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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

13 Sep 1991: Omar, Dullah

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POM     Dullah, I want to start with what must sound like a peculiar kind of a question, but there's been a book come out recently by a man named Donald Horowitz who's a very respected scholar in the US on group conflict and he's written about South Africa in the context of it being a divided society with all the characteristics of a deeply divided society. And what he says, very concisely, is that there is conflict about the nature of the conflict, ranging on the one hand from those who would see it almost purely in terms of racial domination of blacks having been dominated by whites and that the purpose of negotiations is to eliminate and redress that domination, to the other side covering a spectrum in between where some would say, yes, indeed there are racial differences but within each of the racial categories there are also ethnic differences, some severe ethnic differences and that these ethnic differences must also be taken into account if you're to have a lasting and durable settlement. If you were to brief the negotiators sitting around a table and say, ladies and gentlemen this is the problem before you. How would you define the problem?

DO     I've seen Horowitz's book. It is conservative. I think it is designed to assist the process of maintaining the status quo so I'm not impressed by this at all. It glosses over the problems of our country, doesn't look at reality at all. I don't think that one can adopt an approach which begins from an assumption that South Africa is a highly divided society. I think one must look at the real history of South Africa to look at the causes of those divisions and not go back to 1948 but go back to 1910 when Union was formed, and all those elements which went into Union and the divisions which the first Union constitution caused. But coming back to your question, the central issue to be addressed is to end white domination and to transform South Africa into a democracy based upon one person one vote in a single parliament. The central issue is to reunify South Africa, to reunify South Africa's people within one national entity, to ensure electoral non-racial majority rule. That is the central issue. Within the context of such a situation I would say that a major issue would also be to ensure that there is no discrimination against anyone on the grounds of race, colour, creed, sex and so on. In this regard I am addressing myself now to the problems of so-called minorities. And I think that is an issue that needs to be addressed because of what white domination has done to our country, what apartheid has done, the divisions which it has occasioned, the hatred which it has occasioned, and therefore the fears in the minds of whites. So the issue of non-discrimination and ensuring that there is no persecution. The third major issue I think, taking into account our own history, our own sufferings, the history of Africa, what's happening in Eastern Europe and so on, is to ensure the protection of human rights. But we need to define human rights in terms of our own history, in terms of the real situation in South Africa.

POM     What do you mean by that in terms of redefining the rights in the terms of your own history?

DO     Obviously I would see what are often referred to as first generation rights as being central in its own right, democratic freedoms, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, all those individual freedoms, creating a new situation in which arbitrary rule would not be possible, arbitrary detentions would not possible, ensuring fair procedures. You know, all those things, that cluster of rights.

POM     But you would see rights as now including second generation rights like economic rights?

DO     I'm coming to it. I'm stressing that first generation rights are very important. But in the context of South Africa where you have apartheid having created massive poverty, driven people out of their homes so that millions and millions of people are without homes. We have a situation in which, according to figures which were released this year, only 7 out of 241 black townships are fully electrified. We have over 7 - 8 million people who live in squatter camps. Two thirds of African townships don't have fresh water. So one can go on and on at that level. So human rights in South Africa cannot be limited to first generation rights but they must include second generation rights. And of course you see in a very strange way the right to development, the right to a clean environment has become very relevant in our situation because the regime never cared about the environment insofar as blacks are concerned. Blacks were dumped in all kinds of areas, with all its consequences. So we have in a sense a unique opportunity of constructing a Bill of Rights which would contain first, second and third generation rights.

POM     These second generation rights in one sense would pay a lot of attention to access to resources?

DO     It would pay attention to access to resources.

POM     Would it mean things like the right to a minimum standard of living, the right of health care?

DO     It would include all those things, but of course we need to begin from a real situation of what society can afford and so what we would see is that there should be a minimum floor of rights which would be dependent on existing realities, but that we should strive over a period of time to raise the floor of minimum rights in that regard.

POM     When you look at those realities now, are you optimistic about the possibilities? You are?

DO     I don't believe that we can leave all those things to market forces. That we need a strong central government and we need state intervention, co-operation between state, the state must have power to do certain things, a democratic state. And that is why I think that in a constitution and in a Bill of Rights we need to create guidelines, standards which can be objectively assessed, which will be tested in a court so that you don't have arbitrary powers in the hands of individuals or groups. But in answer to your question, properly looked at, it is possible to begin to establish minimum standards now. If you take education, now as we sit here, the regime still spends at least five times as much money on the education of a white child than on the education of a black child in non-homeland section of South Africa. If you take the black child in the homelands, in KwaZulu for example, the figure doubles. The amount spent on a white child is ten times as much. So you have those disparities you see. But if you simply take the educational budget now and you allocate it on the basis of equality ...

