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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
24 Jul 1992: Maphai, Vincent
POM Let me begin, Vincent, by trying to take two events and then talking about each of them separately and then maybe joining them together. In the last year the stories coming out of South Africa were like two stories, on the one hand was the story of CODESA and negotiations and progress being made and on the other hand it was a story of violence increasing, endemic and to somebody in the outside world they almost seemed unrelated as though the one was talking about two different countries that had very little to do with each other. Before we connect them I'd like to go at the negotiations piece first. One, what were the dynamics you think were operating that led the ANC to make an offer of 75% veto threshold for items to be included in a Bill of Rights and a 70% veto threshold for items to be included in a constitution? It would appear to me that they were very nearly offering, in fact offering the government and its allies a veto power particularly with regard to a Bill of Rights. I say particularly with regard to a Bill of Rights because when I've talked to people in the past couple of years they've stressed how much importance the ANC puts on a Bill of Rights with second generation rights included. What were the dynamics that brought that situation around is one? Two, if in fact the government had said yes we accept, would the leadership have had real trouble in selling that package to its own constituency or would cries of 'sell out', I remember the first year we talked about the youth, would just the cry of 'sell out' have taken over? And three, did the government blow the best deal it could have ever gotten and if so what was the reasoning? Why was the government incapable of recognising how good a deal they were in fact being offered?
VM Well let me say to the first question, what were the dynamics there? I think it's very difficult, precisely because both the offer of the deal and its rejection are largely incomprehensible, but I will try to figure it out. One possibility is that certainly on the Bill of Rights the ANC must have estimated that at any rate there weren't very major differences between them and the government and the trouble with second generation rights, even if they were included in the Bill of Rights at the end of the day those are more of ideals rather than any possible demand they would depend on the available resources. You do not enforce the right to work in the same way that you enforce the right to life. One is positive the other one is negative. So it could be that their inclusion or exclusion, it's largely an academic and symbolic matter. I think at the end of the day the issue is can you afford them or not? And if the resources could afford them I wonder if the government would really go out of its way to blow it if the consequences of doing that were enormous. I think that's one reason.
The other reason is there is certainly conventional wisdom within certain negotiating sectors of the ANC, certainly at the time. But as soon as you get on with the job they had better accept the deal so that you can get the interim government going and use this as the first step towards greater things. I think there is a resignation that you will have to compromise certain things and the sooner you get done with it and the answer, the better. I think that is one possible explanation. And I think the other explanation was that the ANC, no, no, let me not pursue this one because I think it wouldn't be the right explanation. I was going to say it had gone a bit out of touch with the people but I don't think that because that was quite close, this deal was quite close to their Policy Conference and usually before or immediately after a Policy Conference the leadership tends to be much more in tune with the grassroots.
So I would say those were the dynamics that I think were at play. The ANC simply saying, this is the first part, let's just get on with the job. And I think that is more of a probable one because if you think of it the last CODESA meeting ended on a very tense note with a very serious diatribe between Mandela and De Klerk and it was followed by a long period of a kind of vacuum with nothing major happening and one would have seen that under those circumstances one already saw the government was beginning to lose support to the right and the ANC must have felt that after a long time it needed to deliver something of progress to their constituents and that could have been the kind of pressures at play. Now your second question was, the government missed an opportunity?
POM If the government had said yes, we accept the package, would they have had difficulty in selling it to their constituency?
VM Yes. I think the ANC rank and file was very angry with that offer and both openly and in private they have argued that it won't serve the ANC. Now whether they would have rejected it or only registered very strong objection but nevertheless go with it to save the process, is another issue. So all I'm prepared to say is that they would have had tremendous difficulty selling the package to their constituency but I wouldn't go as far as to say on the basis of that there wouldn't be a major split or a major rebellion within the organisation. It could be that their delegates to a conference are not in a mass meeting as such and you can do a great deal of cajoling and behind the scenes lobbying a conference to get the delegates to go along with something that is essentially unacceptable in normal circumstances. You are saying that De Klerk missed a good opportunity?
POM Did the government miss the best offer it will ever have?
