This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
17 Jul 1992: Moosa, Mohammed Valli
POM You were the co-chair of the Working Group 2, on constitutional principles and the constitution making body and processes.
POM Yes. Could you just give me a little background on the group first on how it went about its business, how it defined the issues that it would face, what its views were as the basis for sufficient consensus, which I believe is the operating criteria on how decisions should be reached?
MM Well, there were two matters which the working group had to negotiate. The first was it had to negotiate a set of general constitutional principles, in terms of which a new constitution would be drafted, a set of general constitutional principles which would have to be enshrined in the new constitution. The second assignment had to deal with the question of a constitution making body, what would be the most suitable constitution making body. The working group itself had two delegates each from nineteen participating parties and it was managed by a steering committee, a smaller steering committee of eight people, of which I was one of the convenors of the steering committee.
POM What criteria was used for this method or concept of sufficient consensus?
MM Well in negotiations you negotiate an agreement, and when negotiations are taking place between two parties, it is not difficult, they understand how decisions should be taken; an agreement would be an agreement when both parties agree, you know, simple as that. If one of the parties do not agree to a proposal, then it is not an agreement, so the decision making process in bilateral negotiations is easier to understand, but as soon as you have multilateral negotiations, and as many as nineteen parties are involved, decision making becomes hard. Voting as a means of arriving at a decision would be completely unsuitable for a number of reasons. One being that it would very difficult to determine what the voting strengths of each of the parties should be and the difference in size and support, which parties enjoy, and memberships are very, very vastly different, in fact some of the participants are not even political parties, military dictators, Oupa Gqozo in Ciskei or Bantu Holomisa in the Transkei, for example. So, that would make voting very difficult.
But the other reason why voting is unsuitable is that, in a negotiation situation you either arrive at an agreement or you don't arrive at an agreement, you only vote in structures which claim to be representative in some sort of way as a result of which we needed a different way of arriving at decisions.
There was a very strong proposal that we should arrive at decisions by means of consensus, in other words when everybody agrees then a proposal should become an agreement. We thought that would be, again, an unacceptable method of decision making because it will effectively give one small party the power to veto anything they want to and the negotiations could be held back endlessly if you have that sort of procedure. So we therefore came up with this concept of 'sufficient consensus'. Sufficient consensus is defined to mean that a proposal would be deemed to be an agreement if the extent of the support for that proposal amongst the various political parties represented in the negotiations is of such a nature that by declaring it an agreement, the work of CODESA would be able to continue. In other words if, for example, the government and six other parties to the negotiations were very strongly opposed to a certain proposal and the chairperson of the meeting ruled that nonetheless the proposal was an agreement and gave it the status of a decision, we run the risk of the government and those other five parties actually walking out of the negotiations, which would then mean that CODESA would not be able to continue, because you cannot negotiate without the presence of the government and the NP, for example.
POM So, the presence of either the government or the ANC is sufficient condition for a consensus?
MM It is not defined in that sense, in reality it would mean that both the ANC and the SA government would enjoy a veto, but a decision could not be taken in spite of either the ANC or the SA government because the negotiations would not be able to continue without either of those parties. We are negotiating essentially with the government. But if any other combination of parties disagree, some of the smaller parties, they could well be ruled against, and that sort of thing has happened.
POM Let me take you to the heart of the questions that I have for you. We have spent a fair amount of time in the last week talking generally to people associated with either the SACP or the ANC and the negotiators in this particular working group have come in for a fair amount of criticism, to put it kind of mildly. What I would like to know is: (1) the process and rationale of how you came to accepting the 75% veto threshold with respect to the Bill of Rights and a 70% threshold with regard to provisions for the constitution. What was the logic that you were using as you moved towards making these offers?
MM Well, you must know that we had made the offer for 75% with respect to the Bill of Rights and 70% for the adoption of the rest of the constitution only of the morning of CODESA II itself, in other words at the eleventh hour. Now, at first there was a fair amount of debate within the organisation and with allies about to what extent is the sixty six and two thirds majority a principle. If you are able to win the other positions at the negotiating table, to what extent should we be prepared be flexible on sixty six and two thirds. What was the difference between sixty six and two thirds and 70% in material terms and those sorts of things. That debate continued and eventually, in the days after CODESA, an impression was being created very much in the media that the main points of conflict was between our demand for a sixty six and two thirds majority to take decisions, and the government's demand was for a 75% majority to take decisions. That is how it was adjusted.
