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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.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

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POM     Cheryl, I should get in first I suppose with a question on the role of women in the ANC and I go there because you're the first woman in the ANC that I have actually interviewed as I tried to interview Ruth Mompadi but it didn't quite work out. Will you just tell me about your organisation in relation to women and what role women play in the organisation and what difficulties they encounter where very often there is the difference between the rhetoric of an organisation and just ingrained practice?

CC     The ANC is pretty much a reflection of our society. It's an organisation which is made up of very ordinary grassroots South Africans, as such we bring with us all the baggage out of what would be sort of ordinary South Africa. We find that within the ANC as with many of our social organisations, in society we find that there's a very large participation of women at the grassroots level in the structures. Quite a lot of carrying of the day to day work is done by women often. One would find that when it comes to leadership there's a big discrepancy in terms of the proportion in terms of how many people participate in the organisation, women I mean, and how many people actually end up in leadership positions. The problem is particularly acute at the senior level and it was something which the organisation has been committed to for quite a while and this year before our conference there was an agreement amongst all the regions that we would build into our constitution a clause which would seek to deal with affirmative action by guaranteeing 30% of spaces on the National Executive Committee for women. And this of course, at the conference it was, it had to be incorporated in the constitution and it came under review, some of the regions asked that we review the matter and the long and the short of it was that at the end of the day we did not win 30% of the seats for women on the National Executive Committee. And the kind of issues around which the matter was debated was whether, affirmative action, the question of percentages, there were proper mechanisms to deal with affirmative action.

     There was a lot of reference made to other countries in the world where people had to deal with minorities, the difference here is you're not dealing with a minority, women are 53% of the population. There were a whole range of things, there are merits and so on, none of which, I mean I think obviously it's valid in principle but I still feel that as a mechanism, with all it's limitations what it did do was it resulted, in our region, we had to come up with a list of fifty nominations for the executive. When we got to thirty five we could not nominate more than thirty five men we had to actually think of fifteen women to put forward. And it actually forced our region to come up with names of women which should never have been considered. I must say that I think for the first time ever in our country and in the liberation movement that the question of women's oppression was dealt with seriously because often when we talk about women's rights, there's always a giggle, inevitably, with lots of very snide comments, you've got no sense of humour, that sort of comment, aggression. And that was actually the first time that I've ever found it addressed in a very serious way without a giggle, in some weird kind of way it actually raised issues and the levels of consciousness in the organisation to the extent that if we had just accepted it without questioning we would never have got many of those things. It also meant that we ended up with five hours of debating the issue, a lot of time in a conference which is already running half a day late and which is unscheduled time. I think in that way it was also quite remarkable that it was dealt with.

POM     Has the major argument against it, the kind of principle that majority rule is democratic rule and that it should be ...?

CC     No. If they use that argument they would have to accept that women are 53%. There is a problem in that at our conference the delegates represented there were women which was completely disproportionate and that does influence, taking decisions about women's issues, of course men do have vested interests in the matter. It was not a question of - it was the kind of opposition there was largely around everybody saying they agreed in principle. But anyway that was the major thing there. They're not opposed to the principle that we had to find less mechanical ways of dealing with it. I mean it's true to say you guarantee women 30%,what does that mean for the organisation? But nobody expected that that would be our answer. I mean our argument has purely been that we need concrete steps and while we're dealing with the National Executive Committee, while we're dealing with power structures we must actually look at how we address it there. If you look at campaigns then we must look at how we address it there.

     The last thing about women in the organisation, I think that it's very difficult for women to participate in structures because of what we talk about women's struggle and oppression in South Africa in cases of race, class and gender and you find that women are doing two jobs at work and they have to come back and now we're asking women to, it's a strange anomaly where we say women have much less time than men because of these two jobs, they do the double shift and then women also obviously have less time to participate in structures so that in itself also cuts out a lot of things. So that the question of addressing women's participation in our organisations is also going to relate to that. We find a large percentage of women who were nominated to come to the conference couldn't come because they were less secure in their jobs so they stood less of a chance to get time off to come, their husbands wouldn't allow them to come or they had small babies who they had to look after, to be there, I mean those kind of societal, general imbalances, gender imbalances in society, in politics also impacts on who can participate.

POM     As you look at the future do you feel that the question is now firmly out there and is there any group or sub-committee that's working on finding ways to open these structures or to modify these structures so they can be more compatible with the needs of women who want to participate?

