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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

21 Jul 1992: Meer, Fatima

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POM     Professor Meer I would like to take you back first to the whites' only referendum last March. First, did the magnitude of De Klerk's victory in that referendum surprise you?

FM     It didn't surprise me because in terms of the survey we had done in 1990 we had expected De Klerk to get overwhelming supports from the whites. In that survey the Conservative Party, or the conservatives as a whole group had very little support. 50.9% of whites had supported the National Party and 8.6% the Conservative Party. I had no reason to believe that in the interim period more whites had swung to the conservatives. If anything I would have expected the conservative support to have declined in that period.

POM     That's counter to what the prevailing information was saying at the time with the string of victories that the Conservative Party had had at the by-elections.

FM     Yes I know. I personally was not very impressed by those victories at the by-election. I did not believe that the white support had dwindled for De Klerk. If anything I thought that white support could very well have dwindled for the Conservative Party. So I expected him to do well and I said so at the time.

POM     When whites voted, what do you think they were voting for?

FM     Whites were voting for the programme, the initiatives that De Klerk was taking. That's what they were voting for.

POM     Now all the reports that I saw on the referendum itself, either through the BBC, American television networks, The New York Times and Washington Post or through two clipping services that I subscribe to in South Africa, all portrayed this referendum in terms of it being a process in terms of which De Klerk was seeking the approval of the white community to go forward with his plans to negotiate power sharing with blacks, but it was couched in terms of power sharing.

FM     Yes, that's right.

POM     So whites were giving their overwhelming endorsement to power sharing. My question is that since the crux of the debate, maybe you'll disagree with this but it seems to me that the crux of the debate, of the impasse at the moment is over this whole question of whether this whole process is about the sharing of power or about the transfer of power.

FM     Well, if at CODESA during that sticky period the ANC representative offered a 70% majority, that does not appear to me to be the ANC demanding transfer of power. They were still leaving the effective decision in the hands of the minorities.

POM     Well let me maybe jump to that and then move backwards. The ANC offer of 70% for veto threshold for a provision in the constitution and 75% for a Bill of Rights seemed by any standards extraordinarily high and generous and given again that most polling information suggests that the government and its allies could put together a block of 25% it amounted in a way to offering the government its much desired veto. My questions would be: (i) why would the ANC make such an offer?

FM     My own feeling is that that offer was made in that particular forum because those representing the ANC formed the view that the government would not budge from its position of dominance; the 70% was offered to prove that. I think that had the government accepted that 70% offer, the ANC brokers may well have had problems in getting the support of its general body.

POM     But there's a phrase I think criminal lawyers use, to the effect that if you've a witness on the stand you should never ask a witness a question when you haven't a good idea of what the answer will be because you don't know what will come out the witness's mouth. By making a calculation on the basis that the government would refuse this would strike me as being extraordinarily risky.

FM     I don't think so in view of the fact that the ANC brokers were convinced that the government was not really interested in power sharing but in retaining domination of the whole works and I think that the brokers offered that 70% to expose the government even if it took a risk. The fact of the situation was that their insight proved to be correct.

POM     But since then the government within a couple of weeks did a quick turn around.

FM     After a lot of problems.

POM     And suggested it would

FM     After a lot of pressure, after Boipatong and new international pressure. It's a greedy government, as many have observed, part of the greediness being spoked by their victory on the referendum.

POM     What was behind their logic in turning down the offer?

FM     I think they felt very strong. The very fact that the ANC even accepted that kind of table on which to negotiate is to my mind quite astonishing. So the government seeing the table, seeing the majority of the players in its favour, thought it could succeed in its maximum demands.

POM     What would be the logic of the ANC turning down the government's reconsidered acceptance?

FM     The 70%?

POM     Yes.

FM     Because the ANC now feels stronger. Concessions and demands during negotiations are made on the basis of perceptions of strength and weakness at each point. That is how the game is played.

POM     Let me examine then, or to give you an analysis of this crucial period. You have deadlock at CODESA, you have Mandela and De Klerk both putting the best face on it saying the problems aren't insuperable.

