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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

30 Aug 1991: Sonn, Franklin

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POM     Dr Sonn, I want to start with something that might sound relatively simple but I keep asking because of the variety of responses I get to it; and that is how would you define the problem the negotiators will sit down to resolve when they finally get around the negotiating table?  Now you've had some academics and people say that the problem is one of racial domination of the black majority by the white minority, you have others who talk about there being two competing nationalisms, black nationalism and white nationalism, and others will say, yes there are racial disparities but that within each racial group there are severe racial differences which, if not attended to, may pose a potential for conflict in the future. Others will talk about the problem being one of the unequal distribution of resources and access to resources.  How would you define the problem?

FS     I think the problem is first of all from the side of the white dominant group, they would be very concerned to have a definition of the position of groups, how they are going to define minorities and get recognition for that in the constitution without it being perceived as a gimmick and without it also being perceived as trying to entrench ethnicity.  And I think that will be almost fundamental to the first part of the negotiations, the whole issue of definition around that specific point because they come from such divergent positions.  As far as the dominant black group in the ANC is concerned it's in their interests to have an egalitarian, or a recognition of a person as a person, and the others will know that if they concede to that they're losing before they've started.  So I think that will be the first problem.  Then the second, equally big, problem is the interests, as the interests are represented both culturally and economically; culturally the interests relating to language and rights surrounding language.  And then the next issue of interests will be economics.  Do you bring the whole question of redistribution to the table or do you start from the word go on the basis of equality, knowing that equality does not mean equality if you do not look at it historically as well.

POM     I was just looking at the Nedbank/Perm economic scenarios presentation which made pretty depressing viewing.  Just on that score before I get back to the problem question, the amounts that would be required to bring about any kind of equal distribution in expenditures is so huge that how can the expectations of the majority ever be even reasonably met within the next ten to fifteen years?

FS     I think that is the problem and it's a useful reality in the sense that I think generally among all of us there is already a realisation that we will only be able to come close to addressing that particular issue if there is a consciousness of the problem and with that achieve stability, if there is the growth and the consciousness of growth and its concomitant imperative of the recognition of South Africa by the outside world as a competing nation.  It's going to be determinant of the economic decisions that are going to be taken.  In other words a consciousness that you cannot take economic decisions from political purposes.  You've got to take economic decisions that will facilitate maximum growth of 5% to 6% and also will ensure confidence.  So I think that is the plus, the bonus, but on the other side the concern that is really going to be a very important consideration, how you are going to, will have to meet the expectations of blacks.

POM     Do you think that the broad parameters of economic structures will have to be worked out at a negotiating stage or must it be an agreement in principle in some way as to what form redistribution should take or should it just be left up to an incoming government to work out for itself?

FS     I think there will be arguments about that but at the end of the day the incoming government will have to recognise that there will have to be a form of redistribution but with growth and that will determine the economic policies of a new government.  Whether they will concede at the negotiation stage on those points I am doubtful because people have already entrenched themselves into positions as far as that is concerned, very much like the Zimbabwe model where they had to be seen to be what they said they were and then move away from that as soon as they are in fact in power.  But I think in our country it will happen sooner and already there is less and less talk of nationalisation.  What happened in Soviet Union also helped out that process.

POM     I want to go back to the question that you raised last year and you said at one point to the effect that the ethnocentric view is that the right was going to dominate.  People talk about things from the bottom up and you talked about a whole different form of decision making and when I read it again this morning what came into my mind was the response of Steve Solarz, the American Congressman to, not a statement of the ANC, that when they said they weren't ready to accept the US package of aid because they hadn't been consulted, you could take that as a very good example of just his inability to understand the manner in which decisions are arrived at.

FS     I think there is a very, very strong element of that, that the European mind does not understand how a consultative democracy works.  On the other hand once we are in power then we will also recognise that we do not have the luxury of time to take decisions and there will be short cuts, but that will be a basic point, a basic difference, the way the political culture will be adopted.

POM     Do you think part of the criticism aimed at the ANC about its slowness and consultation and whatever, is really the European mind trying to impose its model of what behaviour should be?

FS     The European models, yes.  That is more system oriented while the African cultural view of life is more people oriented, participation rather than efficiency, meaning systems must work for people.