CC     Yes. It was decided to set up a commission on the emancipation of women and of course the big question is, where do you now take it? And we were quite adamant that it had to be located at the most senior levels within the organisation and that commission has now been housed in the National Working Committee which is the engine room of the ANC, everybody is full time and accountable to the President and it's lumped in the same political department as, for example, the Negotiations Commission. So I mean it's on that kind of path and I think a lot of people went to depend on the Women's League, (you know the Women's League?) to fight the issue, to make sure that it's taken seriously and placed on the agenda. But that was an NEC decision to place it, to house it in with the National Working Committee.

POM     I'd like to ask you a question that might sound almost a little naive because I've received such a variety of responses to it, and it is, when the negotiators finally sit around a table to start negotiating, how would you define the problems they will have to deal with. By way of example, I would say, there are those who say that the question is the racial domination of blacks by the white minority, there are those who will say that it's a question of two competing nationalisms, broadly speaking white nationalism versus black nationalism, those who will say, yes there are racial disparities but within each racial group you have ethnic differences which if not attended to, the structures will develop potential conflict in the future, there are those who say the real problem is the advantaged versus the disadvantaged, those who have and those who have not. How do you define the problem?

CC     I would say that we have a problem here where a minority grouping has derived the authority from, in fact have no authority no basis of legitimacy, have in fact asserted their own rights at the expense of the majority of the people. They have in fact rights to the access of wealth and resources of the country at the expense of each other, through legislation that has developed. It also has its roots in colonialism because that at the end of the day, the formation of a white Union to the exclusion of black South Africans was very much modelled along the colonial route. We find that the relationship between the white minority and the black majority in a very odd kind of way, strangely colonialism of a special type of relationship where in fact the sort of wealth generated by the black community sort of gets sort of exported into the mother community, the white community and resources get distributed there at the total expense of the black community. So, yes, I don't know if you would like to ask me questions? I can go on about it.

POM     It sounds like an internal colonisation. Increasingly in the West in the past year, the violence in the Transvaal has been portrayed as ethnic violence and has been written about in terms of Xhosa versus Zulu and you have a number of periodicals in the last couple of months which have said that the violence between people in the Transvaal, there's really no difference than the violence between Serbs and Croatians, they're all organically, ethnically based. Do you find that a - by the look on your face! OK could you give me; one, what do you think the nature of the violence is and, two, why it has been written about this way in reputable, respectable news organisations?

CC     Maybe I'll start with explaining why or what the nature of the violence is and then I'll explain why I say this. I think that some time ago we spoke about the third force involvement with a measure of complicity by the state. As time went on we became more and more convinced that in fact the state had a direct hand in it and a lot of respectable people started to say that how could we say this, it's really far-fetched and all sorts of things. I'll just summarise it. It was basically quite clear that the state strategy, that it understood that it would have to go through the process of negotiation, and at the end of the day that negotiation was going to be based on some kind of strength. It opposed the question of Constituent Assembly, which would be based on one person one vote. Exactly the same position which was shared by Inkatha, but the state going into that Constituent Assembly, going into that negotiation process itself as a moderate centre and aligning around it forces of moderation, to quote. And it was very clear from the state side that those forces of moderation had to have within it quite a substantial black face, component, it couldn't go ahead with a white moderate alliance. And where was it going to find those black, moderate allies? Not in the liberation movement. They knew that community councillors, your Coloured Labour Party MPs, they're not going to get them anywhere in the community, or anywhere near credibly sort of recognised organised.

     The only option left for them was in fact Inkatha. Inkatha had two important components, two out of three. The one was that it had a very good international profile, they were being feted by the major western powers and related to an ideological position that was very close to the Nationalist Party, anti sanctions, anti communist. The third component is the missing one and that was Inkatha, even by all the respectable newspapers had between 2% - 6% support. And that's a problem. And eventually no matter what the negotiation mechanism is, even going to elections, you can't go running with an ally who's got less support than you even have. And the question was how do you make Inkatha an important factor in that process? And I would argue, and I think South Africa with America built up a substantial amount of experience in terms of how you use, what I would term, essentially a small band of terrorists or bandits and you make them a serious factor to be reckoned with. We can speak about the MNR and I think that everybody knows that the MNR is nothing, Renamo is nothing but a group of terrorists and it's a small group. Today Frelimo is forced to treat Renamo as an equal in the negotiation process. I think that is also corroborated by the state approach on the question of Constituent Assembly.

