This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
13 Jul 1992: Cronin, Jeremy
OM Jeremy, when we started I was telling you that after 18 months of trying I did manage to interview Joe Slovo last April and in the course of the interview and in answer to a question he said that if anyone had told him two years ago that things would be as advanced as they were then that he would have been surprised. What's your interpretation of what's happened since then and how specifically would you analyse the causes of the breakdown that has happened in CODESA and why has it happened?
JC Well first of all we're blaming the regime, which will come as no surprise to you, for the breakdown. We think that's at the root of the present impasse at the negotiations and essentially we think it's a stall on their side rather more than an absolute breakdown. I was in one of the CODESA working groups, the one that was dealing with interim governmental arrangements and in that particular working group about six weeks before the plenary CODESA 2 at which the deadlock finally happened, they had begun to caucus their allies in our working group but one of their allies was an unreliable ally so we got to hear. And they were saying, look this is just going too fast and we need a six months breathing space. It's all too fast, all too quick. The unreliable ally is unreliable in every sense of the word so we weren't sure whether that was an accurate reflection or just disinformation but then many other things began to point in the direction of the fact that the government was going to find one or another technicality to stop the process for the while, to put it on freeze.
And my interpretation, which is one that I share with others, is I think that primarily the reason for the delay is that they want time to run a recruiting and election campaign to the black constituency. They don't want to face elections as a National Party and emerge from those elections as a white party. They want to be credible. They want to look as a credible, moderate force, a non-racial force, and to do that they need to run such a campaign. They are nervous of doing it without their continued control, for instance, of the South African Broadcasting Corporation, television in particular. As you know there's a monopoly on news by the one government controlled broadcaster essentially at the level of television. And many other things. They want unilateral control of the security forces and so on. So what we were very close to reaching agreement on a phase 1 set of multi-party transitional controls over television, public broadcasting more broadly, security forces and so forth and that was coming too quickly for them in terms of their game plan.
A second possible factor for the delay are the elections in Angola which are forthcoming at the end of September. I don't think that's as significant a factor for them but, again, I don't think they were over-anxious to have multi-party control however tenuous it might be. And I'm not one of those who have utopian aspirations about how much control we will get in a phase 1 transitional government. But none the less I don't think they wanted too much multi-party supervision of their security forces prior to the elections in Angola. They've got quite a large operation going in Angola which is a pro-Savimbi operation. There's a Hercules transport aircraft that is flying him around on his election campaign and so on. It's owned by a South African company, so it's not a South African Air Force Hercules transport but nonetheless there's a whole operation as we've known, as there was in Namibia.
And I think perhaps the third fact is they didn't do as well at CODESA as they had hoped themselves, paradoxically because when the PAC, for instance, says, and others who are not on the left, who haven't come into CODESA, say that it's a flawed entity of the nineteen organisations represented there, only three are not of the apartheid government or creations of the tricameral, racial parliament or of Bantustan structures. The PAC is absolutely right when it says that.
POM When you said they didn't do as well as they supposed they would, in what sense do you mean?
JC Well I think that you've got this rather non-representative structure, CODESA, where we are all represented equally but where we all certainly don't represent equal forces and equal support on the ground. And I think the government hoped to win lots of allies there and to be able to steamroller their particular agenda for transition through CODESA. And that didn't happen so that at CODESA 2 what was being debated, the framework that was being debated, was the ANC alliance framework. It was the one that had emerged out of the Harare Declaration, refined and so forth but it was essentially that perspective. So Inkatha, the Democratic Party, the government/National Party had all tabled scenarios for transition into CODESA and all of those had been swept aside or ignored and what became the hegemonic scenario was the ANC alliance.
POM Just on a technical point, within your working group, like with nineteen different organisations represented, as you said, all with not equal constituencies, what was the basis for decision making?
JC Well CODESA operated with what it vaguely called "sufficient consensus".
POM Which was defined as?
JC The indefinable. Because essentially CODESA was a duet disguised as something more than a duet. The reality of it is that the government and the ANC are the two forces and parallel with CODESA there were continuing bilaterals between senior ANC negotiators and government negotiators and nothing could happen really at CODESA unless there were agreements outside of CODESA at the bilateral level.
POM I suppose what I'm asking then is how did the government's agenda, having it swept aside and just the ANC of the alliance's agenda be the driving force, if it had this, in a way, blocking power because ...?
JC Well I think it had to do with their ineptitude in this kind of a negotiation, what they're very good at and I think that in the first two years after February 2nd, 1990, if anything they outmanoeuvred the ANC in the talks about talks process because those were closed, tight, diplomatic style bilaterals, Groote Schuur, Pretoria, D F Malan, each produced their Minutes, but it was their word against our word so to speak as to what had happened there, what the meaning of them was. And I think de Klerk actually did rather better than we did.
