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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
18 Aug 1992: Kriel, Hernus
POM Minister, I would like to start with something rather current, in fact it's the stayaway at the beginning of August. You went on record on a number of occasions as saying that the police information that intimidation was rampant, that barricades had been set up and you pointed out that the deaths by violence in the three days of the stayaway were about 300% above the period, during the previous week. What is your assessment of that stayaway and of that mass action in terms of (i) its impact, its political impact particularly on the government, (ii) on its effectiveness in terms of the huge numbers who turned out and (iii) whether its impact or effectiveness were achieved mainly through intimidation and coercion rather than by the voluntary actions of people.
HK As I understand it, three questions in one. Political effect on the government, that is what you want to know. Political effect on the government, I think one can put it in a nutshell by saying that it did not move the government from its viewpoint. In other words we still maintain that the answer is one of power sharing and we still believe that there should be an interim government that checks the whole philosophy of the party. So it didn't change at all or have any effect on the philosophy as I see it, the political philosophy of the party. It did create mistrust on the part of the government, that we thought that if you negotiate then you don't try and blackmail people into accepting their viewpoint. So I didn't think it added to the trust of the government in our negotiating partners in this whole process of negotiations. It also affected the government in this way, that it came to the conclusion that to get power is so important that regardless of people dying in the process, regardless of jobs being lost, regardless of the economy being hurt, it is so paramount for our opponents in politics to get power that we believe that they are not responsible in what they are trying to do. I think it had that political effect on us. It also had an effect, I believe, that because of this mass action negotiations couldn't proceed. We are very, very serious about finding a political solution as soon as possible because we believe that that also will have an effect to bring down the violence in the country. So from that point of view it also had an effect on the whole process. It is delaying the negotiating process and that obviously had an effect on the government in that we cannot reach our goal of a political settlement in the time frames that we would like to achieve.
POM Was the government impressed by the number of people who actually stayed away from work?
HK We now come to numbers and that was your second question. Yes, it was a formidable performance. But then if you have a look at the total number of people in the country and the total number of people that are available for this sort of thing, then I think one should get a better perspective if you look at that. You must remember that the days they had these big marches with just about total stayaway, in other words the people stayed away from work but they didn't all join the marches, and I think if the claim is that 4.1 million people stayed away, as the claim is being made I think, I can't remember the figure correctly, and you take into consideration that the total number of people that were involved in marches weren't more than, I think over those periods, 200,000 people then it is not that impressive I believe. That is in regard to the numbers.
Intimidation, I'm not for one moment saying that people did not take part or that a number of people did take part as a show of their support for the ANC's plan, why they held these marches. But I think that the number that partook was greater because of intimidation. I think thousands of people did take part in these things because of intimidation especially when it comes to the stayaway from work. The whole question of intimidation is unfortunately so fixed in the minds of people because of what happened in the past, necklacing, burning of homes, assault on people, taxis that were burnt, buses that were burnt, that the culture of intimidation does not need too much at this stage for it to be successful. I mean the mere lighting of a tyre in the street is a message. It's a message and the people understand it as such but that wouldn't have had any influence if it does not refer to what happened in the past with necklacing. So I believe, yes, intimidation did take place. We also caught a number of people who will appear in court on charges of intimidation. But again I must stress that to prove intimidation is extremely difficult because people who are being intimidated are intimidated to such an extent that they don't want to appear in a court of law because they are scared of what will happen to them afterwards.
POM Just from your own intelligence reports, would you have any kind of overall ball park figure of whether more people stayed away because they were intimidated or afraid to go to work?
HK No, I think it's extremely difficult. If I want to have something like that it must be a scientific, if I want to give figures then it must be a scientific survey and that we haven't done.
POM If the ANC is proceeding on the assumption that over that week of the mass action they sent the government a message and that they showed the power of the people and the support of the people behind the movement and that the government seeing the magnitude of that support will be driven to be more responsive to their demands, are they operating under a false assumption?
HK I think so, I think so. One must also remember that this was to be a rolling mass action and the idea was that this will go on to such an extent until they force the government to resign. It hasn't happened. It was shortened. The whole plan was shortened tremendously. One proof, we've got the figures now of the stayaway that we believe are fairly accurate, that on the first day 81% of the people stayed away from work.
POM That's countrywide?
HK Countrywide. On the second day 71%. You cannot take this thing, because of the question of no work no pay you cannot go on with this sort of thing and I sincerely believe that they played their last card.
