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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

27 Aug 1991: Konigkramer, Arthur

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POM     Let me start off in the middle and then work backwards. Last year a meeting between Buthelezi and Mandela was being strongly advocated by many as being necessary to bring about some cessation in the violence in Natal and in the Transvaal. The meeting of course did take place and seems to have had very little impact. Were there reasons for this or was it a matter of orders being given or pronouncements being made from above really having no impact on the ground situations such as this?

AK     Well I think there are two issues. First of all if you go back to when Mr Mandela was still in prison, he wrote a number of letters to Dr Buthelezi.

POM     Mandela? Mr Mandela wrote letters?

AK     Mr Mandela wrote a number of letters to Dr Buthelezi. One of them that I recall fairly vividly was that he said that one of his first tasks on being released would be to visit KwaZulu, visit Buthelezi, visit the King and to pay his respects to them. Now it soon became clear that immediately Mr Mandela came out of prison, I think it's not too overstating it to say, that he became imprisoned by a whole lot of other forces that he was unable to control. One of those, and this is well documented, was that there were very powerful forces within the ANC that said that talks with Buthelezi were unnecessary, all they would achieve would be to create for him a national role which he didn't deserve, in fact he was just a small regional player. Those are feelings which we still get coming out fairly repeatedly. Mr Mandela is also on record as saying that when he spoke to his lieutenants about meeting with Mr Buthelezi that, in his words, they almost throttled him. So I think that is the background, that there were very powerful forces within the ANC that didn't want those talks to take place.

     In addition I think it's also irrefutable that there is a double agenda certainly on the part of the ANC in the lower echelons. Even shortly before those talks, documents were being issued. One again which comes to mind was a document which was titled 'A Guideline to Comrades' and that set out step by step, and it was very sophisticated, exactly how people should go about wooing Inkatha supporters, engaging them in dialogue and then using what they call selective violence if they couldn't be persuaded to the ANC's point of view, And it was quite clearly stated that the purpose of that document was to isolate Buthelezi from his supporters, that was the objective of the whole thing. So given that background I believe that it's not surprising that the violence continued.

     Then the other thing again, which is very well documented is that the ANC, and if you look at Mr Mandela's speeches and those of the whole host of the ANC leadership, you will see that it regards itself as a vanguard movement, those are the means that are used, very much in line with the Stalinist thinking, the sort of thinking that goes on in the Eastern bloc as it was before, when the Communist Party was the only party. And in terms of that philosophy they set about systematically destroying all opposition. Again if you look after the talks between the ANC and the government, the State President sought to engage other players in talks, namely the so-called homeland leaders and urban blacks that were not represented in the major political structures. Now Mr Mandela personally intervened to block that. For example he telephoned, personally, a large number of the people, including Allan Hendrickse, telling him he should not talk to the government.

     From then onwards I think another point that is worth mentioning is that, and again this is very well documented, is that because the ANC deliberately targeted KwaZulu as difficult and there were campaigns to disband the KwaZulu Police, to disband the so-called KwaZulu homeland. Now that is in itself significant because the Transkei, for example, which is ANC territory, was the first country to betray blacks and take independence but we've never heard calls from the ANC to disband the Transkei or to disband other homelands. Why do they target KwaZulu? Now that resulted in, I think, if they had done their homework more carefully, first of all they came up against a fundamental reality and that is that they were unable to push Inkatha out of the way. And secondly, and much more importantly and dangerous in the South African context, is that because they focused on KwaZulu it tended to, although it might originally have been ideologically motivated, but it tended then to mobilise them in nationalism and so one had a situation developing where the Zulus felt threatened as Zulu people and reacted as Zulus. Again it's very well documented, you can see when the violence spread to the Reef what the Zulu people very clearly were perceiving was that they were being attacked as a people, so they reacted as a people, as Zulus, not as whether they supported Inkatha or the ANC or the PAC or any other organisation, but it became basically a Zulu/Xhosa clash. So I think those are the reasons why the violence started.

POM     Just on one point of clarification. Do you personally believe that the ANC wants to create a one-party state?

AK     I think there are very powerful forces within the ANC that want to create a one-party state and certainly it is the aim of a large number of Marxists and I think they are dominant in the higher echelons, and the higher you go up in the ANC the more you will find they are communist dominated. If you look at the speech writer, Raymond Suttner is a communist. If you look at Gill Marcus, the spokesman, she's a communist. I could name you a whole host of them in senior positions that are Marxists. But of course that too, I don't want to be too emphatic on that because particularly now after the spectacular collapse of communism in the East, obviously they are going to have to reappraise their tactics and Joe Slovo, the Secretary General of the SACP, now again after the events in Russia of the past week, has repeatedly said that the SACP stands for multi-party democracy.

POM     You talked about the ANC having a double agenda, the double agenda being? What are the two legs of the double agenda?

AK     Well on the one hand it's to sue for peace and on the other hand to threaten violence. They have, for example, again at their congress said that they will not disband uMkhonto weSizwe, it will be kept in reserve. I don't think that's a very clever way to negotiate to always have what we have in our paper called sometimes 'negotiation by panga'. In other words you keep the panga up your sleeve and if people don't agree with you, you use it.

POM     But it's accepted in almost every quarter that the feasibility of going back to an armed struggle is simply not on, it's not viable, didn't even work particularly well in its hey-day never mind if it were to try and start all over again. So it's symbolic more than anything else.

