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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

16 Sep 1991: Gerwel, Jakes

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POM     You know what I want to do, what I'm the process of doing?

JG     Yes, I have seen the papers from you setting out your project.

POM     What I will do is I will conduct this interview for the better part of an hour or so and then I will have a transcript of the conversation made and sent back to you and then when we talk again that will be the starting point.

JG     OK that is fine

POM     To start off then, I want to ask you something that appears to be very basic but I ask you because of the absolute variety in responses I have received from people. What is the nature of the problem that the negotiators will face? By way of example, I have had some responses to say that the problems are the domination of the black community by the minority white community and some say it will be the mal-distribution of resources, some say it is about race but within racial categories you have discreet ethnic differences which must be taken into account, others say that it is about competition between two nationalisms, black nationalism and white nationalism. In your view what is the problem?

JG     What we are dealing with in South Africa in my view is, apartheid is part of our colonial legacy, you know there have been attempts to theoretically describe the South African social formation as colonialism of a special type and so on. We do have apartheid minority domination built on a history of colonial dispossession, so that we are dealing, amongst other things, with two aspects, namely the political domination of the minority over the rest of the society and then also more difficult and more entrenched and ingrained, the social and economic disparities in that society which coincided with the political cleavage. So it would be negotiating a political dispensation in which there is no longer a minority rule but democracy in which all South Africans participate equally. However, and I suspect that this is going to be, that the political systems, the liberation forces, for example, would want from the political process dispensation which also ensures that the social and economic imbalances are addressed. On the other hand the political process or the political dispensation negotiated can be such that the social transformation doesn't take place fundamentally and there will be more or less the same disparities. What we are facing is to negotiate ourselves away from political minority domination, grave social and economic inequalities and lay the basis for a more unified and hopefully non-racial building process, which itself is not going to be easy because apartheid had also built in a lot of internal divisions which will have to be attended to after the basic contradiction between white minority rule and black majority subjection.

POM     There is a book that has been published this year by a man called Donald Horowitz, I don't know whether you have come across him or not, he is regarded in many quarters as being an expert on divided societies and has done a lot of work in Africa and other places but he argues, drawing on studies that have been done both in South Africa and outside of it, that South Africa is ethnically a divided society and the usage of that word that ethnic differences do exist and that these ethnic differences must be taken into account in arriving at new government structures if there is to be stability and order in the future. What role do you think ethnicity plays in this whole matter?

JG     Most of us, working from a non-racial paradigm, like myself for example, have tended to not over-emphasise the ethnic factor. Obviously there are different ethnic groups in South Africa, South Africa having a more urbanised population than may be the case in many other parts of Africa and because of the insertion of the colonial experience economically and therefore socially into our society that we have a de-ethnicised urban population to a much greater extent than may be the case elsewhere. That serves as almost the political elite which would be conducive to building the unified society. It may also be that because of apartheid attempts at ethnic division, like through the homelands and other policies, that we on the non-racial side perhaps over-emphasise that aspect in the sense that one often sees social analysis as being a constituent part of the social reality and by emphasising the non-racial and non-ethnic aspect of urbanised society I suspect one was hoping too that in that way you could have formed that self-fulfilling prophecy. With the recent happenings in the last year what was projected as clashes between Zulus and Xhosas, I don't think that was absolutely correct, but there was that element. I think that to a greater extent one is realising that South Africans in nation building will have to take more seriously the fact that people may have group feelings around these issues.

POM     I am asking because, again, I have been surprised by the variety of answers I have received to the question. Among some 'progressive' whites I have talked to when I have asked about the ethnic factor they will say, yes, and then when I ask is it talked about, they say, well it is not really talked about because in the social or academic circles to say that there are ethnic cleavages would be like being an apologist for the government. It would be like saying the government has a right to get the solution wrong so it is not talked about. Do you get any sense of that as well as these issues, that because of the loaded connotations that are associated with it, they are not discussed as openly in liberation movement circles as they should be?