CODESA was different, you see they had, of course, accumulated a lot of experience of tight, diplomatic type bargaining from Namibia, the Angolan process, they were quite tightly involved in the Zimbabwe/Rhodesia process as well, so they were very adept at that and also of course they've got state power so the kind of negotiation that suits them best is the kind of poker game negotiations. You put a card down on the table but nobody knows if that is your real card or a dummy card and then you've got several up your sleeve and you play one, then the next and you keep the other side off balance in that way. And that works very well in that tight kind of tight situation but when you've got nineteen parties in something that's a bit like a hung parliament, which is what CODESA was, and it's all about winning friends and influencing potential allies, the style of operation needs to be different actually. And for the ANC alliance, as much as we might want to negotiate with Inkatha, we can't do that because the one power, the one strength that we bring to the negotiating table is mass support and we don't have an army or a police force to speak of, but we do have mass support. That means that we've got to be very transparent in negotiations. We've got to say in the weeks before CODESA 2: this is what we are demanding, to rally after rally. And so everyone knows what we're coming with and that's a disadvantage in one sense but curiously in the kind of give and take world of multi-party arrangements, which is what CODESA was, it became an advantage. Their own allies, who are also very keen to show that they are not just puppets, were just as unsure as we were as to which card was going to come out the sleeve next. So that was one reason.
The other reason is plainly, I think our demands are very reasonable ones, we are asking for a Constituent Assembly which is democratically elected, which operates on a two thirds basis, where there's proportional representation and so on, so it's very far from a winner takes all proposal. I think for those reasons as well whereas their, partly because they were forced into our scenario rather than we being forced into theirs, it meant that they were trying to sabotage, undermine, curtail our democratic scenario and that also put them off balance. So for a combination of reasons, both style of negotiations, the kind of thing that CODESA was, as well as I think at the end of the day they are trying to constitutionally hold on to power for themselves, to guarantee that if losers don't take all at least losers take quite a bit still and that that gets constitutionally entrenched. That's their game plan. It's not a very strong wicket, sort of angle to be coming in on. So for all of those reasons I think that we were going forward at CODESA and they were not.
POM Just to clarify one point. I'll get back to the constitutional proposals later. You were saying because of their particular style of negotiation, the poker card style, you put a card down, you don't know whether it's the real card or whether there's another one up their sleeve, but that in effect worked against them with their own allies as their own allies didn't quite know also if the government put down a card if it was the real card, so their own allies were mistrustful, a little bit alienated, put off a bit, therefore not fully with the government because they never knew quite what the government was up to.
JC I think that was part of the thing. Also there's just the sheer incompetence of their allies, most of them are real creatures of apartheid. Inkatha is the one major and obvious exception. It's a real formation with a real constituency desperate to show its independence from the government but also lacking in cadreship. That's been the interesting thing, I don't know if I mentioned it?
POM Lacking in?
JC In depth of cadreship within Inkatha. That was an experience we had in the National Peace Accord process and it was again repeated at CODESA. They were flying in American constitutional experts and employed a whole lot of lawyers to be their negotiators at CODESA and so it was people who had no knowledge or experience of the particular situation. In fact there was one particular shyster, American shyster, the American Embassy was giving us lovely gossip about this guy, he was charging them $30 000-00 a day or something and he then presented his bill to the American Embassy. He claimed that he had advised Yeltsin and a variety of others, and you can't parachute him like the US Cavalry and negotiate. So there were other reasons as well for the weakness of their allies or potential allies.
POM Just very much as an aside, within your own working group who impressed you?
JC Well I think that the government has shrewd and sharp negotiators. They are relatively impressive and there were two working groups which were key ones. Probably the most important one was Working Group 2 which had to do with what makes the constitution, the constitution making body. And probably the second most important was the one in which I was involved which was the interim government one. So they had their second most important people, Dawie de Villiers represented the National Party there and originally it was Barend du Plessis who was representing government. They had two delegations. They said, well, the ANC and the SACP aren't really separate but we'll let you have two delegations but in exchange we're having a National Party and a government delegation. But in practice of course they said nothing different. Roelf Meyer was also representing government and there certainly are differences, and then somebody called Fanie van der Merwe who is probably the key person of all in their negotiation process. He's a bureaucrat, not an elected National Party person, but increasingly it's obvious that he, his name is Fanie but his initials are S.S., Stephanus therefore Fanie. He's probably de Klerk's man within the CODESA negotiation process and certainly from the bilaterals he would speak over senior Ministers like de Villiers. So they were impressive, but not that impressive. I don't think they did as well as they could have or should have and part of the problem was du Plessis who certainly was not impressive. He was busy cracking up and eventually as you know he resigned as a result of pressures, not least pressures out of CODESA itself and he kept exploding and having emotional outbursts which certainly helped to damage their case.