POM     When I saw you last year, it was the day after the Pretoria Minute was signed, the 9th August, and there was a fair degree of optimism in the air about people coming together and working things out.  And then you had this year of violence, particularly in the Transvaal.  In the West that violence increasingly began to be written off as ethnic violence, even to the point of The Economist, which is well respected all over the world, about six weeks ago referred to violence between Xhosa and Zulu as essentially being no different than violence between Serb and Croatian, that it was ethnically determined.  Could you tell me your assessment of that statement?

FS     I don't think it's really ethnic as much as I think the government would like to present it as such, that it's not only ethnic, they present it as black on black.  And there is white on white violence too in Ventersdorp.  I think it's more, it's the mind which wants to create differences.  No there are differences, but immutable differences between ethnic groups.  I'm not denying the existence of ethnic groups but I think in this instance it's more interests that are being contested and from that point of view the government is a participant in the violent situation because it operates from its own interest base through it's agencies being the police and all these surrogate organisations that from time to time one is beginning to hear of, operating even now with these hunger strikers.  We hear that there was also police involvement as far as that is concerned.  So I think it's quite wrong the perception that exists that there isn't progress because blacks can't sort themselves out.  I think if you remove blacks for a moment from the scene, from your view, then you will also then have time and eyes left to see white on white violence occurring.  And in a changing situation people are really defending their interests and it's all most logical and I think it's wrong to absolutise it as being ethnic.

     I can just explain to you, for example, I think Gatsha Buthelezi's fight is not a Zulu fight, it's an interest group fight.  He is part of the system, he's upped it, he took a lot of people whom he calls Zulu because they were conveniently around him and he built a power structure around them.  Now there are going to be talks about power-sharing and he wants to be in on that. And the same is true about Terre'Blanche who says that, "If I opt for sitting at the table I'll be outnumbered so I must try and upset things so it doesn't come about."  So it's the interaction of interest groups.  That's how I see it, which you give a name, and the name that they give it is Zulu and Xhosa, and if Terre'Blanche had been German then they would have said it's a German against Afrikaners.  But now they give him another name, they call him 'the far right', which is almost, in that context, also an ethnic group, a different ethnic group to the 'far left' Afrikaner.

POM     There's been a book published recently by a man named Donald Horowitz who is at Duke University, North Carolina, who is recognised almost world-wide as an expert on group conflict, ethnic conflict.  He's written a lot about Africa and the point in this book is that when you examine all the evidence, or the studies that have been done, that South Africa is a deeply divided society like other classically divided societies and that you have to develop special structures of governance to take these differences into account or else you will end up with a system that will just result in conflict somewhere down the line.  Two or three questions:  I've talked to a number of academics here and I must say more whites are of these opinions than blacks, these are progressive whites, and when I ask them, "Is ethnicity a factor?" and they will say "Yes".  Now they've talked about it and they will say, no they won't talk about it because to do so is to appear to be an apologist for the government or you stand to leave yourself open to accusations of being a racist, and rather than go through this it's dropped.  How much of a factor do you think ethnicity is?

FS     Well as you're saying it's a danger, it's dangerous because the government based its policy on ethnicity and is seeking accommodation for the dominant group on the basis of ethnicity and, therefore quite correctly, it's almost impossible to defend the existence of ethnicity without being criticised for it and also without laying yourself wide open for the government grabbing that and justification for apartheid and for the way they are hinting.  So it is a very, very complicated issue to deal with, particularly now.  But as we progress, an apartheid government becomes less and less of an issue.  Yes sure, ethnic differences and ethnicity will continue and it will come to the fore as an issue particularly around interests because people have interests, and interests, as I say, are cultural and economic and that is just so I think.

     And I know there is a school of thought which says you must develop one culture, but that is almost another imposition.  How do you say to a Zulu speaking person that you must now speak English?  You are denying his culture, you are oppressing him.  And if you are in a position of domination economically through your ethnic group, then that will also become an issue.  So, sure, I'm of a mind that ethnic differences will more and more become an issue and I think what we are doing in future, it's difficult to make an issue of it now for the reasons I gave, but we have to go towards an accommodation of it where we will recognise the ethnicity because already I think the ANC is doing that.  If you just see how they constitute all their committees, they always make sure that there's representation from all the groupings, but it's not saying, "You represent those people", it merely recognises that people have interests and that they would like to see their interests represented in decision making.  But the objective is towards reconciliation and towards greater participation rather than using ethnicity to cause greater divisions.  In other words if I sit there as a person classified coloured on a committee of the ANC because they selected me on that basis whether I like it or not, then I would not only be expected to bring the so-called coloured man's point of view, I will be perfectly at liberty to talk on every other issue and even differ with people who are of that particular ethnic category when an issue about that category is being discussed.

