there has been really a wave of more or less unabated violence. A couple of questions. One, abroad there has been an increasing propensity to see the violence as ethnic violence, Xhosa versus Zulu, and about five weeks ago The Economist, which is a very well regarded periodical in Europe and the United States, said in essence there was no real difference between the violence between Xhosa and Zulu in the Transvaal and between the Serbs and Croatians in Yugoslavia, that in both cases the basis of the violence was ethnic. There's a second group of people who say this is violence between supporters of the ANC and Inkatha. Which do you think it is? Which do you think is the prime motivation for the continuation of violence?

AT     As we see it there is some similarity in, shall we say, Croatians, Serbians, groups, with a positive urge towards governing themselves and I don't know whether it's so much conflict between the two as this reaction against domination from above by a super power. The reality of ethnicity in South Africa of course, well I think people realise that is so, Xhosa, Zulu, but I think there's something extra that it isn't only ethnicity. It isn't only ethnicity but the style, the ANC's style is not, or shall we say as I interpret their ideal, it is not only for the sake of an autonomous or a self-governing Xhosa people not being dominated by the Zulus, but they have other aspirations which coincide with the Communist idea, the ANC idea, and that is one South Africa. It's one South Africa and in the one South Africa the people should govern and the people in this case is the people as led by the ANC and the SACP. Within the long run not such clear cut ethnic divisions, but the ANC overruling the whole country and in that case then getting the opposition from Inkatha which is specifically a Zulu organisation, not being willing to be dominated either by the Xhosa as an ethnic group or the ANC as a terrorist group.

POM     There's a book come out recently by a man named Donald Horowitz who is a very well known expert on conflicts in divided societies. He's done a lot of work in Africa and Malaysia and Cyprus and places like that and he brought out a book a couple of months ago on South Africa in which he argues that the real problem facing the country is an ethnic one, of their being a large number of ethnic groups and that unless government structures are built to take into account these ethnic differences the fears of ethnic domination, that there is a strong possibility that nothing would be durable or lasting in a new South Africa. Now opposing that of course there are many other views that the problems are about racial domination of blacks by whites, about competing nationalisms, black nationalism and white nationalism. If you were asked to define the essence of the problem facing this country, how would you define it?

AT     I think basically it's ethnic, racial, cultural differences, way of living, standard of civilisation, psychological approaches. I think those are all real things. There is a difference I would say of white people looking at themselves, how do they interpret themselves to others and, for instance, the Zulu people. I think there's an interesting study by Professor Malan from the University of the North in connection with ethnicity, the aspirations of the various ethnic groups towards, shall we say, participation in some form of superstructure for the whole of South Africa which would mean what's mine is mine and the rest of South Africa must be ours, or some joint decision making somewhere. But I think the ethnic differences and together with the ethnic there's all sorts of factors like psychological, racial factors which goes along with ethnicity, standard of living, your view of government, is it a democratic view or is it the typical African style more or less a sort of dictatorship or one party government. Are the blacks, Coloureds and Indians, are they already prepared for the typically western style democracy and we think they are not. Well, I think those are some of the, well when I say differences in culture, it's language, language and well I think those things are very real.

POM     On many occasions you have said this government is not to be trusted, that going back to the election of 1989 is almost proof sufficient of that where they ran on one manifesto and then implemented an entirely different agenda once they took power. Many liberals, and others, believe that the government has in fact been pursuing what Mr Mandela calls a double agenda, using the olive branch of negotiation on the one hand and then trying to undermine the ANC in the townships through the orchestration of violence with Inkatha or through participation in violence and when Inkathagate broke they took the revelations that the government had been funding Inkatha and of the government involvement in Namibia as proof that the state was in fact pursuing this kind of double agenda. What are your observations on this? Do you think that the government has in fact been carrying out this dual strategy?