     I think that the whole Inkatha scandal, Inkathagate, because it makes out that it's to do with money, but actually far more it's got to do with violence and state involvement in that. And I think a lot of people felt, took it a lot more seriously when that whole scandal broke out. I still think it's an option which the state has investigated and I think very seriously the question of whether it's black on black violence. Nobody called the fights in Ireland white on white violence? Everybody acknowledges that it's about differing political views. That's essentially what it is. To call it a Xhosa/Zulu thing, firstly in Natal it's actually Zulus and Zulus, that kind of cultural background. In the Transvaal there are very few Xhosas. Also if one looks at this thing about ANCs, it's absolute rubbish because those people go on trains and hack people, they don't ask for ANC membership card, they don't go for people with ANC T-shirts or ANC lapel badges. In fact in the one incident they killed three policemen but actually that group identified itself as Inkatha and Inkatha has not disclaimed either. It's got nothing to with Inkatha at war with the entire communities. Because if they had a meeting in a stadium they walk down the street, they hack anybody in that community they come across. It's like a local ... they just mow down everything in their sights. I mean that's also another fallacy. It's got absolutely nothing to with Inkatha, the PAC or the ANC. Maybe I should just stop at that.

POM     Did Inkatha orchestrate this consciously, specifically about Buthelezi and what is the objective of the violence against the entire community, not just against ANC? Those two first.

CC     I think the objective was to terrorise people into submission to the point, we're already reaching that point in Natal, where people initially refuse to talk to Inkatha. I think we've also reached the point where people are tired of war. What happened in Mozambique is that your economy gets totally disrupted, your entire infrastructure gets ... in the same way that people, like the ANC for example, have vested interests in keeping as much intact because you're quite confident that you're going to constitute a substantial part of a future government and you're going to need an infrastructure. So that the intentions, what happened in Nicaragua? The Sadinistas lost. I would argue they didn't lose the principles of the revolution because people are still fighting around trade unions, the new government is not able to shift the principle back. But people actually get tired of war at some point and that demoralises and it also projects the ANC as a grouping which is unable to defend its own people. And if De Klerk comes in tomorrow, precisely because he has the capacity to switch it on and off and because he decides tomorrow the violence will stop and makes a pronouncement and the violence stops, people will actually see him as somebody who has the capacity to stop the violence regardless of what his ideological position is. And it's quite an attractive option, if you've woken up with corpses all the time, it's a viable option to go for an option that gives peace. Inkatha has publicly justified, they have a record of justification of the use of that kind of violence and killing in defence of their particular party political programme. In 1985 Gatsha Buthelezi, Chancellor of the University of Zululand, I mean he's just about everything in KwaZulu. Chancellor of the university, head of the police force, Chief Minister, he's the head of Inkatha.

CC     And he went to go and speak at the University of Zululand and the students said they were going to have a demonstration, a placard demonstration, and he told them that he will not stand for it and they said well they are going to have it, a peaceful demonstration. He said he was not going to take this and they would use whatever they needed to ensure that they do not demonstrate. He's got this thing about any kind of demonstration of what is considered to be democratic. [In the normal run of politics people are able to shoot down leaders, well I mean we can in fact, De Klerk, we can actually say ... nobody will get upset about it]. Gatsha Buthelezi calls it vilification of him and as the Chief Minister and as such you must be dealt with. In that he brought his Impi onto campus and they went and the students fled and they went into, they ran away into the hostels. The Impi pursued them and they killed four students. Gatsha Buthelezi when asked to comment on the loss of life, said that, well he just wanted to say that people must understand if they want to besmirch the name of the Chief Minister of the Zulu nation then they must take the consequences. That's a terrible sort of thing to say. Gatsha Buthelezi again says now about killings where Inkatha people went to the squatter camp. The government declared a state of emergency which meant that the residents themselves couldn't meet or gather because they all had to be inside their houses but this Impi marches under police escort for nine kilometres from a hostel to the squatter camp and kills 19 people. So one spokesmen of the Inkatha Freedom Party issues a statement to say, yes they did that but it's after they were provoked, justifying that, but there's no killing, no deaths on Inkatha side. So what the provocation was, I mean even that's a bit crude eye for an eye kind of thing. Gatsha Buthelezi defended that up to this day they must repudiate those killings in any kind of way or come and say they're sorry to the relatives. Gatsha Buthelezi constantly says to us that we must know that violence will not stop until we ... I mean to actually say that and nobody takes him to task. How could he actually say that if you had some control over it, that if you hadn't started the violence would stop. I see the correlation, at the very best it means that some people who you influence are the supporters. How come he's never gone out there and actually stopped it?

