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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
12 Aug 1992: Klaaste, Aggrey
POM Mr Klaaste, could you maybe start by giving me a bird's eye view of what's been happening in the country in the last 12 months?
AK Good heavens. A lot of things have happened.
POM Let me start by saying like with the Peace Accord. Just over a year ago the Peace Accord was put together with great fanfare, there were a lot of negotiations.
AK Well that was pretty instructive because like all such things people all over the world have a naivety to believe that if a deal is struck by some important people then there will be peace or whatever. All over the world it doesn't happen that way, all over the world people strike deals and people make pacts and so on and instead things tend to go wrong. But it is instructive because it helps, I think, in many ways some of the tragedies which have taken place have helped to firm up the process. The Peace Accord for instance was perhaps almost like a symbolic act which was necessary for its own time because it wasn't dealing, it was almost symptomatic, because it wasn't dealing with the problems which are really on the ground. The problems of violence are problems affecting almost the peasant kind of population at war with itself. Matters political are just part of the problem, not the real problem. They are a very serious part of the problem but mostly if peasants fight it's over resources of one sort or the other and they do that all over the place. They fight because they think people are going to supplant them, to take their jobs, even to use their toilets and such things and then, of course, the tribal thing also comes into it in this country which confuses it. The political thing just running through the whole like a live wire, as I think I've said to you before. So the Peace Accord, they know all that too well and to add to the problem, of course, South Africa has got other complications. It's got other people both to the left and to the right who are not for the process being successfully carried out so they do their damndest to try and abort it.
POM When you look on the left, who on the left doesn't want the process to succeed?
AK Well I'm not saying definitely but I would imagine people, for instance, in the PAC and maybe in AZAPO. I'm not saying they're doing that but it seems to be fair enough to speculate that if they think that a deal has been made between the government and the ANC and they are not part of it they are going to try their damndest to try and stop that deal. In fact the PAC has said, "We'll attack - it doesn't stop, the armed struggle." And it has claimed some attacks particularly on the police. Now it could be such elements and it could be more definitely elements to the right obviously, either in the police or in the security forces or whatever, people in the security forces or the right wing parties who obviously won't want this thing to go on.
I think really it's the security situation because the latest thing was Boipatong. Even before Boipatong we had something on the West Rand in a place called Swanieville where a group of hostel dwellers who were obviously peasant folk mounted a rather sophisticated attack on an area early one morning and after the attack, which was very successful, they actually moved quite a number of kilometres from the hostel to attack these people, and they were eventually seen being accompanied by police vehicles on their way back. They had killed as many people as they did in Boipatong, they just messed up the whole place and the police didn't arrest anybody.
So that Boipatong thing, which was the last one obviously, the last one which led to breaking the camel's back I think particularly, politically for the ANC and other people was also such a sophisticated movement. Somebody must have said the ANC is not going to go, it wants to go on mass action and the time would be to try and embarrass this mass action. Even before that they had received the plan that mass action would be too violent and so forth and nothing happened. So obviously somebody just put on this guise to go and kill. Some of the evidence from the Goldstone Commission does support that. Nobody can nail the bastards quite frankly and it's making it very difficult for us to write editorials on them. It's very difficult because we write on the basis of speculation, rumour, then it's Koevoet, then it's not Koevoet, it's very difficult. Quite plainly I think these guys are being abused by some people. They may have reason to want to be abused.
POM These people are?
AK The hostel dwellers.
POM Are being abused by, or being used by?
AK Abused by some third force, whatever, I don't know whatever force. As I say it could be from the right or the left, but more likely right wing elements do it. So while this all has been happening the ANC has been getting itself into a bit of a dither I think because many people even outsiders are saying the ANC was giving too much to the government. I just think that the government was able to take more risks in this whole matter which the ANC didn't take. I think Mr Mandela didn't take them. Mandela took the first risk by suspending the armed struggle and talking to the National Party. It was a big risk for him in terms of his constituency. De Klerk took all the risks, more of them, in terms of his constituency. He took risk after risk and he was therefore able to push off, because you know you take a risk then you can move on to something else, and it just seemed to people like he was beginning to set the agenda. In fact if you want to know the truth many black people, very good friends of mine, who are convinced of this conspiracy theory and that this whole thing from the release of Mandela was a total conspiracy from the government up to now for heaven's sake. And they really believe it. I met a chap at Wits University the other day, a senior black businessman, who also supports this view which is also supported by some of my friends here.