POM     Across the board equal?

DO     You will have an immediate improvement in education. Of course it means a great deal of planning, a great deal of consultation with everybody involved in the educational sector, white and black, but it is possible to do it.

POM     Whites would scream wouldn't they?

DO     Well, this the point you see.

POM     They're going to have to scream though.

DO     They'll have to scream. You see either you let them scream, persuade them, make them understand that it is necessary, or you're going to retain the status quo.

POM     That's the thing I'm getting at is in one sense, somebody last night said to me, the most important problem is access to resources, distributing the resources. If you don't do that all the political arrangements really mean they're just a charade, they won't change people's lives. But this can't be done incrementally. I mean it has to be done in bold moves.

DO     Yes. It's got to be a combination really. You've got to make bold moves. At the same time you cannot promise South Africa the moon. You can't promise people that tomorrow there will hospitals all over the country, there will be schools all over. You can't.

POM     Last year I was astounded by the levels of expectations that people had and believing that foreign investment is going to flow in and be the catalyst for all kinds of terrific and marvellous things happening. I want to go back, do you think Kader (Asmal) might be here or does he know to come here?

DO     He knows.

POM     He knows. We hear him first anyway. I want to go back to something that you said initially about Horowitz's book that this was written from a conservative perspective. Do you think this is part of an attempt to entrench an intellectual position to validate ethnicity as an important factor in South Africa?

DO     Well yes, I think that's precisely it. It seeks, I think, to lay down the parameters within which debate should proceed and the ultimate result of it is going to be a situation which does not address the status quo in real terms, in social and economic terms.

POM     So when I talk to people, depending upon where they sit they talk about two different things. The National Party, the government, talk about the sharing of power and the ANC talk more in terms of the transfer of power. Is this process really about the transfer of power when you strip away the rhetoric and the posturing?

DO     Yes, the process is about the transfer of power. But that concept should not be misunderstood. If it means, if it seeks, if it gives the impression that it means wresting power from whites and putting it in the hands of blacks that's not the concept at all. What we mean is that South Africa should be transformed into a non-racial, non-sexist unitary state, a democracy. This is not what the National Party wants. So I think that rather than using such terms for purposes of this kind of discussion, transfer of power to the people and so on, one should rather talk of what we want South Africa to look like. We reject power sharing and I think that to understand that one must actually look at what the National Party is proposing. I'll come back to that in a minute if you want to.

POM     Please do.

DO     But from our side what we are saying is that South Africa should be a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic country. That means we must have one parliament based on one person one vote, with all its implications, a non-racial franchise, common voters' roll. When I say all its implications I mean that must have a system in which a party which wins the electoral majority should be entitled to rule the country. Whether it's a party or an alliance or coalition of parties fighting the elections and winning, they should be entitled to form the Cabinet or executive and govern the country as in any democracy. That is number one. The National Party does not want that. It proposes a governmental structure consisting of a parliament, an executive and a president in which there would be built-in mechanisms of power sharing between groups. It proposes a parliament in which in one house there would be one person one vote, but that parliament is actually rendered completely useless by its proposal for the second chamber, which must be in the words of Viljoen "a chamber of minorities". The implication of that becomes frighteningly obvious if you consider the rest of his proposals, that on major issues there should be consensus, that in other issues there should be loaded majorities and that in issues affecting a minority group, such minority group should have a veto power.

POM     Should have a veto power?

DO     Yes. Now these are the proposals that the government has made, de Klerk, Viljoen and his spokespersons. But the effect of that would be that your chamber which has won an electoral majority will not be able to rule. I don't have to go into any details on that.

POM     When I've talked to government Ministers I've posed the question that power sharing in terms of - does this mean that the National Party would expect to exercise power at the highest executive level, i.e. hold a number of government portfolios in the government? And the answer has been yes. Is that unacceptable to the ANC?

DO     Totally unacceptable. That negates democracy. The issue is this: are we moving to a democracy or are we not?

POM     What surprises me is that I've put this question now to a number of people and it surprised me the number of people who said that it would be acceptable to them. I mean black members of the ANC.

