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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

23 Sep 1991: Van Zyl Slabbert, Frederik

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POM     The first question I had asked him was about Horowitz's' book. He said he had three problems with it. You said that there were three problems?

VZS     Yes. The first is, who will monitor the process from thereon? In other words there's no independent, moral court of appeal or authority. Secondly, who will maintain acceptable law and order or stability? And thirdly, what will be the status of the incumbent regime vis-à-vis its negotiating partners? Now those three issues were totally absent, for example, in the Namibian transition because it was all looked after by UNTAG and the United Nations plus there was no incumbent regime. In our case a start has been made with the second problem, namely stability, by the Peace Accord and perhaps out of the Peace Accord also will flow some kind of mechanism that would assist in monitoring the process. But those would be the three immediate problems.

POM     I'm talking about the problem in terms of the nature of the problem itself, i.e. that some people think it's a question of minority domination of the black majority, some say its a competition between two nationalisms, black and white, some say yes there are racial divisions but within each racial division you have severe ethnic differences too. There's a book come out recently by a man named Donald Horowitz, I don't know whether you've seen it?

VZS     I've read it, yes. I've read Horowitz' book.

POM     What would be your evaluation?

VZS     I think Horowitz over-emphasises the ethnicity problem. I don't deny it's reality but Horowitz' whole programme is premised on the assumption that there will be a proliferation of parties along ethnic and racial lines. I don't see the evidence for that now. In fact if you look at his analysis there's a contradiction there. During the transitional phase Horowitz talks about the three sector party, you know, bargaining, sort of a coalition centre with two flanking parties. But when he talks about a post-transitional electoral process, then suddenly there are a proliferation of parties along the racial and ethnic lines. Now, I'm not denying that there will be some ethnic and racial out-bidding. Of course. But I don't see that as the central issue when you start looking at parties for the simple reason that the ANC through the influence of the SACP have committed themselves to a fairly strong egalitarian ideology. Well it's changing shape but nevertheless it's egalitarian in content. It's a kind of a non-racialism, if you know what I mean, and it is very insistent on that and that tends to, at least for the time being, to overlook the possibly incipient ethnic diversity. Inkatha is the one factor that brings that to the fore, but precisely the manner in which it does so at the moment tends to unleash a reaction against that kind of politics. So in the transitional phase it's not so much, I think, a white/black thing. It's a question of how do we prevent collapse, how do we prevent disintegration, how do we maintain some kind of stability during transition. Those are the more immediate problems.

POM     Some people have suggested to me, particularly a number of white progressives that I've talked to, that ethnicity is a real factor but that it's not talked about because to talk about it is to somehow appear to be an apologist for the government. There's a suggestion that the government got the problem right but got the solution wrong. Did you pick up any evidence of that in your talks?

VZS     Yes I think it's true to say, particularly if you're talking to politically conscious black people, there's a tendency to avoid the ethnic thing. Although I must say it's become easier of late to talk about it quite openly and they will admit, yes there is an ethnic problem. But they would almost immediately link it to traditionalism, rural/urban divide and say the more rural you become the more traditional the elements are and even if it spills over into the urban areas it's usually people who are from the migratory kind of existence who are here for short periods of time and go back and so on. But that in the townships itself your so-called modern urban element, there is a tendency to ignore the ethnic factor. You see I honestly think that if you're going to have organised political out-bidding on ethnic lines it will come from your rural places, Transkei, Ciskei, KwaZulu, Venda and so on. And that's why I don't want to dismiss it as a factor, but I don't think it's going to drive the negotiating process at the outset which is how I understood your question.

POM     Will it be acknowledged in the negotiating process or is it so kind of anathema to the ANC's perception of the situation?

VZS     No, I think it will be acknowledged. You know Mandela himself has now started wooing traditional leadership, through Contralesa and things like that and he himself understands that kind of factor so I don't think the ANC is as rigidly anti any form of ethnicity as they were before their unbanning. Particularly the more they become embroiled in the local politics the more they become aware of this as a factor. There was a time when your communists who had strategically important positions in the ANC simply regarded it as treachery to even mention this, that you were playing up to the government and so on. But I think they are shifting a bit. Good God, they can't really ignore it if they look at what's happening in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.