FM     I wouldn't say that both were putting the best face on it. Mandela was very pessimistic if you study his speech at CODESA. If you look at CODESA 1 and you look at the initial speech of Mandela you will find that he is very optimistic and if you look at the speech of De Klerk in CODESA 1 you find that he is cautious. Comes CODESA 2 you find that Mandela is no longer optimistic and it is De Klerk who is saying that the differences between them are not insurmountable. De Klerk was feeling stronger during CODESA 2 and that's why his party and his government felt that they could risk making high demands.

POM     So then within a month you had the ANC pulling out of the talks altogether. You had Mandela making

FM     Well the ANC didn't pull out of the talks altogether. That's also an indication of the strength of the Nationalist Party, that they didn't initially pull out of the talks. It took Boipatong for the ANC to pull out of the talks. It was a very major crisis away from the negotiation table.

POM     OK. Let me set up a hypothesis for you and then you tell me how you might react to it. The hypothesis would be that if one reads a lot of media reports of what was going on in the townships in the weeks and even the months leading up to the culmination of CODESA 2 there are suggestions of unease in the grassroots communities and they are being left out of the process and there is some disillusionment going on. There's some internal faction fighting between elements in the ANC, in Sebokeng for example, between returned exiles from the MK and the established leadership. They you have the ANC's offer of 70% and 75% provisions which the membership can't understand, it just seemed like a giveaway and there was anger that that offer was being made. And then you have Boipatong and it becomes one of those classic, symbolic rallying points around which you can pull together again all the disparate elements of your own movement and use it as a catalyst to forge new and different sets of demands and to do it with, once again, a cohesiveness to your organisation and to its membership that it had previously lacked. That would be my hypothesis. How would you see that?

FM     I would accept that, yes.

POM     Could you elaborate a little on it because all I will hear is myself on the tape?

FM     You've said it all!

POM     Well just give me your thoughts on how you think the dynamics of that process moved. Who within the ANC is the winner and who is the loser? In all movements there are those whose views prevail at a point in time. There's obviously been a shift here from those who

FM     Well you see there were things going on in the community, but the talks were going on simultaneously and as far as the ANC itself was concerned it was committed to those talks so it attended to dissonance  on the ground the best way it could but it focused on the talks in the hope that the talks would result in some agreement on the election of the basic constitution making body. They didn't do so. Had they succeeded from the ANC's point of view, the negotiators could have returned to their constituencies and recorded that they were moving forward. But the negotiators had nothing to show their constituency. All they could show was an intransigent government. On the heels of that failure came Boipatong and that derailed the talks. The ANC was left with no option but to withdraw from those talks.

     The ANC, of course, has within it elements that don't really want these talks. They see the whole CODESA exercise as futile and not in the interest of the ANC. There are people who feel that they must be mobilised to pressurise the government,  that talking, and to use an Afrikaner word, the 'toenadering' (rapprochement/the coming together of political parties) that is going on is premature. If the ANC negotiators were  able to show something to the people, their hand would have been strengthened. They needed to show movement towards a transitional government, a time frame within which elections for a Constituent Assembly would be organised.  That the ANC tolerates negotiations at all is because of its belief that it is sure to win in an elected Constituent Assembly.

POM     Are you saying that in the ANC's rush to get to elections ?

FM     It's not a rush. It's long overdue, isn't it?

POM     Yes, long overdue. You are suggesting that in their haste to get there now that they made a number of seriously wrong moves?

FM     No I'm not saying that. I'm saying that they have been very accommodative of what would appear to be an untenable negotiation table because they saw that  table as leading to elections and leading to a democratic government. So they were prepared on that basis.

POM     To sit at an untenable negotiating table and also an untenable interim government structure?

FM     Well not an untenable interim government structure because the ANC demands are for an interim government of a temporary nature the ANC wants it to operate for six months or nine months. It will not tolerate the interim situation going on beyond that period as the Nats intended. The Nats had two things in mind; a disproportionate power by the minority and an interim government for an indefinite or long period. I don't think the ANC negotiators made wrong moves. Once they saw that CODESA was not going to move in the direction of an elected Constituent Assembly they suspended the proceedings.