AK     Agreed. But the reality is that that is what happens on the ground. You must remember also, apart from the fact that I think, look there's no doubt that the ANC, I think one must be realistic and fair to them, there's no doubt that they're going through a very fundamental and traumatic metamorphosis. There's no question about that in my view and I think the signs are there. But it's really a question of at the end of the day which force is going to be the dominant one. Whether it's going to be the hard liners or whether it's going to be the people who are prepared to compromise. As I've said earlier, I think fundamentally, as I perceive it certainly, the problem is that Nelson Mandela is unable to assert his influence over the party as he should.

POM     Looking at another double agenda, since this time last year when the violence first began to break out in the Transvaal, the ANC first said it was being orchestrated by Inkatha, then they moved to saying there was a third force, and then they moved to say the government itself was behind the violence and then in March or April of this year you had Mr Mandela openly accusing the government of complicity in the violence. Then you had Inkathagate which was taken by supporters of the ANC as final irrefutable proof that the government had a hand in the shenanigans and the government was behind the violence in the townships. Do you believe there was any government involvement in the violence?

AK     No. I don't believe that at all. There's no doubt at all that I think, and there are people being charged right now, there are policemen that have been involved in violence, and I think given the sort of frenetic changes that have taken place in South Africa in moving away from apartheid - and remember that large numbers of the South African Police their sole job was actually to enforce apartheid. So it's not surprising that a lot of those people will revert to the system they know best which is repression and trying to manipulate the politics through coercion. No doubt that that will happen but I certainly don't believe that the State is behind that.

     But then again one must be realistic and say, there are large numbers of cases where the ANC has been directly and overtly involved in violence. There are people, there's a trial going on at the South Coast right now where three members of the ANC, some of them very high personal aides of people right up at the top, who were caught with - and again one must be careful because that case is sub judice and I don't want to anticipate what the courts are going to find - but the reality is that these people were found with AK47s, with landmines, that they had lists of people in KwaMashu and Umlazi and Umhlanga. Very clearly these were hit men and they're now arguing on a technicality as to whether they were actually captured in Transkei or South Africa, which I think really begs the question of what was going on. So there's no doubt that there has been violence on all sides.

     One must remember also, let us go back, when Mr Mandela eventually came to address the rally in Durban and he made his strong plea for people to throw away their pangas, throw away their spears, throw them into the sea, and nobody listened to him. Now why? Why? If the ANC was really committed to peace then why could it not stop the violence on its side? You see what has happened in South Africa unfortunately, and I think large numbers of people are responsible for it and the state of course has its own - there's no doubt that violence in South Africa was state inspired initially. I mean apartheid does violence to people. There's no question about that. That is beyond doubt. But I think what has made the matter much worse is that the ANC then set about, until very recently, preaching to its people that the people should be rendered ungovernable. Large numbers of policemen are still being murdered, large numbers of black councillors are still being murdered. There was a deliberate campaign to destabilise education with the parrot cry of 'Liberation now, education later'. So added on to the violence and apartheid was a new culture of violence and I think it's very clear now that forces have been unleashed which are going to be very difficult to control. It doesn't matter who is ultimately in charge.

POM     How do you then assess Inkathagate? Is it a kind of a blimp on a rocky road or does it signify some kind of significant turning point?

AK     Well, look, first of all I must say, let me speak from my own personal perspective. I found that extremely unfortunate and undesirable and certainly something which I would oppose with everything I have. I find it totally unacceptable. But again one must look at it in broad perspective. The fact is that if you have a policy of deliberately isolating, particularly KwaZulu and the Zulu people, it's not surprising that at the end of the day people are going to start resorting to all manner of stratagems to try and get themselves out of the corner and I'm sure that is actually what happened. If you look at also the fact that Inkatha has got no resources, whereas the ANC has got hundreds of millions of rands available to it from all over the world, Inkatha has had none. So it's not surprising under those circumstances that individuals might yield to that sort of temptation. So I believe that in the longer term sure it's done a lot of damage, but I don't believe that it in any way is going to affect the long term viability of what Inkatha stands for.

POM     Do you think that Buthelezi did know what was going on?

AK     I don't believe so, but I'd just like to qualify that and say that I was out of the country and I really haven't had a chance to catch up, but I would be very, very surprised if he knew about that.

POM     A large cross section of people that we've talked to say that it has reduced Buthelezi's credibility to a very low level, especially in the black community outside.

AK     No I don't believe that. All the evidence points in the opposite direction because from discussions I've had with Inkatha people since I've got back certainly it's had a tremendous impact on white supporters, very high level white supporters, funds have flown in to the party from people who've never traditionally supported them. With regard to black people, no I don't believe it's done damage at all because the movement seems to be growing, they're opening up branches all the time, so no, I don't think that is true.

POM     You don't think there's any propensity out there for Buthelezi to be seen as a puppet of the government?