VM Before I come to this, OK, let me answer that this way. This is linked with my previous answer in a way. Now it was quite a repetition of a mistake the government made in 1985 with the Commonwealth Eminent People's Group. You remember they came here and made an offer of negotiation. The government went along a bit expecting the ANC to reject it and when the ANC said they accepted the negotiation package the government went to bomb three frontline states, Mozambique was one, no I think it was Botswana, Lusaka and Harare. The detail is not important. And what actually happened, they got the ANC off the hook because I think at the time given the intensity of the internal mobilisation at home, people were not ready for negotiation and had the government actually accepted that deal of the Commonwealth, I think at that point it could have easily split the ANC down the bottom because people certainly at home didn't perceive the need for negotiation.
I think this was another opportunity for De Klerk to actually cause quite a great deal of confusion within the ANC if he had accepted this 70%. Whether it would have been a split or not is another issue because the big difference between the ANC and the National Party is that defections from the National Party to the Conservative Party of Treurnicht are much easier than defections from the ANC to the PAC or to AZAPO. So the ANC will always get away with many blunders for the simple reason that it does not have ready made rivals to an organisation who are strong enough to be attractive to defectors from the ANC. And so what you are likely to find is even though there are no obvious splits you may begin to get a great deal of bickering and debate and at least De Klerk missed the opportunity to create that.
Which leads me to another dynamic that it could be that it wasn't actually very sticky about the 70%. That he actually raised it as a bargaining chip. My own view is that probably, no, let me not say it's my own view, one argument is that he wants a white veto. Now I thought that one was too transparent for him to insist on. He would just look obnoxiously unreasonable and I think that even the western powers like Britain and the US thought he had gone too far with that one. One possible explanation was that there were quite major changes in the dynamics. Until the Referendum De Klerk wanted to speed up the negotiation process in order to beat the deadline of the next election. After the resounding victory he became much more relaxed and was actually prepared to stall it in order to undermine the ANC and to see if he could actually gain more support in the black community and one possible explanation was that he wasn't going to dig in his heels with that but he was hoping to delay the elections until the economic recovery which was expected around December so that when he goes into an election for whatever Constituent Assembly or something, he goes on actually with a respectable economic recovery I think. That is one possible explanation on the part of De Klerk. But it was obviously a miscalculation at any rate.
POM In a way De Klerk's response in rejecting it let the ANC off the hook.
VM Yes it did absolutely. Because what the ANC did was to say now we retract every other concession that we have made. So it actually now forces them to go back to square one where they will begin to flex their muscles and I think the whole mass action campaign, I don't think it's designed to be an alternative to the negotiation process, certainly not at the leadership level, but I think it's designed to strengthen the ANC now back at the negotiation table.
POM Looking at the dynamics, if you take from the deadlock at CODESA you have Mandela and De Klerk putting their best face on things. Within a month the situation has changed utterly. You have had Boipatong, the catalyst, we can get to that. But you have had much more emphasis on mass action, mass mobilisation. You have the ANC walking out of CODESA altogether. You have Mandela mounting some fairly vitriolic personal attacks on De Klerk himself. What are the inner dynamics of that? What was happening within the movement to bring about what certainly would appear to be a significant shift in the strategy and tactics being employed by the ANC?
VM There are many things, I could talk on that for several hours. I think the first thing points out to the fundamental flaw of CODESA. Although it was a starting point the major flaw of CODESA was that it really became a very elitist body which was unaccountable actually, consisting of people who represented only themselves or a very small party constituency. It included parties which were of no political consequence and excluded those who had much better clout than some of them which were in there. And my own assessment is that as time went on a great deal of chemistry developed within CODESA participants in a way that actually cut them off totally from their constituencies and only De Klerk went back to reaffirm his mandate and also in quite vague terms. That is number one.
The second issue is for ordinary people CODESA delivered nothing but violence and more killing in the black townships. So in actual fact except for the elite, CODESA made life worse. I mean I'm just saying in terms of perception. People were being killed, the ANC looked increasingly confused and unable to protect people and I think what is happening now it's actually a telling statement that you had this very elitist body which was actually cut off from the grassroots and couldn't actually control what is happening. All indications are whether De Klerk initiated the violence or not, he has lost control of it or has lost control of certain elements within the party. And secondly the push for mass action came largely from COSATU who are very, very powerful people and COSATU represents the very constituency which has lost much and gained very little since February 1990 and which might be fearing marginalisation as the process goes on, and I think what mass action is saying, it's people reclaiming their legitimacy in the process, saying we want to be part, we want our voice to be heard. I think that is the first thing.