POM Is this conspiracy, in what sense?
AK Conspiracy from the government. The government had planned ahead that it would release Mandela and then move to CODESA and then try to discredit the liberation movement and then rule indefinitely. It was almost like a blueprint written by de Klerk. Even before PW Botha, they say, they said PW Botha was part of the whole plan, how he was removed after the Harare Declaration. It is a mind boggling scheme, but it's not mind boggling because I can tell you the truth, they believe it. I don't know if it's because they want to. It just doesn't make sense to me. But anyway some people believe that happened but I don't believe that happened. I just think things are happening by their natural sequence. The ANC was then given a chance I think, very sadly, by Boipatong to become strong again. They said we are not going there and we are going to have this, we are going to the talks, we are aborting the talks and not only that we are going to march in Pretoria which is a very cheerful noise to make.
POM When you say the ANC took no risks, could you just elaborate a little on that?
AK Well the risks I was talking about, for instance, was firstly the ANC suspending the armed struggle. Now it should have taken other risks like de Klerk did. For instance, I don't know what other risks de Klerk took, for instance getting the Goldstone Commission to investigate the police. Risky things to do for his kind of playing area and nothing like that has come from the ANC. You hear nothing about Mandela coming out strongly to say, no, well we are stopping on this mass action thing or school boycotts, saying some unpopular things. He hasn't done that. So it seems to people that he was being led by the nose by the government and he was becoming just part of the ...
POM What's your understanding of the situation at CODESA when the ANC offered the government a 70% veto threshold for items to be included in the constitution and a 75% veto threshold over items to be in a Bill of Rights? Was that not a risky thing for them to do?
AK I don't know, it wasn't. It seems to me the opposite. It seems to me they had pushed for something for a veto of sorts which the government later didn't want to agree to. If I remember well they had pushed for 75%?
POM That's right. Giving them three quarters of the veto may be. Most opinion polls would show that the government and its allies could put together anywhere from 25% to 30%.
POM The government wanted to stick to 75%. The ANC offered 70% but my understanding was that there was a lot of dissatisfaction at the grassroots of the ANC at the offer of 70% . What feedback did you get?
AK Yes it's probably true. That was all part of their discomfort that the ANC was undergoing in the sense that people were saying they were giving too much to the government and in fact that de Klerk was running the show. Then something like Boipatong unfortunately happened to their benefit. It was, I think, planned to embarrass them but it in fact happened to help the ANC because they were able to go on this mass action.
POM Was there a shift of influence within the ANC itself. You moved from the deadlock at CODESA with both Mandela and de Klerk putting the best face on it, saying yes we have problems but we can work at them and reach some agreement, to less than a month later of the ANC walking out of the talks, putting 15 more demands on the table, putting mass mobilisation on the front burner, Mandela making very direct and personal attacks at de Klerk?
AK Well definitely there was and also I suspect, well there were other parties, the trade unions, COSATU, they were putting the pressure on Mandela, these guys, the more radical people, and in fact it seems to me that Jay Naidoo found a gap opening for him to come in. He's been saying that CODESA was wrong, that they shouldn't have gone into this CODESA because it has been discredited from the start. That's what Naidoo said before the mass action. So the pressures were quite heavy on the government, on de Klerk, from the extreme left. I don't know if he knew what he was going to do quite frankly. I don't know.
POM If de Klerk knew what he was going to do?
AK De Klerk? Did de Klerk know who was going to do what? I said I don't think Mandela knew what he was going to do because he was being pushed from all sides into getting tougher with de Klerk. It seems to me that he didn't have an opening of sorts. He didn't know how to do it to get started except to increase the demands and so on and so on while in the back of his mind always wanting the talks to go on. But then as I said Boipatong gave him enough, gave him the excuse to get really seriously tough and say, "We're not talking any more." In fact not only Mandela, I think most people. That's why the ANC got such great support. Most of us were just very angry at the government. That is why I think the stayaway was so successful.
POM When you said the stayaway was so successful do you mean in terms of (1) the number of people who didn't go to work, (2) the number of people who showed up at the marches and demonstrations?
AK Yes that's what I meant.