POM     Since 1967, I think just with one exception, there's never been a case of where power has passed from one freely elected government to another in Africa.

VZS     That's Sierra Leone I think the country is.

POM     What do you think are the factors that would preclude South Africa going the same way?

VZS     I think the nature of its transition. South Africa is not going to have a flag down, flag up transition. In other words it's not going to experience a conventional colonial transition, number one. Number two, it comes into it's own transition when already I think the rest of Africa accepts that you can no longer blame colonialism for all its shortcomings. Number three, it also comes into transition at a time when there is an international acceptance for the need for democratisation and for a market economy in much clearer terms than ever before. The idea that you can qualify democracy with a particular African flavour or use such adjectives as socialist or popular or guided or total or one-party democracy, that's as dead as a dodo. All your funding agents, IMF, World Bank and so on make it quite clear that democracy means multi-party democracy, regular changes of government and so on. So all these are factors that could make a difference to the process. And I think, finally, there is no shift from power going to take place in South Africa until there has been a fairly strong experience of joint government through an interim phase in which they are going to season each other's minds about the kind of political system we're going to have. None of this actually happened in other African countries.

POM     You talked about that same point that people had to see the thing work through the interim arrangements. So do you envisage an interim kind of arrangement, or interim government, where it would last for five or six years?

VZS     I don't see us having a popular election under a new constitution within the next five to ten years.

POM     You don't? That's very different from what the ANC are saying when they talk about eighteen months.

VZS     I know. But they don't provide you analysis. They simply give you their own desire, what they hope will happen. When I say what persuades you that this is going to happen in terms of the current developments and your own role in it? Then they simply can't tell you. They just say 'No it will happen'. I don't see anything there.

POM     Similarly on a Constitutional Assembly, the demand for it seems to have hardened over the last twelve months in terms of the Patriotic Front.

VZS     They haven't worked out the mechanics of it. I know about debates with both PAC and ANC on this. They simply use it like an incantation to solve the problem of transfer of power, but they haven't really looked at the mechanics of it. The very three problems that they mention at the outset, if they're not solved you're not going to have Constituent Assembly elections. In other words Constituent Assembly elections in Namibia could take place precisely because there was no squabble about the status of an incumbent regime, precisely because the problem of stability was maintained by UNTAG and the problem of monitoring by the United Nations. None of that is here. So in a sense if they insist on a Constituent Assembly election within the next two or three months they also must accept that the stability will be maintained by de Klerk and that he will monitor the process and that they'll get screwed in the election.

POM     Similarly with regard to an interim government, the demand that the government ...

VZS     Well that's a slightly different one.

POM     Yes, but here the demand is that the government actually resign. I mean there are no circumstances in which that may happen, but when the ANC gets harder on this issue and from my conversations (I think I've talked to about half the National Working Group) they seem to have hardened their demand on this. Is that just for negotiation posture or do they really think the government would resign?

VZS     It's a combination of both, both a negotiation posture and it's a kind of shorthand to circumvent the problem that has to be negotiated. We're not going to negotiate an interim government because you know the way to get an interim government, you simply resign. Isn't that simple? Well it's not going to happen. So as they come into the process they're going to become aware of the fact that this is going to be much longer than they've expected.

POM     Look for a moment at Inkathagate, if it did one thing it seems, again looking at the ANC and the PAC and other elements of the liberation movement, to have reinforced or confirmed almost to the point of totality their belief that the government is the force behind the violence, that the government has in fact this double agenda of the olive branch of negotiations on the one hand and the campaign to orchestrate the campaign of violence in the townships to undermine them. What's your reading of that situation? Is there a double agenda?