It also points to another dynamic which is linked to the first issue. Unlike in Rhodesia, in Zimbabwe, all over, in South Africa internal mobilisation has played a major role in altering the political equation and CODESA was beginning, I mean you are looking at the uprising since 1990. In the mid eighties strikes and so on, people have learned actually to wield power and to use that power to alter the political equation. And what CODESA has done to some extent was to make these very people who were active in the mid eighties in the streets feel completely marginalised and the mass action it's now people reclaiming their power.
I think that that issue was De Klerk became very, very over confident. He had outwitted the ANC in his own perception and quite clearly he was actually in control and the ANC was reacting quite a great deal. Violence had preoccupied, had undermined the ANC quite seriously. His international profile was growing quite a great deal and De Klerk was beginning to feel that he can now do without the ANC. So overall then there was a major shift in scenario perception. Originally De Klerk saw the ANC as the future government with its alliance and what he was planning for was himself with certain allies like Inkatha as the major opposition party. That was his first scenario. And under that scenario he moved at an incredible pace so that the resulting government is very weak and individuals are very strong. That was what he was moving for in the first scenario.
Before the Referendum, shortly before and after that, and with the polls indicating a rise in his popularity and a drop in ANC support, De Klerk actually thought of himself potentially in power and he increasingly became bloody minded I think and adopted the strategy which was meant to weaken the ANC quite substantially. And once that happened, I think once he undermined the ANC the effect was the same as the effect you had with the Nkomati Accord. Before the Nkomati Accord people thought the ANC was strong. With the Nkomati Accord people said our organisation has been weakened and mass mobilisation was actually on the increase. And so what it is essentially saying is there is the fear that it's getting out of control and mass mobilisation it's essentially designed to bring the situation back to where it was before February 1990.
POM When whites voted in the whites only referendum, that entire referendum abroad was presented in terms of it being a process in which De Klerk was saying the white community was prepared to share power with blacks and bring about equality for all, and that's the way it appeared in the South African press, at least in the two clipping services that I subscribe to. The ANC alliance, for the most part, kept their mouths shut and Mandela himself came out in the end and urged whites to vote yes for the referendum and no-one stood up and loudly said, No, no, this isn't about the sharing of power. The process we're negotiating is the transfer of power from a privileged white minority to the majority. I can't understand why the ANC would not have done that, but do you think that De Klerk began to buy into a perception that the ANC were beginning to look upon the process in much the same way as he looked upon it, as one that was essentially about getting to an arrangement for the sharing of power?
VM Well I think certainly he himself has never seen the process as anything other than that. What is interesting, the ANC itself also used a kind of language that the government uses like 'no majority domination' and so on and in rhetoric it's difficult to know what separates the two because power sharing and transfer of power can really mean nothing. You can still transfer power from minority to a coalition. I think the difference is really that of terminology. But my own feeling, I suspect, is that in the beginning at least I don't think the ANC was bargaining totally for an all black government. I doubt if this is what they would go for. I think they are aware that in the conditions of trust, building trust and confidence, you may have to have all the communities represented. I think their view would be whether that is done or not it should be done from a democratic process rather than from a coalition government which is entrenched in the constitution. I think that was their point. What I think rather the effect of the referendum was, I think it really displayed De Klerk's ingenuity because he made it impossible for everyone except the right wing to oppose the referendum. First of all the question was framed in such a way that it the referendum was his personal support, supporting the referendum was supporting him. It said: Do you support the State President's reforms and so on. So that was the first thing so there was no way the ANC would tell the white voters to vote no. It was just impossible. But secondly, the response of the ANC to their victory I think was quite weak because I think the massive vote for De Klerk was an opportunity for the ANC to upping its demands on the grounds that De Klerk can no long complain of the right wing looking, he doesn't have to look over his shoulder. I thought they had the opportunity then to actually take the victory of De Klerk but they actually let him run away with the ball and I think it's much more that dynamic than a conscious calculation that they have the same perception of power sharing. I don't think so.
POM You mentioned De Klerk and the security forces and the violence and you have had the ANC saying since the beginning of July 1990 when the violence began that the government is responsible for the violence, or Inkatha is responsible with the security forces operating either complicitly or implicitly with them. You have Inkatha saying the ANC is the cause of the violence. You have the government saying it's mainly the Inkatha/ANC. What's your belief as to who is responsible for the violence? Do you think the violence can be brought under control?
