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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.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

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POM     Gavin, I indicated to you before that this study isn't about publishing anything immediately, even in the near future. The series of interviews I hope will continue until some definitive point in the process where there's a new government or a constitution being developed, happens. So in that context I hope you're relatively freer to speak than if I was a journalist coming in asking questions the answers to which would appear in the newspaper tomorrow. And I say that because I think I would be derelict if I didn't ask you about all the happenings of the last couple of months and about Inkathagate and about the funding of OWUSA(?) and the internal study that you did of the violence and whatever. So maybe I should start with you just to say your piece on what this whole set of revelations means to Inkatha, means to the perception of the Institute and the Inkatha organisation and what impact you think it has had on the political standing of Dr Buthelezi. Is that a simple one to start with?

GW     Yes. That's a most challenging one. I think from the internal investigations carried out by Inkatha as a result of these revelations we came to focus on a few individuals inside Inkatha who appear to have been the conduit or the key factor regarding both the funding that went for two Inkatha rallies and also the funding that went for OWUSA. Even though OWUSA is more separate from Inkatha than what COSATU is from the ANC there was a point where OWUSA in finding that it's organisation was malfunctioning went to the Inkatha and said, "Could you supply us with some expertise", and the individuals that Inkatha supplied, three individuals, also happened to be the individuals, one in particular, who seemed to be a key man in the accepting of funds from the security police for the two rallies in question. So it was never Inkatha as a whole, or OWUSA as a whole that were in a formalised relationship with the security police.

     I think the revelations came as a great shock both to Inkatha and to OWUSA, but one understands in retrospect and on investigation how these things happens. Both Inkatha and OWUSA have been very disadvantaged in receiving funds as opposed to rival organisations and they found things increasingly difficult over the years because they've always been at the receiving end of a propaganda war. They have never really been in a position to challenge what perceptions were being created about them. And funding being the life blood of all sorts of organisations and certain people being responsible in those organisations to get funding, to fund raise, were linked up with, it would appear, by the security establishment. Almost to a single man the security establishment who have been on the scene for some 5 or 6 years, posing basically as a man who in terms of homeland legislation was supplied by the South African government to advise and to look after security. He was seen as a security person not as an intelligence person. He was a person who could speak Zulu fluently, a very friendly guy, always go out of his way to take so-and-so's grandmother to hospital etc., and people's defences were dropped I think. So he was the interface.

POM     Major Louis Botha?

GW     So he identified individuals in Inkatha, made friends with them. They were people who would control purse strings, as I explained, and that's the way it happened. Louis Botha himself appears to have been on a bit of a career opportunity with all this and he could submit reports which were not verifiable, so it would seem. So he had to always make out to his seniors that the Inkatha leadership was very happy with what was going on, the volume of funding which from Inkatha's point of view and OWUSA's point of view officially is very untrue. In fact more from Inkatha's point of view, the track record in refusing moneys which were offered by the South African government, which were being offered by what they considered to be extreme right wing organisations both in Europe and particularly in the United States, the official line was "You don't take money from organisations, institutions with whose policies you don't agree", so that was the position. From Inkatha's point of view too we're looking at a very minimal amount of money, some R250000-00 which went towards the two rallies.

     So first I'd like to contest the perception the media created about this being Inkatha having a general and formalised and close relationship with the South African government and all the dishonest, immoral connotations that that held. But what happened was that this scandal was more of a media event than anything else and the media became extremely hysterical, and I think some of them even admitted to this, looking back now, for that week after the revelations and for the predictions that this was the demise of Inkatha, it was now going to lose support, it was now discredited and it would never feature again in politics in any big way. I think all these have since been disproved. Not one single resignation of an Inkatha member has taken place. Every weekend the evidence is there. I would be very happy to expose you to it. Inkatha are opening new branches every weekend. Inkatha continues to grow. Does it grow at a slower rate than would otherwise would have been the case had the scandal not broken out? We don't know. Inkatha certainly doesn't appear to be fatally wounded or very badly damaged for that matter.

     Personally, I myself, Gavin Woods, had a problem in that one of the individuals I mentioned inside Inkatha who was a very senior person, instructed me to conduct a Commission of Enquiry into OWUSA and to me it was simply another research job. I fancy myself as a researcher. I think people that saw the commission results, saw it to be a serious piece of work, very critical of OWUSA. It went on to suggest or make recommendations on how in a democratic way, in tune with its constitution, it could get itself together and perhaps back on the road. It had a viability to do things properly. Politics never came into it. I was also given reason towards the end of the commission to suspect that the commission could be funded from a source which people were trying to keep secret. However, having an enquiring mind amongst the possibilities it dawned on me for reasons that it could be security police. But that was at the end so there was no chance to reverse that. I had taken instructions from a senior person and I decided, well it's not my business to go any further than that' So that's as far as my implication goes.

POM     So it's never been established really that OWUSA was in fact financed by the security police?

GW     It has, it has. Certain of the documentation which we are told was lifted from security police files said quite clearly that an arrangement had been made through the security policemen to individuals in Inkatha who in turn instructed me and the Chief was aware that I was conducting this commission, but there is nothing to suggest that he is aware of the funny aspects. In fact he's a person who, knowing him, that wouldn't have been an issue in his mind, that the Inkatha Institute through Gavin Woods is going to do a Commission of Enquiry, do we have your blessing as the Chief Minister? Fine, it's a wonderful idea, yes, I think OWUSA is the sort of organisation which should function so if we can be helpful in that way go ahead.

POM     What has this done, if anything, to the organisation internally? Has it created distrust between some members that other members were receiving money from security policemen and diverting it to purposes which they did not know about, there had been no discussion about, there had been no decision about?

