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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

28 Aug 1991: Buthelezi, Mangosuthu

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POM     We're talking with Dr. Mangosuthu Buthelezi on the 28th of August. Dr. Buthelezi, I will start with the question that might seem very naïve, but given the range of replies I have gotten to the question, I don't think it's a naïve question anymore. And that is, what is the problem that the negotiators from all the parties will try to solve when they sit at the negotiating table? Now some people say the problem is racial domination of blacks by minority whites. Some say it's about competing nationalisms, black nationalism and white nationalism. Some say, yes, there are racial disparities but within each racial group there are important ethnic differences and unless we take them into account now, we're leaving the potential for conflict there in the future. Others say the problem is really about the mal-distribution of resources, the people who have nothing and the people who have wealth. In your view, how do you define the problem?

MB     It's a very difficult thing to interpret because you have really a society that is alienated for various reasons, racism, of course, being the major reason. But there's nothing wrong with ethnicity. Our people must accept that there's nothing wrong with ethnicity, in spite of its abuse by the government. One cannot wish it away. I was thinking when you were talking about events taking place now in the USSR. Then, of course, you've got minority fears. The minority need assurances that they will not be dominated or oppressed. So, I mean, there are fears at those levels. The fears of minorities. The fears of the white minority based on race. They think that blacks are going to dominate them. They need reassurance on that point, that it is not going to be so. And then, of course, there is the question of the 80% of the population which is black and the division between the haves and have-nots. Of course, 80% of the wealth is owned by whites who are only a small percentage of the population. And the question is now, if you are aiming for a normalised life where people have improved standards of living, how do you tackle that? It's imperative there should be reconciliation within the races because I don't think that without reconciliation one is going to be able to have a national will. Without which, I don't think that you can address those problems successfully.

POM     You say that we cannot wish ethnicity away. And in the conversations that we've had across the country with people from every side of the political spectrum, we find that many people who would regard themselves as progressives will tell you that there is an ethnic factor.

MB     That?

POM     That there is an ethnic factor. But that they don't bring it up, because if you bring it up, you would appear to be an apologist for the government. You yourself say that they don't talk about it.

MB     But it's fact. And I think that what has happened in Russia if it doesn't open your eyes, you are very stupid indeed. Because, I mean, Russia, for 70 years, pretended that it was not ethnically divided. For 70 years. So, I mean, it's got to be addressed whether they like this or not. And having actually said that it was abused by the government does not mean to say it's going to disappear.

POM     But the ANC really would like it to disappear.

MB     Well, they can bring the magic wand to do so. And then we'll be all grateful, if they can do it.

POM     But if there's not, it would seem to me that what you are saying is, that if there's not an admission of the ethnicity factor at the negotiating table, then people could end up developing structures for the wrong problem.

MB     Yes.

POM     Increasingly during the last year in the west, the violence there was portrayed as ethnic violence, as violence between Xhosa and Zulu. And The Economist, about five weeks ago, said in an editorial that there was really no essential difference between the violence between Xhosa and Zulu and between Serb and Croatian, that they were both ethnically-based. Do you think that was an accurate characterisation?

MB     Yes, it's a simplistic characterisation. Over-simplistic I would say, because while one cannot deny that by certain acts, the ANC made it ethnic when they targeted KwaZulu for dismantling and when they targeted Zulus as Zulus. I mean, that did bring up all the time an ethnic dimension into the violence. And the violence, that is, there's been violence between the UDF and COSATU alliance against the Inkatha Freedom Party. And against not only the Inkatha Freedom Party but against all those whom the ANC have decided should be at the receiving end of their peoples' war. Where they said that those whom they regarded as collaborators, which included anyone who did not accept their use of violence, should be targeted with a necklace. Like in 1984, when town councillors were killed in the Transvaal by the UDF/COSATU. Archbishop Tutu said, if it happened again, that he would leave the country, and so on. And one must not be simplistic. One must trace the thing, where it originated and how it originated, and the programme that the ANC had for that. But then they started targeting Zulus as Zulus. Then, of course, it became, it looked as if it was ethnic. Because they wouldn't target any other self-governing territory for dismantling except the Zulus. And that was resented even by Zulus who were not really supporters of the Inkatha Freedom Party.