VZS     I think Inkathagate epitomises the problems of succession between Botha and de Klerk. I do not think de Klerk was involved in any kind of dirty tricks department or planning double agendas. I think he inherited a security system that was riddled with that, however, and that he may have under-estimated the extent to which they were involved. I think also that certainly Malan and Vlok knew exactly what was going on but they were hoping that the thing would just lie down and go away. Of course it didn't go away. They had created too many monsters that came back and plagued them. I suspect that de Klerk as he increasingly became aware of this became increasingly concerned. What could he do? The security system was the source of his stability but it was also his soft underbelly and he has managed I think under these circumstances to deal with the problem quite skilfully by doing a kind of lateral arabesque on old Malan and Vlok and at the same time trying to change the culture of the security system from the top down. But certainly there were elements that would go for the kind of divide and rule, destabilisation of opposition to the regime long before de Klerk got on to the scene. That was basically the policy towards the region as well. And I think that there's simply too much at stake for de Klerk internationally and the people he's met to so blatantly play a double agenda game with them, and I think they accept that otherwise you would have had a much fiercer reaction on Inkathagate. In any case Inkathagate is not all that critical. What is far more critical is the money that went to Namibia to destabilise SWAPO. That really shows you the extent to which they were serious about this. But what is surprising about the whole Inkathagate is that it in fact drove the momentum to what Horowitz would call a 'coalition centre' rather than fracture it. In other words I would say in retrospect Inkathagate speeded up the momentum for reaching some kind of accord in the centre.

POM     An accord between?

VZS     The government and the other parties, you know, Peace Accord, Multi-Party conference. I think it speeded it up rather than slowed it down.

POM     But it added to the weight of the argument of the ANC for the government to resign in the sense that they could point to Namibia and say, here was a government that had signed a declaration at the UN to impartially administer an election and they turn around and try to fund ...

VZS     What it does highlight is the problem that has to be solved as far as monitoring and maintaining stability is concerned. But you're not going to solve that problem by the government resigning because you still sit with basically the same civil service. You sit with the same defence force. Must they resign? Are they going to resign? To simply say the Executive must resign and you've solved the problem because you're now going to fill the gap but you're confronted with a massive, huge bureaucracy that's essentially hostile to your intentions, you haven't solved anything. You've just compounded the bloody problem.

POM     Does the NP, or the government, have a clearly defined sense of where they're going and the strategy for getting there?

VZS     I think so, yes. They are determined to negotiate a democratic kind of constitution, that's the first point and they will play that game down to the hilt and you won't fault them on their democratic rhetoric. I can tell you that now. You will also not fault them on their market economy rhetoric even though they may not honour it as rigorously as they should. Basically the whole question of good governance and sound management, of course, is the in word now on international relations and international aid and assistance. In fact it's the sort of two pillars of IMF/World Bank support. So they're not going to change that. But, what I think their opponents under-estimate is the determination of the government to be a player and a competitor in the negotiated constitution and to actually win. They have no intention of handing over power simply because they have negotiated the democratic constitution. They're willing to negotiate a democratic constitution but then they want to play the game and win according to the new rules that have been negotiated. It sounds ridiculous but I'm telling you that's their strategy. And what's more in the space of eighteen months the party that was responsible for apartheid and domination and repression has through skilful propaganda and action managed to promote themselves as potential champions of democracy in a free market system, whereas the movement that opposed them through the struggle is increasingly being seen as a threat to democracy and the free market system. But what de Klerk is doing very skilfully and quite blatantly is to spread the communist butter on the ANC bread the whole time, and say, 'Look this is what I've inherited from Eastern Europe.'

POM     The Communist Party as a factor seems to have emerged as more of an issue in the last twelve months than it was. Is this because of the continuing unfolding events in Eastern Europe and the USSR?

VZS     I have no doubt about that. As you get embassies opening up from Poland and Hungary and maybe in a couple of months time you'll have them from Latvia and Lithuania, if they come in here and they start doing the cocktail circuit the word will go out. And I think one of the things that worries me about the ANC, in my talks to them, is they hopelessly underestimate the extent of revulsion internationally against what has happened in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. They think it's just a matter of pilot error and you know basically go ahead and we'll do better where we made the mistakes type of thing. I think they are hopelessly out of touch and nothing demonstrates this more clearly than for Mandela to go overseas at a time when he desperately needs money and go hugging Arafat and Gaddafi and Fidel Castro. I mean, the mind goes into pause.

POM     Yes. I was in Czechoslovakia for a week before I went to South Africa at some conference where there were a number of Eastern European countries there and it was astonishing to see the vehemence of the degree of anti-communism that was expressed. It wasn't just a way of change it was like a loathing.

