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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
29 Aug 1991: Dommisse, Ebbe
POM I want to go back to what might sound a very naive question but I'm asking it because of the variety of responses I have received to it, and that is, in your view what is the nature of the problem? How would you define the problem that the negotiators from all parties will face when they sit around the negotiating table? You have, for example, academics and politicians who say that the problem is racial domination of the white minority over the black majority. You have those who say the problem is competition between two forms of nationalism, black nationalism and white nationalism. You have those who say, yes there are racial disparities but within each racial group there are important and significant ethnic cleavages and unless these are taken into account they create the potential for conflict in the future. You have those who say the real problem is about access to resources, those who have resources, those who don't. In your view what is the essence of the problem?
ED Well I think it's difficult to say what the real problem is because there are many problems and certainly ethnicity and different race groups, the inequities in the society, these are major problems. I think also a major problem is looking at the future. What kind of country this is going to be. What kind of economic system is going to sustain it. What will build confidence in the future. This is going to be a very difficult obstacle during the negotiation process because quite clearly from the black side, especially the young radicalised blacks, they expect Utopia and they expect it quickly. The sooner they get that kind of Utopia which they envisage, which I suppose would be a radical black government with strong communist influence, that's going to be totally disastrous. How the expectations of these young blacks can be met in a realistic way, I suppose that is going to be the major source of trouble to all the parties in the negotiation process.
POM I'll come back to the expectations part of your answer, but for the moment I'd like to concentrate on the question of ethnicity for a number of reasons. One, in talking to many people who would regard themselves as progressives, they would say, yes, there is an ethnic factor but in their circles it's not discussed because if you bring up the ethnic factor you sound like an apologist for the government in some way or you're accused of being a racist so rather than having to deal with that they simply say nothing. And the second, because there's been a book published fairly recently by an American scholar, Donald Horowitz, who argues the case that South Africa is a very ethnically divided society. What is your view on the question? How important is ethnicity do you think? How significant is it? Is it talked about or is it one of these issues that may be put on the back burner now but then will explode into conflict over five or six years after?
ED Well it will certainly explode if it's neglected. I think to my mind one of the root causes of the violence, inter-black violence, is exactly ethnicity between the Xhosas and the Zulus. It cannot be ignored and I think even in liberal circles where it was anathema to talk about the reality of Zulu versus Xhosa ethnicity, that is now acknowledged. Even in white politics I think ethnicity is still very strong. The activism of the right wing Afrikaners is a potent factor and it gives rise to the fascist tendencies which you see among the AWB, CP, they are really an alliance now. I think they can't be separated.
POM So, within the last month The Economist ran an editorial in which it said that the violence between Xhosa and Zulu was really no different from the violence between Serb and Croatian in the sense that they were both ethnically derived. That's a comparison that you could live with?
ED Sure, sure. I have no doubt that Buthelezi especially would settle for an independent Zululand if he doesn't get his way in negotiations. He might want to go it alone and it would be difficult to stop him.
POM So when you say get his own way in negotiations, what do you think he is looking for?
ED He would probably, like the National Party, look for power sharing in an unmistakable way. He would not go for simple majority government, majoritarianism which is basically the ANC/SACP position. They think they can get a straight majority and at this moment they're going for that. I've said so before that I think that would be very close to a disaster because of their economic policies.
POM But they have moved away from simple majoritarianism, the Westminster style to proportional representation.
ED Yes, but even then they are closer to the West German system where the majority party takes all and in a deeply divided society like South Africa that could mean permanent dominance by one grouping which would be basically Xhosa with socialist, radical and communist around it.
POM Do you find in the letters to the paper that your readers express themselves on issues like the violence that has been going on for the past year?
ED Oh yes.
POM What did the preponderance of the letters say in terms of your readers understanding of what the causes of violence are? They would look on it as ethnic?
ED Yes, they would look on it as basically ethnic conflict between Zulu and Xhosa, but of course they are seriously worried about the white violence, the AWB violence. They condemn it very strongly. The AWB is not strong in this part of the country and I suppose there is a long history to that in the sense that, our paper which I think has played a strong role in this, has for decades now come out very strongly against the right wing influencing National Party politics, from the days of the HNP, Hertzog and Marais, right through the CP which we strongly oppose and the AWB which is just a neo-nazi party, that's all.
