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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

04 Aug 1992: Worrall, Dennis

Click here for more information on the Interviewee

Click here for Overview of the year

POM     Dr Worrall, yesterday I talked to Colin Eglin who said that the ANC's negotiations were nearly taken to the cleaners by the government, that the government had got concession after concession out of them without getting anything meaningful in return. And today I talked to Kader Asmal who says that the ANC's negotiators were hands and feet better prepared, better equipped and better negotiators than the government negotiators. You're sitting on the pivotal Working Group 2, what were your observations first of the negotiating teams of the principals in terms of who were the better equipped and who were the better negotiators, who plays their hand the better?

DW     I think it's difficult to actually say. By way of a general statement let me just say that I thought that CODESA actually brought out a lot of good in people in all the political parties because what actually happened at CODESA was that political parties were forced to face up to some stark questions and all of them tried to bring their experts in. In fact the contributions which were made at CODESA were at a very high level. For example, the Labour Party felt it should have a constitutional expert in Working Group 2 so it appointed Professor George Devenish who happens to be a member of the Democratic Party, but nonetheless a constitutional expert. Solidarity did the same. They brought in a constitutional expert. And the result is that the contributions which were made, they might have started from party political premises but as a matter of fact the discussion was almost academic. It was quite interesting. Enormous discussion of precedents. And in this respect both the ANC and the government were very well served by their academic advisers.

     In the case of Working Group 2 the ANC's main delegates were Cyril Ramaphosa and Valli Moosa, but their constitutional advisers there were Frene Ginwala, now she's not an expert, and Albie Sachs who is a constitutional expert. On the government side they had some senior people from the Department of Constitutional Affairs advising them. National Party similarly, senior constitutional lawyers advising. And I think, therefore, that the contributions were of a high level. I think that the ANC lost ground on one major issue and that was in respect of federalism because Working Group 2 did agree to the adoption in general principle and I think this was a major cause of difficulty for Cyril Ramaphosa. Without realising it he accepted federalism when he agreed to enshrine the functions of the regions and local government in the constitution, because that was one of the principles that was accepted. You've seen that haven't you? If you want me to dig them out now, right this minute, I can. The constitutional principles which were agreed to, this is very remarkable, this is actually the draft Charter which SACOLA discussed with COSATU and this is the principle that the alliance agreed to.

POM     Could you just read it into the tape?

DW     Now this includes things like the united sovereign states which all enjoy common South African citizenship. South Africa will be democratic, non-racial, non-sexist. The constitution shall be the supreme law. There will be separation of powers between the legislative executive and the judiciary with appropriate checks and balances. The judiciary will be independent, non-racial, impartial. There will be a legal system that guarantees the equality of all before the law. There will be representative and accountable government embracing multi-party democracy, regular elections, universal adult suffrage, a common voters' role and, in general, proportional representation. The diversity of languages, cultures and religions will be acknowledged. All will enjoy universally accepted human rights, freedoms and civil liberties including freedom of religion, speech and assembly which will be guaranteed by and entrenched in a justiciable bill or charter of fundamental rights. All that's apple pie. The only slight exception there would be proportional representation.

     Now we come to the tenth principle which was accepted by Working Group 2. Government shall be structured at national, regional and local levels. At each level there shall be democratic representation. Each level of government shall have appropriate and adequate legislative and executive powers, duties and functions that will enable each level to function effectively, such powers, duties and functions to be entrenched in the constitution. Now that you see in the principle of federalism and Ramaphosa and company accepted it just like that. I think this was a major cause of difficulty to the ANC subsequently because the fact is that they have difficulty reconciling that with their programme and it is one of the reasons why, when it was pointed out to them that you've accepted federalism, also the South African Communist Party accepted this. When it was pointed out to them they realised that they had to distance themselves from CODESA.

POM     Now they realised this when they got to the point of offering the 75% veto threshold for a Bill of Rights and 70% threshold for the provision of items in the constitution? At that point they were aware that they had accepted federalism?

DW     Sure.

POM     That there would be devolution of powers from the centre, powers would be enshrined by the constitution?