POM When you say they weren't doing as well as they thought they would and yet when you look back and see that the alliance were prepared to give the government a 75% veto threshold on a Bill of Rights and a 70% veto threshold over provisions for the constitution, it must seem to many activists, particularly within your own organisation, that you guys are selling out, particularly I suppose with regard to the Bill of Rights. What kind of feedback were you getting from the grass roots in your own organisation when these kinds of figures became public knowledge, that you were prepared to go that far?
JC In a word, outrage. People were outraged by that. I think tactically the offers were made partly in a circumstance where we were pretty sure that they were going to pursue deadlock, they were going to drive the process into a deadlock at that point in time.
POM That was a very risky strategy. If they had said yes?
JC Personally I don't think that those figures are critical. I mean that's how they were read in our ranks, there was outrage that we should go up to 70% in particular for the general constitution proposals. I didn't think that the difference between 662/3% and 70% is that enormous and what was much more important was to try to get a Constituent Assembly that was democratically elected. I personally don't think the ANC alliance is going to get 662/3% or 70% for that matter.
POM In a way the government blew the best offer it would ever get?
JC Absolutely. And I think that, therefore, risky as it might have been, although I don't think it was that enormous a risk because they were looking for any kind of technical reason to deadlock, I mean it underlined the point that I've been making, that basically they weren't looking for a democratic solution and a reasonable one. So we said that was what unions describe as a negotiation offer, but it was a once off. We're back to 662/3% and I think we should stick there and certainly, personally, I would say that we underrated the outrage that would be felt within our ranks over going up that high.
POM I know this is speculation, but if the government had said, fine we accept, now they're prepared to say we'll accept 70%, would the reaction within the alliance at the activist level, at the grassroots level, have been such as to pose serious problems for the leadership, particularly among young people in say the townships?
JC Yes. I personally think it was a combination of a number of things that led to the outrage. It was the combination of going to 70% and 75% and deadlocking, [whereas if there had been,] the people felt that the ANC alliance leadership had been preoccupied with CODESA and CODESA has produced nothing. I know that that was a feeling that had been simmering and once there was a deadlock there was a sense of - what have we been doing, to hell with negotiations. That's a very common feeling now. But then also I don't think that the ANC in particular gave sufficient attention to other things, mass mobilisation, mass organisation in the period of CODESA.
What the ANC in my view was very good about was that it was meticulously, although you will hear from the grassroots and so on that there's never enough information and the information is often far too technical for people to understand, all the complexities of phase 1 and phase 2 and so on, but I think generally the ANC did exceptionally well in terms of trying to keep its constituency informed and its alliance partners informed. We had weekly meetings. Every bilateral that they had with the government we were informed of before and after and so on. So they were meticulous at that level of reporting. Of course things often break down between information flowing from a head office through to a region through to a district and a branch. So there was an enormous weight of information coming around CODESA from head office so if you went into an ANC branch the agenda would be, report back from CODESA and that would take most of the branch's time. The poor comrades in the township would sit through a long, complex report about multi-party supervision and whatever. It began also to seem that the ANC was about negotiations partly because they were trying to be meticulous about reporting and not enough was being done by way of campaigning around other issues, electricity, housing, rents, whatever.
And I think that is something the ANC alliance is beginning to try to correct, so in the current wave of mass action that we're mounting we're saying, and I hope we get it right but maybe we won't, is that there are two prongs to this programme of mass action which is currently running. The one prong is CODESA directed. It's saying we want elections for a Constituent Assembly by the end of the year. We want as soon as possible some kind of interim government in place to level the playing fields, to make elections possible and so on. So there is that, but the other prong is what we're calling a rolling wave of mass action and in essence what we're trying to say is mass struggle is not something that you turn off and on like a tap because you happen to have deadlocked at CODESA, for instance, or you happen to be going into elections, for instance. That the whole process of transformation, transition, which is a long haul process confronting us is one that has to be powered from the base by mass struggle, mass organisation. The mass struggle is the marches and whatever but it's also just the condition of people trying to survive in a township and the ANC needs to be there providing leadership and direction.
POM Now you wrote a paper on this which I will get back to, the last issue of the Weekly Mail, the first thing we grabbed yesterday, the first thing we read was your article.
JC Yes, that's a central theme.
POM When you say there's two prongs to mass action, is that the SACP strategy or is that the ANC strategy?
