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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.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

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POM     Jenny, you said you find it necessary to get away from here at least once a month because the place weighs heavily. How does it weigh heavily now in the sense that it didn't a year or 18 months ago?

JDT     I think there are different kinds of pressure. The sort of pressure that one had up until February 1990 was a very personal kind of a burden. When you live in a country and you're one of those who have the franchise and there are a lot of people around you who don't have the franchise, there's a special kind of a burden to having that sort of privilege. Now the pressure is, and I don't think it's just South Africa's problem, but obviously here it's very intense for us, is that everything seems to be up for grabs, values. It's a time when there's just an awful lot of change around you and when you wonder what's going to win out in the end, you know what is going to be, what are the things that you're going carry forward into a new country. Yes, I suppose that's the kind of pressure it is.

POM     Could you give specific examples?

JDT     Well I suppose I summarised them in some ways in the presidential address that I had to write and we talked about them a little bit before when you were here last year. One of them is that whole issue of resolving conflict, resolving access to resources, having your stake in how your life is governed, that whole issue of promoting the notion of things being resolved through the ballot box and of course the appalling violence that has really just continued since you were last here - and intensified. So that that whole issue of how do you, or how does a country encourage people to use democratic processes as a means of getting their share in the nation.

POM     Have you found in the 18 months that have lapsed since the ANC and the SACP were unbanned that the nature of the relationship of your organisation with either black organisations or black individuals has changed?

JDT     It has in a very subtle way, but it's actually been very interesting. I think prior to the unbannings, and we did discuss this before, there was a kind of a unity and a push, sort of a unity. Ja. And there was an enormous pressure to identify quite strongly with, for instance, the ANC because the ANC was usually, or at least the organisations that were ANC-supporting, were usually at the forefront of a lot of this push. And there was a lot of pressure both from within our organisation and outside of our organisation for a very clear identification with the ANC, which as you know the organisation decided against. There was almost a push for political hegemony from the ANC in a lot of ways and I think that's quite understandable coming from where they were. But for me in the past year and a half it has become much clearer to everybody that the diversity of organisations and groupings working together on issues and not being politically allied or under one another's control, is a much stronger and a better way of working on issues. And I think there has come a greater understanding of the need for that diversity. And I think that's very healthy.

POM     Just talking about diversity I want to raise that in a different context and that is in a question relating to the nature of the problem that will face the negotiators from all the political parties when they do finally sit around a negotiating table. There is widespread disagreement as to what the problem itself it, there's conflict about the nature of the conflict. You have those who will say, both political and academic, that is a question of the racial domination of the black majority by the white minority. Those who say it's about competing nationalisms, white nationalism versus black nationalism. Those who will say that, yes, there are disparities between racial groups but that within each racial group there are severe ethnic differences which if not taken into account now might pose potential for conflict in the future. There are those who will say it's really a question of resources, the advantaged versus the disadvantaged. In your view, if you were given the chance of going in there to the negotiating table and defining for the negotiators the nature of the problem they were going to resolve, not the solutions that they should look for or the individual bits they should address, but the nature of the problem itself, what would you tell them?

JDT     If I had a crystal ball! You know I suppose because our work is very largely through our Advice Offices with the poor and the dispossessed, in other words we really see those who are struggling to survive, for me the nature of the problem is giving or restoring somehow to all the people of South Africa the chance to survive. Because I think that there are communities, rural ones, I think when our inflation accelerates, which it has been doing, and jobs diminish, I think that there are people who are having a very, very hard battle just to keep alive. To me, to restore the chance of survival is important but also there are a lot of other things that go with it and that is the fair distribution of resources in this country. And with it also that issue of just trying to balance up the extraordinary mal-distribution of resources we have here. To me our problems are so huge that the politics almost become, you can't say irrelevant ...

POM     A side bar.

JDT     Well they do. I suppose that's very much where we sit, but whoever governs this place, how are they going to provide shelter for everyone, or not provide? How are they going to make land available for people to put up shelter? How are they going to address the education question? What are they going to do about jobs? I just think that this country's just got such an enormous battle to survive that a lot of this sort of extremist right and extremist left in some ways to me becomes irrelevant, which is stupid I know because you can't ignore them, they are certainly making their presence very clear and nobody is being allowed to forget about them. I don't know what to say. To me we have such massive damn problems.

PAT     Is the question how to make it available or at what standard to make it available?

JDT     Ja, well, those things kind of go hand in hand. They go hand in hand with the question of getting this economy going again. Because this economy is really in a very, very bad shape. It has historic legacies of distortions of reliance on gold, apparently the fact that our manufacturing sector wasn't developed at a stage when it should have been developed. How are we going to get it going again so that there are jobs and that there are enough resources to start beginning to address the issues? Now I mean I think there are some things that one can do and obviously there are some very vexatious questions like the issue of land, private ownership. I mean if one looks through Africa - I've just been seeing a very fascinating series, that I think the BBC did, on de-colonisation and that's always the issue at the end is what happens?

POM     To the land?