GW     There are a number of things I observed. Firstly, there was a ground-swell of anger inside Inkatha towards these individuals even though there was also sympathy that these individuals were simply trying to do things they believed in but were frustrated in doing them because they could never find funding, because as I say the ANC has been very effective in making sure that Inkatha was not getting funding. But they felt that things should run their course and leave the one man who's been mentioned a lot in the paper, a Mr. Khumalo, when he saw things closing in on him he did the honourable thing and resigned. But what ran parallel with this was the media outburst which also angered Inkatha very much. They said, we know we're not what you're saying we are. To suggest that the whole organisation is contaminated, that we're all in cahoots with the extremely insidious institution of the whole apartheid system is very unfair. They were very angry and the way the media embarked on this to go on and say, well they're accepting money from the police then obviously they're in the violence with the police. So an air of defiance set in. Basically, "Go to hell, there's nothing that we can say that you'll even listen to, so just go to hell.' That was almost the official Inkatha response.

POM     Why do you think the media played this story the way it did? As you said it was made to appear over and over again that this showed that Inkatha was just a puppet of the government, that Buthelezi and de Klerk were in bed together, that Buthelezi was really a collaborator with apartheid. Buthelezi standing in the back, had been immeasurably diminished, that his influence as the national leader was over. These things were played over and over again. We've understood in talking to other people that in the late 1970s/early 1980s that Buthelezi got tremendous press coverage, favourable press coverage, the beacons of hope pointing the way to a new South Africa. What's happened?

GW     It's actually a long story, but I think you have to go back to 1976 really where there were surveys conducted in South Africa and there were only two political organisations that were emerging of any real significance. One was Inkatha, one was the Black Consciousness Movement. The ANC was something one romanticised about but to all intents and purposes nobody was calling for Mandela's release in the 70s besides Buthelezi. There were some guys who had gone into exile who didn't seem to be achieving anything. And then in 1976 we had the Soweto riots which changed everything. The South African government came down very hard on the Black Consciousness organisations, banned 16 of them, Steve Biko died, was killed, and the leaders went into exile themselves. The BCM was basically crushed but it left a ferment because there had been this void in black politics and it left a ferment especially amongst the youth. It also for the first time invoked international indignation which hadn't been forthcoming up until them, despite what apartheid had been, but the world seemed to say, well after all this we must do something. Now who was the voice of the black people?

     And this was the opportunity that presented itself to the ANC and they said "We're the voice of the black people." And suddenly the ANC got back into business, international offices opened, their strategies became strategies that the world were going to consider sanctions etc., etc. That's when it really took off. The ANC within a couple of years had a major propaganda network in place and these were feeding into the townships and they tapped into this youth ferment and gave the youth ferment direction, purpose and the ANC re-emerged strongly and we have the 1979 meeting between Inkatha leaders and ANC leaders in London. The ANC suddenly had new muscles to flex and they were re-invigorated and they said, "We're going in this and this direction", and Inkatha said, "But hold it, you know we're supposed to have some sort of understanding which we've had over some years now and we don't believe that's the proper way to go. We don't believe it honours the ANC's original positions anyway." And so the ANC took the position, "Well if you're no longer with us then you're against us and you're an opponent."

     So the contest in black hearts and minds became an ANC/Inkatha thing and the ANC were quite fearful of Inkatha. Inkatha's contention is that one noticed almost from that time, 1980, the negative propaganda from ANC began to start. A lot of very unkind things were said. These are very well documented and Inkatha suddenly took on this view that the ANC gave them of being collaborators, whereas before 1980 they weren't collaborators. If you ever look at the 1985 conference, the President speaks about Tambo, he says it all, to hear what I say, in the speech where Tambo talks about the origins of Inkatha and the blessing and how there were these understandings. He then also mentions in 1979/1980 how differences came. But it's summed up there.

     But the ANC, being at a disadvantage outside the country, having to almost work by remote control to developing urban constituencies inside the country, had a problem. Inkatha membership was really growing very spectacularly. It was being reported and from the types of crowds Buthelezi was drawing wherever he went, not only in Natal, Inkatha had to be dealt with. They were a political threat. And the ANC were also trying to entrench this international perception of being the voice of the people and Inkatha could be a threat to them. So Inkatha had to be discredited and the obvious thing, the only thing they had was to say, "collaborators" and they dwelt on that. Things really started to function after 1983 once the UDF came into being as a sort of internal arm of the ANC where they had structures and they had money and they gave on that line so the intensification of the collaborator thing tended to grow from that point on until 1987 when violence came to Natal and that gave them a new propaganda tool. "Let's blame all the violence on Inkatha." Inkatha never really contested this propaganda onslaught, (a) because they never had the financial resources to do it or the expertise and there was also, I think, a general lack of sophistication from Inkatha's point of view on how we handle the media.

     Buthelezi as a person came under more pressure from the media, the alternate media had come into being, once again financed by and large via ANC front organisations, Kagiso Trust, some the churches. My church for example, the Catholic Church, was by no mean measure involved through two highly antagonistic newspapers towards Inkatha. And this all built up pressures against Buthelezi and Buthelezi is a person who can be provoked. The media people have done it and provoked him. He reacts very strongly. Most politicians in the world have come to accept that the media is not something you can beat, you have to play the game. The PR aspect of media is very, very important. Buthelezi has never spent much time on media who he feels has a hostile agenda towards him if they confront him with what he believes are unfair questions, he is confrontational right back. This is well known. He has become a bit of a challenge to the media. He's become "game" and I think to some extent it's become pent up because the media on the other hand are trying to display an integrity which media should have an objectivity.