JC It's a tripartite alliance strategy, those two prongs. So in other words we've got a tripartite campaign committee plus a broader tripartite and other formations forum which has been meeting frequently in this period, and that kind of strategy is one that has been elaborated both within the head office type committee as well as broader, so it's not just SACP. But it underlines strategic assumptions are ones which we are contesting within ANC, SACP and so on. There's a real debate on at the moment. Everyone agrees, not everyone, but by and large people agree that we shouldn't go back to CODESA now and by and large everyone agrees that mass action is required but how you understand that mass action, whether it's just on for the moment in order to be turned off somewhere along the line or whether it's something different, that's all part of a strategic debate. [which is obviously a debate within which I wasn't too ...]
POM But that debate has not yet been resolved. You talked about the boat people who would be like the Thabo's.
JC I wouldn't identify names, but yes.
POM But you believe that the process should be about pacts between elites?
JC Elite negotiation.
POM Then you have the tap people who would be, you turn it on you turn it off, you use it as an adjunct to negotiations. Then you've got the model which is people take to the streets.
JC I've changed my mind a little bit since the paper, maybe we can talk about that too.
POM Let me get back to that. Again, what I don't understand is the 75%. I can kind of rationalise the 70% threshold on the constitution, but the 75% on the Bill of Rights I don't understand for a couple of reasons. One is that, again, most polling information, survey information available and this must include your own, showed that the government and its allies could command 25% in an election, maybe not 30%, maybe close to it but it could get 25%, and by giving it a 25% veto power in a Bill of Rights you were effectively allowing them to rule out most second generation rights which have been germane to this whole struggle, right back to the freedom charter, a part of what this struggle has been all about, affordable housing, health care, jobs. Rights, not something you are maybe entitled to or permitted to get and suddenly it's as though you are saying, fine, from within your own organisation first as distinct from, and it is difficult to separate it from the alliance and yet there are differences so there must have been different kinds of debates taking place.
JC I think, I was looking at what I said, one's always shocked at what bad syntax one speaks in.
POM Don't worry about that. Everyone is shocked. Everyone turns out to be the very same.
JC I'm well aware of it from previous experience as well, what bad syntax one speaks. But apart from that the one substantial thing where I would be a little bit different I think, because you were actually pursuing this issue in the last interview and that was around how much I would like to see in a constitution. I think now I would correct that. I think if we have a broadly democratic constitution that's great. Whether one gets second generation rights and so on that would be lovely but I don't really think that is the crux of the issue. If we have a democratic constitution and a Bill of Rights which are not a hindrance to achieving second generation rights maybe that's more important than sticking in a negotiation process for another four or five years and allowing de Klerk to continue to rule the country unimpeded. So if one is sacrificing in one direction rather than another then maybe its speed of process, its getting elections because to have elections in which maybe they win 25% or 27% and in which the ANC does pretty well but maybe doesn't get even two thirds will change the whole balance of forces and the whole framework in which we are operating and will actually give our people also a real victory to chew on, if you like, will empower them at that level although heaven knows empowerment is going to be a long and complex process. So I think that's the first consideration which is a tactical one.
POM Which is why getting elections speedily became more of a consideration than whether or not there should be second generation rights in a Bill of Rights.
JC Secondly, one wants to move into a governable and not ungovernable situation and what we were also saying by going very high in terms of the special majority required for a Bill of Rights was we wanted a South African Bill of Rights, we don't want an ANC Bill of Rights. Now you keep saying that we are into the business of majority takes all and so on, that isn't what we're about and least of all that's what we're about when it comes to something like a Bill of Rights which must be something that enjoys consensus. So we were narrowly into the polling, what have they got? 26%? OK we can afford to go up to 74% but not 75%. We were really not trying to be mercenary about that. That was the message we were trying to signal.
Maybe that touches on the wider process, and it's part of the debate that we're trying to open up within our ranks. What do we mean by transfer of power? Maybe that isn't even a very good word. At what point does it happen? We had a Party workshop not so long ago and we asked the commission to debate that and the commission came back and said, well the transfer of power happens when there are elections, non-racial, etc., and the ANC wins. But if the ANC doesn't win it doesn't mean a transfer of power. It reminds one of Brecht. The strangest thing about is that if people don't approve of the government one has to dissolve the people and find another. Yes, the transfer of power is complex. It's not a Constituent Assembly, it's not even a new constitution because, as I said I think in the last interview, there are these enormous undigested realities like 'their army', 'their bureaucracy', which any future government will inherit. And therefore what one is really looking to is platforms for advancement.
