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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
02 Sep 1991: Delport, Tertius
POM Dr Delport, I think I should begin with something that was in the Sunday Times yesterday. They ran an analysis piece and an editorial piece on the government's proposals in which they said that the proposals for local government would have a voting system that would be qualified by property rights, i.e. ratepayers would get a different kind of vote than non-property owners. First of all, is that true, is that what the document calls for, the discussion document that will be before the Conference at Bloemfontein this week?
TD Well I'm not in a position to disclose the contents before Wednesday but what I can say, and that I have stated in public on more than one occasion, is that we must look at local government as one of the most important facets of a new constitution, and given the huge gap between the haves and the have-nots at a local level, especially at a local level it is emphasised in terms of the lack of housing and facilities, we must find some form of, shall we say, balance between the interests of the have-nots and the interests of the haves. Because after all at the local level it is the more affluent people that can provide by way of taxes and rates and monetary financial contributions that must provide the means to address the backlog. Now we believe that nobody must feel that his interests are not properly represented and catered for in all spheres of government but especially in this instance of local government. The Sunday Times has reacted by saying that we are ignoring the promise of a vote of equal value. I don't agree because the first question is, who must vote for a particular institution? Obviously when you have to vote or when you have to elect a school board the first question is, are you only going to give parents the vote or maybe the scholars themselves, the pupils themselves, or the community at large? We have had in South Africa a long history of development in terms of local government and we have different systems running at present in, shall we say, white local government. For instance the voting rights in the Cape Province differ from that in the Transvaal. In the Cape Province voting rights for local government, voting rights are reserved for owners, for people occupying the premises by permission.
POM People who rent?
TD Basically you've two votes per property. People who rent, the owner, and if he occupies it himself he can also give a vote to his wife. Otherwise it's the owner will retain, even if he's not living there, even if he lives elsewhere, because he is the owner he has a vote and the person renting the property would have the second vote. That's basically it with a number of detailed exceptions and qualifications that I don't want to go into. But that is basically the system in the Cape Province. So if you say now that if you want to retain the Cape Province system as a supplement or as a component of the new system it is not to resort to votes of all people. But after all you also have to pose the question, who will have the vote at a local level? People passing through, living there for one week? What are the qualifications you are going to impose?
POM I suppose what would surprise me about it is that in Northern Ireland it was precisely that kind of property qualification on local elections which became the main issue in the civil rights campaign since 1968 until it was abolished by the government.
TD Well I don't know the Irish situation. Did it solve the problem when it was abolished?
POM It didn't solve it but it got rid of that particular grievance.
TD Well, so it was not really a grievance causing the unrest, it was a grievance used in order to, as a smokescreen. That would be my first reaction because if you remove a grievance surely then that should quell whatever the grievance was.
POM I suppose my second reaction would be, at least the part of the international community that we know, such an arrangement would be seen as a fix, as not fair.
TD Not fair towards whom?
POM Not fair towards those who don't own property and therefore are denied having a vote on that basis or have less of a vote than a person who owns property.
TD No, let's go back one step. We do not say property owners, we say taxpayers. That would be normally in South Africa the taxpayer has to pay tax, or rates as it is called, on the valuation of his property. The higher the valuation the higher the tax. But you also have other forms of rates and taxes so a man paying, for instance, for the use of services would be a taxpayer so it wouldn't exclude non-property owners. We also say that the vote must also be given to the occupier, the legal occupier of property, because he will also be paying for municipal services, etc.
POM But there would be different weighting attached to each vote?
TD No, that is not so.
POM I'm missing something, something here that - a ratepayer would have a vote. A tenant in an apartment would have a vote. A consumer of municipal services would have a vote. They're all equal votes?
POM Then what am I missing?
TD The consumer's wife won't have a vote.
POM And his three or five children won't have a vote.
POM OK. But in the case of the taxpayer, sorry ratepayer?
TD The ratepayer will have a vote.
POM And his wife will?