     I think there's just that kind of thing which this so-called respectable press is in fact projecting and I think it's quite mischievous but it's also quite dangerous because at the end of the day we're not going to have peace and that means we're not going to have stability. And I think it was for party political reasons that the ANC says we must have a Constituent Assembly, one person one vote. And the bottom line for me is that if you want a constitution where now you're going to regulate society in our country it's going to need a conscious effort of people. People are so embittered by notions of authority and how it's been abused, in fact deprived them as opposed to protect the human rights and eroded it over the years that when you approach at the end of the day they will be able to say that that's my constitution. [And that is why it's so important that that constitution ...]

     Often there's talk about De Klerk's constituency in the same respectable newspapers that you talk of overseas, talk about a racist perception on a number of levels that they talk about the black constituency and say how can it alienate ... and Nelson Mandela cannot expect the blacks to move so fast because the ... None of those people ever, ever talk about Nelson Mandela's constituency. The fact that it isn't even discussed, a much, much larger constituency, that it is also people of regional constituencies. It's not that it actually has to accept the inevitability of change. It's in fact that black constituency which Nelson Mandela has given, and that constituency once changed, because it's in their interests to have that changed sooner rather than later, and I just think that that kind of balance is not a quid pro quo here at all. And I think often it is a racist perception because people look at black South Africans in a very patronising kind of way.

     Also we have no illusions about where countries like Great Britain, the United States of America, where they would want to be, we don't have any doubts there. The sanctions campaign, for example, had nothing to do with the integrity of this government or the goodness of their hearts. We know that doesn't have to do with the struggle of ethnic people in those countries, that the support for the anti-apartheid stance in Britain has to do with the strength of the Anti-apartheid Movement, the churches, the trade unions, what they did and the fact that they made it an election issue. They said we're not going to vote for you unless you take a firm stand on that. So I mean we're not very, we don't have any romantic notions about the extent to which those governments support us, we understand that at the end of the day our allies are the people of this country and their sense of human dignity.

POM     Just to pick up on violence part, do you believe that De Klerk had knowledge, gave approval to the involvement of elements of the security forces or the security forces period, in what amounted to slaughter of hundreds of people?

CC     I would be very tempted to say yes, I mean I would actually say yes, but maybe, let's say hypothetically that he had knowledge. One looks at the evidence that came out, even the commission that has been set up, the Goldstone Commission, they report, for example, some things where there's actually been direct involvement of security services. One thinks of the Harms Commission for example, De Klerk was confronted with evidence from courts or servants of courts of law which he had appointed and constituted, and he chose not to act. And I think that was a serious indication, and it was quite a disappointment, that in fact he had chosen not to act on this. If one looks at, say, this Inkatha scandal, again we're talking about security forces and money which they are using to bolster organisations like Inkatha and in fact violence had started as a direct result of that, like in Pietermaritzburg, that was when the seven day war started in Pietermaritzburg. De Klerk claims he had no knowledge of that. In terms of the law of this country for those secret funds to be dispersed there from two parties, the one a Cabinet Minister in charge of that particular department, and De Klerk says that he did not know anything about this. Why did he not act because it's clearly been a breach of the law here? Now we're not saying that people don't change but we still find it, but you don't try and justify it.

     De Klerk was one of the persons involved in that grouping of the National Party who stopped PW Botha from making the Rubicon speech and people forget that. People have very short memories, they remember oh, Nelson Mandela and the ANC , they forget where De Klerk actually comes from. They forget where his Cabinet comes from, they forget that in this Inkatha scandal De Klerk for his response, the Cabinet met, he decided not to wait for the Cabinet to meet, he decided to wait for the Security Council to meet and then he responded. And it's very clear that De Klerk, it's a very subtle thing that he's got a very good public image.