VZS     Even if you use buzz words that eighteen months ago were sort of kosher, you can immediately feel the rejection. No, I agree.

POM     The issue of the ANC's non-response to the coup in the USSR became an issue, or was made into an issue at least skilfully by the government. Do you think it was a fair criticism that the ANC, when an event such as the coup in the USSR occurs, that as a political movement the ANC, that the public have a right to know where they stand on it?

VZS     I think, yes. Not so much the ANC but certainly the SACP and to the extent that the SACP is part of the alliance and a very prominent part of the alliance, one is entitled to know because it follows naturally if your major source of patronage suddenly goes through a convulsion you want to know whether they think it's a good or a bad thing. So in that sense the strategic placation of communists in the executive of the ANC and the SACP's long record of very close relationship both to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and East Germany, it's not unfair to say 'Well what do you think about what's going on there.'

POM     But it's not unfair to ask the ANC either as an organisation, is it?

VZS     No, not at all. But I think part of the ANC's ambivalence can be either administrative which is unlikely but precisely because they respected the views of the SACP.

POM     There seems to be an astonishing juxtaposition of what one would see on television, thousands of people massed against tanks. I mean no more powerful image of the people at the forefront of democracy so to speak, and organisations that invoke it all the time.

POM     I want to go back to what you said about the NP strategy for a moment. When you say under the new rules that the NP would hope to play and win, do you mean by engaging in some kind of coalition politics with other parties?

VZS     Oh sure. Perhaps even getting them to join, or forming a new party. Look, I have no doubt about that. I mean if you listen carefully to what Gerrit Viljoen and Pik Botha and these guys are saying, they say, 'We're competitors in the game'. I mean, first prize for them would be, I suppose, to go into some sort of founding coalition with the ANC minus the SACP.

POM     Is it a two pronged strategy in the sense that (a) one of them would be an alliance with the ANC minus the SACP and failing that the other one would be some kind of broader alliance with a whole network of parties that might emerge?

VZS     Yes I think so. I think we're going through a process of fundamental political realignment in any case. The identities of parties are shifting, their strategies, their charters, all of that. So I wouldn't be surprised to find all kinds of extraordinary political bedfellows emerging over the next eighteen months to two years.

POM     Looking at the ANC, does it have a clear sense of where it is going and a strategy for getting there?

VZS     Well it doesn't seem as clear to me as the government's. The ANC still tends to look upon the whole transition as a kind of morality play in which they deserve to be the winners and this is unfortunate. It means that they don't take the realities of power too seriously at the moment. I sense that they expect to be the government but they're not very clear on how they are going to get there except as, take short cuts, de Klerk must resign type of thing. From my interaction with them I also sense that they underestimate the power of the civil service and the way in which the bureaucracy actually administers government in the country. They also have not really come to terms with prioritising social expenditure. So there are a lot of those problems that they haven't really worked out. Look, I'm not saying it's unexpected. They've come from all over the world. Some of them have come from Germany, some from the Soviet Union, others United States, Britain, others from Africa and suddenly they've got to weld themselves into some kind of coherent political force. It's very difficult. No, I would say that there is not for me a very clear theory of the state or of transition that I can detect there.

POM     Last year you said that the main obstacles in their way were organisational unreadiness and revolutionary expectations.

VZS     I still think those are serious problems. The latter not as strong as it used to be. What I mean by that is that their commitment to, or their expectation of revolutionary transition has certainly cooled down considerably.

POM     What has Inkathagate, if anything, done to Buthelezi? Where does he stand in the process now?

VZS     I think he's sort of a tragic figure in the whole process. He fell between the two forces in the eighties because Botha never pulled him in and he became very paranoiac and persecution complex in that time. Now I think that his basic support tends to go for ethnic militancy of whatever persuasion, whether in the police force or amongst other right wing type Afrikaners. Certainly he tends to fall back more and more on his own traditional base. There's a paradox there. De facto he falls back on that base, his rhetoric remains universalistic in the sense that he's pro democracy, pro this, pro that and so on. But if you listen carefully the mobilising aspect of his politics is ethnic, very clear ethnic.