TD You see, what we're putting forward is the principle that accommodates not only the broad spectrum of the population but also those people responsible to fill the coffers of local government. So in public already I've put forward and said 'Let's look at a compromise', for instance, and I've put forward one form of compromise, not necessarily, it's not necessary to say you must have that sort of - but what I've mentioned was the idea if that you have 50 councillors in a city, divide in terms of numbers the city into 25 wards and each ward elects a councillor on a one man one vote basis. Everyone living in the city will have a vote, over the age of 21 or 18, whatever the age limit is. The rest, the other 25, have a second voters' roll consisting of only ratepayers, taxpayers/ratepayers, on the second roll, and the second roll elects the rest of the councillors in order to accommodate those who've got to pay and those whose living standards must be promoted, so that you get both voices strongly represented in your council. So we've never looked at a system that would either totally exclude the broad population, the man in the street, on a one man one vote basis but at the same time we have to take cognisance of the fact that your expertise and knowledge about local government is not found in the squatter camps for instance, but they must have, they must be properly represented.
POM Would you be surprised if this proposal runs into a lot of flak?
TD No, no, it would run into a lot of flak in principle, again I think on the principle of it you get a lot of criticism and, secondly, I think it will pick up flak from people who would like to, if I use a practical example, who would over-emphasise the whole idea of retribution, of redistribution, etc. I can't for one moment see, and that would happen if we simply set a, let's call it, one man one vote type of across-the-board vote at local level. What would happen in Durban with half a million at least people living in informal housing and squatter camps? I can't see the old Durban City Council being dominated by the voters from those areas. I don't think it will make for good government at local level, and I'm very realistic about it. If we don't start getting realistic we are going to run into problems.
POM But does it lay itself open to the accusation of being a class based vote? That those who have, in a sense, are receiving a greater voting right than those who have not?
TD Why must those who have not because they outnumber those who have? Why must they have a bigger say? Isn't that the whole object of getting a compromise in South Africa? There are even people like Lawrence Schlemmer, and he's very realistic, who says South Africa's not right for a democracy. He says he has serious doubts whether it will work in South Africa.
POM Let me leave that aside and go and ask you a couple of things that are perhaps more basic, and that is while we've been travelling around one of the questions we have put to people is, what is the problem that the negotiations would face when they sit around the table? For example, there are those who would say the problem is racial, that it's a question of white minority domination over the black majority. There are those who say it's a question of two competing nationalisms, white nationalism and black nationalism. And there are those who will say that even though there are racial disparities within each group and there are severe ethnic differences which if not taken into account may pose the potential for contributing to conflict. There are those who say it's between the haves and the have-nots, the privileged and the non-privileged, the advantaged and the disadvantaged. In your view, if you had to define the essence of the problem, not the solution but the essence of the problem itself, how do you define it?
TD What is the essence is how to maintain stability, that would be economic stability and what we would call law and order for the next ten years. And that's the only problem. Economic stability without physical stability, law and order, we won't have economic stability, we won't have the means to answer to the expectations, very often unrealistic expectations.
POM What do you think are the main elements of a package that would ensure stability?
TD Exactly what we've been talking about at the local level, accommodating all the forces that can make a contribution towards stability and progress and economic growth. If you ignore, call it minority, minority interests in the sense that those are the haves, entrepreneurs, factory owners, South Africa will go one way and that's the African way for the next ten years.
POM You're using ten years as a kind of a ...?
TD I think that's what we need to address the backlogs, to get through the dip.
POM Would you see a different form of governance arrangements required for that ten year period than might be required after that ten year period?
TD That's a tricky question. Most probably yes.
POM Could you just elaborate a little?
TD I think a form of coalition government, a form of government of national reconstruction, coupled with agreed upon broad policy that will be followed, especially economic policy.
POM Do you think the main outlines of an economic policy must also be something that becomes part of negotiations, rather than something that is set by a government that emerges afterwards? There must be broad agreement between the parties as to how redistribution is to take place and how much?
TD I think so, yes, because you can have the most beautiful new constitution and if it's not backed by a growing economy, a strong economy, we're not going to make it. No new government in terms of the new constitution will be able to meet the expectations.