POM Where does it leave them in terms of ...?
HK It leaves them with nothing left. If you go and ask Jay Naidoo today whether he's prepared to have another strike now, called, he won't do it because he won't get the support. I don't believe that they've got too many cards to play to force people through this sort of action to change attitudes.
POM I don't know whether you saw the report in yesterday's Business Day, it was a headline article on the ANC moving to another stage of mass action and that they felt that there were two more stages of mass actions and that the government had been greatly weakened as a result of the mass action. Again, you would find this to be erroneous?
HK I'm in government and really it's not affecting our philosophical viewpoint at all.
POM Let me take a period from the deadlock at CODESA over the question of percentages to a point a month later where - and at that time Mandela and de Klerk said we've got a problem but we've made great progress, the problem is superable. Within a month you had the ANC walking out of the talks, you had mass action taken from the back burner and put on the front burner, you had Mandela making very direct attacks on de Klerk.
HK It's still going on.
POM And of course you had Boipatong right in the middle of the whole thing. What is your assessment of what's been going on within the ANC itself?
HK Our assessment, and I think our information also proves this, is that there is a power struggle going on in the ANC. Also, and I mean it was admitted by Cyril Ramaphosa if I remember correctly, that they came to a point that they thought that they were losing the support of the masses because of the negotiating process and we honestly believe that CODESA was planned by the ANC to fail. We believe so.
POM What do you base that on? What would you point to?
HK I think they wanted to go back to the people and see what support they have and there is a school still in the ANC which believes that through this kind of mass action and all sorts of things that go with this, I think it's called the Leipzig option, that you can do that sort of thing and force the government to resign. Now I think they've lost, I think they've lost and it is now again up to the negotiators to try and solve the problem. But I firmly believe, and we have evidence to this effect, not only our intelligence but also what was said by people, that they couldn't accept the proposals that were agreed by the various groups in CODESA, working groups, they couldn't accept that.
POM Do you read a situation in which the SACP is continuing to play a dominant role?
HK I think the SACP is playing a major role in the leadership of the ANC but I also think their biggest problem is COSATU, that COSATU is putting greater demands on the ANC and using the labour movement to gain political power, and I also think that there's quite a lot of frustration with Mr Naidoo and his top executive that they do not play a greater part in CODESA and those places. I think that is part of the power struggle that's going on.
POM So in a way is it a three-way power struggle between what might be called the moderates in the ANC, the SACP and COSATU?
HK I think it's difficult to just say that all the SACP are not moderates. There are moderates within the SACP too. There are not many in COSATU unfortunately but in the ANC there are also your radicals which we call the dualists.
POM The dualists would be?
HK Who think that through mass action and negotiation you can achieve something. And then you have the negotiators who, like we say, you're not going to move us into something with mass action, if you want to have a say in the government of this country and if you want to have a new democratic dispensation we sit around the table and negotiate.
POM So as far as you're concerned further mass action would increase the likelihood of it failing, that people will not come out on general strikes again and, two, it would be ineffective in its stated goal. It's not going to push the government.
HK I want to make it very clear to you today, we will not be forced through mass action to hand over the government to the ANC. No ways.
POM OK. I ask you this question because when I talk to them, of course, one of their operating assumptions right now is that because of the massive stayaway that they had and its effectiveness is that they really sent the government a message and the government will respond in some way to that.
HK Yes but we didn't pose the demands. And this has happened on so many occasions that they put themselves into a corner and then we have to do something to get them out of that corner again. Now I think that they've put themselves in a corner here and I can't see how we can assist them. We obviously will try and do so but if we look at the demands that they're making some of them are just not possible to accede to.
POM Let's move on to questions about the police, which you must get badgered with all the time. Let's start with a general question. Stories over the years about hit squads have abounded, you had the Trust Feed case which proved actually police involvement in murder, you had the recent accusations about Dr Gluckman about the 200 detainees who died while in detention. Just in general first, do you think the SAP is getting a bad rap?
