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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
31 Jul 1992: Zille, Helen
POM Helen, let's just talk very loosely about the economy for a couple of minutes since we talked about it last year and then there were three scenarios, the change of gears scenario. After one more year into the transition, or pre-transition, there doesn't seem to be any indication that a change of gear scenario is going into effect. In fact the economy has backslided even more during the last year. Is this looming as an increasingly daunting task for any future government?
HZ Short answer, yes, to the extent that one doesn't know how we're going to make a successful political transition given the continuing economic decline we're facing and the demographic realities of needing to get jobs for many, many people with very high expectations of what liberation is going to offer them. This recession certainly has been much longer and had much more severe effects than anybody predicted. I think the worst case scenario that was predicted at this stage would be something like five million employed and it is quite clear that that number has been superseded. The economic development has very, very grave implications indeed politically and so much so that I don't think that any of the political players have really assessed the extent to which their programmes are at risk and I'm concerned that quite understandably for political reasons the ANC has to mobilise and consolidate its constituency. I'm really concerned about the extent to which it's been impossible in this period of transition to get real genuine contacts going between the key economic actors in order to enable them to start doing something about our primary problem, which is unemployment.
POM What role do the labour unions play in this, leaving aside for a moment the politics of stayaways and boycotts or have they become such an integral part of the labour practices that even in a post transition South Africa that these kinds of stayaways will become the norm for dealing with any issue of contention?
HZ Well the labour movement is really surrounded by great ironies in South Africa because labour movements were established on many of the premises around which the concepts of, I don't want to use class struggle, but the contending class forces operate in the society and the notion that labour must organise so that workers aren't completely exploited by the owners of the means of production and that is entirely appropriate that labourers and workers should organise in order to secure their rights and any democratic society recognises that. The irony is that in a country in which there is such mass unemployment and increasingly unemployment anyone with a job by definition becomes a member of the elite and the more labour unions start or continue to organise around better working conditions and more rights for their members the more they increase the divide between themselves and the mass of the people. So far from being representative of the proletariat they almost become representatives of a kind of elite, I don't want to use the word bourgeoisie, but of a kind of elite in the country when increasing numbers of people are without jobs. So that's the first thing.
The second thing is I don't know how it's going to be possible for the trade unions that have got their membership on improving the working conditions of their members after the transition to be saying, well we all now have to make major sacrifices and we all now have to increase productivity massively and instead of getting more for less you've got to actually get less for more. I don't know how it's going to be possible. But COSATU have got an industrial strategy programme under way at the moment in which leading researchers are researching all the different sectors of South Africa's economy and looking at how South Africa can make the shift to a growing economy, a productive economy and one that's exporting. And their conclusions are quite stark to the extent that they have achieved a few conclusions so far. They're basically saying that in the short term our economy as it's presently structured is not capable of generating more jobs. And then in order to generate more jobs we have to become more productive, we have to become internationally competitive, which basically means producing more for less and that means that in the short term fewer labourers are needed to do the job so many people are currently doing and South Africa can't get anywhere unless we massively increase labour productivity.
Now this is COSATU's own research that is saying this and those researchers go back and say to COSATU, I'm sorry it's bad news for us. We told you all these years it's the rights of the workers and that was absolutely appropriate but now we're saying what the obligations of the worker are to make sure that this country's transition succeeds. It's a very different message and I don't know how that message is going to be received. But I really do believe that to make this transition work everybody has got to put in maximum productivity in order to make sure that their productivity creates jobs for other people. Not so that they can get as much as they can, as if this is a mature, well-established first world economy.
POM When I read through the change of gear scenario that you had given me last year ...
HZ Was that in this interview?
POM Yes that's the one we did on the phone. What struck me about some aspects of it was the idealism of it. You mentioned in the course of it the underclass a number of times. I know efforts in the United States to do anything with the underclass have proved to be utterly and completely and totally a failure. Here is a country with a lot more resources and a lot more programmes that were directed towards the underclass and the result is - Los Angeles is the perfect example of urban policies, inner city policies and policies to deal with unemployment and minority youth, black youth who haven't worked.
HZ Here we aren't talking minority youth we're talking about majority youth. So you're saying to me, how can this thing work?
POM Yes. I don't see it I suppose.