POM I'll get back to them too in a bit. I just want to finish off on the ethnicity side. A number of commentators have said there could be a comparison between Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union and South Africa, that here you had a situation in which the yoke of totalitarian communism, suppressed ethnic nationalisms for the better part of fifty years, and then as the yoke was moved and these ethnic differences began to move to the surface again and that perhaps in South Africa you've had blacks under the yoke of apartheid for the better part of fifty years and as that yoke is being removed that differences between ethnic groups will again perhaps begin to resurface. Do you agree or disagree with that?
ED Yes, that's definitely a possibility. That's why the form the new constitution takes and the period of transition is so crucial that the efforts to settle a tolerant and a plural democracy that still must be very strong and there must be measures to enhance national building or a democratic culture which I prefer and the striving must be to have a successful and modern country which is a concept which I think is not very popular among the radical blacks, especially the youth with their education problems and all that. I think they have no real concept of what is needed for a modern country in an environment where competition and high tech and all that, technology, where all that is crucial in the modern world.
POM To go back to the violence for a moment. You've had a situation now ongoing for a year in which when the violence first broke out the ANC pointed the finger at Inkatha, then it went on to talk about a third force and then early last year Mr Mandela began to say the government itself had a hand in the violence. Now recently you've had the revelations of the government funding of Inkatha and you've had stories run in the New Nation which at face value would be very difficult to discredit. They seem to be well documented, name real people, there's no real rebuttal to what they're saying. A couple of questions: one, would it surprise you if it turned out that the government had in fact in some manner either been manipulating the violence or orchestrating it? Is it out of the question to believe that or is it, given the track record of this government over fifty years, quite a distinct possibility?
ED It would surprise me if the De Klerk faction of government had a hand in that because from the outset I thought that De Klerk being a lawyer would try to restore the rule of law, and I think he did, not completely. But I have no doubt on the other hand that there are rogue elements in the government especially in the security forces who would try exactly to do that. And then, I must also add, there are also elements in the ANC who are really not averse to the idea of stirring up trouble, continuing the violence and a worst case scenario for De Klerk would be that, say, a radical faction in the ANC, and there are those, who would say why negotiate? It's stupid, we should not negotiate. We should let this ferment and violence go on. We force De Klerk to an all white election which he is bound to lose now, in this present economic situation and let Treurnicht take over and then we have a complete mess and within two years after that we will take over because there will be complete sanctions, there will be external interference from all kind of countries and Treurnicht would end up like Gorbachev.
POM So you talk of two sets of double agendas, one is that the ANC insists the government is pursuing a double agenda, the olive branch of negotiations versus trying to undermine the ANC in the townships. Now whether or not it's true they believe this right across the board. I don't think we've come upon any member of the executive or the working group who haven't said that the revelations of Inkathagate was the icing on the pudding so to speak. What do you think that does to the negotiating process, one party to it whether mistakenly or not really believes the other party is trying to destroy it on the ground?
ED I think that it's very naïve to go into any negotiation process and put complete trust in the other party. I think trust is something that should be built up and it should increase step by step as you put conditions and agreements and all that and you have to act upon that. If you look at the negotiation process in Namibia between the Cubans, the Russians, the Americans, South Africans and the SWAPO people, nobody trusted each other. They all thought they had double agendas or triple agendas or whatever, double agents and all that. So I'm not worried about the concept there. I think it's stupid to trust each other if you go into a negotiation process like this. You shouldn't trust each other.
POM In the same vein, what is the political fallout of Inkathagate, if there is a political fallout? Who were the clear winners, the clear losers and in particular what do you think it's done to the standing of Buthelezi?
ED Well in the end it turned out fairly well for De Klerk because he was able to handle it in a decisive manner. When it broke it looked like the kind of disaster that the government didn't need and Buthelezi certainly lost influence and moral standing among blacks outside of the Zulu people. I think the Zulus are as strongly behind him as ever and the curious reaction, and I suppose there's always a discrepancy between the intellectual reaction and the ordinary reaction, because this paper and the SABC and the radio and all that got many, many calls from whites and blacks who said, 'But what's wrong? Why all this noise? It's fine. They should fund Inkatha because Inkatha is against the ANC.' I heard it on the radio myself. So Inkatha was probably not that badly hurt among it's following and that would go outside Natal and as I said De Klerk, I think, handled it well. The ANC got a boost that's for sure. It's been suggested that they now feel more confident in going into the negotiation process, which I say is fine if they feel more confident. It's about time because the negotiations should definitely start very, very soon.
POM Do you say that because you see increasing problems if delay continues or because De Klerk is facing a deadline in 1994 for an election?
