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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

17 Aug 1992: De Villiers, Dawie

Click here for more information on the Interviewee

Click here for Overview of the year

POM     I usually don't start an interview dealing with any events that are issues of the day but it's hard not to pick up Business Day this morning with its story of the ANC planning another act of mass action in an attempt to topple the government. This was in quotations and it quoted a number of things. There are a couple of things I would like to ask you, and if you could bear in mind that when I'm asking you I'm not publishing anything now or even next year or the year after, but I'm trying to get the context of things correct. You were part of a team that met with members of the ANC last Sunday evening. Could you just tell me the general tone of those talks in terms of what they were covering and the attitudes of the ANC and how you went away from that meeting, whether you went away in an optimistic mood that talks would soon be resumed or whether the ANC was still coming on in a hard line way, demanding that their fourteen demands be met in some way before they would resume negotiations?

DDV     It was a very friendly meeting and we certainly discussed with one another how to get negotiations back on track in a very positive way. I left there, and my colleagues also felt, with really great optimism, that it's a question of weeks before we will resume negotiations and we'll have open meetings discussing the various issues. So something must have happened in between our meeting and the reaction that they are not even going to continue. Let me also say, apart from the Sunday meeting I think you can take it as a fact that even at a time when communications were broken off, communications filter through or take place, be it then through indirectly messengers, signals and whatever, but we depend too much on each other, certainly the bigger players, certainly the government and the ANC, just to switch off entirely. It's like going without oxygen. Both of us will suffer and the country will suffer if it continues for too long. And that is why, I haven't seen Business Day, I had a very early morning, if that is the case it would be very disquieting, it would be a negative thing. Now what happened since Sunday? Our only conclusion must be that the power struggle in the ANC continues.

POM     Do you look at the events since the deadlock at CODESA as being part of in terms of a power struggle going on within the ANC/SACP/COSATU alliance itself?

DDV     Yes. Because CODESA, the deadlock in CODESA was on the cards before CODESA 2 and the ANC have never denied that. Decisions were taken even before CODESA 2 that they couldn't go on with the negotiations.

POM     What would you point to specifically that would justify you saying that?

DDV     Statements by some of their people, even like Naidoo and others who indicated that before CODESA 2 it was a point promoted by the more, and words are difficult to use here, I would say radical, hard line group. As far as COSATU is concerned my conclusion is that COSATU felt sidelined to a large extent during the discussion leading up to CODESA 2. It was the ANC negotiating. They have, so they claim and perhaps they're right, they have a better structure, a better organisation. They have a lot of experience in negotiations, they've been dealing with employee bodies and employers for a long time but in the alliance they played second fiddle, or third fiddle because the Communist Party was represented at CODESA in their own right. So one of the major players in this group was not really given the recognition that they felt they should have. I think that was one thing. And the area that they are strong in is really to show mass protest, to mobilise people because they can arrange buses, they can arrange people on shop floors, they can stop workers. I think that lies behind it and then the struggle for supremacy of groups and of individuals. But it is to be regretted, I think it's a direction that causes us great concern and so it should be for all reasonable South Africa.

POM     When you were talking with Jacob Zuma and the other people did you get any impression from them that they believed they had sent you a message as a result of the mass action? The operating premise being that they showed with the strength of the stayaway and its pervasiveness and the numbers who turned up at the marches, that they sent you a message that they showed they could mobilise the masses and that it made you tremble slightly in your feet and made you want to be more accommodating because you knew you could not withstand in the future similar types of mass action?

DDV     No it was not an aggressive approach of, look, we have shown our muscles now so you had better yield or we'll do it again. I think that the mood of our meeting was rather, look, we need to get this thing back on track without you losing too much face or we losing too much face. We both know this. Why then the mass action? Haven't you painted yourself in a corner, ANC? We took them on on this and said, now you come back and say what can we do to salvage the thing? But you have painted yourself in a corner.

POM     In the sense that?

DDV     In the sense that you've made fourteen demands knowing fairly well that many of those demands cannot be met, stating, look at all the things they've said. By the end of August this government must be toppled. The rolling mass action was really aimed at transferring power to the people. In other words it was instigated by the radical or Marxist kind of theories, Leipzig school if you want to, that if you just put enough pressure and mobilise enough people that the structure of government will become so weak that the government will have to give in, as happened in many eastern bloc countries. But in those countries you had a fragmentation and a collapse of security forces, many of them eventually joined with the marchers and it was a different kind of a revolution. We don't talk about a revolution here, not from mass action as it stands at the moment. I would say, in the words of one of their spokesmen, quietly saying, look, after the Potchefstroom election you needed a referendum really to show your strength and to be on top again and we were losing face with many of our young people and with our constituents who said what have you achieved? You've been talking since January and what have you achieved? We don't see any difference. So we needed a referendum and we said to them we will put pressure on the government. We'll put demands. So if it's there, they've had their referendum now. It wasn't in a spirit of if you don't give in now we'll break some more bones in your body.

POM     Do you think the government looked at the mass action in that framework, we had to have our whites' only election and the ANC ...?

DDV     No, I think it's false, I think it's a fallacy. I think it's something that they have created to justify their actions because I have no doubt that many of their leading figures are well aware of the damage this is doing to their own cause internationally and in South Africa and that it is certainly creating many more problems that eventually we will have to deal with together or it's going to really destroy the country. I'm referring to the economy, this further breaking down of the already weak economy and you can reach a point where resuscitating the economy will be extremely difficult.