Those of us who were involved in the negotiations are well aware that the conflict went much beyond the question of the percentages, [but the difference between our side and the government was indeed the ...] but the percentages issues was somehow clouding a much bigger difference, and the bigger difference was that the SA government wanted an agreement which would say that the new constitution would be drafted at CODESA. It would be called an interim constitution, and that it would only be interim in the sense that any constitution in the world is interim because it gets changed from time to time, and that legislators around the world, through very complicated procedures, do change constitutions from time to time, so that there is no constitution that is a final constitution for all times. So that this constitution which CODESA would draft would be interim only in that sense, so that in reality although on paper you would have had an agreement that an elected constitution must be gotten, but in reality CODESA would have drafted the document.
This is what the government wanted, they have not agreed, they have not come around to agreeing to the principle of majority rule and agreeing to a democratically elected constitution making body drafting a constitution. They have not agreed to that principle. Now, the Patriotic Front organisations in CODESA, all of the Patriotic Front organisations in CODESA held a meeting on the morning of the first day at CODESA at which we had to decide what to do. At that meeting a decision was taken, and I must tell you that it was a unanimous decision on the part of all of the Patriotic Front organisations in CODESA, a unanimous decision was taken in that meeting to change our positions to 70% for the adoption of the constitution and 75% for the adoption of the Bill of Rights. Those of us who were very close to the negotiations were quite clear that this was not going to create a deadlock, because this was not the issue, it is not what the government really wanted. But we came to this sort of approach at the eleventh hour because what it would do is that it would expose the positions, the really unreasonable positions which the government had been taking.
When we went into the final session of Working Group 2, before we declared the deadlock, the ANC was represented by Cyril Ramaphosa and I. I presented what was seen to be our final effort. What I had said was that we have decided to compromise and that we would agree to decision making being 70% majority for the constitution and 75% for the Bill of Rights, but that we are of the view that these are unreasonably high majorities for the purposes of adopting a new constitution, because in effect it would have mean that 25% of the delegates in the National Assembly would have had the power to prevent the adoption of a new constitution, that is what it would have meant. Because the general constitutional principles which we are agreeing upon upfront would say that the new constitution must enshrine a Bill of Rights, which means that although we talk about 70% for the adoption of a constitution, in reality, if 25% of the delegates refuse to agree to a draft of the Bill of Rights, they could in effect block the adoption of a new constitution, which would mean that the interim constitution which was drafted by CODESA itself becomes the final constitution and the government wins its objectives of a power-sharing system.
We said that for these reasons we consider these to be unreasonably high majorities, we therefore propose this, but in the same breath we are proposing that there should be a deadlock breaking mechanism. That without a deadlock breaking mechanism, these unreasonably high percentages could lead to a situation where the National Assembly is in a permanent deadlock about the new constitution, and the deadlock breaking mechanism which we proposed was (this is what the government spokesperson said that we introduced 'injury time') what we said was that in the event of the National Assembly failing to arrive at an agreement on the new constitution within a period of six months, that then a constitution which has the support of 51% of the delegates in the National Assembly should be put to the people in the form of a referendum, and if in the referendum the majority vote in favour of that constitution, that constitution should then be adopted. We said that this would be the kind of deadlock breaking mechanism that we would need in order to bridge these high majorities.
In the end, the fact of the matter is that the government did not reject the high percentages, but they rejected the deadlock breaking mechanisms. It gave us an opportunity to say to the world that the SA government and the NP does not want to subject itself to the will of the majority.
POM So, just to re-cap. The government wanted an interim constitution that would be drafted by CODESA and agreed to by the principle of 'sufficient consensus'. There would then be an election for a National Assembly or a Constituent Assembly, or what have you, which would debate a new constitution, but because of the 75% provision required for adopting the Bill of Rights, in effect this meant leaving aside a 70% provision for the constitution, in effect a 25% to allow any new constitution in the National Assembly, and thereby making the interim constitution a permanent constitution. What you suggested in place of that was: (1) if there was a deadlock within the National Assembly on the constitution which lasted more than six months, a constitution favoured by 51% of delegates should be tabled, put before the people in a national referendum and if that referendum passed, then that constitution would effectively become the constitution of the country.