AK     That is ridiculous. That is such a silly little cliché because there's a long history and again it's very well documented. The man most responsible for the release of Mandela was Dr Buthelezi. It was in negotiations with the government they actually, also as I think I told you last time, they actually drew up the modalities to actually make that happen. So that's ridiculous to say he's a puppet of the government. Secondly, again there's a long history of the government destabilising Inkatha, including some of the people who are now in the ANC who are actually former members of the Bureau of State Security, very high level people. The deceased President of Contralesa who was deposed and ultimately assassinated is a former member of the Bureau of State Security. That's a fundamental fact which you cannot get away from. So the other thing which I think people should take note of, is it not possible that there is collusion between the state apparatus and the ANC towards Inkatha? Is it not possible that there are forces in the government that are using their own intelligence services and the knowledge they have to destabilise a political opponent to get the negotiation process going on a simpler basis where it's less complicated? And I think there is a possibility that that would happen. The other thing that's interesting is the timing. How is it that that happened on the eve of Inkatha's conference when it was going to adopt its new constitution? How is it that it happened so close to the ANC's conference in Durban? Why did they choose Natal? How does this all come out at the same time? There are certain politicians in South Africa also, and I don't want to name them, who had their security clearances withdrawn by the government, they were former members of the government. One must also look at their possible complicity in that. So it's not as simple as it looks. I think it's fair to assume that there may well be complicity between the ANC and the government.

PAT     May I ask a question? Why do whites want to join Inkatha?

AK     Well I think there are two issues. You must be very careful. I was overseas when this happened and it was portrayed very widely internationally that the government had been supporting Inkatha. That's not true. Again, if you look at the newspapers the government had in fact financed two rallies which were there to mobilise support against sanctions. They never put any money into Inkatha. So one must be very careful that they were financing Inkatha. They financed two rallies in Durban. Well I think there are a number of reasons. I think first of all there is a very wide belief among blacks and whites in South Africa that sanctions have done this country an enormous amount of harm and they've put a lot of black people out of work and I think, I would say, that one of the reasons, probably the main reason why white people flock towards Inkatha at that time was almost to give support to that viewpoint or sentiment.

POM     After the meeting between Buthelezi and Mandela, at least in the United States and Britain there were many magazine coverages with the three, Buthelezi, Mandela and de Klerk, the three major players, that this process had finally come together and again a lot of people outside of Natal had said that it again diminished Buthelezi's role, that it's more like two major players have once again occupied centre stage.

AK     No I don't believe that. I think one must be very careful. One of the fundamental flaws of apartheid was (I mean apart from the fact that it's ethically and morally repugnant) that in ideological terms when you start adopting ideologies like that you invariably start thinking in terms of either/or scenarios. It's either black or it's white, there are no greys. And I think this sort of scenario, to think that somehow in South Africa there should be two forces, the one de Klerk or white or whatever you want to call it and the other ANC I think is ridiculous. There are large numbers of forces, not only Inkatha, there's the PAC, there's all manner, there's the white right wing and there are large numbers of players. To think in terms of that scenario, of two, just a double sided table I think is ridiculous. It's just not the reality. But people fall into that and of course the ANC itself, as I say, all along since it's release has sought to groom everybody into the ANC camp with basically the approach that if you're not with us you're against us, so you either join us or you must sit on de Klerk's side. Now that is nonsense.

POM     Do you think that the National Party or the government has a clearly thought out strategy as to what they want out of these negotiations? How they are going to about getting it?

AK     I think there's no doubt about that. I mean it's logical isn't it? Politics is about power. If you don't go into a situation where you haven't got an assignment and don't have idea as to what you want, then I would be very surprised.

POM     What in your view do they want? What do you think is something that they can sell and settle for?

AK     I think the patterns are beginning to emerge. I think very clearly they seem to stand for, they want to move away from the Westminster 'winner takes all' situation. They want to arrive at a situation, by whichever formula, that there is power sharing between interested parties with a set of checks and balances that you can't have losers and winners as it were. Secondly, there are more and more signs that the government and a large number of other parties including Inkatha and, for example, the Democratic Party, are looking towards some sort of federal system in terms of which power is devolved downwards in that you create new regions in South Africa to accommodate the great diversity of interests that there are in the country. I would say that those are the two.

POM     Do you see their wanting to exercise power at the executive level being a key component of what they want?

AK     Yes I think so. Let me go back a few steps and say that if you look at the studies which were done initially by the Buthelezi Commission and then ultimately followed up through the Indaba, you will find that there were very strong elements of consociation of democracy in them basically and ... as you know is the greatest proponent of that theory and he came out here on a number of occasions and served on those Commissions. And, yes, I think that does feature in their thinking. It was rejected, as you know, very strongly by the government at the time, both initiatives, but it seems to me that it is an element in their thinking and I think it is also something that could work in South Africa. If you have agreement between leaders with demonstrable support and can carry their constituencies with them I think the chances of reaching accommodation are good.

POM     But what strategies do you think the government will employ to lead them to this situation?

AK     I don't think I would be competent to comment on that. But very clearly, as I indicated, they must have a plan and they certainly don't intend to hand over power. That's unrealistic. So they are going to try and negotiate an agreement at a multi-party conference which is hopefully acceptable to all, but how they're going to go about that I wouldn't know.

POM     Do you think that the revelation that the government was funding the opposition parties in Namibia at a time when it had signed a declaration at the UN to be an impartial overseer of the electoral process strengthens the case the ANC makes that you can't rely on the government to be both player and referee, that some kind of interim structure is required to separate one from the other?

AK     I don't believe that and the reasons are very simple. First of all one must accept that you are dealing with a totally different ball game. The sort of destabilisation policies that were set in train by the former government under PW Botha and his predecessors very clearly have ceased. I think that's been internationally recognised. So we're dealing now with different circumstances. As I indicated earlier I think it would also be very surprising if those forces that were within the state structures could all be disbanded overnight. I don't think that would happen. Hence, for example, this attempt to influence things through the funding of these rallies. But certainly I don't believe that that is state policy and I think that's just politicking. It would be surprising if the ANC didn't use that tactic because obviously they're also going for power and they will throw everything at the opposition. But I think that's an unrealistic assessment.