AT     Well I say that they have been lying to the public. Take, for instance, the whole issue about funds for political parties and organisations. The State President says in parliament that it is not government policy to provide funds for political organisations or parties. In the meantime they gave more than a hundred million to parties in South West Africa and again a sort of double standard, to every other political party except the National Party of South West Africa. They didn't get anything. But even after that, after more than one hundred million rand had been given to parties in South West Africa, the State President returns and he says it's not our policy to give. We don't give - but we give. And we give but it remains our policy not to give. I mean it's nonsensical. It's support, although a quarter of a million rand, it's not big money, but the principle is they gave some support to Inkatha. I don't know whether Buthelezi didn't know anything about it, but in any case I think it was not proper. It's improper and it indicates that the government was involved in supporting a particular organisation against whom? Against the ANC? It's difficult to really know what the government has in mind, but maybe it suits its whole programme and that is to get the parties to the negotiation table and that before negotiations start not one of the parties should be eliminated beforehand, prematurely. They must all be there. We know that is their approach towards the ANC. Dr Gerrit Viljoen is saying that somehow we cannot manage without one another. They need the ANC. The ANC says they need Mr de Klerk as much as Mr de Klerk needs the ANC, that for the negotiations to start and to succeed all the parties must be there. So the ANC mustn't exterminate Inkatha and Inkatha mustn't prevent the ANC from taking part. I don't know, but that's speculation.

POM     Would it surprise you if the government was involved in providing either arms to Inkatha or that the police were assisting Inkatha or that units of the security forces were somehow involved in the violence of the last year? If there was a revelation tomorrow morning to that effect would you be surprised or would you not be surprised?

AT     I won't be surprised. I mean after the so-called BSP etc., you know the government has been involved in many covert actions, etc. Well we all know that there are such actions. Every government. But I think the government has a very complex programme and to keep some balance between the competing partners may be important for the government. It won't surprise me if they gave more support to Inkatha than they have revealed up to now.

POM     But then this doesn't suggest that this is a government that's going to roll over and hand over power. It suggests a government that will use any means, including perhaps the funding of violence in order to try to manage events, control events in the way that it wants to get people to the table in a certain way and to maximise its own advantage.

AT     Well that's the one thing that I cannot reconcile with, the very, shall I say, definite statements of, they accept one man one vote - that is to be included in the future constitution. They accept black majority rule, even willing to serve under Mandela. They accept the ANC as a legitimate party in the country. They accept the Communist Party. Now with all these things having been accepted I can't see how they can retain power without losing face, without co-operating towards a constitution in which all these things are built in, namely making provision for a black majority rule.

POM     Even going further than that in a sense that it is now talking about agreeing with the ANC that there have to be some interim arrangements while the negotiations are going on in which the ANC and other organisations are brought into the process. If de Klerk were to install an interim government to which he invited members of the ANC and the PAC and Inkatha and the Conservative Party and the Democratic Party to become part of a broader government, what will be the reaction do you think in the white community?

AT     Well that would mean immediately that he, shall I say, has departed from what I would consider a constitutional process, a democratic process. It would be just another name for interim government. Now they indicated they are not in favour of an interim government but are willing to consider expanding the Cabinet to include our parties. Now that would mean it's departed from the ordinary democratic processes and that is having an election or calling a referendum on a certain issue or question. But while those things are waiting to get attention in the meantime he is introducing the system, a system of multi-racialism, a system of that sort of multi-racial government, anticipating that that would be approved by, be included in the future constitution.

POM     Again my point would be that other than protest, what can the Conservative Party or people who are opposed to this do? I mean he's going ahead.

AT     Practically. Practically that would be an attempt to make the Conservative Party totally irrelevant as a party, perhaps. That is a question then for the Conservative Party to consider: do we have any relevance as to ordinary political activities? But then the question is back to the electorate: are you going to accept that? Then we are back at the grassroots, the various organisations, not only educational but even committees for security - are they going to accept this? The Boer Crisis Action? They won't accept that. And so there are other organisations which are not purely political, party political, but we say we are not going to surrender our land. We are not going to accept Mandela claiming our land and redistributing it. So what I'm trying to say is that it may be formally making the Conservative Party a bit less relevant than in the present situation but it wouldn't mean the end of action against the intentions of the government.

POM     Do you think you could ever have a situation in which the security forces would say the government is going too far and step in?

AT     Maybe that's something we would wish would happen. But how far you really can expect it on account of, shall I say, inside knowledge, I don't have it. We have some indication from people telling you this and that, that we have strong support for our views, etc., but whether there are officers and people in command who would be willing to say enough is enough I don't know. I don't know.

POM     If the security forces stay with the government right through this entire process it makes opposing the government really more difficult does it not?