MM Yes. There were of course a number of additional problems in that the government's proposal also involved the establishing of a Senate. They wanted a tricameral constitution making body. What they wanted the interim constitution to be is a constitution based on the NP's constitution at this stage. They wanted the interim constitution to provide for a National Assembly and its Senate. And that the Senate would also have to agree to a new constitution before we could start, so that was an additional factor on the National Assembly. They did not want a democratically elected Senate. They idea of a Senate is that it should be composed in such a manner that firstly it should be made up of representatives of various regions, and that it should be composed through regional elections, and that all of the parties in a region which receive more than a certain percentage of the vote, say more than 5% or more than 10% of the vote, would be equally represented in the Senate. So there is no-one democratically elected into the Senate. It would be a Senate in which you could very well have a situation where a party which enjoys majority support could be a no-no in the Senate.
POM So that even if perchance it did not block a 25% veto in the lower chamber, it has a second chance of blocking it in the upper chamber?
MM When there was the additional chamber, they wanted the interim constitution to be much more than a constitution which facilitates a constitution, they wanted it to have all of the features of what they call a complete and final constitution. So that they wanted the interim constitution to define the powers, function and boundaries of regions for a new SA, and of course the government is in favour of a federal system, and they wanted the interim constitution to define all of these things. In other words, they wanted us at CODESA to negotiate the shape of the region and they wanted us to negotiate what the powers and functions of these regions would be. Anybody knows that once regions are established, it becomes a rather difficult task to change that situation. But more than that, they wanted upfront agreement that in the new constitution, whatever has been agreed upon about regions, that the National Assembly would not change that in the new constitution, that they would be entrenched. So that that was an additional factor.
Then there was the question of time-frames. We were saying that the National Assembly should be given a fixed time-frame within which to complete the work of drafting and adopting a new constitution. The government was completely opposed to that, they said we should not have a situation where the National Assembly is put under pressure to adopt any constitution. It should be able to work in a leisurely way and take as long as is necessary. So there were a whole range of differences between our positions and their positions.
POM Do you think, I am trying to get back to some of what you said, do you think your case, let's put it that way, like what really was going on and what the issues were, have been disseminated to your membership in a way that they can understand what is going on? Because frankly, again talking to people, what we get back is that the ANC is on the verge of a sell-out where they have given away - essentially given a mandate to veto. Has there been that kind of backlash and has it affected the manner in which strategies can be formulated and executed?
MM Well I think throughout the negotiations one of the difficulties was to keep, not only the membership but even various levels of the leadership within the organisation in complete tune and in form about developments in the debates that are going on in the negotiations because quite often, as you can hear from what I am saying, the issues do become rather technical and rather complicated and one would have to have a pretty keen eye for the negotiations if you are to be able to understand and keep track of all of these things. Also the negotiations were moving at quite a fast pace, there were new developments taking place every week, and we had difficulty, everybody had difficulty, but certainly the ANC had difficulty in communicating to the grassroots and getting them to understand what is happening at the negotiating table at all times. What we didn't have difficulty in doing is maintaining a flow of information between ourselves at the NEC level and regional structures of the ANC, or even our ally, the SACP. But that was not sufficient to reach out, but the regions were sending in delegates to a national meeting at which we then discussed the negotiations. Those delegates were well informed and understood the issues. But people in the regional leaderships who were not those delegates were not necessary well in tune. So certainly there was a difficulty in communicating. I do believe that we've had quite a lot of emphasis on communicating within our organisation, otherwise it is difficult to obtain mandates and it is difficult to carry people along. At the end of the day, everybody relies on the mass media, everybody on TV, to see what is happening.
POM There is a saying that criminal lawyers use that you should never ask a question to which you did not already know the answer. I am saying that, what if, part of this strategy was predicated on the assumption that if you offered the government 70% and 75% they would in fact say no because that is not the real issue. What if they had said yes?