     You see, what I'm trying to say is that there is an under-emphasis of ethnicity and more recognition of ethnicity in order to achieve a bigger - I always say it's like the gender difference.  There is a difference between a man and a woman and they can start a marriage by saying you're a woman and I'm a man and now we're going to appoint status to one another.  So you can say, look you're a woman and I'm a man, we're going into a union together, the most important thing is for us to work and recognise each other as equal and now there we go.  And we don't always say, now that's the woman's work and this is the man's work.  If you do that you're creating conflict.   So you see I think it's more in that area of how you accommodate it and how you use it where the tension exists.

     Let me just explain this a little bit further. It's interesting when Mr Mandela went to Stellenbosch University, he addressed Afrikaner ethnic interests and fears. He spoke about their language, he spoke about their position as virtually an ethnic group. Right?

     And now it's almost a question emerging in the Cape where people are saying, what about coloured interests?  Is there something like that or isn't there something like that?  Are they going to be addressed or not?  So it's emerging, with the fears that it will be considered as if coloureds now want a certain position for themselves. They just don't want to be taken for granted, as if they don't have interests. They have historical interests, they have cultural interests, they have economic interests.  And often because of the past they are distinct from other interests like, for example, coloured people do live in a certain area.  They have made that area the way it is, right or bad it's there.  They do speak a certain way, they do have a religion, like, for example, the Muslim community.  And now just to say to the Muslim community, "You don't exist any more.  We're all one."  They will say, "Wait a minute, we have religious, cultural interests."  And those interests will be accommodated by people if they are accommodated in a non-threatening manner, in a non-discriminatory manner.

     For example, there is a recognition of Jewish ethnic differences within the white community.  It found recognition.  But it's not even political content because the Jews feel that in the white political scheme of things there is expression for them.  But when you say, you are now a Jewish community politically and you will have one or two votes or one or two representatives and they experience that as discriminatory, then the whole ethnic question will become a question of ambivalence, with an issue of great anxiety.  But it isn't now.  So I think the whole question of ethnicity is a very, very complicated one because, like everything in South Africa, it's been politicised, it's been very badly used.

     For example, let's just speak very quickly about the coloured people.  Must I now deny the fact of my history that I have European and African tradition?  So I don't think that is historically and factually correct of me to deny that I am a Euro/African.  I mean everybody else will tell me, and the African will tell me, my black comrades, that you are Euro/African.  So if I deny it I'm just fooling myself.  But if I say I'm a coloured, what does that mean?  That gives a distinct political content to my being and it says that I am a minority group that's assigned a position by somebody else.  But if I define myself as Euro/African I speak English or Afrikaans, but I'm westernised, etc., etc., this is a reality.  It's not something which I can deny and make as if it isn't there.  It's on the ground.  You will experience it if you walk in my house.  If you come out and you write up you see empirically as a social scientist I perceived certain things which makes of that person a certain person.  If you go to my neighbour you find the same.  If you go across the way you come into a Portuguese house you will find something different.  You will say this is a person who is actually basically still a Portuguese who lives in South Africa.  They speak Portuguese, they eat like Portuguese.  And you can't now for the sake of political considerations deny those realities, but when you talk about them in a political sense then they become an issue of concern because if you present them and another man grabs at it and uses that in order to discriminate against you and appoint you an inferior position, then it becomes tricky.  And I understand why white liberals have a problem with it because if they talk about ethnicity in terms particularly of black grouping, then they stand accused of wanting to do exactly what the government wanted to do.  So it's more complicated for a white liberal, for example, to look at the Euro/Africans than it is for the black groups to look at themselves.  And I agree it's complicated, but I want to say that I think as time goes by it will become less and less of a complicated issue.  Less and less.

POM     I'm just wondering whether because there's so, emotionally, whether it can be raised during negotiations again.

FS     It will be raised.

POM     It will be raised?  You think, you've no doubt about that?

FS     It will come forward, yes.  It's already becoming more - you're talking about the Euro/African, the several colour positions.

POM     About all of them.