POM     We have gone out, both last year and this year, into the townships and the hostels to talk to people, Zulu workers. And when we would ask them what the violence is about, they would invariably say that the ANC is a Xhosa-dominated organisation which wanted to establish a one-party state and that they saw the Zulu people as the greatest obstacle on their way towards that goal. Do you get this kind of feedback from your own people?

MB     Some people say that, and you met some of them yourself. Some people say so because, in fact, after the elections of the ANC, there were a lot of people who were saying that even then though there were some Zulus who were candidates for higher office only a few, a couple of them, got into the Executive. But none of them got to the high posts. And some people remarked about that, not necessarily myself.

POM     Would it be a wrong view that it continues to be Xhosa dominated?

MB     Well, you say that some people have said so. Those are the perceptions of some people. But, I mean, it has never been one of my grievances, personally.

POM     Mr. de Klerk, just to finish the questions on ethnicity, Mr. de Klerk, among others, has said that there's a comparison between Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union and South Africa. That in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe as the yoke of communism was raised suppressed nationalisms began to bubble to the surface and to reassert themselves. And it was his feeling that as the yoke of apartheid was lifted, that, again, suppressed ethnicities and nationalisms might begin to bubble to the future. Would you agree with his assessment?

MB     It's his assessment. It's an interesting comparison. He's speculating.

POM     He's what?

MB     He's speculating about what may happen.

POM     Yes. Yes. In your book, South Africa: My Vision of the Future, you write, "I was overjoyed at Dr. Mandela's unconditional release. And I asked that our tribute to him be the one he would most want: black unity." Yet today when you look around, that black unity appears to be strikingly absent.

MB     It's in tatters, yes.

POM     In tatters. Why is it in tatters, despite the meeting between yourself and Dr. Buthelezi and the Durban Peace Accord?

MB     Well, I would say, Mr. O'Malley, just in the first instance you must look at what happened when he was released. When he was released he actually sent me a message just a few days after that, he wanted to come and see me. Wanted to go and see the King. Wanted to get together with me on a personal basis as friends and former colleagues. And then, of course, unfortunately, there was an eruption of violence in Pietermaritzburg. And after that he phoned me again and said we should both go there. And I agreed to this. That we should both go there. But unfortunately, a few days before we were due to go to Pietermaritzburg to address a joint peace rally of our followers I received confirmation that the thing was cancelled. When I phoned him to enquire, he said that, yes, it had been cancelled because some of the ANC people had pressurised him not to go there with me because they said there would be a bloodbath. So, later on, he was to talk at Umtata. At Umtata, he told some chiefs there that those people who prevented him from going to attend that meeting with me almost throttled him. His word, "throttle".

     So one must look at that, if you are answering the question, why is it in tatters? There are some hardliners who don't want us to fit together. And at the Carnegie Peace Endowment Foundation in Washington, ANC supporters said that they did not want their leader to meet with me. They have said so repeatedly. And now they are trying to make use of the so-called secret funding of the two rallies of the Inkatha Freedom Party to say that this justifies them not getting together with us. Whereas, in fact, it has been their policy and programme not to get us to meet. Because after the accords that were worked out, they were never, never implemented. It makes me very sceptical reading about this National Peace Accord because I don't see that as a constructive end to the violence. The bible sets out how our conduct should be as human beings. So, I don't think that the National Peace Accord is any better than the first one which we signed with the ANC. It was never honoured. I mean, the following day, people were killed. And even now, every day, the press does not print that, but our people are being killed almost every day. Even more.

POM     You can see that. Last year, if ten people were killed, you'd see big headlines.

MB     Yes, exactly.

POM     And now you see little headlines.

MB     Yes, absolutely.