POM     At least when the photographs from the Peace Accord were shown here of course the three people shown as at the centre of it were Buthelezi, de Klerk and Mandela. Does he feel that the ANC don't acknowledge the fact that you can't have a settlement without him being a part of it, that in that sense he is a major player? Is that correct?

VZS     That's quite right.

POM     But they aren't willing to accept that. Do you think that's correct too?

VZS     They are willing to accept that but I also think they understand, or they begin to understand, that he's a greater threat outside the tent than inside the tent and they'll have him inside the tent. And he's beginning to resist coming into the tent. He's using all kinds of little tricks and so on, including the very provocative demonstration on the day of the Peace Accord. So he senses that the sooner he comes in the less of a factor he will be, whereas his real potential is his capacity to destabilise, to prevent progress. So he's going to use that as a bargaining chip to drive as hard for what he can get as possible.

POM     The violence. Last year you said that there couldn't be any meaningful negotiations until the violence was brought under control. In the last year it hasn't. Now you have that Buthelezi and Mandela met. Nothing came of the Accord that they struck. You now have the Peace Accord. Do you hold out greater hopes for the Peace Accord and what is there in it that will deal with the problem from the ground up rather than from the top down?

VZS     Well I do hold great hope for the Peace Accord because I think much harder work has gone into it and it's broader based than before. But I also think it's just the beginning, and it's a beginning of a process of what I call marginalising the violence. I think that is necessary, it's a necessary step. The next challenge of course is exactly to get this Accord to become conventional wisdom in the rank and file of their movements or their organisations and to be accepted at the grass roots level. So what gives an additional hope for it is there is also growing evidence from within the security establishment that this thing's got to work, discussions between MK/SADF, discussion between government and MK and Inkatha and so on. There is a level at the grassroots where people are literally dead tired and fatigued of violence, so there's a receptivity there. However, I think one just gets a feeling more than anything else, that we're in a better position than we've been. Although I still maintain violence is the issue that has to be resolved.

POM     And without it being resolved you're really almost back to square one.

VZS     It's going to be very difficult.

POM     The Nedbank/Perm economic scenario presentation, I must say is one of the most pessimistic things I've looked at and listened to for a long time, calling for, saying that without three miracles economic, social and political, you can't get anywhere and even under your best circumstances you can only look for 3% growth rate, whereas you need a 5.5% one just to break even so to speak, and no country has gone from authoritarianism to democracy in the face of declining incomes.

VZS     What about Portugal?

POM     Yes what about Portugal? That's one. I don't know whether they included Germany and Japan in that too, after the Second World War. But it suggests that you must have, the economic and social transformation must precede as it were the political transformation.

VZS     I don't agree with that. I know they knocked me in that thing a bit but I think they did it in the wrong way. What I do agree is that you cannot expect to have political transition and then solve the economic crisis. But part of the political transition must be an accord on how you're going to reconstruct the economy. Now that accord does not come about through kick starts. I mean kick start is just a shorthand for saying somebody's going to kick and somebody's going to start, but who is going to do that and how do you agree to limit political action to make that possible? Now that's essentially a political problem and therefore I maintain that you've got to solve the economic reconstruction on the political level. You've got to get the politicos to sit down and say we are going for a market economy. We agree that we face serious problems, that we have certain developmental goals. We now prioritise those development goals and we go for housing first and second this and third that and now let's get going. Then I think you stand a chance. So I'm not as pessimistic as those guys are and the reason why they're pessimistic is that they haven't thought through the political consequences of their own recommendations. They simply say there must be a kick start, Oh God, there isn't anybody to give a kick start, we're in shit, and that's the end of the story. And I'm saying they end where they should begin. OK, if you need a kick start what do you do politically about it? It's the same thing with the violence issue. If you want to do something about violence you've got to get the politicos to sit down and start talking about it. But I agree with you. What I don't like about these sort of scenario things is they bring everybody in, get them on their toes and then they walk away.

POM     I want to come back to that in a moment. The National party's proposals, particularly the qualified franchise for local elections, really surprised me in the sense that the politics of it did. Were the politics of it aimed at the white community?