     But Inkathagate saw this pent-up prejudice exploded, but only from certain quarters. It wasn't all the media that tried to take him to the cleaners, particularly it was the alternate media which makes no secret about its partisan bias and, secondly, by one or two major dailies, one of which has tried to discreetly retract. The two major dailies here in Natal showed disapproval but said let's not pre-judge the situation, let's allow for hysteria to die down and really see what it's about. But, once again, the international media network of which a considerable and the greater part feeds out through the ANC DIP Department, picked up the lines they wanted to pick up and then we saw the exact words being regurgitated. They came from the ANC's propaganda authority and regurgitated by overseas media and knowing that they hadn't conferred with Inkatha even to get its point of view. It was very nasty and very hurtful and I don't think it served any purpose in establishing the type of reconciliation that's needed between parties at these delicate stages of serious negotiations.

POM     What did it do to the standing of Inkatha in the country at large?

GW     One's not able to measure that but from what I said earlier on, no people resigning, continuing to set branches in place, there doesn't appear to have been serious damage. What some of the major newspapers have mentioned and the biggest daily in the country, The Star, a very important person there has told us that they were staggered by the correspondence they received in rejecting the harsh position taken against Buthelezi and Inkatha on this issue, and not only from whites. I can't really answer your question on saying how much is the damage. There's no doubt that it was not good for Inkatha, so if it wasn't good it must have been bad, but to what extent? Time will tell. But it's died down very quickly. There were a lot of follow-up campaigns where people really scratched for other bits of dirt and which they even tried to point on the Institute and even on myself but it appears that they scratched the bottom of barrel unless there's something we don't know about. We hope there are no skeletons in any cupboards through individual people. I'm sure the ANC and Nationalist Party hope the same. But also in the day to day politics these bits of dirt being flagged round all the time.

     Sitting in the room right next to me at the moment are four people who've just come from the latest ANC detention. They popped in here to say hello and they want to tell us their story. But there are people coming in all the time. These sort of things are leaking into the media and they implicate senior people in the ANC today, people who some people started to respect have been personally involved in torturing human beings. Even though the media don't give it the same coverage, people are generally intimidated by the ANC. The media is, businesses, members of the international community too for some reason believe that their self-interest might be better served because of an intended future relationship with a future South African government.

POM     So would you find a real imbalance in the way the media treat a fairly small sum of money gone to Inkatha for a specific purpose and the conclusion that it draws from that and the corresponding lack of attention to allegations made by a former detainee of the ANC that Chris Hani had personally been involved in torture?

GW     Most certainly. I think if you look up the week that followed this Inkathagate revelation, took all the articles, the volume was excessive. If I was to say to you, do a content analysis of newspapers about any ANC scandal, you will see there's hardly any comparison. There are many examples. I think they way they lumped together the OWUSA money, the small amount that went to Inkatha and made up the total picture of Inkatha in bed with the security forces. If you had to compare, for example, with the COSATU officials who have been proven in courts of having battered people and murdered them, there was no negative reflection on the ANC despite the fact that COSATU and the ANC, as I said earlier on, are a lot closer. They are a formal alliance, even certain leaders are common to both, on the National Executives. So there is a double standard that's practised.

POM     But one gets the feeling outside of Natal that in some regard it has isolated Buthelezi. On the one hand the mass liberation organisations were putting together the Patriotic Front and no longer regard Inkatha or Buthelezi as part of that drive or coalition. And on the other hand one has suggestions that Buthelezi has been let down by the Government. They let him kind of float out there and take down the chain and not really come to his aid in any discernible way.

GW     The first question on the Patriotic Front: when the idea was first mooted, the PAC took the position that Inkatha should be invited to join. The ANC resisted but I think were considering it, but Inkatha was the first party to take a position on that. We felt it was a waste of time for us because the item on the agenda of the Patriotic Front, the number one item was the constituent assembly. We cannot go along with it so why come along there just to argue and find out you can't change our minds and we don't believe we can change yours so let's not have a negative experience. So Inkatha's position was known before Inkathagate.

POM     You were invited nevertheless, despite your position on a constituent assembly?

GW     Yes. Because they believed they could convince us to change.

POM     Could one draw a distinction between specific items like the constituent assembly and a broad alliance that says, "We together want to move forward as quickly as possible"?

GW     That was the second point Inkatha made and Buthelezi made it fairly recently. He said he feels that the tensions, insecurities, the anxious groups, the lunatic fringes, the militancies that exist in this highly complicated hotchpotch of politics in South Africa wouldn't be served well by having a situation that appeared to represent a ganging up of organisations against others and against the government in particular. Inkatha is of the position that the momentum, the forces which drive change, are irreversible. The ANC/PAC say they disagree with that. But Buthelezi believes that, Inkatha believes that. They say that if de Klerk had to try and put on the brakes the international impact and the domestic impact on him would be such that he would collapse. He knows that he can only keep going forward and that there's no need to gang up and form a big power bloc to pressurise him. Things are moving at a good pace. De Klerk is saying he's already at the negotiating table, he's waiting for the ANC to come. Inkatha say they are there. So the ANC must either sit down instead of saying, "No we want de Klerk to - ", to do what? What else regarding apartheid can de Klerk do away with? He is saying that the last cornerstones of apartheid that exist, they're sitting at the negotiating table, he is sitting there, he wants other parties to come so they can decide on how to get rid of them and what to replace them with. But he can't be more open with his invitation than that. Buthelezi has recognised that. He said, "OK, fine, let me sit next to you and say I'm ready." Also for the other parties now. You put the issues on the table, let's sort them out as quickly as possible. Let's get going with the process. But the guys who seem to be hesitant about getting to the table, who are saying they need to speed things up, are now having some display of power. And central to all Inkatha's thinking at the moment is that power displays are very unhelpful. They are very counter-productive in fact, that here we are, this society in transition, it's almost traumatised in many ways, we don't know where we're going, we're very fearful. Political parties, even though the stakes are very high, have to be very discreet on how they display competitiveness because that exacerbates tensions and violence and it spoils any chances of the type of reconciliation that Inkatha believes must take place prior to the process because otherwise we're going to have a process in a very abnormal situation where any decision could exacerbate tensions and violence would break out. Violence lurks below the surface all the time. We sense it in the townships around the country.