HZ Well you see the thing is we're saying that we can't turn an underclass around and I don't think anybody's idealistic about that. We're saying that we have to contain the growth of it. And we're saying in order to contain it's growth what we have to do is make sure that people find a way of being integrated in a productive economy in a meaningful way and that means getting away from the notion that the state provides. It means that the state enables and it provides a context in which people can provide for themselves. In the past we've had a state that made absolutely sure that no-one can do that but it also has provided for the few that it thought would be quite useful in the urban economy. The big danger are the kinds of expectations that are inherent in the broadness of a population, is the idea that it's the state's job to provide. Unless people understand that they have to become integrated in a productive economy and start producing even more than they are earning, which we all have to do for a while in order to generate the jobs that are needed, we're not going to get very far. Now that's very difficult to get across in the best of circumstances, but far more if people rightly have a claim to reparation for all the injustices of the past. We cannot base economic growth on the argument that the state must provide and I think we have to, as far as is possible, reconcile that with adequate reparation which I do think is essential after all these years of apartheid. But how one does that and prevent all the white skills from emigrating, and integrate that in some kind of growth path I don't know. So one has to work at some kind of reparation and I think that should be done through the education system, massive affirmative action through the education system.
POM But to any new government, let's assume there would be an ANC dominated government, will initially have to operate on the exact opposite principle, i.e. of more government involvement.
HZ I think that that's right. I'm not saying that there shouldn't be more government involvement, but I'm saying what kind of government involvement? If it works on the premise that the state now provides houses for everybody, or if the state now tries to provide jobs for everybody in the bureaucracy, that's precisely the wrong kind of government involvement. What is right is to say how can the state maximise the potential of people to become productive providers of their own goods and what must the state provide in order to enable people to do that.
POM During June the ANC sent a delegation to the States to really have a look at the US constitution and how the federalism system with checks and balances worked and at our university we did a seminar for them on the New Deal. They were very interested in the New Deal and looking for quick ways to jump start the economy and the real question was: how does the state intervene so as to jump start an economy so as to take it out of a deep recession as the US was in in the 1930s? Unfortunately the real answer for the 1930s that brought the US out of its depression was the war not the New Deal, but they didn't want to hear that message. But there was a consensus, we had a number of experts, the kind of consensus was that for the government to play an effective role in the economy you need a highly centralised government and that the more there was a devolution of power to regions the less impact a government could have in terms of intervention. Has this been talked about here at all, the economic ...?
HZ The economic role for a centralised government?
POM No, the economic consequences of different forms of government?
HZ Yes there have been but there are political imperatives and economic imperatives at play here. The economic imperative is that you need a strong central government to be able to take the kind of interventions that are necessary and the state intervention in the economy is necessary to enable the right paths for growth to be identified and the state to play the maximum role in enabling those things to happen, not for the state to manage the economy. A role for state intervention and a role for very visible redistribution is there and undeniably there and one needs a strong central state to be able to do that. However, in a deeply divided plural society as we are, parliamentary democracy only really works if you've got a homogenous society and if minorities have the prospect of becoming the majority through normal democratic electoral procedures. In countries where parties break down on the basis of principle or policy that's fine, that happens, but in societies where parties break down on ethnic or religious or racial lines you easily get a situation where certain groups become locked into permanent minority status and South Africa is one of those societies. I'm not saying that those boundaries are rigid. The very fact that the government is having reasonable success in recruiting a lot of people across the old traditional colour lines indicates to me that those boundaries aren't rigid in South Africa and I think over several generations they will become less and less rigid. But as we sit at the moment people who associate politically on the basis of ethnicity and race, as many people do, or religion or language, as many people do, are perceiving themselves as likely to be locked into permanent minority status and that militates against the smooth functioning of a parliamentary democracy.
Now the ways to deal with that are either to partition as they have done in Bangladesh and Pakistan and India, which frankly we've tried in South Africa, that's what apartheid is all about, and it was a complete disaster. And the other way of dealing with that is a one-party state in which the majority ethnic group simply co-opts people from the minority group who wouldn't get there through political competition, that co-opts them into positions of power and that quite clearly isn't a feasible option for South Africa. So if we look at ways of how you're going to rotate power in a country as divided as ours, you look at the possibilities happening at regional and local level where you could quite easily get a rotation of power. And so for political imperatives a federal option becomes highly attractive. For economic imperatives the centralised option becomes highly attractive. And we have to find a way of getting a balance between those two and I think the kind of federalism we would have will look to centralise economic functions and decentralise a lot of political functions. But I think it will be much too glib to make an economic case for centralisation in South Africa. What you need is a redistributive function of the central state and I think one also needs an economic policy function. In fact policy functions are those of the central state.