DO     Well the Constitutional Committee and the National Executive Committee of the ANC find it acceptable. You see what people are confusing is transitional mechanisms. In transition one can make all kinds of compromises and in an interim government you can have all kinds of arrangements with all kinds of parties represented. That is one thing. But we must never confuse the transitional mechanisms with the objective. The simple issue is that de Klerk has promised the world that South Africa is moving towards democracy and we are saying, yes, we want to move towards a democracy, and that is the issue. Are we going to become a democracy or are we not? Short of becoming a democracy there will be no social and economic transformation of any kind and the status quo is going to be retained.

     Now you mention the question of the Cabinet, in fact you see their proposal is that there should be power sharing in the Cabinet and that there should be a rotating president of one or other kind. Now the total result is that your party which wins the majority in any elections will not be able to rule. The effect of that is that it will not be able to pass meaningful legislation which is going to become law. You know apartheid laws have been, as we've said elsewhere, like scaffolding. It was used to put up a building, a massive structure based on inequality, discrimination, at every level, social and economic levels. You can remove the scaffolding now, the building remains. The objective of a democratic parliament will be to enable to people of South Africa to effect social and economic reform in an orderly and democratic way. If you create a parliament that will not be able to do those things, that will not be able to touch the building itself.

POM     Well, would you rule out the possibility that the ANC having secured a majority might decide that the problems facing the country are really so horrendous and the level of change so mammoth that it would provide a more stable environment to have a coalition government as the first government, so that the National Party's function would be to bring their white constituencies with them as this change goes along and they would do it as part of the government of national unity, whatever? Do you understand what I'm saying?

DO     I understand it and obviously that is possible, but one must distinguish between good practical politics and good constitution.

POM     Yes. In other words this would be an arrangement that would be voluntarily entered into after an election, not laid down as a pre-condition before the election.

DO     How can you undermine democratic principles in a constitution? There are many things relating to policies and politics which has got no place in the constitution. Centrally what we want, the central objective is a democratic constitution, an open constitution. Matters such as coalitions, alliances in parliament and what happens after elections are really matters of practical politics and have no business in a constitution.

POM     How about this question of the double agenda? I put this in at two levels: since the violence broke out in the Transvaal last year the ANC first saying it was being orchestrated by Inkatha and then by a third force and then that the government had a hand in it and then that there was in fact a double agenda of the olive branch and trying to undermine the ANC at the same time. Do you think at this point that sufficient evidence has emerged for you to conclude almost beyond a reasonable doubt, or beyond a reasonable doubt, that the government has in fact been consciously employing a double agenda?

DO     Yes I think so. I think that there is enough evidence of that. But you see to understand that, it's not a very simplistic thing. It's not a kind of situation in which a Cabinet would get together and would meet and say, well today we are going to do this and everybody knows the details of the measures which are being taken by different departments. But what you have is a style of government in which the Cabinet has got a certain objective and different departments do different things in order to attain that objective. The regime has, I think, a strategy which consists of a number of levels. It's central objective is a political and constitutional one. All the others are methods to achieve those objectives and I think that there is enough to indicate that there is such a strategy being implemented by the regime, both violence, the secret funding, the destabilisation of communities, form part of a strategy in my view.

POM     This raises a question of what happened to F W de Klerk, the man of integrity? Are those days over? Is there a reappraisal of de Klerk?

DO     I must say this, very frankly, in my experience there are very few people who shared the notion that de Klerk was a man of integrity. Our President, Mr. Mandela is a very generous human being, a great human being, and he tends to give people the benefit of the doubt always. I defend that quality, I think it's a marvellous quality for our country because we must be human and he is a tremendous human being. And having met de Klerk in prison a few times he came to a conclusion that we must give this man a chance. He's a man of integrity. He bent the stick the other way. I think events have thrown more than just doubts upon that integrity and that is why one must look at what de Klerk is actually proposing for South Africa to understand whether such integrity exists or not. Obviously he's a man of integrity in the sense that he wants to achieve his own objectives. Treurnicht is a man of integrity. He sincerely believes that what he's doing is in the best interests of whites. So integrity, I think what one is learning is that integrity really is not the issue. The issue is real politics. What is de Klerk's programme for South Africa and what is the ANC's programme for South Africa and that in fact applies to everyone else. I would assume sincerity on the part of people even though it does not exist because I don't think that is the issue. We don't embrace people because they are sincere. Politically you embrace people because they're going to take you to a certain objective.