ED Oh I'm very worried about the time scale in which everything has to happen and the deteriorating economy.
POM Has the economy noticeably deteriorated within the last year?
ED Well it's just sliding on and on and on. This is the longest recession in modern history. This is thirty months of a recession and it's causing havoc. I mean I make a little joke about the paper that our biggest growth in advertising is bankrupt sales. That's not the way to go for the future. It's very, very worrying. I don't know if you know about the Nedcor scenario which they showed to people. I think the one very strong point which came out of that is that no transition has ever worked with declining incomes in a deteriorating economy. And that's what we're having. That's why Gorbachev failed. If you read Dr Chris Stals' presidential address to the Reserve Bank, I mean that's very sombre reading.
POM Where does that appear?
ED In all the papers this week.
POM To back up a little. I talked about the ANC's allegations that the government had a double agenda. Do you think the ANC has a double agenda?
ED I'm sure about that.
POM Which is?
ED Well I think you will find people like, say, Thabo Mbeki is a very sophisticated, modern man to my thinking. Mandela is a bit like this all the time, but there are those in the ANC, and funnily enough I think some the communists like Slovo, I think they are, although I don't trust Slovo, but Slovo is also leaning towards negotiation right now. Mbeki definitely is and some of the black nationalists. But some of the radicals - if you look at people like Gwala who is a real prehistoric Stalinist and so on, I don't think they are very much interested in negotiations and also the younger set of radical blacks.
POM Where would you put Cyril Ramaphosa? Did you think that his appointment as General Secretary was a good sign as the forces of moderation were assuming a higher profile in the party?
ED Yes. I think Ramaphosa was totally important for them because the organisation within the ANC is just unbelievable. For a party as disorganised and as ineffectual as they are to present themselves as a modern government, that's just unthinkable. And Ramaphosa is doing much, much better than any of his predecessors to put that right. Ramaphosa I think would be a bit stronger for their negotiation skills. Of course what their real drawback, and it's been worsened now by the events in Moscow, the communist influence within the Executive of the ANC is so pervasive and so all-encompassing and they seem to be in charge of all the organisation's planning, thinking, administration and so on. And how the ANC hopes to present itself to the outside world with that vast communist influence is beyond me. I think there has to be a showdown some time.
PAT The man who was here, Trevor Manuel, who I understand is in charge of their Economic Policy Division, how do you look at him since the economic issues are your big concern?
ED I don't really know that much about him. I do know that he has close links with the University of the Western Cape, which is described by my liberal friends in the English academic world as 'a fully-owned subsidiary of the Soviet Union'. I have my doubts. I don't think Manuel can, from what I've seen of him, I don't think he has sophisticated economic thinking.
POM But there has been, at least in the last year, far less or almost no talk of nationalisation. It appears to have disappeared from their vocabulary altogether and I must say the economists that I have talked to in the ANC appear anything but radical. I would differentiate between what I call a simple-minded approach to the economy and a radical approach. They have this rather naïve idea that all you have to do is to start to build three million houses and you jump start the economy and you're on your way to a rapid rate of economic growth. But there appears to be far more emphasis on the market than we found a year ago.
ED Yes. All right. I would say that has definitely happened. They have a few more problems. One is the conviction, I would call it, that affirmative action would solve the problems of this country. Affirmative action could be very, very dangerous if applied in the way in which I fear some of them have talked about, swamping the universities five to one with blacks, things like that, rapid Africanisation of the civil service. I think there's a big danger there and also I think the belief that they will get a lot of help from the outside world. I simply don't believe that. I don't believe that story of Solarz about 15 billion dollars being scraped together to help the country. It didn't happen in Zimbabwe, it's not happening in Namibia so I tend to disregard that totally. I think the confidence building gestures would be a government that really looks competent, that would include certainly not communist faces, but some National Party Ministers and some I think of the more competent people of the ANC and I would certainly include Buthelezi or Mdlalose or Dhlomo from the Zulus. It looks like a government of national reconciliation.
POM Would you see this as a kind of a post-new constitution government or as a pre-new constitution government?
ED I'm not really tied to the idea that there should be a new constitution before the transition starts. It depends on the negotiation process, but I would like to see at least some firm guidelines of the constitution laid down in that style.
POM Principles. So you are not opposed in principle to an interim government which the ANC is calling for and which the government calls interim measures or whatever. They're really talking the same language. Would you see that government being formed under the existing constitution where De Klerk expands the Cabinet?
