This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
27 Aug 1992: Konigkramer, Arthur
POM. Let me start off in the middle and then work backwards. Last year a meeting between Buthelezi and Mandela was being strongly advocated by many as being necessary to bring about some cessation in the violence in Natal and in the Transvaal. The meeting of course did take place and seems to have had very little impact. Were there reasons for this or was it a matter of orders being given or pronouncements being made from above really having no impact on the ground situations such as this?
AK. Well I think there are two issues. First of all if you go back to when Dr Mandela was still in prison, he wrote a number of letters to Dr Buthelezi.
POM. Mandela? Dr Mandela wrote?
AK. Dr Mandela wrote a number of letters to Dr Buthelezi. One of them that I recall fairly vividly was that he said that one of his first tasks on being released would be to visit KwaZulu, visit Buthelezi, visit the King and to pay his respects to them. Now it soon became clear that immediately Dr Mandela came out of prison, I think it's not too overstating it to say, that he became imprisoned by a whole lot of other forces that he was unable to control. One of those, and this is well documented, was that there were very powerful forces within the ANC that said that talks with Buthelezi were unnecessary, all they would achieve would be to create for him a national role which he didn't deserve, in fact he was just a small regional player. Those are feelings which we still get coming out fairly repeatedly. Dr Mandela is also on record as saying that when he spoke to his lieutenants about meeting with Dr Buthelezi that, in his words, they almost throttled him. So I think that is the background, that there were very powerful forces within the ANC that didn't want those talks to take place.
. In addition I think it's also irrefutable that there is a double agenda certainly on the part of the ANC in the lower echelons. Even shortly before those talks, documents were being issued. One again which comes to mind was a document which was titled A Guideline to Comrades and that set out step by step, and it was very sophisticated, exactly how people should go about wooing Inkatha supporters, engaging them in dialogue and then using what they call selective violence if they couldn't be persuaded to the ANC's point of view. And it was quite clearly stated that the purpose of that document was to isolate Buthelezi from his supporters, that was the objective of the whole thing. So given that background I believe that it's not surprising that the violence continued.
. Then the other thing again, which is very well documented is that the ANC, and if you look at Dr Mandela's speeches and those of the whole host of the ANC leadership, you will see that it regards itself as a vanguard movement, those are the means that are used, very much in line with the Stalinist thinking, the sort of thinking that goes on in the Eastern bloc as it was before, when the Communist Party was the only party. And in terms of that philosophy they set about systematically destroying all opposition.
. Again if you look after the talks between the ANC and the government, the State President sought to engage other players in talks, namely the so-called homeland leaders and urban blacks that were not represented in the major political structures. Now Dr Mandela personally intervened to block that. For example, he telephoned personally a large number of the people, including Alan Hendrickse, telling him he should not talk to the government.
. From then onwards I think another point that is worth mentioning is that, and again this is very well documented, is that because the ANC deliberately targeted KwaZulu as difficult and there were campaigns to disband the KwaZulu Police, to disband the so-called KwaZulu homeland. Now that is in itself significant because the Transkei, for example, which is ANC territory, was the first country to betray blacks and take independence but we've never heard calls from the ANC to disband the Transkei or to disband other homelands. Why do they target KwaZulu? Now that resulted in I think, if they had done their homework more carefully, first of all they came up against a fundamental reality and that is that they were unable to push Inkatha out of the way. And secondly, and much more importantly and dangerous in the South African context, is that because they focused on KwaZulu it tended to, although it might originally have been ideologically motivated, but it tended then to mobilise them in nationalism and so one had a situation developing where the Zulus felt threatened as Zulu people and reacted as Zulus. Again it's very well documented, you can see when the violence spread to the Reef what the Zulu people very clearly were perceiving was that they were being attacked as a people, so they reacted as a people, as Zulus, not as whether they supported Inkatha or the ANC or the PAC or any other organisation, but it became basically a Zulu/Xhosa clash. So I think those are the reasons why the violence started.
POM. Just on one point of clarification. Do you personally believe that the ANC wants to create a one-party state?
AK. I think there are very powerful forces within the ANC that want to create a one-party state and certainly it is the aim of a large number of Marxists and I think they are dominant in the higher echelons, and the higher you go up in the ANC the more you will find they are communist dominated. If you look at the speech writer, Raymond Suttner is a communist. If you look at Gill Marcus, the spokesman, she's a communist. I could name you a whole host of them in senior positions that are Marxists. But of course that too, I don't want to be too emphatic on that because particularly now after the spectacular collapse of communism in the East, obviously they are going to have to reappraise their tactics and Joe Slovo the Secretary General of the SACP, now, again after the events in Russia of the past week, has repeatedly said that the SACP stands for multi-party democracy.
POM. You talked about the ANC having a double agenda, the double agenda being? What are the two legs of the double agenda?
AK. Well on the one hand it's to sue for peace and on the other hand to threaten violence. They have, for example, again at their congress said that they will not disband uMkhonto weSizwe, it will be kept in reserve. I don't think that's a very clever way to negotiate to always have what we have in our paper call sometimes 'negotiation by panga'. In other words you keep the panga up your sleeve and if people don't agree with you, you use it.
