This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, 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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
06 Aug 1992: Clewlow, Warren
POM. Mr Clewlow, I noticed on the way in that there were far more security devices around than there were a year ago or two years ago.
WC. Here? No, but you're very observant. The reason why you notice them here today is that Mrs de Klerk, the President's wife, is having lunch here.
POM. I see.
WC. Perhaps we should be more security conscious but we are not. I don't want it to be any different to what it was and I don't think it has to be. But the reason for it today was because Mrs de Klerk was here.
POM. This time last year we talked a lot about the economy.
WC. It was exactly a year ago wasn't it? August anyhow.
POM. The Council that you head was about to publish a report. Was that report ever published?
POM. OK, I have a few questions about it. Maybe I can get a copy on the way out or whatever. Could you just summarise how it differed from the Nedperm analysis of the future of the economy or the economic prospects?
WC. It wasn't the same type of document. I'll give you an even more up to date one because it's been updated even further. The Economic Advisory Council prepared a long term economic strategy for the country some years ago, I think 1986/87 and, not necessarily every year but at regular intervals, we have a look at it, try to put fresh minds on it and then update and I can give you an updated version. Where the advantage of this one is that I'm putting different people on to looking at it and so the input is starting to become very much more diverse. It's not as broad as I would like to see it because what's missing from that, I've never been able to get decent input from black Trade Unions or black political parties.
POM. Is that conscious on their part not to participate?
WC. I've asked them to do it and they have not wanted to. I might ask you to do it, but if you don't want to I can't make you do it. To me it's a pity that it hasn't got that but maybe one day it will come because the framework is tried and established and I'll give you copies so you can see. But what does change is emphasis must change and priorities, economic priorities which I see and put down would be different to the ones which you see I'm sure, and certainly different to what other people would see. But there it is, I do my best and I believe in honing it up all the time by putting different viewpoints on it when it's updated so that it moves with the times.
POM. Could you, since I know your time is so scarce, give me ...?
WC. I have got half an hour.
POM. - give me a bird's eye view of how business views the political situation in the country particularly the lurches forward and backwards in the last several months, with the progress at CODESA and the collapse of CODESA, then the subsequent mass action and attempts by business and COSATU, SACCOLA and COSATU to forge an agreement which I understand from talking to a number of people, was fairly close, but that the government in fact put pressure on business to ...
POM. Nonsense? Several people have said this to me. Anyway, could you just give me the ...?
WC. Just dealing with the last thing you brought up, the SACCOLA thing. It was very good. I was very much aware of what was going on there because we had one or two of our executives here that were part of that team and so I was very gratified to see that as a group we were making a contribution by putting them at the disposal of those bodies, competent people, and was very pleased at the sort of progress they made. But the problem with those things, there's good meaning and as worthy as their causes are, you can't do them unless they are done at the right level and I think it was too far down from the real decision makers. For instance, a group like SACOB whilst it represents business houses it doesn't speak for the broad base of South African business. Business doesn't talk with one voice and why should it? A group like Barlows and Anglo, we might have the same views on certain things and we might not. That's what makes the free enterprise economy work. You have different forces saying - so it's silly to think that you're going to have one voice speaking for various things. As far as that was concerned it was really, I think, too far down the line, working very hard and with great determination and sincerity, but it couldn't make it stick. It's wrong to say it's absolutely nonsense and what was happening, the way I viewed it, was that COSATU started introducing this political things which had nothing to do with business and I perceived it as being COSATU trying to establish themselves more firmly in the political arena which I believe is one of their objectives. If that's what they want to do, that's what they want to do.
POM. What I want you to do is if you could take me through your understanding of the dynamics of what went on from the time that CODESA 2 deadlocked, when Mandela and de Klerk said, yes we've deadlocked but the problems aren't insuperable, we've made great progress, to the point where a month later the ANC has walked out of the talks, they had set down 14 additional conditions, mass mobilisation had moved to the front burner and in the middle you had Boipatong acting as some kind of catalyst of the movement itself, pulling it's various constituencies together. What's your understanding of what that whole process was about?