ED You mean co-opting? No, I don't see it like that. There would be a new set of measures to do that. I would think that co-option now is not realistic. There would have to be a firm agreement among the leaders that these are interim measures which could be an interim government and they would have to be fully agreed on. The time has passed when you could co-opt people like even Dhlomo or Hendrickse or whatever. I don't think that can be done any more.
POM Well the ANC itself could never go for that kind of arrangement. To the average black it would simply be being bought. On the other hand they are insisting, they have used Inkathagate and particularly the revelations of the government funding to the opposition parties in Namibia as evidence that this government cannot be trusted to be both referee and player at the same time, so this boosts their demand for an interim government as such. But they are insisting that the government resign before a new all-party government is formed. Can you see any circumstances in which this government could resign and if so what would be the repercussions within the white community itself?
ED Oh I think that's very dangerous. If the government should resign it would be under the present constitution and then the State President would have to call an election under this constitution and that means a three-chamber parliament election. If the government resigns in such circumstances it means that it's lost control and then the right wing reactionary movement would immediately take over. I've no doubt about that.
POM That the right wing would take over?
ED Oh yes.
POM Would there be any way that De Klerk could amend the constitution which only takes an act of parliament, amend it in a way where he votes the entire state out of existence?
ED Well he could try it but it would mean for the right wing that he's lost all legitimacy, that he has no right to govern any more, he's lost the confidence of the whites and if he carries on that would have the possibility, I really have no doubt about it, that would mean civil war.
POM Since the coup in the USSR there has been speculation whether a similar train of events resulting in a coup could occur in South Africa. Most commentators say that it couldn't, that it was very unlikely. Do you see again any circumstances in which the military might decide to step in in the interests of security, law and order, whatever, stability?
ED I don't see it right now. Things would have to deteriorate vastly before there's any possibility of that and then apart from that I think the tradition in the armed forces of being a non-party political army, air force, navy, etc. is so strong, especially among the officers. Also of course we don't have that much of a permanent force. We have conscription so the troops they use, one must always remember that the South African armed forces are mixed, it's not a white force, it's mixed and I think it's about half black by now. So I don't see that as a real possibility. Also I think the military are more advanced and more thinking about the politics of this country than the police are. I think there is more danger in the police force and they surely are not capable of a coup d'etat.
PAT Understanding that you don't think co-option is a possibility and a constitutional reformation is not a possibility, what do you think is the route that might be pursued here to come to some transitional arrangement?
ED Well I think the negotiation process is the real thing. That agreements have to be hammered out there and once it's agreed there I think it could have such a status that De Klerk could go back to parliament and get approval for it, whatever has been agreed there. That's fairly obvious. That would include expanding the government to some sort of an interim government. But I don't think the government can agree to a Constituent Assembly. Maybe, maybe very late in the process that becomes a possibility but not in the beginning because that's also handing over of power. Once the government decides to have a Constituent Assembly that means an election for representatives. I think it's unconstitutional and apart from that that's handing over power and the government simply can't do that.
POM Do you think the government or the National Party, and at the moment I'm using them interchangeably, has a clear idea of what it wants out of this process and a clearly thought out strategy of how to get there?
ED I think so. Have you seen their proposals for next Wednesday? It seems pretty clear what they want. They want power sharing.
POM Power sharing at the executive level. Now in terms of, this is what they put out as their best case, this is what they would like. In reality what do you think they will end up with?
ED I'd make a fortune if I knew that.
POM Well, maybe you'll make a fortune.
ED It's quite impossible to answer that.
POM Let me try a couple of variations. At the very least they would be looking for some form of representation at the executive level in government so that they envisage as part of the final package an arrangement that would result in an alliance between the ANC, if it is the ANC, the largest party, and themselves, at least themselves in which they would be a junior partner but still a partner.
ED Well that sort of an alliance, that could be built into the constitution.
POM That would be built into the constitution? OK.
ED But that it's a multi-party government or executive at the top.
POM So let me distinguish between two things. A very large number of the politicians, academics, journalists, whomever that we've talked to, find themselves quite comfortable with the idea of there being a coalition between the ANC and the National Party and most blacks seem to accept that it makes sense because of the reservoir of expertise and experience and the need to get the economy jump-started as quickly as possible. Where there is disagreement is over how that should happen. One group say that it should be a decision made by the ANC if they emerge as the majority party after an election, i.e. it would not be pre-specified in the constitution. And then there are those who say it should be pre-specified in the constitution. You very clearly fall into the latter category.