HK Let me put it to you this way, can I just start at the beginning? One must see the SAP in terms of what their duties were before 2nd February 1990. They were the instrument of the state to keep apartheid in place, the enemy was the ANC, no doubt about that. And let me just dwell on that period, at that stage the ANC through MK and others like PAC and APLA, they said that they're fighting a liberation war, a liberation war. In other words they went and through sabotage, through bombs that they placed, etc., etc., people, women and children were killed. That happened in the war, what they described as a war. Now obviously at that period in time, although we didn't say so, or the previous government, you couldn't fight in terms of the Queensbury rules whereas other people made new rules for the game. In other words I think on both sides if you want to interpret it in a normal society, murders could have been committed and other crimes could have been committed. But today to come and say that the police murdered people and they fought the freedom fight, I think it's not a level playing field, it's not a level playing field.
Since the 2nd February the role of the police has changed. They weren't the enemy any more, they were a legitimate political party, the whole alliance. D F Malan, Groote Schuur, the Pretoria Minutes, they also suspended the armed struggle. In other words since then a new ball game has come in. Now you take Trust Feed, that happened in 1988. It's also quite interesting if you look at the Goldstone reports, the police have been criticised perhaps for bad performance in certain areas but it was not once found that the police were involved as the instigator of violence and that they were part of the violence. They didn't act properly but that doesn't make them participants in the violence in this country, if you follow what I'm trying to say.
POM So on the one hand you're saying that during the seventies and the eighties while the MK was operating and the mass movement was in full bloom that the police saw themselves as the vanguard against the total onslaught.
HK And the Defence Force too.
POM And that this was a rough game in which no holds were barred. Anything went.
HK Sure, sure.
POM You weren't concerned about the niceties.
HK I'm not saying that it was right.
POM But this is how it happened.
HK This is what happened. But what I'm saying today is you cannot now come and say the fact that I blew up women and children in Church Street, that's all right, but if somebody was shot from one of the security guys then that is murder. I don't think that is fair.
POM I'll get back to that in a moment. You talk about the police who were trained to maintain the structures of apartheid where the ANC and black liberation movements were seen as the enemy. Suddenly a new leaf is turned and these are no longer the enemies of the state but participating political parties. How do you get a police force so mobilised and trained in one direction to suddenly entirely take out of their heads one set of beliefs and attitudes and put another set in?
HK Sure, you've hit the problem right on the head. We're doing something about it and we intend doing more about it but, again, it's not over yet. Now the police must change their attitude, the police were seen by these movements as the enemy so they also have to change their attitude towards the police. I think that is only fair. The police were seen as the enemy.
POM Sure, and the ANC are still treating them as the enemy, in fact are very definitely doing so.
HK Yes, yes. Whereas we are really trying to affect a change and I think we have gone a long, long way in doing this but, this is off the record, I will be announcing certain further steps that we are taking shortly in this regard, but we have taken quite a number of steps. I've got a chap here with me, a Dr Neethling with a team and all they do is go around the country and address policemen, Dr Kobus Neethling. He's a man that's qualified and he's really a world authority on creative thinking. In other words we're using him for going out into the field, getting policemen together and talking to them about the new South Africa, how the scene has changed and that they must adapt to it. We also brought in a new, in our curriculum in our training, every new policeman that comes through this now I believe is ready for the new South Africa. He didn't go through that trauma of the eighties so we can safely say that with the training programme they are better prepared the new ones than the present ones. But we are also working on the present ones because there it is more difficult to change.
POM Do you, say in some of the more volatile black townships where many people might see the police as the enemy or just believe they are involved in the violence one way or another, they just accept it, they don't look for proof?
HK The perception that has been created.
POM Do you or does the SAP try to set up meetings between members of the community and the police so that some sense of community relations can be established?
HK Oh yes, we've set up 93 I think of these liaison forums already in communities. But, please, if you look at our country there are a few burning points. If you go for instance to the rural areas in South Africa, I'm not talking about KwaZulu where the relationship is excellent. Its not everywhere in our country that the police are viewed with suspicion, it is mostly in the major centres which are the strongholds of the ANC and if your leaders constantly say that the police are involved in violence, do not work with the police - I have just had people in here, now before you came, some of my detectives where we're investigating the army's rate that they claim in Phola Park and they came to me and they said, "Sir, we cannot carry on with this investigation because nobody wants to make a statement." Now how can you investigate something if people have been told not to make statements to the police? And we can prove that that is the case.