POM     Did you find a good rapport between yourself and Dr. Mandela? Did you have time to-?

MB     We are old friends. We did not need to establish any rapport because we have been friends for forty years. So, I mean, we have, of course, expressed this friendship and that has been exchanged over years. And then on the 30th of March, I spent actually six hours at the Royal Hotel in Durban with him, at his request. It was the first one of our meetings. And he went on, you know, wonderful, like hearts and flowers, as always. But we did not agree on some things, of course. He said that I should adopt the same attitude on the allegations that there is a third force in the violence. And I said that, of course, if you can establish that there is a third force, I would definitely support the protests against a third force. But in the absence of evidence, I have no reason to support you.

POM     So you will categorically reject his assertion, one, that there is a third force. Two, that the government itself is involved in the orchestration of violence and that the government has been trying to engage in a double agenda?

MB     Is it the government who started the armed struggle? Is it the government that has a private army? Is it the government that has refused to suspend the private army? Is it the government that has caches of arms all over South Africa? I mean, come on. I mean, really! You can't be fooled like that.

POM     You had said last time ...

MB     You cannot say apartheid has not caused the violence. I concede that, I say so. But to blame, to put everything to the government, really I think it is irresponsible leadership. Each one of us, even I as Mangosuthu Buthelezi, he, Mr. de Klerk, all of us need to do something about the violence in which we do not just shift blame and say, 'They are the people who must fix it because they are responsible.'

POM     Last year you had said that if the level of violence continued at the level it was at last year, that you couldn't really have meaningful negotiations. You were saying, in effect, that the level of violence is still at that level.

MB     It is very high, indeed. I'm very concerned about it.

POM     And unless that's brought under control, you really can't have real progress.

MB     How can you really? We need to get it under control first. It is the biggest obstacle. It is the most serious obstacle.

POM     When you spoke at the Aspen Institute, you looked at Inkatha and the ANC, and you said both you and the ANC had substantial agreements in a number of areas. That both of you believe in universal franchise, both of you believe violence must be put aside and negotiations be relied on to bring about a new South Africa. Both of you believe there should be total equality before the law and the constitution. Both of you believe that all racist legislation must be repealed and both of you believe in a multi-party democracy. So, in many ways, your vision of a future South Africa corresponds to their vision. If that's so, what accounts for the fact that differences between you are always pushed to the point of division and seem to get expressed in hostility and conflict?

MB     The policy of the ANC, which it has expressed in black and white, going back to 1985, is: Buthelezi is not a properly elected leader. We must work on this and deprive him of his social base. So, it's not mysterious at all. Because this is their programme, it has always been their programme.

POM     So, in short?

MB     Mr. Terror Lekota at the same Peace Endowment in Washington said that we are going to kill Buthelezi, not by shooting him, but politically. I mean, that's their agenda.

POM     Do you believe this is, as you said in the past, that they have not given up their goal of wanting to establish a one-party state?

MB     They have not. In fact, even now, Dr. Mandela says every so often that they're a government-in-waiting. What right has he to say that? He says so, even now.

POM     In effect, by saying that, he's creating divisions, not just between you and the ANC ...

MB     Correct.

POM     but between the ANC and the PAC and AZAPO.

MB     Oh, and other people. Yes, that's quite so. And other parties. You are quite correct.

POM     What do you think? I know you've made some statements about this idea of a Patriotic Front of all the opposition parties which is the idea of the PAC. Would you be prepared to participate in that?

MB     No. There are resolutions of the General Conference and of the Youth Conference last weekend, saying that we're not going to participate in that.

POM     Because it stands for a Constituent Assembly or because you see no point, because it creates divisiveness?

MB     We think that this is the politics of yesteryear. When there's opportunity now for all parties to have their views represented, we don't see the need for that. But we think that it is yesterday's politics because now Mr. de Klerk, who is believed by everyone to be sincere, he wants us to gather around the table and solve the problem. So, we don't really think that it's necessary, really, to talk like that now.