MM They couldn't have said yes. They couldn't have said yes because if they had yes, we would have accepted it with the deadlock breaking mechanism.
POM What if they had said yes, without the deadlock breaking mechanism?
MM We wouldn't have accepted it. We said that this goes hand in hand with the deadlock breaking mechanism and the deadlock breaking mechanism was that in six months time there must be an agreement on the new constitution, if not, we have a referendum, and that would have amounted to an extremely disadvantageous position for the government and a tremendous advantage for the ANC, because it would have meant that a constitution drafted by the ANC, in all likelihood on its own, would be put to the people in the form of a referendum. And it is something that the government would never have accepted. But had they accepted that, we would have been quite happy to agree to it. And part of what they have lost is this concept of a deadlock breaking mechanism. As I say, for the media, even for political debaters who have been following the process, I think they found it very difficult to at all times understand very sharply what the issues are. And the percentages thing is a nice thing, nice way to explain what the conflict is all about to the popular mind.
POM Let me take that one step further and say that in talking to a number of the members of the NEC, we have been told that the reason the offers of 70% and 75% were made is that the ANC is anxious to get a speedy resolution to the problem and to get their hands on the instruments of government pretty quickly so that they could get a hold on the violence. That the longer the process lasted, the longer there is no agreement, the more this would be to the benefit of the government because then the violence would continue to undercut the ANC in the townships. Therefore speed was of the essence. Whereas you are saying something very different. You are saying you knew from a certain early point in the game that when it came to this crunch that the government would in fact back out of the process.
MM Well, I think I am in full agreement with the view that what we need to do is to have democratic elections as soon as possible and to establish an interim government of national unity and that we need to move in that direction at all times because the violence in the country will continue as long as you have the NP in government. White minority rule and violence are two sides of the same coin, it has always been premised on violence, so that however much we may cry out against the violence and demand that the government stops it, they are involved in the violence. And for that reason, it has become an urgent priority to establish an interim government of national unity and also to have democratic elections in order to change the balance of forces.
It is with that in mind that we have decided to go to the establishment of an all-party forum like the one we had last year. You will remember that in April last year we issued an open letter to the government in which we said that we will not hold any constitutional negotiation unless the violence ends. And in July of last year, we then changed our view on the matter, we then said that the violence is not going to end as long as this government is in power, and there are limits as to what this government itself will do to end the violence simply because it is very much part of the violence. For example, some of us had views which were without the hard crime and extortion and murder the mafia is not the mafia, and that is the situation which we have here. We asked these people not to be involved in the violence which was making a demand which was incompatible. So, it is for that reason that we have decided that the most urgent thing is to establish an interim government of national unity. So I do share that view. And if it requires compromises, we would be prepared to consider compromising. The only problem is that we do not want to make any compromises which would be of such a nature that it prevents democracy itself, that is the kind of compromise we would have had to make in order not to have had a deadlock at CODESA II, because it would have meant that there would have been no democratic constitution making process, and that is really the problem.
POM So if one takes from a point in time when talks deadlocked and Mr. Mandela and de Klerk put the best face on things by talking about how much CODESA II had achieved, saying they were sure the deadlock could be worked out, where you were at that point in time, and then five or six weeks later you have what appears to be changed attitudes where talks are off, where a new set of demands are put on the table, where it appears that people who are more militant voices within the ANC and the SACP are now beginning make themselves heard about mass mobilisation in terms of a general strike, and a continued mass mobilisation and stayaways and boycotts, until a new interim government is in place. What accounted for the change in dynamics during that period?
MM Well I think that after the deadlock of CODESA II, we were provided with an opportunity to - I think in some ways the situation forced us as an organisation to do some soul searching and to review our whole approach. One of the things that was absent very much, earlier this year and even towards the end of last year, was an active participation of the general public in the negotiations process. We found that the negotiations had simply been left to the negotiators and that the general public had become passive observers. I think a lot of people felt powerless to influence what was happening at the negotiating table, so that when we had our elections at the policy conference, which started on the 24th of May, we had then decided that, side by side, with continuing negotiations at CODESA, we would mount a programme of mass action, because the programme of mass action was decided upon a long time before Boipatong happened, a long time before we broke off the negotiations.