POM. But it's accepted in almost every quarter that the feasibility of going back to an armed struggle is simply not on, it's not viable, didn't even work particularly well in its heyday never mind if it were to try and start all over again. So it's symbolic more than anything else.
AK. Agreed. But the reality is that that is what happens on the ground. You must remember also, apart from the fact that I think, look there's no doubt that the ANC, I think one must be realistic and fair to them, there's no doubt that they're going through a very fundamental and traumatic metamorphosis. There's no question about that in my view and I think the signs are there. But it's really a question of at the end of the day which force is going to be the dominant one. Whether it's going to be the hard liners or whether it's going to be the people who are prepared to compromise. As I've said earlier, I think fundamentally, as I perceive it certainly, the problem is that Nelson Mandela is unable to assert his influence over the party as he should.
POM. Looking at another double agenda, since this time last year when the violence first began to break out in the Transvaal, the ANC first said it was being orchestrated by Inkatha, then they moved to saying there was a third force, and then they moved to saying the government itself was behind the violence and then in March or April of this year you had Mr Mandela openly accusing the government of complicity in the violence. Then you had Inkathagate which was taken by supporters of the ANC as final irrefutable proof that the government had a hand in the shenanigans and the government was behind the violence in the townships. Do you believe there was any government involvement in the violence?
AK. No. I don't believe that at all. There's no doubt at all that I think, and there are people being charged right now, there are policemen that have been involved in violence, and I think given the sort of frenetic changes that have taken place in South Africa in moving away from apartheid and remember that large numbers of the South African Police their sole job was actually to enforce apartheid. So it's not surprising that a lot of those people will revert to the system they know best which repression and trying to manipulate the politics through coercion. No doubt that that will happen but I certainly don't believe that the state is behind that. But then again one must be realistic and say there are large numbers of cases where the ANC has been directly and overtly involved in violence.
. There are people, there's a trial going on at the South Coast right now where three members of the ANC, some of them very high personal aides of people right up at the top, who were caught with - and again one must be careful because that case is sub judice and I don't want to anticipate what the courts are going to find, but the reality is that these people were found with AK47s, with land mines, that they had lists of people in KwaMashu and Umlazi and Umhlanga. Very clearly these were hit men and they're now arguing on a technicality as to whether they were actually captured in Transkei or South Africa, which I think really begs the question of what was going on. So there's no doubt that there has been violence on all sides.
. One must remember also, let us go back, when Dr Mandela eventually came to address the rally in Durban and he made his strong plea for people to throw away their pangas, throw away their spears, throw them into the sea, and nobody listened to him. Now why? Why? If the ANC was really committed to peace then why could it not stop the violence on its side?
. You see what has happened in South Africa unfortunately, and I think large numbers of people are responsible for it and the State of course has its own agenda, there's no doubt that violence in South Africa was State inspired initially, I mean apartheid does violence to people. There's no question about that. That is beyond doubt. But I think what has made the matter much worse is that the ANC then set about, until very recently, preaching to its people that the people should be rendered ungovernable. Large numbers of policemen are still being murdered, large numbers of black councillors are still being murdered. There was a deliberate campaign to destabilise education with the parrot cry of, "Liberation now, education later". So added on to the violence and apartheid was a new culture of violence and I think it's very clear now that forces have been unleashed which are going to be very difficult to control. It doesn't matter who is ultimately in charge.
POM. How do you then assess Inkathagate? Is it a kind of a blimp on a rocky road or does it signify some kind of significant turning point?
AK. Well, look first of all I must say, let me speak from my own personal perspective. I found that extremely unfortunate and undesirable and certainly something which I would oppose with everything I have. I find it totally unacceptable. But again one must look at it in broad perspective. The fact is that if you have a policy of deliberately isolating, particularly KwaZulu and the Zulu people, it's not surprising that at the end of the day people are going to start resorting to all manner of stratagems to try and get themselves out of the corner and I'm sure that is actually what happened. If you look at also the fact that Inkatha has got no resources, whereas the ANC has got hundreds of millions of rands available to it from all over the world, Inkatha has had none. So it's not surprising under those circumstances that individuals might yield to that sort of temptation. So I believe that in the longer term it will, sure it's done a lot of damage, but I don't believe that it in any way is going to affect the long term viability of what Inkatha stands for.
POM. Do you think that Buthelezi did know what was going on?
AK. I don't believe so, but I'd just like to qualify that and say that I was out of the country and I really haven't had a chance to catch up, but I would be very, very surprised if he knew about that.
POM. A large cross section of people that we've talked to say that it has reduced Buthelezi's credibility to a very low level, especially in the black community outside.
AK. No I don't believe that. All the evidence points in the opposite direction because from discussions I've had with Inkatha people since I've got back certainly it's had a tremendous impact on white supporters, very high level white supporters, funds have flown in to the party from people who've never traditionally supported them. With regard to black people, no I don't believe it's done damage at all because the movement seems to be growing, they're opening up branches all the time, so no, I don't think that is true.
