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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

30 Jul 1992: Desai, Barney

Click here for more information on the Interviewee

Click here for Overview of the year

POM     Mr Desai, the PAC refused to participate in CODESA and I am sure that in some small way when the CODESA talks collapsed the PAC in its heart of hearts must have felt, well we were right, we knew this could go nowhere. First of all would you give me your analysis of (i) what was wrong with the structure of CODESA and (ii) why you believed the talks collapsed and (iii) in whose interest was it that the talks in fact collapsed?

BD     Well the structure as I told you previously was patently undemocratic. Of the nineteen parties involved, fourteen of them are structures created directly by apartheid, namely the Bantustans, and they include four military juntas who are also in the direct pay of this regime. So outside of the ANC and the SACP you had the Bantustans there, you had the military juntas there, you had tricameral representatives there, all of whom are the products of apartheid. They had no mandate, even in their own Bantustans they were not democratically elected and therefore that was the first weakness of it. It was quite clear that the whole structure was going to be used to the advantage of the regime. As it turned out we were involved partly in it and we had to walk out because we found that in addition there was some kind of written understanding or at least the ANC thought they had some understanding, written or otherwise, with the NP and the regime that the whole show was really about whether the two of them can come to an agreement and to use the rest as rubber stamps. Thirdly, this structure was not open to the media, it was behind closed doors, something we objected to, and after spending 16 million rands on keeping the show going the general public in this country were clueless as to what had in fact occurred at CODESA.

POM     Let me ask you, were you surprised when the ANC made an offer of a 75% threshold for the inclusion of items in a Bill of Rights and a 70% threshold for the inclusion of items in a constitution, when they made that offer to the government?

BD     We had said, look the position is that we want a Constituent Assembly elected on a common voters' roll. We said that the multi-party talks that the regime was proposing were no different from the subsequent proposal made by the ANC for all-party talks because we saw this as circumvention of the concept of holding elections for people to then draft up the constitution for this country. What occurred at CODESA was a well laid trap which the ANC fell for where they were going to decide on what in fact was an interim constitution that would have tied our people's aspirations, that's the black people's aspirations, hand and foot for the next ten years, which would ensure that a constitution, even when a Constituent Assembly came about, because that was the concession allegedly made by the regime to the ANC, that when that Constituent Assembly really sat and when it was elected it would find that there was little it could do but become a talk shop and not a constitution making body because with that kind of majority there would be blockage continually of the process.

POM     In fact they were willing to give ...

BD     And so the ANC gave away something which we suspected that they were prepared to do, that their commitment at the Patriotic Front to a Constituent Assembly was one which they were trying to side-track. They found themselves in a hell of a mess there and they retrieved the position in time. Hani is quoted as saying that since 1990 he hasn't felt happier than he feels today because the negotiation process in CODESA was demobilising the movement in this country.

POM     Why would the ANC be prepared to give away what in effect would be the minority veto to which they all along, or at least in terms of rhetoric, have been adamantly opposed to?

BD     They want to get into power as soon as possible. They were prepared to make an elitist settlement. That's what it was all about and they overstepped the mark.

POM     Do you think, you've partly answered, but if the government had said yes we accept, do you think the ANC would have had a real problem selling that deal to the rank and file of their membership?

BD     Absolutely. They retrieved the position in time.

POM     So the government saved the ANC by saying no?

BD     In a way. It made them think again of what they were in fact doing. They were holding this country to ransom for a minority. They were in fact unaware that what both parties were discussing were two different things. The one party was talking about democracy, democracy as we know it, majority rule. The other party was talking about power sharing and there was a gulf that you could not bridge. They were trying to bridge the unbridgeable.

POM     Do you think the government by rejecting that offer rejected the best offer they will ever get?

BD     Well I don't know. I don't know whether they wouldn't get any further options. I don't know how far there are people in this country within the liberation movement that are prepared to make a deal which we call the Muzorewa option to run this country jointly irrespective of whether there's a democratic content.

POM     So it seems to me that there's some kind of a debate going on, or maybe two different conceptual frameworks being used by maybe yourselves and by the ANC. It seems to me you're saying the ANC wants to get its hands on power as quickly as possible, therefore if it has to make a lot of compromises to get there it will make them because what it wants is power. What you're saying is, go slower, this thing must be done the right way and if that takes more time, the oppressed people have to remain oppressed for a longer period of time that's worth it because when it's done it'll be done in a way that will be durable and will last.

BD     Well said Patrick, well said!