POM     But does this undermine whatever tenuous spaces of trust that appeared to be there last August when the Pretoria Minute was signed and the armed struggle was suspended. For a moment it seemed that there would be a push, when it looks as though there would be this push towards negotiations and now that basis of trust seems to have been completely undermined. Can you ultimately have success in negotiations between parties where one party is extraordinarily distrustful of the goodwill and intentions of the other.

DO     I actually think that's the best basis for negotiations. I think we've come out of a period in which the ANC was too trusting and therefore too generous in its approach to government. I share Heribut Adam's view that you start off from a position of mistrust. Not because of mistrust itself but I think you do not leave issues which are of fundamental importance to the country to trust. You negotiate like two business people negotiate and say, look, these are our bottom lines, this is what we want. And when you come to an agreement you put it down on paper. You don't leave it to the trust of anybody. So I don't think trust is important. I know that many other people will not share my view but I prefer to work on the basis of mistrust.

POM     It's actually interesting because a good case can be made on either side as it turns out. Just sticking with negotiations for a moment, you mentioned the National Party's objectives. In your mind do they have clear objectives and a clear strategy for achieving them?

DO     Yes. Well essentially they know that they've used the apartheid machinery, apartheid laws, apartheid courts from 1910 up to now to construct a social and economic structure in which all the wealth is concentrated in the hands of very, very few people. I don't have to dwell upon the social and economic picture, the powerful interest groups which have been created and so on. Now you've got this picture of the social and economic status quo and I think, you see, de Klerk knows that if you create a political dispensation which is weak then you cannot really touch that structure. Now his central objective, as he himself has said on so many occasions, is to ensure that there is no majority rule in the country. He has said, I'm opposed to, what he calls, simplistic majority rule. You add the word simplistic to majority so you distort it's meaning.

POM     Well I think there he means like the Westminster system of first past the post.

DO     No, no. You see that also has been confused because we are not proposing the first past the post system. It is, even if you have a proportional representation system and you win the elections as a party, you still will not be able to rule. They do not want a situation where a party which wins the elections in non-racial elections will be able to rule the country. And this is the implication of all their proposals which I take it you've been able to look at. I would challenge them to tell me that that is not so, because their proposals are quite clear. Once you deny majority rule in a situation in which there has been white minority domination all the time, it means that you retain minority domination. What we have in South Africa is a situation in which white minority domination has to be reversed, has to be ended and majority rule has to be created because that is democracy. Unless we're talking of some other system.

POM     But closely connected to this are economics. I mean one can talk about the political process and the economic process and the question I used to ask last year, I would say, what is the government's real agenda? Will they concede political power in order to maintain economic power for the white community? Do you think the government will make an attempt, or the National Party, whatever you call it, will attempt to introduce economic principles and guidelines into the constitution, things like free market system, limits on what can be nationalised, I mean a whole list of things that in effect would protect them from large scale change?

DO     Yes, well de Klerk has proposed that in any constitution the free market system should be preserved. That's one point. Number two, this must be seen in the context that our economy is totally dominated by half a dozen monopolies of which Anglo-American is the largest.

POM     There's never been a free market system.

DO     There's never been a free market system. Now to preserve that kind of system is to preserve monopoly domination and this does not look at the question. It's not whether it's capitalism or socialism or whatever. It's just monopoly domination. We don't even have anything near the laws that the United States even has relating to monopolies. The third thing is that he is consolidating the power of these monopolies now by implementing a systematic process of privatisation. Privatisation is not bringing more benefits to the ordinary person in the street and the average South African. It's bringing more power to the monopolies. Privatisation is taking place in many fields leaving aside the economy where it's fairly obvious, in health, in education, in housing. If you take health the regime is deliberately choking state hospitals to death and you have private hospitals springing up all over the country, owned by one or two companies. So privatisation does not mean free market either, in the context of South Africa. It means a continuing process of monopolisation. And I think that must be seen.

POM     My question of course, Dullah, is, you've mentioned that you can't leave things to trust, is it important that some of these things about deregulation and ending monopolies or whatever are part of the second generation constitutional rights, because otherwise if you leave them till later one may not be able to get the legislation or just have the ability to bring about those kinds of change unless they're mandated somehow?

DO     You see we would prefer an open constitution where economic policy and the mechanisms to be used to implement the economic policy are left to parliament, to the electoral process and the parliamentary process. Privatisation, just like nationalisation, are mechanisms. They are not matters of principle and they should have no place in a constitution in our view. In any case we don't have a working class or a strong socialist party coming to power on the basis of a revolutionary history. We don't have that. We need to take into account that we are transforming South Africa into a democracy.