POM Have you see the Nedbank/Perm economic scenarios where at the end they virtually say you need three miracles, a political miracle, an economic miracle and a social miracle and for the three to occur simultaneously the odds against it are pretty astronomical. Do you think that report has had, which I gather has been widely disseminated at seminars and teach-ins, do you think that has had any impact on the way even some of those you might call your adversaries are looking at the situation?
TD Yes, definitely yes.
POM That there's an acknowledgement that the gravity in fact of the situation, of the very limited opportunities there are to take drastic measures?
TD I think it does influence the upper echelons of the leadership within the ANC and other organisations.
POM I want to turn for a moment to ethnicity and one of the questions which we have been asking the progressive whites in particular is whether there is an ethnic factor in South Africa and they will say there is but in response to further questioning they say it's not talked about in their social circles or even academic circles, that to do so is somehow to appear to be an apologist for the government. You stand open to being accused of being a racist, you're really saying the government identified the problem correctly, it just came up with the wrong solution. Do you think, and I should say secondly that when we asked the same question of black academics or whatever, we got entirely different answers. Where mostly whites say yes there is, mostly blacks say no there isn't. Do you think that there is an ethnic problem of significant dimension so that South Africa would be called in classical terms a divided society with a potential for that kind of conflict that needs to be addressed in the negotiating process itself and would there be an unwillingness on the part of the ANC to see that addressed as their belief in a unitary, non-racial South Africa as one of the cornerstones of their beliefs which are also grounded in the belief that what ethnic divisions exist were created by the government as a result of apartheid or a consequence of it?
TD Well ethnicity is, it's there. There's no doubt about that. What is happening in Natal? What is basically behind that? It's politically motivated but exacerbated by the uneasiness between the Xhosas and the Zulus, although of course immediately I admit that the ANC has a following, support amongst the Zulus as well. But here on the Rand the violence over the past weekend, there's no doubt about it, it was ethnically based. I think if we ignore ethnicity as a factor we're going to make a very serious mistake. On the other hand it is not acceptable to use ethnicity for, for instance, an ethnic federation, ethnically based federation, that's not acceptable. Now we would cater in our proposals, we would cater for ethnicity and that would take care of basic black African ethnicity. It won't address the whole problem, if there is a problem, of white ethnicity. We feel very strongly that we should build into the new constitution the principle of regionalism and within a region even allow for sub-regions, smaller areas, to accommodate your smaller ethnic groups without for one moment having votes or representation based on representatives from ethnic groups. But by drawing geographical lines you could accommodate, to a certain extent, ethnicity.
POM So when The Economist about six weeks ago said that the violence between Xhosa and Zulu in the Transvaal was really no different from the violence between Serb and Croatian in terms of it being an ethnically based violence, would you agree with that substantially?
TD That's what I was trying to say, yes.
POM This question of an interim government was in a way given more of a boost by the revelations of Inkathagate, particularly the revelations that the government had been funding the opposition parties in Namibia after it had signed a UN Declaration that it would impartially administer the elections. The ANC say this government must resign, cede its legitimacy, become part of an all-party government. Can you envisage any circumstances in which this government would? If it were, what would be the consequences?
TD Chaos. Who is going to take over? What the ANC is saying is resign and hand the government to us. That's the essence because what sort of an all-party government, how do you get there? Who is - or how would you constitute the entity that you're going to hand the government to? No that's out.
POM You talked last year of Mr Viljoen saying that the government would not hand the country over to an unsophisticated majority. You also said that you believed that the ANC wanted to create a one-party state. Do you still believe the ANC wants to do that?
TD A year later I have my doubts on that statement that I made. It depends on which face of the ANC you will be talking to. I don't see the ANC coming clear, with clear cut policies before they get rid of the communist influence because I don't know what the agenda of the communists is. What are they planning? How do they see, do they include the ANC? I would even go as far as to say I wonder whether they include, I have my doubts, whether they include the ANC in a post take-over situation.
POM Now when you use the word 'take-over'?