POM     To go back to the talks again, I'd like to hear your analysis of what do you think were the dynamics going on? You had the deadlock at CODESA, you had de Klerk and Mandela putting the best face on it saying deadlock, yes, but the problems aren't insuperable. One month later you had the ANC walking out of the talks, you had strident calls for mass action, you had Mandela making very direct attacks on de Klerk himself. You seemed to have a whole shift in the dynamics of power within the ANC itself. What do you think was going on? Of course you had Boipatong.

BD     Boipatong, the ill-conceived deal that they were trying to make that contributed to breaking the talks, that it would have been a prolonged deadlock had Boipatong not occurred. It's questionable, we feel that on past performances they would have found some kind of remedy to go back again if some of the fourteen conditions that they put down to the regime were met. You see they have done this in the past, they have issued ultimatums and then have gone back. They said they would not negotiate unless all our prisoners are released and yet right up to today over 400 prisoners of the ANC are still in prison. They said there would be no substantial talks. So they are prone to resiling even on their own conference resolutions and there is a section in the ANC that is becoming pretty hard line. In fact Mandela referred to them a couple of days ago when he said that negotiations must take their course. Now we want to know, what is mass action then about? What is this general strike about if it's not to force the issue? But you can detect that they would have gone back because whilst within their own ranks, the ANC's own ranks, they now talk about an alternative forum like the PAC does. Mandela is quoted in the Sowetan as saying, "What alternative forum?" I know of no alternative forum. So as far as he's concerned and the group around him are concerned, they were going to use or are using mass action and strike action to revive CODESA and our objection to being part of this mass action without any consultations is that we are not interested in reviving CODESA.

POM     Do you see any shift of power within the ANC from "the moderates" the CODESA-types, the negotiation among elites, this is the way the thing will be settled, to more radical elements which say you must have not just negotiations going on but parallel with negotiations all the time you must have mass action, that you must keep your hands around the neck of the government all the time?

BD     Except that you see you can't negotiate like that. This is not Vietnam where a war was going on and they were talking in Paris and those talks went on for years. This is a situation where there is a deadlock in the balance of power and the ANC is negotiating, as we said before, from a position of weakness. They can't overthrow the government and the government can't continue operating in a repressive way. The ANC, by the time CODESA reached the deadlock, was haemorrhaging badly on the government because people just didn't know what was going on. They were fed misinformation that a settlement is imminent. You may have seen this in the newspapers abroad that everything's about to be tied up, whereas in fact they were very far from that. With the deadlock they've been able to go back to that constituency, the militant side of that constituency and say let's go for mass action, recoup their position in some way. But I wouldn't have thought very substantially because people are becoming terribly disillusioned at the way they are conducting negotiations. I am pretty surprised that they have done it in such an inept way and I see at the moment that the negotiators, the chief negotiators, are under some pressure from the hard liners and from the grass roots constituency. In the Vaal Triangle, for example, the people, when Mandela goes there, talk about giving us guns. When we go down to the Vaal Triangle, we were in Boipatong on the day of FW's visit, we were mobbed as heroes.

POM     You went down on the day of?

BD     The day he visited Boipatong.

POM     The day Mandela?

BD     No, the day FW.

POM     Oh yes, yes.

BD     And we were part of that group of people who in fact chased him out of the place. Feelings were running very high and the ANC had to do something about it and that's why they're not back earlier, the soft line chaps are not back earlier at CODESA than one would have expected because of other events, but they're waiting for things to cool down. The government says, the regime says we're waiting for this mass action to play itself out and then these guys will come back. This is the way they think.

POM     Well is this a kind of an elite men's club attitude? And the parallel I would give is that the ANC would say, now we gave de Klerk time to take care of his right wing, we allowed him to have his white's only referendum, we didn't raise our voices against it. We allowed him to try to consolidate his position. Is the government saying, well we'll allow the ANC to have their mass action for a couple of days and to have their strikes for a week or two and then when that element has played itself out then we'll all get back together around the negotiating table?

BD     There's probably a bit of that, yes, as well. But they have no alternative but to wait until this thing cools down a bit. I don't think that we're going to go back to CODESA. I don't think that that option is open to the ANC any more. I don't think their mass support is going to allow that kind of somersault again. I think we're going to now get to a different stage and one can see that there's movement on the side of the government for international participation, precisely some of the things that we are saying for a presence, international presence here. They don't want to go as far as we do. We want the whole works, neutral chairman, verification of agreements, monitoring and so forth. I don't believe that the options are any more open for CODESA to be revived meaningfully. And I think that if anything the government also feels that it needs to bring in parties who are not at CODESA negotiations at present, parties that are not involved in the negotiations like the PAC and others and probably some sectors of the right wing. Recently even the right wing have said they can't really say that the world must not interfere, they possibly have some right to know what's happening here.