VZS     Yes, I think so but I think one must look at it on two levels. The one level is things that they put up there for negotiating purposes and I think trying to constitutionalise the coalition, having a presidential grouping and then municipal franchise on a proportional basis, they can't really mean that that's going to be pulled off. So in a sense very much a negotiating basis. There are fundamental democratic principles there, devolution of power, constraint from the abuse of the majority and all that. That's fair game. I think anybody who wants to bargain in this situation will have to take those issues up. That's the one level. The other level is to see the constitutional proposals also as part of an interim transitional structure because it's located on current structures. The nine regions are the nine economic development regions. So already from them you can expect people to come and make representation. The idea of a Presidential Collegiate, that you can find in an interim government where de Klerk and Mandela and Buthelezi and others will have to deal on a premium into ... basis and on consensus. So the principle of collegial decision making is locked into the interim situation. So I don't think it's all that stupid and silly. I don't think it's going to work as a final product, some of those issues will have to go, but as an interim strategy - When did you get cut off in that long ...?

POM     It was just when you were talking about interim structures.

VZS     Yes. What I was saying was that you must see the constitutional proposals as part of interim structures that are there already. If you're going to have an interim government, on that interim government you're going to have leaders of different parties, Mandela, de Klerk, Buthelezi, for example, so the principle of collegial decision making is already there. The nine economic development regions were already there so what they're doing is in a sense bargaining whilst using current structures for possible inclusion in the final product. It's that kind of thing so it's not all that stupid.

POM     Do you think they are in an invidious position in that they are being held up to a special standard in the sense that forms of democracy that are used in other countries as they invoke the Swiss model or they also invoke Australia, will be found non-acceptable in South Africa because they seem to protect white privilege or would be seen as reinforcing the status quo?

VZS     This issue of white privilege is a vexed one because as a matter of fact whatever constitutional model you're going to have, short of actually robbing whites to equalise the process, whites are going to have privilege in relation to blacks. Now I don't think there's any way in which you can give constitutional protection for maintaining unfair privilege but there's no way in which you can have a constitution that will take away whites' existing privileges. There's this kind of expectation on the part of many of the majority that if you've got one person one vote majority rule whites will no longer have privilege. That remains to be seen. Africa doesn't exactly compel one to accept that conclusion. I've never found whites as a group to be exploited or underprivileged in any other country in Africa.

POM     What I mean though is in the perceptual sense that a system that would give veto powers or some of the mechanisms that are included in the National Party's proposals which are used in other countries which we regard as being democratic and don't have any problem with calling them democratic, that the international community would have a problem with regarding them democratic in South Africa because they appear to protect whites.

VZS     No, I agree. It's not unfair to put that construction on it even though I think you can't transfer democratic models from elsewhere, holus-bolus, on to the South African situation. I mean the Swiss thing developed historically. It's not as if people got together under our circumstances and devised a constitution in a matter of days. It developed historically with their different Cantons and problems and so on. Now I don't think one can have that kind of transplant of constitutional principles on to the South African situation but I think what the government is doing is by deliberately introducing these issues on a constitutional basis, in a sense challenging its opponents and saying, well, OK, how do you deal with the fears that these issues try to address? And the ANC have accepted it. You can't just dismiss fears of the white minority, Nelson has said it a number of times. But you can't just simply say trust me and let's go for it. It doesn't work that way.

POM     I forgot one question on the economic situation and now it comes to mind. Do you see the negotiations as being on at least two tracks, one that would deal with constitutional matters broadly and the other that would lay out the broad principles that would govern the economy, some kind of broad social compact that will lay down goals that everybody agrees on and agreement on the methods that will be used to achieve those goals?

VZS     The latter is absolutely essential but I don't think we've made a hell of a lot of progress on it so far compared to the political one. But I've no doubt that as the multi-party conferences multiply and increase and people begin to focus in on developmental problems in transition that you're going to see the growth of some kind of economic accord or contract coming forward. Yes, I think so.

POM     It seems to me again that the economic scenario presentation came down more on the side of the ANC's view of how to jump start the economy in terms of talking about massive social spending for housing, 400000 units a year for five years to jump start the economy.