FS     Yes.  I don't think it will be made a big issue because the ANC is sensible about it.  They will just treat it.  In other words they will make sure that the issue is dealt with without making an issue of it.  So, for example, Trevor will sit there, he will be representing the Western Cape, but the ANC also appointed him knowing that he will also represent another particular constituency.  And they could have put somebody else there but then people would say, but where are we now?  You understand?  So it will be dealt with more subtly than overtly, the same as they do with women.  They will say, well, we need a woman.  They're not going to say we're going to talk about women now and women must now talk, everybody talks, but women just feel satisfied that they have been given recognition by their presence.  So it's a more subtle thing than an overt thing and I think what these academics were saying to you is don't make a big issue of it.  If you make a big issue of it then we will have to deny that we ever spoke about it because the mere mention of it makes it an issue where the real way of dealing with it now is a in a more subtle manner without denying it, without denying its existence.

     I think the very good parallel is what is happening in the white community.  I mean there's no big deal about it but there are ethnic differences in the white community.  I mean, people say, "Why do you talk about it and what's your point, why do you raise it?" they'll say.  In the white community you ask a man, "Are you Portuguese?" He says. "Yes."  And if you go on asking about that in political terms like we are doing now, he'll say, "What are you trying to say?  I'm a South African.  I'm Portuguese sure, but what why do you keep on asking me all these questions?"  You see?  Because it's subtly handled.  There's no threat to it.  It's done in a non-threatening manner.  And I don't foresee that Zulus will vote for Zulus and Xhosas will vote for Xhosas and coloureds will vote for coloureds.  I'm just saying that all those groupings will just want an assurance that their interests are protected and that it is not given political content at the end of the day.  For example, take the case of Trevor, he didn't have people voting, he didn't go there and ask coloured people. "Will you vote for me in order to be on the National Executive Committee?"  He presented himself as a candidate.  Everybody knew who or what he was and now he represents those interests but he also represents wider interests.  So it's a far more subtle type of thing.

POM     Do you believe that ?

FS     I'm sorry, I'm going on about it but it's very complicated.

POM     No, no, but it's a question I've asked everyone because it's a question that evokes very emotional responses from a large number of people.

FS     So you see why also the lines are so delicate.  You have, for example, Leonard Jeffries of New York University, the so-called Black Prince now, who just goes overboard on that.  He was saying that we must stand up as Afro/Americans.  Now he goes overboard, he goes a little bit too far. So people go with him because he says the right things.  He gives recognition and pride to Euro/Africans, but when he goes a little too far people get worried because he's now becoming less subtle about it.  Now, sure, Euro-Afro Americans must preserve themselves because the melting pot idea was just another way of denying their existence and oppressing them in a more subtle manner and they are now rising out of the melting pot idea and saying, "We as Afro Americans have been given a raw deal under the name of the constitution, the so-called free constitution of the United States of America."  And they are doing that now.  So you see it's not an easy matter.  I'm certainly not one of those people who will deny its existence.  At the same time I'm not one of those people who want to give more, particularly political content, to it than it deserves.

POM     Do you think that in elections people will vote along ethnic lines?

FS     I think interests.  They'll vote along interest lines.  In other words, again, if say, for example, a so-called Xhosa person (I use the term 'so-called' merely to indicate that I'm not using government terminology) if he defends the interests say of the people of Athlone who are 99% coloured and the other one represents the interests, say, of the whites, the way the Labour Party is perceived, then they will vote for him, the African.  People will vote for interest, but he will have to say that, "I am speaking of things of your interest."  We saw this in front of our eyes.  The moment Mandela at Stellenbosch University started to address the interests and the fears of the whites, the moment he did that, the Afrikaners were warming to him and certainly a lot of those Afrikaners were ready to go with Mandela.  Interest.  So it doesn't matter who.  It's the one thing they emphasise that one can't deny, that human beings individually and human beings in groups have their specific interests which they want represented.  OK, you can spend your time defining those interests and I really think that if you do it ethnically then it's, only then you know you are, then you are almost, because of our experience, you are to be suspected.

POM     Let us look at another aspect of the matter and that is that since last year the ANC first pointed a finger at Inkatha and then it talked about a third force being involved and in March this year Mr Mandela directly accused the government of being complicit in the violence and having a hand not only in orchestrating it but in participating in it as well.  And then you had Inkathagate revelations and that was taken almost as the final, irrefutable proof that the government had in fact a double agenda - the olive branch of negotiations and the violence to undermine the ANC in the townships.  Do you believe the government has had this double agenda?