POM As you look at the evolution of the ANC's economic thinking since 1989, it's been pretty dramatic to say the least. The word 'nationalisation', I was asking Chris Hani how did he like to be associated with economic policies that were endorsed by Business Day and does this not cause a problem from the SACP. Do the policies adopted by the ANC create tensions within the alliance, the COSATU/ANC/SACP alliance?
HZ Look, I don't know enough about the inner workings of that alliance to say anything authoritative about it, but my suggestion is, yes. What one has since, you say 1989 and that's a good date to put it on because February 2nd was a watershed in our political history, but what we had at that particular juncture was politically the leaders of the liberation movement decided to negotiate before they'd won the struggle, as de Klerk decided to negotiate before he'd lost it. That was a massive political shift and it dragged in its wake major other shifts of substantial compromise on the positions the people had held fixedly for the years previous to that. The idea of Marxism/Leninism as the predominant analytical frame for South Africa was a sine qua non in ANC, SACP and COSATU circles. And suddenly we had this major political shift and it has brought in its wake major economic and analytical shifts and shifts in all sorts of other spheres. The big problem the leadership is going to face is the one that became quite apparent at CODESA. While leaders make these massive shifts they don't necessarily take the constituents with them, especially when those constituencies have been schooled in the concept of people's war and total onslaught and the concept of transition by conquest and the understanding of South Africa as a racialist, capitalist state. I think that the ANC is going to have substantial problems in the future in trying to say to the people, yes we did say this and yes we did explain your poverty and your under-development to you in this way, yes that is true but the remedy isn't so simple.
POM I was going to in fact ask you that. If there is such trouble letting their grassroots understand what they are doing in a negotiating process which in one way is relatively straightforward, how much more difficult will it be to deliver a message understandable in terms of what would be required of sacrifice? How to put it, whites will have to learn to do with less privilege, on the other hand it would seem that blacks will have to learn to be more responsible and accountable. Again, are those concepts alien to generations that have been schooled in being unaccountable? In fact to be unaccountable is to be anti the system, to be pro freedom.
HZ Yes it's bred a kind of spurious anti-institutionalism per se and anti-authority position per se and the ANC is likely to fall a very serious victim of that when it takes over the institutions and positions of power. I think we are at the mercy of good leadership in South Africa. We have to really have extremely powerful leadership and underpinned by major initiatives that are taking people through this process.
POM When you look at the last two years do you see that leadership there?
HZ I think the potential is there. What de Klerk and Mandela did was remarkable and I think internationally unparalleled active leadership if you understood the low intensity civil war that we've had in South Africa. There were remarkable acts of leadership on both their parts and what is even more remarkable is both their constituencies followed that active leadership, not easily, and that's how we've had the referendum and that's how we've had the mass action campaign. They have both been major attempts by those leaders to consolidate their constituencies and try and take them with them and make the constituencies feel involved in the process. It hasn't been an unquestioning following at all. But it's been an amazing thing if you look at that kind of transition, the extent to which both those leaders made major decisions really without discussing as much in their own constituencies at all.
I mean when de Klerk made the announcement of unbanning the parties he took most of his own party by surprise. And Mandela, when he negotiated from prison and said, "I will take my party into the negotiating process", hadn't had too much time to consult with the grassroots to do all the things he was supposed to. So those were remarkable acts of leadership that turned history around in South Africa. And I think that people like Ramaphosa and Chris Hani, I'm delighted that Chris Hani is where he is because if there's one person who has the potential to take a broad constituency with him it's a person of that credibility. So you need something like that heading up the SACP because I think actually he is a realist and I think that he could play a crucial leadership role in the future. COSATU I'm not so sure about. I think that we're going to see, I mean it would be an absolute irony if the ANC comes up with realistic policies opposed by COSATU wouldn't it? But it's not out of the realms of possibility.
POM Where do you place, say, Moses Mayekiso?