DW     It had been pointed out to them that they had accepted federalism. They argued, privately (this you mustn't use) but I can tell you that I used the word 'federalism' in Working Group 2. I said. "We've accepted federalism", and Joe Slovo said, "No we haven't." Then he said, "I don't know who Dennis Worrall speaks for, but we haven't accepted federalism." So we adjourned for tea and I said to him, "Joe, this is the definition of federalism." But the fact is that was about a month before CODESA 2 and I have a feeling that was a reason for the breakdown on the part of the ANC because immediately it broke down Cyril Ramaphosa said, "We withdraw from all positions we've adopted." He said that. If the ANC were taken to the cleaners by, as Colin Eglin puts it and I've heard Colin say that, I don't agree with it, I think in fact that the arguments for these things were very compellingly put and a lot of parties want federalism.

     I have to tell you that Inkatha will not be part of the new South Africa unless there is federalism. And this is going to be the cause on which the Zulus will unite. Right now the Zulus are spread, but if their institutions, for example the Royal House, the Zulu House. I understand, I'm not an expert on this, but my understanding is it is really as strong as any other monarchical institution in Southern Africa. Now that doesn't make sense unless KwaZulu, or large chunks of Zululand retain that sort of identity. And that means, if you're talking regionalism here, it doesn't make sense to have a regionalism that the powers of which are not very clearly defined and guaranteed. And this is where Buthelezi is increasingly going to make his stand.

     Now there are other people who want it. The Democratic Party is strongly committed to federalism. Again, there will be different degrees. So what I will just say is that when people say that the ANC was taken to the cleaners, there was no skulduggery, there was no sleight of hand, there was no deception. The fact is a lot of people, a lot of the parties took strong positions on the issues that worry the ANC.

POM     On top of that they made what I thought was an exceedingly generous offer of the 75% veto threshold for a Bill of Rights and the 70% threshold for a constitution, which frankly surprised me that they would have gone that far given that surveys at the time suggested that the government and its allies or potential allies could cobble together something between 25% and 33%. It seemed that they were in fact handing a veto.

DW     Yes. I think that on that particular issue it wasn't a case of the government taking them to the cleaners, the government was just incompetent and the government was very poorly advised.

POM     In rejecting those offers?

DW     Yes. And again the explanation that I would offer you is the fact that in Working Group 2 the government representatives were the Minister of Constitutional Affairs at the time, Dr Gerrit Viljoen, a very senior politician, and Dr Tertius Delport, his deputy. Dr Delport is actually a man of considerable intelligence and a lot of charm and he in fact was really doing the presenting for most of Working Group 2 and he was doing so confidently because he was doing it in the presence of his Minister and he was making concessions and so on. And Gerrit Viljoen fell ill. And it was a serious mistake on de Klerk's part not to fill his place but he left Delport by himself for the last couple of meetings of CODESA and that was a mistake because he then did not feel he had the latitude that would have enabled him, for instance, to accept the 70% or whatever it was. Aside from that he was exhausted and he had flu and he wasn't well, but at the end one saw this thing grind to a halt. I think Ramaphosa sighed a sigh of relief that in fact the thing had come unstuck.

POM     Do you think (a) that the government in a sense turned down the best deal that it could ever have expected to have got? Anything that emerges subsequently from another round of negotiations or around the negotiations will come in anew?

DW     I'm not sure about that. I think that for a couple of points that might be true but I don't think that on the constitutional as opposed to the constitutional principles because I think we're going to stick with that. I don't think we're going to let anybody - you know a lot of work went into that and I don't believe we should have to start anew. I think we must take that as given. But where there was quite a difference of opinion was on how the constitution should be written and there I think the government's views, which were at odds with the ANC, as you know the government actually wants a transitional elected parliament in terms of the transitional constitution. And the ANC just really wanted an appointed interim government arrangement with an elected Constituent Assembly to write the constitution. I can understand the government in part wanting to do what it wished to do because I think that it would be a good thing to actually lengthen the transition, drag it out a little bit. A lot of adjusting has to take place. I can understand their reasons for wanting to do that.