POM     Do you think, this goes back to the government, I was looking at a point to say, is this process is about a sharing of power not the transfer of power? Do you think the National Party or the government have in mind a strategy where they can actually envisage themselves as heading for a kind of broad alliance government?

CC     Yes. I think that this National Party government is refusing to accept they represent a section of a minority of the population and as basic democracy use majority rule. Now they try to project a racist stance, and for us if we took that majority rule, we would argue that not even white South Africans had a democracy in terms of a white parliament, that increasingly over the years all the crucial decisions, like the war in Angola, they were made by parliament. That decision was taken by the security arm of the state, not even Cabinet. In fact unaccountable structures, so when they talk about majority rule, they say that simply whether the people are black or white, the majority of South Africans must in fact have that say. You want to interrupt? No, no you can interrupt if you want to.

POM     Well let me give you a couple of things and how you react to them. One scenario that was suggested to me has been that the National Party envisages itself with Inkatha, maybe with some homeland party leaders, coloureds and Indians, but still would be unable to put enough votes together and that what they would have to do would be divide the ANC, divide the constituency of the ANC, and part of that could come about over the issue of the government that will immediately follow the adoption of a new constitution where, and I have found among members of the executive of the ANC who I have talked to, a surprising amount of support for the idea of a coalition government on a temporary basis, a temporary basis, for a period of 10 or 15 years after a new constitution has been approved, and others who simply wouldn't have that at all, they say forget it. But there actually was, there are differences. Do you see, one, that the National Party could embark on a strategy that tried to bring about that kind of division or tried to find a way to exploit the differences that exist at the present time? Two, do you think, do you personally see an outcome in which power would be shared, a partnership between the ANC and the National Party, with the ANC being the senior partner and the National Party being the junior partner? Do you find that an acceptable outcome to this struggle?

CC     I would say for me there's only one solution that's got to be on the basis of one person one vote and a common voters' roll. I think that's how one decides how we're going to arrive at that process. Of course the ANC and the National Party are the two major contenders for power in the country. I won't rule out a possibility of one would find that major component of a new government would be constituted. I think how that gets arrived at is another question. I don't think that it will work if one has a deal between the ANC and the National Party for example because firstly I think it smacks of unhealthy majoritarianism. I think that there are other parties in South Africa, even if they represent a small percentage of views, they actually do represent some kind of views and those kinds of people have to be taken along. That's why I think something like a Constituent Assembly is such an important thing, precisely because of the proportional representation within it. So even if you've got 3% of the vote, you would end up with 3% representation so you'd have a voice there and it would mean that people would actually have to listen to what 3% of the people have to say and you can wipe it aside but I think that is also important. And within that you make certain compromises. The question of - the other questions around it, what does that mean? How does it get constituted? I think that there actually has to be a democratic process of election which will be determined by a Constituent Assembly. The problem with what the National Party has come up with now is, and that is the ANC position in fact, is that ...

POM     That they're opposed.

CC     Yes, effectively they are trying to undercut basic practices of democracy and that's quite disappointing. ...

POM     He's a power sharing advocate.

CC     But one would have imagined that the system of Switzerland is a model for everything, such a small country. But I mean it's essentially the government is denying the right of the majority ... everything to in fact constitute a Cabinet for example and that they should have the ability to put together a government of sorts. I think within the ANC there's probably far more flexibility and an understanding of incorporating other parties, the AWB, whatever. One actually has to take those factors into account. The National Party is very clear, they see themselves as in the driving seat now, as retaining full control of the steering wheel through this whole process and in fact arriving fairly intact on the other side and they want things like the situation of negotiations that can be non-negotiable. Actually need to ... everything is up for negotiation. And that's part of the problem is trying to build that in. We're saying that an all-party conference would talk about the basic principles of a constitution but not any of those kinds of return guarantees.

POM     So your distinction between two situations, in one this kind of power sharing would be an in-built feature of the constitutional settlement and you are saying that is not acceptable. On the one hand you're saying that there is one person one vote process out of which a party emerges as a majority vote, but it is up to that party to decide whether or not it wants to bring in other parties into the government.