VM OK. Do you mind if I go back to say something I should have said under question one or two. I will come back to that. You mentioned the fact that Mandela has resorted to strong vitriol in his condemnation of De Klerk and I think one dynamic there, if you remember uncharacteristically for a politician, Mandela was very generous with compliments for De Klerk in the beginning, he described him as a man of integrity and so on. And I think for him there is also a sense of personal betrayal about the whole thing. He put his head on the line and the PAC and AZAPO are laughing, saying, Well didn't we tell you? So I think there's a sense that he was personally betrayed by a person he personally trusted and I think that is why the invective is as strong as the compliments were in the beginning and I think that is worth bearing in mind.
Now to come back to the question of violence, my attitude with violence is instead of saying who has instigated it, I think you have to prove too many things. The best way for me to tackle it is who stands to benefit by it? I'm not dodging the question but I just find it puts less responsibility on my shoulders to prove that Inkatha benefits. If you look after February 1990, there was a definite pattern. The talks first were bilateral and there were all indications that Inkatha was left out and I think Buthelezi strongly resented being left out. He always wanted a tripartite relationship which put him on a par with the other two, Mandela and De Klerk. I think that is one dynamic one needs to bear in mind. The second dynamic was the war in Natal had actually undermined Buthelezi quite a great deal. It had undermined his base because within the Zulu speaking community it was brother against brother and I think he was really there guilty of dividing a community. Now I can see the war moving to the Rand, to the Witwatersrand. First of all that's where your support for the ANC is quite strong, or for the broad liberation movement. And secondly it can now be turned, everybody else against us Zulus. I think it can be a very unifying factor within a certain community, so moving that war, transferring it to the townships has had the effect now of saying it's everybody against the Zulus. So I could see it could begin to unite people who were divided before. Thirdly, it would undermine the ANC because people were increasingly saying, Where is Umkhonto weSizwe to defend us? And there was no Umkhonto weSizwe anyway. So it was a message to people that unless Inkatha is part of this there is no future for you. I think there was that effect. There was the effect of saying you cannot rely on the ANC alone on that. And I think that is as far as the benefits accruing to Inkatha are concerned, coming from that point of violence.
From the state side regardless of who initiated it, it's easy to sell this as black on black violence. No-body refers to the war in Yugoslavia as white on white violence. It's quite an interesting thing. But if it is black on black violence it shows how indispensable De Klerk is because these blacks can't look after themselves. And number two, if you remember of all the pillars of the liberation struggle of the ANC there were four of them, isolation, sanctions, armed struggle and internal mobilisation. International isolation was on the retreat, sanctions were crumbling, De Klerk was getting international support. Armed struggle was really no major issue now. The fact that we have a negotiation process is an admission that the military solution, it's a non starter. So, the only weapon left was internal mobilisation. Now one way of blunting that weapon is actually to cause confusion within the communities, to divide the communities so that it cannot be used in a very unified way because internal mobilisation, mass action works only if communities are united.
If the PAC start saying, We are not part of that we are going to work, then you are going to get all kinds of civil war within the townships. So the kind of violence that was going on could actually undermine the communities and actually undermine mass action so that the last tool of the liberation movement is ineffective anyway. I think that is the scenario. So quite clearly everybody could benefit from the violence except the ANC itself. It was discredited by the violence. I know of people who actually went and said, Give us guns, and were actually saying, If you can't give us guns to protect the communities you are then useless. That was the kind of attitude on the ground. Now the pattern of violence is quite interesting. everybody says it was a tribal violence between Zulus and Xhosas. Now that I cannot understand. The Zulus are in Natal in Zululand. The Xhosas are in Transkei and Ciskei. Surely if it's a tribal war, the war should have been taking place on the eastern coast of the country. I cannot understand how if the British want to attack the French they go to Germany hoping that they will find some French on the pavement. So to call this a tribal war is absolutely stupid.
POM Can I hold you there and get back to that. During the period leading up to the white referendum there was a period of the most intense violence, I think close to 400 people were killed in the run up, the three week period, to the election and that would not have been in De Klerk's interest. That would have been in the interests of those on the right hand side, would you have thought?
VM Sorry, you say many people were killed?
POM In the period during which the campaign was taking place for the white only referendum was the period this year when the most concentrated and sustained period of political violence, of train attacks, taxi incidents, whatever. And that would not appear to be one that would rebound in De Klerk's favour but rather against him, for the right.