JDT     To the land. A very, very crucial one.

POM     To back up for a moment. You mentioned the pervasive violence of the last year. Increasingly in the West in that last year the violence has been portrayed as ethnic violence, ethnic between Zulu and Xhosa, especially in the Transvaal, to the point that The Economist, well respected internationally, ran an editorial that said there was no essential difference in the violence between Zulu and Xhosa and Serb and Croatian, i.e. they both had an ethnic base. Do you think that was a correct assessment or not?

JDT     You know we've been agonising and thinking about this thing quite a lot because the levels of violence now that we didn't accept in Natal have to fall and they're very frightening and it's always difficult to get down to the roots of them. Certainly in the Sash, like I think in other groupings in South Africa, we've come more and more to the conclusion that, yes, there are racial divides there but those racial divides have very often been encouraged by the apartheid policies and that access to scarce resources there's no question is a point of great conflict. But we've come more and more to the conclusion that there are certain elements, and I know that this is a line that is hotly contended, there are certain elements that are fuelling that violence. We spoke about it briefly before, last time you were here but we've become more and more convinced of it as a reality. The more work we do on the ground the more convinced we become of it.

POM     More political than ethnic?

JDT     No, that elements within the state are being used to fuel ethnic differences. And I think that if you start to look very carefully at issues like the hostel issues in the Transvaal there's an extraordinary pattern there of both sides being armed but certainly the one side, it would appear, being armed by the state, or by elements of the state.

POM     Let me back up. We've talked to a number of academics and people who describe themselves as being progressives and talked about this question of ethnicity and most of them would say that there were ethnic differences there and the potential for more severe ethnic differences but that if you were progressive you didn't talk about it. It's not something you would bring up at a cocktail conversation because you would be accused of being, or leave yourself open to being accused of being either a supporter of the government or a racist or your attitude would be politically incorrect so to speak. So people didn't talk about it. It was there but it wasn't acknowledged for these reasons. What I'm getting at is, do you believe there are ethnic differences that could become potential flash points or that there are some ethnic differences, not a lot, but which the government through the use of violence or other means can exploit to its own advantage?

JDT     Well yes, I think the latter, that there are ethnic differences. I think to deny them is crazy, and that they are easily exploitable, especially when they start getting hooked on to access to something. One doesn't want to go on for ever citing the whole Inkatha/KwaZulu situation, but it does appear that in Natal, in KwaZulu, one did not have access to jobs without an Inkatha card. Now Inkatha then started to become a means of getting access to work, to in fact housing, to all sorts of things and that then becomes a way, to me, of fuelling a divide and that divide I think has been used and exploited. We're not here in Cape Town as in touch with a lot of it as they are in the Transvaal and in Natal. We have a whole other form of violence erupting here and that's the issue, the taxi war. I'm not terribly up on it myself. We have some Sash members who are working in the group that is trying to help mediate and collect evidence.

     What we have tried to do, you know I think, recognise that in the past year and a half our role is changing, that a lot of the up-front political issues that we were almost forced into before, we're pulling back from. A lot of the issues that one maybe took up because a lot of political opposition in the form of political parties was banned, one quite often took up those issues. We're not doing that as much any more. So the kind of work that we were doing in Natal and are now doing in the Transvaal is to try and monitor the violence. Our Johannesburg Sash called together a group of non-aligned human rights organisations and that group has set up a monitoring force that has different kind of levels from on the ground reporting to be collated at central points and then groups of people who will go out hopefully before an incident starts to occur, and try and find out what's going on. They thought it was the most realistic way in which they, as outsiders to that violence, could respond. That they would want to go in there and try and monitor and understand what the sources of conflict were. And I think that that's the kind of role that we would want to play in those situations.

POM     Have they been finding one party more than another of being responsible for creating incidents, whether it's Inkatha or the ANC or the police?

JDT     I haven't had any of the Transvaal reports from that actual group. I think that the sources like the Independent Board of Enquiry into Informal Repression have been collating quite a lot of that sort of information. In Johannesburg there is quite a body of those kinds of groupings like Lawyers for Human Rights, and Sash is part of that grouping. Look, there have been reports out that apparently this one that I read has been somewhat discredited but it put Inkatha's responsibility for deaths in the recent violence at over 50% and the ANC's at something like 18%. Now I'm not sure why that report is being discredited.

POM     Which report is this?

JDT     I've actually got it here. You know as an outsider getting to understand the complexities of what is happening in the township has meant that we've had to very quietly take time and look and try and understand and try and analyse and try and collate that data because you can't just make superficial judgements on these things. It's very difficult. As I say our people are fairly convinced that Inkatha and certain forces within the state security structure are certainly working together and are arming the one side and tipping the balance. But I'm not saying the ANC is blameless by any manner of means.

POM     But when Nelson Mandela accuses the government of having a double agenda and the olive branch of negotiations and working to destabilise the ANC in the townships, would you more or less agree with his assessment?

JDT     Well certainly from some of the stuff that we have been reading and we try to get sources that are relatively unaligned. It seems that he is partly right.