POM     Do you see any circumstances at all under which this government would resign, would cede sovereignty to become part of an all-party government?

AK     No. Well, it depends when you say 'cede' sovereignty, no I don't believe that's realistic because first of all there is a constitution in South Africa and in terms of the constitution there is a parliament and there are laws. Now until you've changed the constitution you can't actually disband the existing structure. I think what they will do, they may accept interim arrangements where, for example, there are inputs from other contenders for power in the army and the police and in some of the state administrations, but no, I can't see that they will cede sovereignty. That would not be possible and I think it would be extremely dangerous.

POM     I want to go back to your remarks about consociation within the government and to relate them to a broader question and that is how you would define what the problem is. Just to give a range of possibilities: some politicians and academics say that it's about racial domination or about the white minority over blacks; some say no, it's more about competition of two nationalisms, broadly speaking black nationalism and white nationalism; others say yes, there are racial disparities but within each racial group there are significant ethnic cleavages and if these are not taken into account, if future conflict is to be avoided, there are those who say the problem is really one about access to resources, those who have, those who don't. If you, with the assembled negotiators, were sitting around a table and you were told to give them a short definition of the problem they were to face, what would you say?

AK     Well that's a real mouthful of question. I would say there are elements of all those issues in the South African situation, of all of them. I think at the end of the day there are two powerful forces at work. The one is, if you look at the opposition, whatever it may be, whether it's the ANC, Inkatha and everything that goes with it and all those that are disgruntled, and those that currently hold power, both trying to compete ultimately to control the state machine. Now those forces very clearly are such that I think, as you said earlier, there is no chance of a revolution in South Africa. The sort of rhetoric of armed struggle and so on is nothing but rhetoric. So, given that sort of scenario you have to have a situation where there has to be give and take because now the contender is able to shift the other one out of the way. I think that is a fundamental reality and there are elements of, as I say, all those issues in it. For example, there's no doubt that there are huge ethnic cleavages as we've seen. That is where much of the violence has emanated from and those have to be taken into account. There is also no doubt that there's going to be a huge competition for resources and I think that is where the biggest problem of all is going to lie because aspirations among large numbers of black people have now been kindled to such a degree that they simply cannot be met. It doesn't matter who's in power. So I think one has to accept that whoever is at the helm is going to have a huge problem with the electorate generally because the economy is simply not in a position to deliver.

POM     Do you think this is reason? It has been suggested that even if the ANC emerges as the dominant party, the political party, that it would engage in a coalition government perhaps with the National Party first time round?

AK     That depends on the constitution. You see that's going to depend on what constitution emerges. Whether the country is going to be fragmented, not fragmented but where the power is going to be dissolved downwards, where there are going to be much stronger federal units. It's going to depend on the outcome of those talks. That will determine it. I can't see personally in the short term that you are going to get, as you put it, a coalition because I think a constitution will be negotiated hopefully in terms of which nobody will feel threatened and that there is actually an interest to work together in terms of a constitution.

POM     So you would see something more akin to what the government has proposed, that is a multi-party Cabinet?

AK     Yes. I think that is, as I've said, I think elements of consociationism are going to be imperative in South Africa. I really can't see any other scenario that will work.

POM     I want to talk in relation again to the question of violence. Increasingly in the last year the violence in the Transvaal has been portrayed in the West as being ethnic violence to the extent that The Economist about 5 or 6 weeks ago said that there really was no difference between the violence between Xhosas and Zulus and the violence between Serbs and Croatians, in essence they were both ethnically based. Do you think that's a correct analysis?

AK     Yes it is, but only insofar as people have made the political mistakes that have made that possible. As I indicated earlier, for example, if you look in Natal, Zulu and Xhosa have co-existed here for very long periods of time, particularly in the south of Natal there has been free intermarriage, there's been enormous inter-action between the two and there has been no violence. What has brought that about is the policies to try and isolate KwaZulu and people perceived and obviously on the other side there were people that actually fanned those flames of nationalism, both I think from the government who no doubt would have supported it as well because they saw it was in their interests. It was extremely stupid to do that, and dangerous, but yes it ultimately did, one cannot deny that. There are lots of writers that have actually pointed that out. I remember one particular individual from Pietermaritzburg who is a really well known journalist who actually feigned deaf and dumbness in Johannesburg lest his Zulu accent be picked up because that would have had serious consequences. I don't believe that that is a permanent state of affairs. I don't believe that that means that therefore you've got to have sort of ethnic states. That is repugnant and I don't believe that is acceptable but you have to create a situation where groups don't feel threatened because if they do then you get people that do not only encourage that but exploit it and that becomes dangerous.

POM     I suppose what I would be getting at is that South Africa is what you would call a divided society in the classical sense of the word in there being a majority and a minority and a fear of dominance of the one over the other, is that simply a Bill of Rights and an independent judiciary and parliament don't address the special features of divided societies. If they did they wouldn't be divided.

AK     Yes, but again the issue is it's all very well having a Bill of Rights but a Bill of Rights means nothing unless it's actually supported by the people. In other words unless people at the negotiating table, representative of the sort of interest groups in South Africa have accepted that and can sell it to their constituencies. But it's no good, for example, having one dominant player who says I'll have a Bill of Rights. If the people don't believe in it then it won't work. That's the key issue.

