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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

17 Oct 1991: Boraine, Alex

Click here for more information on the Interviewee

Click here for Overview of the year

POM     Alex, this is Patrick O'Malley in Boston.

AB     I must apologise to you first thing. I'm sorry I've been so hard to get.

POM     Yes, well, important people are hard to get!

AB     Well it's been extremely difficult and tough and various things have happened, but anyway I'm very, very sorry indeed.

POM     Not at all, it's just nice to catch up with you. Essentially what I want to do is an interview by telephone rather than by person and I have my telephone hooked up to a recording machine so I can make a transcript as usual and send it on to you. What I would like to ask you first, Alex, is - or what I'd like you to do is just give me a general assessment of where you think things are at at this point in time. Are they coming together or are there still a lot of variables out there that could derail the process or are they reasonably well on track?

AB     I think that right now the central issue has clarified itself, namely that transition is about the exercise of political power. It's not about accommodation or adjustment. It's essentially about power and there are a number of illustrations of this. A lot of people, particularly whites and particularly the ruling class, if you can use that term these days, are extremely unhappy and impatient with the ANC/COSATU alliance. But what the ANC is saying to government, put quite starkly and simply is: look, you don't represent the majority, we are moving towards negotiation and if you want to make decisions that affect the lives of the majority then you must consult with us before you make those decisions. In other words they want to break down the monopoly of power which has been exercised by the state and I suppose the Peace Accord is a brilliant example of this breaking down of that monopoly of power because other actors are now involved in decisions. But the dilemma for the ANC is that they want to move, as it were, towards an interim government knowing that they have to have access to the instruments of power if they are going to be able to act. But, as I say, their dilemma is that they are very scared of being co-opted and have to be responsible for decisions which may be very unpopular amongst the majority, particularly surrounding security.

POM     Last year you said that an interim government would be a hell of a risk for the ANC.

AB     Right. I still think that but I think we are a lot closer to that even despite the risk. I think where the problem lies now is that the ANC is, perhaps deliberately so, extremely vague as to what they mean by that, to what extent are the parameters of it. The government on the other hand, their bottom line at the moment seems to be: we mustn't allow the ANC to exercise the exclusive power that we have been exercising for more than 40 years. So we've got to hedge our bets and do everything possible to make it impossible for the majority to govern. And that's the state of play. My own strong view is that I think the government accepts now that some sort of interim arrangement is on even though they will refuse to talk about interim government or surrendering of any sovereignty and so on. I think I said before, too, that it's damn difficult for the government to give on this one but I do think that they are prepared to compromise on it now. So, I would hope that the All-Party Conference would come about very, very soon so that these kinds of demands can be translated into specifics and start talking about mechanisms, options and see now close they can get to each other.

POM     When you said, Alex, that many whites are unhappy with the ANC, they are unhappy in what sense? Are they demanding too much? Getting too pushy?

AB     I think the perception is that they are being unreasonable, that de Klerk is the new sacred cow, so any kind of stand-off position with de Klerk is an unpopular one amongst a remarkable range of whites. But I think you will find that in any survey that is being conducted there is a nil factor in terms of outright support. If you were to vote tomorrow would you vote for the ANC, kind of thing? You don't have enough people saying yes to even get a percentage point.

POM     That's among whites?

AB     And I think there's a kind of a disillusionment and particularly in the economic field. I think the statements made by Mandela and Ramaphosa and Manuel and others which flirt with the nationalisation concept, which talk about a wealth tax, which demands redistribution of wealth, all these are extremely unpopular as far as the white group is concerned. They will concede that, yes, one must address the disparity but they are equally vague when it comes to specifics. So Mandela's line is, well if you don't like nationalisation, if you don't like the wealth tax, if you don't like redistribution, if you don't like this then tell me what you do like. You admit that something has to be done and therefore the discussion is everybody talking past each other and a great deal of heat and very little light.

POM     So the ANC, it appeared last year or even into 1991, had moved away from nationalisation. The word rarely cropped up in any of their documents or speeches at all. They now seem to be veering back towards that direction again?

AB     Yes. Mandela just a couple of weeks ago actually raised it as a distinct possibility in a speech which brought about all sorts of reaction. I think the ANC is often guilty of lacking specificity, they get very woolly when they discuss some of these issues and therefore they are very, very easy to be misinterpreted. Mandela is very able and very intelligent and very often extremely reasonable but I don't think he's an economist by any stretch of the imagination. I don't think he realises the loaded trigger words have for a whole lot of whites who immediately assume that he means that their house is going to be confiscated.