ED Well I wouldn't be so categorical about that. You see into this whole argument also comes the idea of an interim government. An interim government could come before that.
POM Have an interim government first?
ED Possibly. If that works well that could really form the basis for looking at a new constitution.
POM But then a new constitution having been developed, let's say you have an interim government and while it governs a process goes on which develops a new constitution, the new constitution is put to the people, is endorsed by the people and you now have an election for a new South African government. the first one under the new constitution. What I'm getting at is that in that constitution must it be pre-specified that the Cabinet will be a multi-party Cabinet? Not left to the goodwill or the whims of the ANC if the ANC were to emerge as the dominant party in politics and say, 'It would be a good idea if we had brought in the NP because they could give us experience, etc.' You're saying it must be pre-specified?
ED Oh I think so, yes. But what I would add to that is of there is some sort of movement in that direction within the interim government that would be a good example before it's put into practice. But I think if you look at all the players and so on, certainly among the whites, the Coloureds, the Indians and the Zulus at least, there is severe distrust of the ANC/SACP, very little confidence in them.
POM So you would see the SACP as being a millstone around the neck of the ANC, unless they separate quickly they are going to drown under its weight.
ED I tell a little story about that. The ANC seems to be like the drunk who went to the doctor and the doctor told him if you stop drinking you're going to get delirium tremens and if you don't stop drinking you're going to get it as well. The ANC is exactly in that position because they are so heavily dependent on the SACP and from what one understands about the negotiations and so on, Slovo has really been a key figure to pull them out of all kinds of spots and problems. So they've become so dependent for the thinking and the strategy and the organisation that they can't do without them. But they can't go on with them either.
POM So in a sense you're saying that the best and the brightest in the ANC really belong to the SACP and if you pull them out you haven't got very much less, or you have a lot less left.
ED Much less, much less. And I think that is why Mandela, Mandela, Slovo and his wife and all that, it causes new problems.
POM Is there any word on how severe Joe Slovo's cancer is?
ED All that I know is what I've read that he has bone cancer and that he's carrying on with his job. But he's 65, he can't go on that much longer.
POM You said the NP, the government has a clearly defined objective as to what they want in mind. The strategy part, what is their strategy for getting there? What is their strategy for getting to this multi-party Cabinet?
ED Certainly beginning the negotiation process. They have been calling for it loud and clear for months now and I think they're getting more fearful of the right wing so they'd better start moving, that's their strategy.
POM Some people have said to us that they believe the National Party hasn't given up on emerging as the dominant party in a coalition of non-ANC parties in the future, that it can try to engage in alliance politics with Inkatha, with Coloureds and Indians, pull in some black votes perhaps, constituencies in other homelands?
ED I think that's obvious.
POM Well realistically could you actually see an election under a new constitution in which the ANC would not be part of the government?
ED Well not under the kind of constitution that one envisages. There would be a multi-party government. I think the ANC is going to be a major factor whatever, but the ANC right now I think, if one looks at it in an ethnic way the ANC would get very few votes among the whites, 1% to 2%, 3%, very few votes among the Coloureds, very few votes among the Indians, a few among the Zulus, a few among the Tswanas. So the ANC is also troubled by the ethnic factor, mostly Xhosas and communists.
POM Xhosas and communists would be its support base?
ED Sure. Especially Hani has been put aside to mobilise the radical youth. I think that's fairly obvious.
POM How would you assess the performance of the ANC in the last year. It was pretty disorganised this time last year, which was understandable for an organisation that had been banned for thirty years, trying to develop an organisation countrywide? Have you seen it getting its act together?
ED They're doing much better now, especially with that executive of five. I think there's more direction there now. But if you look at their reaction on the coup in Moscow, they were absolutely pathetic. I mean this is not a movement that has made up its mind about everything. So far actually they have not reacted categorically. Mandela sent a statement to Gorbachev but they have not internally made a statement about their views on the coup in Moscow. Pallo Jordan said it's early days, and that was about it. So that should be very disturbing to all South Africans.
PAT I think that it is. What I don't understand is the assumption that they are part of the new government, other than the constitutional framework in which the government proposes that any party that has a significant constituency can be recognised as a party. But if you take, as you suggest, that they have to at some point possibly sever their relationship with the Communist Party, then given your dissection what you have left is a party that represents Xhosas and maybe one other suggestion that they represent Xhosas in the Transkei because they're fairly insignificant there. Right? Buthelezi is much stronger in the political sense than that, so why the assumption then that - I mean the assumption seems to be based on perception or image or something other than a constituency basis.