POM     Is part of their strategy here to take mass action, damage further the economy or has the prospect of damaging further the economy and business becomes more alarmed at what's happening and business starts putting the pressure on the government so it, I won't say breaks the alliance between business and government, but it breaks what's perceived as a generally pro-government attitude of business?

DDV     To start with your last remark first, business knows as well as we do and the outside world do that there will be no business in this country worth talking of unless we get stability, we get confidence, we get a kind of a result in terms of a constitution and a government that will be investor friendly, that will promote stability. And therefore business realises that the demands of the ANC, as it is worded by many of their spokesmen, are not going to create the kind of environment in which they will thrive, in which their businesses will go forward. They are putting pressure rather on the ANC to moderate their stance, not to go on the plank of nationalisation, to accept a market orientated economy, to face the realities of this country in terms of its needs and how you can really make an economy work.

     So again it's a false theory to think that business will be pressurised to a point where they will put pressure on the government. No it's not easy to say exactly what motivated the ANC into some of their decisions. As I said earlier on I think it's wrong to think of the ANC as a homogeneous group, a board of directors who sit round the table or a Cabinet. They're open to many influences and forces from within their own ranks. And, yes, certainly there is no question, there is a school of thought, how strong it is I don't know, but people have said even if we destroy the economy that's a little price to be paid to really get to power. And many of them may be so emotional or due to a lack of depth understanding may think you can pick up an economy tomorrow again and patch it up and three, four years from here everything will be fine.

     So you talk about concerns about the future, I am extremely concerned about that side of it, the economic side of it, that people can believe you can go on harming the economy and that there's not a trigger point which you will pass which will always push you over the precipice. But that is not appreciated in the extra-parliamentary circles, how hard we, the business, the international community tried to bring that conviction it is not really taking root.

POM     Let me go back to the mass action again for a moment. Was the government impressed by the extent of the stayaway or did it see it as really something that was achieved through intimidation and coercion?

DDV     Impress? It made an impression, or rather we looked at the mass action, I don't say we were impressed or not impressed, and we would say they were not unsuccessful in mobilising large numbers of people, although a march which in Pretoria amounted to, from helicopter photos, from twenty five to thirty thousand, people may say it went to forty thousand, even if it was fifty thousand, I think, and it may sound silly, but if the President would say in Pretoria, "We want this Saturday morning or this Friday afternoon I will appear at Loftus and we will start here and we will have a march for peace in this country", we could mobilise fifty thousand people here quite easily. You know numbers? What is it? We talk about millions and millions in this country. They came from all over the Reef. I know as responsible Minister for Transnet, we arranged about thirteen trains for them, from all over. Well they paid for it beforehand. We set certain conditions. They met them. But they organised this on a very professional, very proper basis and they brought them in buses, a hundred and forty buses was a figure mentioned to me (I can't stand in for that), but I know the trains. They came in and they were quite good. One of the conditions was there would be police on every train. They accepted that. They were well behaved. So that's true, they achieved that.

     But we have never doubted and we don't doubt at this moment the strength of the ANC. If the ANC, be it through intimidation, which plays a big role, no question, but there will be intimidation when the election comes. There will be intimidation in future elections, perhaps less than now when it's a first election or a first effort to get to power. So it's not a question of being impressed and we say to them all over, you are an important player. You may have the majority. We will challenge you in an election. Perhaps we could get the majority in the National Party. But we know this. So if you're strong, you certainly are strong enough to mobilise people, to close shops, to do a lot of things but you must look beyond that and then we can continue the argument with them from there on. So it's not that they need to impress us and it's not that we feel saddened that, even if it was a hundred thousand people, it wouldn't have made any difference.

POM     So if the elements in the ANC that appear to be for the moment in a position of superiority believe that the mass action sent the government a message and that you had to be impressed by that message and by their solidarity and that you will take action that will be more accommodating to them as a result of the mass action, they are operating under a false assumption?

DDV     I think so because they need not send us a message about their importance, if I can call it that, about their strength on the ground. We get regular indications, as you can imagine, from various sources as to the support base of groups in this country, where we stand, and they are, one would say certainly, as strong if not the strongest political force at the moment in the country. But such a force need not tell us: we are strong. As a matter of fact the strength that they showed is not even as strong as they might be in an election. No that is not the case. I don't think they need to send signals of that nature.

POM     You just had a statement that was issued by the four provincial leaders, including yourself, I think it was shortly after the collapse, where you said that the ANC was afraid to submit itself to the democratic process, mass action is now being used to achieve what they aren't capable of achieving through the democratic process. What did you mean by 'they are afraid to submit itself to a democratic process'?

DDV     We have said that the correct measure is to negotiate an election. We need to get there. Let us then rather use the democratic processes of negotiations, of elections. Mass protests are only a way of mobilising forces which will contribute to the polarisation in this country. What we need to break down the polarisation, to work together, to seek solutions. I think it was in that context. That was very quickly drafted.

POM     I want to come back to that concept of the democratic process in a few minutes but I want to backtrack a little bit to follow through a sequence of things more orderly. The referendum in March, what were whites voting for and what were they voting against?

DDV     I think they were rejecting the kind of approach that was symbolised through the Conservative Party. In other words no negotiations, hard line stance on: this is our country, we will dictate where you can live. They rejected old-style apartheid as they never rejected it, but they also supported, which is important for us, initiatives taken by the President on a wide ranging area. That takes you back to the 2nd February. That referendum really said, 'Yes Mr de Klerk, what you did on 2nd February we think is the right thing'.