POM     Let's go back and talk about the violence again. You have had the ANC move from a position of saying Inkatha, with the help of the KwaZulu police and the South African police, were the hand behind the violence, to saying that a third force is behind it, to saying that rogue elements in the security forces were behind it, to saying that the government was itself involved in the orchestration of the violence. Now if one takes at face value, say some of the revelations that have appeared in the New Nation and look at the way they are documented, it is very easy to believe that, yes, indeed there were elements of Inkatha, there were elements of the security forces, there were elements of the government involved in some way or another in trying to foster the violence and to undermine the ANC. You either have to read the stories in the New Nation and say somebody is making all this up and they're doing it on a week to week basis with great detail or the story has some credibility and I think it is the truth, there's enough credibility there to warrant further investigation. What do you think?

GW     We've always seen the violence as being multi-caused. [We've seen ...]

POM     You went through this last year.

GW     And I think perhaps everything that you hear is part of the puzzle of factors that contribute towards the violence. I think it's quite feasible that there would be elements within the security establishment who might feel that blacks killing blacks serves their own interests and might see vulnerabilities by saying to certain black people that we know that you're enemies, we can help you defeat them because they're going to defeat you, in that way giving help. Maybe the help being given in a way that it's not known where it's coming from. We have examples ourselves of a number of these hostel attacks. The newspaper headline is one thing, but when you do a bit of investigation afterwards which no-one seems to want to do, you find, yes these people did go and attack the neighbouring village but they'll tell you how they were warned that this village was going to attack, they were put on guard and some well-wishers gave them a few arms which they had no intention of taking. They were going to defend themselves. Then that night came or for two nights when people came and shot bullet holes in their windows and they suddenly realised that, hold it, we're going to have to go on the offensive here otherwise we're all going to be killed. Or two of their people were abducted and killed, so they rush and attack the village from where they believe it's coming.

     The newspaper says, 'Inkatha Zulu Impi runs wild', as if it's an after dinner pastime for Inkatha just to help one's digestive system just to go out a kill a few people. People are not like that. And what role the police played or other right wing groups played I don't know if we'll ever know but no doubt those are all parts of the truth. But the thing is one can't be selective about what part of the truth you think might have credibility or not. Inkatha has never had a violence monitoring function but the ANC has for some years had at least twelve in operation around the country. Black Sash organisations and other organisations where you even see ANC leaders make up part of their Boards of Trustees and Boards of Directors. They are all affiliates of the UDF. If those are the people who claim to be monitoring violence, honestly, like John Majorson from Maritzburg who's basically dictated about perceptions about who's to blame or not, he's a member of a UDF organisation. He'll tell you that if you ask him, but that doesn't sound fair. Why do we see our lists of dead growing all the time? Why can we put down a list on the table of proven, verified leaders who have been killed which now numbers 163 leaders who have been assassinated? 163 leaders! Did you ever read about this in the newspaper? No you didn't because monitoring groups were never interested in Inkatha's losses.

     Three months ago this Institute got a bit of money for the first time to set up a monitoring function. In the last 3 months everybody was saying, how come so many more Inkatha people are being killed than ANC people? We're saying, well maybe that's always been the case but for the first tine Inkatha has a monitoring function and amongst these we have laid four charges against police or army for killing Inkatha people together with ANC. The cases are made. They go way beyond New Nation's claims and simple affidavits. Perhaps it's true on the other side as well. Perhaps there are people which will serve whichever side they believe needs to be served to perpetuate blacks killing blacks. I don't believe the police have this black organisation called Inkatha or Buthelezi's useful fools is a word to bear in mind. Useful fools, where you can find individuals in an organisation, you can con and bluff them, use them in a way in which they believe you are helping them whether it's by feeding some money or whether it's by giving some arms, exists. But what I'm telling you is that it happens the other way round as well.

POM     Would it surprise you if there were revelations which showed that the government had at best, or at worst, an indirect hand in fomenting the violence?

GW     I suppose my hesitancy to answer that shows that I'm not sure.

POM     Well somebody was saying to us that given the history of this party over 40 years should one take them at face value, that the apparatus of apartheid is being dismantled and we're moving towards a democratic society flies in the face of the party's own history and the legacy of the suppression during the apartheid years.

GW     Yes I think whether it's the government itself or its instruments would be a more direct question. I would like to believe, perhaps it's wishful thinking, but I'd like to believe that de Klerk and his immediate leadership corps are not aware of any atrocities should there be atrocities that are being committed by institutions or a particular security establishment. But there are some things that do raise doubts. It was something that anguished me personally when from 1987 I kept saying the police are not really doing what they could be doing to stop violence. I think I was possibly the first person to go public on this. They always had a minimal presence and because the media had this wonderful story of two black organisations fighting each other the police were almost let off the hook and excused, were never really challenged as to the role they should be playing. And I think even in more recent times, despite many accusations against the police, investigations always seem to have been a bit slow and nothing has ever really been too decisive in the police. I think this has changed perhaps in recent months to some extent.

POM     Up to which point could you say there was a kind of a negligence?

GW     Yes, they never appeared to really do what could be done, as they have demonstrated in more recent times. And that must raise a question as to how committed they were to ever solving the violence.