POM     For whites it's a code word about many other things besides just nationalisation.

AB     Right.

POM     How about the violence? Or to go back to an interim government for a moment, when I left the country in September, the ANC's position on an interim government was still hard-line that the government had to resign, cede its sovereignty and become part of an all-party government. Since, there almost seem to be no circumstances, I mean I can't think of any circumstances in which the government - can you think of any circumstances in which the government would actually resign?

AB     No, none at all. It's not on.

POM     What is the logic then of making such an extreme demand?

AB     Well if you look at the pattern it seems that the ANC have decided that they will make extreme demands as part of their negotiation policy in the hope that, knowing full well that they won't get the whole cake, but they will get far more than if they only ask for far less. Now I think that's a very dangerous tactic but so far it's worked for them. If you recall when they broke off negotiations with the government until such time as they had dealt with Vlok and Malan and the security issue and the violence and so on, certainly Malan is still in the Cabinet but he's been very severely demoted as has Vlok. They actually won that battle if one begins to assess it.

     So too with the Peace Accord. I mean the Peace Accord has given many more actors direct access to monitoring and deciding about the conduct of the Police and the Security Forces. Something which the government absolutely said no ways would they even think about it.

     So it seems that they've decided that the only language the Afrikaner Nationalist understands is tough language and that they agree amongst themselves and they are not going to get it all and they don't seem to mind people saying, well hell's teeth you really asked for this and you only got that. It doesn't seem to operate in that same sort of way which is fairly normal in politics that I've been involved in. They just say privately, no of course we don't expect him to sack Malan but the pressure is on him now and that's all we want to do. Keep the pressure on them. And they seem to, as I say, get fairly major concessions made by the state.

     There was a time when just to talk about interim government was totally, totally out of the question. Now there are a lot of commentators who are more or less predicting there will be an interim government by the middle of next year. What they mean by that of course is another thing and I don't think the ANC is too worried about it. What they are concerned about is gaining access to the instruments of power in one way or another and being consulted: you know if you want to introduce a major tax reform that may well be right but you talk to us before you do it, if you don't we'll take action, we'll even take strike action. If you want to have foreign borrowings, yes, we may need the money for growth and for job creation but you talk to us because it's our children who are going to pay for that foreign loan in years to come and you are not representative, you're illegitimate from that point of view. Now that does seem to be gaining some victories.

POM     Do you think at this point that the ANC has a clearly thought out strategy for getting where it wants to go to and that it knows where it wants to go to? Or is there still a good piece of ad hockery?

AB     I think there are too many different voices in the ANC. I think that's part of the problem. Now they could argue that that's democracy, that it's good that you don't have one monolithic power bloc but that there are a variety of voices. But that does lead to an enormous amount of apparent inefficiencies and disorganisation and lack of clarity. There have been a number of occasions where people make comments off the cuff about something that happens and the next day they are rebuked and told that they shouldn't have said that, that's just your personal view. And everybody seems to accept it in the ANC. I don't think they have a clear strategy. I think they're doing it on the run in many instances. They may well have an overall - I mean certainly their timetable this year was Peace Accord, Patriotic Front, All-Party Conference. They have been very, very clear about that and they are insistent now that the All-Party Conference should take place even this year, even though it's so late, even if it's one meeting, even if it's fairly symbolic. Now that suggests to me that they have got some projection but it's subject to all sorts of last minute change or new directions or trying to cope with so much that is happening. And the one area which they are extremely bad on is the economy.

POM     To go back for a moment, Alex, to the number of voices and disparate voices in the ANC, how would you break down those voices? Into what political categories do they fall and who speaks for what category?

AB     You've got a very strong labour lobby who have got a very clear commitment to the working class and with certain goals and objectives. They recognise that that's where their constituency lies and they are going to everything they possibly can to meet the aspirations and demands of those.

POM     Who would be the main spokesperson representing that point of view?

AB     Well you see this is very interesting. It used to be, I mean Cyril Ramaphosa was very much to the fore there and he seems to in one sense want to retain that thrust even though he's now the General Secretary and has a much wider brief and is no longer only, although that's very significant, head of a very large labour union, National Union of Mineworkers. But he's in and out on that one. I don't think he's clearly understood what his exact role is. And he's damn able and very good and very articulate so a lot of people go to him for comment on a wide variety of things and there seems to be a blurring of the job description, if you like, as to who he is and what he's doing.