So there will be breaks, ruptures if you like, so it's not a process of smooth evolution, but nor is it a cataclysmic revolution on ten heroic days that shake the world or whatever. And I think that should govern that kind of - we want the maximum out of the situation, but the maximum possible and the maximum that is defendable as well and that orientation would inform me on something like a Bill of Rights. I'd like a Bill of Rights which extends very deeply into second generation, but above all I want a Bill of Rights now, as soon as possible, as a platform for carrying forward the democratisation process. It's a blend of we're not giving up on our principles but we also want movement.
POM I'll come back to this transfer of power issue in a moment but we've just got one last issue on the initial proposals that have been on offer. Would you have had trouble selling these proposals to your constituency?
JC In retrospect? I think to an extent but I don't think if there had not been the deadlock, I don't think that there would have been enormous problems. There would have been a problem I'm sure, I don't underrate that. It's hard to be very sure and I certainly, personally, underrated the kind of outrage which I also think had to do less with moving from 662/3% to 70% and more to do with the totality, I mean the frustration. We're getting killed in the townships, the low intensity warfare continues and you're negotiating and what have you got to show for the negotiations? And so people got to become focused on a sort of 3.3 descent augmentation on an original offer which I think is to misplace the thing.
POM But in retrospect too you would say that the government blew it? That this was the best deal they could have ever gotten and they will not get a deal similar to it in the future?
JC Yes, arguably. Arguably it's the best deal they are going to get. However, let's see in three or four months. Someone is going to have to blink now over the next couple of months and in retrospect they won't have blown it if it's us that blink, if we go back tails between our legs to the negotiating process because in my view the gravitational pull of negotiations is so strong in this current situation that sooner or later we will be back there, whether it's CODESA or in some reformulated arrangement and there's a real struggle for high ground now.
I think de Klerk blew it more seriously around Boipatong. He blew it, in my view, somewhat at CODESA 2 but we also let him slip off the hook. I thought that we did well on the first of the two days of CODESA 2 where essentially we were saying, they are blocking, they are the ones and so forth. But on the second day, particularly Mandela in my view and we've said this publicly, went into this sort of one of two wise men in the situation. He had two speeches in the course of the second day and the first was a fairly militant and good speech, a fairly militant and hard hitting speech. But the second one, he actually said at one point, "I go away with fond memories of CODESA 2 as I fly out of the country", and so on. And that was entirely wrong and it sent completely incorrect signals all around. I don't think undue damage was done because there was the diplomatic corps, a wide range of forces continued to say what you're saying; they blew it, the government, they were the ones that blocked it and we were the ones that were being excessively generous in terms of our original offers and in terms of our constituency.
But we did blow it a little bit I think through the ANC, but more seriously he blew it over Boipatong because his game plan then was, OK we're deadlocked and we'll do what we've fairly successfully done over the previous two years and that is that we pose ourselves as being the reasonable ones, the ones that are anxious to get back to negotiations and so forth and it's the ANC and their allies with their campaign of mass action that are stalling, that are not serious about negotiations, that are rocking the boat. He was out of the country, in Japan, in the week before we launched our campaign of mass action on June 16th, and journalists on the trip with him were saying, oh you guys are going to get really hammered, he's got a plan, you're going to come out really bloodied from your mass action.
POM Journalists were telling you this?
JC Yes, and he was more or less saying that as well. He said, "Don't worry, we'll handle it, we've got a plan", and so on. And the plan was played, if you like, the five cards in the plan were played out around Boipatong, but all too transparently.
POM They were?
JC Well, one, you go to Ulundi. On June 16th we launch our campaign, June 16th of course is a very emotional day. De Klerk chooses to go to Ulundi for only the second time in recent history, possibly only the second time ever. The last time he went was last year and two days later there was a very similar massacre, Swanieville at which some twenty odd people were killed in very similar circumstances, hostel dwellers marched on a squatter camp, were escorted in and out by the police and so on, and he got away with it. To this day there have been no arrests and there was no public outcry. I'm not saying de Klerk went to Ulundi and planned Boipatong. He clearly didn't. But what he did do was send a signal to every Impi, warlord, hit squad or whatever that the hunting season is on again. On June 17th the predictable happened, Boipatong.
On June 18th the South African Police blamed the ANC's campaign of mass action for Boipatong, that's the third card if you like. Well the third card really was allowing black on black violence but behind the third card is the fourth card which is the special forces, the low intensity war and so forth and they clearly were involved in it in ways that we hope to prove. And the fifth card was the one that he then played on June 20th. He went into Boipatong as the moderator, tears running down his cheeks for the victims of the massacre. Sorry, also related to June 20th, it was on June 18th at the same time that they were blaming the ANC for the massacre at Boipatong the National Party announced the launching of its recruitment campaign into black areas.