ED I think the way I see it is that the communist influence there is much too strong and it's really costing them support rather than gaining them some support. But one can never disregard the fact that they are the oldest black nationalist movement in South Africa and they have a very strong position and a strong pulling power and I think their staying power is quite remarkable. Only they are older than the National Party. So the tradition of the ANC, you can't write it off and although I think they are strong Xhosa-based they would get more support from outside that tribal base. I would be loathe to write them off ever. I think they will always be a strong factor, but I do think they should get rid of the communists, they should sever their ties and then they might be in a more attractive position. There's been some talk that this might happen in an evolutionary way, that when the negotiation process starts they would be represented there as two parties and then the parting would come about naturally. I would like to see that.
POM If that parting does not occur while negotiations are taking place, could there be a parting of the ways between hard-liners and moderates, between those who might be willing to do what you would like to see and that is have written into the constitution a guaranteed form of power sharing, particularly those who say, 'We don't rule out power sharing but it will not be written into the constitution. It will be one man one vote.'?
ED Well I think from a white perspective one would not like to see that kind of split. One would like the hard-liners to stay within the ANC because they could be disciplined there. And Mandela is surely not - he has grown in stature as a leader. But basically I think he seems to be more in charge of the ANC now than he was a year ago. If the hard-liners remain within the ANC, and Mandela has stated at various times that the ANC will always be a broad church, I think that would be fine. I don't see them really breaking away on those grounds. I think they will remain. And also another attractive option, of course, is for the ANC to say the SACP members must decide whether they are ANC or SACP and I think quite a lot of them will remain within the ANC, that will also be fine.
POM How about the PAC? Is it a factor or is it really in the margin?
ED I think it's rather marginal but it sits there on the outside as a danger to the ANC. It pounces on every mistake that the ANC makes and it's opportunistic. It tries to get the radical vote as soon as the ANC makes any false move or whatever. But I don't think it's that strong right now. It used to be much stronger especially here in the Cape. In the early 1960s when I started here the marches in Cape Town which I saw, they were PAC, they were not ANC. Now there are a few drifting around, they are still in the Western Cape and all that but I don't think they are that strong.
POM Just one question that I omitted when we were talking about possible coalitions in negotiations. Quite a large number of surveys showed that a power sharing government between the ANC and the NP, where the ANC would be the senior partner and the NP the junior partner, would be acceptable to the majority of South Africans, blacks and whites. Does that fit in with what your instincts would tell you?
ED Yes. I've no doubt about that. I think the right wing will go crazy but as long as this process has legitimacy I think their power to upset everything will be limited.
POM Let's talk about the right wing. Earlier you said that it had become almost impossible to distinguish for practical purposes between the AWB and the CP. So you very definitely see the CP moving towards the politics of violent confrontation?
ED Treurnicht is a very weak leader and he's really the worst kind of leader that one could have, or maybe the best. It depends on how you look at it, because a fascist movement needs a strong leader, a strong charismatic leader which he is not. What he does get, he does get some support from his church people. he's a fine gentleman with such nice manners and he speaks so well. But for the kind of trust that's needed for a successful, right wing fascist movement he's not the man. Terre'Blanche is much stronger and so is Hartzenberg. He's a real blockhead, Hartzenberg. But they're dragging Treurnicht along, even this Ventersdorp event where people were shot and killed, Treurnicht at first said, 'Well maybe it's not such a good idea to carry weapons to political meetings'' And afterwards he switched and he said, 'It's safer to carry weapons'. So he's always vacillating like that and he is actually the poorest opposition leader that this country has ever had and if they could get a real, strong, charismatic leader in this economic recession, which is quite terrible affecting whites, there could be big danger there.
POM Yes their policy of saying they will not participate in negotiations until all other parties concede their right to self-determination or separation, the basis on which they want to have that policy, the starting point being whites own 87% of the land is so unrealistic.
ED If you look at that condition they set, everyone says, 'Well sure you must have a bit of the land, come and negotiate about it. Of course you have the right of self-determination. Everyone has.' What they can't bring themselves to say of course is that self-determination is not an absolute right. No country in the world, no government, nobody can decide on its own that I want to do this and to hell with the rest. You have to take others into consideration. That is how self-determination will develop, I should say. It's not an absolute right. They think it's absolute and that's nonsense off course.