WC. Well, I'm not a politician, but as a businessman looking at that I think the progress made at CODESA was very commendable. But I think like everything else things don't move on an even front and I suppose when one looks back I think maybe, I think at CODESA the people there were moving too fast for their constituencies and it doesn't surprise me. I was sorry but I can honestly say I was surprised and neither were many other people that one gets the hiccups, if you like to call it, but I honestly don't think it's more than that, but there would be other people who would have a different view that it was more than a hiccup. But be that as it may, stick with my interpretation for the time being that it was a hiccup and it didn't surprise me when you had these discussions going on that when you move ahead of your constituents, that's what politicians do. The failing of most politicians is when they lose track of the people who have put them in or they start viewing themselves as being above their constituencies. And I think if you look at world history there are plenty of examples where politicians who didn't keep in touch with their constituency, didn't persuade them and the way I read it, looking across the board, that progress was not being referred back to reach the point where I think pressures were on them. I think the pressures on the people at CODESA was immense and it was almost as if there was an incident, a point which in itself, which looked in its context, didn't seem that important, the common sticking point was arguing about various percentages for inclusion of items in a Bill of Rights, amendments should be made to a Bill of Rights. I don't believe in that, that that itself was a difficult point but I think it just happens to be the point they were at when all the other pressures seemed to take over and it went down. Boipatong was a terrible event, but on 6th April, I know the date because I happened to be in America at the time and I was speaking that evening to some American Senators and I wanted to get myself up to date because on the 6th April was the night I was having the dinner and on that day there was the massacre as well.
POM. At Crossroads.
WC. At Crossroads where a whole lot of Zulu people were killed and it noticeably didn't receive the publicity or I might have missed out.
POM. How does that work? What's the mystique on the propaganda side?
WC. I think on the one hand the ANC were using Boipatong, many of their followers, it was their followers who were the victims who were killed. I think at the Crossroads thing it was not their followers. It was the other way round and it's where I'm quite cynical about the morality of some of our politicians and people. For instance, where were the voices of anguish which one heard at Boipatong? I didn't hear them at Crossroads. I believe they should have been just as loud at that incident, and many others. And you must remember more people have been killed in the last two days of mass action, whether it's mass action orientated but the numbers have exceeded even Boipatong, which just shows you how human life is losing its value in this country so fast.
. To me, I will remain cynical and unimpressed with the politicians until I honestly see, by my standards, see a concerted effort by all politicians to be seen to be working together to get that problem resolved and I don't see it yet. I don't rate them, I'm a bit unimpressed with their efforts when it comes to that because I think they are putting their own political agendas above human life and that gets back to your question of how is this being viewed in business circles. I can't speak on behalf of everybody but I would say there's pretty good consensus that business people are disturbed obviously at the unrest factor because it reflects on business activities. You see it with the people who work for you.
. You want to hear the story that I received on Wednesday of people working for us who were unable to come to work on Monday and Tuesday because of mass action? Now, you might argue it was a good excuse to have two days off and it's easy to come back the next day and say, "Gee, I couldn't come to work because of - I would have come if I could have but -." But there are enough stories to make me believe that there were many people who wanted to work and were unable to come to work. And so from the business point of view we're not impressed by this. We know that our workers in our factories are not terribly enamoured with what's going on as well. And again they are being used, the economy is being used by political players for the advancement of their own causes. They are using workers for the advancement and when I see them sitting on TV with butter not melting, trying to look like little angels and saying, "the workers think", those people haven't got the eyes and ears of the workers. Nonsense. It's just themselves. But that's life, it's what you accept people for.
POM. One thing that is apparent to me in the month that I've been here is the centre stage that COSATU has assumed in terms of organising the mass mobilisation, in terms of just having almost taken, I won't say over, from the ANC.
WC. Intimidation too. Mobilisation/intimidation. I think they are proving to be maybe better organisers than the ANC. What's COSATU? Is it another political party? Is it half a political party? Does it want to be a bit of both? Does it want to be the tail that wags the dog of the ANC? Does it want to usurp the ANC? That's the sort of thing that I believe must be sorted out in their circles.
POM. The analogy made to me was that when de Klerk was faced by his right wing and it came for a showdown that the ANC were understanding of his position and if there was going to be another election for whites only, and they were adamantly opposed to it, they let it go on. They knew he had to do it and they were implicitly supportive of what he was doing. Now they would say Mandela was faced with a situation of radicals in his movement pressing him to look for more, going the more militant insurrectionist route and that he had to respond to this in terms of what they would call the 'black referendum', showing the people were behind the ANC so that he could pull his radicals in and allow the centre to reassert itself. In business circles has anything of what's happened within the ANC been seen in terms of power struggles or for different ideologies or is this seen strictly in terms of the ANC doing this and the ANC doing that, rather than the ANC being made up of competing constituencies itself?