CC     That's what I'm saying, but understanding that we're also taking that proportional representation and we feel that that will actually be the check and balance. At the end of the day I think it's such a fundamentally democratic thing that if people are saying if your party commands the majority support you actually have the right, because then it means that there's majority support for the policies and perspective of your party. Nobody would say the same thing if tomorrow let's say the Communist Party in Russia said they wanted this kind of settlement with Boris Yeltsin. They would all shout him down, and there's also that kind of hypocrisy, what's sauce for the goose is not necessarily sauce for the gander. So, yes. But the question of whether it can cause divisions within the ANC and if the government can exploit them, no I don't think so. I think people have such a lack of democratic experience that often people say the ANC's composed of people with such divergent views, I mean that surely it's unhealthy that you have communist, socialist, fundamentalist, activist, all in the ANC. And people say you cannot do it. I think it really is a very good example of how we chose to ... didn't disintegrate as was predicted by the prophets of doom on the left and the right. And in fact would argue for strength that to be able to bring South Africans together on the basis of a national liberation and establishment of a democratic government within which we would be free to pursue whatever different perspectives we have, but that our priority was that perspective and that minimum programme and I mean that's, I see you've got something written, ... I mean it also relates to that question. But we think it is a strength and at the end of the day people are able to articulate those views to say, Nelson Mandela stands up and says something and somebody else stands up and says something else. Now my view would be the day I can no longer differ with Nelson Mandela in the ANC, that's the day I hand in my ANC membership card. I am in the ANC because I'm able to differ with Nelson Mandela on views of an interim government and it's not perceived to be a weakness, in fact we think it's a great strength. What is also a strength is our ability at the end of the day to have a process now of discussion and we take a decision and that decision will be binding on all of us. And we accept that that is in fact the organisation's view that will go forward in any sort of negotiation process or whatever. And that's democracy. People get very scared of differences and the right of people to differ.

POM     I heard you saying about the government is so unused to different points of view being expressed that it thinks every difference in a point view must necessarily result in a division between the people themselves.

CC     Well let me say something else on that, another very racist thing just in South Africa and sometimes their friends overseas as well, is that we've still got political tolerance and they generally speak about the 'black' South Africans you know, ANC, PAC, the ANC and Inkatha, these black barbarians are chopping each other up. And don't forget that in fact in this country we've got a legislative history of political intolerance. That there was a battery of laws which has been in existence which said that anybody who differs with the government can be jailed. I mean you look at people who went to jail under the Suppression of Communism Act and you could be called a communist for anything. Just opposition to the government. Or terrorist, especially the communist, especially the Terrorism Act. That legislative, political intolerance. You look at how the government responds and even in this kind of response, people cannot understand that I can stand up today and have one view and Chris Hani can stand up tomorrow and have a completely different view and we're all in the same organisation, because people actually don't understand political tolerance. I want to argue that in fact the liberation movement which predominantly was black, that we have learnt political tolerance over the years.

     A very practical example for me personally, I mean I get very nostalgic and very, wildly possessive and defensive about my experience in the UDF and what we learnt there, learning to work together, Muslims and Jews who had been completely at war with each other, they still have their differences I mean they still fight like mad when it comes to the Palestinian question, they still differ, but that must not become the centre of how they relate to each other. They found common ground in the love of our country that they relate to each other. I think of how people would be sort of liberals you know, down the line social democrats or communists or whatever, and they all started off completely hostile to each other and actually learnt to work together. We haven't resolved our differences but we've actually learnt how to tolerate these difference that we understand that we can have a common goal, I can say at the end of the day your policy is absolute rubbish, but I can never question their loyalty to our country, the political tolerance.

POM     I want to talk a little about an interim government and, how are you for time?

CC     I've got 15 minutes left.

POM     OK. In an interim government where the ANC now comes down with a pretty firm demand that the government will resign and become part of an all-party interim government. Do you think there's any realistic reason to believe that the De Klerk government would resign en masse and in one act kind of put themselves out of existence, throw away what they consider to be their sovereignty and say, OK we're ready to become part of that government?

CC     No, I mean we understand that the De Klerk government agenda here is not having a change of heart. We understand that it's about power and understand that they want to retain that power and we understand they cannot possibly retain what little power they have if they continue to rule in the way that they have. But the name of the game is still to in fact ensure that you remain in power. So they've resisted it, we cannot understand why they've committed themselves to the eventual outcome, for us it's a logical step. For them to insist firstly on their sovereignty, we would claim that it's the sovereignty that's illegitimate and illegal in fact in point of international law. So that claim doesn't necessarily ... but we'd also like to believe that they are really committed to free and fair elections.