     There's another reason why, but putting that on one side, what everybody agreed on or what most people agreed on was that it is extremely important before you actually have elections for a Constituent Assembly that you must agree on the fundamental principle before you actually have universal franchise, proportional representation for the elected body. Now there I think the view that the government put frankly was insupportable by the parties, this idea of an elected, transitional government, parliament, that was unacceptable. We didn't accept that either. We think that an interim government as quickly as possible, appointed if you like by CODESA, made up of different political parties, as was suggested by Working Group 3, that that's in fact what should happen and that there then should be a body elected to write the constitution if in fact you want to do that. And I think that the government now has revised it's views on this and therefore it will be a better deal for the country as a whole that is agreed to when we get back to CODESA.

POM     So you see the government moving towards acceptance of an appointed interim government and then a separate body elected to draw up the constitution?

DW     That's right. And the present parliament continues until such time as the new constitution is passed.

POM     To turn it around, did the government let the ANC off the hook in the sense that I understand is that if in fact the government had accepted what the ANC had put on the table that they would have had a lot of problems selling it to their own constituency?

DW     Well I don't know, I think one was dealing with negotiations, negotiating ploys. You must remember nobody expected everything to come stuck and in fact things got stuck on the Friday morning, that's when we abandoned hope on the Friday, of CODESA. The government I think, this was the government's first position and they have fallen back now, they recognise that there should be an elected Constituent Assembly. They are still saying parliament and Constituent Assembly. I never understood why de Klerk introduced the idea of a parliament because that's the most difficult to sell to his caucus. What he's saying to some of these caucus fellows is, you go back to your farms next March. Whereas the present parliament should stay in place, will stay in place, and the ANC are quite happy with that, the ANC say OK, the present government continues but we get this elected body to write the constitution. You have legal continuity in that it's got to be passed, Mandela's recognised this, he's told them that of course this parliament must pass it as a law but that's a formality. And that is where I think we are at.

     In CODESA there was a tension all the time between those political parties who don't think they are going to do well in elections for a Constituent Assembly, and the ANC in this regard that those, let's call them minority parties, were very concerned to get as much agreed to as possible, to get the constitution almost written in CODESA and the ANC kept protesting and saying, "Just a minute, that's no longer a principle, that's veto." "No, no, no, that's a principle", we said. There was a constant tension and mainly something like the regions, for instance, because Inkatha was absolutely insistent there is no way Inkatha will have elections unless the regional boundaries are spelt out. So there are enormous problems down the track. Enormous problems.

POM     If one looks at the time period between the date at which CODESA deadlocked, you had Mandela and de Klerk putting their best faces on it, saying the problems weren't insuperable to less than a month later when you had the ANC walking out of talks completely, calling all deals off, Mandela making very direct personal attacks on Mr de Klerk and what appeared to be the movement of the more militant elements in the ANC calling for mass mobilisation beginning to come to centre stage. What's your understanding of the dynamics that affected that period?

DW     Well I think an element of mistrust crept in. I think, secondly, the political violence which was causing enormous grief to the ANC because this was a sort of traumatic experience in the black communities and the seeming indifference and insensitivity reflected in a lack of really strong reaction on the part of the government, unquestionably a factor, which the ANC could never actually exploit. It was making public statements and blaming it on the government, blaming the government and partly out of frustration. And, thirdly, ANC grassroots pressure, as I said, was a factor, that there was a feeling at the grassroots that first of all CODESA is an elitist thing in which the people are not involved and the feeling that the ANC is not coming back to consult them enough and so on. So grassroots pressures were a factor. And then I think the positions that were adopted in CODESA were factors which influenced the ANC's whole attitude towards negotiations. And the decision to back out of the talks and to go for mass action was the decision which put the hawks within the ANC in the driving seat, the hawks linking up with COSATU put them in the driving seat.

