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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

14 Jul 1992: Mayekiso, Moses

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POM     Moses, since I've interviewed you twice before now and I know a lot of what you think on the various issues of the day as they evolve, what I don't know very much about is yourself; how you ended up being where you are today, what are the circumstances in your own background that led you first into the union movement and from there into the Communist Party, or whichever came first, and then into the Civic Associations and what are the convictions and what forms of them have led them to be who you are today?

MM     Well I was born in 1948 and my 'bala'(?) was in Transkei and I attended primary school, secondary school and high school in Transkei. I was born of parents who were poor, very poor I would say, leading a hand to mouth life. My father used to work on the Railways, as a labourer in the construction industry and in many, many other industries. Then we were depending solely on the meagre wages that he used to send home to my mother. My mother was the one who looked after us, twelve children of the family and also would supplement that meagre salary, wages. Then he would plough, we had land, and then he would go to other people to get some pieces of land to till so we could get some extras for supplement. Also with the schooling it was difficult, which forced me when I was doing my secondary schooling, high schooling, I had to work during the holidays to also help with school fees, etc. etc. So by 1972 I finished my schooling, matric, and decided to go and help the family, to work, and it was difficult because at that time there was independence of the Transkei and it was difficult to get jobs and jobs were scarce there and I had to go to the mines, take the contract that sent me to the mines, Western Holding Mines in Welkom where I worked as a labourer. So I worked there, but because of the conditions also, because of the poor payment, poor working conditions, poor wages, poor employment conditions, I didn't stay long. I stayed approximately a month and then came to Johannesburg where also it was difficult to get a job because of the pass laws of the day. We used to be raided and if you don't have a permit to work then it is difficult for you and also there was no accommodation, basically there were those difficulties.

POM     You didn't have a permit to work did you?

MM     No permit, I was looking for a job and from there I managed to get bits and pieces of work from the construction industry to some little factories until I managed to get a job at Toyota Marketing Company when I managed to fix my papers so then I had a permit to work and also money to have accommodation, one room in a house which was in fact a sort of a hostel, we were a group of men, eight in a room staying under those squalid conditions and I think you know how Alexandra is, that was now in Alexandra, the living conditions, which is a fact also in the mines, where people are staying in those squalid conditions, overcrowded conditions in the compound. The living conditions there were also very bad and then the single sex accommodation which is also another life, that life that one tasted. So then it was the same thing and until later when I managed to find a house of my own, a one roomed house of my own and then it was the time I was having a family.

     It was only in 1977 that I managed to get the room and it was also the same time in 1977 that I came into contact with the trade union movement. I joined Metal and Allied Workers Union which was the only union that was organising the engineering, metal, auto, rubber workers at that time, joined the union because of the poor wages, working conditions, conditions of employment and also with the intention of looking at the living conditions. That union later affiliated to FOSATU, Federation of South African Trade Unions. So due to the fact that we engaged ourselves against Toyota Marketing Company, car manufacturers, fighting for the recognition of the union, the recognition that we have to represent ourselves to improve the conditions so we were dismissed in 1979, when I was dismissed through the series of strikes that we had. Then I was unemployed and at that time when I was dismissed I was already the National Treasurer of the union, the Metal & Allied Workers' Union, so later on the union decided to employ me full time. That was now the beginning of 1980 I became an organiser of the Metal & Allied Workers' Union and concentrated in organising the East Rand, the area Wadeville, Germiston, Alrode and Alberton. That was now my full engagement in the trade union affairs and it was at that period that proved the way we organised in the union where we emphasised strong constituent committees in the factory shop, strong shop steward councils, so that was the emergence of the shop steward councils; the shop steward committees were dead but they were not very strong before.

     In the eighties we had the strengthening of those structures and then the emergence of the shop steward councils. You will find the area shop steward councils like Wadeville, all the factories will come together to form the shop steward council for the industrial area, then they will come together to form the shop steward council or the group of companies like Barlow Manufacturing or Anglo American, all these companies will come together to form the shop steward council. That was in order to deal effectively to strengthen the trade union movement. I played a prominent role, if not a leading role in the formation of the shop steward councils which in our interpretation I would say, those were sort of the 'soviets' of South Africa, the organs of power, worker power, the people's power, that concept.