So there you had the whole game plan, but all too transparent and all too bound together in time and just the scale of the massacre was unpalatable. But if ten people had been killed at Boipatong and if none of those ten people had been pregnant women or a nine-month old child it would have passed more or less unnoticed in my view, recorded and then - you know. And he might still pull it off. He blundered badly around that period but the game plan remains in place in my view and it's, OK let them do their damnedest with their mass action. We will ensure that faithlessly as possible that chaos ensues, that there's terrible destabilisation of townships, that there's an endless cycle of what appears to be black on black violence and at the end of the day, at the end of the campaign of mass action people will be turning to de Klerk as a saviour, as a man of moderation and we'll get back to negotiations but more on my terms. So he may or may not have blundered at CODESA, I mean there was a tactical blunder I think at CODESA 2 and there was an even more serious blunder at Boipatong. But whether those blunders in the medium term will have a lot to do with how we get our act together and whether we allow him to get his act together over this period.
POM Last week The Economist ran, they regularly do a piece on South Africa and it was called "The demonisation of de Klerk" and it says how the alliance was very specifically targeting de Klerk as the person behind the violence. Is this again a part of the strategy to counteract his strategy where he - I know blacks in townships who would regard themselves as being ANC supporters who refer to 'Comrade de Klerk' as being part of a strategy on your part to break that association in people's mind.
JC Yes, but hopefully it's not just a cynical strategy. I think there's a large measure of truth in it but certainly it is that and I think that would have been part, if you see my paper, the tap and boat and whatever, you will see that that also accounts for the problem that you've also been referring to around constituency support for the negotiations process because I think in 1990, through the ANC leadership, what was being said was, we are negotiating the course, F W de Klerk is a man of integrity. Those were the words that were actually used and therefore for the first time now negotiations become a possibility in South Africa.
And the thing that was to send entirely the wrong signal, one, to our constituency and, two, to ourselves, we confused ourselves strategically, there was an important change that happened in 1990. Negotiations did become a possible component of strategy but that had nothing to do with a moral conversion or dramatic change of heart. It had to do with the balance of power and de Klerk represented a grouping of forces which remained the enemy, if you like, but it was an enemy that now realised that it had to move away from constitutionally entrenched racism to something else, from X to X1 if you like. And the confusion over a consensus over the need for departure from X started to be confused with a consensus over destination which there never was. We want to go to Y not X1.
So when it became increasingly to hold on to de Klerk as a man of integrity with the upsurge of violence in August of 1990 we still let him off the hook. We said, well it's third force elements, the implication of saying third force is he doesn't really know and it wasn't really first force elements. And I think we need to think our way through all of that and part of it is to place the blame where it lies. De Klerk has a strategy. He's not the person that's planning Boipatong but he has responsibility for Boipatong and he's not curbing his own security forces. They are definitely implicated, involved in the wave of violence.
POM Yet the Goldstone Commission and Judge Goldstone, at least up to this point seem to have been accepted by everyone as being an impartial and fair investigator, clearly has come in and said there is no evidence linking de Klerk, his Cabinet or even highly placed security officials to the carnage in the townships.
JC What he said was, there is no evidence to link all of those, de Klerk, Cabinet and so on, to the Boipatong massacre.
POM But didn't he go further than just Boipatong.
JC But, he added, and this was the message in my view that he was sending, he cannot understand why reasonable requests like the Battalion 32, Koevoet and other special forces should not be deployed on certain peace keeping missions in townships. Could not understand why agreements around hostels had not been implemented by the government, etc. So if you like he was doing what we were doing a year and a half ago, he was doing a sort of third force back door out for de Klerk but you'd better take the back door. But also he was reflecting a truth and that is that we've not presented evidence around Boipatong to implicate security forces and that has to do with some inefficiencies on our part but also that witnesses are terrified of coming forward until there are witness protection programmes, one that we can feel happy with. We think we can show not Cabinet involvement but absolutely we can show security force complicity in Boipatong. Omission and commission.
POM What I'm trying to get at is the charges and these charges have been made since the violence began in 1990 that the government is behind it in one way or another. Goldstone says, well they're not behind it in the sense of evidence available or not in the sense of it being a policy that they direct and have other people implement. It seems to be that what you're saying, you might agree with that but what you would say is they are responsible because it is action by omission.
JC At the very least. And that one can show. For over a year now there has been an agreement on phasing out hostels and as a short term measure to fence them in, to put barbed wire and so forth, but the only razor wire we've seen going up has been around ANC supporting squatter camps like Phola Park as opposed to any action. So at the very least there is complicity by omission. I am quite convinced. The pattern is too large to - I mean who has an interest and who has the capacity to launch hundreds of attacks on passenger trains. I mean Inkatha has no interest in doing that in my view.