POM Let me ask you this. Was it successful enough that it would have a political impact on the government, that the government would say, "My God we never realised that"?
AK Yes it certainly was. Quite plainly it was. The government tried its utmost to say the success of the stayaway and the marches was because of intimidation. They played on this and they couldn't get away with it. The ANC was smart enough to say, "Well of course there is intimidation but you couldn't intimidate four million people right across the country." The ANC doesn't have that clout, which is quite true. All of this is also a matter of really splitting political hairs because quite a lot of people who were angry. It was not really support for the ANC as I said. It was more aimed at Boipatong and what was happening and, of course, there was some intimidation and, of course, the whole situation is not ...
POM I suppose what I'm getting at is, was the stayaway successful enough that the government at a Cabinet meeting would have said, "My God, we really have to do something, we have to get back to the negotiating table because these people can mobilise in a way that we didn't anticipate before"?
AK Yes. Yes, but of course. Absolutely. That is why they were running around like mad, going into the bush, having meetings, trying to figure out what to do. They didn't realise there was going to be that support. In fact they had hoped, I mean I was fearful, I thought the ANC would come a big cropper, they would really be embarrassed, there might be violence and it wouldn't work. But everybody was surprised, everybody. And the government particularly was surprised and rather worried that the ANC could summon so much support and some of the stories that came through was the discipline from the ANC marshals who were able to contain large numbers of people in Pretoria. You see the other reason was the PAC now is finding itself in a situation where it's got to come into the talks because of that, because PAC people are now saying it seems to them that the ANC has got the right route. It seems to them that the ANC knows what it's doing and that it's having quite a lot of support for what it's doing.
POM So you would see a situation then where earlier in the year, during CODESA 2, there was a lot of dissatisfaction at the grassroots in the ANC, a lot of people saying they are giving away too much to a situation where Boipatong allowed them to get their act together, pull their constituency together, adopt a hard line, mount a successful mass mobilisation and pull their troops back in?
AK Right, right, absolutely. Just like that. It is very sad that the cost was so heavy. But everything just fell into place for the ANC. I'm not ANC but I was pissed, if you'll excuse me, I was very angry with the government. I was so angry with Boipatong that I knew they wouldn't go out there and investigate and they dragged their feet for day after day and now people are saying, "We knew those guys wouldn't do it." So it would have been suicidal for Mandela and the ANC to have continued talking to the people with that level of anger from people right across the black community.
POM So was it anger not so much at the massacre itself but at the lack of government action after the massacre?
AK Well, no, you couldn't possibly say that. There was anger firstly at the massacre. It was outrage. I mean some pregnant women were killed and babies were killed. The outrage was just phenomenal.
POM Let me ask you, it's been pointed out to us a number of times that less than two months before that at Crossroads there was a massacre where almost a similar number of people were killed.
AK Well I've heard about that and I think that's just trying to use a red herring.
POM Did it elicit any public outcry?
AK No it didn't. The fact of the matter is that it wasn't as well publicised as it should have been but it's not as if people deliberately shut their eyes to that massacre and because this was ANC, not at all. I am saying I'm not ANC, right? I know black people who may not be ANC. That's totally outrageous, babies and women being killed. If it had happened, this Crossroads situation had happened here, the same outrage would have, I'm sure would have resulted. So I think that's absolute nonsense in fact for the people to try and say that and I think it also comes from Inkatha people and people who are - I mean I'm not for the ANC and all this, this madness, but after this I'm telling you I met a man from the PAC the other day who said he is crossing the floor, he's beginning to see that he should join the ANC now.
POM Do you think that the PAC are now trying to get into the negotiations because they see that the ANC are beginning to act?
AK I have said to you, if you remember, that they will eventually come in. I think I have said that. And everybody else will come in, they are only looking for some kind of a gap.
POM Do you see the ANC going back to the negotiating table in a relatively stronger position than they were in when they were at CODESA?
POM And you see the government in a relatively weaker position?
AK Well I don't know if they are weaker but I think they are in a much more cautious position than they were before. And what I think is going to happen, which might be very interesting, was CODESA might become a changing structure to make it leaner and better than it used to be and the PAC might insist, if it gets in, that some of the people should be more representative really than all these chaps who are out there just swelling the whole thing. I think they might work as a new model, all of them.
POM Do you think CODESA worked as a negotiating ...?