JG     I don't know about the 'should be', but it is not an issue which is very high on the agenda. I don't have the feeling that it is because of an unwillingness to confront the question. If one factually looks at the political organisations, if you look at the ANC and the PAC, AZAPO as being three of the main parties in the liberation movement, effectually those organisations are not ethnic organisations, they operate as non-ethnic organisations. Hence there was actually no reason in the resistance period to regard that as a major factor. Inkatha is the one organisation which plays quite deliberately and explicitly on the ethnic factor. That may in fact bring that to the fore a little more. But I think what we are facing too in the non-racial organisation is to ask ourselves the question of have we perhaps neglected in organising in Natal the Zulu ethnic factor? But, in response to your question, Inkatha and the right wing Afrikaner groups are at the moment the only political organisations making ethnicity a political factor. Most other organisations do not operate that way and that is part of the reason why ethnicity is not really seriously discussed in South Africa by progressive forces.

POM     Do you think it could also be in part because of the fact that it is the right wing Afrikaners and Inkatha that make an issue of it or again that one would appear to be saying that maybe we should listen to them a little bit more, they might actually be saying something, maybe they have a point? Do you get any sense of that?

JG     It is not exactly the same thing, but the ANC in statements by Mr Mandela, for example, has recently been referring to the fact that the ANC has not made the inroads into the Coloured, Indian and white communities. Now that in itself is a departure from the position which was held previously in the ANC that non-racialism did not regard even those cleavages as real ones. So, the reference to that and the admission that one will have to attend to those groups as such is a departure. There is no evidence at the moment that the ethnic factor, which is a factor on the ground, people in the Transkei are Xhosa people, people in the Northern Transvaal are Sotho and so on, but that social factor does not really become a major political issue, it is not a source of political tension except around the Zulu/Inkatha grouping. I can understand why at the moment there is not really any serious discussion of this issue, there is no obvious evidence that that social fact has become a source of political tension.

POM     Yet during the past year in the USA and in Britain there has been an increasing propensity to characterise the violence in the Transkei as ethnic violence to the extent that The Economist about two months ago in an editorial said that the violence between Xhosas and Zulus was in essence no different from the violence between the Serbs and Croatians, arguing in the sense that underlying both was an ethnic factor. Would you agree with this characterisation?

JG     What I find an overstatement is the violence which the US calls black on black violence, which I find a problematic term. The occurrence of that violence, which has been in existence in Natal for the last five years or more, the source of the clashes there was the Inkatha ethnic based political organisation versus the UDF/Congress non-racially based political organisation. But the clashes there were amongst Zulu people and not against other tribes, they were about political differences amongst themselves. When it transferred to the Transvaal late last year it was again not displayed as Zulu/Xhosa clashes, it was a clash between the migrant worker who happens to be in those areas predominantly Zulu and the settled urban people who again were often largely non-Zulu. Yes, obviously the ethnic element did enter into it, there were elements of ethnic coincidences but it was not basically an ethnic clash. I think that is an overstatement. One has really got to understand that a bit materially in that you had competition over scarce resources, between the migrant group and the settled group, so in source it was not an ethnic clash. It always had the dangers of developing into that.

POM     I want to go back for a moment to the nature of the problem here. If the government and the ANC, just from what the nature of the problem is, and in my discussions with both that would be quite clear, and if the use of the word democracy obscures fundamentally different visions of what a democratic society might look like, how can you arrive at an agreed set of structures for the future. Does that not make it very difficult?