POM     Before I get to that new forum and the PAC, I want you just to go back to Boipatong for a moment.

BD     I'd like to go back to Boipatong and I'd like to go back to violence. The violence is escalating in a frightening way in this country and I mentioned a figure of 7000, but since 1984 we've had almost 13000 to 14000 people injured and killed. We have a situation where we believe the regime has a double agenda. It wishes to negotiate by day and kill by night. By that I mean, to destabilise the liberation forces so that it appears stronger on the political scene, it appears to be the peace maker, it appears to be the instrument of stability and so on by showing blacks fighting blacks.

POM     Were you disappointed when the Goldstone Commission came out in two reports saying there was no evidence to link either de Klerk, his Cabinet or senior security people to violence? Was that predictable or do you respect Goldstone?

BD     From our point of view we don't respect any judicial commission appointed by this regime, nor do we really respect the Judges that are appointed by this regime because they are appointed not because they are qualified people, they are appointed because they are white and they have interests to serve. It's very significant that Goldstone says there's no evidence of state orchestrated violence. Well it's one thing to say that there's no evidence and it's another thing to exculpate people when in fact something very, very funny is happening around the country. Similarly he says there is no evidence to ascertain who the killers are that have been attacking the trains. Now what does that mean in legal terms? Is he whitewashing the authorities or is he saying there is no evidence?

POM     I suppose he would say from a legal point of view there isn't the evidence there to support a statement that de Klerk, the Cabinet or senior security people are involved. On the other hand I don't think he is saying he's exculpating them.

BD     But who is he depending on to investigate state orchestrated violence? Who is he depending on to investigate the South African Police? The police themselves. How can the people that we accuse of crimes investigate themselves?

POM     Would you have the same reaction to the Waddington Report on Boipatong, saying that the police were not involved but they were grossly incompetent, the police force behaved like ...?

BD     I would, as a legal man, would like to know what evidence was put before him and by whom. He doesn't come in here with an independent investigation team. He has to rely on the South African Police to tell him we're not involved.

POM     So as far as your organisation is concerned?

BD     We would have nothing to do with the Peace Accord because it is a structure organised by the regime. We would have nothing to do with commissions because it's a structure organised by the regime. And even when the commissions do come out and find that the regime ought to be being 1, 2 or 3, the regime blatantly ignores them. As far as we're concerned we've just seen Gluckman come out with a report that of the 200 cases that he's investigated 90% of them were the victims of assault and torture and in many cases straightforward murder. Why should we rely on these people to ascertain any modicum of truth in the situation?

POM     Do you think that Gluckman's statement about the number of cases is a correct assessment of what's been going on?

BD     Well, Patrick, all I can say to you is that in 1969 I wrote a book called The Killing of the Imam where I tabulated how a Moslem priest was killed here in Cape Town. It relates to the death of Imam Haroun in detention. I went through all the records. That book was banned until 1991 and was only unbanned, unlike Marx and Lenin, after I instituted action against the Censor Board.

POM     So what would you like to see done in the case of ...?

BD     I believe that these killings have been going on all the time. Again, I would like to see, this falls within the category of violence too as far as I'm concerned, I would like to see independent people investigating this, independent investigators, independent judiciary assisting in this investigation. We have absolutely no confidence in any apparatus or any instrument of this regime to uncover the truth of anything.

POM     One other question I was going to ask you regarding Boipatong is that you paint a picture of an ANC that was in some disarray and they had apparently been prepared to strike a deal that lots of their membership would have been unhappy with and there was already a lot of disaffection on the ground and the violence was continuing and people were feeling that they were not being protected from the violence. I have read reports of their being faction fighting between former MK returnees and people in the townships. So a lot of things are going on. Then Boipatong happens and the ANC are able to use it as an occasion to pull their fractious constituencies together to reassert the role of the people in the struggle. So if one were cynical, or even very political, you would say it happened at the right time for them? Has it allowed it to regain some of the momentum you said it had lost?

BD     Well I think time will tell. They promised that we would be going through the Leipzig option at the moment. We're very far from the Leipzig option. Many of their mass actions have failed, they have not attracted people. They were supposed to pull out 80,000 to march into Pretoria last Saturday, there were some difficulties about the route march. They were then reduced by the police to only bring 15,000 people to this march. They ended up with 500. Now there is something fundamentally wrong. Sometimes you may be able to do things to retrieve your position, at other times you may lose, you may haemorrhage so badly that you can't get a transfusion. What is happening now I believe is that the disillusionment with the way the ANC has been conducting itself is becoming almost irreversible. Yes, I would agree that when they get people out in the streets and they go back to their constituency and they start consulting people again, they may retrieve some lost ground but I think it is a proven fact that from a very high of something like 75% to 80% that was predicted when Nelson Mandela came out as support for the ANC, it has now come down to 50%.