POM     I'll lead you to this question by first asking you, do you believe you are treated fairly by the media?

MB     Oh, definitely not. I mean, that's a fact. I mean, some people have expressed it, you know. There's a lady, I don't know whether you have this article, who was very articulate who wrote about it. There's a certain person who wrote also at the time of the publishing of this so-called assistance to Inkatha by the government who also said so, I believe. There have been some letters, also, in the papers, not written by Inkatha members but by many South African citizens, white even, who say that I am not being treated fairly. And I realise that. You know, Mr. O'Malley, it's very complicated to go into this question of whether I'm treated fairly. Because all along, I think I gave you last time ...

POM     You did not. I've gone through that entire thing.

MB     Do you know that, the argument, of course, was that, because the budget for KwaZulu comes from the central government I was therefore a puppet of the government. So when they turn around now and say that because it was 250,000 rands, I'm a puppet of the government. I mean, it's ridiculous without saying, what is new? I mean, all along, I was labelled long ago as a puppet of the government but I say to them, what are the established standards? I mean, they themselves have been funded, most substantially by the government.

POM     Do you find it personally insulting when the accusations are made against you?

MB     I worry about it insofar as it costs lives. Because it really costs lives, still. Even the way the press handles it. I've said to them that can they be more responsible? Because they fan the flames and it costs peoples' lives. It's as simple as that. It's not a question of insulting me. It's a question of people are going to die because of it.

POM     So the media coverage of what's been called Inkathagate is really overblown?

MB     It just fans the flames of that.

POM     Who is behind that? I mean, who is trying to orchestrate this campaign to marginalise you?

MB     Did you see the article written by ANC in the press?

POM     Yes.

MB     And you can see from that that these people have been trying now to, what do you call it, to dominate the press, to tell the press what to do. And the euphoria following Mandela's release and all the nonsense that followed this, as if he was the second President or as if he was going to take over and so on. And people covering their backs by supporting what they think is a winning horse. And all of the surveys that they make, you know, which I put question marks to myself because they are carried out in the midst of so much intimidation and violence, and in the face of the fact that some of these surveys are done by telephone, I put question marks on them. But they give all credibility to that, you see? And you'll find editorially that they assume that it's just Mandela and de Klerk. And, of course, I can understand them wanting to simplify things, to make things quicker. Everyone, human beings like a quick fix in any situation. And I can imagine them, even through this so-called process, hoping that they are going to have only two cats in the room by removing the big cat, Buthelezi, out of the room and make it simpler for them. But, of course, I mean, they are not going to succeed, they have not succeeded, and they won't.

POM     Talking about surveys, there have been a number of surveys done that show that a majority of the people of South Africa, whites and blacks, would find a coalition government between the National Party and the ANC an acceptable outcome. Do you think those polls are also open to question?

MB     Well, I really don't want to involve myself now, because I'm now posing as an expert in polls, I'm not. But the things I'm telling you are just common sense to me. What people call common sense, I don't know what that is, but I was answering on the basis of common sense. Not on the basis of expertise on polls.

POM     Well, if you were told that, on the basis of a poll, that a majority of blacks and whites were prepared to, would find that kind of coalition acceptable. Would that surprise you?

MB     Well, I don't know. But I wouldn't say that, for me, the correspondence that I get from whites, the reception that I get when I address white audiences, the things that whites themselves say, you know, does not confirm that. I don't know. But I would not, then, debunk it and say it's not. Because everyone wants a solution. And if there is a solution, if they think that that is the solution, I can understand some people saying that, well, that'd be it. You know? Because if it solves the problem, and short-circuits it, then that is OK.

POM     Again, in the paper at the Aspen Institute you made a statement that I would like you to maybe amplify a little bit. You were talking about the IFP, the ANC, and the NP as the three major players and you said, "There are, perhaps, forces in sections of one or more of the parties which want to destroy the strength of the other two parties so that their own party can emerge not only dominant on its own but dominant because these forces absolutely control the party." Could you just explain to me what the thinking behind that statement is?