POM     Actions for what purpose?

DDV     In the collective word, a new South Africa. In other words, yes for a South Africa free of racial prejudices, yes for a South Africa in which we all can participate and there will be a vote for all. And no to the other style, the style of the Conservative Party and the demands of the Conservative Party.

POM     Let me be more specific. Most of the reports that came abroad about the referendum and indeed most of the South African press referred to it as a referendum on a process in which ultimately blacks would share power with whites. It was always talked about in terms of power sharing. So that Mr de Klerk would get a mandate to pursue a process that would result in power sharing. I want to relate that to CODESA and to two aspects of it. In the time that I've been coming here, and Patricia, we've heard two languages; the language of the government and the National Party is the language of this is a process about the sharing of power. And the language we hear from the ANC even among its moderate elements, it's realists or whatever, is that this is a process at the end of which there will be a transfer of power. Not necessarily majority, winner takes all, but the process of the transfer of power not the sharing of power. Are there still two basic concepts of what this process is about in collision with each other?

DDV     Could we analyse the two concepts because even in the sharing of power you will get a great many interpretations of what that means? From fifty/fifty we gave, which some people might perceive, if you stop a man in the street and say what is sharing power? He might say, yes, black and white should both share in the government. And you say, "How do you translate that?" Eventually it might come up with a fifty/fifty kind of thing. To analyse equally on the other side, the transfer of power. The transfer of power was an expression that was frequently used also in the run up to the 2nd February and particularly after that almost as part of the jargon of the liberation and that means power to the people. So transfer of power, some would say it is a transfer from white to black. No, I think it is really simply saying that the majority in a single system must have power. I would, in my interpretation, therefore I don't say I think you can put many interpretations on this, we say, yes there must be a transfer of power from the existing structures, in other words from the people who have power at the moment, to all the people in this country. Therefore there must be a transfer of power. I agree with that. But that transfer must take place in such a way, and now we come to the power sharing, where we will not fall back or retain the old Westminster system, simply put where fifty one percent of the vote get a hundred percent of the power.

POM     I think the ANC agree with that.

DDV     Yes, but it's easy again to - very simply put the ANC would say, all right we may agree to that and many other things but let's elect a Constituent Assembly and that Constituent Assembly must then write the new constitution. So, yes we also agree there must be regions and there must be powers in the regions but let the Constituent Assembly, elected on a one man one vote basis decide because this is the way the majority must decide. Now they will qualify that and they have qualified it to say, but we would be reasonable, we would say not fifty percent but let us take two thirds of the Constituent Assembly must decide the future of this country, must draw up the constitution. So already their transfer of power is now away from sharing of power in that that is something to be decided, as all other things, by a Constituent Assembly. We say this country first of all is, and I don't say that it is a decisive argument, but this constitution is not an illegal constitution. It was passed through the British parliament. It is an insufficient constitution. It has many defaults and it excludes the majority of the people, yes. But we have a constitution, we have a government, we have a President, although it may be de facto in terms of what they say, not de jure. We say it is de jure and de facto. So we have to negotiate a new South Africa. Furthermore there are many important groups in this country, regions in this country, cultural differences and before we get to a point where we can just allow the majority a free hand to decide the future we say we have a number of pre-conditions and there must be enough checks and balances in such a new constitution that the majority cannot just run over the rights of minorities, therefore a Bill of Rights becomes important. [And then we can ... that argument ...]

POM     They accept a lot of these things in terms of checks and balances, Bill of Rights.

DDV     Yes, but the Bill of Rights must be decided by the Constituent Assembly.

POM     To take up the point where you said that they would require two thirds of the members of a Constituent Assembly to give their approval to some items to be included in a constitution, they actually made an offer of a seventy five percent threshold for items to be included in a Bill of Rights and a seventy percent threshold for items to be included in a constitution. I met many people, supporters of the National Party, people in eminent positions, who said, yes the government blew that one.

DDV     Well they also proposed that if they couldn't get agreement, part of that CODESA 2 discussion was their deadlock breaking mechanism, they also then said if the Constituent Assembly can't get whatever proportion, majority, that we were talking about and one can be flexible about that, there must be a deadlock breaking mechanism and that they proposed then must be a referendum. So if you only can mobilise sixty percent and don't get sixty six or seventy percent, you just hang on there and then you go to the electorate and then the electorate must choose, so to speak, between the majority and minority proposition. So you were back again not to numbers but to a mechanism, almost an escape mechanism in which we could then derail all the arguments about numbers.

POM     When Mr de Klerk came back after the talks had deadlocked and in fact after the ANC had walked out, and said that the government would be prepared to accept the seventy percent threshold for a Constituent Assembly, it was de-linking the veto-making mechanism from the seventy percent, saying on the one hand we would find the seventy percent threshold acceptable as long as it's not linked to a deadlock breaking mechanism that might result in matters being decided by a simple majority.