AK Yes of course it worked. It was important to have CODESA to start this whole thing. It could have been anything but something had to break the ice and for better or for worse it was CODESA.
POM My question would be that this process is invariably talked about as being a process between the government and the ANC. They are the two major players. If an agreement were concluded between the two of them, if they agreed more or less on everything, could that agreement be implemented if parties like Buthelezi and the PAC were kept outside?
AK No it couldn't. My feeling now is particularly the IFP has got to be brought back into this whole net. But you see CODESA had to start in some fashion and to my mind this is how it started. It started with Mandela being an embarrassment in prison. Something had to happen. De Klerk gets a chance and releases Mandela and during that process something must have happened between Mandela and the government. They must have talked and said, "OK after your release what are you going to do, blah, blah, blah", I'm just painting a picture. Then he gets released and then obviously he's a big thing and the government is another big thing and then just naturally this whole scenario falls into place where it seems that the government and the ANC is talking. Now to make it less, if they thought they could get away it they would have said, "We will just talk the two of us", but I think they were aware that they couldn't get away with it particularly of course because of the IFP, not so much the PAC and AZAPO. The IFP is the most important. They knew they couldn't get away with it so to make things look better they had all these other guys from Bophuthatswana, from Ciskei and all those guys and made the whole thing swell into a monster. In the meantime the talks were still, the major parties were still those two chaps. Now what then happened was also unplanned because both the ANC and, as I said, some elements to the left were getting worried about this two man process seemingly, and then the violence started. It was unplanned but it was part of it and then everybody had to sit up and to get to their senses that this thing won't work if it's between the government and the ANC alone. They might even push it through now but after the deal has been done there will probably be more trouble.
POM So if Buthelezi sits up there in Ulundi, militant and bitter and saying that the Zulu people ...?
AK Yes he will create chaos. He is already creating chaos in his area, in KwaZulu for heaven's sake. I mean it hurts me no end to hear that the killings are still going on, that Zulus are killing Zulus up to now, since 1980, 1984 or something. It still continues and it will probably get worse, it will get very, very much worse if Buthelezi thinks that a deal has been made between the ANC. Mandela, I think, is aware of it. I think Mr de Klerk is aware of it.
POM So must a way be found to bring him into the process?
AK Yes it must. I fact I'm going to write about that right now. I said it last week, I'm going to insist on that. I think the most important thing now to do is not PAC and AZAPO, but is to try and give Buthelezi back his self-confidence because he's lost his self-confidence. If he is particularly insecure and angry and sore and it goes right down to the grassroots Zulu guys who also feel undermined and insulted as Zulu people and they fight and it's a bad thing for this country. I stay in Soweto but Zulu is like the lingua franca there in Soweto. There are a lot of Zulu chaps there and everybody - I speak Zulu, I'm not a Zulu, and my friends speak Zulu and we just feel sick.
POM Are there no Zulus in Soweto?
AK I say there are many Zulus in Soweto. I'm not Zulu, I'm Xhosa but I speak Zulu. My family, my youngsters can speak Zulu. Everybody speaks Zulu. There are a lot of Zulus in the townships and they are particularly embarrassed by what's going on and frightened to.
POM Now are they embarrassed by?
AK By the Zulus being discredited and Buthelezi doing all these peculiar things also. Now quite obviously, this is another good thing about Boipatong which is very strange, I think the ANC will have the strength now, at least the courage, and I'm not saying Mr Mandela didn't have it, to go to Dr Buthelezi. It's not even speculation, the ANC, the government and Buthelezi are meeting I don't know where. They have the courage now to go and speak to Buthelezi and talk to the man and try and bring him into this whole matter. I think it's important for Buthelezi himself and for his people for him to be part of this thing. He's a very kind of traditional leader, he's not a political leader, he's a kind of a King and if he gets insulted the whole Zulu tribe, not the whole Zulu tribe, but the Zulus who follow him feel insulted too and at that level it's just bad. Like Zimbabwe when it was still Rhodesia with the Shonas and Ndabeles, that's the trouble we will have. So I think Mandela is very much aware of that. We just need to prod these guys to do something about Inkatha.
POM So when you look at the next several months what kind of developments do you see?