FS     Well Mr O'Malley, through our government dealings with adversarial groups there was an element, but the whole system and the structure is a huge one and it responds to impasses in various ways.  To what extent the whole giant, the whole monster is controlled by a central brain, I don't know that part.  I think I would like to give Mr de Klerk the benefit of the doubt.  I don't understand how a giant or a monster like that operates.  What I'm trying to say is whether the central brain has control over all the tentacles.  I think that is almost imputing too much credit to the central brain when you have a big giant like that to run.  But what I'm also prepared to say is that historically this government has shown that when faced with an adversary it does operate like that.  I mean it operates like that with the neighbouring states.  On the one hand it deals with them in a friendly way through the minister, our Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance and the Minister of External Affairs, and then other ministries again will destabilise and I think this is so much part of the culture of domination that even if Mr de Klerk wants to reverse that, then it's going to take him a hell of a time to clear that up because people are being socialised to operate in that manner.  The extent to which he directs them and the extent to which he doesn't, I don't have sufficient information.  I don't doubt that the government operates with duplicity.  I mean it's clear with Zimbabwe, it's clear in Namibia and Mozambique and why would it act differently internally?

POM     I was struck by that again because when I was reading through the transcript last night, one of the things you said which struck me was that one got the impression that there is a chemistry between De Klerk and Mandela.  There seems to be an unbelievable willingness on the part of all the parties to find peace rather than revenge.

FS     This is why I say that it's complicated.  One doesn't know, but I still believe that there is the basic wish of these two people to find accommodation because they are accommodation politicians.  But the extent to which the giants that both of them control, their absolute control over that, I don't know. I don't know. I almost have doubts. I mean I run a small organisation and I try my best because it's a small organisations of some 8000 people, but I don't have control over everything that happens and people come and ask me, do you know that this happens?  I can't exonerate myself because I'm in charge but to say that I planned it and it's part of my strategy, if you want to build up such a case you can. So there could be that element as against the plan that it's a master plan and that part of the master plan is to destabilise - I don't know.  That could be it, I don't have enough access to it, but on the face of things it appears that on the one hand there is seeking for common ground.  Initially it started with a chemistry of really finding each other, then the situation is now tense because of the forces and the factors operating.  On the other hand there is this contradiction and how that comes about I would like to know.  At the moment there are various theories.  What is right as far Mr Mandela is concerned is that Mr de Klerk can't deny responsibility, but which is also fair he doesn't do, I mean at Inkathagate he took responsibility.  But taking responsibility and being directly responsible for the action, I say that history will reveal.  That normally comes out in the autobiographies of people 20 years after the event.

POM     What I'm getting at is that most members of the ANC Executive that I've talked to believe to a person that the government has had a double agenda.  Not that there's a rogue element here or there in the security forces, but that this has been just part of a plan.

FS     It's a plan.

POM     Yes.  It's the way they operate.  It is kind of dumb to have been so trustful in the beginning.  I'm wondering if that persists?

FS     But can I just come to that? I've got a theory that if you go into a negotiating position, and it's almost naive to go into it on the basis of trust, because you don't trust the person you negotiate with and you don't build him up as a good man, you build him up as a rogue from both sides because it's a tussle, it's a tussle for something very important and that is power.  And when, for example, Mr de Klerk, and I think it's almost naive of us in the ANC to look for goodwill with the government as it is for the government to look for goodwill with the ANC.  That's not how you negotiate.  You expect that this guy has got something which he wants to hold and he'll take more from me if he can, that's the basis for it, so I can't understand that logic to tell you the honest truth.  I don't understand that logic.  I would think that it would be, for example, what I'm trying to say is, say, for example Mr de Klerk is presented or Mr Mandela is presented with information saying that our police are active in the townships destabilising the ANC, then he's not going to say. "Tell them to stop."  Interests don't work like that, negotiation doesn't work like that.  He will say, I guess he will say, "How does that benefit us?  Does it work to our disadvantage or to our advantage?"  And if there's a strong case to be made which convinces him and people who think along with him that it's to their benefit then he will say, "I don't like it.  Report to me about it."  He won't stop it because it's in the interest, he's vying for his interest, he's in the negotiating position just like when you have a tussle with your wife, you see that thing isn't going right, that's not the way the game is played, but it's working to your interests and you will just shut up about it and leave it, and tell your lawyer just watch it because I'm uncomfortable with it.  He won't stop it.  And I just think there's naiveté among those parties when they talk about, there must be goodwill, there must be trust, because I don't think it works like that when you are fighting for something.

POM     If there was all that goodwill and trust there'd be no need for negotiations to start with?