POM     You mean your case for that was probably boosted by the revelation of the funding in Namibia?

CC     Namibian. No, exactly. That's what I said to - that in fact, I mean for them, and then on top of it Pik Botha having to say on public television that they will do it again. And on the basis of the fact that these people are the enemy, you know they also defined the ANC as the enemy. We will refuse to play ball if they, I mean we would not subject ourselves ...

POM     What I'm trying to get at is just a statement of something that becomes, when you say he must resign and become part of an all-party coalition, is that close to being a non-negotiable?

CC     Yes. It could be.

POM     Are you saying, OK, let's now find ways where we can both compromise, where we do in fact have a set of arrangements that allow all to share?

CC     What is non-negotiable is that nobody can be player and referee and take the gate takings. That in fact, that is non-negotiable for us. All things must be equalised. How we see that being enacted is we are saying that in practice that means that the South African government cannot continue to monopolise control over all the key aspects which will in fact influence that election and we are saying that they need to dissolve parliament. That view we would take to an all-party conference, let the all-party conference decide on how that interim government makes transitional arrangements, how the transition is going to be managed. That will be decided by an all-party conference. I mean we do, what we're absolutely adamant about is that, doesn't matter what names you want to call it or whatever, we are saying that the South African government cannot have monopoly of power over the key aspects of society because they're going to abuse it. But I mean even if it wasn't for Namibia, it's just fair play that you can't actually have an unfair advantage.

POM     Sure, one more cliché, one of those pat phrases. There are a lot of people who have suggested to me that what whites are concerned about at the end of the day is economic, their wealth, the preservation of their material wealth and that they would be prepared to trade quite a bit of political power for economic power. Do you think that's a valid assessment?

CC     Yes, I mean, I think that white South Africans enjoy economic gains which the majority of the population has been denied access to. In terms of using that to trade off political rights, I've no doubt about it that they would use that kind of economic power to do that. The other side of the coin is that black South Africans are actually the majority and not the economic privileges that they had but the lack thereof and they also control a substantial part of the economy. I mean that's essentially why this negotiation settlement - I think we essentially think that there are two parties here, the government and its allies and the ANC and its allies, both who control certain key parts of what would normally be constituted to be state power and both parties acknowledge that it's reached a stalemate, that we actually stand very little chance of shifting that balance. And I think that with the growth of the trade union movement, with the growing of the politically conscious, the black population, the culture of rights, people are beginning to feel that they have rights and they are entitled to that. And I think that that would be another side of that economic power inside the country.

POM     Do you think that the general principles of the constitution must be laid out at an all-party conference, that there must also be some prior agreement on the principles of economic restructuring?

CC     You mean in the all-party conference? When we speak of it we would understand that the sort of major agreements around non-racialism, around democracy, those things should be agreed on beforehand?

POM     Yes. The economic structures.

CC     I think the extent to which one is going to determine that policy as prerequisite before, because the all-party conference is not negotiation. I think one can talk about in general terms what the principles should be, of the specifics I think would be a problem. I think for example the question of the nationalisation which is such a distorted one, that that's something which people must be able to run on. Like SWAPO ran on a nationalisation ticket, and it's legitimate. You have to actually have an economic policy that protects people and you win their support on that basis. I think there needs to be a commitment to give everybody a fair chance in economic terms and to do away with all those kinds of constraints, artificial constraints.

POM     Do you not think there should be some prior agreement beforehand?

CC     Free market?

POM     No, no, on the extent, well I'm sure that the National Party would try and insist on that, but on the extent of the arrangements necessary for redistribution.

CC     I'd say no because I feel that that is what you negotiate about.

POM     OK. So that should be part of the negotiations. We'll just have to leave that aside. This is the main, this is the heart of the economic problem.

CC     I think that the National Party wants to determine the field on which we play. We're not asking from our side, we're not asking for any special dispensations from our side in the same way that the National Party is asking for itself and its own policies. We're saying we've got very definite views, we've got very definite biases in favour of the disadvantaged and the marginalised. We have no policies for that. We are prepared to test that, those are our rules. We're not going to say that we won't enter into negotiations with the National Party unless they accept this. We say, for example, we believe that the negotiations must take place in a Constituent Assembly. We're not saying that we're not prepared to sit in an all-party conference before the National Party is prepared to accept that. The issues are negotiable, it's only accepting the principle of negotiation and that's the problem of the National Party. It's so used to being in control and determining agendas that it's insisting on determining those kind of agendas.