WC. It's the latter, the latter. It's their competing constituencies within themselves and, of course, by all this going on it doesn't help business, but the business sympathies lie with the workers. And that doesn't mean lying with COSATU or the ANC or anybody, it's lying directly with the people that are working there because we see the problems and we see the difficulties that certain of our workers are facing. They are the ham in the sandwich. So when it comes to strike actions you have examples where a factory has been put out on strike where you know the majority of the people didn't want it in the first place. When people are striking for genuine labour reasons you can settle it that way but when they are forced to strike or when there's a political overload it adds a complete layer of complications to it. The fact that you are showing sympathy to a striking worker doesn't mean to say you are showing sympathy to the cause that was causing him to strike. Not at all. You're showing sympathy with the victim.
POM. Two years ago when I visited you first, the ANC talked a lot about nationalisation and demand economies and all that sort of jargon. Recently Business Day endorsed their economic policy saying that the document as produced was pragmatic and realistic. What's your own assessment of their shifts in policy over the last two years?
WC. Two years ago statements were being made - one of the problems facing this country is when one reads in some of the newspapers the statements that are made, the first thing you've got to start saying is, has that been accurately reported? Because I don't think we're reporting as accurately as we should do. So, if I read something in this morning's paper that was startling I certainly wouldn't make decisions on what I'd read, but if I felt it affected me, you have to say, well, there could be something in it but I'd better check first. And how often do you find when you check up on a statement it was merely someone got the wrong end of the stick or whatever. So I think two years ago, in defence of the ANC, I think a lot of that rhetoric that they were talking about were misquotes or taken out of context or if it existed, there's no doubt it existed, but I think it was blown a bit out of proportion and as time goes by more realism has crept into it and perhaps the very people that were making those statements - it's easy to talk, it's when you start thinking about it and putting it into action and starting to realise that those sort policies, will they work? So I think the people who two years ago wondered if such a thing could take place have now moved to the point where they cannot see it taking place. I don't think it's a great issue.
POM. So you find their economic policy, the broad outlines of their policy ...?
WC. I would call it a first draft. It's got a long way to go. It needs the type of attention that the long term strategy of the Economic Advisory Council has. That's the sort of way it's got to go, it needs input from more people. I get the impression, I might be wrong, if they had hired someone to write something, looked for a scriptwriter, an economic scriptwriter, paid someone a few bob to write an economic policy and it looked all right and no-one thought too much about it, but it's a start.
POM. But do you think there's any more, like from your talks with people, I assume in cocktail or business circles you mix with a fair number of people in the ANC, do you have any sense that they have a better understanding that these gross inequalities that exist cannot simply be dealt with in the short term, that it will be a long term thing?
WC. There isn't a lot of mixing, but neither the business community in Johannesburg or in South Africa doesn't spend it's time mixing with political figures. It's done to a degree but business people tend to run their businesses. They don't go out every morning and say, "Gee before I get out of bed this morning I'd better phone up Mr So-and-so in the ANC to find out what he thinks." Not at all. The cross-fertilisation of ideas is not very high. And neither is anybody else, and neither was this in the past.
POM. Do you not think at this juncture that it is something that would be of crucial importance in getting going the kind of long term policy planning?
WC. One of the problems is that it's difficult to know who the real players are. We're still at that stage of the game. That's why we in the business community are happy to see progress being made. I mean, let's find out who - an awful lot of the people who are on the political stage are self-appointed. When the time comes for testing their support it might well turn out that their support is substantial. But at this stage there are more pretenders on the stage than there can be possibly people who have backing. I think one still has to wait a bit. [I think we'll be surprised as to how much or how little many of our -] The key questions there are going to be when a constitution and an election takes place is how much support is President de Klerk going to command with the black people? And the other big question is how much support will the ANC get away from their established bases? The other one is how much support will Buthelezi keep? If he keeps his entire Zulu population, if he speaks for all of them, then he's got a pretty powerful base.