FS     Yes.  Then why are you not in a court with your wife if there was goodwill and trust altogether?.  We are actually trying to get as much from one another in order to find a settlement.  But on the other hand I will say there is seriousness on both sides to find a settlement, but that settlement is going to be found on hard dealing and bargaining and pushing and undermining and undercutting and knifing here and pacifying there and looking that way, and that's how the process occurs, even a peace process after a war happens that way.  You know it's wheeling and dealing, it's bad stuff.  Negotiation for power doesn't occur in a spirit and an attitude of niceness, kindness of one another.  Therefore, I think it is actually right politically and strategically for the ANC to say, "Bad guy, but we'll talk to you."  And the government is the same, "Bad guy, communist, dictated to by communists.  Can't trust them.  Never gives answers.  But we'll talk to them."  And that's how people start up.  That's just the logic of negotiations to me.  So I don't understand that logic of wanting people to be trustful and so on.  I hope I'm making clear what I'm trying to say.

POM     Very.  Yes.

FS     I don't know if it makes sense to you.

POM     It does make sense.

FS     It's almost like a false logic entering the reality of negotiation.

POM     If there were all this trust and goodwill then you wouldn't have a problem to begin with.  There would be no reason to negotiate anything.  You would have solved your problems.

FS     But now I must tell you something else, that the African, he is a more trusting person than who now talks about those Afrocentric characteristics.  You look throughout Africa, look at Jomo Kenyatta, all of them, they're Europeans, the blue-eyed and the white haired guys.  You see Leonard Jeffries talks about Europeans being ice people and the Africans sun people, I don't go so far, but the Africans are humourless, they concentrate on the ability of human beings to change, of human beings to be good and nice.  Europeans don't think like that.  Europeans think mechanistically.

POM     Maybe you could help me then to understand something and that is on the one hand I'm very struck by the almost absolute lack of bitterness and willingness to forgive on the part of blacks in the face of monumental injustice done to them over centuries.  And on the other hand there's no revenge factor.  But in Natal in particular where the cycle of killings is partly related to a revenge factor in that things done 50 or 60 years ago can be transferred from one generation to the next and revenge taken, there's been a  ferocity in relation to the killings that speaks of an intensity factor.

FS     You mean the Zulus?

POM     With the Zulus and I can't kind of equate the two.  On the one hand -

FS     I really think that's ... for the people.  But I think basically as far as the African tradition throughout history, our experience is concerned and also the book, The Africans, deals a lot with the African -

POM     Who's book is this?

FS     The book The Africans by Mazrui.  Have you seen it?  The Africans - this is a Nigerian Professor, it's quite a seminal book.

POM     Africans of?

FS     The Africans, it's just The Africans by Mazrui.  Now there is a remarkable propensity for forgiveness and of rapprochement and of settlement and finding agreement.

POM     Can we just go on a little more about the forgiveness or propensity.   What I'm getting at is, what I don't understand, that in the killings in both Natal and in the Transvaal there's been a ferocity factor, mutilation, there have been far more horrible kinds of killing that one finds difficult to understand.  And particularly in Natal where the number of studies done never showed that revenge is a cause of ...

FS     No I have found that and I've, let me first of all say that one must be careful that you don't appear to be justifying that.  But you know if you find yourself in a kind of situation where you don't have the sophisticated defences to strategic decisions and strategic positions, then deterrence is a very, very important, becomes a very important motive.  And unfortunately in all unsophisticated, economically unsophisticated communities we don't have the defences.  They are inclined to overreact violently in order to deter people. For example, in a sophisticated society, like the white society in South Africa, there are so many mechanisms to protect confidentiality and strategic decisions and information and also there are institutional forms of redress for that, but in a society where those things don't exist we can warn people, we can damage them, we can harm them, or you can go overboard in order to stop that from happening.  And I think that is, that too, sure, must be the reason for the necklacing.  It's just to get people not to ... again.  Because they don't have the other mechanisms, put a man in gaol then how do you get that guy if he gives information to the South African government about activities in a peasant community? What action do you take?  You can't go and report him to the police.  You can't take other action against him, structural action.  So the one thing leads to another and it still goes on and you're inclined to do it worse and worse but what's important is that those things are not endorsed by leadership.  It's not that people are told that must happen.