HZ Moses Mayekiso from the Civics? I don't know him well enough. I don't even know him by reputation and I've only seen him. I would hate to pronounce upon a person that I don't know well. Mossie is SACP and Civics and that whole axis, I think he's SACP, I'm not sure.
POM He is, yes.
HZ But he's going to be militant.
POM He believes very much that all forms of struggle should be embarked on.
HZ That's my perception.
POM To totality at this point.
HZ That is my perception but I might be wrong. I haven't met him but that is my conclusion.
POM He's very articulate. [He says that, obviously ... his membership in various organisations.] What has been increasingly interesting me is when we're looking at what happened in eastern Europe where you had the Solidarity Movement in Poland that maintained its integrity and its cohesiveness despite all the efforts of the state to destroy and divide it and then it gets access to power and it splinters into a hundred different organisations almost immobilising Poland in terms of government. Is there a similar potential here?
HZ Yes there is. The ANC are very broad. The ANC includes liberals who don't believe in the future of white politics and want to be part of a broad movement that has a majority of black people in it and it includes very committed Marxist/Leninists who still believe that it was pilot error that made things go wrong in the Soviet Union. So that's the kind of spectrum that the ANC has in it and it's not very likely that those people are going to live happily in a government having to formulate policy and implement policy. There are going to be real and very, very serious divergences of approach, there already are within the ANC. The ANC is very, very keen to get more whites in their membership ranks and many white people say, I'm very keen to be part of the non-racial movement, I'm very pleased to be part of an organisation that is committed to democracy but I'm not keen to be in an alliance with the SACP. And there's been a perception for years in opposition politics that the people who actually steer the situation from behind are the SACP and that's not got anything to do with the Reds under the bed or McCarthyism or anything, it's been a realistic assessment of where the skills have lain and where the organisational ability has lain and where the policy formulation ability has lain. And the whole idea of vanguardism has really, I suppose, legitimised that approach in that kind of context. So many, many white liberals have kept back and said that until the ANC and SACP are separate parties as they should be and espouse separate philosophies and different positions we're not going to be throwing our weight behind them. They must sort that one out. Van Zyl Slabbert is a classic example.
POM So just to finish with the economy, vis-à-vis a year ago the economy is worse off, in general the problems have become worse and the policy framework to deal with them is still largely absent or is no more cohesively formulated than it was a year ago.
HZ No I'm afraid not. That is true and let me just say a word about the difficulty of policy formulation in a period of transition and how massively complex that is because there's no ways that the government now can formulate any policy that will have any legitimacy at all, even if it was manna from heaven and even if it was the right policy it would not get the support because the government would have presented it from its platform. But the problem of coherently formulating policy through a process of negotiation must not be underestimated because half the parties that have a legitimate stake in that process don't have a policy and don't know what the issues are. And if they do, trying to reach a compromise in the context of a constitutional vacuum where you can't weigh the input of the different parties and you don't know who speaks for which constituency and what the extent of their support is, makes it extremely difficult.
So it is, in a sense, absolutely imperative to get a political settlement. We can start having elections and people will start working out the central questions of who represents whom and what weight they should have in this process. But it's also true that the increasing decline of the economy is going to make it more and more difficult for a political settlement to succeed. So, yes, there's no sense of policy formulation and there is the Independent Development Trust which is trying to apply one aspect of that scenario presentation which is getting serviced land to people.
I'm doing a lot of work on that process in the Western Cape getting land to families. And the complexity of the political process on the ground is mind boggling. It's not just a question of getting a commitment from people in power, it's a question of getting community participation on the ground and of conflict and the struggle over scarce resources and the issues that have to be dealt with can delay the process up to two to three years at a time. So you've got to see South Africa in transition in a different time frame. You've got to think 200 years. I've said this to you before, it's a 200 year time frame we're talking about. This generation and the next generation it's crisis management and I mean it's crisis management. And maybe after 50 years we're going to start getting some kind of coherent development paths going that really affect the vast majority of people. If you start thinking short time frames like you do in the USA or anywhere else, like we have a change of government then we have new policies and everyone's at school and all of that kind of thing.
POM This is the great danger here because people do think in those terms, that with the new South Africa, not that everyone will have a new house tomorrow morning or within five years but that certainly within a reasonable space of time the average living conditions of the average person will be significantly increased and it appears that that will not significantly be the case.
