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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
18 Oct 1991: Wessels, Leon
LW Mr O'Malley?
POM Yes Mr Wessels, how are you? Thank you for re-doing part of this again. I really apologise for the malfunction in my tape.
LW Well Mr Chris Botha has more sympathy with you than I have and he actually pressurised me into this few minutes I hope.
POM I see, I appreciate it. Let me start.
LW Can we just set a time? How much time do we need?
POM Well you tell me how much you can give me and really that's my luck.
LW Well I will appreciate it if we are definitely not longer than 15 minutes.
POM Yes. After the shooting dead of 18 mourners at the funeral of a well known member of the ANC at Thokoza last week, Mr. Mandela said Mr. de Klerk had "let loose his hands of war against the people". It seemed to be a very inauspicious beginning for the Peace Accord and if the Peace Accord, you had talked about it as a confidence building measure, if the Peace Accord does not bring the violence under control, if the ANC ...
LW The Peace Accord committees and secretariats have not even been set up so it's completely wrong to infer that the Peace Accord is not working. The Judicial Commission that has to be set up in terms of legislation and the Peace Accord have not even been appointed yet. The Peace Accord defines rules of how you go about setting up the secretariat and that particular commission and that is the process everybody is busy with and so I think it's grossly unfair to conclude that the Peace Accord is not working.
POM No, I didn't say that, I just said it had gotten off to a rather inauspicious start. My question would be that if the Peace Accord ...
LW A very fine start I would say.
POM A fine start, but if the Peace Accord does not bring the violence under control and if the ANC persists in charging the government with a double agenda, my question is can substantive peace talks take place even in that atmosphere?
LW Well the thing is, you know, those are matters that look differently when one sits around a discussion forum and listens to accusations and return accusations because we have claimed, we have said that the ANC have not fulfilled all their obligations in terms of the Groote Schuur Minute, the Pretoria Minute, in particular the Pretoria Minute and the DF Malan Agreement, so it's a matter of where you have violence you have accusations, counter accusations and in spite of all these positions taking place there as reflected in our press today, and for the record that there were discussions yesterday between the ANC and the government setting up the arrangements for the multi-party conference. So things are difficult but they're not hopeless.
POM A few weeks ago again, Mr. Mandela, after the better part of a year, has side-stepped the use of the word 'nationalisation' which appeared to have more or less disappeared from the ANC verbal agenda, once again he brought the matter up and it kind of opened up a can of worms. You said a year ago that "we need agreement on basic economic principles before" - again in the matter of negotiations, how apart are the government and the ANC on the question of economic principles?
LW How far are we from each other? I'm sorry, how - what's that again?
POM How far apart are the ANC on ...?
LW Oh I think there's quite a distance simply because we look after different constituencies. The one looks after the, predominantly takes care of the plight of the poor without carrying the responsibility of delivering the promises and the goods. The other one predominantly looks after the interests of people who have vested rights and therefore cannot just idly make promises because they know they have to deliver the goods. So when Mr. Mandela was confronted with his statements he did retract in subsequent statements by merely reiterating his previous position, namely that they are not married to nationalisation, they don't regard it as an ideology and they are open to be persuaded. So I think this sort of debate will be continued. If you look at the situation of sanctions, Mr. Mandela only yesterday conceded that sanctions have hurt the people in this country and he was therefore keen that sanctions should be lifted quickly and to a certain extent advanced the argument of lifting the people to people sanctions. So there's a lot of ambiguity in these statements which one cannot make and get away with if you sit around a negotiating table.
POM Do you think it might be far more difficult to get agreement on these basic economic principles than it might be to get agreement on political structures?