TD Well we know that, I mean the words ' a radical seizure of power', those words are being used and have been used on many occasions and even at the local government level. It's been stated in the October Conference of the ANC, it was stated in a resolution that they must work towards dissolving the existing structures including the white local government structures. And then they used the word that they say that civics can take part in local government provided 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and then point 6 is 'provided it leads to a radical seizure of power', a radical take-over of power. So the whole idea of a take-over I think is still, isn't dead in the ranks of the ANC. Whether that is the communist influence I don't know. I think it is and I once again say I have my doubts whether the ANC as an organisation isn't merely seen by the communists as a vehicle to get there.
POM So would you see the ANC as divided between hard-liners who may want to establish a one-party state and moderates who might want to establish a multi-party democracy?
TD Yes I think so. I think there is a division in terms of the theoretical or philosophical approach to policy.
POM What would the appointment of Cyril Ramaphosa as General Secretary suggest to you as to which alignment of forces as having more sway at the moment?
TD What does the election suggest to me? He came out very, very strong, as a very strong man after the elections. Cyril Ramaphosa is a moderate, I think he's a moderate.
POM How much time do you have?
TD I've got to leave here for the Union Buildings not later than 9.45. It's cutting it very fine.
POM OK. To go back to the question of a Constituent Assembly, sorry, not a Constituent Assembly, an interim government, at the one end you have what the ANC wants and at the other end you have offers by the government that they are prepared to broaden the structures of government to bring in people from other parties which are rejected by those people as being a form of co-option. Do you see this as being a stumbling block at the moment?
TD It is a stumbling block, yes, something that the government will have to address and the ANC, and I think that may well become the first sort of test on whether we can come to compromise and whether we can come to acceptable arrangements because I don't think it will simply go away. We'll have to address it from both sides.
POM How about the right wing? Is the Conservative Party seen as still posing a considerable threat? One of the papers ran an editorial yesterday saying on the NP's decision not to have their meeting in Parys was in a way backing down in the face of right wing intimidation.
TD Yes but that was a very specific and very special situation. In Parys you have 70% of the town itself, the population consists of retired people and it was not a good battlefield to choose. We have a relative who's retired living there and he phoned and said ...
POM A relative?
TD A relative of ours, my wife's brother actually, and he's a retired businessman and a very staunch supporter of the NP. He telephoned on the Sunday, he said 'I'm not going, I would like to go and give my support but I don't want to be pushed around and my car damaged and that sort of thing. So I just want to tell you I'm not going to be there.' And he said that was the feeling of the people. So Parys was not a true test.
POM But it doesn't signal a policy shift? This is an isolated incident.
TD It's an isolated incident .
POM I want to go through some statements you made last year which either can be updated or relegated. You said 'We will set up a solution or we will make an offer so reasonable that nobody in his right mind would reject it then there is no need for a lot of talks. That's how I see it.' Do you still see it as there not being a need for a lot of talks?
TD I can't see the process being drawn out. It's either a short cut to a final constitution or a fairly short cut to an acceptable interim government. Like the President said at one stage when he referred to transitional arrangements, they want interim government, maybe we can come up with transitional interim government arrangements, maybe we can get to a compromise on how an interim government can be constituted. And maybe that is what we need for, I'm not going to use ten years again, for eight years.
POM You also said that whatever is going to happen is because we say so, that is the government. Do you still feel the government is the party that will make the running?
TD Well we have been setting the tone and I think we shall have to take the initiative because obviously, even on the interim government, the initiative, the ANC has now stated its demand, its case for interim government. What can happen now? They can either keep on stating a case but nothing will happen unless the government, Mr de Klerk, unless he takes the initiative.
POM Well might this not emerge out of an All-Party conference which would precede an interim government?
TD Well we have stated we're trying to get what we call a multi-party conference going.
POM You've also said that Mandela gets opposition from within his own party. Do you feel he has now stamped his authority on the party, that he's firmly in control of it?
TD Very difficult to say. I once again want to refer to the position of the Communist Party. I don't know, I really do not know.