     But Jay Naidoo has certainly become a much more powerful spokesperson on behalf of the Unions as General Secretary of COSATU. I think Moses Mayekiso is also very powerful in direct links with the working class and overarching that is the sort of spectre of the SACP, the South African Communist Party who obviously have very huge desires to influence working class. They very often believe that they are the ones who ought to be running that, but of course there is a clash between themselves and the Unions and sometimes an overlap and one doesn't quite know how many of the Union guys are actually speaking for the SACP or for the Unions or both. So that definitely blurs the areas and makes for different voices.

     And then you've got the diplomatic wing of the ANC which is very largely Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, Jacob Zuma, people of this calibre and who really want to placate some of the more overt fears of whites who want the ANC to be more widely based with greater commitment from so-called Coloured, Indian, and whites as well as blacks. And every now and again Mandela does a fantastic job by making a speech in Afrikaans when he visits the Stellenbosch University, or half his speech in Afrikaans and he signs the Peace Accord or comes out in favour of South Africa being accepted into the World Cricket Cup or World Cup for Cricket or something. And everybody thinks, fantastic, he can't be that bad.

     But then two days later you'll have a very tough voice coming from Chris Hani, so you've also got the military wing, if you like, of the ANC as well although that's somewhat muted at the moment. It's more of a kind of a workerist view that's coming through very powerfully. So those are just some examples of the various emphases and voices. Now I'm not suggesting that they are torn apart and they are about to collapse or break apart or whatever, but it's an uneasy ride if you like.

POM     How about the National Party? Last year you felt too that de Klerk had no ground strategy. You said he was doing it on the run. Do you think at this point they have?

AB     I think they have developed somewhat. If one looks at their constitutional proposals for example. I said earlier in this discussion that it seemed to me at least that the National Party and de Klerk were saying that whatever else happens we mustn't allow the ANC government, if you like, the government of the future, to enjoy the sort of exclusive power that we've enjoyed for more than 40 years, which is ironic in the extreme. Nevertheless, I think that that's what they are saying. Therefore, if you analyse their constitutional proposals you will see that there's an automatic coalition for example. Not a coalition which comes about because one party can't govern unless they have some partners, but almost an enforced coalition thereby diluting the power of the majority. There's the devolution of power which is good in itself but which becomes almost extreme in their system with making it very difficult for people at the centre to make any real decisions and then you've got the Upper House which of course has a strong veto power. So I think they've built that in. Their desire is, I think they accept that the ANC is going to be the majority power but they are going to do everything they possibly can to water that down so you don't have "majority rule".

     I think the other clear commitment is that they're going to try and upstage the ANC by trying to do some of the things now what the ANC government would promise to do in an election campaign, in terms of primary health care, in terms of building of houses. Now they are not altogether successful but they certainly have got all the rhetoric to try and address the aspirations of the natural constituency of the ANC, namely the vast black majority who are poor in the main.

     So I think that they have started their election campaign already. It's on and they are I think taking advantage of some of the uncertainties of and within the ANC. I think they are painting themselves as moderate, centre, reasonable and they are doing everything they possibly can to come across in the hope, still, that who knows, they may even secure support from blacks and certainly will secure support from Coloured and Indian as well as the vast majority of whites apart from the right wing as it were. They'll take the DP, I mean they've taken them already, and they've taken a lot of Coloured MPs and so on and they have very nearly got a majority in that House, although they may be unrepresentative. But I think a lot of Coloured people are scared of what they would see as the extremism of the blacks and Coloureds share the language of Afrikaans with the National Party to a large extent. Indians are notoriously nervous of black governments for good reason, for what's happened in other parts of Africa. So I think their strategy is to go as hard as they can to be on an election footing now and try to make life extremely difficult. Which is a perfectly legitimate thing to do in politics. There's nothing wrong with that at all, but I think they are using their power base which puts everybody else at a disadvantage. They can decide where the money's going to go for example.

POM     Do you think they now think in terms of - gosh, we could pull this thing off, we could get a level of support to form a coalition government with other parties, Inkatha, perhaps some of the parties that emerge out of the independent states or the homelands? Or is it a strategy based on they are going to be in opposition and they want to garnish a share of power and find a way of still having some executive role of whatever in government?