POM     Do you know where you were? Things like nationalisation and privatisation were mechanisms simply things, not a matter of principle.

DO     So at the same time I think what we've done is to have a constitution which does not deal with those matters, but in our Bill of Rights, our proposed Bill of Rights, insofar as rights of people are concerned, we say certain things, that people should not starve, that people should have rights and these include social and economic rights. How those objectives are going to be attained is something that parliament obviously will have to look at. So what we've done is to address those questions in the Bill of Rights itself.

POM     When you talk of an interim government, do you think, given what you said about what the NPs objectives are, do you think it remotely likely that this government would resign to become a part of a broader all party government?

DO     Present indications are that it will not do so and does not intend to do so. It has however been compelled to do many things over the last few years that it did not wish to do and because of its obstinacy we think that mass pressure is necessary inside our country and therefore we are organising, we have mass mobilisation taking place and we're hoping to mobilise the international community. So while at present they remain obstinate we think they can be pushed into a situation where they have no alternative.

POM     But again going back to their objectives, I'd ask you the second part of that, what is their strategy? I mean as a tactician and a strategist de Klerk's done pretty good for the last 18 months. Even in the wake of Inkathagate he still is pretty good. I mean the international community is by and large reassured that he's still following on the path of reform. What strategy do you see them using to preclude them from having to resign as a government?

DO     I think his strategy has been shrewd but also crude. His going to Ventersdorp I think is one example. It must be seen in the context of the desire on his part to win back this role of the indispensable man who needs to be in the middle to keep the peace, he's the middle of the roader. I think Ventersdorp was one example of that. But his strategy, broadly speaking his strategy is one of crisis management details whereof need to be worked out as he goes along. I don't think that he in advance plans to do this that and the other, but he's got a broad strategy that he has to weaken the ANC. He wants to attain a parliament, he wants a constitutional framework which will ensure there is no majority rule. He's embarked upon a policy of privatisation to strengthen existing interests.

POM     So would it be correct to say that you would see him as having a set of objectives but there's no grand strategy to get there, it's a matter of improvising?

DO     No, no, I think that there is a grand strategy but that it's flexible enough to take into account the fact that the democratic movement itself has a strategy or is trying to work out a strategy and that he needs to meet the ongoing struggles and also what is happening in the international world.

POM     So maybe his grand strategy is ...?

DO     His grand strategy is ultimately to get to a constitutional framework which will entrench the major elements of the status quo. That is fundamentally his grand objective. His broad strategy for achieving that is to try to keep South Africa a divided country, to destabilise black communities, strengthen the position of the NP as the vehicle which can bring about peace, make peace the central issue in South African politics and not the attainment of democracy. I think there are a number of elements attached to that strategy as well.

POM     Do you think part of that is what you mentioned earlier, called alliance politics of trying to build up organisations like Inkatha? My question would be, along with what you said, do you think this government has looked into the future and said, gee if we play our cards carefully and rightly we could actually end up still governing the country as being the senior member of a coalition of other parties?

DO     Well de Klerk has said so and I think that is his objective and building up alliances on his terms is part of that.

POM     Many people that I've talked to have said in one regard he would appear to be on the way to being successful and that is with regard to the Coloured community, that he's made serious inroads and most Coloureds would identify with whites rather than with Africans in terms of which way they would go.

DO     You see what the regime has done, they've made massive use of the media, to which we, of course, don't have all that access. It is a huge weapon in his hands which he is using in which he sets the parameters of the debate as being either you are for black domination or you are for power sharing and he has created this image of himself as a person who is reaching out in favour of power sharing. I don't believe that he has made all these inroads. I've been into the country quite often, I just came back from Oudtshoorn, Dyselsdorp, in the south Cape, and amongst the ordinary people there is no support for de Klerk at all. The people who normally get surveyed are not the ordinary people who are in the townships, who are in their homes and who are unemployed and who are working. I think very few of those people are reached. I think that to some the mere fact that Labour Party elements have gone over does not mean that he has won over large sections of Coloured people. He's won over some sections of the Coloured people but it's minimal in my view and the indication of that is to be found in the fact that the ANC has continued to grow in Coloured areas, Indian areas. The minimal victories which I say he has scored have been the result of massive propaganda and I think that some of that has been lost in the events of the last few weeks.