DDV     Can I just go one or two steps back because your interview is really aimed at getting a feel for the whole and then your interpretation. The discussions at CODESA 2, the negotiations from CODESA 1 we started in January and then it went up to, then the ANC insisted that there should be now a CODESA 2. We argued to say, "What do you want to do at a CODESA 2 since we are making progress in all five working groups but we haven't really enough to present that's been complete?" They insisted. Eventually it was decided and the compromise was CODESA 2 is not the end of the road. CODESA 2 will be a report back meeting. Because they said we've been talking for five months. We need to report on a number of issues. So in Working Group 1, at that stage they had quite a number of agreements concluded. In Working Group 3, where I was working, we finished the transitional executive TEC (Transitional Executive Councils), but in Working Group 2 they had made some progress but they haven't really. They talked about principles of the new constitution and a number of other issues. Then we said, but on Friday, that was a week prior to the Friday for CODESA 2 to meet, all the reports must be completed and handed in to the Secretariat on that day. And everyone agreed to that. And that was the cut off point because it was not the end, there must be a time and then we can send out the papers and arrange it.

     Looking back now we should have just insisted and let the breakdown come there, but then Friday suddenly they came up with proposals which interested us and then they said, "But can't we just continue this?" It went into Saturday. It went into the Monday. It went into the Tuesday. It went into the next week. Eventually on the Friday CODESA 2 was scheduled to open we were held there like a number of school boys, visitors from abroad, everyone standing around because Working Group 2 can't come to a conclusion. They never had to come to a conclusion. This was a report back and because of this we decided at one stage, because every time you made progress in one then another thing hooked on. We said, "Well we've made good progress, we can report this, but we can't go on like this. Let us take this out, we can meet Monday again and Tuesday again and if a reached agreement is so important, we've been talking since the beginning of the year, no day or two will make much of a difference but we can't go on like this." And this is where the focusing on numbers, etc., in my mind are taken out of context because it was the build up of a package and after CODESA 2 the ANC said, "Look all the other things we agreed upon are off. We're back where we started." So we said, "Fine, then we're back where we started." We believe we should make the same kind of progress. Then negotiations, for a while they didn't want to meet. Then we started negotiations with the ANC again.

POM     This was before or after Boipatong?

DDV     That was before Boipatong. And we had three meetings if I remember correctly. We had two, the first one was a bit more difficult resuming after CODESA 2. The second one we made, we believe, very good progress which identified or gave us reason to believe that the gap between us on many of these issues was not that big because what is negotiation? It's give and take. You've got certain strong feelings so we say, well, if we accommodate you there perhaps you can meet us on that point. So if you focus on one issue only then the whole picture becomes distorted. Then the third meeting was already scheduled and arranged for and everything when it was called off, Boipatong, the rest. So the rest of the story you know. So now to go back and almost hinge on to whether it was the numbers or the deadlock breaking mechanism at CODESA 2 which caused the breakdown, or if there was the sincerity to really find solutions in South Africa. That should not have created a breakdown neither should any of the other subsequent matters have caused this. So the more we listen and the more we get in this kind of information we are worried, to put it straight to you, that the more hard line element is at the moment stronger within the inner circles of the ANC.

POM     So it would be your analysis that the ANC wanted the talks to break down, wanted out of the process?

DDV     Again, as I say, I talk of the ANC and I never see a clear picture.

POM     Whatever it is, an amorphous body, you begin to pick up signals?

DDV     We had signals beforehand. We said this openly in public a number of times. If you need references one could even, they never denied that. They never came out strongly.

POM     They argue the very opposite. Their point of view is that you are the ones who (wanted it to break down).

DDV     Of course they will. They can't afford to say, yes we wanted it to break down. That would be stupid for them.

POM     Let me ask you, were you surprised or not surprised when it emerged afterwards that if in fact you had accepted this offer of seventy percent and seventy five percent threshold, had accepted what the ANC offered at CODESA, that it probably would have been rejected by the rank and file?

DDV     I would imagine the ANC should be strong enough, and I all along think they are strong enough to carry their decisions. The NEC or even the top figures in the ANC are strong enough in my view.

POM     There were many reports at the time.

DDV     I think if Mr Mandela puts his foot down and he says, look, I'm going to accept this whether all these people like it or not, it will be the same as de Klerk putting his foot down and saying this. If he reads his people, no leader would say I've got the notion that my whole Cabinet and my whole party is against me but I'm going that way. Of course he will be foolish and the same with Mandela and FW, but I'm sure that if Mandela, like FW, takes a particular point of view, considered view and leading their people, Mandela underestimates his ability to do that.

POM     Where do you read him in this power struggle?

DDV     I read him as a man who gets an influence, perhaps at the moment, more from the right wing element. I think he is - there was a time when the Thabo Mbekis and the Jacob Zumas were stronger. There was a time when the Cyril Ramaphosa, the more pragmatist, was stronger. At the moment I think it is the more hard liners who have just the upper hand and whether it is their voice through Hani or their voice through Naidoo or whoever I think they just get their nose ahead and here the leader is following their advice perhaps more readily. Now it is not only three or four people. They again have the sounding board of the NEC which meets next Wednesday. What will come out of it now I don't know. Or is it this Wednesday? This Wednesday. But that would be the platform from which they could move forward.

POM     But you don't see Mandela as being indecisive in this matter?

DDV     No, I don't think so much indecisive, but I think inconsequent. He had discussions with the President over the weekend. No great battle, he knew about the talks. If you talk two, three times over the telephone on a number of issues then suddenly why this deviation again?

POM     This was, the President called Mr Mandela?

DDV     Mandela called him on the first occasion.

POM     Business Day mentioned a resolution that had been passed by the NEC at its last meeting, that would be prior to last Sunday, in which it forbade anyone, any contact with the government other than through the Office of the Secretary General, Cyril Ramaphosa, which in a way sounded like a put down of sorts to Mandela. If one read it at face value it was saying you can't go off there on your own and ring up the State President. We're setting up a process here and for the moment you're ...