AB     My impression is that that debate is still going on in the National Party but I think that de Klerk, and those who are closest to him, have recognised that they are going to be in opposition but they want to be a formidable opposition and they want to be an opposition that has access to power in the new government. That's the impression I get. I spoke at length to de Klerk quite recently and that's while he was quite unspecific and vague and so on, on a number of issues. That's certainly the impression I came away with that they have shifted away, that he has shifted away from the idea that he can gain a majority by appealing to blacks and Coloureds and Indians and whites and becoming a kind of a centrist party. I think he still wants to be that and I think he's going to get as much support as he can but I think he seems to have accepted that the ANC will have the majority in the first election.

POM     This comes back to the question of whether this process is one involving the transfer of power or the sharing of power.

AB     It's very much the sharing of power as far as de Klerk is concerned. Whereas the ANC is still very, very determined that it's the transfer of power. And that's why there's so much struggle taking place right now I think.

POM     To go back to the question of violence for a moment. Alex, has there been any discernible change in the level of violence since the Peace Accord has gone into effect? Can there be substantive negotiations if the level of violence continues at the level it's at?

AB     Well, OK, taking the first question first. The disappointing feature of the present situation is that despite the Peace Accord there's been a great deal of loss of life and sometimes in very large numbers and 18, 22 people killed at one go. And a constant daily tally. There's not a day that goes by without 3 or 4 or 5 or 6 or more featuring in the death roll, if you like, just from Natal, or from the Transvaal or Tokoza or whatever. And accompanying that the repeated allegations of involvement by the police. Now this is a constant litany now and with far more specific reference to number plates on cars, description of cars, names of people involved and everything seems to take such an enormous long time to get anywhere. But more policemen are now being charged and more are up for very serious charges and it's become, I think, far more acceptable now that there has been some sort involvement by third force or by rogue elements or whatever and that de Klerk simply hasn't done enough to come to terms with that.

     Second, I think there's a far greater acceptance that Inkatha have played a very dominant role in the violence. That comes now from statements made by police and regular references in the newspaper that Zulus were accountable and were seen to be coming from the Inkatha Hostel. You know, things like that which before a lot of us felt and said was happening but the media generally and the business community and the police and the government were adamant in their denials as, of course, inevitably, was Inkatha.

     So I think those are some of the big changes that people are now beginning to see. I think Buthelezi has lost a lot of movement or support generally which he seemed to be able to claim for so long. But the bottom line is that the deaths go on and there's still mindless violence taking place. There are those who argue that that's all the more reason why negotiations must take place because we've got to go beyond just posturing and talking and we must sit around a table and try to work out specific and concrete plans of how to solve this thing way beyond a Peace Accord. Others of course make the point that it's impossible to have this with this continuing violence. How on earth can there be an validity to any decent negotiation, meaningful negotiation, with this constant violence? My own view is that in a strange way, despite the violence, not because of it but despite the violence, we continue to move almost inexorably to some sort of political accommodation or sorting out but that the real vexed question of poverty and economics is far more serious and of course the violence is both the product of that and the consequence of violence is greater poverty because who's going to invest their money in an unstable society?

POM     To go back to the repeated assertions that Mandela has made during the past year, and from what I gather is still making, that the government has a double agenda, the olive branch of negotiations on the one hand and the orchestration and perhaps participation in violence to undermine the ANC in the townships on the other and that Inkathagate was the final proof positive if further proof was needed that this was the case. How would you assess it?

AB     Very difficult. Certainly the Inkathagate stuff was a very sobering moment for Mandela because I think a lot of people turned to him and said there you are, we told you not to trust this guy. And I think he felt betrayed and let down on that one and he certainly has expressed that very clearly. But if you take two, three weeks ago when I saw him first and spent quite a long time with him and the same day I saw de Klerk, so it was very interesting to compare and contrast. Mandela and de Klerk had seen each other three times within five days and I've got no reason to doubt that they have seen each other a whole lot more times as well since then. There seems to be this constant coming together between the two of them for an hour or more at a time so it's not just a flippant little casual thing, it's almost every issue. They still seem to have that relationship in private. These meetings aren't publicised or broadcast. So when I asked Mandela about this he said, no, he felt that de Klerk was genuine but that he was unaware, and he's told him this, of forces within his own ranks who were seeking to wreck the negotiations and that de Klerk constantly refused to accept that or denied that this was so. So there's kind of an ambivalence there, meeting and talking and discussing and agreeing and acceding and yet this public feeling and statements that there's more to it than meets the eye. I think Mandela still believes that there are aspects at fairly high level in the security forces who are trying to control the situation and de Klerk, I think, will not accept that, but it's difficult. There are a lot of rumours that the Generals will take so much but no more and that de Klerk has to work within those parameters and he accepts that he can do a great deal and why take them on head on. But it's hard to substantiate that.