POM     But the ANC self-acknowledged at their conference that their support in the Indian, Coloured and white communities for that matter was not as broad as it would have liked at this point in time.

DO     Membership?

POM     Membership, yes, which is a distinction from support and membership. OK. Just moving back to one or two things that I didn't ask you about the violence in the Transvaal. In the last year internationally it has been portrayed increasingly as being tribal violence, Zulu versus Xhosa, and in fact The Economist, I think about a month ago, ran an editorial which said that in essence the Zulu versus Xhosa violence was no different from the Serb and Croatian violence, that both were ethnically or tribally based. Do you reject that kind of analysis and comparison?

DO     I reject it in toto. It takes on those features because government policy has deliberately sought to create that but there's never been that kind of situation. The dominant violence is the violence which has been engineered from pro-government quarters, security forces and so on. If you take Natal itself, all the Africans who live in Natal are Zulus, so when there is so-called struggle between ANC and Inkatha, it's Zulus versus Zulus. There's no inter-tribal fight going on there. The problem in the Transvaal is that there is a huge social and economic problem because the people who live there, who settle there are either Sotho, Xhosa speaking people, historically that's been their background, that's been the places where they lived and grew up. The people who come from Natal and therefore have a Zulu background, origin, are migrant workers recently come into the Transvaal and occupying the most menial positions, living in the squatter camps, hostels and so on. And it's therefore part of the problem of migrant labour, massive social and economic problems and in that kind of situation the intervention by what has been referred to as third force elements has sought to transform that into the kind of situation that others speak of mainly as inter-tribal violence. But it is clearly not so. I mean there are hundreds of people who have been killed, they have not been killed in inter-tribal wars. It's people getting on to trains and stopping buses and mowing down people. Of course the policy when you intervene in this way, when you do have this kind of intervention in black communities, it does sometimes produce results. People do become polarised to an extent. But I think by and large the communities are realising that this is what's been happening in these communities.

POM     But some of the violence, if it's ethnic, is a by-product of rather than the essence of the thing itself. What do you think, has this whole thing, Inkathagate, been a turning point? Many would say that de Klerk had held the high ground in the last year and seemed to have the initiative and the ANC always seemed to be in a reactive position. Do you think, one, that it is a turning point in that it has confirmed everything the ANC had said about the actions of the government and, two, that it has given it an opportunity to seize the initiative and to hold the high ground?

DO     Well I think so. I think that that is so. On the other hand winning the high ground must not be based on a desire to win the high ground. It is opportunistic to say you know the regime has the high ground, we must win back the high ground, how do we do it? What we need to do is to adopt policies which represent the best for South Africa's people and I think we've got that, we've got a problem, we've got a programme for democracy, we have a Bill of Rights which I think is one of the finest in the world (our draft), our proposals represent an attempt to create a truly human country. And that gives us the moral high ground, or that should get us the moral high ground. We shouldn't seek moral high ground.

POM     What I mean by that is that the ANC's case for the government not being able to be both referee and player at the one time has been enormously strengthened.

DO     Absolutely, I agree. I think it's been strengthened enormously and I think our case for getting the National Party removed from a position of power as soon as possible has been strengthened.

POM     What does this do to Buthelezi?

DO     It finally has exposed him as a puppet of the regime. There's always been a song going around in all the townships, 'Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi, ja impimpi'. People have been singing this song in townships all over the country that Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi is a 'impimpi' in Xhosa. Impimpi means a puppet, a collaborator. In Dyselsdorp where I went, where people were marching, they were singing this and there's been that overwhelming perception all the time. At the same time the regime has been boosting him, big money has been boosting him, capital has been boosting him in our country, and of course he's had the media at his beck and call. There's been a tremendous attempt to build him up and to an extent in the same way that the de Klerk regime has been making inroads into Coloured and Indian communities. To an extent through the use of violence the perception was being created that he's indispensable, that for the sake of peace he's needed. Not a question of who gets elected, but you use your muscle, you use your weaponry, you kill, make yourself indispensable. I think that the latest events have destroyed him and whilst we are not going to rule him out, we don't say that he should be ruled out, it is precisely because of those factors that we say that there should be elections to determine who.

POM     But at a negotiating table you wouldn't see him sitting on the ANC side of the table?