DDV     Yes it's difficult to interpret. I don't really know. All that we have sensed, and we may be wrong, but our sense is that Mandela is not at least experiencing his strength that much that he will go in and say: this is how I feel and we're going to do this. That he relies on advice and the moment a leader is too much open to be swayed the power brokers will come forward more strongly and put forward their arguments more strongly. Sometimes for a political party, and you're more of a scientist than I am in these things, but for a party to really get direction you need almost a break in your party. You need a point where the leader says, look we're now in two or three or four minds, this is where we are going. He must sense the strength to really go that way and must be convinced that there are results to be gained from this.

POM     I'd like to read you a little quote from an article by Philip Nel who's at Stellenbosch which he wrote shortly after the ANC walked out of the talks, and he said: -

     "The ANC is a mass political movement and not a traditional political party. The ANC's legitimacy has rested on its ability to project itself as the representative of people's power. Because of this the ANC is exposed to a myriad of grassroots influences which the leadership can ignore only at its peril. Ideologically and emotionally the ANC can't be drawn into an elitist arrangement even if materials improvements of the daily living standard of its supporters would follow soon thereafter. Rather the followers of the ANC made it clear that grassroots would not tolerate an elite pact. Mass action was decided on to address the fears of its followers that the leadership was no longer interested in people's power. This implies that a future renegotiated forum will have to accommodate the people's character of the ANC."

     Do you think that's an accurate reading?

DDV     I think it's a fair assessment. I don't agree quite with his conclusions. I think his analysis is fair and that is the problem with the ANC at the moment. They are a mass liberation organisation but they want to play the role of a political party in the negotiations. A movement must have a head, must have a direction. It was easy when it was only liberation, but now a party needs a policy. A party needs to be clear on where they stand regarding the economy, the Bill of Rights, the new constitution and it's this transformation - the ANC, for example, could join forces and have an alliance with the South African Communist Party, but can they continue that? I think within their own ranks, or rather in South Africa they've lost a great deal of their support as many of them, certainly in the Coloured community, because of that alliance with the Communist Party, they will have to come out of the mode in which they have operated for so long as a liberation organisation. So he's right there.

     But, all right, it must reflect, what did he say, it's grassroots character. But a party is never top down, a party is always bottom up. Every party. The National Party can only be as strong as its grassroots level, as its organisation and branches and as it's support base is there. But the President doesn't go down, or the National Party doesn't go down and really canvass on every issue right through the country. You set forward views that will mobilise or get the support of many people and you have to service them through your branches. So I don't think, what does it mean to be a mass movement? If you go into a proper constitution, elitists will be there, even if you cut off their head today another head will grow and in that way, it's the leaders at the end of the day that settle their arguments round the table after a war or in negotiations. It's not the masses. And the leader, if they don't like this leader they get another leader but he will become as much a man in the leadership category as anyone else. He might begin as a revolutionary, fighting with the troops in the trenches, but eventually he will sit as a General around the negotiations table and he must have enough confidence in his own way of expressing the feeling on the ground.

POM     Just in that context of your remarks about the need for leadership within political parties. You had the National Peace Accord signed almost a year ago as a result of long negotiations, many pacts made and it was launched with great ceremony and signed by all the major political players, de Klerk, Mandela, Buthelezi. And yet this has been the single bloodiest year in South Africa's recent history and the Peace Accord seems to have been ineffective in preventing violence and when I ask people about it they invariably say, well Mandela, de Klerk, Buthelezi should be together going around the country jointly urging their followers not to engage in violence. Would you agree that the Peace Accord, for one reason or another has been largely ineffective?

DDV     No I wouldn't agree with such a statement. Again if you look at it from a scientific point of view I would say to begin with the violence is far more complicated than just purely political violence. The political climate is very important and perhaps is the overbearing reason for the situation. Secondly, I won't agree with the statement that the Peace Accord has had very little effect. It took time for the structures to come about. It is a mechanism that particularly at the regional level has resolved many, many problems. It might have been far worse than what we have now. It's interesting that the assessment of Vance comes to the same conclusion, that you have a mechanism here, it does work, maybe not as well as we would have liked it to work. It has it's shortcomings but the Peace Accord and its regional structures are not ineffectual and we must rather look at this mechanism and at improving it. What you say about Mandela, de Klerk, Buthelezi going round the country, one can express that in many ways. The fact is that if you want a climate conducive to peace, leaders, I don't only say the three leaders, can't go around the country calling one another murderers because that message will go through to the rank and file and they will interpret it as kill all the murderers. So unless we stop the kind of war talk and really start talking in conciliatory terms in that way we will bring people together. The more people see, just see, de Klerk, Buthelezi, Mandela, or more together, the more they will realise that the new South Africa is here, it's perceptions, it's emotions that we deal with.

POM     One of the unchanging features of the debate going on in this country in the last two years has been the insistence since August of 1990 by the ANC and its supporters that the government is behind the violence either overtly or covertly and that what you are out to do, you orchestrate this violence in one way or another in order to undermine them in the townships to make sure they can't organise properly, perhaps even to make inroads into their base of support particularly among moderate and middle class blacks. And nothing will move them from that analysis of the situation. Can the violence be brought under control? Can it be brought down to, I hate to use the phrase, some kind of acceptable level, unless the ANC redefines or opens themselves up to a more complex interpretation of it or to their own part in it? Can the violence be brought under control if they don't?