What we were clear about, however, was that the deadlock at CODESA was not going to be broken simply to further - but we needed mass action in order to further the negotiations so that when we went back to CODESA after CODESA II we had ... re-establishing and reinstating of Working Group 2 of CODESA. We had said to the SA government that we are not prepared to discuss the constitution making body in CODESA unless we are quite clear that they as the SA government, have accepted the principle of a democratically body. So that we had a series of bilateral meetings with them, and the matter of the constitution making body was being discussed only bilaterally as we said we are not prepared to go and discuss it in CODESA unless we can break the deadlock between us, and if we can't, this is what we would report to our organisation so that appropriate decisions could be taken about mass action. Of course in the few meetings which we have had, no progress has been made and in the meantime Boipatong happened so that the negotiations were then broken off, for two reasons, one because of the Boipatong massacre and the violence, but, two, also because the deadlock itself was not broken, and we were of the view that we would simply be fooling the people of our country if we had continued with negotiations because you would give the impression that certain things are possible, which we felt were really not possible at that point in time.
But I think that after CODESA II and especially Boipatong itself, it created a tremendous mood of anger and militancy. It was extremely positive because it had the effect of mobilising broad South Africans behind the negotiating positions which the ANC stood for. Of course, I think the press has said that these decisions were only taken because of the exaggerated influence of, what they termed 'interactions'. I don't think that is true at all, I think that the people are more inclined towards different kinds of activity and it does so happen that Ronnie Kasrils is the head of our Campaigns Committee, so that he is regarded by the popular press as an insurrectionist. So, it does mean that when our mass campaign becomes more dominant that a person like him will be in the forefront, he will be the first person who will be making statements, etc. The decision itself to deadlock or to break off the negotiations was pretty unanimous.
POM So the response to the government's offer to accept the 70% is not the issue?
MM It is not the issue. In any case, what we have said in Working Group two when we made that final offer of 70% and 75% together with the deadlock breaking mechanism, and the government rejected it, we then said that they should consider these offers to be withdrawn. We are saying very clearly now that we are not prepared to negotiate beyond a two thirds majority, so that although the government has said 70% and 75%, our position is a two thirds majority. But that is not the issue, if you look at the government's/de Klerk's memorandum in which they put out proposals for a transitional constitutional constitution and what they want is for CODESA to draft that new constitution. That is the problem.
The principle from our side is that there should be a democratically elected body of people who will draft and adopt a new constitution, that is the principle. Everything else about how many people, are not really matters of principle at the end of the day. That is the principle and we still have differences on that principle question.
PAT Do you still have a deadlock mechanism on your condition of the two thirds?
MM We will insist on a deadlock breaking mechanism even with the two thirds because no party, supposing there is no party with more than two thirds of the vote, it is quite possible that that body would be deadlocked and would not be able to arrive at a decision. We have done a lot more thinking on the deadlock breaking mechanism and we would putting forward a new proposal on the deadlock breaking mechanism, which would probably be, and because we are not the daily press, it would probably be that if after nine months the Constituent Assembly fails to adopt a new constitution, then fresh elections should be held to reconstitute the Constituent Assembly. Maybe after a further six months, the new Constituent Assembly fails to adopt a new constitution, then a constitution which enjoys the support of over 50% of the delegates should be shown to the people in the form of a referendum.
POM On the personality side, who on the government side, in your negotiating with them, who impressed you when you look across the table?
MM In my own negotiations?
POM Amongst the people you have worked with.
MM I wasn't impressed with anybody. I didn't think they were smart, I wasn't impressed with them, I didn't they were able to outmanoeuvre us. There are people like Dawie de Villiers, for example, who I think is a good negotiator, he does well for the government.
POM Who else also does well?
MM I think Roelf Meyer does well for the government. I have Gerrit Viljoen and Delport, both of them as negotiators, as politicians, as communicators, both of them are always very stressed and really visibly couldn't take the pressure of the work.