. The answer is, how many Zulus will not support Buthelezi, how much extra support will de Klerk get beyond the white, Coloured? There's very little evidence at this stage of much white support for the ANC and much Coloured support for the ANC. But that's not enough for de Klerk, he's got to find more, and anyhow for a successful future for South Africa one doesn't want to see a winner who comes out of any one section. I'd like to see the man who wins, the man who leads this country is the one who is able to get a modicum of support from all key constituencies. Obviously he'll be stronger in one than the other but I don't think the future would augur well if we had an ANC majority in this country which came solely from one section of the community and likewise it works the other way round.
POM. Two observations: one is that you put your finger on something very important right at the beginning and Alistair Sparks, a commentator with whom I don't always agree, in fact put it quite pithily in yesterday's Business Day when he said that each of the main actors are playing two roles. On the one hand they are playing the role of negotiators and on the other hand they are playing the role of political competitors and the rules of one undermine the success of the other. The political competitor, the National Party wants to eat into the moderate black vote, pull it away from the ANC, but to do that it will have to portray the ANC as a radical organisation that is still full of communists and what have you, but the ANC has the same kind of pressures on it to keep it's vote and at the same time act as a negotiator and be a conciliator and that the two get confused in their languages. My question is, do you think CODESA is done with and that for whatever new negotiations, there must be a new negotiating forum that is more representative in terms of pulling in the Zulus, through the IFP? But Buthelezi is insistent that the Zulu nation, i.e. the King, if he is left out of the process that he won't feel obliged to concur with any agreements made. Do you think CODESA should pick up where it stopped or the ANC and the government should get together and hammer things out between them, or that there should be a new, broader, perhaps even slower negotiating process?
WC. Let me answer your last question. The ANC and the government cannot do that because they are not speaking for all the people. That is one of the myths built up by press comment over the years that the two players are central. They're not, they are major players but there are many others. I would think it would be a pity if CODESA collapsed, for all it's good and bad points that existed, and I would broaden it still to let everybody have their say. I think the point that may be that ANC and the government, one thing they don't have at CODESA is that their viewpoints were not necessarily, there are far more players than those two and that adds to the problems but it's a fact of life. I think it's silly, whilst I can't agree with anything that the CP says, but the fact that they're not there, you see, again, they are not there for posturing. The bottom line is we need them all there whether they have silly news, good news, bad news, but they all need to be there. This question that the government and the ANC should be the two there, that's wrong. I would disagree with that entirely because when the real chips come down it's not a question of one taking away support from the other, that is not the case. I think there is a much larger uncommitted electorate waiting to decide where they want to go. I think this is the black moderates who are uncommitted. I think there are a lot of whites who are uncommitted. In fact if you go right through the thing I think there are far more uncommitted people, not winning the one from the other, they try to get them into their camp. With all the violence and with all this posturing that's going on, to me not many politicians are advancing their reputations but they seem to be diminishing their reputations. Therein lies the problem.
POM. Looking at the violence, must the violence be brought under control before you can have successful negotiations?
WC. Yes, but I think violence is being used by parties, that's the whole problem.
POM. Violence is being used by parties?
WC. Yes, sure.
POM. Do you think that the ANC's insistence of two years that the government is the primary agent responsible for the violence and with very heated, personal attacks coming from Mr Mandela on de Klerk in the last ...?
WC. I don't believe it. I think it's utter nonsense.
POM. But do you think this damages, this hinders any prospect of coming to grips with ...?
WC. Yes. I'm quite certain that there must be evidence, my gut feeling tells me that there are elements of the police force that haven't acted as impartially or as positively as they should. I have no doubt about that. But if I had to, I would say the primary cause of violence is black on black. It's a straight Inkatha/ANC fight and aided and abetted sometimes, or sometimes the police are the meat in the sandwich, sometimes aid and abet, it's all very confusing. And then overlay that with the criminal element. What a wonderful situation to be a criminal at this stage, when you can't even get to grips with them. So it's just a big muddle.
POM. What must government do, what must the international community do to disentangle?
WC. The international community are powerless. I mean it's very good to have people like Cyrus Vance. I think he's come out here at a very good time. But they're not going to, if they're going to help, but they're not going to solve it. If de Klerk and Mandela and Buthelezi, the three of them were to be seen and believed by the population as to be genuinely, acting together - it's no good the one putting tears in his eyes and saying violence has got to stop when we know it's carrying on. I've yet to see a concerted effort. Have you seen Buthelezi and Mandela together making a plea for violence? Not at all. If they were that far apart two years ago they are now that far apart.