POM     Well some, including de Klerk, have said that the comparison between the situation here and the situation in Eastern Europe in the sense that they say that ethnic nationalisms were suppressed for 50 years by totalitarian communism, once the yoke of communism was lifted these nationalisms bubbled up to the surface and that one can expect in South Africa that as the yoke of apartheid is lifted that these submerged ethnic nationalities will again begin to bubble up to the surface. Do you think that's an accurate analysis?

AK     Yes, I think again there are definitely elements in that and particularly given the fact that there's going to be competition for resources. If, for example, one group felt that it wasn't getting a fair share of the resources obviously you're going to get, it's going to mobilise nationalism because they will see in the nationalism the only means of actually exerting influence on those who have power to make sure that they get their fair share of the cake. But I don't believe personally that you have to take, obviously as I said earlier, you have to take group rights into account. And I don't want to use that word in a political sense because it's so abused by people but I think there are certain realities that you have to take into account. I mean there's no doubt that large numbers of white people in this country are very fearful and one has to take that into account. Whether it's logical or illogical doesn't really matter, it's a reality. But I think at the end of the day it's going to depend on when one gets around the negotiating table and the parties agree on something and if those leaders that agree on that, whatever the constitution is, have the side of the constituencies and I think it will tend to diffuse those nationalisms.

POM     Do you still think that a process of a Constituent Assembly will be the one which leads to the drafting of a constitution?

AK     No, I don't believe a Constituent Assembly will come into being. I don't believe the government would see that because it would mean that they will have to cede their sovereignty and I don't see the Nationalists doing that. I think what you're going to get is interim arrangements in terms of which various contenders for power will be brought into the executive of the government to oversee the security forces, possibly have an input into deciding on how the budget is structured and so on and during that interim period I think then there must be multi-party talks and those multi-party talks must culminate in the form of a constitution which once accepted will lead to one man one vote elections and after those elections changes to that constitution.

POM     If one goes back to 1967 a and looks at Africa as a whole, with few exceptions there has been no transfer of power from one freely elected government to another freely elected government. Either the countries have become one-party states or one party enjoys such a monopoly of power that it doesn't have to exercise democracy in any real sense. What do you think might make South Africa different?

AK     Well I think the first thing that is different is that you are not dealing with a colonial power, even the UN has accepted the South African government as the legal government of the country, that's the one difference. Secondly, you're not dealing with settlers that can go away. You're dealing with a very large group of people who have no other home but Africa and, as I say, those powers are contending with each other and the scenario is fundamentally different. So I don't think that will happen.

POM     If you were to look at the performance of the ANC over this past year, how would you rate them on a scale of one to ten?

AK     Well it depends on what you're actually measuring. Very clearly if you look for examples on its ability to mobilise party structures and constituency I think by its own admission it has failed and I would not rate it very highly. It said that within a very short period of time it would mobilise a million members. Well it hasn't been able to do that. It hasn't been able to set up party structures. But I think, as I tried to indicate earlier, one must be fair and that is that given the South African government and that it lived in exile for so long, that it was guided by people who had really lost touch with what was going on. I forget who it was that made the observation and said people that live in exile and miss home make the fundamental error in believing that the home actually misses them as well, which of course is not the case. So it's fairly difficult for them to adjust and I think one must have understanding for that. After all it wasn't of their choosing. It was the SA government that drove them underground and drove them to adopt the policies that they did. So they've got a fairly traumatic period of change to go through and I think all in all they've handled it fairly well and the conference in Durban I think showed that a lot of the old guard, the old timers that had grown up on the ideologies that were foreign to the local people, were voted out of office. The fundamental problem I have is that the higher echelons of the ANC are still dominated by the Communist Party. That's where the big problem lies.

POM     What do you think are the consequences?

AK     That's very difficult to say. I believe in terms of its image outside that is going to cost the ANC dearly. I can't see in the current political climate with communism collapsing everywhere, I can't see the west embracing a movement that has such close links and is in fact dominated by the SACP. I think that is going to be a major problem. But, you see, and this is mainly where if you look at the voting, what surprised me was that some of the very hard-line communists in fact drew large numbers of votes when the congress voted for the National Executive Committee. It seems to me that that is where the great danger lies because these people, as they did in Eastern Europe, promised Utopia, promised that they will be able to deliver and they will not be able to deliver. There is great resentment which has built up among blacks because they have been so deprived for so long and, as I said, expectations have been aroused which simply cannot be met. And if, for example, you were to implement policies on nationalisation, of seizing the assets of particularly private property, it would collapse, the whole system would collapse. So it would be a very short-lived popularity but it might be, in terms of votes if you look at those figures, it may well be that it wouldn't be such a negative influence although Alfred Nzo himself, the former Secretary General, did observe at the conference that the links with the SACP were costing the ANC fairly dearly.

POM     What about the position of Mandela? Some people have said to us that he has been sidelined to a degree, that the National Working Group were trying to move the power of decision making away from the office of the Presidency to the office of the Secretary General. Do you think that kind of internal struggle is going on in the movement?