POM Let us go back for a minute to the whites only referendum in March. The reports of that referendum abroad, whether BBC, New York Times, or National Public Radio, the television networks in the US, always couched it in terms of it being a referendum in which de Klerk was asking whites whether he should continue to negotiate a power-sharing arrangement with blacks, it was always couched in terms of power-sharing. And any statements that I have read here, and I subscribe to two cutting services, the entire referendum was couched in those terms, there was never any mention of majority rule. In the end the ANC kind of urged whites to go out and support de Klerk in this effort. Do you think he might in any way have entertained the notion that somehow you somehow supported, in some loose way, his definition of this process as being one which is about the sharing of power?
MM Not at all. I don't think they have any illusions about our position, and I don't think he had any illusions about why we asked whites to vote yes in the referendum. It was not to support de Klerk, but we said very clearly that our aim was to defeat the white right wing. That was the point of the referendum.
POM When whites supported the referendum, what do you think the whites thought they were supporting?
MM I think whites were voting in favour of a new South Africa and I think many of them thought they were voting for de Klerk.
POM Were they voting for a new South Africa defined in terms of power sharing or a new South Africa defined in terms of majority rule?
MM I am not really sure.
POM What do you think blacks thoughts the whites were voting for?
MM For negotiations and for change.
POM Do you think that the defeat of the right by such a large margin has ended the threat of the right wing?
MM I think so. They will never be able to recover from it politically. You will have some of them continuing to exist, but as a serious political factor, I think it is the end of the white right.
POM How about de Klerk, how do you think he interpreted his victory?
MM I think de Klerk found it difficult not to misread and misunderstand the overwhelming yes vote during the referendum. Because of the overwhelming support which he received from the mass media, he suddenly thought that his position has been built up to such an extent that the ANC would not be able to resist positions which are put forward by the NP, and I think, as a result of this, they came into the negotiations, pretty confident but also very obstinate and very stubborn. They now wanted to, having won a victory, having defeated the right wing, they wanted to now go and defeat the ANC and that is what they thought they were strong enough to do, and I think they miscalculated very seriously.
POM Where now do you think, casting yourself as a government strategist, what options do you think are open to them at this point, will they recoup as much as they can?
MM Well I think all of the demands which the ANC has laid down are demands which they can meet. They can meet all of the demands on the violence and I think they would realise that they have to say something about the constitutional process, they have to say something about moving towards a democratically elected constitution making body. If they would agree to a democratically elected constitution making body then the negotiations could then be reinstated. My own hunch is that it is going to happen sooner rather than later because there is a tremendous amount of pressure on the government.
POM So if you look to the future, you don't see a protracted period of mass mobilisation and the government sitting it out?
MM No, I think there will be a protracted period of mass mobilisation, but at the same time, I think the negotiations could be reinstated, possibly in another few weeks. I know you will probably come back next year and see how it has gone.
POM You won't be sitting here.
MM That is the purpose of you guys being here, to memorise all of this.
POM Having seen you in the act. When you answered the last question you said that the ANC want an election as quickly as possible so there can be control over the violence. Many people that we have talked to, again within the ANC, [have said that the organisation ... but] wonder if there appears to be a general lack of understanding on the general planning for an election as distinct from a mobilisation campaign, that at least a quarter of your eligible voters don't even have the necessary documentation to vote, that you are running into an inherited cultural fact in that people are resistant to having to carry documents, certain documents, which have links with the past, that they will now be able to be identified by the government, that they will move into the PAYE system, there is a whole range of factors, among which are that the ANC might not be able to draw up on areas like the Ciskei, Bophuthatswana, even KwaZulu where it would be hard to get the vote out.
The Women's League has been reported as saying the ANC could lose an election if it were held tomorrow. Is there a slight contradiction between wanting an election as quickly as possible and yet appearing to be on a poorly position to fight an election? Or again are people so obsessed with the negotiations and that process that they are not really moving ahead and planning for an election?
MM Quite a lot of work is being done in preparation for the elections, I am not involved in it directly, but if you speak to Popo he would be able to tell you more about it, I don't know if you are speaking to him. He would be able to tell you much more about what is going on in that regard. Popo and Terror Lekota, we had a statement being released this week that they are being released from their positions to help in the election campaign.
POM The two of them?