HZ We need to get massive foreign aid and even if we get the economy going where are all the skills that you can incorporate people productively in the use of that to make it a self-generating process and a sustainable process? You've got to attack this thing from every single angle at the same time and it's a long term management exercise. You're going to have to have the most visionary leaders to be able to hold this thing on track and it's going to be very difficult and you're going to have a lot of people emigrating. I have people knocking on my door every single day saying please can't I give them a job because the person they used to work for has just emigrated. I have never had such an experience of that. I think more white people must be leaving South Africa now than for a long time. I'd like to see the figures and I think the thing that keeps most people here, and many people here, is the exchange rate.
POM So bad they can't afford it.
HZ So bad they can't afford it, but it's still too high. It's still massively too high in terms of what we're producing and what we're paying our labour. People aren't earning a living wage. If you've got to become internationally competitive and start exporting, which we have to do to regenerate our economy, people are earning too much and producing too little and our exchange rate is kept artificially high. And that is the hard truth of the matter.
POM Are you depressing yourself? Is that a sigh?
HZ No, I'm being realistic. I've got to bring up two little boys in this place, two white males, the marginalised youth of the future.
POM Talking about management structures, what happened to the National Peace Accord?
HZ That's a classic example, that's a classic example of how difficult managing South Africa's transition is going to be because there you had a politically negotiated agreement around what was necessary to end the violence. You had a fanfare, you had a huge broad-based legitimacy, you had all the structures worked out and you had the violence escalating continually on the ground. And it's a metaphor for how difficult the transition is going to be because it's one thing to get the political legitimacy right, it's another thing to make that impact on the ground where all the anger and all the baggage of history is so very concentrated. And all the destabilisation happens and let's make no bones about it there are clear attempts to destabilise certain communities and I have very little doubt about that. I've seen that at first hand in the Western Cape. But what are you asking about the Peace Accord before I ramble off on something completely irrelevant?
POM When I was here this time last year there were lots of meetings being held and lots of negotiations going on and people flying hither and thither at all hours of the day and night hammering out fine points of detail, codes of conduct and dispute resolution committees and structures and secretariats and everything was signed with great fanfare in September and more people have been killed this year than in any since 1990.
HZ We're talking about the National Peace Accord, right, and what happened there? You know we had a lot of violence in Cape Town last year and we had the Cape Town Peace Committee and we tried to resolve it by negotiation between reasonable and committed adults and in the end we simply had to create a situation of narrowing the parameters and forcing people to be reasonable and negotiate and compromise.
POM Are you talking about the taxi war?
HZ The taxi war, it had a different dynamic, absolutely it had a different dynamic. It's not a political conflict, it was primarily an economic conflict and then with a whole lot of other dynamics thrown in. But nevertheless we found on talking that the only way we could do it was by closing the ranks, withdrawing the permits, re-writing the permit regulation system, starting to record all the names of drivers afresh and start from the beginning and showing a heavy hand. Taking the police out of the situation because they were completely ineffective, in fact exacerbating the problem by taking sides, and we brought in the army. And that was the way we started. We gave people no option. It was like a mini state of emergency in the Western Cape in which the local authority and other authorities just pulled out all the stops because we tried the path of negotiation and it just kept breaking down.
POM Related that to, well you have tried the path of negotiation with respect to the taxi war, it didn't work?
HZ Well it did work eventually when they saw they had no option.
POM But not really through a process of negotiation.
HZ You had to put on the squeeze before people realised they had no option.
POM You have the National Peace Accord that has kind of imploded, at least for the moment, on itself and then you have the CODESA process that has stalled, if not collapsed. Now most people talk to me in terms of it really having collapsed and what you need is a new form of negotiation. Could you just run through what flaws existed in the structures of CODESA that may have made its collapse inevitable and what kind of new negotiating forum needs to be established?
HZ Let me just answer that. CODESA was founded on the basis of inherent contradiction. The job of the negotiation process and the constitutional negotiation process particularly was to get rid of a flawed constitutional system and create a democratic system by agreement between all parties. Now the inherent contradiction in CODESA was that the thing that has to be negotiated was the scrapping of the current constitution and its replacement, but the majority of parties represented at CODESA had their power bases within the existing constitutional system. That was a contradiction from the start. And it was very complex to be asking them because their power base depended on their platform within the existing constitutional system, to be negotiating away this system. So now you had this contradiction at the beginning and it was resolved in the following way. The ANC obviously spotted this contradiction at the outset and the government wanted to sustain the position of these parties and so the compromise that was reached was that CODESA would not draw up a new constitution. It would merely draw up constitutional principles and transition mechanisms to enable an election to take place for a body that would draw up a new constitution and that an elected body, more genuinely representative of all the parties, would then draw up a constitution. So CODESA's role was simply confined to drawing up the principles.