VM Yes but be careful of what I said. I didn't said the violence benefited them entirely. I was looking at the violence and trying to see what benefit was there for whom and I haven't finished. I was just isolating who could benefit. I think the point I was making was only the ANC have nothing to benefit from there. Every other person has benefited. So I was just saying essentially that was not a tribal war. I will come to look at the violence itself. But the elements who would have benefited, it's whoever was against the negotiation process and had the means to stop it and most probably, in any situation, those would be elements within the army and elements within the police and elements within the right wing parties so they themselves have also to benefit from the violence if only to say, Since the ANC was unbanned see how violent the country has become.
So what am I saying? I've been making out possible sources of violence, that's all. I'm not prepared to pin it down specifically because I think it would require a lot of proof that I cannot give myself right now. At any rate there has been overwhelming evidence of the involvement of the police, of their assassination squads, I think that has been proved beyond reasonable doubt in many of these cases of individual people. So all you can say is definitely within the security elements this has been condoned right up to senior level because I do think that the police and the army have the capacity to apprehend the people who are involved. There is evidence that this No. 21 Battalion which consists of people who don't speak any of the African languages here, have been involved and those people are in charge. Now, quite clearly the army is involved, the police are involved and there are levels of condonation within all of that. That is the first disease.
The second issue is De Klerk hasn't shown as much enthusiasm in dealing with this matter as you would expect from somebody desperately concerned about dealing with violence and my own conclusion is either he is unwilling, which is worrying, or he is unable, which is even more worrying because it means he has lost control of the army and the police and if that is the case then of course the whole negotiation process is a charade because you are not sure if he can deliver his side of the bargain. I can go on on the violence issue. I don't know if it deals with your issues here?
POM It does because the question I want to come around to ultimately is must the question of the violence be dealt with before - is the order of things wrong? Is the emphasis on CODESA and negotiations wrong in the sense that what you must get is the violence under control before you can get a negotiated settlement that, for example, if tomorrow morning you had all parties agreeing to, say by some miracle you had an agreement, an interim government and an election for a Constituent Assembly, could you have free and fair elections under the present conditions?
VM No. Well I would say first of all here and now I cannot see the negotiation process proceeding without violence stopping. I don't think you can stop violence totally but it has to be that it is under control or it is about to be under control. Now the big problem of course is there's always the egg and the chicken. One way of stopping violence from one end is speeding up the negotiation process, but the other sense is the negotiation process can only be speeded up only under conditions of stability. But here and now I think violence must be controlled. I do not see people having faith in this thing if the only thing the negotiation is delivering is their neighbours being murdered with impunity.
POM The second part is related to the Goldstone Commission which recently issued an interim report saying there was no direct evidence linking De Klerk, his Cabinet or senior security officials to the violence which would seem to be a direct contradiction to what the ANC has been for the last two years and which Mr Mandela has been saying even more vociferously in the last couple of months. And yet Mr Mandela goes to New York and he praises the work of the Goldstone Commission.
VM Yes. So what's the question?
POM The question is, on the one hand Goldstone is saying, My investigations so far would not support your contention that the government is behind the violence. And Mandela goes to New York and praises the work of the Goldstone Commission which has come to a conclusion, an interim conclusion, that is ...
VM I think there are two dynamics here. One of the problems with judicial investigations, judicial issues are different from political issues in one sense. Goldstone Commission's job is to establish evidence, right? And if you cannot establish evidence you just have to say you are not guilty. That's how the court operates. But that in itself does not show that substantively people are not guilty, they are just saying there is evidence against that. So I'm saying as far as perceptions are concerned, for much of that evidence you depend on the collaboration of the police on the investigation and if they report in camera there is no way you can blame Goldstone. And what I suspect Mandela is saying is that Goldstone is a man of integrity, I think he's a highly respected judge here. I may not like his findings, I think they are flawed but they wouldn't be flawed because he himself is dishonest. They might be flawed because structurally that's as far as he can come. That is my own way. I don't think it would be in the ANC's interest to start discrediting Goldstone because he's a judge with impeccable liberal credentials. He's not one of the right wing government puppets. So I think it just wouldn't go down well with their credibility to question him unless they really have overwhelming evidence of his incompetence and lack of integrity which they don't have I'm sure.