     And then later I became, I think in 1982, I became the MAWU Regional Secretary for the Transvaal region and then later in 1986 I became MAWU General Secretary and in 1987 I became the NUMSA General Secretary through the amalgamation of MICU (the Motor Union), the Auto Union and MAWU came together to form one, NUMSA. So I became the General Secretary of that and I am still the General Secretary of it. Then that union was affiliated to COSATU and due to that affiliation to COSATU then I became an executive member of COSATU, Congress of South African Trade Unions. Again I played a prominent role in the IMF affairs, International Metal Workers Federation, because as a Metal Union for Engineering and Auto Union of South Africa we are affiliated to that body and so we now also therefore play a role there in that International Metal Workers affairs. That is my trade union Life.

     So with the Civics life, when I became an organiser in the East Rand in the early eighties that was when the Koornhof bills were introduced, the Koornhof bills which were to strengthen the apartheid rule and introducing the black local authorities and who opposed the trade unions and then it came that the trade unions we fought against the homelessness. We started fighting against the homelessness, representing the shack dwellers in the East Rand in the township of Katlehong; we formulated structures. And then later I became involved in Alexandra civic matters where the same battles between groups and living conditions came up and then I started encouraging people to come together street by street. We had street general meetings, that was in 1985. The street general meetings where they formed street committees, area committees, and by January 1986 we had Alexandra Action Committee which later became Alexandra Civic Organisation. So I became the Chairperson of that Action Committee; it was based on street committees and hostel committees, flats committees and we were arrested in June 1986 because of our involvement, the leadership of the AAC, because of our involvement in building those structures. The government said that these are organs that are aiming at ungovernability, to make the country ungovernable and those were insurrectionist structures and also our involvement in rent boycotts, consumer boycotts and isolating the police. They said that those also were aims to make the country ungovernable and then we were charged with treason, sedition and subversion. We stayed almost three years engaged in that trial which in 1989 ...

POM     So you were detained for three years without bail and then you were brought to trial?

MM     We were given bail in the first half of the third year so when the trial was about to finish, I think when they saw that they were going to lose the case then they gave us bail. So that trial, therefore, was against us mobilising people in the communities and in 1989 we won the case and we were acquitted and that boosted the civic movement. From there we started where we left and from there it took the shape of the region and many townships were encouraged and the civic movement mushroomed and by 1991 the Civic Association of Southern Transvaal was formed, which was an amalgamation of all the Civics in Southern Transvaal. From there the other Civics in other regions in South Africa also came together into forming some sort of regions and I became the President of CAST, Civic Association of Southern Transvaal and it engaged itself in many battles to improve the living conditions and life of the people on the ground which included services, fighting against homelessness, fighting against poor education, poor health facilities and many, many other atrocities. So from there we started a process of discussing the possibility of forming a National Civic Movement and which therefore this year, early this year, all the regions came together to form the South African National Civic Organisation, SANCO. I was elected the President of that and it's still in its teething stage but that aim is to improve the life and living conditions of the people, generally to intervene on social economic restructuring and development and also to politically represent the residents since we say that the Civics have to be independent of any political party, it has to be non-sectarian and must represent the political, social, political and economic interests of the people.

POM     So you would see it as an instrument that puts pressure on the political parties?

MM     On the government and the political parties to address the relevant issues pertaining to the economic, social and political conditions, that's the Civics line. Since the eighties being a trade unionist, when I came into contact with people who were at the ground work of the South African Communist Party, people who started discussions about the Communist Party and during 1984, 1985, I would say mid-eighties, that's when I aligned myself to support the South African Communist Party and I became their active supporter, if not a member.

POM     You have children?

MM     Yes I have eight children.

POM     Eight children, and are they at various ages at school?

MM     Yes. From 17 down to 8 months.

POM     Wow! Do you fear for your life given how many of your colleagues have been the targets of either ...?

MM     Yes, there have been death threats, telephone calls and also information from the ANC Security Department and from other information that we get from, maybe we shouldn't say the ANC, from our own information. Then we found that I have been on the hit list three times. The first one was the CCB, the second one was the Joint Management Committees, the structure that I was working with in Alexandra and that came from the councillors, also from the Inkatha organisation.

POM     Has that been more recently?

MM     More recently. So then you do have that then as a human being you will always be worried about safety of your family.

POM     Do you vary your routine? Do you take any precautions or are you pretty fatalistic about it?