PAT     Is this what is called circumstantial evidence, what the ANC now call circumstantial evidence until Inkathagate came along? And if it's not why is there or is there not a response to De Klerk's invitation for people to come forward with information?

JDT     But he's got all that stuff. I don't know what he's talking about because certainly the Independent Board, I think it was Sheena Duncan who was saying, had been sending stuff through regularly to them. The ANC has been sending stuff through regularly to them. I think there's plenty of evidence actually. There are also things that start to become quite spooky and those are the sort of patterns of killings which have started to happen here now too. The patterns of killing are quite often not ANC activists themselves but it very often starts off with the killing of their family and sometimes the ANC activist will get it too. I mean that's happened twice here. The ANC activists are being killed here as well. I suppose it's quite hard to believe that people would change their tactics so quickly because those are very old tactics. I mean there have been hit lists, we've been conscious of hit lists. There were hit squads. I mean we believe that there were hit squads. We believed it from the day Matthew Goniwe died. That was all rumour but just somehow it all just started to become very real.

POM     So would you see elements in the state security apparatus as being kind of rogue elements or do you think that this violence has had the implicit blessing of the De Klerk government or do you think that De Klerk himself has been aware of the broad outline of the whole thing?

JDT     I wish I knew. It's very hard to say. I mean if you believe that it is a double agenda then De Klerk must know. Maybe he knows about funding other sides, maybe be doesn't know about the methods that are being used, the violent methods that are being used.

POM     But if he's been presented with such evidence as Mandela has brought to him, brought to him this and brought to him that, and in every case his response has been, this is not sufficient. I mean there doesn't seem to have been any sense of I will look into this within my own security apparatus and see what's going on.

JDT     Well I think initially a lot of people believed that De Klerk had quite a hard time holding that security wing of the Cabinet because it was something that he, to my understanding, wasn't integral to in the prior Cabinet at the time of Botha and that people like Vlok and Malan he actually couldn't afford to let go of. It was almost like keeping them within the Cabinet kept them within a degree of his control and that the security apparatus was something that he had to balance out. Now that's giving him the benefit of a lot of the doubt, a lot of people don't believe that any more. I'm not terribly sure what I believe in terms of him and his integrity any more.

POM     Then what about, I think I asked you this last year, within the kind of social and family circles that you move is there still a belief that, yes, De Klerk is a man of integrity, he's trying to do the right thing, he's moving the country slowly forward towards a real democracy, or have people more doubts as to his integrity, as to his real agenda?

JDT     I think that there are more doubts about his real agenda. Certainly within this organisation there are severe doubts about his real agenda. A lot of the average white South Africans that I would associate with I think are finding this time incredibly stressful, incredibly confusing and almost - I'm a reflection of that with my need to get away and enjoy the things that make you feel sane again - because it's so tumultuous this whole thing, the total restructuring and you actually don't know what's going to come out in the end. There are quite a few of your average white South Africans who would, I think, support his double agenda. They've got a lot to lose and democracy really is an irrelevant thing in a way, like fairly typical of decolonising. As I say I find it absolutely fascinating listening to these people from Kenya and Rhodesia, saying much the same sort of things as I hear South Africans saying now about transfer of power. That's very, very, interesting.

POM     Was this the BBC series?

JDT     In the BBC series, yes. I was at a very fascinating meeting on Friday night which our Sash people had organised with all groupings within the community and they had actually come which was wonderful, so there were quite a few white people, there was a large contingent of people from the black township and there were some coloured people there as well, and the issue that was being debated was 'One Municipality'. And one of the bones of real contention was franchise; who is allowed to vote in a municipal election. The Mayor of the existing municipality, who's white, was going very strongly for franchise being based on property ownership, which of course makes your decks pretty heavily stacked. And this was being argued back and forth, which in itself was magic, that there was actually an open forum of debate. This for us is a miracle in this country. And the black people and the coloured people were being awfully polite about it and eventually I stood up and I said, "Look I think that let's be realistic about this, this is actually a non-negotiable. Whoever is a resident and you'll have to define what a resident is of the defined area that is going to be one municipality, will have to have the right to vote in here." I said, "I think that's an international non-negotiable. In our case it's even more essential because history has meant that most people have never been allowed to own property so it's something that don't even really consider. And if the ANC has anything to do with it, even at the local level it's not going to be allowed, period." I said "It's actually not what democracy's about." So, that's why I say I'm finding it so fascinating that those same people in Knysna were saying the kinds of things I was hearing from ten years ago in Zimbabwe and Kenya too.

POM     Was there a vote on the question?