DDV     You mention the ANC, one can include Inkatha in that. I think unless there's a change of attitude, no, you're probably right. It would be more difficult unless the leadership, and that's why leaders are so important, because if the ANC is set and Mandela believes this and will never change well then it will be very difficult if not impossible I must admit, if not impossible. And if Buthelezi or the Zulus say the same it will really become almost impossible. As far as the police, you know the arguments. Certainly the mechanisms have been created. Goldstone pointed that out. Where do you have the violence? Not only black on black. It's where you have Inkatha dominant areas and you have the ANC. In Natal, in the Reef. You don't have the same kind of violence in any part in the north and about a third of the black people live in the Northern Transvaal areas, they don't have it there. They don't have it in Transkei, they don't have it in the Ciskei. It's where these two forces are prevalent and Goldstone who was very critical of the government in many ways said that openly in a number of cases. And where individuals have been guilty, as you know, or evidence could be gathered the government has not been hesitant in prosecuting people even for murder and whatever and there have been not only prosecutions but a number of people have been found guilty and punished.

POM     Let me just relate that last response to this idea of an amnesty that's been floating around. My understanding is that the government would be in favour of an amnesty but it would apply to everyone right across the board so that even if there were members of the security forces or Ministers of State who had been complicit in crimes that everyone would be covered by this amnesty. It's like wipe the slate clean. Of course as a member of the government you would, did you think ...?

DDV     I have difficulty, but I am a member of the government. You're right.

POM     OK. Do you think that the past must be accounted for? Do you think a country can get on with its future unless it accounts somehow for its past and true reconciliation can take place in the absence of an admission of wrong doing by not just the government perhaps, by the ANC perhaps with their camps in Angola? Then amnesty still would apply but that the truth must be told.

DDV     My personal, moral approach would be that every crime must be punished. I find it difficult to see people from the ANC who planted bombs leave their cells, who have been committed to murder. So I have a moral problem with that. But if my colleagues argued that after every war whether right or wrong, part of the healing process is almost to say let us put down our arms, let us forget the past. We've killed, we've murdered and done all other kinds of atrocities. Although I would be very, very concerned at closing the book, I would rather see the process continued and then certain categories being excluded. And that is what we've had up to now, but there is an ever insistence, also from the ANC, but then it must eventually reach the point where it can't only be one sided. There is a fear or a feeling amongst the security forces that crime, crimes to be punished will eventually be - if you have removed me from an area that I believe I had the right to live, you're guilty of the crime of apartheid or whatever, that by just enforcing discrimination, I'm not even talking about other crimes, I'm talking about things in which hundreds if not thousands of people were involved.

POM     OK let's leave the cover of an amnesty there.

DDV     Could I just conclude and say if an amnesty is to wipe the slate and if that is the pre-condition for the healing process to take a further step forward and for true reconciliation to really get on the move, to say as long as we try and look towards the past and see who are guilty on your side and on our side, let us clean that slate, let us close that book, let us start a new day and a new South Africa. Then I think, right, I will accept that as a member of the government if it is really going to mean a new start.

POM     OK. Let's leave the blanket of amnesty there. But let's just say, and I'm saying let's just say, pure supposition, that the government had engaged in crimes or had authorised crimes be it through the operation of hit squads or whatever, but it was guilty of crimes against the state, against the laws of the country, should that be acknowledged? No individuals punished or the individuals involved are also given amnesty, but my point is, should the truth whether that happened or didn't happen?

DDV     I would say, I indicated my view slightly differently, I would say if you go for cleaning the slate, if you go for a total amnesty then you must close the book. Then I would find if any member of the Cabinet, for example, in any way would be implicated he should stand trial. But if you stand trial where do you start? If you have continuous trials of the past to reopen the book, you haven't closed it.

POM     But one wouldn't try him, one would just establish that it happened.

DDV     How would you establish it without trying people, without having a proper case and evidence being brought and the whole process continues?

POM     OK, just two last questions. One is on going back to power sharing. My understanding all along is that what the government means by power sharing or part of power sharing is that the National Party even if it were a minority party would continue to have a role in government at the executive level, that the executive role would be somehow proportionately split between parties.

DDV     You must make, before I say yes or no, because these things are not - at the moment I know you're trying to simplify it, you can't just say yes or no. You must distinguish between what we have put forward as a transitional proposal, transitional constitution and transitional government which is based on not only proportional representation in the legislative body or in the constitution making body, but also in government. In other words there should be a President's Council and all the parties should be represented there and the Cabinet should reflect the strength on the ground. That is transition. But what we mean with power sharing eventually is that minorities should also have a role. Proportional representation is a good way of saying this is power sharing.

POM     Proportional representation in the Cabinet?

DDV     No, no, I'm talking about the elections. Secondly, what we mean with power sharing is that minorities, the position of smaller parties will not be totally ignored. They will have some form of recognition even if it comes to the regions they represent. And that is why our proposal is based on what is practised in the United States, for example. We say the representation in the Lower House must be proportional. In the Senate must be disproportion, on regions. That is a power sharing mechanism. You give people, in other words, more say, not the ultimate say, but more say because they come from a region. Mechanisms to protect minorities from abuse of power. Therefore, we would say once you have the final constitution, the constitution shouldn't be changed unless you get a very high proportion of voters. Seventy five percent perhaps for certain matters, seventy for another.