MM     Oh yes, you have to take some precautions.

POM     It would seem to be that one thing ties together these activities whether it's as a union, that's organisation, you're a big believer in people organisation and empowering people to act on their own behalf. I want to make sure I have this correct, but my understanding is that you believe that local structures of government should be the subject of national negotiation and that efforts such as the talks going on to merge, say, Johannesburg and Soweto, I think it's been under the chairmanship of Van Zyl Slabbert or whatever, are not the way to go about things. It seems to me that national negotiations determining local structures is something imposed from the top down whereas talks between Soweto and Johannesburg seem to be from the bottom up. It seems to be contradictory to what you advance yourself?

MM     No, there is no contradiction. What we are saying is that the negotiations for a national constitution, the unitary constitution, should be done at national level. There is no way that you can have different constitutions for different regions in South Africa or for different localities so that constitution therefore has to include the local government arrangement. That is why, therefore, we say that to avoid the government ploy of federalism we have to stop the negotiations that are happening at regional and local level and those negotiations should be guided by what comes out of the Constituent Assembly, the national constitutional negotiations so that then we have something uniform not something that instead of empowering us is going to take away the power of the people. We have stopped only the constitutional negotiations around local government, not the other negotiations like the delivery of services to Soweto and delivery of electricity, etc. etc., and not really stopping it completely but we say that the national forum must give a guideline so that when the regions are negotiating they are not outside those guidelines and selling out the resolve of the people that South Africa must be a unitary country.

POM     So you would say it's not really up to the people of Johannesburg and Soweto to determine for themselves what should be the unit of local government to which they belong, who should be in it and who should be left outside of it, but that there should be uniform guidelines?

MM     There must national negotiations.

POM     Right across the board?

MM     Right across South Africa. We are afraid of the federal structure at this stage which is what the government is pushing. It's pushing towards the situation where the power is given to regions more than national. That will cripple us politically and economically because the regions are not developed equally and also, secondly, they are pushing that the National Party or the white minority must not lose power. That is why they are using those - then they are trying to accommodate the right wingers and the right wingers, if you allow that, then they will have their own domain where they dictate the local government so that will mean an apartheid in reverse and so that's why, therefore, we have just lately said that we are making a mistake if we - and also we don't have the skill. You find that you are negotiating with skilled people and with the government.

POM     I want to stop at that point just for a moment because you're raising a couple of very important issues. The first is that for an outsider who has been just following the process for a number of years I think we were surprised when the alliance put on the table a 75% veto threshold for a Bill of Rights and a 70% threshold for provisions to be included or excluded from the constitution, that they seemed to be very high particularly since most independent surveys suggested that the government and its allies could put together anywhere from between 25% and 30%. So you were coming very close to giving them what appeared to be a veto power. A couple of questions: - (i) What is your understanding of why the ANC agreed to make that offer in the first place? (ii) Was there a backlash within the grassroots of organisations like yours, like your union? (iii) Did the government's refusal to accept that offer let the ANC off the hook? Would they have difficulty in selling it if the government had said "Sure, deal done?"

     And finally, which brings me to the question of skill, when you look at the government negotiating teams you see an absence of trade unionists, you see an absence of people who have developed more skills in the last ten years of negotiating under various conditions than anybody else and were they out-negotiated because they haven't been trained? The art of negotiations hasn't been an acquired skill over the years with many of the people who are on the negotiating teams?

MM     Well firstly the negotiations were started by the ANC through bilateral talks and those bilateral talks went further and introduced the present process and in the present process the trade union movement was isolated and I don't know whether that was deliberate or not but we were told that the government was opposed to it. We say that also our allied organisations didn't push much to make sure that the trade union movement was involved. Coming to the difficulties of negotiations is that right from the beginning CODESA had weaknesses and in fact they were not weaknesses that we were not aware of, but a collection of people, most of the people who were there had no constituencies and if you take, for example, Gqozo of Ciskei he has no following at all in Ciskei but he is there pushing his own ideas; Mangope doesn't have a following, etc. etc. So that is one of the weaknesses and also those are discredited people who have benefited from apartheid. Secondly, the negotiations were based on the bilateral talks. There were some arrangements that were done at the bilateral talks which were tying the negotiating parties at CODESA. Thirdly, those negotiations were not involving the skill of the trade union movement and the skill of the civic movement, people who have carried the struggles and mixed those struggles with the negotiations and there was no parallel.