POM If you just take them and take the greatest upsurge in violence this year around the time of the whites' only referendum. I think more people were killed in a single three week period than were killed at any time during the past two years and this certainly wasn't in the government's interests to have this kind of violence occurring at that time.
JC No I disagree with that. I think that what de Klerk was saying, first of all whites weren't getting killed. If whites were getting killed it would have been a different matter. De Klerk actually in that period, in the run up to the referendum, said one of his more cynical or forgetful things. He said people are making a lot of noise about the violence and it's terrible and so on but it's changed its character. Since 1990 the whole pattern has changed. Soft targets are no longer being hit. What he meant obviously was that white civilians equal soft targets. He talked about shopping malls and so on. But, of course, if a black passenger train gets hit then the implication was that that wasn't a soft target. So I think what he was saying was that the violence didn't impact in my view, what it said was that unless we settle, unless we move towards negotiations and so on, Beirut faces and we're going down that spiral. If whites were being killed in the run up to the referendum then I think Conservative Party type forces would have done extremely well but that wasn't happening at all. So whites were remote from it but they could see there was a problem.
POM Let me go back to one thing, you touched on it when you mentioned the transfer of power and I think we talked about it last year. What struck me while the referendum was going on was that every report out of South Africa carried by the BBC or carried by National Public Radio in the United States and reported whether in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe or whatever, all talked about it as being a referendum on negotiations which would bring about the equality in South Africa through the sharing of power. De Klerk always talked about the sharing of power. Since day one de Klerk has talked about the sharing of power. At one time I think he said that he was not elected to preside over the handing over of power to a majority. His entire campaign was conducted on the sharing of power and the alliance kept quiet. The alliance didn't say, hey you're not really talking about what this process is about at all, we're talking the process is about a transfer of power. One, is that a strategic decision, any kind of decision on your behalf? And two, did the lack of response, the fact that Mandela came out and urged whites to vote yes in the referendum, did that give de Klerk subsequently a feeling that he had more leeway to deal with, that he was in a stronger position?
JC I think that's probably true. Just to correct slightly, we did come out and say that we are calling on whites to vote yes, and I was one of those who did with a kind of unhappy stomach, but we said the issue was really should there be negotiations for a non-racial South Africa? We didn't like the question. The Democratic Party also didn't like the question which focused on the personality of de Klerk and so forth but we thought nonetheless it was important for whites to vote yes, to show there was no way back. And it was a calculated risk for us.
POM But it was asking them to vote yes on a process they understood to be about de Klerk's concept of the sharing of power?
JC No. We were saying vote yes but be very clear, and in voting yes, and we certainly thought we had something like 200 000 whites probably voting from a position to the left of de Klerk. It was yes to negotiations, it wasn't yes to the particular result that de Klerk hoped to get out of it. I'll show you something that we used in a poster which was extremely popular around the referendum time which said 'To hell with both of you.' It was a picture of de Klerk and Treurnicht. So we began the demonisation a little ahead of that. But you're quite right I think in the latter point. Obviously what we were very careful about was we didn't unleash mass action, for instance. We didn't try and unsettle the polling process partly because we didn't want to stampede whites in the direction of a no vote, which would have been a disaster. But the price paid for us, and it was a calculated price, was that de Klerk would emerge from the referendum with momentum and a degree of arrogance which has certainly been the case and I think was another factor for his overplaying his hand at CODESA and his reading of the situation.
POM I don't know how to put this question and I'm not trying to look upon it cynically but just kind of clinically in a way. Boipatong in a way seems to have been a blessing in disguise for the alliance, that it became a catalyst allowing a number of things to happen. There had been reports in the previous weeks of internal strife in the ANC, in some of the townships, in Sebokeng, in parts of Natal between former MK members and home town leadership, the wealthy, the frustration over the deadlocking of CODESA and maybe again activists were saying we should have engaged in mass action all along, not just talking about it at this point. Maybe a disarray of sorts as to a clear way forward and suddenly this horrendous event happens and de Klerk completely misplays his hand to add to its catalytic value and suddenly there's something to mobilise around and an event of enormous human tragedy proportions to place in front of people and to use as a way of pulling them all together back into the struggle and giving the sense of struggle all over again. Is that correct?
JC I think it's right, I think it is correct. I would also obviously want to do all that you did by way of saying one's not being cynical , it was an horrific event but it did have that impact. But not without problems either and that perhaps would take us to the last point in the paper that I've written and which I'll give you a copy of, where the song that grew up out of Boipatong was: they are killing us and the ANC is acting like a lamb. When Mandela went out there, not to the funeral, but a few days before and addressed a 20 000 strong rally there was this song which none of the leadership quite had heard before and don't quite know what it was saying and when Mandela stood up to speak, before he was allowed to speak, several thousand people stood up and they were no longer going like this but they were going like this, "We want guns", and they sang this song. Respectfully, I mean it wasn't saying shut up we won't allow you to speak, but they were sending a very strong message which is understandable given what happened and given the frustrations and everything else.