POM     So you see now the strategic balance of power having shifted from at the beginning of CODESA 2 where De Klerk was cocky and felt in control and now you have a different situation of where the government is on the defensive.

FM     The government is on the defensive, but not too much, because in a way I think that the UN exercise boomeranged against the ANC.

POM     You're not the first person to have said that to us. Could you elaborate a little on it?

FM     It ended up being just a transfer of the negotiation table to the United Nations with the table balanced heavily in favour of the government. The ANC had only two speakers, Holomisa and Mandela; the government side had many.

POM     What do you think happened there? For years the ANC were able to stalk the corridors of the UN making sure that the collective UN was anti-apartheid, anti the South African government and always getting its voice heard.

FM     Well apartheid was no longer the issue during that meeting. The South African government went there having already denounced apartheid rhetorically, and since the UN is a chamber of rhetoric, that rhetoric succeeded.

POM     But it would also suggest that the government in the last couple of years has been quite adept at making friends and cultivating friends whereas the ANC hasn't been adept at holding on to all the friends it has had.

FM     Yes. Well the ANC lost its great friend Russia when it became aligned in a sense to the USA. It is significant, isn't it, that De Klerk visited Russia but Mandela did not.

POM     What kind of feelings in the ranks of the ANC did that create when you had De Klerk marching across Red Square into the Kremlin after the Kremlin fell?

FM     It was probably explained away in some terms of other. I'm not in the inner circles of the ANC so I don't know whether it was even raised, but if it was raised I am sure they would have rationalised it in some way or other.

POM     Coming back to the new emphasis on mass action, mass action can be used for at least two purposes. One is, it can be used to target the achievement of a goal or a set of goals. Two, it can be used to give your membership something to do to involve them in the process, to keep that collectivity together. Which do you think the present campaign of mass action is most geared towards?

FM     I would say that the ANC leadership has been somewhat reluctant about mass action. It's really COSATU that has been most clear on that issue and COSATU is not in CODESA. COSATU not only represents workers but also represents people who are not in CODESA and don't really know what is going on there. It's not that the proceedings are secret but the proceedings are complex and the newspapers have not been giving them the sort of popular meaning, or representing them in a manner which is accessible and understandable to the rank and file. Besides nobody in CODESA has been elected. That forum is not an elected forum which also creates problems.

POM     Well it makes sense. If one looks at the programme of mass action that was outlined, first of all there was going to be a three week strike that would be the most severe strike, the most complete and total industrial action that had ever hit South Africa, and then it got scaled back to a week and now there's talk about a 24 hour stayaway that will be done voluntarily between employers and employees, which is really a huge scaling back.

FM     It's a co-operative thing. It's no longer a strike because you are working together. It's for a day.

POM     What I'm asking is, did COSATU overplay it's own hand? Is it possible in the present circumstances to maintain and sustain its initiative?

FM     COSATU may have overplayed it's own hand. It is very possible. There have been too many strikes. In Durban the dismissal of the Toyota workers, and the fact that they are not being taken back, management seems to have remained pretty strong and gone ahead and engaged new workers, must affect calls for further strikes. There are too many strikes in this country right now, at the moment. And then there is the economic recession and it's not the best of times for labour to play a strong hand. It's almost like a face saving this arrangement between SACCOLA and COSATU.

POM     So, I see you again, I don't want to suggest answers to questions before I've asked them, is that on the one hand you're talking about COSATU having moved centre stage, so to speak, and seized the initiative by one means or another saying negotiation will be complemented by mass action. On the other hand you see that after the rhetorical pronouncements of the scale of mass action that they end up with something like a face-saving arrangement.

FM     Yes, something like that. The ANC has had problems too because - it turned to the international community, the UN, and is being cautioned by the UN. It is being nudged back to the negotiation table. This obviously affects the more militant stand of COSATU. That's how the whole thing is moving. If the ANC had not gone to the international community and had not allowed itself to be nudged back on to the negotiation table and if the ANC had remained strong on mass action, COSATU would probably not have scaled down it's own call. Together they may have wreaked a lot of havoc in this country.