JG     I am not sure yet how fundamentally they disagree over the nature of this practice. There was a period immediately after February 1990 when either one, and it is a percent, that de Klerk, if not his entire party, but de Klerk seemed to almost genuinely be interested in negotiating away minority rule and it seemed at that stage as if it was not a major concern what happened to the NP in that process. Somewhere along the line that seemed to have changed. I just get the suspicion that in their negotiations with the ANC they suddenly realised that the organisation was less coherent, it was less organised and that they could, as it were, start playing political games with it and that they could manipulate negotiations in such a way that they themselves still came out of the negotiations as some kind of winners. I think that is the way it is at the moment. However, one often reads about the ANC and the NP moving closer to one another although I must say with the recent publication of the NP's constitutional plan one again got serious worries and anxieties about their understanding of democracy, if it really meant one person one vote. The point is that I am not quite sure that they do differ that fundamentally. We have not seen enough on the table yet to judge on that.

POM     Yet in fact they are talking about two fundamentally different things in the sense that the government is talking about a sharing of power, whereas the ANC is talking about transfer of power.

JG     Well the ANC is talking about a transfer of power to the majority of the South African population. A transfer of power meaning, well I am not sure that the ANC at the moment uses that transfer of power in the sense that one should negotiate from minority rule to real democracy where the majority of the people get what they decide. In such an arrangement if the people so decide there could possibly be a coalition and a sharing of power. It seems that the government wants to build the constitution in such a way that there is in any case always this kind of sharing of power and I think that is the great point of difference at the moment. The ANC is not saying, as I understand, that they rule out the possibility of coalition but that coalitions must come out of the political reality at the end of a democratic one person one vote election.

POM     Are they saying that the coalition must be voluntarily entered into, must not be mandated by the constitution?

JG     Yes. Again what they are saying is that one must see whether this is an opening position of the government prior to negotiations. I fail to see how they will be able to get legitimate consent of the legitimisation to the consent of the majority of people for an arrangement which and in theory and on racial or group basis wishes to build that into the constitution.

POM     I will come back to the government's position in a couple of minutes, but first I want to ask you, since 1967 with one exception, there has never been a transfer of power from one elected government to another in Africa, either they became one-party states or the governing party had such an overwhelming advantage it made elections pro forma. What factors do you think suggest that South Africa would not follow the same course?

JG     In the first place we do have a long tradition of striving for a democratic political dispensation in this country. I mean the ANC was formed as a black organisation wishing for assimilation into the existing democratic political tradition, or semi-democratic political tradition. Again, I refer to our urbanised, modernised population sector in this country. The ANC, for one, is an organisation with a long commitment to that kind of democracy through the Freedom Charter which is the basis of that kind of democratic tradition. There is also a strong civil society in this. Again I am speaking comparatively, I could not say that it is more so than in other African states but we actually have quite a vibrant civil society which, again, is one of the greater guarantees for real democracy, a multi-party democracy culture developing. And then the changing international circumstances have also made it much more difficult for any party in South Africa to bend towards that kind of African one-party rule or permanent presidencies, etc. I think the conjuncture for internal and external has actually made it much more likely that we will have a kind of multi-party democracy in South Africa.

POM     One thing I have been struck by over the last year is how the ANC moved from the question of who is responsible for the violence in the Transvaal. Initially last year they pointed the finger at Inkatha and then they talked of a third force and accused the government itself and talked about the double agenda of the olive branch on the one hand for negotiations and trying to undermine the ANC in the townships, etc., and many saw Inkathagate as the final irrefutable proof that the government was behind the violence, that it was perpetrating it deliberately. What do you believe, do you think the government has followed a double agenda?

JG     It is difficult for one to prove these things. My inclination is more and more towards suspecting that there may be greater government collusion in this than one suspected a little earlier. I mean the third force idea might have been forces in government but not with the collusion of government responsible for that. There is a growing wariness with regard to the violence, wondering whether the state is not more implicated in it than we originally suspected. From the ANC I gather quite a commendable reticence at jeopardising the process in that. Obviously there was a time when it said that Inkatha was responsible for the violence. When the violence first started in the Transvaal, the ANC led the view that it cannot be Inkatha as a complete organisation and that there were elements within Inkatha. They were, with my reading of the situation, quite careful not to paint Inkatha into such a corner where it was impossible to foster reconciliation. I have never heard them saying that Buthelezi is directly responsible. So that is the care about keeping the channels open for negotiations for nation building. Similarly with the Government, though if I had been on the ANC's political strategy committee or whatever they have in that regard, one actually could have gone to town on the Inkathagate thing to a much greater extent. But again, my own reading of it was a sensitivity towards accusations and allegations making the rift between the parties so big that it would be difficult to get together again. But on your question, what I feel, I am really getting more and more anxious, worried whether the government is not more implicated than we thought originally.