POM     But I hear the same thing in a way that how perceptions are formed and how they shift and when we were here last year there were far more people willing to say that the violence, particularly in the Transvaal, was a tribal violence, it was Xhosa and Zulu. This year far fewer people interpret it as that. They interpret it more as being ANC/Inkatha and the government with Inkatha and the government generally coming off at the worse end of things. This is not just among spokesmen of the ANC, it's easy to discount them, I don't even ask them, I know what they believe. But among other more thoughtful people there's a shift. I know we talked before about the causes of the violence and, interestingly, for most of the last year in the west it was portrayed increasingly as tribal violence, but that perception within this country at least to the cross-section of people to whom we have talked seems to have shifted.

GW     In my opinion ethnicity was a very strong feature of the Transvaal violence and it didn't serve the ANC's purpose to have that because it was a major problem to them and it continues to be a problem because for the first time it was important to focus that their leadership was dominated by Xhosas and despite recent elections it remains so. And that did make a lot of Zulus, especially younger Zulus, who would begin to ask whether they were being utilised by the ANC and whether they were serving the interests of a Xhosa group. So they had to make a major effort so their Propaganda Department, which as I say is a highly efficient department, ten full time people many of them with overseas training, it was very noticeable how they had to shift it away from ethnicity on to politics because they knew once they were on politics they had the skills and the monitoring groups to back them up, to put the blame where they wanted it to be to discredit the opponent and if you can discredit both your major opponents that's the name of the game. That serves them best. And once again the media picked up the ANC's lines, also that Inkatha had been to blame, that Inkatha's inarticulate way of handling the media, if they care to handle the media which they often neglect to do, let the ANC's perception become ... But if you went to any of those hostels which are most central to the violence I have no doubt in my mind that you'd come away realising that those people felt threatened as Zulus before they felt threatened as anything else.

POM     We've gone to them and we have found that particularly last year in Thokoza where there was very bad violence between the residents of Phola Park and the hostel dwellers.

GW     Inkatha's interest in the violence only really came about last year and this year. This year they've only signed on in recent times because they saw that as being the Xhosa/ANC and that made the Zulu/Inkatha thing obvious. But ask them about, now you've joined Inkatha, tell me about Inkatha, why do you support it? And they are not able to tell you too much but basically Inkatha and the way they've now come to see things as the Zulu political party, the one that Prince Buthelezi and the King support. But first and foremost it was Zulus. And we picked up some interesting things, there are some animosities that go back decades between Xhosas and Zulus which haven't been heard about for a long time, which suddenly resurfaced on people's lips.

POM     Animosities like what?

GW     We might call it sloganeering but like Xhosas were saying about Zulus, the Zulus are inferior, what do you expect of them? They're uneducated. That comes way back from the head start that Xhosas had on education via the missionary schools when they began to see themselves as an intellectually or educationally superior ethnic group. But then Inkatha's position has always been, Xhosas, well what do you expect from them? They can't be trusted, they're liars and cheats and thieves and look at their leaders. They talk on TV, they said this last year, they're saying this this year but that's them. You never know what to believe. But interestingly enough, and this is something you'll just have to believe or disbelieve, is how this fed back into Natal/KwaZulu from the Transvaal violence. Inkatha has almost swept the board where the ANC say they claim they're opening branches in Natal. Try and find those branches. Most of them you won't find. There's been a massive resurgence in Inkatha interest here amongst Zulus.

POM     So many of the urban areas where the ANC would have established hegemony, that shifted. [They're now back in the ...?]

GW     Yes it shifted. In the real world when we talk about a community we talk about people, individuals living in their own self interest, their family's self interest and sometimes in the community's self interest. Politics is just one dimension that overlays that. But the reality of the world is that 80% of the people don't care a damn about politics but given the heat of a general election and a lot of leaders saying this and that, they might choose to go and vote on this or that issue. The same is true of black people in this country. Each one is not a political ideologue. If you have communities, almost without exception, which had a political label, ANC, Inkatha, if one looked closely one would find that, yes, most people didn't care about politics. But what gave that community that label? It was usually by the groups that dominated. So in Inkatha you'd get a group of people who represented the establishment and then the propaganda would say, well that's a warlord and his body corporate of thugs. On the ANC side you've got big communities run by comrades where you had an inverted community model of the young people controlling the community and that was the general rule. So whenever you say an ANC community you'd see the young people carried the influence, but both leaderships used the same tactics. They intimidated that community. We're Inkatha, we're ANC and those are the enemy and you're with us or you're against us and if we suspect you watch out. People said, we just want to live a peaceful life, things are bad enough. If you say this is Inkatha, yes sir, or if you say it's ANC.

     But part of what happened in this ethnic, which originally came from the Transvaal, violence was the questioning of these youths because it was an advantage for Inkatha Zulus to say see how you've been conned by this Xhosa organisation. Is it clear to you now? They're using you. People are being killed as a result. In many areas they seem to have weakened the stranglehold that comrade groups had on the community. The community seemed to bring back a more established order. Not all of them went to Inkatha. Some communities now are insisting that they are politically neutral, that they have an anathema about politics and political organisations and it's their own business who they'll decide to vote for one day. But there are those who came very strongly Inkatha's way and it's definitely a backlash against the ANC/Xhosa image. Maritzburg, for example, the remaining ANC communities are simply in their enclave where at one stage youth groups started to make fair progress on the way out with the exception of one area, Imbali, where the ANC continued to make progress because it's in close proximity to their enclave, to their little group. Inanda which the ANC were making great claims about, they no longer make claims about any more.

     So it's definitely, this region had a bad result. But interestingly enough Inkatha - a lot of their new branches are Sotho branches in the Transvaal and the Free State and we decided we must go and have a look at that. Why are they supporting Inkatha politics? There are those that have an appreciation of the issues of the day. But I must be honest, most of them don't and there are Sothos who are saying, look this country is going to be a struggle between Zulus and Xhosas and who do we choose? Some are choosing some and some are choosing the others but it's certainly helping Inkatha build on its Sotho constituency in which it always had a constituency, one which it established and started establishing in 1977 onwards.