POM     And lost a lot of white support?

FM     White support?

POM     Would you think that the general strike would make whites ?

FM     You mean Van Eck and company would have gone back to the DP?

POM     There's a dynamic operating here and the dynamic moved from the negotiators to the more militant COSATU elements within the ANC. The dynamic move from De Klerk to the ANC after Boipatong, then you move to the United Nations and the dynamic changes, again suddenly the ANC has been losing the momentum of that dynamic as it's being nudged back towards negotiations.

FM     I would say that was the ANC's first mistake. You talked about mistakes and I said they didn't make any mistakes but of course they did, they had the initiative after Boipatong and Tutu called for the sports boycott to be put in place again and that was our big leverage. That was the big leverage of the ANC. And I don't know why they didn't use that leverage. Instead they said the Barcelona Games must go on and vacillated on the sports boycott and then decided against that. That was its main card. It should have held on to that card. That card was a stronger card than even calling for mass action and that card would not have cost them any upheaval or anything like that. Why they continue to be so kind, there is a kindness syndrome that is going on within the ANC that saves the whites all the time.

PAT     Would not that have hurt them with what are conventionally called middle class blacks?

FM     No. How many middle class blacks are going to the Games? Did you count the number of black faces going to the Games?

PAT     It's not always the Barcelona Games, it would be the matches like they played last week.

FM     It wouldn't lose them any face in the middle class. I think if anything the middle class feels very strongly about maintaining the upper hand. The African middle class is a militant middle class. It's not the conventional middle class because it has always been alienated from the government and if anything that middle class is the most frustrated class of all. It could be at the Games and isn't there. None of its children are going to be at the Games anyway because none of those children have had any opportunities despite middle class achievements, they have not had the training to get into the Games, or to get anywhere for that matter. So the middle class is probably the most frustrated of the classes.

POM     So do you think, in terms of what you said, that the initiative has moved a little bit towards the government again?

FM     I think the ANC has, without actually wanting to do so, has in a sense saved the government.

POM     So the government saves the ANC by turning down the proposals of 70% and 75% and the ANC saves the government by going for mass action?

FM     But the government doesn't save the ANC, and the ANC saves the government not by going for mass action but by not supporting a sports boycott and allowing its re-entry into the Olympic Games.

POM     But you said if the government had accepted the 70% or 75% proposed, the ANC might have had a lot of trouble selling the package to its own membership, so the government's refusal to do so in a sense let the ANC off the hook.

FM     A very weird sense. The government, more importantly, was exposed for its intransigency over giving up power by the ANC.

POM     And in the sense of the ANC going to the international community, let the government off the hook.

FM     Yes. Yes, I agree with you.

POM     Let me ask you a couple of questions about the violence and one is it seemed last year that there were two stories coming out of South Africa. One was the story of negotiations and negotiations proceeding with some setbacks, but proceeding.

FM     The other one was the violence.

POM     Violence, violence, violence. And it looked as though you were talking about two entirely different societies. Can there be successful negotiations without the violence first being brought under control? I don't mean eliminated, but to use an awful phrase they used in Northern Ireland, without it being brought down to "acceptable levels"?

FM     Yes, that's quite an important question. It's like negotiations are going on on the tables here with all their formalities, and outside there is the settling of scores through violence. It is as if two kinds of negotiations are going on simultaneously. The one formal and the other informal, that of violence. To me it's quite clear that it's the government that finds it necessary to continue this violence in order to weaken the ANC. And, the ANC realises this and resorts to mass mobilisation to weaken the Nationalist Party. So both do not have sufficient confidence in arriving at a settlement through sheer negotiation and both are resorting to additional strategies, violence on the one hand and mass mobilisation on the other hand. The government wants to negotiate with a weakened ANC, and attempts to weaken the ANC on the ground by attacking its supporters, by creating the impression that it is not able to look after its people.

POM     Where do you place the IFP in this?