LW I think you're right. Simply because the constitutional debate has been going on for years now one way or the other. It may have been a debate in isolation, in other words constitutional experts from the government, political parties, movements have been going on. People have studied constitutional possibility structures for a long, long time. So it has become a very sophisticated debate amongst technocrats and amongst specialists. Whilst economic debate on the other hand is a very, very emotional debate and each and everybody has an opinion about that, if he has a house he has a statement that he'd like to make, if he does not have a house he also has a statement, if he has a job he has a statement to make. In other words people are more knowledgeable about economic events. They go around the corner and buy bread and they buy milk, etc. They know what the price is, they know they can afford it or they cannot afford it. So they may not be able to engage in the sophisticated economic debate, whether this is now second or third generation or second generation economic rights they're talking about, they may not know much about inflation rates, etc., but they have an opinion about the economy. Now, therefore, I think it will be very time consuming to resolve those issues.
POM Now your portfolio includes addressing housing backlogs. Is that correct?
LW That is amongst others what I'm doing.
POM Yes, amongst others. Now almost all projections are of the housing shortage. What I've seen doesn't suggest that the capacity goes to meet the need. Meanwhile you have townships without basic infrastructures, things like electricity, 4 million shack dwellers. Can you come up with a viable housing programme that will meet the expectations of the black community or do your work?
LW I must say to you today, no I cannot, and I cannot simply because I don't have the answers, yet. The task is quite a daunting one and so what we are now trying to do is get a process in motion where we not only understand what the difficulties are but also involve people from all walks of life who could possibly contribute to that. It will not be solved, I believe, unless you have a sort of national commitment from people to solve it. In other words it's no use for the government sitting in isolation and thinking as I'm sitting now behind my desk, I'm saying well we ought to do A, B and C. We need to involve not only government resources, private resources, the shack dweller so to speak, the people of this country, no matter where they live where they reside, to really make a meaningful impact to that.
POM I was just going to ask you that. Do you, when you were designing these programmes, do you bring in the ANC, consult the ANC, try to get a feeling from them of the difference between the expectations of their communities and the reasonable demand that can be met?
LW The answer is, in principle, yes. The practicalities are however a problem. I am not so sure that it can be overcome overnight. A lot of mistrust, a lot of fragmentations have to be bridged in order to achieve the principle aim that, but we are working on that problem.
POM Do you get the feeling, say, for example, that the ANC are sensitive to the fact that the expectations in the black community may be exceedingly out of line with any capacity to address the problem?
LW The difficulty with them is that in private there is a lot of wisdom, a lot of understanding. However, when you move out into the public eye their emotions are quite high and it's not so difficult to sort of keep to the statements you made in private to keep them in public. It's not a matter of a public and a private morality, so to speak, or private views, it's a matter of settling down. I don't think they have really settled down with regard to all these issues. If they don't have a clear direction and because they don't have a clear direction they could be swayed in one or the other direction. So, yes, I do understand when we talk quietly but the rhetoric is something different.
POM And the ANC still continues, at least at the moment, to say that the government is behind the violence. What is your analysis of what the continuing violence is due to? Is it tribal? Is it rogue elements in the security forces? Is their a third force operating on behalf of some unnamed right wing interests? Is it a combination of things?
LW I would just like to get away by saying it is a combination of things and it's very frustrating at the moment. It certainly does not serve this country well at the moment. Not being directly involved I do not exactly know how you arrest those suspicions, but the fact of the matter is it's in the rhetoric as well as the actions are causing a lot of mistrust and we simply have to nip it in the bud.
POM Do you think there's an acceptance by the government at this point that there are rogue elements in the security forces that could be contributing?
LW No I don't, I would hesitate to say yes. I would hesitate to say yes, I don't believe, no. One is suspicious about it but there's not an acceptance of the fact if I can qualify it like that. There's a suspicion but there's no acceptance and nobody concedes the point that that is happening.
POM Is it a matter ...?
LW Mr O'Malley I promise to give you more time when you come back.
POM OK. I will be back in January and maybe I can make an appointment to see you when I'm back then. Will you be around?
LW Chris Botha is very sympathetic.
POM Well I hope to see you in January. Thanks a lot.