     So we have no proposal, we might, if we go now into the constitution making body, argue that there should be a fairer representation even in the Cabinet but we haven't hung our hat to that. All in terms of a sharing of power in the Cabinet that we have said we support strongly is for the transitional government and the rest is open to negotiations. And I would say, I would just like to see enough mechanisms in place to temper the majority not to just run over the rights of other parties or groups without some checks and balances on that issue. I don't see it in a group term there, I see it in a, in other words a colour ethnic group, I see it in a party way and then I strongly see it, strongly, in the regional context.

POM     Do you see still what CODESA 2 was to do there seemed to be cross purposes, that the government saw it as a body that would draw up, in a way, as much of a constitution as possible, to get prior agreement on as many things as possible, to write a constitution there that would be an interim constitution that would then go on to the elected body that would amend it as needs be but essentially it wouldn't write a constitution from scratch, whereas the ANC would see CODESA as establishing broad constitutional principles and then the Constituent Assembly actually writes the agreement?

DDV     I think the ANC have also agreed there must be a transitional phase. They talk about interim government or whatever. We don't want to remain in power. We have said it's not good for the country if you have an unrepresentative government. The sooner we can have a government of national unity in the process of transition, the better. And for many reasons. I don't even want to argue the reasons now. But that government cannot be unrepresentative, unelected and taking place in a void. Every transitional situation must be created by changing the present constitution, providing for it, so no government should be or must be unconstitutional and for that reason we say we must agree on a transitional government. If it's only the executive then if it's the whole parliament, or are you happy to have an executive that led the three-chamber parliament remain in place, which is certainly not fair. But we need to do that. And then we need to put that transitional government in place in only one manner and that is elections. Then we will have true representation and that transitional government must involve everyone. It must be a government of coalition, a government of national unity. So in that respect we agree on all these things. At CODESA 2 all these matters were agreed upon, that there should be a transitional constitution in terms of which a constitutional government will be elected. Part of the elected body could then be the constitution making body and even on that we moved a long way on agreement. They only said they don't want the Senate to play a role, the House of Representatives, the Lower House should also be the constitution making body. We accepted that, largely. We sorted that out. We only say fair enough but in the new constitution there must be two Houses. If it comes to the constitution making itself then we can live with that.

POM     Two last questions, and thank you very much for the time, I appreciate it. One is, one of the principles agreed upon at CODESA in Working Group No. 2 was on regionalism that there would be regional government and the constitution would devolve powers to the regions. So it would in a way be like the American federal system in terms of the way devolution worked, the powers of the regions were entrenched in the constitution, not given by government. And after its policy conference the ANC came out and, while it agreed with the principle of regionalism, it very specifically said that the powers of the regions must be devolved from a central government. That's a collision course and these are two diametrically opposing concepts of what that means.

DDV     Yes, I am afraid that that is a worrying aspect. That is one area in which I think we might eventually find it difficult to see eye to eye on this issue. Right. Well, you know, the ANC can say to us true power lies in the centre. You've had all the power all the time under the apartheid system. Now that we are going to get a bigger slice of the cake, why can't we have the same? It's one fear they may have. Secondly, they may say, look that will weaken our hold over the country because Ramathlodi in the north may say, well fine I'm now the government, not the ANC, and even Holomisa may say, well fine, I work with you but I'm the boss here, so where will we be governing the country? We want to lay our hands on power. The influence of the SACP must not be under-estimated. They are strong in the National Executive. Their whole background and theory is central governing, central control. So all those things play into it and I think it is going to be an area of conflict.

POM     Just in that context, if there is one issue which is the most important issue to you in terms of negotiations, which you would find it most difficult to compromise on?

DDV     I think you've mentioned it.

POM     That's it?

DDV     Yes.

POM     The last question is on Buthelezi. We visited him two weeks ago. He was brooding, bitter, militant and feeling left out in the cold and talking at length about the Zulus being excluded and the Zulu nation being excluded. Does he have the capacity to be a spoiler?

DDV     Yes. I think so.

POM     People have said to us, well the way you deal with Buthelezi is you pull the financial plug on him and you put him into place. Would that work?

DDV     No. No, I think you mustn't at all under-estimate the role they can play. I say it here, it's between us, not for publication. He's a difficult man. He's a complex man. He's a strong man and his party, the IFP, may not appear to be that strong. As a matter of fact one could argue they may not have even all the support of the Zulus, they may not even have 50% of the support of the Zulus. Who has the support? The ANC? I would say the support of the Zulus lies with their King, with their ethnicity. Strangely enough perhaps the most ethnic community in South Africa, so it's fine to say in this little play of political parties that Buthelezi shouldn't be regarded too high because who is Inkatha? But he, Buthelezi, the uncle of the King, who has been lately seen as the custodian of the rights of the King, regardless of the difficulties they have had in the past, you know the King didn't invite him to his wedding, the first wedding. They have had many clashes. At the moment the understanding, the relationship is quite close and the day the Zulus go to war, if they take the King along, it will not be only IFP Zulus. Zuluism will rise above the divide and then we talk about the biggest group in South Africa. We talk about five, six million people, as an ethnic group the biggest, and they've retained their ties, stronger.

POM     Did the government support the inclusion of the Zulu King because of his special status?