POM     What's your own personal view?

AB     I certainly think that there are clearly people within the police force, within the security forces and people who perhaps used to be there and people in the extreme right wing who may or may not be part of the security forces, who are involved in the violence. Now, whether that's a rogue element and therefore they don't have the backing of de Klerk but they hate de Klerk even more than they hate Mandela because they feel he's the arch betrayer of the white cause, I really must say that I have no doubt that that actually exists. Where I am not firm is how far that goes into the Cabinet, if at all, to what extent de Klerk is aware of that at all, whether there is a conspiracy and a group of Generals who are saying to de Klerk, so far but no further, I don't know. There are people who think that that is so but I haven't got the grounds to come out on that one. But the fact that the vast majority of people in the police force and security forces are supporters of the Conservative Party gives me cause to think that they don't like what's happening and they're going to use whatever means they can to stop it.

POM     At the time of the coup in the USSR there was speculation as to whether or not a coup could ever happen in South Africa. Can you envisage circumstances in which the security forces would simply say enough is enough, if the violence worsened and the country seemed to be heading towards chaos or the economy got worsened?

AB     I can't see it myself. I can see groups and rogue groups not quite detailing but certainly making the whole negotiation process extremely difficult and more messy than it needs to be. But I cannot see, I think it's just against the whole grain for the security forces to actually take control. I think it would be a very bloody time but that doesn't mean to say it can't happen, but I think there may come a time when they could put even more restraints on de Klerk or even arrange for de Klerk to be put on the side and bring in du Plessis or somebody who I think would be more amenable to that sort of control, but I can't see an actual coup taking place where the military takes over.

POM     You said a few moments ago that Buthelezi had lost a lot of support. Is that in Natal itself or everywhere?

AB     I think everywhere but including Natal. I think that there were people who really saw him as the kind of blue eyed boy, if you will forgive that phrase, the nicer black guy, someone you can talk to, someone who is more reasonable and he's good on sanctions and he's good on violence and he's good on armed struggle and he's a guy that whites can trust. I think that has been largely exploded. Now certainly all the polls that have been conducted indicate that there is very, very little black support outside of Natal for Buthelezi and that his support in Natal has decreased remarkably and I think it's probably one of the reasons why he becomes so difficult himself in his approach, in his demands and his statements and so on. I still don't think you can go, I mean what he's done through the violence and through the assertions he has made, he has made himself indispensable in the negotiation process and to that extent he must be regarded as having waged a very successful campaign and I think the ANC were very stupid in many respects by being very dismissive of him in those early days. But in the end I think that even de Klerk is not all that keen to go into an alliance with Buthelezi although he may still do that. I don't think it's one of the great priorities in his life any more. He finds Buthelezi very difficult.

POM     Is he seen increasingly as unstable, as being subject to whim or unreliable?

AB     Yes. There are still, I mean he seems to have more support among some whites than he has among blacks in some respects and they are the ones, of course, who are very, very opposed to Mandela and see him as somebody demanding far too much and all the rest and therefore Buthelezi is the sort of the fall-back position. They don't want to be seen to be racist therefore they are quite happy about Buthelezi. But I think deep down they feel he's someone they can control and I think they are very stupid in taking that view. But the majority in terms of media and in terms of comment and so on, there does seem to be a completely new reassessment and a feeling that this guy hasn't got it and he's not going to be this sort of black saviour that they had hoped would appear.

POM     So for an increasing part of last year the violence, the way it was reported here, was increasingly reported in terms of it being ethnic violence, of it being Zulu versus Xhosa even to the extent that The Economist about three months ago ran an editorial saying in essence the violence between Zulu and Xhosa was no different than the violence between Serb and Croatian in the sense that they were both ethnically based violence. What part does ethnicity play in the violence and how important is ethnicity overall?