I think the big challenge is to give a purposeful strategy to that mass militancy and I think that's the big strategic challenge at present within our ranks because if there was a kind of mass insurrection in prospect around the corner that would be great. I would have no moral or other objections to that. But it's not unfortunately and therefore one has got to understand the mood but harness it in a purposeful direction. I think that is the big challenge that we've got.
So Boipatong has in it, I mean it's reawakened many utopian dreams about one last shot and the walls of Jericho will come down kind of thing. I feel a lot of sympathy with their desire to see these guys just swept out of power but it's not going to easily happen and therefore we've got to use that mass militancy but direct it, educate it, lead it and so forth. And I think that is the big challenge we're facing.
POM Last, last question. With the collapse of CODESA who were the political winners and who were the political losers?
JC I think the jury is out on that one. That was really what I was just saying in another form earlier on.
POM Would you see the PAC as a winner? They said CODESA wouldn't work.
JC I think they're a potential winner, but I don't think they are organisationally capable of seizing the moment. There's a moment for this if they were able to, I don't see signs of them getting their act together so that they are able to really able to exploit what is a potential gap for them. I think that the ANC has gained some around the deadlock. We basically want negotiations to work so in the medium to longer term it's no job to see us break down, but insofar as by and large, people like yourself are saying what is the regime up to? They've thrown away their best offer and so forth. I think that is a pretty widely understood interpretation of the breakdown. The ANC has gained somewhat and I think the regime has lost somewhat. But it's complex, it's not that easy. De Klerk is showing signs of regaining some of the high ground again now. Boipatong is behind him. The world quickly forgets and he's trying to position himself into the centre, the person who wants to get back, unleashing wild mass action and so forth.
POM If somehow the general strike called, fizzled or if it broke down as happened last November I think in a mine where the work stopped, the stoppage last November, and a few of the workers wanted to work and it ended up as an ethnic collision with nineteen people killed, a hundred and twenty five wounded and the mine was temporarily closed. If it degenerated into this kind of thing what then?
JC Well de Klerk would win and that's why he hopes it will degenerate in that way and that's why in my belief he's not just leaving it to chance that it will. He's going to be working very actively to try and ensure that there are collisions of that kind and there might be even if he doesn't. I'm not saying that it's all some nasty conspiracy but there are plenty of forces that have a lot of interest in seeing it go in that direction and that's why I say the jury's out on this round and there's a lot at stake in this round.
POM Is there any possibility of the alliance unleashing something that it can't then quite control, that in a sense it can unleash this process but it can't quite control what would happen to it once it is unleashed?
JC To an extent yes. I mean that's the nature of mass action and it's both the good and bad thing about mass action that, it's not like a coup or a conspiracy, you're just working on the energies and the initiatives of people down on the ground for the better and for the worse. I don't have, by and large, a negative view of that. That's been part of the problem for the alliance since the unbanning that we've tried to control unduly from the top. If you go back to the eighties, one of the great things about the eighties was there was an enormous amount of creativity and initiative from the base around localised issues, which is not to say there weren't excesses which were incredibly regrettable.
But a balance sheet of the 1980s in my view was a lot of very positive mass action which got us to where we are now. So we don't actually want to control, we want people to say: there's this campaign, it's around corruption, it's around the murder and so on that is being unleashed against us. Do what you can. March against whatever you think is the most appropriate institution that's affecting you on the ground. Take up other issues as well because we're not just talking about a CODESA related thing. If electricity is the problem, if the drought is the problem, organise around that. Don't wait expectantly for CODESA and the negotiators out at the World Trade Centre to deliver. You must make the running. That's the positive side, but you're right, of course, negative things can flow from that as well and, again, that will not be to our benefit if that is the case if the negative things far outweigh the positive empowerment that we hope to achieve from this round.
POM Thank you very much Jeremy.
JC It was much more focused this time, which is what I am now, on protest rather than policies and I think that's very much what we all are.
JC Apart from the boats and taps I found it just interesting to see, in recollection I wasn't sure whether it was you steering me in the direction of policy because it was just after the coup in Moscow so we became preoccupied with that and then what the hell are you folks, what is the Communist Party in South Africa for? All of those are relevant debates still but it's not really where my head is at all at the moment, or the party for that matter. It's much more process, CODESA, deadlocks, mass action, how do we get to the end of the year.
POM Do you have any papers that I can have?
JC Yes I'll try and give you a copy. I don't know if I've got it here but I think it's in the front office.