     You know, you look, for example, in the time of the Mau-Mau, Jomo Kenyatta had to do that himself, but once he got to power he said, "Forget it", and reacted viciously against people who continued with that kind of activity.  So I really think that that's circumstantial rather than an innate - I mean none of those leaders in Africa who performed those things are now in government doing it, they now make use of the structures, they make use of the courts, they make use of the institutions.  At the same time, let me remind you, my own grandfather was tied to a horse when he was found by the Boers as having given information to the khakis, the British.  They tied him to a horse and dragged him into the cell.  And there were instances also where you read about how they acted, they were very wicked, they tied some people between the horses and tore them apart.  Why?  Because they wanted to use the more violent death, and you know what the Boer commandos did, there are many books relating those stories, in order to act as a deterrent because they didn't have any other means and information for a guerrilla movement is crucial, I mean there isn't a guerrilla movement if they can't secure information, because they've got no other protection than secretiveness, operating at night without anybody knowing.  And if that information comes out they ... and that I think has developed a culture which exonerated violence.  Now you look at the  violence from a structure position and you say, "How terrible".  But if you were placed in a similar position you did exactly the same, exactly the same.  I mean, honestly, the Boer commandos did exactly the same to my people so they really can't talk.  I've got a book at home, I've forgotten the title, it talks for example of Liliefontein in the Namaqualand area, how they just extinguished our community in the most vicious and violent manner, the Boer commando, because they thought that they were accomplices of the British.  Now I rather explain those things circumstantially than otherwise and I don't think that they disprove the willingness of the Africans to be reconciliatory.  I think that is a general contention that they're barbaric and that they will kill us once they get into power, that they've got no heart and they've got no spirit.  I don't think that is true, I think that's circumstantial.

POM     When you look at the last year, this is a two part question, what changes have you seen in the atmospherics, the subtle changes that are taking place?  You talked about white people, you said, "I would argue that the moment the thing strikes into the hearts of people, then it's irreversible and I think we are reaching that stage.  I believe more in what happens in terms of psychology than what happens in structures."

FS     I must say I was talking like that although I really begin to believe more and more that people act in terms of the protection of their interests.  And when they begin to believe in their hearts that in order to find that rapprochement will serve their interests better than holding back,  they don't believe then they will try and hold back.  And what I meant actually to say there is that I think in their hearts white South Africans have got to the point where they believe that to develop a settlement of sorts is operating in their interests.  This will be more in their interests than to maintain the old order.  I think that is what I really meant.  So it's not only like a change of heart, it's a change of heart which is triggered by a recognition of what is in their interests.  You know what I mean?

POM     I do, yes.

FS     Only it's in that context when I made that comment.  So it's not like saying that people change and then the change becomes the motive itself, that change is triggered by a real and a crude assessment of the realities on the ground.  Like a father who doesn't want his daughter to marry a man and then he interrogates him and then he begins to see that he's going to lose his daughter, he's going to lose her totally, she's going to hate him and she's going to move away.  Then he assesses the situation in those terms and when he then comes to a settlement with the man it's not because he's fallen in love with the boy, it's because he's got the interest to maintain the love of his daughter.  It's triggered by that.  That's no longer the case, that he didn't change now, that he doesn't want to lose the daughter.

POM     Has there been any more talking about the past?  Last year you talked about how the white community wanted to say, "OK let's forget the past and make a fresh start." One can't escape at some point an examination of the past, what it means, and again some recognition of the injustice done.  I've not talked to a single white in I think two years, who has said, "We ought to apologise to blacks."

FS     I must tell you that is an increasing problem with us that people are saying, "Look, equality, we're all going to be equal."   Meaning, we make a fresh start, but making a fresh start isn't equality.  So I think, as I said to you initially, part of the talking will have to be how do you - for example, look at our campus.  They say to us, OK equal now, you are being treated like UCT, you are equal.  But that's inequality because there are traditional, built-in deficiencies of inferiority which you have to address proactively and once you talk about proactively, or not proactively, affirmative action, the moment you do that then you talk about retribution, you talk about redressing historical differences and that will come out in negotiations very strongly.  Otherwise the people who negotiate for us will be perceived as not addressing our interests.  I mean it's simple for somebody who negotiates for my Technikon and he says, "All that I want for that campus is that we must be treated equally to whites", and I will see that he's not acting in my interests.  But the guy who gets up, whether he's a Jew, whether he's an Indian and he says, "Look, a campus like that, you've got to recognise certain historic deficiencies and disadvantages and you have to compensate for that in order to level the playing field, in order to establish equality from where we can then operate together."  I will perceive that person as operating in my interests and he will get my backing.  That is why, for example, we don't give the Labour Party our backing because we don't believe that they are acting in our interests, but we support certain white people who are operating in our interests.  So that will come to the fore as we talk about interest, because interests are historic, historic settings, historic differences in order to bring about greater equality.  And then whites will have to give up certain things.