JDT     No, no. It was really meant as an exchange. You see what's been happening is that the Knysna Municipality has been having negotiations with the black community for about two years and the black community has been very, very fascinating and really very interesting. They've been introducing the Knysna Municipality to the rights of voteless voters. In other words those black people. And they are quite cross with the black people because they won't go along with every scheme that those who have power want to dish out to them. They're saying, but no that doesn't suit us. But what was very nice about this evening was that all of that which had been happening between a few individuals behind doors was now happening in a public forum and I was just very proud of the Sash that they had organised this public forum and that they'd got all those people to actually come and talk and to openly debate these kinds of things. Yes, there are a lot of people who now have resources, who have the vote, who are saying things to me like, "But it doesn't matter what applies in Canada, we have to find something here. What about educational standards for instance? What about qualifications for the franchise?" And it's very difficult to enter into a debate in such circumstances, but I hadn't really noticed that educational levels had been any kind of indication of the wisdom of people's votes previously in this country. So it really is very extraordinary.

PAT     Do people still consider the option of leaving a viable option among whites that you would associate with?

JDT     I think it's becoming more difficult for them because I think that the sort of people I know are more my age now and it's actually quite hard to move now. I mean you're not easily going to find work. What you take with you in terms of money is not that much at this stage, given the way the South African Rand is just plummeting. I think a lot of people would like to go sometimes. I mean we're finding that more and more of one's friends say, "Oh I just want to get out", because it's very pressured, very pressured here.

POM     But the way they want to get out - it's kind of a statement of frustration more than a statement of intention?

JDT     I think so. Wouldn't you? When people say they want to go, it's that they actually get very frustrated. There's a sense of not knowing where one's actually heading in a lot of ways.

POM     Yes I think so. And what the future holds, and people are afraid I suppose.

JDT     Yes, I think they are quite afraid.

POM     Because of fears you talked about last year of lowering of standards, of violence, the kind of becoming like they think the rest of Africa has become? To go back to De Klerk for a moment, what is it, do you think, that the National Party or the government are looking for at the end of this process?

JDT     I would say to hanging on to as much power as they possibly can achieve within the framework of a constitution that they can sell to the West and to the black people of South Africa.

POM     And to their own constituency? Or is the white constituency becoming more irrelevant, not irrelevant but less?

JDT     Well I think that the Nationalist Party's moves for instance into the coloured areas has been very fascinating. There's been a concerted drive in a number of these areas for them to get voters and to get people signing up for the Nationalist Party. So they're really trying to broaden that constituency and to be seen as reasonable people with experience in government. I think that's what they're trying to offer. Yes, we've been at it, we're efficient, your future's safer in our hands than in the hands of inexperienced people.

POM     A lot of surveys show that the majority of South Africans, including blacks and whites, would be quite prepared to accept some kind of an ANC/National Party coalition, ANC being the senior partner and the NP being the junior partner. Of the experience that you've had with black people do you think they would find that an acceptable answer.

JDT     Well the kind of black people that we would have most time with would be the more politicised and I think that they would find that quite difficult but that's really thumb-sucking because I don't know. But I think that, certainly the sort of meetings I go to the talk is of hand over of power to the majority.

POM     There's no talk of the way the government and many people in the ANC are speaking two different languages? One is talking about sharing power and the other is really talking about taking power over.

JDT     Mm, mm. And I would say that the latter is certainly the kind of thing I would be hearing in meetings. No assumption of some kind of deal being struck.

POM     In this part of the country did Inkathagate get much of a play, was it a major story.

JDT     Absolutely.

POM     Again, what in your circles, who are seen to be the political winners and losers and what do you think it did to the standing of Buthelezi?

JDT     Well for a lot of people the reaction was more - what we've been thinking all along has been vindicated, that Inkatha have been propped up by the government, even though what one sees is only that quarter of a million or so. There is a belief that there is an awful lot more behind that and what if they were also putting money into their union as well?

POM     Would that include kind of possible collusion on issues relating to violence, funding to arm Inkatha?

JDT     Well those kind of things follow although you do somewhat have to separate them out. I mean for some people that discovery or at least the revealing of that money kind of said, yes we know that Buthelezi and Inkatha have been funded and doesn't that mean that they've also been supporting them in supply of arms. I do think that they have to be separated but a lot of people have just run them all together.

POM     So who were the political winners, losers?

JDT     Oh, who were the political winners and losers? Well, De Klerk and Buthelezi I think lost for a while. Winners? Maybe it proved the ANC's point. Certainly the revelations after that in terms of what the government had done to fund the other parties in Namibia, I don't know. Does it make people think about really the role of the South African government in the sub-continent? I think it just makes people more cynical, more cynical about real political process and how heavily the decks are stacked here. I mean the government has been using massive resources in their secret funds to obviously manipulate the sub-continent.

POM     On the use of resources do you think the attempts, not the attempts, the increased funding made available for social and economic programmes for blacks in the last 18 months is directly related to the government wanting to woo black voters?

JDT     I don't know that it would be wooing black voters because that money is so minuscule in comparison to the real needs that maybe it's got more to do with smoothing over some potentially volatile situations. Hopefully some of those things will start to tell in a real sense in people's lives. For us our queues grow longer. You know, the people who are just scrabbling for the last penny, there are just many, many more of them so those little bits of money I think are perceived by a lot of the community as sops and are just a tiny, tiny little drop of what needs ...