     I think the ANC thought to itself, well, even the moderates in the ANC said OK we'll use this mass action first of all to discredit de Klerk internationally, because remember de Klerk had been using the time extremely effectively. I mean after Boipatong he went off to Spain, Madrid and he picked up tremendous international credit for what he's done and I believe deservedly. He's the only politician who's shown real courage in the situation in the sense that courage being doing what is necessary in the interests of justice against popular feeling because his own supporters have enormous reservations about where we're going. I mean a man was sitting there where you are today telling me the turning point came for this man when he just realised something was wrong in this country because Mandela was at the Olympic Games and de Klerk wasn't there. And I understand that feeling. It was highly symbolic but wouldn't it have been marvellous for de Klerk and Mandela to be sitting together. All these factors, I think, the ANC with mass action, the moderates thought well we'll discredit de Klerk internationally, secondly we will internationalise the issue and of course through the UN, you take the Security Council, and I think that the ANC came unstuck with it.

POM     That they came unstuck?

DW     Sure.

POM     Internationally?

DW     Absolutely. Because the ANC expected de Klerk to react the way the National Party government has always reacted and to say, "Not on your life. This is not an international issue. This is a domestic issue. We're not going to the Security Council." But the government said, "Sure, we welcome it." And in their approach at the UN. The other thing that the ANC, I think, have miscalculated on is that the South African issue has lost its moral edge. It's not a question of apartheid, it's now a question of co-existence and the world wants us to co-exist. It doesn't want another Yugoslavia. A lot of international businesses are applying enormous pressures. All these governments have got businesses here which are hurting and the fact is what they are saying is here is a beautiful chance of at least rescuing, here is the salvation for sub-Saharan Africa, South Africa is crucial to the rest of the region and these guys are busy screwing it up. We're not going to let them screw it up. And you see instead of the ANC being lionised at the Security Council as they have been for 35 odd years, it was treated as one party and even the Ciskei leader was making speeches. It was a phenomenal turnabout. I think that the ANC were also misreading what diplomats in this country were saying to their Foreign Ministries. Diplomats in this country were saying, look, the only alternative is negotiations and they've got to get back to the table and that's where the pressure has to be and if we're going to get them back to the table we've got to be even-handed.

POM     Just looking at mass mobilisation, it's like the ANC's trump card, since the threat of mass mobilisation began it was going to be for three weeks, then the parameters came down to a week long strike and it ended up with this two-day strike with accommodations made around it. Do you think they played their trump card and that it hasn't proved to be a particularly effective trump card, the government is not trembling in front it saying, "Oh my God, they've brought the country to a standstill. We can't have any more of this."

DW     I think I'd like to see today out. I don't know what's been happening today but I think in fact that if there's been a minimum of violence, if there's been a considerable return to work in at least some parts of South Africa, this morning it didn't look that way on the Rand, but if there has been a return to action and if tomorrow there's a 70% return to work, then I think the ANC has played its card. I think it can demonstrate to its supporters, as Cyril Ramaphosa did last night, that they can make the claim that four million people went out, which SACCOLA says is absolute nonsense, it was less than two million. There was a hell of a lot of intimidation one must also accept. But they've played their card and they have effectively achieved what they wanted to do which was, as the Weekly Mail put it (so it's not original), this was their referendum. The whites had their referendum on March 17th. This was their referendum. Now to convey a message from the activity of this week to de Klerk is going to be extraordinarily difficult because quite frankly they are saying that the de Klerk regime ... the language of the last few months.

POM     But it's also open to different interpretation because you can look at the white referendum and say 70/30, the figures speak for themselves. You can look at the black referendum and you can say the ANC claims four million, SACCOLA claims less than two million.

DW     There will be differences of opinion. Business Day reflects it here you see, "Millions heed stayaway call", it's immediately an argument. I think from the ANC's point of view it has worked.

POM     Is it more important for them at this point to pull their own supporters, their own constituency back into cohesiveness?

DW     I think what's important about it is that what has happened is that it has been sufficiently successful for Cyril Ramaphosa to make a grand statement that it has succeeded. But within ANC circles the warning lights are flickering, don't try this too much because frankly it's not sustainable. The ordinary black wants to go to work. The PAC is opposed to it, AZAPO is opposed to it. There's a lot of unhappiness, the Coloureds are opposed to it, the Coloureds came to work today. It's not working. So the success is sufficient for the moderates to claim it as a success, the radicals too, but the radicals know, everybody knows, that this thing can't be continued indefinitely. But enough of a success for the moralists to say now we get back to talking and not be opposed by the radicals. I think that's what's happened and that's what one needed.