VZS     Although I think it's the beginning of a process of reconstruction, but housing is a difficult area because you need people who have skills to build, you need people who have collateral to buy, you need people who have the brains, or not the brains (what am I saying?) people who have the education to understand the whole question of bonds. So it's a complex process if you want to focus on housing to kick start it and therefore it involves more than just building 100 units a month or a day. It involves all those other aspects as well. That's why I think it will have to be part of a broader accord.

POM     What puzzles me is I haven't seen any clear acknowledgement of the, maybe I'm misreading the situation, the lack of resources that are there. You seem to have a white sector that is fairly highly taxed by international standards, not fairly high, highly taxed by international standards. You can eliminate waste from government duplication perhaps through the military but none of these things seem to come remotely near the quantity of resources that would be required to generate a 5% or 5.5% growth rate, never mind a larger growth rate.

VZS     Yes, sure. You see resources or funding can only come from either the economy itself and the pattern, the process of growth there or from risk capital, which seems unlikely, or from developmental capital which will come from your funding by donor agencies and so on. And that's why I have no doubt that the moment the ANC gets locked into the process of negotiating transition they will see themselves that they will have to have access to those agencies.

POM     Do you think the ANC thinks that it could win the battle but lose the war? By that I mean that if it got its own way and emerged as the majority party which could govern without forming any kind of a coalition that that might be against their own self-interest. That the first post-apartheid government in South Africa will face such horrendous problems that there's no way they can meet the expectations of the people and rather than be thrown out after their terms they say let's form a coalition and spread the blame all around so nobody can accuse us of doing a lousy job and being incompetent.

VZS     If I was the ANC the last thing I would do would be the party that wins the founding election. I'd rather go into a coalition and govern and then blame my partners and then start going for the second round because most of the research done on this area shows that the party that wins the founding election loses the next one. Precisely the problem you mentioned there. I think that some of them in the ANC are beginning to realise that, but I wouldn't say it's very widespread. I think most of them expect to govern and that there will be a lot of benefits that will flow from that almost immediately.

POM     Let us turn to the right wing for a moment. Last year you said that the CP would probably come in and that increasingly they were talking about shifting towards sacrificial partition and I talked to Treurnicht about the Koos document.

VZS     You talked to Koos didn't you?

POM     I talked to Koos too, yes. But what surprised me was that so few of the CP Party I talked to had ever seen his document. It wasn't just some kind of - for public or for distribution even within the Party. Koos seems pretty much, not very disillusioned. Do you see the CP splitting? Treurnicht I must say stunned me by his not having any vision, any strategy.

VZS     None whatsoever.

POM     Just the repetition again and again, there must be another election, there must be another election. Where are they?

VZS     You're absolutely right. He has no vision. But he also is a kind of political elastoplast. He just keeps irreconcilable elements together and that's why I think the moment he goes the whole show will split. I think they're going to split in any case because they really are very divided amongst themselves as to which way they must go. Whether they must go on the one side to more militancy which is the Ferdi option, within the CP, or whether they must go for bargaining and I think they will split in the same way eventually that the ANC is going to split.

POM     The ANC will split between?

VZS     Moderates and militants rather than communists and ANC.

POM     Militants? Why militants? In the sense of being militant for?

VZS     Radical outbidding. In other words don't compromise, don't compromise, hang in there and just keep the pressure up.

POM     You talked about the trade unions last year as having to decide whether they are inside or outside the system. Do you see them any closer to making a decision as to where they ...?

VZS     Well, those pressures have increased because you can see the kind of wage negotiations going on now, the ... Agreement, the Mining Summit which I'm chairing at the moment, there certainly is an awareness that they've got to move from an adversarial style to a more co-operative style. That's clearly being shown at the moment.

POM     Last year, just something I'm following up on last year, you talked about Mandela being avoiding taking the tough decisions. Last year you also said his performance outside of the country was very high marks but his performance internally would give him a lower grade. After a year, in another year how has he emerged? Has he put his stamp on the ANC or is he, I won't say hostage to it, but certainly subject to its Executive?

VZS     Yes. I don't think he's hostage to his Executive. I think that he's very much in his own bubble of authority and it's more a question of not having a firm preferred group of advisors. He tends to wander a bit as far as I can make out. I don't know. I think he's not much better off than he was a year ago as far as I'm concerned. I personally think, and I have enormous respect for him and what he's been through, but I personally think that he doesn't quite grasp the dynamics of what he's unleashed here.