POM     Kind of makes them more aware of what their real needs are than if the money wasn't given?

JDT     Yes. In a way it's perceived as tokenism. I went to a very fascinating conference on development in Johannesburg at which there were government people, including some senior ministers and there were people from the communities, there were a lot of non-governmental organisations and there were a group of funders and it was very interesting because it became relatively clear that those who had control of the resources now were not going to hand them over. They were going to eke them out quite selectively according to where they saw ...

POM     Their interests rather than ...

JDT     Now that's maybe being a bit cynical, but it was very fascinating.

POM     Does the Sash have a position on an interim government?

JDT     No, it's actually something we're debating right now. I think that we would accept that some kind of interim government is really necessary because one thing that's quite clear, and I think the Inkathagate issue really did highlight it, and that is that you can't trust these people one iota because there have just been so many lies, there have just been so many cover ups. I think there's a great deal of cynicism about government right now. Before it was just a kind of hating this evil thing. Now there's a sort of a sense of tremendous cynicism about government and that's why I say this whole issue of how do you restore any faith in government, that's a really tough one here because government just seems to endlessly lie to you.

POM     Would the Sash be debating it in terms of requiring the present government to resign and for an all-party government to be formed, or on the lines of the existing government maintains its legitimacy under the constitution but is broadened considerably to include members from all other parties?

JDT     It's something we have to look at in terms of possibilities. I think there's a very real problem with the kind of grip on power that the Nationalist Party does have and it seems to be absolutely determined to maintain. It has to be diluted somehow because they are still playing the game of one of the players and the referee and that's very hard because it means that they seem to still be trying to set the pace, they still seem to be trying to maintain virtually total control.

POM     Just speaking for yourself, which direction do you think the interim government should move in? The present government resign and form a new all-party government, present government expanded, people from other parties brought in, or some kind of monitoring process set up that brings the government actions in certain crucial areas under scrutiny?

JDT     I'm actually not sure for myself because I don't know what the mechanics of it mean if they have to resign. I don't know what that means to the existing constitution though I would see that as the most acceptable way of going forward. I think it depends terribly much on just how hard the other negotiating parties can negotiate for a real say in how decisions have been taken. Because, you know, we're still, it's extraordinary, legislation is still being passed in the same old manner it was before. The Local Authorities Bill is a typical example of it. It was designed by the government, very little consultation took place, it was put through the existing parliament and enormous powers, I know it's an interim Bill, but enormous powers were vested in the hands of administrators who are appointed, they're not elected officials at all. And just the fact that they didn't consult the other people that are supposed to be starting to become part of these processes, just means it's the same old game all over again. So, to me it's a question of establishing some kind of bona fides, some kind of structures that don't allow them just to keep on running roughshod over everyone because they make an absolute mockery of sharing of decision making and sharing of power at this stage.

POM     Do you think De Klerk or any National Party leader or State President could simply vote his government, or legislate his government out of existence and not produce some kind of incredible backlash in the white community? I mean symbolically it would mean we're transferring power. Where do you place the right wing? By that I'm talking about two separate things, the Conservative Party and the organisations like the AWB. Where do you place them at this point in time?

JDT     Well they would certainly, obviously it would rebound. There's no question that it would rebound because as we were talking about last time there was a promise of some kind of a referendum. I think the bad faith between the government and those parties by now is fairly substantial. I suppose it would be, the degree to which one wants to operate within the constitutionality of the process is an issue and it's one of the issues that obviously we would want to talk about, because those are the little finer points that we don't have very clear in our heads I must say. So we need a lot of self-education.

POM     But do you think the Conservative Party is still a formidable threat to the government? Do you think that, as many people said last year, if an election were held for whites only today that the Conservative Party would emerge with a majority? What's your own sense of it?

JDT     My sense is that by now the government has created a broad middle ground that has started to include other people, like coloured people, and I think has the support of a lot of English speaking South Africans as well. I think he really has captured quite a lot of that group. Whether he would lose, whether the Nationalist Party would not gain a majority I'm not terribly sure. But I have a sense that they would still maintain a majority if you're talking about within, well within what? Just the whites? Because that's what makes the whole thing of him, the Nats, moving into the coloured constituency very fascinating. What kind of election are we going to have next time round? This is why I said it's a very muddy process this one that we're in and a lot of us are feeling like going and seeing the flowers.

POM     Were you surprised when De Klerk announced the demotion of Vlok and Malan?

JDT     Well he didn't really. He just moved them sideways didn't he?

POM     Well they went to a relatively junior, rather insignificant, certainly going from Defence to Forestry, no officious politician would regard that as promotion or even a lateral move.

JDT     Pity he didn't chuck them out - which is what everybody wanted. I mean surely if any person in another government in a so-called democracy were to have proven to undertaken the acts that those two men have would they have been allowed to remain in government? I don't think so.

POM     The government wouldn't have been allowed to stay in government.

JDT     Yes. Well! When I was in Canada in March, the BC Premier was chucked out for some dealings that I don't think involved nearly, nearly as much as any of these men have.