POM Yet it gives the government a propaganda weapon. The government can go around saying, See Goldstone has exonerated us, so he gets kind of caught in the middle between trying to do what you say he must do and ...
VM Yes I guess there is a political price there. I think there is a political price. He's caught up in that kind of contradiction but one wonders, it may be the kind of propaganda that might also be revealed, that might be falsified in future. You remember when the government support of Inkatha came to the fore the government was embarrassed. Now legally you haven't proved that De Klerk knew about that finding, but politically and in terms of common sense there is overwhelming evidence that Inkatha was paid by the government, the cheque accounts were shown and so on. So we are really talking in terms of technicalities and political symbols of legality. But at the end of the day one does say that overwhelming common sense does suggest that the government is not innocent. It may be difficult to prove that in a court of law because the demands of evidence in a court of law are exacting. That's all I would say here.
POM I want to go back to what you were saying about the conflict and the violence not being attributable to tribal causes particularly because I would have asked you this question last year, there was a book published by a man named Donald Horowitz, I don't know whether you have come across it, it's called Constitutional ...
VM Yes I've come across it. I haven't read it. I've got it actually.
POM This is what he said about the nature of the problem. He said, "There is disagreement over the extent to which the conflict is about race as opposed to being about oppression merely in the guise of race or among nationalisms among groups demarcated by race and about contending claims to the same land. There is disagreement over the identification and even the names of the racial categories and there is disagreement over the extent to which the conflict also involves ethnic differences within each of the racial categories. There is no consensus whether a future South Africa might also be divided along racial and ethnic lines and, if so, how severe such divisions might become and there is discord over what measures might be required to reduce future conflict. There is lack of a common perceptual claim. There is conflict about the nature of the conflict." Would you agree with that statement?
VM He is saying lots of things there.
POM He argues that there is compelling evidence to believe that South Africa is a deeply divided society along the classic lines of a divided society and that ethnic differences are important and that if they are overlooked in the construction of a new constitution it will pose a potential for conflict down the line.
VM My feeling would be, what is the evidence? I've heard that statement but no-one has given me a single piece of evidence of ethnic conflict in South Africa.
POM OK. Let me pose it in a second way. When I talk to, say, white liberal academics and ask them whether there is an ethnic dimension to the conflict they will to a person say yes. But they will say they don't want to talk about it in public forums because if they were to do so that it would somehow make them appear to be apologists for the government and would put a question mark beside their liberal credentials.
VM OK, I understand that. As I say, I return to my first point, my point is not that there is no ethnic conflict, my point is that if there is an ethnic conflict in South Africa here and now show it to me. But that's what I want to know, what is the example of it?
POM OK let me pose it this way. I have talked to Zwelithini, Buthelezi, all the Inkatha people, I've gone into the hostels and talked to hostel dwellers. Among hostel dwellers to a person they all say the same thing and they always talk about Xhosa and Zulu. They see the ANC as a Xhosa dominated organisation which is out to establish a one party state and is out to dominate Zulus. That this is the end game, that the Zulus are the only people who can stand up to, could be able to stand in the way of the ANC achieving a one party state. So from their point of view, the language they use is ethnic language in a way that I would identify language used by Catholic and Protestant in Northern Ireland and it's down to intonation of voice, closing all these details. And to say to them it's not about ethnicity ...
VM No, but that's why I'm asking a different question here. Are we talking of Zulu races? You see if you are saying the recent ethnic problem in South Africa, I want to know how many ethnic groups are there in South Africa and are we having an ethnic war going on? That's the question I'm asking. And number two, I repeat what I want to say, if it's ethnic why don't they go and attack the Xhosas in Ciskei and Transkei? Why do you attack the houses randomly in Soweto? Many people who have been killed in Soweto are Zulus. You cannot actually tell who is Zulu, who is Xhosa. They just go and kill randomly. So, if there is ethnic war, if there is ethnic conflict, I want to say it's not borne out by this violence. I think using ethnic war to cover this violence it's really dishonest. If we were to attack Umtata or Ciskei I would buy this story but they go into a township wildly, indiscriminately and the kind of violence you have here follows the same kind of violence that you have with Unita, the same kind of violence that you have with Renamo and the same kind of violence the CIA has supported in Nicaragua and the Contras, what you call low intensity warfare, and essentially it's a violence which is intended to intimidate civilians so that they begin to fear any association with the ANC. That is actually the impact of the violence but I don't think they are aiming at Zulus or Xhosas, many of the people who have been killed are neither members of the ANC, they are not even Xhosas. Then I would begin to hesitate whether one wants to call it ANC/Inkatha violence. I don't think so because if it is ANC/Inkatha you go into the rooms of ANC people but this has been pretty indiscriminate violence. How do you isolate people in a train coach? So my point has been, I'm not saying there is no ethnic problem. I'm prepared to be persuaded that there could be. What I'm saying is it's not borne out by this violence. That's the only point I'm making.