     But Buthelezi is also a politician and these visits to the Transvaal took the gap after BCM was crushed. And in 1978 there was a German concern who did a major study in Soweto who said, a highly respectable organisation. I'll get you a copy of the study if you like, where they said they did a survey of Soweto and Inkatha was the biggest organisation in Soweto. 60% of Inkatha there was Zulu and 40% was Sotho. Inkatha believes it's always had a Sotho constituency but in recent times it's growing very strongly.

POM     What would you look to historically that would support this Zulu/Xhosa rivalry?

GW     Well there have never been any real wars between the two ethnic groups. There was a time in history, in the days of Shaka, when Xhosas must have felt very threatened. There are some little groups who geographically sit between the Xhosas and the Zulus who have been involved in fighting over time. But I think basically the two largest ethnic groups, there was a bit of rivalry I think between their respective royalties at one stage. Actually I'd have to call a Zulu colleague of mine to give you - I've spoken to him in much the same way as you're speaking to me - but I get the impression that it's never been a very deep animosity but there are negative images they have of each other. I think if one looks at black politics in South Africa there are times when the more apartheid, oppression-type sentiments allowed all black groupings to transcend ethnic barriers but it sometimes didn't.

     Perhaps we simply have to look at the history of Africa. Ethnicity is rife and it's almost inexplicable from a scientist's point of view. Even until recent times whenever there's an attempted election or democratisation in an African country, all the pundits go there and say who's strong and who's not strong. You find at the end of the day despite which speakers people were going to attend, which parties they were joining, they voted along ethnic lines. Eleven years ago in Zimbabwe the SA Intelligence said we've done the best intelligence in Africa, we've stood up and there's no doubt Muzorewa will win it. He's had this interim stage, he's been reassuring, blacks know what they've got, they're going to vote for him, we've done our sampling the length and breadth of the country. The CIA in some front-line states said what utter nonsense, we know Nkomo's going to win it. He's the father of black nationalism, he has a mystique, he's a martyr, he's all sorts of things. He just has everything. The debate was really Muzorewa/Nkomo, but Mugabe came in at double the rest put together. People said, where did we go wrong? People voted along ethnic lines, the Shonas were double the rest put together and that's what happened.

     When it came to Namibia a year and a half ago, I think by then we had begun to learn our lesson. Ovamboland was the biggest area and SWAPO leadership was Ovambo and 97% of Ovambos voted for SWAPO. That was the last of the constituencies' results to come in up until them. Every other constituency's results had come in and they were neck and neck, SWAPO and the Alliance. Suddenly Ovamboland came in and SWAPO just went boom. We're saying, how does it apply to South Africa or the fact that 50% of our blacks now are urbanised, does it mean that they have established new values which transcend the ethnic priorities? Some people say yes, some people say no, it takes generations. Why in the year before last in the World Cup did some third generation German beat up an Italian in public because he insulted the German goalkeeper? This ethnicity is still a very strong feature and will, if we have a general election, where fear tactics are conducted one could find a lot of people deciding that ethnicity is the way to vote. The way we see things at the moment there's no doubt Buthelezi has a dominance in the Zulus. On the Xhosa side I think there's no doubt the ANC has the dominance, even though the PAC are contesting that very strongly. There could be a division there, we don't know how significant. We see the PAC making major inroads, especially in the rural areas.

POM     Why?

GW     Simple messages. Community is important, family is important. The children don't do what you hear about in the cities. Honour your parents. The education system here, yes it's an apartheid system but it's all you've got. Take it. We'll build it up later when we get things going. The parents love it. It makes sense and there's a certain consistency. You get other elements which tend to cloud our judgement on them, you know, one settler one bullet, and one element in the PAC who thinks they can pick up members off the ANC if the ANC are forced to, at least on paper, adopt a moderate position to secure international support. The heart of the PAC is a very straight down the line organisation, nationalist, black consciousness.

PAT     Isn't the PAC youth known to be some of the most radicalised in terms of militancy? Or are there may distinctions between the PAC and PAC youth?

GW     Yes I've heard that said but I personally don't see too much evidence of it. Sloganeering, yes, I think their sloganeering is very radical in certain urban areas and that attracts newspaper headlines. But I think when you look lower, to me it doesn't appear to go very deep. And if you get to know leadership of the PAC there are some very fine leaders there. I don't know if you've met Dikgang Moseneke? Those people really understand the heartthrob of the PAC. They perhaps have more meetings every weekend in this country than any other political organisation. You go to the Transkei and Northern Transvaal, there are just dozens of little PAC meetings, groups of people. Mr Mandela said himself, expressed an anxiety about certain areas where he believed they had reason to be concerned about not gaining a constituency or not gaining enough and he was very emphatic about the rural areas of the country. He's not the only ANC leader who's stressed that. They appreciate that they're not making the inroads in the rural areas. The PAC are doing pretty well.

POM     Do you think the NP or the government have a clear idea of what they want out of the negotiations and have a clear strategy of how to get what they want? Or do you think there is a fair element of just ad hockery going on?