MB     It's just what it is. That's what I said. I said there are elements that want to do that.

POM     In each of the parties? So you have to contend with those elements in your party, too?

MB     We are, you know, human beings. There are some people who, in our very own party, who think like that, who don't really represent the mainstream of the party.

POM     The ANC talks all the time of the government having a double agenda. Do you think the ANC has a double agenda?

MB     Yes, they have. Which keeps the armed struggle there. At the same time, they say that they're prepared to negotiate. Is that not a double agenda?

POM     Why do you think, and I know that this goes back to the media, but why do you think internationally they manage such a good job of selling themselves?

MB     Well, they've been out of this country for over 30 years. The ANC has been operating in exile and is recognised by the OAU and the United Nations. It has more offices outside in the world than the government of South Africa holds. It's not complicated at all. They've been receiving hundreds of millions of money which they use to publicise themselves, for consultants, all over. So it's not complicated.

POM     Last year, too, when you talked about the right-wing, you said that, "The threat of the right-wing is one of the biggest threats to peaceful negotiation taking place. It is tragic that we black people are fighting each other because time is of the essence here. It is really very urgent that we get our act together soon because the longer it is delayed, the more the right-wing will gain. Blacks have not yet gotten their act together." Do you think they're any closer to that than they were a year ago? Are you hoping that it will happen soon?

MB     But I've already answered that. We are still, with what's going on, we have not made any progress. There's nothing to elaborate because we have not made any progress.

POM     How about the right-wing? Do you see it ...?

MB     Yes, there was the Vendersdorp thing, for instance. I mean, that doesn't traumatise us, it does dramatise it. The right-wing is whipping up, you know.

POM     Yes.

MB     And using an incident like Vendersdorp very much to their advantage. I mean, some of the elections, for instance, I remember the last election in the Free State where they took away a seat that belonged to the National Party and so on. So, I mean, what I said is happening.

POM     Do you think that more and more white people are supporting the Conservative Party and that the potential for violence on the right-wing ...?

MB     The more people become uncertain, the more people fear, the more they'll think the right-wing is the refuge.

POM     Do you think the SACP connection to the ANC is increasingly becoming a millstone around their neck?

MB     I think it is an albatross, yes, definitely it is an albatross. Especially after the elections, when they have shown, Mr. O'Malley, that about more than the majority of members of the Executive are SACP. I think that really makes them an albatross around them. Especially with what is happening now in USSR and so on. I saw the other day an interview between Mr. Pik Botha, the Foreign Minister, and Mr. Joe Slovo. And even if I didn't watch the whole thing, he was very sheepish, he was not himself. And it clearly was clear that he's grasping at straws now because to have the communist albatross around their necks is not a plus for them but something that really isn't an asset for them as far support is concerned.

POM     Last year, too, you were very concerned about the level of expectations in the black community, being unrealistically high.

MB     Very much so, even now.

POM     They're still unreal? Unrealistically high?

MB     Very much so. And there are some people who, of course, nurture them. There are some people who give the impression, callously, to people that a new South Africa is dispossessing the haves, who in this case happen to be white, to people who are have-nots. While I am all for the redistribution of wealth, because my people have suffered from the inequities of apartheid, but I think it was Botha who was going to clean those up. But I expect that my views will not be met.

POM     Has the IFP a programme that helps to reduce the level of expectations, to bring people more back to reality?

MB     We always do that. We have an Indaba here. I've always said that we have a beginning in a new constitution because we have to address the backlogs that we have. And it's going to take years to wipe off all those backlogs and disparities. It's not going to happen by a major redistribution of wealth.

POM     You also made a very interesting point, which you've talked about on a number of occasions, that you may have in Washington at the Carnegie Institute when you talked about that what had to happen in South Africa was for liberation politics to become transformed into constituency politics.

MB     Correct.

POM     And you all put an emphasis on constituency politics.

MB     Quite correct.