POM     Fifty?

BD     Yes. This is what the papers say. What I'm in fact saying is that they cannot rely confidently in the fact that by zigzagging like this they will be able to maintain their constituency.

POM     You raise a very interesting point because the threat of mass action was their trump card and if you have a trump card the threat of using it is always better than actually using it because it might not turn out to be such a trump card at all. If this mass mobilisation fizzles out, where does that leave the ANC?

BD     Very much high and dry. Very much high and dry and a very much weaker organisation.

POM     So if you were a government strategist would you say let's bend to the demands of the ANC because God knows what kind of mass action they're going to unleash on the streets and in the towns? Or would you say, let them play it out?

BD     This is in fact what the regime is in fact saying, let them play it out.

POM     So you think the regime believes the ANC will play their mass action out. It will be kind of a damp squib and then the government have regained the political high ground when it comes to negotiations again, at least with the ANC?

BD     Well let alone the regime taking that view, if I was an independent person looking down from the moon and I looked at the effects, and one thinks of the Leipzig option, hundreds of thousands of people bringing down a government, one thinks of what they said about an indefinite strike and then when one sees that COSATU has then reduced it to two days and not only two days and then tried to reduce it to a day by making a deal with the businessmen, that's hardly the way to bring down this government. And so the government can see certain weaknesses. And today we will be issuing a statement saying in effect that we remain committed to genuine mass action but it appears the belief that the two-day national strike called by the ANC alliance arises from inter-CODESA rivalries, reformist posturing and positions in CODESA.

     CODESA has failed and is discredited, a forum which cannot deliver true freedom and we will not come within spitting distance of it. We further note that as part of its strategy, this is very interesting, COSATU members were advised timeously to declare legal disputes with their employers on matters arising from working conditions and in this manner enjoyed a protection of the law during their stayaway. Those who are not on legal disputes carefully manipulated to coincide with the stayaway, will alone bear the brunt of mass action. This is hardly conducive to unity at this stage. Then we say, furthermore, we have not been able after repeatedly asking the ANC for discussions on mass action, and one would have thought they would have welcomed them, they have repeatedly ignored us, not responded. Why is this? Is it because our agenda is more principled? So there is a question-mark.

     So in the light of this we are not going to participate in the stayaway which we say is designed to breathe life into the discredited CODESA. We recognise the right of the ANC to pursue their own programme and we hope that they will recognise our right to follow a different strategic option. And then, of course, we take the ANC to task. For a number of years our students, particularly the matriculants, have been getting disastrous matric results. This cannot bode well for our future if the majority of our student population goes through this kind of crisis. We attack the ANC here for calling on the students to be involved in this protest action, to lose valuable time from school. Why are they involving the students again? And this is despite the fact that earlier this year they made an agreement with the education authorities, those interested in the schools and the Trade Unions and so on, National Committee for Educational Crisis and so on, that they will not call out students any more on this kind of activity and they are going back on their word. So the teachers are even saying they are not going to classes and the schools are closed. This is an act of desperation as far as we're concerned. We feel that we cannot take part in this general strike because it's a sham and worse, it's electioneering.

POM     Let's put it another way, it looks to me like a political chess game, that the ANC made a bad move in offering 70% and 75% thresholds, the government made a bad move in not immediately saying yes. That allowed the ANC to recover momentarily from its bad move with Boipatong. Then the ANC made its next move and its next move, thinking it had regained the advantage, was to call for mass action. Bad move. If it doesn't succeed the advantage is handed right back to the government who now say you've played your best card, come back to the table basically on our terms. And that would be to a CODESA forum which you're saying can't work anyway. Tell me, before I get on to the PAC and its proposals and its agenda, what are the lessons to be learned from the CODESA process itself?

BD     That you don't negotiate in a forum that is pre-packed with government stooges. Secondly that you do not enter serious negotiations when you are in a position of weakness, that you build up your strength, you build up your structures so that you can offer a proper challenge. There was no need for this indecent haste. After all changes in this country basically came about as a result of pressure from the top. As I said to you earlier if they had come from the bottom that would be a different matter. So don't negotiate when your opposition has the ace.

POM     Is the leadership in the ANC in control of the membership of the grassroots or are there elements now, you talked about the Vaal Triangle and the anger there, is there an element of the youth who belong to neither ANC, PAC, at the same time are prepared to take up weapons and engage in a lot of violence without being aligned with anybody, just because anger and resentment is so overfilling and so overwhelming after two years of nothing apparently happening?