FM     Well the IFP is an instrument of the government. I would say that apart from Buthelezi's personal ambition there is really very little in the IFP to move it on its own initiative or its own steam into violence. It is totally fuelled by the government. If the government fuelling evaporates today the IFP will cease to exist.

POM     So you really see Inkatha generated violence as really being government surrogate violence?

FM     Government surrogate violence, yes. I've been looking at Inkatha violence since it first erupted in Durban in 1985 and all my observations lead me to that conclusion.

POM     So when one talks about the security forces and violence, as you said, there is enough, I think even to any outside observer, there is enough credible evidence there to suggest the security force complicity in one form or another, either by omission or commission and certainly the lack of action by De Klerk in censoring his senior officers in the SAP or the SADF, lead one to conclude, as Mandela has said, that either he is somehow colluding in this violence, if only by omission, by doing nothing, or that he is not in control of important elements in the security forces and is not in a position to sanction them. He is not in a position to take the action that would say, I am cleaning house. Which do you think it is?

FM     You see within the white framework, there is democracy. De Klerk is not a dictator within the white constituency. He is a democratically elected leader and as such has inherited firmly entrenched attitudes, policies and institutions. In that sense he has to represent policies that have already become entrenched. He is party to those entrenched policies. I think the Americans operate in the same way, with the difference being that the President is elected directly by the people; he is able to bring his personal perspectives more into play. Thus the Carter Administration was very different from the Reagan Administration and both depended to some extent on the personal ideologies and personal influences of the two men. Reagan, for instance, was more receptive to the CIA and FBI and to other authoritarian institutions than, say, Carter or Kennedy for that matter.

POM     In that regard, is De Klerk to a certain extent a prisoner of his own constituency? Is there so far that he can go?

FM     I don't think it's the constituency. By constituency you mean people?

POM     I mean the whole apparatus, the whole state apparatus, that he's not a free agent?

FM     No, but bear in mind that De Klerk has a history of being that institution himself. You know he has overnight turned from administering regime to turning a reformist, non-racial order.

POM     That is one thing that

FM     He is part of the institutions he now heads and while he sees light, his light is moderated very much by the institutions that he heads.

POM     Just on De Klerk, in the last couple of years we have found among ordinary blacks that we have talked to in townships and whatever, a high degree of admiration for De Klerk, many of them referring to him as Comrade De Klerk and even last year when the violence was at severe levels it was not associated with him in any personal way. This year we sense a difference.

FM     You do? Oh you do sense a difference? What are you finding?

POM     That he's no longer Comrade De Klerk.

FM     I think Boipatong finished his positive image. Had you come just two days before Boipatong the image which you had found before would still have been in place. His visit to Boipatong (I don't know who advised him to go to Boipatong), the way in which he made this visit, with military escort, and not like a person who came to mourn, discredited him.

POM     What were the particular circumstances in Boipatong that worked against him?

FM     Well Boipatong itself. The fact that these people were massacred. The fact that there was ample evidence that the attackers came from this hostel. The general perception among blacks was that the authorities knew of the attacks in advance and when the people expecting to be attacked reported to the police they took no action. There were allegations that the military actually participated in the attacks. All this worked against him. And then of course the Trust Feed and other commissions' findings that implicated the government, Inkathagate and so on. All these were building up to diminish the authority or the credibility of De Klerk in the eyes of the township residents. But up to Boipatong they could still say, well maybe he didn't know. He's a good man, he's got bad men around him. But the way in which he went to mourn in that township and the way in which he behaved when he had been expelled proved a very poor public relations' exercise.

POM     When you talked about Boipatong, a number of people have suggested to us

FM     He was saying how disorganised he found UN.

POM     He was saying how disorganised he found the UN?

PAT     The UN is the worst inefficiency.

FM     I asked him whether he had all those speeches. They were totally disorganised. The procedure to be adopted was only communicated to them on the morning, so he says the whole thing was in a state of confusion.