GW     I think all the parties have more than one agenda. They perhaps have a winning agenda, but then they have an agenda which will just secure them the most influence that is possible given a situation that might arise. People talk about the many things that brought about a sudden spate of changes in South Africa and a lot of people have this fixation about the role of sanctions. We say sanctions was possibly one of thirteen influences. A very significant one, we believe, was what was happening in the Soviet Union and eastern bloc countries. The lesson there was if change is inevitable, take control of it before it takes control of you. De Klerk moved just ahead of the game. People like ... have just lagged behind and they've just never found their feet. So de Klerk, with a very tight-knit Cabinet and leadership and a bit of imagination keeps ahead of the game. Maybe they're going to run out of trick cards but at this point they are still in control. The ANC are learning quickly. Somebody could make a big mistake somewhere down the line but I think, yes, a fair amount of it is ad hoc but I think the NP does consider alliance politics. There's no doubt that on their shopping list is Inkatha somewhere down the line. They don't altogether rule out the possibility that they could be the next government of this country. We have reason to suspect that they do have remaining tricks up their sleeves, particularly in the form of issues which are going to very severely embarrass and discredit the ANC. The ANC has scratched their barrel on dirt to throw on parties. The others haven't done that back to the ANC and the timing might be the issue here. De Klerk appears to be acceptable to a lot of black people, not that they would necessarily vote for him at this stage but they don't see him in a way that they see his predecessors. Given the right circumstances, which is not out of the question that the government could create or manufacture, they could engineer themselves in the position to be a strong runner in a future election. I think the immediate problem is to try and get credible blacks to join the party. I think that's an uphill task. I can only just go round and round here because it's all very speculative.

POM     Well true that it is speculative, do you personally believe that the ANC wants to create a one-party state?

GW     I see it more distinctly in the ANC than the other major parties, different components. I've got to know quite a few of the leaders of the ANC, at the ... conference I spent a few days, I'll be travelling to Canada with Walter Sisulu in a few weeks time. One comes to see, I believe there are people there that think pretty much the same way that I do and perhaps Buthelezi does, that they want a new South Africa, they want a free and fair contest, they want a constitution which is going to place limitations on and avoid future hegemonic situations. But we believe that if one looks at the shifts in positions the ANC has had to undertake over the past year and a half, that they could never have brought their constituency along with them, they left large portions of their constituency behind them and that there are leaders whom we also meet from time to time who don't seem to be quite in step with the leadership and who are still at some previous stage on the change.

     There was a time when the ANC aimed for a one-party state. There was a time when, I think the Marxist time, rhetoric was stronger than it is today. One sees what's happening on the ground. At the moment the ANC are conducting what they call 'the last war' against the IFP. They've accelerated their training which happens in the Transvaal. They've brought it down to three weeks. [They're having a ...] We're monitoring the camp they are building up near Ulundi. They believe that Ulundi has to be destabilised. But we see this happening by a certain set of structures often not known to the formal ANC structures in that area, which can be a bunch of decent people just doing their thing. But there are wheels within wheels. There is a militant faction, a very strong militant faction. We don't know what the influence of the SACP is but we do question why it remains there as apparent as it is. And we know MK is very busy. In fact they tell us, their last conference only a couple of months ago, "MK is very busy in the country, we're continuing to mobilise and continuing to train, that's what we're doing. We're building up are army." Why are you doing this? "We're doing this just in case somebody tries to cheat us."

POM     But there is no, I don't think there's anyone who seriously believes that the ANC would go back to an armed struggle. It wasn't very much even in its heyday.

GW     No I don't think they are going to be a force in the conventional military sense. But the fact that they have now, they're inside the country, they've set up structures and they are building structures inside the country poses a far more serious threat than they ever did outside the country. Maybe it's just to threaten. But why do they want to threaten? There are many questions which I don't think we can really answer.

POM     Where do you place the Conservative Party? A year ago we heard a lot of talk about how much, in a whites-only election, that the CP could perhaps garnish a 50% or more of the white vote. We haven't heard that kind of talk this year.

GW     I think the CP in reality have come to realise that they are not going to have another white election. The message was very subtly put across by Viljoen who said there's nothing to stop us getting a referendum involving Coloureds, Indians and whites to say can we extend the term of the current constitution given the processes that are being started. If there was a referendum simply for whites the CP might be in with a chance not to have their current election period extended. Election period, not constitution period, sorry. With Coloureds and Indians there's no doubt that given the process people would be sympathetic and the conservatives would never win the referendum which would allow them to, say, suspend that part of the constitution which specifies the term of office of the government. So I think the CP are probably realising, even though they are demanding and trying to mobilise, my opinion is that they will arrive at the negotiating table and their first choice will be to try and negotiate a certain piece of turf for themselves, or at least a part of a future federation in which there is considerable autonomy from a regional government point of view.

POM     Their present position is that they won't enter negotiations, they stay outside of everything even down to the National Peace Accord and their second position is that the right to self-determination must be recognised before they sit at a table and that the starting point is the 87% of land that is in control of whites. Do you think, I'm asking this in the context of the last by-election at Ladybrand where the CP held the seat but they didn't increase their votes, simply that about 20% fewer people voted for the NP. Among conservatives that you know and I don't know if you know conservatives, is there any feeling that this thing about the white homeland that comprises 87% of the territory of South Africa is utterly and totally unrealistic and unobtainable, that people don't gravitate towards them in a positive way because they stand for something that's pie in the sky?

GW     I don't know. I've heard via newspapers where CP leaders have said, yes they appreciate the situation, it's not justifiable. The land was secured by whites in a very unfair way and the situation has to be redressed. But there are others who have said, no this is the way it is and this is where it's going to stay. Our land is everything. I don't know. I don't know what their official position is. I can't say too much on this.

POM     Let me go back to the question I usually start off with and that is a very basic one. There's a lot of conflict both in academic circles and political circles that the nature of the conflict itself is, and there are those that argue that it's the racial domination of the black majority by the white minority, those who say it's white nationalism versus black nationalism, and those who will recognise racial differences but say that within each racial group there are severe ethnic cleavages which if not addressed could pose conflict potential in the future. There are those who say it's about the access the resources, the haves versus the have nots. If you were given the task of briefing the negotiators for all parties who were sitting around a table of what the nature of the problem was they were going to explore, mediate, how would you define the problem to them?