AB     There can be no gainsaying that ethnicity does play a part. I think it would be very strange if it didn't bearing in mind that the government has over decades done its very best to corral people into various ethnic groups by law, whether it be ethnic universities or ethnic schools. They divided everybody into compartments and in terms of homelands and independent countries always on the basis of ethnicity. The tragedy is, of course, that very often in the urban and industrial complex this was largely forgotten about. People were working alongside each other and there was no feeling of ethnicity, there was something beyond that. Having said that, one only has to look at the fact that the real severe violence was in Natal where you had Zulu versus Zulu. The difference was that some people belonged to the Congress and some people belonged to Inkatha, so it was very much an ideological, political battleground certainly there. I think when it was imported to the Transvaal the fact that you had a lot of the hostels which were Zulu speaking and consisted of people coming into a largely residential Xhosa speaking areas you certainly had a feeling of isolation, of people being strangers and not accepted and, of course, those who wanted to use that, they had a ready made battleground. And I think they did, they used that very successfully with the results being that in many instances the Zulu versus Xhosa thing has grown and there's very considerable support for the view that the Zulus in the Transvaal are largely migrants and therefore their base is in rural Natal and that's where the heart of Inkatha lies. So I think that certainly has contributed and I think it's exacerbated and I think there are people who have tried to play that up. But I think that the example I gave of Natal suggests that really to compare South Africa with Yugoslavia is a non est.

POM     Maybe a better context might be in terms if a book recently written by a man named Donald Horowitz. Are you familiar with him?

AB     Yes. I must say I've only skimmed it through, Patrick, I don't know it well enough, I don't know the argument well enough.

POM     His essential argument is that South Africa is a classically divided society in terms of classically divided societies and ethnicity is a factor that must be taken account of in devising governance arrangements if you want to stave off the potential for conflict in the future.

AB     It's an ironic thing if one looks at central land eastern Europe where nationalisms or ethnicity is very powerful, you almost have a reverse situation here. I mean there you have a whole lot of people being forced into that union. Here you have a whole lot of people being forced out who want back in. Most of the homelands, for example, accept or have that stated. I mean Bophuthatswana is a classic example where this is not so but even there the pressure is very real, who actually want to be part of the broader South Africa. Now whether in the end you base your political system on ethnicity or on geography I'm not sure but if to exclude people or to downgrade people, I mean like the Zulu people for example, I think it would be very stupid. But one would have to be very, very careful that one just didn't consolidate strong ethnic groups thereby ensuring large scale violence and opposition. It's a tricky one and, as I say, because of the history of that being stressed so much. But there seems to be a determination not to have a kind of melting pot but to focus on issues which are broader than ethnicity itself.

POM     I want to relate that to what I would call the problem of the definition of the problem. It seems that there is no kind of common perceptual framework for defining the problem. Some say the problem is that of white domination over the majority of blacks, others say it's competition between two competing nationalisms, others say, yes you have racial differences but within the racial categories you have ethnic differences. If you had to define the nature of the problem that the negotiators will have to try to resolve when they get to the negotiating table how would you define it?

AB     It's extraordinarily difficult because none of the definitions quite fit the situation. You almost always have to add some sort of qualification to any conceptual framework that one advances. I don't think it's as simple as competing nationalisms, I really don't I think it's a much more complex obtuse arrangement than that. I certainly don't also think that it's merely a question of white minority dominating a black majority. I think that the Anti-Apartheid Movement, as it were, has united a lot of people but there are all sorts of strains and stresses becoming apparent. To name just one, the fact that the Coloured Labour Party joined the national caucus suggests that there is no longer any kind of mere black versus white but it's a question of political positions which are very much in the eye of the beholder I suppose at the moment. I think the whole economic situation is fairly dominant but that too doesn't explain all of it because you immediately now are getting the insider and the outsider which is black and black in the urban areas, the settled against the squatters and the employed against the unemployed. There are all sorts of major issues which I think are surfacing. But I suppose in the end its very much, it's difficult to know how to say this except to say, which immediately makes it very broad again, that it's a question of power, a question of one group which has taken to itself economic and social and political power and that there lies the major struggle of how you devise a way forward where there's a sharing of power which doesn't reverse the whole situation where you have a majority situation with minorities who are totally uncatered for. So I think that's going to be a major problem that's going to have to be sorted out, the nature of the political system which enables people to feel that they are part of it and are not just powerful components pushed out by a large majority, almost like a kind of a reverse situation.