MM Yes. We have set up all sorts of structures in the different regions. There is a tremendous amount of work going on, I am sure he will be able to tell you about it. It is quite untrue that we are not paying enough attention to this, we have released people from the highest level to help in the preparations for an election campaign. But I think what needs to be understood is that the ANC, as a liberation movement, should never participate in an election, never ever say that it is ready for an election, is never going to believe that it is ready for elections, a lot of people within the ANC wouldn't believe, within another six months, that we are ready for elections. It is true that a tremendous amount of preparation has been made, but once the decision is taken, once we have a settlement, and there is a decision that elections are going to be held in six month's time from on such and such a date, I think in a pretty short space of time, the organisation will be able to gear itself up to fight this election properly. I think that it would have a tremendous energising effect.
One of the problems right now is that a lot people just don't believe that elections are about to take place. Does it look like elections are about to take place? Boipatong going on, the talks are deadlocked, and there is mass action. People, somewhere deep down inside, are not completely convinced that elections are about to take place. I think knowing that we can do it, I have seen us, I have seen it before and I am quite convinced that in a short space of time we will be able to gear up for a major campaign in the way in which our entire organisation is gearing up for a mass action campaign in a matter of weeks. There is a tremendous amount of mobilisation which has taken place already over the past two weeks throughout the country.
So that I think we have the capacity. I would agree with you, we are not prepared to fight an election tomorrow, an election isn't going to be held tomorrow. If there is an agreement that it will be held in six months time or so, then we would be able to prepare for it adequately. There are disadvantages, access to voters on farms and all those sorts of things, certain Inkatha controlled areas, etc. There will be some constraints, but those will be some of the difficulties of the first elections that we may have to live with.
POM So when I come back here in a year you will be in a larger office, with more sophisticated machinery all around you, and there will be an elected Assembly writing a constitution?
MM I think there will be.
POM And then I will come back another five years after that to see how the first government works out.
MM Is that so? The project goes on for that long?
POM Well ...
MM When do you write up all of this?
POM At the moment it is more of managing it, because the sheer volume. I am doing 120 individuals from the political sector or the public sector, plus 10 families, ranging from rich white conservative families to poor black families living in the squatter camps and all their generations. I visit them at least twice a year.
MM Twice a year?
POM Yes, because you see changes happening to people's lives and it is quite remarkable.
MM Where are these families?
POM One is in the Cape, a Coloured family in the Cape, and what would be called a liberal white family in Witbank, and a very conservative white family in Zeerust, one middle to upper middle black family in Umlazi, one aspiring middle class black family in Thokoza and one very poor squatter family in Orange Farm and a squatter family living on the breadline in Thokoza. What I have missing, I will tell you, is an Indian family.
PAT We have been to Lenasia.
POM No political family is interested.
MM So when are you going to do this book?
POM It will be one book or two books. What I think I will do with these interviews is narrow them to the chief 30 or 40 people. One kind of structure I have in mind, maybe I will send you one I did on Northern Island some years back where I talked to all the key players and kind of got their perceptions on each other. But since this is more longitudinal, the idea would be to use the voices of some of the people in the transition itself. I would develop a structure to pull the voices together. So you would have a backdrop of what happened as against people who are projecting what might happen. Like around the issue of the 70% and 75%, you have seven different interpretations to that alone, of the violence and what it meant. We have touched on, as what you have touched on, like how do these things inform people's decisions? How many people have got misperceptions of what is going on, even people who are involved, and how does that affect their behaviour? How does their behaviour get modified over time, what will happen after the new government? Looking at the transitions in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, getting to the new government becomes the easy step, it is what happens after that when the bond that had everybody together is no longer that kind of bond and competitions for jobs, etc. now exist.
MM So when do you want to publish this? Five years after the new government?
POM It might be four or five, it might not be that long.
MM So it is a very long project?
POM I have committed myself to a very long term project believing that it will be worthwhile to do it.
MM Now who is paying for all of this?
POM I am trying to raise money from foundations. I have a publisher, but there is no money for books on South Africa. Northern Ireland is talked about a lot and people have very strong opinions about it, but people don't buy books about it.
MM So you don't have a huge big budget?
POM Mostly I am working out of my own resources. But I have the backing of the university too, they give me time off to come here for three months a year. I probably will, maybe either next year or some time next year, come here for a year, or the bulk of a year.