POM     So it creates a window of opportunity for the moderates to say, OK let's now get back and talk. Would you see them as going back in a relatively stronger or weaker position looking at this in terms of bargaining about power?

DW     Hard to say. I think it's a question of how de Klerk responds, it's a question of how the parties all respond, the international community's role, what Cyrus Vance reports and what the Secretary General comes up with. It's going to be pretty crucial. The American government's attitude is crucial, Herman Cohen saying last week that negotiations and violence are not mutually exclusive. The fact that there's violence is all the more reason why there should be negotiations, which undercuts the ANC's point of view. So I think that international pressure at this point becomes pretty crucial because international pressure can indicate who won this little contretemps.

POM     On the violence, the ANC is absolutely wedded, which they have been stating for two years since the first outbreak on the Reef in August of 1990, that the government was behind this, that the government was pursuing a double agenda. In the wake of Boipatong they used that as an occasion to give powerful expression to all the killing that has been going for the last two years. Your comment on that? But do you think that the fact that they will not move away from that belief hinders efforts at trying to bring the violence under control?

DW     Yes, I think in fact, I think that is a cause and I think that the Goldstone Commission has played a major role in putting violence in perspective. It has many causes and that fundamentally it is the Inkatha/ANC conflict. There were 11 people killed yesterday in Isipingo and those people who were killed were ANC members and Inkatha denies that it's Inkatha people. I think that conflict is a very basic one and then I think the simple disruption of our society for whatever reason, the prevalence of guns, the conflicts of the taxis, the taxi war, there's no outside factor there. This is the worrying aspect. So I think that the ANC is mistaken in arguing that. I accept that it's essential to their case that they find another argument other than it is different black political factions waging war against each other.

DW     No they won't, but I think they're wrong.

POM     But do you think that their refusal to do so really undermines efforts to lessen the violence?

DW     I suspect that not really because it makes de Klerk so much more determined and the police so much more determined to prove that they are not involved and I don't think it necessarily reduces it. I wouldn't say so. It may, yes and no I suppose. I suppose on the one hand de Klerk and the police and everybody else is so much more cautious about being seen in taking partial positions but on the other hand as long as powerful political leaders, or political leaders of powerful factions because they attribute the violence to extraneous factors, are reluctant to go out there and tell their people, "Cut it out" and Mandela with Buthelezi, for instance. I suppose that as long as they refuse to do that it contributes to the violence.

POM     At this point are both of them or either of them fully in control of their constituencies? We've had Chris Hani openly admitting that some of these self-defence units are out of control. Some people have suggested to me that the people under Buthelezi's command, they won't just follow and do what he says, that this thing on the ground has, like all wars, a momentum of its own, feeds off itself endlessly.

DW     Well it does that. I must say I didn't catch the ...

POM     The question was whether it would make any real difference, and the assumption is that if Mandela and Buthelezi got on the same platform and told their followers to cut this out that they would cut it out, whereas the people on the ground are forming their own dictates and not listening to Mandela or Buthelezi and neither Mandela or Buthelezi are in full control of their constituencies?

DW     I think that there's an element of truth in that but on the other hand I do think it makes a difference. You must remember that neither Mandela nor de Klerk have actually been acting as statesmen in this situation. Both of them have resorted to inflammatory language. Neither of them have actually gone out and been reconciliatory. Mandela attacked Inkatha and Buthelezi at the United Nations and this is deeply resented by Buthelezi and you've got the kind of speeches that Jay Naidoo of COSATU has made. So I think in fact if they were committed to negotiations, to reconciliation, not so much negotiations because they are committed to negotiations, but if they were committed to reconciliation I would think they could have greatly influenced the situation.

POM     I have been asking a number of people what happened to the National Peace Accord? This time last year when I was here there was great to-ing and fro-ing and negotiations going on and bringing parties together and meetings at 4 o'clock in the morning, deadlocks and stalemates being broken and then it was signed with great fanfare and this has been the worst single year of violence in South Africa since the mid 1980s, so it simply hasn't worked despite the fact that structures were put in place.