POM So do you think that many people who would be attracted to the CP don't actually vote CP because they realise that their demands are unrealistic and in the broad sense unattainable.
ED I would put it the other way. I think they vote CP although they realise the goals are unattainable. It's a protest vote.
POM Someone was telling me that the by-election at Ladybrand which the CP won quite comfortably, that their total vote did not change very much. They won because about 20% fewer people stayed at home and didn't vote for the NP.
ED That's not right. There was a big swing.
POM There was a big swing?
ED It was from about 70 to 1200.
POM So is there little doubt in your mind that if a whites only election were held today that the CP would emerge as the victorious party?
ED If you look at the loading of constituencies, I think on the whole platteland, the rural areas, the CP would now carry the day and in many suburban areas and what was left out of your Ladybrand observation are the economic circumstances. I spoke to people who worked there and they said that they think 60% of the CP vote was purely because of economic circumstances and in the one area, Ficksburg (that's a big town there and they have cherry exports and asparagus exports, Ficksburg has about 10% of the asparagus market of Germany) and there the vote was over 1000 for the NP because people were making money, they feel secure and so on. But the protest vote and the financial desperation of people that's absolute cannon fodder for the CP.
POM How much has white unemployment increased say in the last couple of years?
ED I don't know. It's bad.
POM Do they publish separate figures, or do they publish unemployment figures.
ED No, well, all that I saw recently was that about 30% of the working force of South Africa is out of work. That's five and a half million people.
POM I want to go back to something I forgot to ask you and that is the demotion of Vlok and Malan. A number of the Afrikaners we talked to said they were stunned by the demotion of Vlok and Malan. Did it come as a surprise to you?
ED No. We called for it.
POM Did it come as a surprise to your readers?
ED Possibly. Yes. About two weeks before that we had a column in which we said that some Cabinet changes are now called for.
POM We'll run through some statements that you made the last time to get an update on them. You talked about the mood now that this negotiation process should start fairly quickly. It's a year later. It hasn't started. How much time do you think is left to really get this show on the road, that is the parties to be assembled around the table?
ED Well I thought the latter half of this year should do the trick. I think really within the next 6 to 12 months they should start. I think everything is in place now. This Peace Agreement being signed on the 14th. Incidentally, the obvious reason why Treurnicht does not want to sign it is because that agreement bans private armies.
POM It bans the carrying of private arms?
ED Private armies. And if that is signed, that is on the 14th, I think everything is in place. It will probably go on without the CP.
POM If this process starts going forward do they stand in a serious jeopardy of marginalising themselves?
ED Very much so.
POM Like it or not it's going to go on and they can keep their pure ideas out there.
ED They are going to be in big trouble there. It might cause a split in the party.
POM I was just going to ask you about that. The Koos document which seems to accept the reality of the situation says let's get to the negotiating table and negotiate a smaller homeland. He's even talking, I think, in terms of you might have a multi-state policy in which Afrikaners would be in the majority in three or four, or at least would have self-determination within that limited regional context. So it wouldn't surprise you if the party, if they split over an issue like that?
ED Well if the process starts going and it looks fairly successful the tensions within that party will surely increase and the right wing thinking about a separate state is so muddled and confused and so on. Should it be a white state? Should it be an Afrikaner state? There's big trouble there already. And then, secondly, suppose there is an Afrikaner state, what about the Coloureds, the Afrikaans speaking Coloureds. Boschoff is kicking them out in his little Orania whatever, dispossess them and kick them out, which is of course purely racist. There's no question about that. They don't know what they want and they have no plan to get whatever they want. That is crucial and I mean even the most naïve right wing people they realise that if you talk to them. You ask them where is this country going to be which you want? Who is going to do the labour? Who's going to tend the shops and the lands and the railways and God knows what? They have no idea.
POM Last year you talked about the resurgence of right wing violence as probably the major threat. Do you still hold to that view?
ED Yes and I've been proven right.
POM Yes. Now in the week of Ventersdorp there was a poll in the Sunday Star, they interviewed 163 families in Ventersdorp that consisted of white families there. It showed that only about 7% of respondents approved of the AWB and its methods. It showed that more conservatives disapproved of the AWB after the violence than the number who approved of their actions. So you had, at least among CP voters, a moving away from the AWB. Last year you said in the Afrikaner tradition there has been a very strong strain that does not rise against legitimate government and I was wondering whether Conservative Party members see the police force as their police force and when they see it being attacked as being an attack in a sense on their community and their values and would be more likely to pull away from the AWB, that to support paramilitary groups is contrary to their whole tradition of law and order and the primacy of authority.