POM     Let me ask you, you're a member of the SACP. I've not had a sense of what it means to be a communist in South Africa in the 1990's. What beliefs constitute the framework in which it operates?

CC     I derive theory from my own experiences. To me I would say that there are two fundamental principles on which I would base my belief in socialism. I would say that nobody has the right to live off the labour of another person and that those people who create the wealth have the right to access to that wealth. So that for me that goes with fundamental principles which I find appeals to my sense of morality and how I think society should be ordered. I think it's a just way. Then one needs to look at how do you implement that and I think that it's history what's happening in countries where people ... In the process I think that is very clear that things, for example, that central planning doesn't work. In the past it's probably one of the parties in South Africa where one political grouping, where the most, some of the most intense debate is happening and with openness, with very different view points and again that same thing where people are saying, .... unashamed, unrepentant silence. Harry Gwala, for all that his Stalinism conjures up, he would never call me a sell-out despite the fact that my views are diametrically opposed to his views on the construction of socialism. My view on what's happening is completely different to Harry Gwala. If Harry Gwala ever called me a sell-out because of my different views, he's actually prepared to accept that like him I'm committed to the principles of socialism, but with different views of how we're going to do that. And to me that's much more a democratic perspective for somebody who's a Stalinist. Some of these people who call themselves democrats and they say to you, they try to deny it, and they say, how can you belong to the South African Communist Party? And they're just about saying the Communist Party must be banned and these are the people who say they stand for multi-party democracy and now at the end of the day they're saying our politics are rubbish, that they're going to defend my rights to be able to ... Anyway, on the questions of how do I see implementation, so we are looking at things like the market. We're saying that the market is not necessarily the same as the 'free' market approach. [I think that's something which apart from ... and De Klerk probably, he'll be asking South Africa's support for ...]

POM     South Africa is the one outstanding example of a non-market economy anyway.

CC     Absolutely. Anyway, but I mean we're also saying, we are saying that however you'd term economic ... in South Africa. So at the end of the day we're saying that we need to find a way where people's needs are registered and acted upon. Now in the Soviet Union with central planning that's enough to give me the creeps to think people are going to sit in Pretoria and decide what we need in the Western Province. But the market has a severe limitation which must be acknowledged. Throughout we're saying we must definitely, we would in fact say with some caution at this stage, but nevertheless say that we need to look quite seriously at the market. But the market also only registers in minds of people who have money. The way you determine the people who want washing machines or TVs or the people who need mops. Of course they've got the money to pay so that's how they vote or register in the economy. It doesn't register, for example, how is the state of the homeless. You cannot measure those kinds of demands and if production can be ... mark-up actually the problem and that's why we feel very strongly in favour of a mixed economy.

POM     How then would you differentiate between socialism and communism? You talked about socialism.

CC     I think that's fairly well documented what the differences are in terms of the role of the state with a socialist state and the role where it would essentially fall away within a communist state. I mean to put it very crudely. I think that the notions of communism are not even on the agenda. I am much more for the - I feel it's possible to obtain socialism and to make socialism work. Where we march on beyond there, I mean I think what I would find appealing about it is not necessarily the content, precisely because I don't believe that societies are static things. I actually believe, and this is where I would also disagree with Harry, capitalism is one thing that's a very progressive thing when people broke away from feudalism. It brought about a whole new way of, a whole new set of social relations and values in relation to land, in relation to property. And under those circumstances it's progressive, I would say it is completely retrogressive under the current set of circumstances. I would also believe that even if one's going to have what I would perceive as a socialist economy now to underline ... I think it would be a terrible thing if we just stagnated here. Society progress in terms of technology, in terms of a whole range of things and that per se brings about a different set of labour and means of production, the relations of production and you have to redefine society in the way it's actually going to be governed along those lines. On those grounds I would actually say that capitalism is a stagnant, backwoods thing, to imagine that we get stuck there and not take the wood out and put the wood on.

POM     OK. You've been worth waiting for. In time I will give you a transcript of this and send it to you so that we can review it just to make sure that the content is correct. I hope I'll interview you twice a year.

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.