POM     Could you talk a little about that? Like, what's the effect now of the continuation of "liberation politics", how it slows down the process of?

MB     Well, it does mainly through the strikes and the stayaways. I mean, just the other day it was reported in the papers, I think you were in South Africa, it was shown how much the strikes and things have damaged the economy and so on. It was because of liberation politics. It was the politics of national war which does a lot of harm to impoverish the country. And the ANC is not concentrating on constituency politics. I mean, the ANC itself admitted that, at its conference.

POM     We were talking to Dr. Gavin Woods yesterday and he said the membership of IFP now stands at about 1.9 million, nine million people. That would make it the biggest single political party in South Africa.

MB     Yes. And it is in South Africa.

POM      In South Africa.

MB     It is. Our basic membership is.

POM     This has to do in a different kind of way with constituency politics. But since 1967, with one or two very minor exceptions, there's been no history in Africa of power going from one freely-elected government to another freely-elected government. Either they become one-party states or one party has had such a monopoly of power that elections were in fact meaningless. What factors exist that might make South Africa different? And what factors exist that might point to South Africa going the same way as the rest of Africa?

MB     You see, even though the ANC talks about being strong and so on and the most supported party, I don't think it's big enough to take over. Neither is the National Party nor Inkatha. So, very clearly it is clear that you have to have alliance politics here and not the politics of one dominating party.

POM     If you had to assess the performance of Mr. Mandela since he got released, but particularly since you met him last January, how would you assess his performance as a political leader?

POM     Well, I would be disappointed in a way, because I've always placed him on a very high pedestal, as a great statesman, as someone that was going to do things once he was out of jail for the country. But I think that actually he has said that he is an ANC leader, that he is just a member of the ANC. I think he has thought in terms of himself as the leader of his own organisation. Not as a leader in South Africa. He has thought that servicing his own party is more paramount than servicing the whole country. In other words, the interests of the party seems to supersede the interests of the state. And he has also made pronouncements where he has contradicted himself, in which he has not been very respectful about others.

POM     When you met him in Durban, did the two of you just have a chance to talk to each other with nobody else?

MB     Yes, it was also one-on-one, meeting with a lot of other people.

POM     But, you were unable to generate a rapport that could transcend ...?

MB     Rapport? We've already got rapport, we're old friends and we've affection for each other which developed over the years as demonstrated by the exchange of letters when he was in jail. But, I mean, I've already said that he's a captive of certain people in his party. I mean, he's forced to be a disciplined member of the ANC. So that has nothing to do with rapport. It's a question of being trapped there.

POM     Do you think negotiations can take place, successful negotiations can take place, in an atmosphere where there is no trust among the parties to the negotiations, where the ANC distrusts the government, where you distrust the ANC, and where the government distrusts both of you?

MB     No, I think that trust is important. That's why, for instance, it was very important when he actually said that he thought that de Klerk, he, Mr. Mandela, President de Klerk, and myself should go to this place where the violence was. This is what he said last year. He asked me what I thought of it and I said I agreed with him. Then, Mr. de Klerk said, 'No, we can't go to this part before we talk. Let's have talks first.' But then we went to the City Hall, there we were speaking, and Mandela said, that he'd have nothing to do with the troika.

POM     Have you seen any evolution in the way the government conceives the future in the last couple of years? Like, yesterday they came out and for the first time, with some very concrete proposals for a multi-party Cabinet, for proportional representation, for two houses of parliament.

MB     What is the question?

POM     Have you seen any development in their thinking? They've moved away from population categories.

MB     Well, it is development for them, yes. But nevertheless I wouldn't really, you know, concern myself about their proposal, no. But for them, it is a step forward for them.

POM     There's one other thing I want to raise with you and it's back on the question of violence. Again, if this Peace Accord that is now underway fails, if the violence continues, do you, in those circumstances, see any prospect for an all-party conference or any movement forward towards the negotiating table?