AK     Yes, yes, the signs of that have been there all along, right from after Mandela's release. For example, the sidelining of Ramaphosa after his release when it clearly showed that the old guard didn't like his forceful style. It's not only Ramaphosa but all the internal leadership of the UDF who felt that they had been the standard bearers of the struggle did not like the situation where suddenly the old elite came from outside the country and were running the show. I would be very surprised if that were not the case. In fact I'm sure it is and that you're going to get a very big power struggle where the younger generation - and I'm quite sure that they will win the day. They must, they're in the majority, they have the experience, they've actually fought the struggle where it really counts, at home. They've actually been through the fire of clashing with industry and commerce and with businessmen. The old generation don't have that experience.

POM     Looking at the Conservative Party, when we were here last year there was a lot of speculation that the CP would perhaps get a majority of white votes in a whites only election and they were taken as a very serious threat. If you would look first at the CP and the course, or non-course, it has taken during the last year and then at the AWB and given an assessment of what you think really the potential of the right is or what the potential threat of the right is?

AK     I think there are two distinct elements there. The AWB I don't believe poses a serious threat in terms of constitutional threat, but there are very clearly forces at work there which are very ugly and sooner or later the government will have to deal with it. One cannot have situations that you had, for example, at Ventersdorp. But I believe that that is a very small minority among South Africans. The CP has been a little bit ambivalent, it has hesitated to actually overtly criticise the extremism on the right. Personally I don't believe that the CP poses a serious threat to the government in the longer term but of course the longer negotiations are delayed the more violence is unleashed, the more the economy is run down, obviously you're going to get more and more people seeking solace in the arms of the CP.

POM     There was a by-election recently in Ladybrand where I guess the CP won, but it didn't increase the number of votes. The NP members didn't vote which would suggest that even through they might be disillusioned with the NP they're no about to turn over to the CP.

AK     I think that is realistic. I don't believe that in the short term they pose a serious electoral threat but if the security situation worsens and if the economy continues to be run down, if talks don't take place, then who knows.

POM     Do you think there's any relationship to their performance, to the fact that what they posit as an alternative is totally and utterly unrealistic?

AK     Yes. No doubt.

POM     A homeland made up of whites, 87% of .... It's just not on, stupid. One ultimately doesn't vote for a party and realise they can't deliver on maybe any aspect of what they're saying.

AK     Oh absolutely. But as I was saying, one must be cautious. As I said, one must qualify that and say that if the situation gets too bad then people tend to support radical parties. If you look at what happened in Europe, what made a man like Hitler possible, it was the same sort of scenario, an aggrieved people who felt they had been hard done by and demagogues come along and as we've seen in this country and people tend when they're insecure to act irrationally and either turn a blind eye or actively support them. But I don't see that as a serious issue. I really don't believe that they have the capacity to unseat the government.

POM     Looking at Inkatha and Buthelezi, what do you think Buthelezi wants? How does he fit in the whole scheme of things? You now have the development of this Patriotic Front from which he will be conspicuously absent, making it in fact a triangular focus as liberation movements and perhaps the DP on one side, the government on the second and Buthelezi on the third.

AK     Well let me answer it this way, first of all I think the PF idea is nothing but a variation of the old ANC thing of they're the vanguard movement and it's a two sided table with the government on the one side and all the others on the other. Now this is just a variation of that theme. They've done their homework and they've dragooned large numbers of people into supporting them, particularly in the homeland areas, but I don't believe at the end of the day that that is going to work. And if you ask where does it leave Inkatha, I will say to you if he's, in your words, he's conspicuous by his absence, if you isolate people, that is what's going to happen. They will then turn within themselves and they will mobilise their people because if they're under attack that's what they will do. And you will just have a continuation of the current scenario. So I think one must be very careful with too easily recognising those sorts of things because I think they're very dangerous because in fact they're beginning to polarise and they're undemocratic before you've even started talking about a constitution.

POM     I suppose we were surprised by the extent to which people in other parts of the country were prepared to more or less consign Buthelezi to the dustbin. Across the board from NP members through ANC they said his credibility had been damaged but 10 Downing Street or the White House wouldn't have agreed with that.

AK     It's not realistic, it's not realistic. It simply is not going to happen. What about, let me answer you this way, what about Mandela's credibility? Do you think the fact that when he recently went overseas again and publicly embraced Arafat and Gaddafi and Fidel Castro. Where does that leave his credibility? Does the West like that sort of thing?

POM     Well I suppose I would answer that there is this implicit perception that Mandela is a future President of the country, or a President in waiting, so he's afforded a status that discounts the future into the present.

AK     I think that's being unrealistic, I really do. I really don't think that's realistic politics.

POM     That Buthelezi will be?

AK     No, that Mandela will be a future President. He may well be but I think to assume that automatically is not a good assessment of what might or might not happen. It depends also in terms of what is a President. Is he going to be a figurehead? Is he going to be a figure of state? Is he going to be a figurehead representing all the regions? There are these large numbers of scenarios that could emerge but I certainly can't see him emerging as an executive style President like de Klerk if there's a negotiated settlement.

POM     If the agenda of the government is to hold on to as much power as it can, what are the agendas of the ANC and Inkatha?

AK     Well I think the agenda of the ANC is fairly clear and that is it wants an interim government and it wants that structure to hand over power to itself.

POM     So they're talking about the transfer of power, not the sharing of power?

AK     Correct. Inkatha stands for a totally different set of circumstances, it always has. It stands for the sharing of power. If you look at the Buthelezi Commission, if you look at the KwaZulu government, if you look at its current policy, the parameters which it's accepted, belief in a multi-party state, of recognising, safeguarding the rights of minorities of free enterprise, it's a totally different sort of scenario.

POM     Would there be an Inkatha without Buthelezi?