HZ Now that was a good compromise. Now if you see the extent to which that compromise was subverted and twisted throughout the whole negotiation process at CODESA you will understand why it collapsed. The government made a major concession, so it seemed, at the beginning and said we accept an elected body must draw up the constitution. That was a major concession. Then the government said to the ANC, we believe that this body should not only draw up the constitution, the new constitution, but it should also act as a legislature. The DP, on whose delegation I was said no don't do that because the functions of drawing up a constitution and governing a country are two entirely different functions and they shouldn't be confused in one structure, what we want is a body dedicated simply to drawing up a new and democratic constitution and a body that's elected doing it.
But the ANC accepted the government's proposal because that elevated the Constituent Assembly to far more than simply a constitution making body. They were attracted by the idea of the Constituent Assembly running the country as well as drawing up the new constitution and running the country in the place of the old discredited tricameral system. So, they accepted that. And when we started talking about time frames and mechanisms it became quite clear that the government had a completely different idea of interim government and the interim arrangements than the ANC. The government was envisaging - let me just go back, let me go back to the DP's role, sorry I'll take a step back. The ANC and the government have now both accepted that an elected body will draw up the new constitution and will govern the country. The DP says, well if that's going to happen we're not going to let it happen in a constitutional vacuum. There is no way that we allow the two big powers in South Africa to get together and to combine their legitimacy and their power in running the country without all the normal checks and balances of a constitution. Then you get to the question of who draws up an interim constitution. The government and the ANC accepted that they didn't want to govern without constitutional checks and balances and the question then is, who draws up the constitution and the only people around to do it is CODESA, with the inherent contradiction that I explained at the outset.
So far then from drawing up the constitutional principles you find CODESA is trying to draw up an interim constitution and then the difference between the way the government and the ANC understand the interim constitution becomes critical because then it becomes quite clear that the government's idea of interim constitution is a long term, drawn out period of ten years plus in which government and the ANC will share power and with the elected legislative body being able to amend the interim constitution if necessary and have the ANC believing that the elected body's prime function would be to draw up a new constitution and pass some legislation if it's necessary for this brief period. Two completely different conceptions of what they were talking about, although they had agreed primarily on making compromises that seemed as if they were coming to an agreement. And when the issue of the transfer of power and the times frames for that could no longer be avoided, CODESA foundered. That was the central issue.
POM We talked about this last year. Again, was there besides two different understandings of what the process was about, was there also a conflict between the government understanding it as being a process about the sharing of power and the ANC understanding it about being a process bringing about a transfer of power?
HZ That's precisely what it is. Precisely what I've said now in a non-complicated way, precisely what has happened. The government's idea of interim government was a long drawn out, extended period of power sharing on the basis of a constitution drawn up by CODESA. And the ANC's understanding of transition as a very brief period of power sharing, preparing the way for drawing up a constitution for the transfer of power. And those two proved irreconcilable in the end and that is why CODESA foundered.
POM The ANC, on the face of it, made what looked like an extraordinary offer with regard to the 70% and 75% veto thresholds for the constitution and a Bill of Rights.
HZ Yes but it did have a very short life span and then ultimately it was going to come to an end at a particular period and all of that so it was a very remarkable offer in that context and it won't be able to make that offer again I can assure you.
POM Did the government turn down the best offer it would ever get?
HZ It depends, it depends on the outcome of this mass action. If the ANC can't muster sufficient or impressive support for this mass action and if the ANC does its best with this mass action and it doesn't make a dent, then the government says, you need a settlement, come back to the negotiating table but you're not all that much stronger.
POM The analogy I'm trying to use is like a chess game in which there's a very quick exchange of pieces and it would seem to me that the government by rejecting the ANC's offer took the ANC off the hook and that the ANC by going ahead with their campaign of mass action, which may fizzle, may in fact take the government off the hook.