So there is, I believe, a strategy of the ANC to make the police suspect within certain of the black communities. Now you may ask me why. If you look at the philosophy of the ANC and you look at things that were said by a gentleman like Ronnie Kasrils, Mr Kasrils, he said that the main thing that stands between a take-over of power by their alliance is the SA Police and the Defence Force. And he's right, he's 100% correct. If it wasn't for those two state bodies then the ANC and MK would have taken over, no doubt about it. So he's quite correct. But he also said it was not possible to fight them with MK. It was not possible, they lost that. But the object still remains that if you can get joint control over them then it will be easier also around the negotiating table, which I think is also correct from their perspective. But it's also correct from our perspective to say that those are the instruments of the state, the police and the Defence Force, and they will be used to see to it that a fair settlement is reached in the country and that nobody seizes power but that power is being transferred or shared or whatever in a calm, negotiated manner.
POM Do you think some of these problems, I won't say disappear, but become less of an issue when there is an interim government?
HK I have no doubt about it. You must remember that the SA Police are only handling the symptoms and not the root causes. In other words the solution to violence in our country is a political one and not necessarily a security force one.
POM So in your analysis, again from your intelligence, if I asked you who is mainly responsible for the violence, who would you point to?
HK There are various factors but your question is who is mainly responsible. I still believe, and it was also found on a couple of occasions by Judge Goldstone, that the main cause of violence is the political fight between Inkatha and the ANC. I don't want to apportion blame there, the chicken or the egg or whatever the situation, but that is a given fact that wherever there is political violence those two are involved. It's unfortunately so.
POM Do you think the ANC's insistence since August 1990 when the violence first broke out on the Reef that it's the government and security forces who are behind it, that it's all part of a strategy to destabilise, a two-branched strategy of the government to offer the olive branch of negotiations on the one hand and to work to destabilise the ANC in the townships on the other hand by undermining them, not allowing them to build organisational structures, do you think their insistence on this, their categoric insistence over the last two years precludes the development of a climate in which the question of violence might be addressed in a way in which it might be brought under control?
HK Can I first say this to you, anybody that thinks that violence is in the interests of the government must really have his head read. It's not in our interests. This President came along and he said to our traditional supporters that we're going to create a new South Africa in which the people have peace. And we can't deliver the goods on that. So it's not in our interests, its not in our interests. Violence is affecting the economy of this country and not only black people, white people too. It's affecting it tremendously. We're not getting overseas investments. Who the hell wants to open up a factory in this country? We need overseas investments. We don't need money running out of our country. So anybody that says it's in our interests, and the third one is this, our term of office runs out in two years time. Time is running out for a new constitution. So really there is no truth in the statement purely from a logic point of view for us to fight with the one hand and have an olive branch in the other. Really it's not in our interest.
POM My question is that before the question of violence can be addressed, all the major parties, whether IFP, the ANC, the government or whatever, there must be some common understanding of the roots of it. The ANC insists that they really have nothing to do with it, that it's you, the government, who are the demon in this regard. It really makes any progress towards bringing the violence under control a lot more difficult does it not?
HK Yes I agree with you.
POM Have you had meetings with your ANC counterparts to try to address their concerns? Are there points of contact?
POM On numerous occasions, before the breakdown of this - I mean I've had Mr Mandela here and we spoke about it. I've spoken to numerous people in the ANC and they, I think that some of them honestly believe that we're the cause of the violence. But there are other realists who understand the problem better and I think there's a lot of political rhetoric in this whole thing. I've often said it and I still believe it, so that we are being accused of having no control over the security forces but I doubt whether the top echelon of the ANC/SACP have any control any longer over the middle and lower cadres on the whole question of violence, or for that matter over MK.
POM I was going to ask you that. With regard to Mr Mandela, did he say the police or the security forces are either behind or orchestrating acts of omission or commission, are responsible for the violence?
HK Yes and I tried to prove him wrong. We also set up a committee whereby we can address individual occurrences. We always get a list of these things but it's mostly perceptions and it's mostly rumours and when we ask for assistance so that we can investigate we're not getting co-operation and this I can prove to you. On numerous occasions this has happened, numerous occasions. Listen my friend, I don't want this job, it would be a nice one without the violence, if I can stop it I will do so.
POM Do you think that the level of violence is such around the country that it's really impractical to talk about having an election, that you couldn't have a free and fair election in the present climate of violence?
HK I don't think that we can have an election in the present climate of violence. I'm not saying that there must be absolute peace in this country before you have an election because I don't think you will achieve that, but we will have to come to some or other norm whereby if the violence goes beyond those norms that an election then becomes viable, but to have it at this stage and also with the intimidation is extremely, I think, irresponsible. The third thing about an election is this, we're not working with the most sophisticated election core in the world. In other words a lot of information will have to be given that if somebody walks into an election booth that he knows when he makes his cross that nobody will know, nobody. I think that is important.