AK I don't know. As I said to you before I'm not silly enough, you can't just plan this kind of thinking. You can't think of Boipatong happening or something like that happening. I mean whoever thought a thing like that would happen although if you think back it was on the cards and we all know that the nearer you get to a political solution the more violent things get. We all know that but we don't actually seem to think about it when we talk, when we draw up analysis.
POM Something was said to us that part of the reason for the deadlock in CODESA was because you had two different languages being spoken throughout this whole process since Mandela has been released. One, you had the government talking about it as being a process involving the sharing of power and you had the ANC talking about it as being a process that involves the transfer of power.
AK Well that kind of intellectualism which is there, it's quite obviously the truth. The government didn't come into CODESA because it was going to give power over to the ANC or any such silly thing. The government went into CODESA as a political organisation to get the best out of it for themselves. The ANC did the same thing quite obviously and the ANC wasn't going to say it's going into CODESA because they wanted to have a fair deal with the government. If the ANC could have it they would take over but they know they can't do so. The government if they could, could prolong it's influence over the whole thing if it could help it. In fact I think they think they can because what they are doing now is, I have been to Pretoria to see some chaps there, they called me and they are trying to recruit blacks into the National Party and they are throwing names at me and it is quite cynical kind of stuff, going back to the days of apartheid. What would you say if so and so (some peculiar black guy) is becoming - they are trying to do that. I think they suspect they have a bit of a chance of getting blacks into that so it's a whole - I'm not a political analyst myself but I don't care for these niceties of intellectual analysis.
POM There's a very big difference between a process that's going to end up with power sharing and one that ends up with majority rule. They are two different things.
AK I think going into a process is not easy. You probably come into a process with having two different points of view and negotiation tries to do something about those two points of view. You might have totally different points of view but the fact that you come together you probably say to yourself, "Well I'll see what's the best I can get out of this thing." And maybe you won't get it and that is like a classical kind of situation but this political process is not even classical. I mean you have Boipatong. Also crazy things happen whilst you are busy doing this outside of your thinking and outside of the process which influences the process, if you see what I'm saying. So there is no clean way of going into it and saying, "OK the ANC's view on going into it was this, the government's view was that." In fact that is exactly the problem the conspirators have in the black thinking. They think the whole thing was planned, it was planned and that is plain nonsense. It was planned all the way up till now and now the government has got a new blueprint, it's got several agendas which they put into place.
POM What do you think accounts for that kind of conspiracy theory being rife particularly among people who are educated?
AK Well it's anger, I think it's rage. It's a third world rage at a first world situation mostly at the bottom and because the third world is very angry at what has happened to it and they would rather have come into freedom having warned that the liberation struggle, like physical winning I think. At the intellectual level too I think it worries them that - the other thing that worries people is that many of them were Marxist. Now that kind of thing has been taken away from them, that kind of argument doesn't seem to be holding too much of a position nowadays and they just feel very unhappy about it and the Marxists, as you well know, are full of conspiracy theories as to this will happen and then that will happen and that kind of thing. I think with our chaps it's more anger and disappointment that after fighting these evil people for such a long time now we have to talk to them.
POM De Klerk strikes me as a fairly astute politician and you said he takes risks and has taken risks. For two years the ANC have said insistently that the government is behind the violence in the townships and anybody who follows the news here closely will read of a sufficient number of incidents where there was either lack of police action or suggestions of police involvement that make the allegations credible. Why, de Klerk being the political animal that he is, why does he not do something that would show him visibly taking action like appointing a commission to look into the police, firing some people?
AK Well he has done all that.
POM Well he's done that now but this is over two years.
AK He took Malan off his seat.
POM But over Inkathagate?
AK Everything is too complicated for him. He can't handle them. With the best will in the world he can't handle it. He can't handle, for instance, the cancer of corruption which has been going through the system of his, the National Party for so many years. There has been corruption for a long time and things are beginning to come out right now and I think in the police and the army it's just beyond him. I couldn't understand, I went to see Kriel and I said "You guys you're tough. You've been doing a lot of good things. Just stop the bullshit." He said, "Will you support us?" I said "I support you if you do that." He didn't stop it in fact it got worse. So I had to think again, what is it? Is it because they don't want to. Then I meet them again and it doesn't seem that they don't want to it's because they can't do it and more and more it's either that they are afraid or it is out of control.
POM Which one do you think it is?
AK I think it's both.