POM So that it's very quick to give away its advantage by making a poor response to what they see as an opening.
POM Did either side want CODESA to collapse? Did the government want it to?
HZ The government did not want CODESA to collapse. The government wanted this to be a phase in CODESA. They had much more time in which to organise and reach a settlement than the ANC had. The ANC had to deliver because they had gone into CODESA against many odds and it had to deliver something tangible to its constituency soon to be able to justify its involvement in the negotiation process. So that's what the ANC had to do. And the ANC was in much more of a hurry than the government to produce. The government was just saying, this is a progress report at CODESA 2 and we don't see why we have to reach an immediate agreement at this point. But I don't think they wanted CODESA to collapse. I think they got a lot more than they bargained for and the ANC said, fine now we're pulling out and now we're going to mobilise. And they were taken aback by the extent of that response. They had not understood the fragility of the ANC constituency's ability to follow the ANC into that process. And the ANC had to be able to deliver some kind of negotiated interim government by the end of CODESA 2. Now if they had got the agreements that they offered they would have been on the book because I don't know how they would have sold it to their constituency. I really don't know how they would have sold it to their constituency. But the big problem is, will they be in any better position after this mass action. The alternative argument is that the government can't stay mass action any longer because we have to do something about increasing confidence for the economy.
POM Could you relate that to the question of the violence? This is like the chicken and the egg situation. It would be impossible at this point to have anything amounting to free and fair elections in the country.
POM So in a way all this talk about ...
HZ It would be impossible but the thing is even if it is impossible you can't keep on postponing elections because you can't have a free and fair election because then it gives a vested interest to anybody trying to postpone elections to make sure that there's enough violence to make it impossible to hold a free and fair election. You've got to get to the point where you get an elected government and the sooner, frankly, that that comes the better because we have to get some measure of certainty otherwise we will never get this economy growing again, never. We will just sink into a slide from which it's very difficult to reverse ourselves. But the violence has to a large extent overtaken the negotiation process in many ways, not only in that it's impossible to have anything free and fair on the ground, as you rightly say, but also because how can leaders negotiate an agreement when that mutual trust that's built up the negotiation process is something completely alien to the people on the ground. And you know while violence kills lives, which is a tragedy in human terms, it destroys trust which is a disaster in political terms and it makes it much more difficult to get negotiations going again.
POM From abroad last year it looked as though you had these two stories coming out of South Africa that were totally unrelated to each other. One was of the negotiating process that seemed to be going some place and progress was being made and the other was of continuing and increasing violence and one would think one was talking about in fact two different worlds.
HZ That's the disjuncture.
POM And in fact that disjuncture did exist. Leaderships and their grassroots are not ...
HZ In harmony.
POM - in touch with the other. There's all this talk whether the government is behind the violence or whether it's Inkatha. I think I went through all this with you last year whether it was ethnic violence, whether it was this, whether it's that. And yet I'm getting suggestions that there are other elements to the violence, that it's just violence. It's that there are segments of society that are out of control, where violence as a way of resolving any conflict or any rivalry has replaced the way of competition and that no-one in fact has their supporters under the control of their organisations. When you see ANC, from what you know in this part of the country, is the ANC in control of what happens on the ground? Can it discipline and control its own membership?
HZ No. To a larger extent in some areas than in others but in Khayelitsha there's a very serious discipline problem and the ANC will acknowledge that. And we saw an example of that recently when they had this march that they had pledged to have peaceful and disciplined and it ended up in the destruction of trains and all sorts of things. But we also see them really taking hold of the situation and recovering from that to a large degree and that's the good thing about mass action, that it enables the ANC to assert some kind of discipline over its followers on the ground in very difficult situations. And so that when you see that no party has control over its followers on the ground, specifically not parties with a mass base and a base of largely unemployed youth, we're really seeing that kind of action as synonymous with being loyal and being part of the struggle and now suddenly you turn that around and say, no it's only the Queensbury rules now boy. That's very difficult. So I think that the ANC battles with that and I think one good thing about the mass action campaign is that it's enabled them to start asserting that kind of control and pushing very strongly for values of discipline, non-intimidation, etc., which they have very faithfully been doing in the Western Cape.