POM What do you think are the essential steps that have to be taken to bring the level of violence down?
HK I think the first and the major one is that the ANC and IFP through their top leadership must now go to grassroots level and tell their people to stop fighting.
POM You mentioned the younger cadres, the comrades or whatever, and one hears a lot about gangs, organised gangs of youths who are responsible to nobody but their peers, who are as little under the control of the ANC or the MK as they are under the control of their parents or anyone else. Is this form of violence on the increase? Is there a generation of youth that are organising in different ways entirely outside the political process?
HK Yes, you asked me when we started this part of our conversation what is the main cause of violence and I said there were quite a number of causes, but the major one is the political one. One of the others which unfortunately is on the increase is the criminal element which is using the culture of violence in this country to commit crimes.
POM And this is mainly among young people?
POM Just two more questions because I see you've another appointment, and thank you for the time. One is the question of an amnesty, the proposal put forward for a general amnesty where I think the government was saying to the ANC, yes let's have a general amnesty, let's wipe the slate clean.
HK That was a suggestion by Cyrus Vance by the way and we're prepared to accept that, but now apparently they're not prepared to accept it.
POM But let me distinguish between two elements. In the case of the ANC you have people in jail who have been convicted of crimes and the individuals and their crimes are known so if you grant them an amnesty it's being granted to known individuals who were guilty of specifically delineated crimes. And let's say you look at the security forces, just seeing as it's the other side, where let's say crimes have been committed, by giving a blanket amnesty you never establish whether or not crimes were committed which might be more important than who specifically was responsible for them or where the authorisation of the crimes came from, whether it was just the acts of individuals or whether it was actually government policy. Do you think that, yes there should be amnesty, any individual ...?
HK May I interrupt you? Your premise is not correct. There are numerous, and a list of this is available, of unsolved crimes that were committed under the slogan of the freedom war. So really just to say that all the ANC MK people have been found guilty and not one of the state that is not true either. There are quite a number of policemen sitting in jail who committed crimes that can be classified, I still believe, under that heading although quite a number of them have been released as quite a number of the MK and ANC supporters have been released. But to come here or to say that everything about them is known, everybody of them, that's not true, that is not true. But can I just make another point? What purpose will it serve? I'm not arguing with you, I'm just saying ...
POM I suppose some people would say that it would be for the purpose of bringing about a true national reconciliation, that you can't bury, you can't erase the past.
HK I don't think that that is correct. It's been done in other countries, for instance in Namibia. That's just one example and it's working there, it's working quite well. But there's another point that one must remember, if the security forces know that as soon as there's a new government that they will be brought before court, sentenced, Nuremberg trials held for politicians and for them, do you really think there's a chance that people will go into a new dispensation?
POM You're suggesting that those individuals would then have a vested interest in ensuring that there is not a new dispensation?
HK Of course, obviously.
POM Which would increase the propensity for more violence.
HK I'm telling you that a new government, unless we have this thing, will not be able to control the Defence Force and the SA Police.
POM Sorry, could you repeat that?
HK I say that a new government, unless we have this will not be able politically to control these two forces, no doubt about that in my mind. They're not going to be where they fought, which they perceived a war, and now they are the scapegoats. They have to appear in court and they have to be punished and the others that planted the bombs are walking around? It's not going to work, it's really not going to work.
POM Just a final word, your assessment of where you think the ANC is at now, whether it's in control of its basic constituencies or whether it is being led by them?
HK Whether it's led by?
POM Whether its constituency is now setting the course for the leadership rather than vice versa. Do you think the ANC ...?
HK I think that the ANC are being led from behind at the moment.
POM Where do you see Mr Mandela in this? Where is he positioned?
HK I think he finds himself in a very invidious position. I'm not saying that he's a radical but at this stage he's not a negotiator and I think he's being given the wrong advice. That's the way I see it.
POM At this point in time would you think the more radical element in the ANC is in power?
HK Oh yes.
POM And that the further they embark on a course of mass action and confrontation rather than hastening ...?
HK The longer this confrontation carries on the longer we have mass action, that much longer it will take the ANC to have a say in the government of this country.
POM OK, on that note I'll end. Thank you very much for your time. It's been a pleasure talking to you and in time I will send you on a transcript.