ED I think they made a major mistake and from what we've heard about reaction within the police force that was regarded as quite objectionable, that the AWB should attack the police with dogs and gas and God knows what. And I think the AWB lost support there within the armed forces, which is very important. The meeting that was called off at Parys by Kobie Coetsee. I think that was another major mistake by him. Apart from the principle of free speech and the right of peaceful assembly and all that, that meeting should have been held. If the AWB goes on with that kind of behaviour, attacking police and peaceful people and so on they are bound to lose more and more support. Treurnicht, of course, is not capable of calling them to order, more of principle I would say.
POM So when you talk about resurgence of right wing violence being the major threat, it seems to be a resurgence of right wing violence which will lose more popular support?
ED Especially if they attack the armed forces because they are claiming that they have substantial support within the police and the army. But once they start attacking them they are going to lose that support.
POM In what context then do you see it as a major threat if it does so in the face of rapidly declining public support, not even having had much to begin with?
ED Well you see that's why I say they made such a mistake at Ventersdorp because they could turn to other means, public protest, protest marches turning into violence.
POM Borrowing in a way from the ANC?
ED Sure. Having a big march on the Union Buildings. Also, you know, expanding their private army.
POM One last thing, you talked I think about two things that are related to the continuing decline of the economy and the longest recession South Africa has ever had and coupled with that a very high level of expectations among blacks as to what will come out of the whole process. Are black leaders aware, in your view, of these levels of expectations and have they been moving in the last year, as far as you can see, to dampen some of these expectations? Or are they fuelling them?
ED I think there's more realism among them now. There's a very interesting article by Motlana in the Sunday Times in which he stressed the failures of the Cuban economy, which was directly contrary to what Mandela's wife said about Cuba. So some of them are doing that. Some of the ANC leaders are doing the opposite.
POM Who would you point specifically to?
ED Chris Hani is a big one. Gwala. But the major problem that they have to address is any education is better than no education. They have to get the kids back to school. They have to start telling them that they have to be trained for a modern country which has to be competitive, which is the last hope of Africa otherwise this whole continent is becoming a basket case. And there's not enough of that yet.
POM On the subject of the economy, what do you think will pull the economy out of this current malaise?
ED Well if you look at what Stals said this week, he has only one note and that's foreign investment. He's probably right although I think these very high interest rates work directly against expanding the economy. It's dangerous and the political fall out is terrible, the unemployment, the bankruptcies I'm not so sure that the economy can be kick started unless there is access to the IMF and the World Bank and substantial foreign investment which might even come from Japan, the European Community, less from the States I think.
POM But there is unlikely to be substantial foreign investment until foreign investors see that post-apartheid government is stable and working?
ED Not necessarily. If the level of violence comes down, if the environment looks more stable regardless of the government, that's a major boost.
POM Would you see then bringing this violence that has been rampant for the last year under control is really the major variable that will affect the economy in the sense that if it continues there will be no foreign investment?
ED Sure, sure. I think the violence is the major detrimental factor at the moment. It's also still an obstacle to negotiations. The distrust is basically about the violence.
POM Sure. So if this Peace Accord doesn't work, the violence continues at the same level, then there are really very, very serious obstacles both to negotiations and in the face of the future.
ED The black on black violence seems to be decreasing. The white violence is increasing. But that can be contained, pull a few out of the system.
PAT To go back to what I thought was the Nedbank analysis about the news that you will get industries here to invest more in development and research as opposed to taking so much out in profit in order to create a more favourable economic climate. That perhaps then South Africa looks more attractive to outside investors but it's hard to get outside investors when those that are here are taking their capital outside.
ED Sure. I agree with that. Of course I have one basic problem with that analysis and that is that they postulate that investment should be in the high-tech area, that's the big growth area, and that's our biggest problem is high level manpower. So it's correct to say that is the big growth sector but we don't have the people to do that.
POM It's also a capital intensive sector and could absorb a lot of employment if it runs out of capital.
ED This part of the country is very well situated for high tech industries and so on. We have a few, yes, but the Techno Park at Stellenbosch is not really coming off the ground. We're talking about another fifteen to twenty years in my view.
POM Thanks very much for the time. In due course I'll have another transcript for you.