     So the fourth point was that they were handled at the top and no involvement of the masses on the ground, you would find that even report-backs were difficult to get further down to the ground where people would say that now we do have the process because whatever you negotiate we thought that we were negotiating for a transfer of power or the takeover of power. Therefore, if the masses are not involved that's not the takeover of power or the transfer of power. It would be something else weaker than that and therefore the negotiations tended now to be a sweetheart arrangement, not the empowering of the communities politically so that they can get the power that they were fighting for all the years. The negotiations were not open, meaning that maybe things were [] and then there would be some sort of involvement of the masses on the ground.

     So that's why we believe that the problems came out and the final problem was that CODESA was a structure set up to arrange to work, negotiate the principles of the constitution at a Constituent Assembly. But now we tended to negotiate some principles even more than the principles towards the constitution and also principle arrangements that were affecting the constitution. Then we think that as far as the deadlock came in, the 70%, 75% issue was a compromise mainly from the ANC to accommodate the fears, the white community fears of majority rule. I don't go along with that personally because the principles of democracy have to be the same world-wide, universally, the simple majority decision taken around the constitution and, if you compromise, two thirds majority. That is universal and I think that was a mistake and it was pushed by the fact that the ANC and its allies were wary of the white fears and that put us closer to what we are opposed to, the veto by the white minority or the National Party because in that arrangement they were indirectly going to veto and also that was putting us squarely in an arrangement that was going to (continue) the oppression and exploitation in the future, federalism, power, powerless constitution.

POM     You've talked of the work you have done on behalf of the homeless and I know that the Freedom Charter and documents of the Communist Party put emphasis on what are called second generation rights in a Bill of Rights, the right to housing, the right to a job and the right to health care and these would be more than jeopardised as rights if that deal had gone through.

MM     It would have destroyed that takeover of power, or the transfer of power to the people, and therefore it is true, because when you talk of power we are talking of political power, the social and economic power, then that would have been destroyed. Therefore that's why this deadlock - we have reinforced ourselves and are saying that we are going back to simple majority or the compromise two thirds majority. We are not going to allow a situation where we talk of 70%, 75% any more. The deadlock has helped us, the violence, that the government was involved in violence, has helped us that we will be able to regroup. And then at the local level we have said, OK let's engage the civics in this mass action. We support the CODESA deadlock and we don't want the veto, we don't want the 70%, 75%, we don't want federalism. That's why we say that we are cancelling all the negotiations in regard to local government constitution restructuring and we have advised our Civics to do the same.

POM     So would you have found yourself having to oppose the 70% and 75% provisions, the settlement, so to speak, if the government had accepted it and where would that have left you?

MM     Should the government have accepted it we would be in trouble now because we would be locked into that arrangement. That's why we say that was a blessing in disguise, the fact that the government was intransigent and that they stuck to 75% and that helped us now to be able to regroup and to get back to democratic norms in regard to majoritarian arrangements.

POM     So did the government prevent the ANC from blowing it?

MM     Yes.

POM     And did the government blow it for themselves by not accepting it?

MM     They blew it for themselves. I think they were stupid.

PAT     Was this as much the SACP as it was the ANC or was it purely an ANC and government?

MM     The SACP was there also. I heard that then they were caucusing, whatever.

POM     On a related topic which came up at the ANC's policy conference on their economic policy, there you had a motion that they were pursuing a living wage campaign rather than a minimum wage and you had a situation where Business Day endorsed the economic programme for its reasonableness. It said how much the ANC leadership had moved away from its commitment to socialism in earlier years. As one, a trade unionist and, two, as a member of the SACP, do you find that policy as laid down in conflict with what you believe economic policy guidelines should be?

MM     Our stand is that we are fighting for a living wage, not minimum wage or whatever and generally for economic power. That's the bottom line.

POM     Do you not find it ironic that Business Day would endorse the ANC for its realism? Even countries as unabashedly capitalistic as the United States have a minimum wage level and it seems to me that one tenet of socialism is that there ought to be some minimum wage below which ...

MM     Yes, well if you talk of a living wage, fighting for a living wage is a long process. It's not going to take us a year or whatever and also it is linked to many, many issues in regard to the economy and the rearrangement of the economy and therefore that fight for a living wage the trade unions and maybe even the Civics would be engaged in saying what are the minimums that we can accept at the present moment, that a company must not pay less than; in the negotiations give and take, most areas the trade unions ...