BD     I have said to you earlier I think the ANC is haemorrhaging very badly. What tourniquets they can apply to keep ...

POM     Is that haemorrhaging becoming a blood transfusion for the PAC? Are you gaining from their haemorrhaging or are they haemorrhaging ...?

BD     Well let me put it to you, in any system that's open the mistakes of one party always rebound the better for the other who's in contention. It's a natural process that if they make what I would call the proverbial balls up of the situation, why shouldn't we benefit as the alternative?

POM     Well what I've heard from many people is that you should be able to but that you're not organised in a way that will enable you to capitalise on the situation.

BD     To a certain extent that's true. Our growth, nevertheless, has been spectacular.

POM     Four hundred branches is it across the country?

BD     We are going very, very well. We're doing very, very well. We're getting a lot of support outside our formal structure, and that's where it counts. If you want to win an election you're not going to win an election on your membership, you're going to win an election on the correctness of your policy and so forth. What the ANC has been losing is that general appeal.

POM     OK, I'll link a number of things together. What you want is a negotiating forum that will address the modalities for having an election for a Constituent Assembly which will draw up the constitution, really the agenda in one sense, it's as simple as that.

BD     Yes.

POM     At the present moment you have the increasing levels of violence, different kinds of violence overlapping one into the other and different levels feeding on each other. Do you think there is now, or can be in the reasonably near future, a climate in this country that would permit free and fair elections?

BD     If it doesn't happen sooner it won't happen later at all.

POM     OK. I know what you're saying.

BD     I'm saying that the situation is so serious now that it's only the stopping of the violence, that's why we called for the international community's involvement, so that we can have immediate elections at the very earliest possible moment because having elections and having legitimacy of government goes a long way to dealing with the question of violence. But if you delay the process of legitimising the state in this country you are opening up a Pandora's box for other things to occur. Is that clear enough?

POM     Now, steps to end the violence. In Northern Ireland they have a phrase that I hate to use, it's called 'getting an acceptable level of violence'.

BD     We are not asking for an acceptable level of violence to occur before somebody gets to their senses. There is really an unacceptable level of violence in this country. We are very concerned with it. It can put everybody's plans asunder. We are not interested in using this particular phrase as a way out of the violence.

POM     So the order of priority is violence must be brought under control before anything in terms ...

BD     Violence must be brought under control and simultaneously there must be moves towards a genuine political settlement.

POM     Bringing the violence under control, what are the essential steps here?

BD     Well we are proposing, as we did at the United Nations, our President Mr Makwetu he called for a number of things to occur. He says that defining why the Peace Accord failed, he says, "To redress the serious structural shortcomings of the National Peace Accord the PAC proposes a UN Commission composing a combination of political and other experts to investigate, monitor and adjudicate to be sent to South Africa by the Security Council and to remain until the election of a new government. Foreign mercenaries like the erstwhile Koevoet and Battalion 32 to be verifiably expelled from this country and not to be dispersed so that these killers can have more room to move in. Having a mere presence in the executive of various branches of the Security Forces does not guarantee effective control. Purging and legitimising of the command structure of the security forces, involvement of the international community is necessary."

     We also say that the SADF must be confined to barracks under UN supervision and when that occurs and as a result of mutual cessation of hostilities as is envisaged by the UN Declaration of December 1989 we will be putting ourselves in a position where we are now really dealing the question of violence seriously. We say all this involves, that involvement of a UN Commission on the violence be based on the definition of violence as state sponsored destabilisation of the South African people. The UN Security Council did not want to point at who was responsible for violence, that's how the Security Council works. Some people didn't want to put this regime in the dock.

     Now what happens then? Bearing in mind the structural incapability of CODESA to handle inevitable deadlocks arising from our differing ideologies and aspirations the UN should consider the establishment of an alternative forum which, unlike CODESA, will have the following necessary features. Transparency - the media should be allowed access to its work. I'm now talking about the alternative. Representativity - parties should be elected to draft a new constitution. A Constituent Assembly is the place where they should be elected to and that for the purposes of getting this going we should have a pre-Constituent Assembly meeting with the regime and all others involved to establish the modalities for calling such a Constituent Assembly. The UN should set a second forum to be known as the political democratisation team to supervise, convene, verify, underwrite discussions and agreements for the elections of a Constituent Assembly. So we have a programme here to deal with violence. We have a programme that goes hand in hand with that programme to deal with the democratisation process. Some people have suggested that one way of breaking out of the jam lock at the moment is to have a referendum. We say, what's the point of that? A referendum on whether there should be power sharing or majority rule? What if that referendum, as I predict, would say there should be majority rule?