AK     No doubt about that. I mean that's another - if you look at the way - I think there's a large element of propaganda in that because even if you look, as I said to you, if you look at Guidelines to Comrades, the whole thing has been so structured to actually try and isolate Buthelezi from his constituency. There's no doubt in my mind about that, no doubt. Would there be an ANC without Mandela? Would there?

POM     I don't know, probably yes.

AK     Interesting question.

POM     Splintered.

AK     It's not a flippant question because if you look at who is actually, how powerful the SACP is in the higher echelons, the higher you go the more powerful they are, then I think it's not unreasonable to actually pose the question, what is the ANC and where is it? What is it actually? It's sometimes very difficult to discern. I think Ken Owen has used a very apt analogy, two analogies he uses, the one is the rider and the horse. In other words we have black nationalism and we have the SACP as the rider. The other one is of the shark, which is again the African nationalists, and then it's pilot fish which is the SACP underneath which guides the shark to where it has to go. And I think sometimes it is fairly difficult to actually determine where the ANC is, and that includes a lot of youngsters who have now come up. A lot of them are very committed Marxists.

POM     Do you still see the youth as a potentially major explosive component of the whole situation?

AK     Yes, very.

POM     Is there no kind of deviation of that situation in the last year?

AK     If anything it's got worse. There's very little schooling been taking place. There's more and more social disintegration that's taking place. I think in the absence, and I don't think we have very much time, some very dramatic things are going to have to happen if we want to keep the whole show together. And particularly you're going to have to devise ways and means of satisfying the aspirations of the younger people. In KwaZulu itself, for example, more than 50% of the population is now under 15 years of age. That is a frightening statistic and given the fact that the economy is shrinking and vast amounts of money are being spent on education you are going to fuel aspirations which I don't believe you're going to be able to satisfy.

POM     When you say dramatic things must happen, do you mean things like ...?

AK     Well there are a number of things. I think first of all there are a number of scenarios which have been worked out. I would say there are two things basically. The one is that vast amounts of money have to be spent on housing and I think the figures that have been suggested as being capable within the current budgetary constraints are the creation of a minimum of a quarter of a million houses a year for the next two or three years, the building of 250 000 houses. Then another major aspect which I think would also have a dramatic impact on the lives of people, both urban and rural, and again economists have indicated that it is within the realms of possibility, and that is that one must electrify also in the order of about 250 000 homes a year because that would have a very, very dramatic effect on the quality of lives of people. If you look, for example, in rural areas where in a normal household a woman would spend 4 or 5 hours a day gathering firewood, now apart from the very serious ecological implications of that just imagine how much more productive they would be if they could use electricity. Imagine what it would do in the field of education, that instead of being in darkness at night you could actually be in a position where you could study, take lessons, go to training. It opens vast amounts of possibilities. And then of course the other issue is that if one was able to do that it would do an enormous amount to create jobs, to create jobs in the immediate for people that are unemployed, but of course that would have an enormous spin-off on all other aspects of the SA economy and once you start building those sorts of homes people want to furnish them, they need appliances and so one thing would lead to another. I think that is what we need. I would see even more, even though you have to resolve the political problems, but much more important is to resolve the economic problems. Unless you do that I really don't think you've got a chance.

POM     When you look at the year, do you look to the next year with an optimistic eye or a pessimistic one? It would seem to me, let me try and qualify that, it would seem to me that despite the violence, despite the ANC's accusations that the Government, not accusations, their firm belief, that the government has been trying to destroy them in the past year and despite their beliefs in the relationship they think exists between Inkatha and the government, besides their hostility and apathy towards Buthelezi, they have working groups working behind scenes and they have come up with this National Peace Initiative which will be launched on September 14th which sounds like a substantial piece of work where people sit down, put these differences aside and work something out in difficult circumstances. That calls for optimism does it not?

AK     Yes indeed. But in that respect I'd like to quote Alan Paton. I think what makes South Africa so unique is that in the mornings you wake up feeling a great optimist and you can go to bed feeling desperately pessimistic. And I have those times as well. The thing that frightens me more than anything is the enormous growth in the population , and it's coupled with a negative growth rate, and more and more degradation of the environment within the country. Those are the things that really frighten me, more than even the political things. And then of course the spectre of AIDS which will have devastating consequences socially, politically and economically. I think those are the things that worry me personally more than whether people are going to agree around the conference table. The figures are quite frightening, they really are.

POM     Will they be at a conference table this time next year?

AK     I think so. I don't think you have much choice. If we don't I would say I don't believe we have much more time than about 18 months to two years left.

POM     What would it take to derail the process at this point?

AK     I don't think it can be derailed. I think the odds are now so high and the risks are so great for everybody that you really don't have an option. As you said earlier, the ANC is not in a position to go back to the armed struggle. It certainly can't go into exile. So what can it do? It has to deliver. The government certainly, in my view, apart from fact that it has introduced changes that are irreversible, but it too - where is it going to retreat to? There is nowhere to go, it has to be resolved.

POM     Finally, if the CP stays out of this process as they insist that they will stay on the sidelines and won't negotiate unless the right to self-determination of the white nation of SA is recognised, so they become slowly irrelevant to the process?

AK     Yes because they will lose their ability to influence events because there is no way that they are able to stop it and apart form that I have a fundamental faith in the SA people that they're not going to go for hare-brained schemes. What do they want to do? Their policies are totally and utterly not only morally indefensible but they are unworkable so what are you going to sell? People know these things. We've had 40 years of apartheid and it's done untold damage to this country. People know that. Do they want to try it again? It's unrealistic.