POM Is it your belief that this government will deal differently with the ANC as long as the ANC remains in some kind of formal alliance with the Communist Party than it would if they split?
TD If they could get rid of the Communist Party it would make things a lot easier because at least then you can accept that what they say you can accept at face value and trust what they say.
POM One thing which I think has struck us has been the degree of insistence on the part of ANC people that we met that the government was engaged in a double agenda, the olive branch of negotiations on the one hand, orchestrating or even participating in violence on the other. How that perception is right or wrong is almost irrelevant, it's what they deeply believe. Do you think that undercuts the climate in which negotiations can be conducted unless it's resolved in some way? And by the same token do you believe that the ANC itself may be engaged in a double agenda?
TD Well obviously the ANC is going for political power. So to a certain extent all of us are engaged in double agendas. On the one hand we want to negotiate and we want to create a climate of better understanding, etc., etc., no violence, and yet on the other hand we position for political power. So in that sense all political parties are engaged in a double agenda. Whether the ANC is involved in a double agenda in another sense, in the sense that they negotiate with the one hand and they are waiting for an opportunity to seize power radically, that is another question. I don't think the ANC as such has that sort of double agenda.
POM You say the ANC as such, but you're saying elements within it?
TD I don't know, yes, I don't know what Slovo and the likes of him, what they intend to do.
POM You also said that there was a perception among whites that the ANC sets out to destroy any opposition to it, whether it's Inkatha or the PAC.
TD Well they were stopped by Inkatha in Natal. They were on their way to, as they call it, resolve the so-called apartheid structures, the Town Councils, black Town Councils and KwaZulu government. I think that was said publicly by ANC spokesmen and they were met with - Inkatha resisted violently and they were stopped in their tracks in Natal. And I think that did a lot of damage to the image of the ANC.
POM Two last quick questions. One, have the Inkatha revelations damaged Buthelezi politically?
TD I don't think so. I think the whole thing has been blown out of all proportion by the media and I don't really think it has damaged his image.
POM Lastly, would you be less worried now than you were, say, last year by the threat of either right wing violence or the threat of massive defection of white support to the Conservative Party?
TD I'm less worried. I think the fact that they moved, or an element within the right wing has moved closer to violence has made a large scale defection to the right most improbable. People do not like the violent attitudes of the AWB and that sort of organisation. In fact I think they're losing support because of those actions and because of the fact that Andries Treurnicht is trying to play it both ways, condoning violence but asking for restraint and peace. His own sort of double-speak has been shown up by his reaction.
POM Are you more optimistic this year about the future than you were last year?
TD No. Was I not optimistic? Not more optimistic, no.
POM But for you the centre piece of the problem in a way becomes creating a climate of stability in which there might be some opportunity for economic growth and without that economic growth ...
TD We've got no hope. We've got no hope because then the whole atmosphere will be conducive of revolutions, revolution reactions. And even if you get, shall we say, a black face, a black dominated government, a black faced government, I don't want to call it a black government, they won't be able to cope. So that's where we're going to either swim or sink.
POM So when you say, your last quote and I liked it, 'We will set up the solution or we will make an offer so reasonable that nobody in his right mind would reject it', do you think the proposals you are putting on the table now ...?
TD I think they are very reasonable.
POM They're very reasonable?
PAT What about rejection? You have the most reasonable proposals but for political reasons they will ...
TD Yes, yes, they may well be rejected, they will probably be rejected.
POM Rejected by the ANC?
TD And yet they are only going to be guidelines, it's not a fixed position.
POM It's more, this is your marker where you start from.
PAT It's going to be those wives who are going to breathe down - you're going to be denied one of their votes.
TD I've been trying to put together something for you but unfortunately some of it - this was a speech last year on the whole question of groups, group rights, that you may find useful.
POM Yes. Do you have a copy of the actual party proposals?
PAT What is the press reaction to it? Do they have a package or something? Or the press stories that are being written on the government proposals, is there a package that is out?
TD Well it's going to be a comprehensive document that will be published on Tuesday.