DDV     Yes we have. We have and we thought, as a matter of fact a compromise was worked out because the ANC could also not be seen to be too much against the King. And the compromise was really that he will be a full member, etc., etc., at CODESA - wrong. The compromise was that every province, the four provinces, every province will have a delegation of traditional leaders at CODESA. In other words four new delegations. Then Natal has only one traditional leader and that is the King. And the others will then find the mechanism of deciding who are the traditional leaders in the Cape Province or in the Transvaal, etc. and they will have full status. But the argument was they should not be, because we don't vote, their position should not be considered when we decide on consensus or enough consensus to go forward. Which is a nonsense argument, I mean, really if you want to slap someone in the face, say you can do everything but just don't take our sugar, we don't use sugar as a matter of fact. And that I thought, we argued very strongly to say look if you've got 99.9% go for the 100% now and we would have solved that all. But it broke down there and we supported his inclusion on those grounds. Could I just on this point, for an observer like yourself, say perhaps you should also take a little bit of trouble to note the strength of traditional leaders in this country, and they are not always in line with what is regarded as their political bosses. In the Transkei and particularly in Venda and Lebowa and many of these places there's a big gulf between the politicians of that area and traditional leaders and the hold of these people over their supporters is very strong in some areas. Someone remarked to me a while ago, two years, three years ago, he said Frelimo failed in Mozambique. They succeeded as a liberation organisation but they failed because they did not give recognition to traditional leaders. And that is an interesting issue to be noted.

POM     Last, last question. The issue of elections and violence. I think most people would agree that to have elections now or in the very near future would be impossible, would not be free or fair given the level of violence and the possibilities of intimidation. Must the violence be brought under control before you can have elections, but on the other hand if you keep postponing the elections to bring the violence under control you simply add fuel to the violence?

DDV     I think it will solve itself, it can be handled, it can be managed once we get that kind of commitment from all the leaders to say we fight violence, we join forces to fight violence, we meet one another, we engage in the kind of talk which is counter to violence and we instruct our people publicly and openly and privately on the ground not to participate. Then the violence will come down. It can never reach the level in this country where you will have a no violence situation before you can have elections. I accept that violence there will be. But if there's an atmosphere amongst the political players, a commitment atmosphere, a plain open commitment that really they are all fighting this.

POM     Does that mean, this refers back to a previous question, that the ANC must abandon this insistence that it is the government that is the major cause of destabilisation, the major cause of the violence?

DDV     Certainly I think that is one area. As long as they continue with that it will be extremely difficult. We don't go around and say it's the ANC all the time. The President has never, ever blamed any party. He has always been positive in saying only if the political leadership in this country really meet and put their heads together and work together can we solve this. That's why I say as long as they go round and call de Klerk a nazi and the government murderers and whatever, I mean you're inflaming the situation. And that would be a pre-condition that the leaders will meet regularly and work down the climate and that is where the Peace Accord is beginning to have an effect and I think if we strengthen it and regional conflict solution mechanisms are working, then the people together - now we have the situation, Inkatha is now withdrawing because of certain things. But even just if it's a forum where they can say, but Mandela can't say in the United Nations we are guilty of this and this, and let the forum then talk about it. So Mandela will be cautious next time, as de Klerk must be cautious. There must be a discipline of this kind and we must use it now. Now that it's really getting to be successful I see more and more of the leaders, Inkatha and also the ANC, are more reluctant to give their full weight to the Peace Accord. We hope that will be turned around. We hope that we can really succeed in building on that foundation. It's a foundation which should not be discarded.

POM     Thank you very much. You've been very generous.

DDV     You're welcome.

PAT      How can any party that conducted apartheid think that it can become the party of the majority in the near future?

DDV     Well one can sit and work out figures, but let me say, your last remark, I think we have succeeded to a large extent in shaking off that cloak of disrepute from the past. All surveys done recently show, at least under the Coloured community, seventy, eighty, up to ninety percent support for the National Party. We've just won the first election in that community with an overwhelming majority. I think in the next one now the opposition is not even going to put up an opponent. The same amongst the Asian community. There is growing support amongst many black communities. There are many other political groupings, some of them weak but they are there amongst the black community who are not supporters of the ANC. You know that CODESA had a nine/nine kind of coalition eventually. If you translate that on the ground one may say, look but how many votes can they gather? Still many of them represent traditional leaders, regions in the Free State where the (Deconquetla ??) Party they may not be as vociferous but they are there. They just had a meeting broken up by the ANC. They bitterly complained. So on the day when the voting comes ...

PAT     Yes, my question is, will they vote National Party or will they vote something other than the ANC?

DDV     Yes, well, I think what certainly would happen in terms of some of the groups, like the Coloureds, they have integrated, can I say politically, they find it acceptable to be part and parcel of the National Party. The Asians I think would have a similar development. Your black parties will always have a strong regional basis because regionally they have an ethnic base. And you will have in all the parts of the country, in the Zulus in Natal and whether it's Inkatha today or Party X tomorrow there will be some cultural ties bringing them together and I think in that way the National Party is not that suitable. As a matter of fact I can't think of any party as suitable to do that but what you will find probably is coalitions or agreements or electoral pacts on that to say all right beforehand, we stand for this. And particularly in terms of our thinking where we will have, let's say, a federal system, we may say to our Zulu partners, fine we will not put up candidates in certain regions or we will have an agreement in Natal which we may not have with you in other parts of the country.

PAT     Or we might not work to organise branches in these particular areas.

DDV     We'll not do that. We don't actively exploit your area. There are many ways of doing this. You can even say dual membership of parties, you can be a member of this or that party and that when you vote for the national voting list, in our thinking you vote National Party but when you vote regional you vote for the regional party, that kind of understanding. But I think it was against that background that he said this.

POM     Again thank you. In due course I'll send you on a transcript.

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.