POM     Two questions on that. One is that when whites were voting in the whites' only referendum and when they voted yes, were you surprised at the extent to which they voted yes? And what do you think whites were voting for? What were they saying yes to?

BD     They were saying, yes, no more sanctions, yes, no more isolation. [yes, some kind of ...] That's what they were voting for. The right were voting for naked brutal apartheid to continue. I think because of the crisis that we were experiencing and are still experiencing many people thought, amongst the whites, that the situation couldn't go on any longer, some reform has to come about and so they voted for the reform party.

POM     This goes back to something we talked about last year which I think is the crux of the issue and that is the two different languages being spoken, by the National Party, by whites, it's that this is a process about the sharing of power. For blacks the language is it's about the transfer of power and they are essentially two things which are ...

BD     That's the crux of the dispute at CODESA. That's why CODESA broke down.

POM     Were whites voting for a process that would lead to the sharing of power but not the transfer of power?

BD     I think it's safe to say that they were voting for the sharing of power.

POM     I've looked at a number of opinion polls and I know all opinion polls are suspect, everyone says, well you know questions can be framed in such and such a way. Who did they ask. But there was one by the Markinor Institute that showed fairly large proportions of blacks in favour of power sharing.

BD     But I would dispute that because the same sample is used. The same sample of who has got a telephone, who is in a particular class group and naturally there are people in a particular class group that are going to be looking at things in a different way. When we're talking about the majority of the people here, there's no polling among the majority of the people. How can they say it's wrong? You must say of the 2000 people that we've polled this is what they say. You can't say that the majority of blacks want power sharing. The majority of blacks want self-determination. I can't conceivably think that we are so unique in this country that we abjure the right of self-determination, that we need a veto on our back for the rest of eternity.

POM     Last year, compared to the year before, you had developed a more, benign is the wrong word, but a more generous attitude towards the ANC. It was at a time when the Patriotic Front was being put together and you said the ANC, the first year of the ANC had been a process between the ANC and the government and it kind of excluded everybody else, now with your initiative on the Patriotic Front they had become a lot more inclusive and they were more consultative with other organisations and now one would see really since that time they have moved away from that again and back into seeing it as being more of an exclusive arrangement between themselves and the government. Is that right? When you analyse this, one day the ANC is here and then they say the Patriotic Front is a good idea, let's all get involved in that and that starts and then suddenly they've moved over here again back to their original position, this zigzag. What accounts for this constant zigzag that appears to go on with regard to not just the Patriotic Front but with regard to issues, stances, positions?

BD     They are populist, they are elitist at the same time. When they suffer setbacks they take cover with the rest of the population. When they think they're on a winning wicket they reject the population. My view, the last time you interviewed me I was more sympathetic to the ANC, that's the word I would use, that is because there was hope that something that we feel very dearly about and that is the unity of the oppressed was about to be achieved in a meaningful way and on a principled basis. I exuded that confidence then precisely because, and this I would like to mention, it belies the fact that we are standing on the sidelines with our arms folded waiting for everything to crash so that we can come and take over like the knights in shining armour. If we can do this together we would like to do it together because it will be effective, it will be faster operation, less fractious, it will be a good omen for democracy in this country. So there were many elements in that feeling that I expressed that were running through that sentiment. This time around I'm feeling a bit depressed. I just find it, I don't know what the word is, I just find it - well I suppose I ought not to really get too depressed about it because if one does put down the predominant leadership of the ANC as being elitist then I think that this is the way elitists very often behave throughout the world and I must take sustenance from that.

POM     To go to de Klerk for a moment. Do you think de Klerk has been playing his political hand brilliantly given the cards he has?

BD     I think a few months ago you could have said that he's doing very well. I think marginally he's still doing better than the ANC but I think he's come down very much from the high ...

POM     The high road. You mean after the referendum?

BD     Yes.

POM     And do you think he has taken care of the Conservative Party and the right wing generally?

BD     I think he's demoralised them. I think they are still waiting in the wings. The one he hasn't taken care of is his security forces. But one wonders, if one says he has a double agenda, why should he dismantle his security forces in the interests of democracy when he might need them?

POM     That brings me to a question. Again he seems to be a man who displays good political skills, has at least very successfully sold himself on the international scene as being not only the reformist but also as being the person who has initiated the whole peace process and process of change in South Africa. Now with the innumerable allegations over the last two years of police involvement in incidents of violence, whether by commission or omission, you would think as a politician he would at least take the action of saying, "I am appointing a special commission that will review this entire thing or I will suspend police officers here or I will revamp my entire command structure. I will do something to show that I am doing something." Instead he does nothing which tarnishes his image abroad as well as undermines it at home. Do you think he is doing nothing because he can't take the steps, the large scale changes that would be required to restructure the security forces? He simply can't do it? He would lose the loyalty of the security forces?