POM     I read one report that was in a little publication called Frontline, which is one of these specialist reports on South Africa, that said that when he had been abroad the Executive had moved to assign the portfolios and reorganise the departmental structure and shift some power towards the General Secretary which he only heard of when he got back. Was that news of any importance? I guess not.

VZS     I heard that that went on and that it led to the reinstatement of Winnie and people like that. But I think they are going through some difficult internal problems there. They are going through - well on the one hand the relationship with the SACP, on the other hand do you go for militancy? How do you combine the strategy of negotiation with the strategy of mass mobilisation? Thirdly, do you go into the process and share responsibility? If you do share responsibility you have to take credit for the rain as well as for the drought. All those things are going through their minds. Somebody that I have enormous respect for and who understands the dynamics of course is Cyril Ramaphosa but he's got to deal with it on three or four different levels at the same time. But I would watch him if you want to get an indication of which way the ANC is going to move.

POM     I suppose that's what surprised me when I did talk to him, because on the one hand I found him extremely moderate but on the other hand he said that on the question of an interim government was a position which they were going to take a stand that the government had to resign.

VZS     I know, I've had it out with him as well. He said it's not going to happen.

POM     Can you just go back to a related question? Can you have successful negotiations where there's a fundamental lack of trust between the two major parties, the government in this case and the ANC? Or do you negotiate in situations, do you negotiate because you don't have trust?

VZS     I work on the assumption that you don't start negotiating from a position of trust. Trust emerges through the process of negotiation and I think that that has been shown where they have had those kind of exposures there is the beginning of some kind of trust. I really think that Mandela feels betrayed by the violence and somehow doesn't know how to come to grips with it and he feels betrayed personally by de Klerk for not being more effective in dealing with it. But again once he's voiced his anger there is really no other option but to sit down and start all over again. And that's what they're doing.

POM     Last question and thanks for the time. I've gone round the country now three or four times in the last 18 months. Among whites I hear a couple of things. One is let's just get on with it, let's get a new South Africa going, let's forget the past. But I've found among none of the people that I've talked to, whether in government or out of government, any acknowledgement that apartheid was morally wrong.

VZS     Publicly stated?

POM     Yes, or would say it even in conversation, will say, yes, it was wrong. It was wrong to the extent that this is something to which we owe the black community an apology. Do you ever see that coming or can there be reconciliation unless the legacy of the past is acknowledged and dealt with?

VZS     No. I don't personally think so but they seem to say, well the fact that we've brought about these changes is already an acknowledgement that it's been wrong. Leon Wessels, funnily enough, is the only person who stood up publicly and said so, the others haven't. They just hope the damn thing would go away. But if you talk personally and privately they all say we made a balls up of it, so I think there is a personal recognition of what has happened and what they have done but there's a reluctance to publicly admit it.

POM     Last year too you said that de Klerk hadn't adequately prepared his constituency for the consequences of what he did and I saw some polls when I was there in August, these were some polls of whites in metropolitan area which indicated that two out of three would still withhold the full franchise to blacks. Is that surprising or are whites yet accepting the consequences of what will happen?

VZS     I don't think that's all that surprising. If you look at surveys of this kind that's been done in the past, once the changes come there's a much easier acceptance of the consequences of those changes but if you ask people to intellectualise them, particularly against the background of the fears that have been generated because of what will flow from those changes, the instinctive reaction would be to resist, to say no, I don't want it. But as things move on and they happen people's attitudes change on a practical, experimental level. So I think it's going to be some time before you'll get whites simply saying yes, we accept one man one vote majority rule. They're not going to do it. But if they have a visible demonstration of blacks and whites governing together and being efficient and effective, well this could undercut their fears. On the other hand if they're not efficient and effective and it leads to scrambling and fighting then there's even less chance of them accepting the principle.

POM     Thanks very much for the time. Marcy - remember Marcy? She sends her best wishes.

VZS     Yes I remember her well. Give her my best regards.

POM     I will indeed and I hope I see you the next time.

VZS     I look forward to reading what you've written.

POM     OK. Goodbye.

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.