POM     You said that the government's turning down of the alliance's offer was a blessing in disguise and it seems to me one can move from one point in time to another. One was the deadlock at CODESA which at first Mr de Klerk and Mr Mandela had put the best face on and then you had Boipatong and the movement completely away, the breakdown in negotiations completely. One also hears from other people and reads of stories of some internal strife in the ANC, faction fighting between different groups in Sebokeng, between former MK guerrillas and established township leadership, of the grumblings in the ranks that would have been there because of the nature of the offer of 70% and 75% which had been made in the beginning. Did Boipatong allow the liberation movement to pull together again, to pull itself back, were they able to use it as a catalyst to pull together many in the ranks who might have been chaffing at the reins somehow?

MM     Yes, the Boipatong incident also added power to the deadlock at the negotiations because with that massacre then people said enough is enough; we have been enduring this violence for a long time and now we have to put our act together and regroup and we can't negotiate with people who are destroying humanity on the other hand. And also at the rally that we addressed at Boipatong people were directly telling us, the leadership, why are you behaving like sheep whilst people are dying. That touched Mandela and that strengthened the resolve that the deadlock has to be strengthened. Many areas had to be fixed before we can think of other negotiations and, secondly, that it won't be CODESA type negotiations, it will be restructured CODESA-type negotiations. And then the resolve became one issue: majority rule. That means to move as quickly as possible towards the interim government and towards the CA. So whatever De Klerk's response it should accommodate that, including the measures to curb the violence, concrete measures to curb violence; that will include acceptance of the international monitoring group to monitor violence and to monitor the process of transition. So in that way, yes, it has strengthened our resolve and let us pull back and reorganise ourselves.

POM     How would you see the strategic balance of the ANC in future negotiations? Will mass mobilisation become a continued mass mobilisation, the major element of the new strategy or is the threat of mass mobilisation, the general strike, intended to frighten business for business to put pressure on the government to make concessions?

MM     Well our resolve, especially in the trade union movement and in the Civic movement, is that we mustn't open and close the tap of mass action as if we owned the masses. That strategy doesn't work. The whole process of negotiation must be accompanied by mass action. This rolling mass action will be there until we get democracy, get to the CA and especially we believe that if the negotiations go parallel that's the only way that can achieve us best results at the negotiating table.

POM     So that even if some pre-conditions are met and the government gets back to the negotiating table there will be no let up?

MM     Yes.

POM     Would that include continuous industrial action?

MM     That will include that.

POM     In selected industries?

MM     Yes, various forms of industrial action. Forms that are dictated by the conditions at a particular given time.

POM     Are you quite confident that the movement can mount a mobilisation campaign that will sustain itself on a continuing basis?

MM     I think so. I think the mood on the ground, the mood from the masses is ripe and the masses want answers especially because of violence. That has given us an opportunity to mobilise and also you will find all sections of our societies and all political organisations are for mass action, organs of civil society, political organisations, etc., etc., are for mass action. It's just that the leadership has to direct the process properly so that it is not let down and that's why, therefore, even in the Civic movement we say, "OK let's contribute", and we resolved to cancel the political negotiations, we resolved that the white local authorities must go and [...] the interim government at the top then we talk of the interim government right from [] and thirdly, that we have to engage all sorts of struggles of the eighties, strengthening the rent boycott and considering the bond repayment boycott, consumer boycott of some strategic industries, etc., etc.

POM     Would you see what's happened as a development from where the trade union element of the alliance has been merely on the sidelines for the last couple of years while the ANC/SACP component was the driving engine in terms of strategic decisions, where that balance has now shifted and that the trade union movement is emerging as the dominant engine that will drive change?

MM     I think what is developing now is that people are certainly mistaken in excluding the trade unions, that is a mistake. But the trade unions now are no longer interested in the CODESA type process, they are interested only in the CA that they will have to be represented at the CA and the Civic movement also say that they will be involved in the CA, not in the CODESA type negotiations. So that has strengthened that and put back the trade union movement as one of the leading figures in this process of change.

POM     In terms of politics, who are the political winners as a result of the collapse of CODESA and who are the political losers?