MB     I don't see it. I think that we owe it to the people themselves and that you try and get a multi-party conference going, despite all those problems. You have a set-back but I don't think that it should be a set-back that should cause everything to grind to a halt.

POM     Do you believe that the process is, at this point, irreversible?

MB     It is irreversible, from my point of view. Unless Dr. Treurnicht takes over, of course, which is still possible. And then it won't be irreversible if he took over, as head of the government.

POM     As you look forward to the next year, are you hopeful? Or, is the process further ahead now than you would have thought a year ago, or have things gone slower?

MB     I was hoping that we would have been negotiating. I was hoping that we would be negotiating by now, so I'm not really happy with the pace. I'm not happy with the pace. I wish that we had gone much further than we have done.

POM     That's it, I think. Thank you very much for taking the time.

MB     Thanks very much.

POM     I had sent a copy of the last transcript on to you. I don't know whether you received it, but I did send it on to your office.

MB     The last transcript? I'm sure it must be there.

POM     Yes. And thanks for sending me the letter when you were so busy, and hoping that we would get together. It was a very nice personal touch. I really appreciate it.

MB     No, I do appreciate your interviews. Because I found talking to you stimulating in the sense that you are very straightforward, you just want to know my views and I never suspect tricks or anything like that. I mean, you are straightforward.

POM     That's good.

MB     It's such a stimulating conversation because you make me look at the issues, too. So it is of mutual benefit to me, as well.

POM     I'm glad to hear that.

MB     Yes, yes. It's not one-sided.

POM     So I look forward to the next time.

MB     It's not one-sided.

POM     Is it possible, through your appointment secretary, to find out in advance, not long in advance, but in advance, when you're coming to the United States? So that sometimes it might be easier for me to interview you when you're there, if your schedule allows it.

MB     I suppose you try to get the others scheduled.

POM     Sure, yes.

MB     After all this trouble.

POM     How do you find your reception at the - the day you were at the Carnegie Institute you broke all records for attendance.

MB     Yes.

POM     How do you find audiences in the US?

MB     Well, of course, the American group didn't say much, who I know are very sympathetic to my point of view. But the people who were vociferous were actually organised. In fact, I learned that questions were circulated by some of the academics, here are the questions you should ask Buthelezi and so on. And they were just attacks on me and the allegations of the ANC/South African Communist Party, you know, alliance and so on.

POM     But in general, do you get, do you get what you would consider to be a fair reception, that people listen to you?

MB     I don't.

POM     To your comments?

MB     I think that many people who were silent were, of course, OK. But I think those who put questions to me, most of them, were organised, were an organised clique of intellectuals and academics who are hostile. And I expected that, I wasn't surprised.

POM     There was one another question. It's a different kind of question, but I found reading your book a very moving experience. There's an element of spirituality that pervades the way in which you think and how you conceive of the future in South Africa brought about through reconciliation.

MB     Correct, correct.

POM     How big a role does religion play in your life?

MB     Well, I think it plays an important role. Yes, I am a Christian and I do regard the world as God's world and that we are dependent on God. And I do believe that the fact that many of us in this country are Christians gives us a chance of reconciliation on that basis which is a very important factor. In fact, I can frankly say that when I look at myself I honestly think that if I was not a believer I would have gone to pieces long ago, with the extent to which I been attacked by my enemies.

POM     You must find it very difficult, then, being a Christian and taking your religion so seriously when attacks are mounted on you by the South African Council of Churches?

MB     It is there, it's untrue. You know, of all the vitriol that is brought on me it is most painful, yes. For instance, I think I gave it to you last year, when Archbishop Tutu was here, the memo in April, I gave you, the memorandum. Did I give it to you?

POM     I couldn't be certain. I must say, I couldn't be certain.

MB     Well, I'll try to make sure I give it to you now. Because I said then I was a very lonely Christian. I described myself as a very lonely Christian. And I was talking to him and other church leaders. Because they have not ministered to me.

POM     Have you ever had an opportunity to visit with Tutu or even with Frank Chikane?