POM     Somehow it's not surprising. Just two or three other things. One is, people have brought up to us the massacre at Crossroads, outside Johannesburg in April when there were about 23 people who were killed and the manner in which that was treated and the manner in which Boipatong was treated. Essentially one was forgotten, condemned to the inside pages and very few public people paid any attention to it and certainly no leading churchmen, including Tutu, spoke out on it. They were mostly IFP supporters who were killed. And then you had Boipatong which was perceived to be a massacre carried out by supporters of the IFP in collusion with the police or whatever and it becomes an international incident and every public official in the country takes a strong stand, killings of supporters of different sides don't weigh equally in the political

FM     That's because the killings don't weigh equally you see. You have very few people on the IFP side who are being killed, the attacks coming from the ANC side are really few, comparatively speaking, and they are usually provoked. The response is, well then the IFP has been doing it all along and now on the one occasion the situation has been reversed. There is sympathy for the fact that the ANC/UDF people, right from 1985 onwards, have been suffering attacks. And so if you count up the dead on the one side, these on the other, just pale into insignificance despite their horror and are often treated as understandable.  Boipatong was all the more horrific because it came at a time when the ANC's accusations of government complicity in the killings was confirmed by the government's own commissions.

PAT     Like 380 people.

POM     What would you say then to the Goldstone Commission's most recent publication which certainly abroad is interpreted as exonerating the government by saying there's no direct link between them and the violence.

FM     But it doesn't exonerate the government. It's how the media presents it. All it is saying is that it hasn't got evidence, that's all it is saying. That nobody has brought evidence to that commission which could lead it to conclude that the government was implicated. That is all the Goldstone Commission said.

POM     What surprised me is that with so much conclusive belief among so many people that the government is involved, that collectively there is no evidence that implicates the government.

FM     You've got to organise that evidence, isn't that so? You've got to have somebody who collects all the evidence and presents it to the commission. I would think that that would be the work of the National Peace Accord. It should be the work of that group. Now why is that group not getting on with it?

POM     Why isn't it? What's happened to the National Peace Accord?

FM     Well there is that man who keeps coming on the TV. What's his name? I don't know, Hall or somebody. What is that Peace Accord all about? I would think the prime duty of the National Peace Accord would be to jump in, to be there at any massacre and to immediately begin very strong investigative procedures and present evidence to a commission. It's not doing that. Partly, it may be, because it is not appropriately financed. I don't know how it works. I know in CODESA, one of the recommendations made, was that the senior officials of the National Peace Accord should become full time officials, that they should recuse themselves from involvement in anything else and devote themselves fully to peace-keeping and they should work out their budget to make this possible, and that both the South African government and the international community should pay towards this. The fact that CODESA recommends this suggests to me that a lot of the people on it are giving voluntary time, people from universities and so on who are busy doing their own things in addition.

POM     What surprises me is that the ANC has been collecting affidavits for the last 2½ years from people who will testify as to security force involvement or presence or whatever and Goldstone seems to be saying not enough evidence has been produced to him.

FM     Well they have succeeded in the other commissions, Trust Feed for instance. Evidence must have been properly presented, collected and presented. Boipatong is very new.

POM     We're not talking about Boipatong in particular. The Goldstone Report refers to his investigations to date, not simply to Boipatong.

FM     Yes, well I don't know which attacks he is referring to. As far as the train attacks are concerned nobody is able to lay a finger on the identity of these attackers. It's not like an army moving in and attacking you and you can see your attackers.

POM     Just on that, the period of most sustained violence was in the two or three week period leading up to the referendum. Why would government sponsored violence in that period redound to the benefit of the government? It doesn't make sense.

FM     It doesn't make sense to me either. It may be that the conservatives were busy. Look, after all is said and done, when you look at the army and when you look at the police, a great many of the officers there are really CP supporters. It's top heavy with CP supporters. So it may be that they were trying, deliberately, to offset the victory of De Klerk. I have not been going into the reports of commissions very carefully, but they do signify one thing; that the commands don't always come from the top. Very often they come from lower down and then, I think in Bisho,, the whole world, the whole country heard the officer in command ask, "Who gave that order to shoot?" So who is in control?

PAT     I want to know what you thought the ANC thought the UN is going to be able to do on violence that the Goldstone Commission cannot do?