POM     Just a week before Inkathagate Mr Mandela said in an interview : "Mr de Klerk is involved in the violence, either because he has lost control over the state security forces or the state security forces are doing what he wants." And I know that I must have interviewed at least half the membership of the national working group and they were adamant of government involvement. My question is that in a situation where one party to negotiations believes the other party is out to destroy it, can you have good faith negotiations take place?

JG     The question really is, what alternatives are there to negotiations? I do not know that any influential person in the ANC would seriously consider doing a U-turn feasible. They are locked into a situation where they have to negotiate and if you are right, the old question of good faith, how much can you trust the other party is obviously a worrying one. But a way around that, as I see it, is that we have to move towards arrangements of interim government, where those forces of the state that could be disruptive to the process, that could be less than impartial, they could be monitored, overseen, managed not only by the NP so that their disruptive effects could be controlled. The way around the bad faith question is through arrangements for an interim government.

POM     I was struck after a number of people I interviewed said this, and some of them were involved in the negotiations for the Peace Accord, and I asked if this question had come up at the Peace Accord and the answer was, no, it did not. It seems that the issue was very deliberately not raised but that they set out to devise a set of procedures to deal with the violence in future rather than to point fingers at each other. It brings us back to the question I asked you originally, if a problem is not defined, can you develop a set of procedures that will adequately deal with it or can you just state objectives and try to develop procedures to meet specified objectives in the absence of defining the problem?

JG     At the negotiations, it seems that we are going towards multi-party or all-party negotiations some time late this year or early next year, part of what has to be cleared in negotiations is what are we negotiating about. I mean what is it that we wish to negotiate away from? So part of that discussion would obviously contain the definition of the problem. You are right, if one is not sure about what the problem is then there are great difficulties in getting the procedures to deal with it. But that would be part of the negotiations, I would imagine, defining what the problems are, which are the problems that we need to address. And it is there again, when we come back to the ethnicity thing, that government would probably be falling back on previous positions it has held that the South African problem is one of minorities and that has been an old definition in the PW Botha era, and that we should therefore find constitutional means or constitutional procedures to protect minorities whereas the ANC for one, and I know the PAC and AZAPO would context that definition of the South African problem. So you are right, part of the contestation in negotiations is going to be around the definition of the problem.

POM     You talked about de Klerk, early last year you thought that he was going to move towards dismantling of apartheid but hopefully towards majority rule and now it would appear that he has moved back a step. Do you think the NP has a clear understanding of what it wants out of this process and a clearly developed strategy for getting there?

JG     I always said that I accept that as a kind of a natural cynic about politics and politicians that we must expect that the NP will have an agenda of its own that will represent the white population. We must expect that it will try to negotiate a new political dispensation in which as much of its advantages as possible can be protected and it is becoming clearer and clearer that that is what they are trying to do. All these proposals around property holders having a greater voting power, etc., indicate towards that. How clearly they have worked it out I can only guess because once again working in this situation of tribal political, as the NP is actually very much a tribal political organisation with great codes of confidentiality, so one can only guess at what is going on behind this whole thing. But I would imagine that they do have a game plan as to how they can protect the white population as far as possible and they would into that try to define other so-called minorities, who would be the Coloureds, the Indians or any other ethnic groupings which they can lure into a coalition around minorities.