BD     Well you see, Patrick, his power is premised on the security forces. If you interfere too much with your power base then your own security is in jeopardy. I don't believe he's a born again democrat. I believe he is doing what he does in the interests of the constituency he represents. This is the failure of the ANC, not recognising certain basic political lessons of political theory, that classes do not give up power without a struggle. The ANC elite group thought they could argue their way through Kempton Park Trade Centre, where they were negotiating at CODESA, through clever footwork. This is a question of state conflict with a new and emerging force.

POM     So would you say that?

BD     He remains representative of his class.

POM     Is he a hostage, in a way, to the limits of their tolerance for the kinds of change they would be prepared to accept?

BD     Yes.

POM     OK.

BD     He's not an entirely free agent. None of us are entirely free agents.

POM     Mandela too is not exactly - where would you place him in the spectrum? You know one hears two different stories, some people say to me it makes no difference what the NEC says, Mandela makes policy. The NEC can pass resolutions and he can get up there in public and say something entirely different, but in effect he makes policy and nobody takes him on. Others say he is what he says he is, a member of the ANC and follows what the leadership of the ANC says. After two years now, having seen him on the political scene, how would you evaluate his performance?

BD     Not too highly. The legend was much greater than the man.

POM     Where has he failed?

BD     He made agreements with this government, with this regime, and so many questions on which they haven't moved. To give you one example, he made an agreement with this regime that prisoners would be released. He and his party went through the humiliating process of getting political prisoners to sign indemnity forms. He had his hand there too, admitting to crimes. What crimes? They are the victims not the criminals. Why should they sign indemnity forms? But besides that he said, "I would not negotiate with these people until these prisoners are all released." The government, this regime ran rings round him on that question. As I said there are still 400 prisoners here and they are deep into negotiations and there are 400 prisoners still incarcerated. We tried to persuade them that international intervention was necessary. We'll take that on, a nice a working relationship with the regime. I think he overestimated the relationship that he has with this regime.

POM     The relationship he has with?

BD     With this regime. One moment Mr de Klerk was a man of integrity and the next moment he was a duplicitous person. That is not the action of great statesmanship or wily competition.

POM     Do you think when this whole process began before he got released that there was an assumption on the government's side, an assumption on the ANC's side, and the assumption on the government's side was that you release Mandela and he can deliver the black community, and the assumption on Mandela's side is that he in fact believed that his authority was sufficient that he could go out there and just take the entire black community with him, overlooking perhaps the fact that half the population is under 15, it's not the same world it was 30 years ago, that people don't have the same respect of it. In fact that respect for authority has been one of the things that has been undermined in this country in the last 30 years partly at the behest of the ANC itself.

BD     Yes the eighties and the years of unaccountability did nothing towards bringing about, a solution that he might have conceived that he could bring about. But I believe that he has been speaking to this government since 1986 on his own admission and that he promised to deliver some goods. He was released on that understanding and now both of them find that the deal hasn't worked. In fact the other day this chap from the NIS who is now seconded to CODESA, Neil Barnard, was allegedly told to go and speak to him and ask him when is he going to deliver, instead of prancing around getting angry with de Klerk in full view of the television sets. Now I don't think that, unfortunately, Nelson has done very well. When we said maintain sanctions he went directly against us at the OAU. When we said call for international intervention he went against us. When we told him not to see to this face to face, lifting of sanctions, he went against us. When we said stick to the Constituent Assembly he went against us. When we expected solidarity at CODESA, at the preparatory meetings, he left us high and dry. So we have no tears for him.

POM     It is that everyone is hostage to some degree of their constituencies?

BD     He's not a hostage of his constituency. His constituency would like much more than he is prepared to deliver, but he's given some undertakings and perhaps his own personality has eroded over these many years of incarceration to wanting a settlement where perhaps he can reach his lifetime ambition of being head of state. That factor must not be discounted you know, nor overrated But he's an old man now.

POM     It's the human factor.

BD     It's a human factor and certainly we've also heard of him just countermanding his colleagues. And they are a hostage to Mandela because without his name they come pretty much on a parity basis with us.

POM     Talking of which, over the last two years, particularly in the last 18 months in various conversations with people about the PAC, they will say that you, Moseneke and Makwetu are the pragmatists and the moderates and that often you find yourselves being hostage to the more radical elements in your own movement. Could you comment on that? As a movement the balance of forces within, how they play against each other?

BD     I would dispute that. I think that's wishful thinking. This kind of thing is very much in the eye of the beholder. If they want to equate Moseneke and myself and Makwetu with the slogan of 'one settler one bullet' ...