POM     One thing that we're hearing more of this time round is the association of the ANC with the SACP, that connection, it's going to the point of posing real problems for the ANC. Again do you hear in your circles and just in your broader work circles or is this an issue that is really more of a white issue than it is an issue from blacks?

JDT     I don't hear a lot of it. I mean there are questions and there seems to be a belief that they're going to have to come clean. The kind of loose affiliation is really not going to be able to hold if one starts to go into an election or something like that, that you're really going to have to be a lot more clear on policy. And I think most people are sort of waiting for that in some ways. Look the SACP also is having to establish what it is, what it stands for, which has been very interesting in the past few weeks.

POM     The question of this response to the coup or did you find it ?

JDT     Well just what does communism mean in the 1990s? They're having to start to be quite a bit more clear about what does it mean in the South African situation.

POM     Was there any comment again in your circles when the ANC really failed to take a position on the coup in Russia, or in the USSR, one way or another? Just silence.

JDT     No, no. No, people really didn't see that it was a big deal one way or the other because a lot of the statements that were being made seemed to me to be awful rhubarb, rhubarb anyway. I think everybody watched and waited to see what was happening.

POM     But the fact that here was a parallel to the situation where there was the mobilisation of the masses who put themselves between rows and rows of tanks and their parliament and the ANC, the promulgator of mass participation, mobilisation organisation, couldn't say "We support you". You don't find that interesting that they couldn't say that.

JDT     You know, we live in the most extraordinary kind of myopia here, I think still. A lot of it just didn't seem to connect at the time. I mean I found it very fascinating and the whole thing quite exciting but then I've also become a bit cynical about the world according to CNN which is the way we see it here you see, because that's where the largest live bulk of our news on television would come.

POM     Cynical like in which way?

JDT     Well I sort of wonder who was behind all of it.

POM     Behind?

JDT     Well, behind the counter-coup, the prevention of the coup. I mean it seems to have been a genuine, grassroots kind of "Hey, no, that's it." Ja, I just wonder.

PAT     Is what you're suggesting here, to be more explicit, that CNN's a kind of an international global communication vehicle to be able to present to the world the work that the CIA and others were doing behind the scenes?

JDT     Well one wonders. You know you really do begin to wonder. I found the Gulf War according to CNN mesmerising. There was something really scary about it to me and I haven't defined for myself yet what it is, but control of that form of international media must be a prized possession and you wonder to yourself, where is the real story? Where is the truth behind this? One has an awful sense of being manipulated.

POM     Well the irony of that of course may be that it has been television that played such a prominent in the West in galvanising public attention to the situation in South Africa. The call for sanctions came directly out of media coverage.

PAT     The opposite when this government cut off media access ... emotional ... putting South Africa on the political agenda.

JDT     Yes wasn't it? It changed. That's right. Absolutely. I remember also a friend of mind in the States saying, "Don't have a disaster in the summer time." It's really important to have it when people aren't away from their televisions because then you won't get big response.

PAT     January and February!

JDT     Yes, yes. If you want to get your message told, don't have it, you know don't have problems in July/August.

POM     When you read through your transcript this morning, if you had to write a comment on what you'd said 12 months ago or add an addendum, what would you say now?

JDT     What will I say now? I'd say that in some ways there's a sense of having moved because I think that the political processes have moved quite a long way since then. But there's also, for me personally, a sense of not really knowing what the outcome's going to be. My feeling is that as an organisation it's quite important for us to continue doing real on the ground, transformative work because a lot of these political processes aren't necessarily going to change that situation on the ground. And that's maybe where our contribution is the most important because some of it can be quite confusing. And I think it's also a time when if you believe in certain things - we used to be quite diffident about pushing forward notions and ideas and I think it's a time when you do have notions and ideas that you must actually actively start promoting them because that's where, as I say to you, to me a lot of things are up for grabs and we certainly are trying I think quite hard in the way we deal with issues to, when things bother us, to say something about it.

POM     So what kind of issues or values would you be promoting now?

JDT     Well, I suppose for us they are obviously human rights values because that's what the organisation's about. Issues of democratic participation in government. Yes, I suppose basically the human rights and democratic values are the ones that we would - and rule of law, and all of those sort of things that go with it.

POM     Do you believe that the process is now irreversible?

JDT     Yes. But the process to what is the thing, that's still not quite as clear as one would like it to be.

POM     Is it less clear this year than it was, say, last year?

JDT     Well I suppose the things that have become clearer to us in the last year, which have made that long-term objective not quite as easy to see, I think is that role to which the government is not playing, I think, all that honestly. That's become much more worrying.

POM     Just in the context of that, this might be an unfair question, which do you think in the present circumstances of the country would be better for an ANC government to, this is an assumption, for an ANC government to govern on its own or for there to be a coalition between the ANC and the NP for some period of time, maybe ten years or for some defined transition period after a new constitution has been brought into effect?

JDT     I don't know how the latter could actually work. How would one bring that into being?