POM     This is a question I should have asked you earlier and I've only got about two questions left, and thank you very much for the time, do you think that if certain proposals come from the National Party which might be regarded as being the basis for democratic structures in other countries would not be regarded as the basis for democratic structures in South Africa (a) because they come from the National Party and (b) because they might in some way stabilise the status quo?

AB     Yes, I think I have to say yes. There's an enormous legacy of distrust and the very fact that it comes from a particular source makes people biased against them and they find it very, very difficult to weigh them up purely in terms of the merit of the case, of the argument. And I think there is a desperate fear among the more articulate leadership who feel that what the whites want and what the National Party want is to change as much without changing anything and therefore they are very determined to make all sorts of demands which in private they know damn well can't be met. They know by the nature of the disease it's taken such a long time to fashion that it's going to take a hang of a long time to get rid of a lot of it. I'm thinking now in terms of the backlog in education, on housing, on health services, on job creation and so on, and economic opportunities. They know that the whole stuff is so bad that you're not going to make those changes overnight but they're not going to concede that. And when the government does come up with the ideas which really may even be quite reasonable they are going to say no we cannot accept that, we have to move beyond that. So I think that's another problem that we are going to have to wrestle with.

POM     Two last questions Alex. One, the Conservative Party, is it marginalising itself?

AB     I'm not sure that that would be the correct term right now. I think that they are in trouble. I think there's a great deal of internal debate as to the risk of marginalisation and I think that's an ongoing discussion right now. But if you look at the results of by-elections, of Council elections and so on, even in Durban yesterday you had an English speaking white person securing a seat in the Durban City Council on a Conservative Party ticket and he was a known AWB member who said he's resigned from the AWB because of business commitments. He didn't say it was because he didn't like them at all! But he's a known Conservative Party member and he's just won that election against the National Party. The by-election inn Port Elizabeth just recently, there was an alliance between the Democratic Party and the National Party and despite that alliance the Conservative Party won the seat. It's highly probable that the Minister who has now resigned and his seat is vacant in Virginia, parliamentary seat, that this will be won by the Conservative Party. So whilst there is some disquiet, whilst there is some wondering, shouldn't there be some sort of negotiation even on the whole question of self-determination and the like and a bit of worry about the extreme right getting too much influence in the Conservative Party. I think they're still growing in support.

POM     Final question, the PAC. Where does it stand and is it willing to become part of an all-party conference?

AB     They are extremely ambivalent. They are almost worse off than the ANC in terms of different voices saying different things at different times. I think they lack a strong leader. I think that Mandela, whatever his weaknesses might be, is very much, very able and very articulate and forceful whereas President Makwetu, of the PAC is very slow and very old-worldly and they don't seem to have the cohesion and I think they've got a lot of ghosts which they have to lay. The whole 'one settler one bullet' still pops up every now and again and they don't seem to know how to get rid of it. My guess is that the ANC are hoping that the conference which takes place in about two weeks time, that they are going to influence the PAC to go along with the all-party conference and I think the PAC are willing to do that and I think the face-saving device will be that we are going there in order to ensure that there's a Constituent Assembly. So my guess is that you may well find the PAC at the all-party conference.

POM     And finally, is the Communist Party becoming an albatross around the ANC's neck?

AB     I think they certainly were that. There does seem now to be some acceptance that they have to start parting company. They are making all sorts of noises about - I mean the Communist Party is more or less saying we have to have our own position, we have to have our own leaders and so on. They've got their big conference in December which will make the difference a little more than is apparent, but it's still a very real problem because so many of the executive are members of both ANC and SACP. So it's a very tricky one that one. I think it would make an awful lot of sense for the ANC to get rid of that, either that albatross or that millstone or whatever one wants to call it, particularly in electoral politics but my guess is that the SACP finds it convenient to be in the ANC's slipstream.

POM     Because they get to exercise far more power by being part of it than if they were under their influence?

AB     Their influence.

POM     Alex, thanks ever so much, I really appreciate the time.

AB     It's been so long in coming.

POM     I'll have this transcribed. You did get your last transcript?

AB     Yes and I felt that there were no significant things that I wanted changed.

POM     OK. I'll do all the grammatical element and that stuff.

AB     So you'll send me a transcript of this one as well.

POM     Yes. It might take about four or five months. It takes a long time to get them done.

AB     Fair enough. I'll really try and get them back to you straight away.

POM     Thanks Alex. Bye bye now.

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.