POM     No, no, they're not. Sorry.

BD     Or compare us to make comparisons within our party, those who would shout that slogan and those that would lead this party, then I think they are mistaken.

POM     No, I'm sorry, no, they wouldn't be saying that at all.

BD     I know what you're saying. I get what you're saying. We've had a number of conferences and the most recent one was at Umtata in the Transkei. Moseneke, Makwetu were elected without dissent, unanimously. Then we got to the third pragmatist ...

POM     That's you.

BD     There was a contest and I got the highest votes in the contest. Well, I don't know how you interpret that. I don't think I have any difficulties with the rank and file of my party. If there are any difficulties it is not on the direction in which we're going, but rather some tactics I might use as opposed to what they use.

POM     Finally, and again thanks for the time, I'm interested in the relationship ...

BD     I'd like to say this, I led the delegation at the preparatory meeting of CODESA, I led the walkout. So much for the pragmatist.

POM     OK. I wanted to ask about the relationship between the PAC and APLA. It reminds me of the relations between the Sinn Fein and the IRA and I want to see if I have the parallel correct. The IRA operates autonomously. It has a command structure that makes its own decisions, it carries out its own policies which are quite distinct from the policies of Sinn Fein. Sinn Fein is looked at as the political wing of the IRA. Are there two autonomous organisations here where they make their own policies and carry out their own decisions which are entirely independent of any resolutions and policies that might be adopted at your annual congresses?

BD     Well, we've had a standing resolution that we consider armed struggle the principle form of struggle. They operate on the basis of that mandate, but the command structures are quite independent.

POM     But for both armed struggle?

BD     Obviously they would take the political line from us, but their operations are entirely independent.

POM     OK. Thank you ever so much for the time.

BD     Yes I hope we have covered - I hope we haven't demeaned the word pragmatist too much. It's not a bad thing to be a pragmatist.

POM     Of course not.

BD     As long as you have an underlying principle.

POM     Negotiations at some point eroded by that pragmatism. It's when you choose to be pragmatic and when you don't. Just again, what do you see within the next six to nine months? You say CODESA is dead in the water. Do you see a new forum coming?

BD     I see a new forum coming.

POM     Will it take some time for that to develop or will it come within three to four months?

BD     I think before the end of the year.

POM     And then that new forum, would you see elections being held, would you see the violence being brought under control?

BD     It depends on what the United Nations decide and how much the regime is prepared to accept by way of international intervention.

POM     There are two views on who are the winners and who are the losers as politics as one tends to do with every event no matter how big or how little. One view that I heard was that the government was the winner, that there was not this outright condemnation of the apartheid regime that we would have heard in earlier years, that everyone didn't line up immediately behind the ANC, that the resolution as passed was a relatively mild resolution, that it in the most part called for a return to negotiations, and that people from the homelands were allowed to speak even though it was in their personal capacities, more than one voice was being heard before the Security Council. The other view was that the winner was the ANC, the PAC maybe, that they internationalised the issue and that the government to that extent, the context of the problem had been changed because never before would you have had a South African government saying, "Sure we'll go to the UN". They would have fought it tooth and nail and fought any UN involvement in what they would have said were the internal matters of a sovereign state.

BD     To that I would say the problem was internationalised in any event before this occurred. The UN was still working on the problem, so it didn't become international because of our actions, it was international. We just brought an additional problem there, this time calling for actual intervention. Who are the losers, who are the winners? I would say marginally the regime. I think more than marginally the ANC fared badly. Because for the first time the ANC's supremacy as the only genuine authentic organisation in this country was challenged and for the first time the international community got a different view of the ANC. The ANC has lost out in terms of the perception internationally that it was the natural alternative government.

POM     And the regime was the winner?

BD     The regime was marginally the winner because it had reduced the ANC to that position. And of course it had also succeeded in getting its stooges there to come and speak, but a lot of what they said was, of course, indisputable and what they said was really a fundamentally scathing attack on the ANC.

POM     Is Buthelezi still a major player in all of this? Has he the capacity to destabilise in his part of the world at least?

BD     Not without the assistance of the state. But I would say that in particular parts of Natal he has a capacity but because it's been such a closed society, under the KwaZulu Police, we don't know exactly to what extent he has genuine support. But even on present readings I would say that support goes 40/60 in favour of ANC in his own areas. It may be that in the hinterland, more in the rural areas, he has more support. How much that support can do for him I don't know but he's not a factor that the PAC discount. He's not a factor that the PAC would want to have a fight with primarily because, again, we believe in the unity of South Africa and we consider the Zulus as South African.

POM     OK, thank you.

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.