AT     Oh yes more difficult. Yes, yes. But then perhaps there is a possibility of distinguishing between the army, what do you call them?

POM     The air force?

AT     As such, and distinguishing them from what we call the civil force and the commandos where there are many people, also in some way under the control, etc., but in a certain sense distinguished from the army proper. I don't know what to expect from them but it is something to take account of.

POM     As you see next year unfold what do you see happening? I mean when I was here last year you talked about many of the things you are talking about today, how support for the Conservative Party was increasing, how if Mandela were democratic he would go to the country and ask for a mandate for what he was doing and that he wouldn't get it. A year a later you're kind of at the same place, the Group Areas Act, the Population Registration Act or the Land Act and all have been repealed. The government has agreed to an all-party conference and they're talking about interim measures, not using the word interim government, but they're really talking about an interim government. Everything's going ahead, so as you look ahead one more year where do you see events are leading?

AT     No, that's a bit more difficult because you don't really know what's going to happen. What is Mr de Klerk? Will he succeed in really getting to the negotiation table with the ANC and with Inkatha and the others. We have started our own talks with Mangope, Buthelezi, Holomisa and we intend speaking to the Venda and other groups, etc., and try and put across what we envisage and that is to move away from a unitary system for all the ethnic groups of peoples. So that is something which we intend doing and formulating our own proposals, how we see things should develop in future.

POM     These are the independent countries as such? Or is it the kind of independent countries within some kind of larger, like a super federation where each one would retain its sovereignty but they would carry out certain things jointly?

AT     That's what we suggest. We suggested that to President Mangope and when I told him he ...

POM     Super structure?

AT     I said some form of - you can call it a sort of a federation which for definition is not federation but it's independent states, there's a sort of a more loose association but with independence. And he said, "Well you're speaking my language." He would not renounce his independence and I said that as I see it, "You should retain your independence and others should also move in that direction", but because there is an economic interdependence in other spheres we think there should be some voluntary link without a superstructure which makes it one political structure and one super parliament and one super Cabinet. [We don't put it that ...]

POM     I talked with Brigadier Gqozo the head of the Army Council in Ciskei. Do you think he's moving in that direction towards maintaining the independence of Ciskei?

AT     We haven't had talks with him personally but my observation is that he is not with Holomisa.

POM     Very definitely not with Holomisa.

AT     Not with him, no. They have certain festivals which indicated they foster the idea of being a separate entity. Now I think that makes it much more easy for us to contact him and have talks with him but we haven't had that yet.

POM     Are there any others interested beyond Mangope? Have you talked to Venda?

AT     Venda only through Thomas Langley. He was there at this conference and it seems as if the opposition party in Venda is getting increasing support and they are not in favour of the rejoining the club with the Republic of South Africa. It seems to be they would foster their independence. That would suit our purpose. And, well, if Buthelezi speaks in terms of a sovereign Zulu kingdom then that is something very remarkable, a solid, Zulu kingdom.

POM     He's on record as saying sovereign? He's on record as talking about it?

AT     Yes, I read it somewhere. In a paper yes. So that's something remarkable. I just cannot understand how he could move in that direction or move to the negotiation table and then still pretend to have a claim on the whole of South Africa. That is something which seems to me inconsistent.

POM     Could we go back quickly to Inkathagate for a moment and the government's response to it. We've talked to a number of Afrikaners, conservative through liberal, and all of them said they were stunned by the demotion of Vlok and Malan. They said they didn't think de Klerk could go that far. And if I'm correct, I'm just trying to recall it from the paper, I believe at the time you said this showed that de Klerk had lost control of his Cabinet.

AT     Well the government is disintegrating.

POM     Well I suppose what it suggested to me was that he was in charge of his Cabinet because he could afford to demote two very powerful members of the Cabinet and get the rest of the Cabinet to come in behind him.

AT     Nominally they are still there but I think he weakened his Cabinet. He replaced Malan, a General, with Mr Roelf Meyer. Some people ask whether he has done his service (national service). In any case that's just joking. But I still think that Mr de Klerk is in a weaker position internally as to the stand of his own government and secondly in a weaker position when it comes to negotiating with the ANC because I think he has made concessions. They demanded Malan and Vlok should go. They didn't go the whole way but I think it was humiliating for Vlok and Malan.