MM     The political winners are the people, the political organisations, the organisation of the mass movement because even the negotiations were a compromise, a compromise from the political organisations and from the people and it was a compromise and therefore now the deadlock and the violence has revived us, revived our resolve that one mustn't accept something less than the acknowledged world-wide democratic norms when it comes to decision making. Therefore I would say that the ANC and its allies have come out strong from the deadlock and De Klerk has come out weak because the whole world is saying, "75%, what's this?"

POM     What about the PAC? Is it a political winner? All along it said CODESA is the wrong forum.

MM     I don't know if they are because it seems that they are not putting their act together because they talk of the armed struggle and they are not negotiating in the CODESA type negotiations, they will continue with the armed struggle, the armed struggle that is not featuring anywhere. They have been opposed to CODESA but not coming with alternatives. I think they are as they were. They are not strengthened by any means.

POM     Looking at it again from the point of view of the government, they get a deal that sounds like a deal made in heaven, 70% and 75%, it's as close as they can get to having that veto. Why did they turn it down? Why did they blow it?

MM     I think they were stupid that's all. They wanted to exactly get the 75% on everything and then people said, "No, no." So I think it's because they were not having clever negotiators on that particular issue in that people like Delport are poor negotiators and then they let the cat out of the bag. I think it's as simple as that. But also then, I think we mustn't be naive and say that then it was a mistake. It may not have been a mistake for the National Party and the majority of the whites in this country don't want to lose power. Maybe that was a deliberate ploy to delay the negotiations, delay the negotiating process so that it won't get out of the CODESA arrangements to the interim government and therefore the only area that they can deadlock, that can push for unreasonable approaches so as to encourage a deadlock. That is also possible.

POM     Why would they want a deadlock?

MM     To delay the negotiations. Being accepted internationally. Their worry is their acceptance internationally, the economy. That's all. They don't want to lose power. They don't want democracy. They don't want this majority rule. So therefore the only thing that's taking them there is chaos in the country, the mass struggles and international isolation. They want to get rid of that. So that is what it is about.

POM     Going back to March and the whites only referendum in March. It seems to me that what has come to a head here is two different debates being conducted, that in the white community you've had De Klerk saying since 1990 that what this process is about is the sharing of power and you've had the liberation movement saying that what it is about is the transfer of power and these two things are simply not the same. At some point they have to clash and that clash came at CODESA. During the referendum, that referendum was conducted entirely in terms of De Klerk saying, "This is a process in which we are going to achieve equality in the country, equality with blacks through the sharing of power." No-one in the liberation movement got up and said, no-one in the ANC got up and said, "Hold it. You guys are talking about the wrong thing. This process is not about the sharing of power, it's about the transfer of power. So you ought to get that clear." In the end you had people like Mandela trying to urge whites to vote yes in the referendum, or the movement simply kept quiet. When whites voted yes in that referendum what do you think they were voting for?

MM     I think whites were simply saying that they do accept democracy and I think they believed that De Klerk was genuine and that therefore he was going to fix the country. I think they can see that the country is collapsing economically, etc., etc. Also, secondly, they were saying to De Klerk: don't forget us, don't leave us in the lurch. I think the majority of them wouldn't like majority rule and De Klerk was saying to them, "We are talking of power sharing." They were voting for power sharing which is not acceptable to our people. Democracy is democracy. Even in America there is no power sharing. All over the world you don't find power sharing.

POM     But the liberation movement at that point could have said, "De Klerk is feeding you a pile of lies. We're not talking about power sharing here."

MM     I think maybe the movement was not strong enough, but the liberation movement was talking of the transfer of power, we were talking of power and then vote for democracy and it was not really supporting what De Klerk was doing.

POM     Was it a pragmatic decision that it was more important that De Klerk had the backing of the white community to pursue negotiations rather than to tell the white community the truth and therefore maybe alienate them, have them support the Conservative Party and precipitate a crisis?

MM     It was a tactic. Support De Klerk, urge the whites to support democracy and ignore whatever [...] at this stage so as to allow this process to continue and the vote for democracy succeeds and then come back to emphasise what democracy is about. It isn't about power sharing, it's not about all that, it's not about vetoes.

POM     So where do you think the government goes now? When you look at the next few months where do you see it going ?