POM     Do you think the party accepts the inevitability of black majority rule? By that I mean a government where the ANC is the majority and would be a non-racial, like, say, the NEC, most of the members of the government would be black.

JG     I think, if I understand their latest constitutional recommendations correctly, then they do recognise that they will be in the lower house and for that reason it seems the proposals with regard to the upper house being group-bound and the executive being a kind of a composite ruling of groups, so those checks and balances which they seek to build in into the second house and into the composition of the executive are indications that they realise that there will be a majority black presence in a democratically elected chamber. The point is that according to their plans they are not prepared to just accept the democratic outcome the way the government is structured.

POM     I was really surprised to see their proposals on who qualifies for franchise in local elections since it was just such a qualified franchise that brought things to a head in Northern Ireland in 1969. My initial response is, how could they be so politically inept as to reinforce the perception that the Nats were the Nats were the Nats and nothing has really changed. Were these proposals more for their own constituency? Did these proposals alternatively have to achieve two purposes, one, be an opening hand and the second to be some kind of reassurance to their own constituency that they were not handing over power?

JG     It seems to me that they have gained some kind of confidence, one, because of de Klerk's seemingly improved international stature, and also I suspect because they found out that the ANC was not as mightily coherent and organised a formation as they might have suspected in February 1990. It seems that they have gained in confidence and that they are really considering this a serious bid and Buthelezi, this is where the Buthelezi factor comes in, he is not dissenting from what is so obviously a retrogressive kind of outdated reactionary proposal, he is not dissenting from that and it seems as if they are thinking about seriously pushing this threat.

POM     Talking about Buthelezi, while I was in South Africa Inkathagate dominated the latter part of July and early into August with commentators veering between saying it was one of the most significant events to happen in a long time and those who said that it was mainly a media creation. How important an event do you think it was? And who were the political winners and losers and where did it leave Buthelezi?

JG     My own field of study is literary studies, we deal with symbiotics and the science of science and signification and it is always remarkable to me the way Buthelezi manages to project or to be projected as a prince of peace, non-racialist person, but I have a suspicion that most people that know South African politics would know that that is contrary is the fact. My question is therefore, how is this image constructed so at variance with the reality which people are not really unaware of? And Inkathagate I thought might have been important in exposing Inkatha's real complicity and deliberate complicity in the violence and the destruction. I would have hoped that it would have been important to rid ourselves of the understandable support which he gets from, for example, liberal capital seems to have been backing Buthelezi quite uncritically. However, as I have said, I am a little bit surprised at the way that the ANC has not pushed the Inkathagate thing to greater political advantage for themselves. The ANC is actually losing quite a bit on the media war going on. The right opportunity which I thought they would use would have been Inkathagate, which they did not do. Immediately after Inkathagate came the Ventersdorp incident where three whites were shot. Again, it was shocking for naïve people like myself in universities to see how cynically politicians use those kinds of things in order to gain the initiative again because that in a sense had reinstated de Klerk as being this very impartial person who shot at his own people. In a sense Ventersdorp had occurred to supersede Inkathagate in the international press.

POM     Do you see Buthelezi as a loser out of Inkathagate or did it really not make much difference to his own constituency?

JG     I think his image was tarnished a little bit, particularly in the English press there is a greater irritation with Buthelezi. I am not quite sure how committed capital is to the establishment of democracy in this country but they will be an important force in that if they are not really committed to the establishment of democracy or to real democracy, then the chances of doing that are much less. We hear reports that there is an irritation in capital circles with Buthelezi and the Sunday Times on Sunday commented on this display of hordes of impis at the Peace Accord, which you might have seen. They commented on that quite irritatedly which may be an indication that Buthelezi's image is just a little bit more tarnished after Inkathagate than it had been previously.

POM     He needs a new PR person after that. He came out of that dreadfully. Why do you think, you say that you are not sure that the capital is really interested in the emergence of democracy, why do you think that?