POM. Much further apart.
WC. Much further apart.
POM. I thought maybe the international community at least might come out with some force and would say Inkatha and the ANC appear to be the main parties to the violence.
WC. The Goldstone Commission has done all that anyhow.
POM. But the ANC wouldn't see that in the same light, or do you think that they are so wedded?
WC. Well it's tough titty, they jolly well should. The Goldstone, I'm sure it's not a perfect report but to me it's pretty accurate I believe. I read it and I think it summed up the situation and even if it's not perfect I can't see somebody else coming in. These international so-called experts are usually people looking for a job. If they were so blimming good they'd be running their own countries, but there are a lot of messes in the rest of the world that require good competent politicians.
POM. Looking at the future and trying to distinguish between what form of government, democratic or non-democratic, let me put it in the simplest way possible, use the US model. If it is the US model of government, a federal system with entrenched state powers, checks and balances, would you find that an acceptable model for a democratic South Africa? Would the majority of people in your business circles find that acceptable?
WC. I'm not an expert on that either but I don't think South Africa needs - there are many examples around the world of democratic constitutions with checks and balances which could be adapted to the South African scene and there is enough brain power in that area I think to do it. I don't think it requires re-inventing the wheel.
POM. This whole argument that existed on the government side of having a veto over certain matters, the argument is that you should have safeguards but not a veto. Do you go along with saying that they have to move from the position of looking for guaranteed vetoes?
WC. By my book you don't have vetoes, you just have safeguards, but I think that's just a negotiating strategy. Buthelezi wants the federal, he leans more to the federal system and Mandela leans to a unified, one man one vote winner takes all type of thing. But I think that just negotiating, they honestly don't worry. I think we'll get through that period.
POM. Do you see an incoming government coming in the Fall? Later in the year?
WC. Yes. I still think we'll have one. As I say I'm not an expert on these things but it would surprise me if we didn't have some form of interim government by the end of this year and dotting the i's and crossing the t's and getting the show on the road. You don't just say, let's have an election on Tuesday. Someone's got to organise the damn thing.
POM. You couldn't have a free and fair election in the present climate.
WC. Exactly. So you need CODESA to continue, which it will do. Maybe it will be called something else but it's basically that. It needs to continue which I believe it will do and thrash out the things until it gets to an interim government stage and that's one leap upwards. And then into a government that then takes over the responsibility of preparing the country, the logistics, the details and the climate for a free and fair election which hopefully might come within a year. And I honestly think that timetable is still going to come around.
POM. You're 2 years into this process. What is your assessment of Mandela's performance, of de Klerk's performance and of Buthelezi's performance?
WC. It is actually not too different from what I thought it would be. I think, if anything, Mandela's standing in 2 years - I think all major political parties over-estimated, tend to over-estimate their own strength and importance. And if anything in 2 years all major politicians have had to step down, to realise that it's not, that perception has been shrunk. Of the three, I mean in 2 years I would say Buthelezi has not shown an ability to attract support beyond his own base but I think equally the strength of his base was completely under-estimated by his opponents. I think Mandela as an international figure, his reputation has come down, but again I think he was blown up out of all proportion by the international press in the first place.
POM. He couldn't have lived up to it. Looking at his strengths and his weaknesses, what has he been good at and what has he been poor at?
WC. I don't know. I really don't know because I don't know the man. I think what has come out is that the ANC, there are many parts to the ANC and I think he's had the greatest difficulty, he hasn't moulded them together. But then it was an impossible job to do in the first place.
POM. And de Klerk?
WC. I think he has dispelled any doubts that people had about him that he wasn't pressing on with the programme that he announced. I mean 2 years ago I certainly could have said that de Klerk has made all these announcements and has all these intentions, but they haven't been put into reality. I think he has stuck to his programme of reality, but I think the government has realised that if it's going to be in power in the next phase of this country it's going to have to attract a much broader constituency. I think so far it has shown that it can attract in the Asian and Coloured side and I think it's support amongst white people has been reinforced, but it's still to show how much support it's going to get from the black population. That's an unknown and that hasn't yet been tested and I don't know what it will be.
POM. OK. Have you got that report?
WC. When are you going to write your book?
POM. I'll interview people through to the new constitutional phase, to the election for a new government and then I will do the first one.