POM     But they took it. They didn't say we will not be demoted. They simply resigned.

AT      Yes, yes. Well that's something else. What should they have done?

POM     They were willing to stay inside the fold rather than leave it?

AT      Yes, yes. Whether that strengthens the Cabinet as a team, I don't think it has.

POM     Finally, Mandela has now been out for 18 months and has travelled the world and has spoken widely in South Africa. How do you assess him as a political leader over this 18 month period?

AT     As a political leader I think he enjoyed all the support of the media and the outside world. He has been blown up as very, very little less than a Messiah but I think he's the spokesman of an organisation, the ANC, which is terrorist, communist controlled, and as such he may be acceptable to certain large numbers of blacks. Seen together with the whole intimidation which goes hand in hand with the propaganda of the ANC and that established him as a sort of a leader but Mandela being acceptable over the whole spectrum I think that's wishful thinking, that's wishful thinking. And may I add to that what our own government, what Mr de Klerk's government, did in promoting, shall I say, the Mandela image as important for the future of South Africa? Well that is a very serious responsibility he took on himself because that is a large, I would say, a large degree, very large contribution towards the conflict and the tension, making relations tense inside the white community and between the white community and the ANC and other organisations. Actually they made the ANC and they made Mandela what he is at this point.

POM     A year from now will there be a multi-party conference meeting? Will there be more movement towards an interim government of some description or are things going to slow down?

AT     You mean from the government side? Well, as we have seen them move during the past 18 months, it doesn't seem as though they are able to take a strong stand. For example, for Mr de Klerk to say he doesn't accept the idea of an interim government but is willing to extend, expand the present government. I think that's just the same thing with another name. And that would be, shall I say, a very radical departure from the present system and acting on anticipation of a new constitution and introducing it already before the talks have started. [So we think that's, I mean ...]

POM     My question is, do you think that in fact that would have happened by this time next year? That this conference will be meeting, that an interim government by whatever name you call it will be functioning and that things keep moving ahead?

AT     I can't remember that I've ever thought of Mr de Klerk being able to introduce such a system and to be, shall I say, accept to give positive response towards the idea of changing the structure of his Cabinet to accommodate certain suggestions by the ANC. He's moved along, sometimes he appeared to be careful not to respond to the ANC, saying no, no I don't accept that, but then he makes a certain suggestion that is more or less the same thing. So that's my perception.

POM     So this time next year there will be a multi-party conference? You think there will be an interim government of some description?

AT     Well they envisage, well if they could have it their way the multi-party conference would have started this year already.

POM     I suppose that if we found one thing this year that is significantly different from last year in just our range of conversations, which must envelop a hundred different people, it is that there is a far greater propensity for people to say that the process is irreversible. That this 'rolling down the hill' towards question-mark really can't be stopped any more.

AT     We don't believe that. I'm very emphatic about that. It's not for one man to declare all things to be irreversible because of the various things he introduced and which go contrary to what we consider as basic sound principle, acknowledging the diversity and self-determination of peoples, has created a stronger feeling of opposition I would say, opposition to what he envisages and not accepting it as irreversible or unavoidable.

POM     Finally, before we came here we were in Ventersdorp and saw Mr Terre'Blanche and he suggested that in the future you could see an alliance of sorts between the AWB and the CP and in your call for a general election that through their contacts in the unions and other places they could be helping that call for more elections, help make the government listen.

AT     Yes we have that indication. I think he spoke in the Orange Free State a couple of days ago where he mentioned it. But somebody told me this morning that he referred to the by-election in Virginia and he was talking of 'us' fighting the election. 'Us', thereby associating himself with the Conservative Party. Now I haven't been in contact with him but it seems to me according to his public utterances, statements, that what he envisages is some form of co-operation as a joint effort to defeat the National Party.

POM     Would that be something you would welcome?

AT     Well yes, as far as there are so many members of the AWB who are members of the Conservative Party.

POM     Thank you very much.

AT     All the difficult questions!

POM     There's still worse waiting for you. In time, and again when I say time I mean maybe six months or so because there are a hundred of these things or more to be transcribed and it takes a lot of time, but you will get a copy and again, you go through it, send it back. In the meantime I've sent back the first one with the corrections that you suggested. I'll be back to see you again.

AT      Yes, all right.

POM     Terrific. Thank you.

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.