POM You talked about Zulu racism.
VM No. I'm saying the evidence you are giving to me, the kind of thing you are saying to me doesn't show that it's true, it's not my opinion. I'm saying if what you are telling me about the hostel dwellers, about the Buthelezis, if what you are saying is true you are now talking purely of either Zulu racism or Zulu nationalism. You are not talking of an endemic ethnic problem. If you said that's what you encountered wherever you went then that would be different. I'm saying if you are saying Zulus want to rule themselves, and this is what you are saying, then one has to identify either a Zulu nationalism or a Zulu ethnicity or a Zulu racism, but it mustn't become South African racism any more than if the right wing people attack De Klerk. We don't call it white on white violence or we don't call it white ethnicity. I'm just saying focus the problem where it is.
POM Why then do you think that, again, white liberal academics with what one would call impeccable academic credentials, good researchers, whatever, to a person say yes they believe there is an ethnic dimension to the conflict but that it is not fashionable to bring it up. And the most recent expression of this I saw was in a book, I don't know whether it's been published here yet, called After Apartheid by Sebastian Mallaby (?), he's The Economist's general reporter in South Africa for a number of years and he raises this point: a recurrent theme among white writers writing about South Africa, what do you think it says?
VM Well I think there are two levels. At the first serious level I want to repeat what I said. I'm not saying that this is wrong, I'm just saying every point of substantiation I've wanted for it has proved to be something else. Like what you are telling me now doesn't tell me there's an ethnic problem in South Africa, it only tells us that in South Africa the Zulus have a certain problem and I'm not prepared to deny that, but that's a different issue and you'll tackle it differently. And secondly, it depends what you mean if you say there is an ethnic dimension. I'm prepared to accept that but I want to know whether you are saying that dimension is central to the whole thing or peripheral. That's another thing that needs to be cleared because I think right now you may have a pickpocket trying to pickpocket a white person, a black pickpocket, and a white person knocks him down and then people start fighting. There is obviously a racial dimension there but you don't want to say that violence is to be explained in racial terms only.
My own experience is that liberal or not there is quite a morbid fascination amongst whites about African ethnicity as you find about bare breasts, African women, where you bring tourists. There's just morbid fascination about it. I'm not saying its not there but I'm just saying it tends to be overblown. People can't just live without the notion of ethnicity and the irony is the history of the country so far runs against that view. It may be validated in future but I see nothing in matters happening in SA that tells me we have an ethnic problem. We might have it, it may be latent, but I'm just saying I haven't seen it just this year.
POM Now that takes me to the issue of white academics to a person, not conservative ones, go in one direction and black academics go in the other direction; what are the perceptual apparatuses that are at work within both?
VM I think, I'm sure there are black scholars and that is also my view, my view I'm not saying dismiss it, it may be latent, I don't know, it's happening in Eastern Europe. I don't have to assume it will never happen here. All I want to say is what you have told me about Inkatha it's what I've heard many times and I'm not prepared to ignore that as a dimension but I don't want to say it's a countrywide dimension. That's what I don't want to say. It could be Zulu nationalism, it's a special force, but what about the Tswanas and there are many other groups. Why don't we hear them in the streets cutting each other's throats and why don't the Zulus go and smash the Xhosas in the Eastern Cape. I think that's just what I want to know, is that really Zulu war that we are dealing with?
POM To come back to CODESA for a moment, first of all who gains from the talks being stalled?