FM     I don't know, I would like to ask someone that.

PAT     I suppose the answer is 'for assistance', they can't organise distribution of the speeches.

POM     I was going to ask a few last questions, one refers to the Buthelezi factor. Is Buthelezi, after staying out of CODESA for the last year, still a player of major importance? Can there be an agreement reached to which KwaZulu, Buthelezi, the IFP are party? Can that be a sustainable agreement? Third is, do you think in the present climate that you can have free and fair elections take place?

FM     Let's start with the last one. I don't think that in the present or in the foreseeable future we are going to have free and fair elections. I think that everybody knows that the election will be won by the ANC and therefore all the other parties are going to do their level best to try and wrest away votes from the ANC and there's going to be an horrific battle for power. And then this country of ours has lost, or has never really known, the meaning of democracy. The CODESA table does not have sufficient legitimacy. The government is involved in insidious violence. The contest is for power and there are no rules to the pursuit of power. This is the kind of climate that we are existing in today. We have never participated in any kind of elections. This is the first time we will participate. What is our reference model? We can't look to any other country for a reference model. We can't look at the USA which has killed so many of its prominent people in pursuit of power, presidents, presidents-elect, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King. We can't look at India where they have killed two Prime Ministers Gandhi himself. Where do we look for a moral reference model? We are entering the portals of so-called democracy at a time when the world has abandoned its rules. We can expect violence. I'm certainly expecting a lot of violence.

POM     Do you think the ANC is prepared for elections, that it has an organisation that can turn out its vote?

FM     I think so, yes, it's well organised on the ground.

POM     But we've heard reports that up to 25% of people don't have the necessary ID documents.

FM     Well how long will it take to get the necessary ID documents? We're told that we're going to have elections in three months time, four months time, we'll have a flurry of activity.  We can organise ID documents if we want to. We are pretty well organised regionally and locally.

POM     In this effort to get people their IDs - ?

FM     They say it takes six months to get ID documents. Well it shouldn't take six months. Why should it take six months? It doesn't have to take six months. I haven't got an ID. I go to the office and I say I haven't got an ID. Why shouldn't I get an ID straight away? Do you see what I mean?

POM     I hope you're right.

FM     Well bureaucrats can create problems.

POM     It's just those bureaucrats who can slow down the process of people getting their ID documents and then you have a culture of -

FM     Yes I know they can. But if you have a government which is intent on getting on with the elections, it will work out a satisfactory system of identification speedily. On the other hand, the government could deliberately delay the process in order to disqualify potential ANC supporters.

POM     So to sum up vis-à-vis a year ago, are you - ?

FM     You came here a year ago?

POM     A year ago exactly.

FM     A year ago, it looks like only yesterday. I have a feeling you keep coming.

POM     Well I came before - wait till I start coming every six months. Are you more optimistic about the manner in which this process will work itself out or do you think it's going to be more difficult than might have been envisaged a year or a year and a half ago?

FM     Two years ago I thought that it was honky-dory you know. Yes, De Klerk saying OK and Mandela saying De Klerk is such a nice fellow and then the relationship between those two souring and that symbolising a souring of relationships on the ground as well. If Mandela takes a strong line against De Klerk it's because he has been pushed into taking such a position. I think things are worsening.

POM     It's funny, I remember so many people saying to us two years ago that the personal chemistry between De Klerk and Mandela was a key element of the whole process, that they would be able to meld and hold it together and now it's been rather sad in a way to see the change.

FM     I think the press throughout the world placed too much hope on the relationship between these personalities and treated them as if they were really independent leaders. Truth is neither is a dictator and neither have concentrated in themselves the kind of authority that impels unilateral actions and decisions.. Take a woman like Mrs Gandhi, she would take her own decisions and the others would fall into line. She had that kind of authority. I don't know whether her father had that kind of authority, but she did. And she was democratic at the same time, emergency and all. In the total picture she was democratic but she had the capacity to be a leader in herself. Neither of these persons have proved to be leaders in themselves. They are very much dependent on their executives.

POM     I will leave it at that.

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.