DW     I wouldn't say it hasn't worked. The fact is things might have been much worse if it weren't there. I think the whole peace process with Goldstone has been extremely important. For anybody interested in conflict resolution I think Goldstone is extremely important. It's remarkable that it has maintained it's independence, its integrity, very impressive.

POM     How do you see the process unfolding from this point? At the beginning you said that this transitional process has to be longer rather than shorter. Do you think the ANC is in a position to sell that to their constituency?

DW     I think it would be better if the transition were drawn out, if you had an interim situation, people getting used to different roles, role perception and so on. Build up confidence. I think one can make a case. But I suspect that it's going to be in between a short sudden transition and a long transition. How one will express that? I mean it's COSATU's demand for an interim government at the end of June. On the other hand perhaps there are some National Party thinkers who will expect transition to take eight, nine years. There's somewhere in between.

POM     I notice a couple a times you've said COSATU and one of the visible changes to me in the last month since I've been here is that it seems that COSATU has become the driving engine of the ANC/COSATU/SACP alliance.

DW     I think for the moment it is. I think now it's for Mandela and company, the moderates, the negotiators to assert themselves and I think that opportunity has arisen, I think they have given COSATU and the SACP and some of the more radical chaps have exercised that option, mass action, taken the more radical position, strategy, they've tested it. I think now we get back to more commitment to negotiation. I think ideally one would like to see it, the process stretched out, but it's not going to happen.

POM     Do you think the government has been insensitive to the need of the ANC to be able to show its constituency what has been achieved after two years?

DW     I would say that, yes, it has been insensitive to that need but on the other hand it's a natural failing, if you know what I mean. We have to deal, you and I, with human nature as it is just as on the question of violence I think there's a natural - it suits the government's book to say black factions fighting black factions. It suits them. And it's taken us going quite close to the others and the government to realise it and the international involvement. And Goldstone. The government have realised we've got to take this much more seriously than we are.

POM     When Mandela says, "De Klerk unbanned weapons that have been banned for years and these are the weapons of violence that are used in the killings and I went to de Klerk and I said why have you unbanned these weapons? These are the weapons that are used in the killings and he couldn't give me a good answer", is that a compelling argument in its own framework?

DW     If its true. Which weapons are doing the killing? They're not spears. They're AK47s.

POM     What surprises me is that in the two years, from reading newspapers, talking to people across the board, I've either read about a sufficient number of cases where I would say yes the police seemed to be there and they seemed to side with Inkatha or they didn't do anything or they did this or they did that. Or people have told me their own experiences. But I would have thought that a politician of de Klerk's astuteness and riding high and showing that he was not only a reformer but always the prime mover would have taken some action against elements of his own police force, physical action, political action, would have suspended a couple of commanders, would have appointed a separate Commission of Enquiry, would have done something to say to blacks, "I'm asserting myself", and yet he hasn't.

DW     Yes. Well I think this has been a mistake but I think that you can criticise - it's a mistake of omission and it's serious but you say the notion that de Klerk is (as Mandela accused him of being a Nazi) the idea that de Klerk is out there consciously promoting a third force or whatever, that I don't think is the case.

POM     My question is, is he in full control of his security apparatus? Is he in a position to fire as he would want to?

DW     No I think it's difficult for him. He's dependent upon them. You see Goldstone made the point that there is no evidence of government or high level or police involvement. And there hasn't been any evidence. What one is looking at is hit squads, individuals out of the security forces, and that would be the way I would interpret it. You certainly will find police tending to go, the natural tendency of the police is to side with Inkatha.

POM     Finally, and thanks for the time, two quick ones. One, did the ANC or the government want CODESA to collapse?

DW     I think the one who wanted CODESA to collapse was the ANC and I think the government were happy to let it collapse.

POM     The second one is the Buthelezi factor. You have partially answered this. Does he have the capacity to be a real spoiler? If he says, "No, I will not be party to any agreement made to which I am not a party, to which the Zulu nation is not a party", do you think that's a warning that should be listened to very carefully?

DW     Absolutely. This is why the ANC wants to close the hostels. The hostels are spear points of Zulu strength. This is a fear. Although not all Zulus are committed to Buthelezi.

POM     Thank you.

DW     A pleasure. Nice seeing 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.