GW     That's very difficult. I've been commissioned to write a book on violence and I'm half way through it. As I said earlier, on almost everything that everybody's ever suggested is a cause of violence in my opinion when one verifies it happens to be true. I think the trick is to realise how the violence has emerged as a result of perhaps twenty - I mean one could go back to the landing of Jan van Riebeeck - but seriously I think the last 15 - 20 years really show us how things happened and how situations developed and layered over each other, how tensions increased, how dynamics took form and how you have fundamental causes and secondary causes, manifest causes. So the understanding of how to fit all these things together in a jigsaw puzzle, which pieces are bigger than others, which are key pieces, and to understand that different areas have different permutations of the causes. But generally one can say the way in which apartheid disadvantaged people, the way in which they got away with it while most people were rural and unaware, unpoliticised and basically able to survive on subsistence farming, etc. But once the economy dipped off, once the urbanisation process accelerated, the setting was in the making. We saw from the early seventies, before there was an Inkatha and a UDF, how violence in black urban townships that were forming were at very high levels, research suggesting that it was then the highest in the world and seeing this built on and the contestation of resources coming in.

     After 1976 politics becoming topical, suddenly blacks were starting to talk in terms of political organisations again which had a presence in their townships, the mobilisations that took place. How things layered upon each other and how it built up until we had general tensions and general dissatisfactions in urban communities all round the country. The different catalysts you identified, interacting in the one way in the Western Cape to a different way in the Transvaal, to different ways in Natal. Even in Natal we can suggest a whole array of catalysts which have triggered off those tensions. That's how we have seen it happen.

     I've done a fair amount of international research on violence which I've been very lucky to do, and wherever I go and look at their research, whatever I see there, the same thing seems to apply here. I think I might have mentioned this to you before. On two occasions I've looked at violence in the USA. Now tell me, do you know that 100000 black people kill black people in the USA every year. 100000 black people! We don't read much about this but it's on the official statistics. Where does this happen? Mostly in the urban areas. Which urban areas? The poorer urban areas, the ghettos. Why? Who? We see the same thing, unemployment, breakdown of family life, community life, lack of parental discipline. I see all these things in South Africa as well. In addition we have conflicts, we have uncontrolled urbanisation like we see in South America. We learnt from the Northern Ireland experience, we learnt from the soccer hooliganism and violence in the UK and in Holland. We learnt from the ethnic violence that we saw rake some of the eastern people's democracies, so-called.

     If I see these things and I prove they are here I cannot discount them. I'm saying they must be part of the puzzle but how does one prioritise them, how does one understand how they inter-react? And of course one must have a list of historical perspectives, how did this thing build up? Sometimes I seem to almost get there but it's complicated and everybody else is saying no, it's just Inkatha, it's just the third force, it's just socio-economics. So if I'm standing up in front of these people like you suggest and I have to tell them, say basically you have a problem which is almost, it can't be unravelled, it can't be reversed, but perhaps there are some fundamental things you can do. I think there's always this universal truism I relate to that says where people are relatively stable and secure they have a negligible propensity for violence. Say, what can we do, despite any analysis we might have to give people a little bit of stability and security. We have to address, we have to show people that things are happening or about to happen in a way in which their living standard is going to improve. I think politics has to be normal, that will add stability. I think if one could give people genuine hope one could buy a lot of tolerance.

GW     We have a couple of examples, we've had three examples in South Africa. Firstly, Khayelitsha in the Western Cape and it started with the warring factions from Crossroads where people went into an area which had a degree of infrastructure and there was peace and quiet for a long time, but now the squatter areas have all ... I don't know if you've been to Khayelitsha. It's one hell of a sight. It happened after the violence in the Eastern cape, Port Elizabeth in particular ... and a few things started to happen and violence died down by some 80%. And look at Alexandra in the Transvaal with that upgrading exercise and crime and violence dropped by 60% according to statistics.

     So you see, the moment people see things starting to happen they seem to take hope and there seems to be a diffusion of tensions and you turn round and speak to them. So I think those things are all important. But another theory a colleague of mine has come up with, and he's done it as a result of his research, is that part of the problem is the violence, the communities had no immunity to contest violence but that if we look at the areas where major violence has taken place at least in 90% of those areas violence has now gone away. We did a study of this but we've decided to go a stage further, it's such an exciting study. We wrote a Peace Manual saying to communities, hold it guys, don't you realise that at least 80% of you hate violence, don't want violence, you know what it does to you yet a relatively small group comes along and does this. Can you accept that? Don't you realise with 80% you could marginalise them, you could see them off the turf, you could handle it. This is our experience, you just have to recognise what's happening. This has been a best seller but we realised it had flaws. Now we've gone out and we're doing another series of 240 questionnaires of areas where there has been violence and also areas where peace has come in. The one was horrific, an area near Molweni. We said how did peace come here? It took a long time for us to get the answers and eventually two residents took my colleagues aside and said this is what happened, we came to realise that there were two sides fighting here and they were going to destroy all of us so our mothers got together and told them one night and went off in bunches of two to kill the six leaders of the one side. They said we're mothers, we love our children like mothers all over the world but we realised that we wanted to live and we wanted our children to continue and there was only one way to deal with it. They said it solved the problem. Now we're not suggesting that people do that sort of thing.

POM     Thanks very much.

GW     It's these sorts of experiences that I'd like to share with people, but I don't have any smart answers here.

POM     Do you have a copy of the manual that we might have?

GW     The first one seems so inadequate now. Have you finished your questions?

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.