DO     No. Well he's part of the other side. I don't know what the effect of the table would be, but he would be nearer the other side if not on the other side. But it strengthens also our case for a Constituent Assembly, that how are you going to have a constitution which is legitimate and accepted by the people if you have Buthelezi and other groupings producing that constitution. For a constitution to be legitimate it must be accepted by the people.

POM     But this is another case of where the government has been adamant and it refuses even to consider a Constituent Assembly. Do you think again this is a situation where in the end they will simply have to come around?

DO     They will have to. They will have to agree. One is talking of many facets in a process and there are many levels at which there will have to be 'give'. We've made our 'gives'. We've said, fine, we are not even talking of first past the post, we say, fine, we have a proportional representation system. We've said that right from the start. We've not even waited for bargaining in order to concede this. Also with regard to our Bill of Rights and the various provisions we make in there to tie the hands of a future government in how it deals with people in this country. We've made all those concessions already, in advance, and the government will have to be made to see that the only way to legitimise a constitution is to involve the people in its making. Otherwise we're going to end up with a Muzorewa-like constitution.

POM     With a which?

DO     Muzorewa.

POM     He was in Rhodesia.

DO     He lasted less than a year.

POM     Just a few more, Dullah, and thank you for the time. The PAC, are they a factor in this at all or is their continuing reluctance to take part in negotiations, marginalising them?

DO     No, they are a factor. They are a small factor but they are a factor and I think we would not want to enter a process where they are totally opposed. We need to take along with us as many of the forces within the liberation movement as possible and as many of the forces outside the liberation movement, no matter which way they vote in the end. But in the process leading to a new constitution I think they are a factor that should not be ignored no matter how small that may be.

POM     The right wing, divide them into two parts, the Conservative Party and then the militant right. This time last year when I was here there was a lot of talk and speculation that a lot of whites supported moves to the Conservative Party and that if a whites only election were held they might even win a majority of the white vote. I don't feel that this year. Am I not hearing something that is still there or has there been some kind of shift in white opinion that accepts the inevitability of some change and just finds what the Conservative Party stands for to be totally unrealistic and unworkable.

DO     Well I think so, I think that the right wing is not a threat to the negotiating process as such. They can cause a lot of damage because they're armed. At the same time, looking at what's happened in Namibia and in Zimbabwe there is no reason to believe that most of those elements themselves will eventually accommodate themselves to a new situation. The big problem you see with the white right wing is that it is made up of people who are feeling the pinch in this country, workers, small farmers who have been battling and who are busy losing out, you know there's a crisis in agriculture too. It's an economic crisis which is hitting them hard and this is creating this response and if a new South Africa can begin to grapple with the economic problems and their problems in particular I think that a lot of this will be diffused, as has happened in the case of Namibia.

POM     Do you think that the right has a lot of support among the police?

DO     I should think it has some support. I don't know how great it is.

POM     I give you this analogy, just not making a direct analogy but it's a more of a comparison than an analogy, in Northern Ireland Protestant paramilitary organisations really never got off the ground because the Protestant people saw themselves as a law and order community where their values, they always obeyed the law. And, two, there was still a police force, the police was 95% Protestant itself and they would see any assault on the police as being an assault on authority and on themselves. Is there any comparison to why Afrikaners might conceive of themselves as being a law and order community and it's their police force so when they see elements of their own community attacking their police force it's an attack in some sense on the community itself?

DO     I think the question of security forces is a complex one and I'm not too sure what the thinking within the ranks of the police would be. But certainly in the ranks of the security forces I think there would be strong right wing tendencies and they've grown up in that culture of repression and acting as agents of repression. They still continue to do so in many parts of the country.

POM     How do you keep that under control? I mean this is like a ticking time bomb out there.

DO     It is one of the problems that we are grappling with. I think essentially it is a question of control from the top, effective control from the top beginning to transform the security forces. This is what we're hoping to do through the Peace Conference, that that issue is going to be addressed.

POM     The Peace Conference is?

DO     The Peace Conference which was convened by the churches.

POM     Oh yes, yes. That's the Code of Conduct and things like that. One or two more and we're finished. The SACP/ANC alliance, to a lot of people that I've talked to who would normally be supportive of the ANC, this has stopped them from joining. There's a question mark in their minds. Is this a problem for the ANC? Is it one that it will have to resolve within a reasonable amount of time, for example, if there was an election for Constituent Assembly would people have to choose a member of the Communist Party and a member of the ANC political party or could it still get by by saying we're just an umbrella movement?