VM Well I think definitely the ANC has the potential to gain at the moment. I think what it does, first of all it got them out of their untidy situation where they found themselves with the 70%. Secondly, and I've said that in one of the articles I published recently, when the elites are removed from power they quickly re-mobilise, rediscover and re-mobilise their constituency and what this has done was to give the ANC the ability to re-mobilise it's own constituency. So I think they will gain, the ANC stands to gain. But I want to go further than that, that ironically mass action it's the only thing that is going to save the talks. That's one of the ironies. That's the only condition under which the ANC can go back to talks with the tail out of their legs and carry their supporters with them. I think De Klerk has become over-confident and I think he's very shocked about the power of the ANC still and he thought that power was gone. And I think only if you think your rivals are powerful do you begin to take them seriously at the negotiation process. I have no doubt that talks will be resumed and I think they will be resumed simply because mass action will take place.
POM So you see a successful programme of mass actions?
VM That's a good question. I was going to qualify what I'm saying. I say, let me put it this way, mass action is a necessary condition for the resumption of talks but it is not a sufficient condition. Why is it not sufficient? The trouble with mass actions is they are easy to initiate, they are easy to inspire but they are not always easy to control and the danger, of course, is that the ANC has to make sure that mass action doesn't go out of control, that certain excesses don't take place to the point where it begins to develop sympathy for De Klerk. I think that is important. There is that risk can happen so I'm not saying it's only one dimension.
POM Is there a risk that the capacity to sustain it could be over-estimated and particularly things like strike actions? Initially there was talk of a three week strike and then it was a week's strike.
VM Yes I think a three week strike is unreasonable. I don't think any strike, I think seven days should be your maximum. Even that will be a major battle to get.
POM The a strike of two days is not a good thing?
VM Yes. The strike of two days I think that they can sustain. I think there are risks that go with mass action and the trouble with mass action is people want to know, right I've missed two days of my work and two days of my wages, what has this all been in aid of? So the ANC has to make sure that it is able to deliver certain results after the mass action. There is a risk that they can do that, they are not delivering anything tangible. There is a risk if that happens then they will lose control of the masses and then they are really going to get back to the mid eighties with the townships out of control altogether. But I think a counter to that, I think the international community will be too concerned. I think the international community at the moment is too concerned about what happens in Yugoslavia and what we are going to see now it's an increasingly important role for the international community in South Africa because I don't think the internal parties have the capacity to run and play the game on their own now.
POM Two quick last ones. Who are the political winners and losers of the stalemate? Are the PAC the political winners?
VM Only symbolic. They are political winners in the sense that their credibility has risen. It's quite interesting many ANC rank and file are saying we do admit that everything the PAC and AZAPO predicted has happened. So they are people who can no longer simply be dismissed as clowns. Their moral and political authority has risen but whether that is going to translate in numbers depends on a host of other factors but I think their political stature has grown.
POM The international community, a number of people I've talked to say that when one looks at the Security Council debate that the government was, looking at it in terms of who's up and who's down, that the government got the better of it, that it was a relatively weak resolution and that there was no kind of condemnation of the South African government which was standard practice in the past and that the ANC wasn't the only player on the stage speaking for the black community. How would you assess it?
VM Yes, I think the victory of the ANC was in getting the talks to go, the talks on the agenda, getting the Security Council to agree to the meeting. I think that was important but I think definitely it has taken place against a changed international environment and the priority of the Security Council was to remain a facilitator rather than a judge in the matter. I think they wanted to be able to continue to play a uniting role. What was interesting at the Security Council meeting, you are quite right, there were many other speakers but the President of the Security Council was at pains to state that they were coming in in their individual capacity. So we are talking of symbolic victories there I think. And the government certainly they came better off in this one than any other encounter with the UN.
POM Very last, say they go back to the table, say the government and the ANC get back to the table, has Buthelezi the capacity to be a spoiler?
VM As long as he continues to be supported militarily by the security forces, I think without the military support he wouldn't be a spoiler.
POM If the level of violence in Natal continues, would it be possible to have - you could have elections in the country that would be not valid in Natal simply because of the level of intimidation?
VM Yes, but that is why I'm saying, you see it depends to what extent he is armed. You are quite right, Natal can become a problem on its own but I think if you have a concerted effort to curb the violence you will curb the violence. I think if whatever supervising authority is serious then you will curb the violence. I think one reason the violence has continued, it's simply the half-hearted manner in which it was addressed. I'm not saying that's the only one but it has been allowed to continue either because it was black on black violence as they call it, there's always fascination about that, or simply because the whites didn't stand to lose. But I do believe if a point comes when Buthelezi is beginning to threaten white interests they will be able to deal with him.