MM     My prediction would be that they will concede to some of those demands, the demands put by the ANC. I think they are going to find it difficult to concede to fundamental areas of concern like this percentage; I wonder if they are going to accept the two thirds majority. They are afraid of that. So maybe it still going to take a lot of rolling mass action to convince them and the international isolation has to come in.

POM     You do not see any circumstances in which ANC alliance negotiations once again concede 70%? You think that figure's gone forever?

MM     I think that figure is gone forever because the whole thing has been exposed to the people and then it was a bad proposal, a bad proposition.

POM     For organisations that have put so much stress over the last two years and throughout the eighties put continual stress on consultation with the grassroots, on feed back from the grassroots, how did you ever get to a situation of where you had negotiators and their advisers who seemed ready to cut deals that were out of sync with popular sentiment?

MM     What's your question?

POM     The liberation movement has put great emphasis in the last two years on consultation with the grassroots, on getting feed back from the grassroots, of informing the grassroots of what was going on. How did a situation ever develop of where the leadership, particularly those doing the negotiations on behalf of the movement, seemed so out of touch with popular sentiment and to be prepared to cut a deal that many, if not most, on the ground would have perceived as being a sell out of one kind or another?

MM     Well that's the insensitivity of the leadership and also the belief that you can negotiate through using your cleverness or your skill and forgetting that in negotiations you have to depend on your power on the ground, on people understanding and being able to support those negotiations. I think those were the two areas, the insensitivity and also believing that you can depend on good negotiators, skilled people, instead of the power of the masses, and that really misled us.

POM     So in your view do you see this mass action, general strike, taking place on the 3rd August? You don't see anything happening to avert that?

MM     I don't think there's anything that would avert that.

POM     And you see it lasting?

MM     What would avert that is De Klerk accepting the demands put forward. That's the only thing that can happen.

POM     Let me come back to one last thing, and thanks again for the time. There's the whole question of the readiness of organisations and people in the townships and rural areas for elections. We've talked to regional organisers around the country who would frankly say that if elections were held today that structures on the ground are really not in place that would ensure maximum turnout, that up to perhaps 25% of the vote might be lost by people just not having the proper documentation, that in fact they are not ready for immediate elections, more time is needed to get the organisational structures in place.

MM     Well I don't know if that is 100% because we do have organisational capability more than the Namibians were, more than the Zimbabweans were, and I think it is over-emphasising the issue to say that. If COSATU can pull people into a stayaway, can pull people into a strike en masse, you mean that then you can't pull people to put a X next to the name that they want? I don't believe that. The only thing that creates problems is the violence, not organisationally. We have a strong trade union movement not equalled internationally. We have a strong Civic movement not equalled with any Civic movement internationally. You have political organisations that have gone a long way, just like the Namibian political organisations and Zimbabwean organisations during their independence. You have a church movement, you have a youth that is more organised than any youth organisation in Africa and we have all sorts of structures that if they are put together I think within three months time they would be able to pull people together to be able to wield a vote so I am not that pessimistic. I am more optimistic. If it was not the issue of violence where our people are being intimidated, the state terrorism is in order to intimidate people against supporting their political organisations and against maybe going to voting booths, to be afraid of that. That is the only problem that can force us to say that we might not be ready.

POM     Would you agree that with the present level of violence it would be impossible to hold free and fair elections?

MM     In some areas it would be impossible but not in the whole country. For example it may be impossible in Natal to say that there is absolute freedom. It may be impossible, for example, in areas like - no, that's the only area really because even though there's violence in Transvaal they have not gained a foothold of the townships, the perpetrators of the violence. So if there are mechanisms to show people that they are safe when they go to the voting booths then people will vote I think.

POM     Would you see international monitoring of those elections as an absolute necessity?

MM     Crucial. Yes that's a necessity and even up to the peace keeping force because just monitoring is not going to help. You should have people who can intervene in some areas.

PAT     But there is no international force, only in major exceptional warfare do you find any kind of international force.

MM     When we talk of a force then we're talking of not the force to come and be a police force in the country but a force that can be put in strategic areas, people who know how to keep law and order. For example, Alexandra Police Station, you have some body of two monitors there to monitor the things that are happening, to check the books, check the decisions, blah, blah, blah, and to intervene, people who can also supplement the Peace Committees, people whom the community can report to if they go to the monitors of the police and say, "OK these are atrocities committed by the police", people who can take such decisions up with the forums, the interim government or the international forums.

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.