POM Some people have suggested to me that the ANC was sensitive to the need for the government to bring its constituency with it and therefore was accommodating over the issue of the whites only referendum and understood this to be a necessary thing that de Klerk had to do to move the process forward, but that the government doesn't seem to be as understanding of the need for the ANC to bring its constituency with it and that a stayaway or form of mass action is necessary in order to kind of bring the membership with it into whatever new process emerges.
HZ That's absolutely the right analysis and the ANC was amazingly tolerant and amazingly undisruptive of the whites only referendum given the fact that it was an apartheid referendum, given the fact that it did give whites an effective veto of the negotiation process. The ANC voiced its verbal protest to that decision but did everything it could to facilitate the success of that referendum actually. So it was incredibly tolerant about the mass action for whites which was the referendum and the fact is that the government has shown no similar understanding of the imperative of taking your constituency with you.
POM Do you think, and this has just crossed my mind on a couple of occasions, that in reports of the referendum that come to the States, whether by BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, the quality media, all reports coming out of South Africa were all framed in terms of it being a referendum in which de Klerk was talking about a negotiating process that would lead to the sharing of power between blacks and whites and thereby bring about equality for all, but that it was all about the sharing of power which was the phrase that he used over and over again. Do you think the fact that he was never challenged directly on that by the ANC may have lulled him into the belief that they were buying into his concept of what the process was about?
HZ You see I think the trouble is that everybody agreed that there should be an interim power sharing period. The question was how long and what circumstances. The ANC believe that there should be an interim government of power sharing to oversee the election of a Constituent Assembly and the formulation of a new constitution. They accepted that. So power sharing for a period is not an issue. The issue is for how long and under what kind of constitution, the final constitution, although the government says no constitution is ever final. They wanted an interim constitution drawn up at CODESA that they could probably amend in fifteen years. So power sharing wasn't really the issue except the government's interpretation of power sharing became the major issue. And the big question is, is it transfer of power or sharing power? That is the big question.
POM Sorry, I'm losing you there. You say power sharing is not the issue. My understanding would be that the government wanted mandatory power sharing. It would be written into the constitution. The power would be shared at the Cabinet level and at the executive level.
HZ Yes, but the ANC also envisaged that for an interim government, but they see interim government as being six months long. The government said, we also envisage that for an interim government but we envisage interim government as being ten years long.
HZ And they envisage that interim constitution to be drawn up by CODESA and that the new legislature elected in terms of that has the power to amend the constitution. That's how they want the idea of this constitution making body, simply as a legislature that can amend the constitution. So in a sense the ANC said, yes we want a power sharing arrangement for six months while the Constituent Assembly is going about its business. And the government said, yes we want power sharing for an interim period of ten years. And they had fundamentally different understandings of what that entailed. Quite frankly if I was the ANC I wouldn't go anywhere near trying to govern this country on my own now.
POM The trick may be to lose the first election. Quickly, how do you see the future? Parties getting back to the table?
HZ Negotiations never stopped, let's be honest about that. Continuing negotiations through letters of demand and stating your positions and doing all that sort of thing is negotiation. It might not be direct face to face negotiation but it is negotiation. And those negotiations have never stopped. And some very important conditions have been made in those letters if you read them. There have been some important shifts by the government to accepting, for example, that democracy means majoritarian principles of government which they never conceded before and that they conceded for the first time in a letter in response to a position of the ANC. So I think the ANC have a major opportunity to use - yesterday they confirmed that eyeball to eyeball negotiations are on the cards again, especially in relation to the release of political prisoners. So the negotiations have never stopped and there is actually no alternative for South Africa. Which other way do you want to go? I mean it's not as if it's the preferred option. Which option are we going to look at?
POM Do you see CODESA as being reconvened or will it be in a new format?
HZ No I don't think one can overcome the contradictions inherent in CODESA. I think it's either going to be bilateral, trilateral, some internationally facilitated process. I don't know. I can't see CODESA reconvening. Then there are big forces at work trying to get CODESA to reconvene. But I can't see how they can overcome inherent contradictions in CODESA unless the government accepts our initial understanding of what interim government is all about and unless the government agrees to abide by the initial compromise which is CODESA draws up the principles, the elected constitution making body, the tricameral parliament continues in the interim and is given a period of six months to draw up the constitution.
HZ Does that make sense to you, Padraig?
POM Lots of sense. You're always cogent and to the point.