DO     I think in some areas it is seen as a problem, in some Muslim communities, Christian communities, amongst Coloureds, whites and so on. If you go to the townships it's a very different matter. In the black townships throughout the country people defend the alliance and I have no problem with the alliance. I am not a member of the party, but the SACP has got a tremendous history of struggle against apartheid. It's been a faithful ally in the struggle based on the Freedom Charter. It has never over-strayed the limits of the Freedom Charter, so much so that it's pointless criticising the SACP because of it's two stage theory. I think that it's two stage theory probably stood it in good stead, it has come out well under the circumstances because it has committed itself to democracy. Irrespective of Eastern Europe and its position vis-à-vis the Soviet Union, in South Africa it has always committed itself to democracy and it has fought for democracy. So it's got a tremendous history, been a loyal ally. So whilst there are problems in some circles I think that amongst the masses of blacks in this country it does not present a problem.

POM     Some people have said that the SACP have some of the best organisational skills in the movement as a whole and to take that away from the party would be to take away a lot of its skill and its administrative and managerial skill base.

DO     I suppose that some of the people who joined the party are intellectuals, people who've gone through university and have acquired skills and they've become socialists by commitment and joined the party because they are socialists having chosen that as a result of their own understanding of struggle. So there are many people within the SACP who are equipped and who have skills which are extremely valuable. In the present phase there is no danger of those skills being lost to the ANC.

POM     With that, two last questions. One is, last year, again from abroad, during that period the ANC was following or was portrayed as following a very zigzag course and would make demands that time limits, the time it would expire or the demand would change and it seemed to be uncertain, seemed confused. One, do you think that that was an accurate portrayal of the way it was behaving and, two, has that now changed in the light of the election of a new Executive and National Working Group?

DO     I think it's a combination of factors. You know the ANC is unbanned since February 1990, but the South African Police force lives on, the National Party as a whole carries on the way it has always carried on, the media carries on the way it has. So the mere enactment of a measure, unbanning the organisation, did not alter the repressive situation in which we actually operated. So trying to build the ANC in that situation was a mess, an extremely difficult matter, in many, many areas of South Africa almost insuperable. I mention this because it was very, very difficult to build the ANC under those circumstances and what we were about is to try to build an organisation which is democratic and which is accountable. And it became impossible or rather difficult to do it in an undemocratic environment, a repressive environment. Secondly, you've had people coming back into the country. Everybody didn't just come back at the same time, have offices set up and you couldn't start to work immediately. It was a tremendously traumatic experience taking many, many months for people to come back into the country, begin to set up offices and beginning to do the work, or even carrying on the work that the ANC had been doing. And so the decision-making processes were difficult, had to be worked through. That is the one element.

     The second element was that because the regime had announced its intention to end apartheid, to negotiate a new constitution, a great deal of what de Klerk & Co. were saying was taken at face value and that is why you saw this hesitancy just to take on the regime. There was a hope that the regime was serious and sincere and therefore you are more generous than you ought to be. And so I think that contributed to the zigzagging. But then also the demands we make are not demands which must hang around our necks like millstones. If we see it's in the interests of the organisation to do something else, move away from that demand, we must do it and ignore it if we have to. We've done so now. What we have said to the regime over the last year or so is you must remove obstacles before we start talking to you about constitutional issues. As a result of the Inkathagate scandal we've not stopped saying that they must remove obstacles, but we have said we want to get on to an interim government immediately, you're not fit to rule. And this goes beyond obstacles. So we are not allowing the obstacle issue to hang like a millstone around our neck. It's in the interests of the ANC, and I think the country, that we should address, make the issue of interim government item 1 on the agenda, and that's what we've done.

POM     Just to conclude, my own observation has been that I'm hearing two things. One, this incredible anger with the government over what Inkathagate means in its larger form, again it being proof of a conscious attempt to undermine and destabilise the ANC, but covered with that anger a pragmatism that says negotiations are the only way forward and no matter what happens that's the only process there is.

DO     And in fact you see it's a golden opportunity for us to popularise our view for an interim government. If we didn't seize that moment now we'd be foolish. And so we place interim government on the agenda and it not only wins more support, the Democratic Party has come out in support, it not only wins more support but it de-legitimises the regime, continues to de-legitimise it. And so the process of negotiation itself legitimises certain parties, de-legitimises others, and so I think in handling it in the way we have, a very pragmatic way, we are much stronger today than we were two months ago.

POM     OK Dullah, thank you very much for the time.

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.