POM     Finally just one thing which is more a tactical thing. How was Inkathagate treated in the media in Natal? Big story, medium story, inside page?

AK     I've only just got back and I've been in the last 3 or 3 days for the first time reading the newspapers and it's actually amazed me because they've gone totally overboard in my view. They really have made a mountain out of a molehill. There are big moral principles involved, moral issues which I fully agree with but certainly it's gone way beyond what I think is reasonable. But I think, if I can just make a point, there is a very interesting phenomenon at work here and in fact I have mentioned this to the Inkatha leadership and made myself very unpopular at times, but you see there is a cyclical nature in everything in life and the Inkatha went through a hey-day when it was seen as the champion of opposition to apartheid and I think Buthelezi enjoyed more press coverage than the ANC has ever had, in his hey-day. But then once the politics were freed up I think there was an inability on their part to come to grips with the new set of circumstances. Instead of actually going out and doing a little bit of soul searching themselves a lot of them have engaged in media bashing now. Long years of experience in Durban have taught me that you can't beat the press. You'd better learn that lesson. They might not have a lot of influence but you can't beat them. I think if you look, for example, just to give you another example, if you look at how the Palestine Liberation Movement was treated in the western press 15 - 20 years ago, they were great ogres but today they are perceived as a legitimate political force. People might not always like what they do but they certainly accord it respect and they get publicity. So I think there too you must accept that if you want to change the press's perception of yourself then you've got to work at it and you've got to nurture ties, you've got to invite people in, you've got to talk to them. It's no good kicking the dog in terms of bad news because that won't work.

PAT     If you were advising them, what would you say are the two or three major things that they would need to address themselves to change the perception?

AK     Well I think the first thing to do is not to adopt a defensive attitude always. But you see, if I can just go back a few steps, where I think the ANC and the media in SA are making a very serious error of judgement is because they have engaged in a deliberate campaign to isolate Buthelezi and to destroy him and that is done for party political reasons, it's got nothing to do with moral issues. Now sooner or later the more you drive a person into a corner the more defensive he's going to become and the reactions are going to be such that they're going to be more and more questionable. Now I think that's not very bright. And if we are democrats, which hopefully we are, then that's undesirable because the very basis of democracy is negotiation and sitting and talking with people who disagree with you. Not trying to bash them out of existence. You have to engage people in dialogue and talk about it because that's what it's all about. So I think, for example, the press have done, I think, SA a great disservice in the way they've rounded on Inkatha and there are many, many cases I could show you where they are manifestly unfair.

PAT     I agree with you. Even in our little exposure to it and what strikes me is the ability to mobilise yet it keeps getting in the press. You call it a perception, the reality with Inkathagate and it could have been overplayed. But what are the strengths that Inkatha should be accentuating to combat it?

AK     Well it should be open. It should be, look it all has been open. That's the one great virtue it has I must say. All it's conferences are open, you can hear the debates, unlike the ANC, where things are debated in public. It has its weaknesses but the point is now it is turning within itself instead of opening. It should actually expose itself more. I think that is a weakness. It must be addressed.

POM     Someone said that it's not democratic, pointing to the manner in which its President is selected. Buthelezi was nominated and elected just by affirmation, there was no secret ballot. People in the hall just put their hands up and it was over.

AK     Look one can argue that. The reality is that Buthelezi might have his opponents but he so dominates that movement, that's not a criticism that's a reality. It's like in the hey-day of Konrad Adenauer, people wouldn't challenge him because you wouldn't have a chance.

PAT     Yes, but even Kaunda opened up his party, had secret ballots, had somebody run against him.

AK     Look I hear what you're saying but I really don't believe it is realistic politics because if there were a secret ballot I'm pretty confident that you would find pretty much the same result. He might have about 5% or 10% or whatever saying no and voting for somebody else but the end result would be the same.

PAT     What do you think membership growth is now?

AK     No it's about 1.9 million the last time, it's a very sizeable constituency.

POM     So this is a growing organisation, not one that is losing members?

AK     Well that's all the evidence that I see, that it is in fact growing.

POM     The last question which I think came up and we skipped it, what is Buthelezi's agenda?

AK     I have no doubt that he intends to be at the negotiation table and I have no doubt that he believes he is going to be a major player.

POM     Major player in the sense of?

AK     He made a statement in Taiwan just as I was getting back to say that he would run for President and I think that indicates what he would like to be. But I think that is really a side issue. I think realistically they certainly have to be a major player within a future government of SA, a major player. How that is structured of course again depends on the constitution. It might well be that SA is broken up, I don't like to use the words 'broken up' but that they adopt a federal system and that you have a lot of devolution of power to regional governments, in which case very clearly Natal/KwaZulu as a region I think is pretty powerful.

POM     OK, thanks very much.

PAT     Did you carry Gwala's statement in the paper?

AK     We just carried it, he's a side show. Silly old man. Do you know the man? He's a man, I would vote him as a man in the mould of Stalin and Hitler. He's an ugly person. He's made lots of statements, for example, that the liberators of this country were AK47s. He said it in Umlazi just nine months ago. That's not the sort of language I like to hear. He's also repeatedly said that there's no need to talk to Buthelezi, 'We will finish him off by other means', and he's said that repeatedly.

POM     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.