POM     Well very easily. You'd say in a Cabinet of say 30 portfolios, you'd say to the National Party, OK you'll take over five of them and you will sit in the Cabinet and you'll be participant in decision-making.

JDT     You mean much the same as the white vote in Rhodesia sort of thing when it became Zimbabwe?

POM     No, this would be actually - that was kind of reserved seats in parliament - this would be actually members of the government, they would hold portfolios perhaps in Finance, perhaps in Economic Development. Yes, it would be a very broadly based.

JDT     You mean with the rationalisation being that there are those who are more experienced in government seeing a transition period through?

POM     Mm. That would be one.

JDT     Well they certainly haven't proven themselves to be that good at governing have they?

POM     Yes. I'm not going to give you the reasons why you should give your opinion.

JDT     I would find it a very strange, yes I would find that very strange because as I say the Nationalist Party hasn't proven itself all that good a government.

POM     OK. Leaving aside that it would be strange, which do you think would be better for the country?

JDT     Well I certainly don't think that the Nationalist Party being part of the government, I can't see the benefits for the country. Because just having those people in parliament doesn't mean a hell of a lot because we still have to deal in this country with the reality of that huge bureaucracy which I don't know what you're going to do in a future government about it. They're entrenched and you know what bureaucrats are like, you can make all the laws you want and only some things will change. So I see the bureaucracy as a far bigger impediment to progress. I can't imagine what some Nationalist Party members in a coalition government can do.

POM     Well I suppose the argument would be that they understand how to use the levers of power.

JDT     They certainly do, don't they! Not the way we'd necessarily want anybody to.

PAT     They know to use that but in a non majoritarian sense when they're not in control those experiences could be channelled the way that we want them channelled. We need somebody who understands the market economy, who has a relationship with capitalists in our government, at least in a transitional phase. I mean that is thinking ...

POM     We're not here to convince you.

JDT     Look, I mean I can, I suppose a lot of business would be much more comfortable with that yes, and I think that the ANC is more than conscious of the need for a sound relationship with business because they know that they can't just turn the system upside down. I think they are very well aware of that. I wouldn't be surprised if the ANC would co-opt members of the Nationalist Party that they trusted and they believed were good at their jobs into a parliament.

POM     But they would do it as individuals not as members of the NP?

JDT     Well look I mean we have an extraordinary situation here where, like politicians in a lot of other countries, your Minister of Finance is a school teacher. And I mean he maybe took that post over five years ago, so somebody else could well pick it up fairly fast. So I don't know to what extent that experience means so much. It's maybe the contacts and the personal contact and I think a lot of that is being forged already by the ANC. I mean I think there are conferences, you want a conference, just pick a weekend.

PAT     And then you have many to choose from.

JDT     No, it's been extraordinary. Conferences, at last some of them are starting to have them at home. At one stage it was sort of half a million that it was taking for South Africans to meet outside of the country, but now it's happening much more at home. And I think there are very real attempts to start forging much broader discussion groups, alliances. There's a lot of parallel negotiations which I think are absolutely essential. I mean the negotiations that happen at government level are really one tiny part of it. To me the parallel negotiations where they have been relatively successful are one's like between labour and business. I think that those kinds of things are crucial to the transition.

POM     At the local level?

JDT     The local level ones have come to a skidding halt because of the way that interim Bill was put through. They never learn, they just never learn. The ones on education were looking successful. They seem to be coming off the rails a bit now. Mandela went to see De Klerk and said, "Listen this education thing is really a mess", and a lot of people working in alternate education got together with the government structure and it looked like something quite successful could have come out of that, but it seems to be stalling now. I think those parallel negotiations are as important as the political processes because they are negotiations around vested interest. Like you say, the Local Authority, all the people within a local area, education, labour and big business obviously crucial.

POM     So are you more optimistic, or more hopeful might be the word, now than you were a year ago that the country will eventually emerge into a non-racial, democratic, stable South Africa?

JDT     I don't know how to compare. I just know there's a lot of work to get there. An awful lot of work to get there and quite a few people who seem not that keen on us getting there and that's very worrying. And when one starts to believe more and more that the government itself has had a hand in not promoting a clear process then one becomes a bit wary.

POM     So if I were to try to sum up the major difference between where you stood and how you perceived things last year and this year and perhaps the major difference would refer to this question of the government's action in trying to undermine the process itself?

JDT     I think so. Yes. I suppose it would be a sense of awful weariness, you know, oh no they're up to their old tricks again. We tried to give them the benefit of the doubt and to quote Cheney? "Can't trust those bastards".

POM     Terrific.

PAT     I have one question for you and this is an impression. We went to see Buthelezi yesterday and the more I see of him the more confused I get about his personality and I wondered what you and your colleagues and your friends what your sort of gut impression of him is. I mean do people think he's a strong leader with a constituency that he must ...? Do they think he's a hero? Do they think he's stupid and he's being manipulated? Do they think he's a major factor? What's the gut reaction to Buthelezi?