JG     I am not saying that they are not interested, I am just saying that I am uncertain whether they have got the really full commitment to establishing democracy and whether they would not collude with the kind of games which the government is playing about the content and the meaning of democracy.

POM     You talked a little earlier on about how the ANC has had to acknowledge that they had not made the inroads into the Indian, the Coloured and the white communities that it had hoped to. What understanding of these communities do the ANC have that led it to believe it would make greater inroads? What assumptions were they making about these constituencies?

JG     They were looking at the history of the ANC with the old Congresses such as the Coloured People's, the Indian Congress and the ANC coming together in a Congress alliance that eventually during the period of exile had been abolished and this has been one non-racial ANC with Coloureds, Indians and whites belonging to the ANC. They were also looking at the UDF which was the internal operation of the ANC, which was really non-racial, it had large numbers of Coloureds and Indians active and supporting the UDF and they were looking at the Defiance Campaign of 1989 with large numbers of Coloureds and Indians participating in this campaign which occurred under the banner of the ANC. Therefore, they had every reason that there would be more widespread support than there is. I think the assumptions were not completely without grounds. I think the ANC would also say now that it is not only a matter of Coloureds and Indians and whites, that it has not drawn also the number of African members into it that it would have wanted to. So it has in the first place been an organisation question just generally but cannot hide the fact that the proportional following amongst Coloureds has been much less than is the case with the Africans.

POM     Why do you think that is so?

JG     Why that is so is I suspect that we need to re-think our understanding of non-racialism, that apartheid did create separate social entities and that people do have what we sometimes in Congress jargon used to call nationality feelings around those issues. The ANC is and must always be a predominantly African organisation and it has to find ways to project to the Coloured, Indian and white communities that in spite of being a predominantly African organisation, which it cannot be anything different, that it is catering also for the aspiration and the wishes of those other groups. I think there was an assumption that the non-racialism which we saw as an anti-apartheid expression in the resistance period translates itself equally positively into organisational membership.

POM     So there is a distinction to be made between being anti-apartheid and pro-ANC?

JG     In the resistance period it was around the non-racial opposition to apartheid that the nationally oppressed groups came together. Now we are talking about preparing to govern and people think in a different mode about that. I actually still believe that the ANC is the organisation with the greatest potential for impact across the South African spectrum but in this process of reconstituting itself as an internal organisation it also needs to strategise around how it approaches different social groupings.

POM     From over here, if one looks at the course of the ANC during the past year, it would appear to have followed a very zigzag kind of course, a sometimes even confused course. Is that an apt description of how the ANC might have performed and, secondly, has the ANC a coherent set of objectives and a coherent set of strategies for getting there?

JG     In answer to the first part of your question, as much as it disappoints one it cannot surprise one that the ANC had that appearance of zigzagging and lack of direction because it suddenly had to rebuild itself as an internal organisation and its greatest challenge was that of building coherence because the ANC which we are talking about is really the combination of various strands which were developed historically. You are acquainted with the fact that there is the prison generation of leadership with a particular history and a particular style and particular politics as well. There was the exile group coming back, again with its own political history which determined a particular style of operation and a particular understanding. There was the internal MDM (Mass Democratic Movement) group which in itself had various plans. Those had to be drawn together and welded together into a single organisation with shared strategic objectives and there was no chance really for them prior to this last July conference, for them to get together and work out a common strategy.

     The whole negotiations strategy is, although not exclusively, essentially a strategy thought through, conceived and worked through by the exile leadership. When they came back and took the leadership they had to sell that, as it were, they had to integrate that strategy into the thinking of the MDM. So, it is not surprising that there were these zigzags, they were a reflection of the manifestation of the understandable lack of coherence in the organisation. After the last conference there is a hope that is perceptible overseas as well that there is a clearer strategy in the ANC, whether they have clear strategies. I think that the conference did spell out some clear strategies as quite a firm commitment to negotiations which one could not have set prior to the conference. There were many internal people who did not understand or accept negotiations and the process accompanying them and are quite clearer strategy or objective with regard to that.