MB     Well, both have been here but they wouldn't see it.

POM     Ah, I see.

MB     Now, the following day, he came here, you know, because I said so. Then one of the men, one of his young men who my office then phoned and said that he had phoned to say he wants to come back and to minister to me. I found it very strange. But then, we helped him to get here and we tried to get him a flight and so on and he came. And we had lunch together, just the two of us, separate from others who accompanied him and separate from my colleagues. And then he referred to the incident when I was almost murdered. I mean, he had played a role there, which disturbed us very much. Before he was Archbishop he was just a Bishop, when he actually supported those who say they must go away. And then he praised these people, these young people, as if they were a breed of young people with iron in their souls. That's how he described those who almost killed me. So, I got very angry, too. And I went to Soweto and there were people in the stadium and I said that at the time when someone decided to shoot in the air when they are really trying to kill me. Then I said I saw him run away as fast as his short legs could carry him. And he said that that helped him very much. [Laughter]

POM     Brigadier Buchner, when we talked to him last time, talked about the youth and what a problem they were. And he said that when he went to Pietermaritzburg and they would pick up young people who said they were supporters of Inkatha or the ANC and he would ask them some questions about either organisation, they usually knew nothing. You know, just really young people out on a rampage. Do you think the youth are a ticking time bomb in the major cities?

MB     A tick?

POM     Do you think the youth are like a time bomb, like this?

MB     They are. They've always been, they should be handled with care. That's why I think it is very irresponsible, myself, to use them for political ends, you know, in a destructive sort of way.

POM     So to use them for what you would call the politics of liberation or mass mobilisation?

MB     Correct.

POM     It encourages a cultural militancy?

MB     Very much. For instance, if you look at those transcriptions of the BBC of the ANC, you will find that they are actually appealing to them, they are urging young people, as young people, to band themselves together and to kill all those whom they designated as collaborators.

POM     That's a pretty devastating statement.

MB     Absolutely so. Of course, I don't know if - you must have seen the drama that took place in the conference here last weekend. And some of the former prisoners of the ANC came up and they were talking about how they were tortured, how the people were murdered and so on. How people are buried in shallow graves and all of that.

POM     Do you find the manner in which that has been treated by the press?

MB     Ahh, horrible!

POM     In an entirely different way than ...?

MB     Of course! Do you think that kid who walked in, he's unemployed and the company terminated 50,000, which occupies the presence of those headlines every day. Just splashed every day. I mean, compare it to this concentration camp, similar to Hitler's, even worse in some respects. They are treating their own people like that. It's very, very strange that, in terms of the party.

POM     OK. Thank you very much for the time.

MB     It was simply wonderful.

POM     I look forward to doing it again.

MB     Thank you. I do, too.

POM     This is a wonderful room of memorabilia.

PK     Is this the most recent visit of Mrs. Thatcher?

MB     No, no. I mean, this was the first meeting in 1985. I think there was a later meeting. These, too, are from a much later meeting.

PK     I saw that. And, I gather, Vice President Quayle is coming in September.

MB     Oh, really?

PK     Yes.

MB     Oh, that's nice because I met him for the first time, too.

PK     When you were in Washington.

MB     When I was in Washington, yes. Visiting in his office. And of course, the U.S. President is always so nice. I had lunch with the President.

POM     Among all of the leaders that you've met, who has impressed you the most?

MB     That's very difficult, really.

POM     Well, which one or two or three kind of stand out as being really impressive?

MB     I think Mrs. Thatcher herself was very impressive. Very, very impressive to me. And Mr. Bush himself, you know. Mr. Bush as well. Oh yes, yes. [Laughter]

POM     Wonderful.

MB     And now, we meet some professors from Italy.

POM     From Italy?

MB     Two. Where are you going to now?

POM     We're going to meet Musa Zondi and then back to see Dr. Mdlalose after that. Thank you ever so much. I look forward to seeing you again.

MB     Has been good to see you. Thanks very much.

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.