JDT     Gut reaction? The gut reaction of our members in Natal who are daily immersed in this kind of thing is a sense of, they see him as quite a bad guy. Well they see Inkatha and the things that he allows to happen around Inkatha as pretty serious. I find it very interesting when, in this period of negotiations, there was a TV debate and it was one of our first ones between, I think it was Pik Botha and Thabo and Mbeki, and all the questions and all the focus, and Buthelezi he was also part of it, and all the questions were between Mbeki and Botha. And Buthelezi was almost like a kid who hadn't been invited to a party. I think he has an enormous ego and I think there's almost a slight instability around that ego. I'm trying to be kind aren't I?

POM     This is being kind? I don't want to see you when you're unkind.

PAT     What is your gut reaction?

JDT     He scares the hell out of me because - I've not had personal consultations with him but I have had friends who have and apparently he can be incredibly charming and warm and you really connect and relate to him. And then they have seen him flip and become so coldly angry that they can't actually believe it's the same person. That happened with one friend who met him on a personal level and then the Sash had made some criticism of Inkatha and suddenly there was this ruthless 'out to get you' person. But with a kind of, it seems, a personal commitment to vendetta. Don't cross him because it seems as if the personal side becomes quite strong. Some people have used the term megalomaniac. Now I don't know the man but I know that people quite fear him and he's certainly been used, I think. I think his megalomaniacal weakness has actually been exploited. Yes. But that's just very circumstantial because I mean I've never met him. But a couple of my friends have.

POM     It also certainly fits into our meetings with him, like last year he was aloof and he was sharp, he was kind of hostile, not in an overtly hostile way, but certainly when you're interviewing somebody you hope they at least try to answer the questions they're asked and don't give ... responses. And this year he was charming.

PAT     Charming was an understatement.

POM     Gracious and, but even in the middle of the interview he changed. Just like you said, suddenly one question moved his mood.

JDT     It's almost like there's a flip in that brain and another persona comes out.

PAT     You do see, I mean in some ways you struck by the charming personality. You think maybe there is a way that you can find some commonality and you could sit around and work things out and he would be more than amenable.

JDT     He's not stupid and I don't think anybody should ever think he is stupid. And he's very astute because he knows the right thing to say to the right people. He has charmed the West Germans who have put a lot of money into KwaZulu, because he's made all those capitalist noises which made them feel quite comfortable. You know committed to capitalism, etc. But as I say there's a kind of a switch and an irrationality that people find very frightening.

POM     OK. Thank you. Have you a copy of your Presidential speech?

JDT      wiped out in their home. And here an ANC, how could that poor man, 73 year old night watchman, when he was at work his wife and all his children were killed.

POM     Why would that be a hit list?

JDT     Well he was on the ANC Committee.

PAT      ... in any kind of second level way of the ANC, to get on the list? ... people who join the ANC?

JDT     Well they see it as scaring tactics. But as I say, our people who are monitoring are fairly convinced that there are patterns occurring because in the taxi war just as the Peace Committee which is working flat out seems to get an accord, there will be another murder. I mean to the extent of people - a man in his taxi being gunned down with one of his passengers at the taxi depot in Langa. Why?

PAT     Who is this taxi war between?

JDT     Between two rival ownership groups. Again the scrabble over taxi route survival, resources, etc., being very easily fuelled. The taxi scene is a very volatile one.

PAT     Has it become politicised?

JDT     There have been all kinds of rumours that the one group is largely owned by whites and that a lot of these whites are in the police force. By now our lives, there's just so much rumour.

PAT     What would be, if a project was organised for the ANC, what would be the competing force within the community against the ANC?

JDT     Well here, I'm not very clear who it would be here. You know that's why it all became so strange down here is because we don't have that easy hook to hook on, Inkatha over there, you know. And things were very quiet for quite a while, but apparently it's very volatile in our townships at the moment. It's about to go off any time and largely around the taxi issue. But also around a weird thing now, like there's a group who are protesting the fact that they were in Old Crossroads, were promised housing but the houses have been allocated to someone else or to people who could buy them. So this group that has been housed in tents have been throwing petrol bombs at the others in the houses. I mean, just any situation can be volatile. And the thing that's very weird about it is that we never seem to have had this kind of consistent flash point. I mean a lot of these issues have always been around but somehow now they always erupt into violence. I don't personally particularly understand the public, not like you I haven't done extensive studies.

POM     Does this make people more fearful, like if it's political they kind of say, well I understand why it's happening but when it seems to develop over any issue it makes you far more uncertain about the future.

JDT     I think it does. God knows what it must be like living in the townships. Our trainee field worker for instance is trying to find accommodation now in so-called white areas because she just finds actually the level of stress, because she was at that taxi rank ten minutes and there the woman was dead. You just never know where it's going to come from next. The whole societal structure seems to be ...

PAT     Do the women who actually work in the townships take extra precautions?

JDT     There tends to be, some of our members will go in for instance and take affidavits and statements which have been around this violence here, so we're starting in an informal way to put those kind of monitoring forces into place. I'm sure they are more cautious. I'm sure they must be more cautious.

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.