POM     Where does the PAC stand? Are they an important factor in this process or are they in danger of marginalising themselves if they continue outside of it?

JG     I think through the Patriotic Front (PF) they will be coming into the negotiating process. They do not nearly command the same kind of following and importance that the ANC does, therefore they could actually afford to be more loose. Again, their commitment to the PF I think one must read as an indication that they realise that they could actually be left out. People generally want peace now and I think they realise that if they were to stay out of the negotiating process completely they may be estranging themselves and marginalising themselves.

POM     How about the Conservative Party (CP)? Last year there was a lot of concern about the rise of the CP and how well it might do if there were a whites only general election, that it might in fact win the majority of the white vote. I did not hear that kind of talk this year. Has its support peaked? Is it a threat if it stays outside of this process as it has adamantly done? Will it marginalise itself?

JG     They are also talking about staying outside of the process. With reference to a white election I do not think that they will have another white election. More importantly with the CP is whether it is going to become the home of a disaffected group in the new nation. Again, as I understand the ANC's position there is great concern about the state of national unity after the negotiated settlement, concern about whether the CP and other right wing groups become homes for such kind of disaffected and what would previously be called counter-revolutionary destructive forces. I think one must read Mandela's overtures to them in that light. Look at those right wing hunger strikers. He has made gestures to them that nation building is important, the drawing together of disagreeing people into the political convention, not meaning that they must agree with everything but drawing them into the political convention is important. The CP is a parliamentary party. I have not got the great fear that they would actually really go to extra-parliamentary measures. Not the same kind of fears as I have, for example, for the AWB which is actually some kind of a renegade group of the right wing. The CP is made up of fairly conservative church-going communities. They have to be politically disruptive during this process but I do not have the same fears that they could actually become a militantly extra-parliamentary, counter-revolutionary force.

POM     Are there real fears of a militant right wing reaction or is it one that can be an irritant but can be controlled?

JG     It can be an irritant rather and they are actually quite a violent irritant but there are no great fears at the moment about a right wing coup. It has got to exist in the modern world. What has pushed the white population has been the economic pressures largely, or to a great extent, and a military coup or a right wing coup is not going to do anything to the economic situation in the country.

POM     My two last questions Professor Gerwel, and thank you very much for your time. My first question is, the SACP/ANC alliance, has that become more of a question? It was partly a question when I was there in terms of the slowness of the ANC to respond to the coup in the USSR, that is one, and the second one is I have noted that among the hundreds of whites I have talked to in all political parties and across the board in every profession that a sense of apology for the wrong that was done to the blacks is absent. They simply talk about getting on with the future, building a new South Africa without much reference to the past as though it had been a mistake, a well-intentioned mistake almost. Do you think the future can be dealt with unless the past is dealt with and acknowledged?

JG     The first question, the SACP/ANC alliance, that sometimes is overplayed and overstated. If socialism is going through a deep crisis internationally, and that will also affect the actual vitality of the SACP, so we are clear why people have all these concerns about the SACP. They have an heroic history of inspiration in the ANC, the whole non-racial question revolves around the SACP's input into that and the concern with the poor population is a great problem. That still serves to inspire the ANC in that regard. I actually think that is an overplayed aspect.

     The second question about the apologies for the past ordeals, I actually agree with you about that. What we have to deal with in South Africa is not just tomorrow we start a new future. The major challenge in reconstruction in South Africa is addressing the historical imbalances and perhaps like what has happened in the Soviet Union now with Gorbachev and his party having to break completely and having to say that that was wrong, I think something similar may have to happen in South Africa because Verwoerd and those people are not really being spoken about as having done a terrible wrong to humanity in the South African population.

POM     I will leave it there. Thank you very much for your time. I will have this transcribed, it might take a couple of months. I hope I see you on my next visit.

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.