POM     Do you think there is a recognition on their part yet of that?

FS     I think vaguely, yes, they're beginning to realise that. And I think what we also know is that we mustn't do it in a confrontational manner, in an adversarial manner, because then we will put their backs up.  We must get an agreement so that they begin to understand that it is in their interest to be more sharing, but if we put my interests against your interests, then it's threatening and its confrontational.  So that I think is, for example, what the ANC is saying, "Let's do it in a non-threatening manner."  And non-threatening means they must see that it's in their interests to do so and that it's better for them to do it that way than not to do it.

     And I think with this the ANC is very good, and that's going to be the way they're going to negotiate it.  They're going to look, for example, with the homeland leaders, the bring them in and they treat them in a non-threatening manner.  I don't think homeland leaders have ever felt so comfortable in their life as they do now.  Why?  Because their interests are taken into consideration.  Holomisa was on TV the other night about his position but he knows that at the end of the day he will have to come to terms with certain things, but the ANC deals with him in a non-threatening manner.  They don't say, "Hey you, South Africa is one country, Transkei belongs to our country, you must stand down."   And then he said, "My interests will be protected with them and I will take up a position in the defence force, I won't lose out completely.  If I hold out now, if I go with the white South African government I might lose everything."  But he doesn't think, "I'm a Xhosa", he doesn't think that.

     I think Afrikaners are thinking less and less as Afrikaners.  For example, like white Afrikaners, I mean if I want to join whatever Afrikaner grouping now, I'm talking now about the dominant Afrikaner group, not the far right, I can join tomorrow.  They will welcome it because they think that is in their interests.  Formerly they thought that it was in their interests to keep separate, now they believe it's in their interest to swell the numbers, to show themselves to be non-racial and they've now delineated those things which they believe are important to protect and they know that racially, that colour of their skin isn't white.  They've scotched that one.  But they want to protect privilege and they want to protect culture and they want to protect economic factors.  That's the game now.  So the game must become less racial, it's become more political. It's a plain political game. It's like a Peace Conference after a war.

POM     It's a good analogy.

FS     Yes.  But that's what it is and you go into that hard-nosed.  They don't say, "Oh, I'm going to negotiate now with a guy whom I fought a battle with all my life.  He's such a nice guy, such goodwill."  Then you will lose.  That's why also it's like the rugby field, you'll be pals after the game, but before the game - you go into the game, it's a hard game to fight.  You're not going to say, "Oh I'm playing for Western Province but I must give Naas Botha a chance to show what a good kicker he is and I must tell the world Naas Botha is an exceptionally good kicker, he's an exceptionally good fly'.  I would say, "No, we'll show them.  He's not so good as you thought he was.  He's actually quite bad, we'll show you."  That's the logic and I really am quite flabbergasted by this logic of the one calling the other one a saint.  That's not the way life is.  I don't know, I might be completely wrong.

POM     True.

FS     It's a false logic.

POM     And yet there seems to be -

FS     And if I run Die Burger, if I've got access to the major newspapers, I'm not going to use those newspapers to say that the adversary is not violent, it's nice.  I'm going to say they steal and kill, and the other side will do the same.  So I think there's a lot of confusion about the logic of the process as far as which bothers me a lot.  So I can't understand it bothers me. It looks as if I understand things better than others, I don't.  I don't understand it and that's why it bothers me.

POM     If you don't have a real disagreement with somebody it's the absence of trust that requires negotiation, because if you had trust you'd be able to settle it without negotiation or it probably wouldn't be there to begin with.  But there is this kind of public record, rhetoric, of reconciliation and trust which is bandied about.

FS     Which confuses me.  I think initially it was important for people to say, "OK, right, we're going to stop fighting.  You stop fighting, I stop fighting, we're going to talk. OK?"  Now people thought they're going to fall in love.  No.  Now the different fighting is going to occur after that initial phase.  Now, now it's for the real prize.

POM     Well, thank you.

FS     Because we're also confused because all these things happen and all these things also are working in on us.  I mean it's only the other day I thought about this whole thing myself, I thought, what's this goodwill talk about?  Isn't it false?  And then the whole thing started to become clear and more logical to me and really I understand it better now that I have developed that thesis.

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.