POM. You don't think there's any propensity out there for Buthelezi to be seen as a puppet of the government?
AK. That is ridiculous. That is such a silly little cliché because there's a long history and again it's very well documented. The man most responsible for the release of Mandela was Dr Buthelezi. It was in negotiations with the government they actually, also as I think I told you last time, they actually drew up the modalities to actually make that happen. So that's ridiculous to say he's a puppet of the government. Secondly, again there's a long history of the government destabilising Inkatha, including some of the people who are now in the ANC who are actually former members of the Bureau of State Security, very high level people. The deceased President of Contralesa who was deposed and ultimately assassinated is a former member of the Bureau of State Security. That's a fundamental fact which you cannot get away from.
. So the other thing which I think people should take note of, is it not possible that there is collusion between the state apparatus and the ANC towards Inkatha? Is it not possible that there are forces in the government that are using their own intelligence services and the knowledge they have to destabilise a political opponent to get the negotiation process going on a simpler basis where it's less complicated? And I think there is a possibility that that would happen.
. The other thing that's interesting is the timing. How is it that that happened on the eve of Inkatha's conference when it was going to adopt its new constitution? How is it that it happened so close to the ANC's conference in Durban? Why did they choose Natal? How does this all come out at the same time? There are certain politicians in South Africa also, and I don't want to name them, who had their security clearances withdrawn by the government, they were former members of the government. One must also look at their possible complicity in that. So it's not as simple as it looks. I think it's fair to assume that there may well be complicity between the ANC and the government.
PAT. May I ask a question? Why do whites want to join Inkatha?
AK. Well I think there are two issues. You must be very careful. I was overseas when this happened and it was portrayed very widely internationally that the government had been supporting Inkatha. That's not true. Again if you look at the newspapers the government had in fact financed two rallies which were there to mobilise support against sanctions. They never put any money into Inkatha. So one must be very careful that they were financing Inkatha, they financed two rallies in Durban. Well I think there are a number of reasons. I think first of all there is a very wide belief among blacks and whites in South Africa that sanctions have done this country an enormous amount of harm and they've put a lot of black people out of work and I think, I would say, that one of the reasons, probably the main reason why white people flock towards Inkatha at that time was almost to give support to that viewpoint or sentiment.
POM. After the meeting between Buthelezi and Mandela, at least in the United States and Britain there was much magazine coverage with the three, Buthelezi, Mandela and de Klerk, the three major players, that this process had finally come together and again a lot of people outside of Natal had said that it again diminished Buthelezi's role. That it's more like two major players have once again occupied centre stage.
AK. No I don't believe that. I think one must be very careful. One of the fundamental flaws of apartheid was (I mean apart from the fact that it's ethically and morally repugnant) that in ideological terms when you start adopting ideologies like that you invariably start thinking in terms of either/or scenarios. It's either black or it's white, there are no greys. And I think this sort of scenario, to think that somehow in South Africa there should be two forces, the one de Klerk or white or whatever you want to call it and the other ANC I think is ridiculous. There are large numbers of forces, not only Inkatha, there's the PAC, there's all manner, there's the white right wing and there are large numbers of players. To think in terms of that scenario, of two, just a double sided table I think is ridiculous. It's just not the reality. But people fall into that and of course the ANC itself, as I say, all along since it's release has sought to groom everybody into the ANC camp with basically the approach that if you're not with us you're against us, so you either join us or you must sit on de Klerk's side. Now that is nonsense.
POM. Do you think that the National Party or the government has a clearly thought out strategy as to what they want out of these negotiations? How they are going to about getting it?
AK. I think there's no doubt about that. I mean it's logical isn't it? Politics is about power. If you don't go into a situation where you haven't got an assignment and don't have idea as to what you want, then I would be very surprised.
POM. What in your view do they want? What do you think is something that they can sell and settle for?
AK. I think the patterns are beginning to emerge. I think very clearly they seem to stand for, they want to move away from the Westminister winner takes all situation. They want to arrive at a situation, by whichever formula, that there is power sharing between interested parties with a set of checks and balances, that you can't have losers and winners as it were. Secondly, there are more and more signs that the government and a large number of other parties including Inkatha and, for example, the Democratic Party, are looking towards some sort of federal system in terms of which power is devolved downwards in that you create new regions in South Africa to accommodate the great diversity of interests that there are in the country. I would say that those are the two.
POM. Do you see their wanting to exercise power at the executive level being a key component of what they want?
AK. Yes I think so. Let me go back a few steps and say that if you look at the studies which were done initially by the Buthelezi Commission and then ultimately followed up through the Indaba, you will find that there were very strong elements of consociation of democracy in them basically and ... as you know, is the greatest proponent of that theory and he came out here on a number of occasions and served on those commissions. And, yes, I think that does feature in their thinking. It was rejected, as you know, very strongly by the government at the time, both initiatives, but it seems to me that it is an element in their thinking and I think it is also something that could work in South Africa. If you have agreement between leaders with demonstrable support and can carry their constituencies with them I think the chances of reaching accommodation are good.
POM. But what strategies do you think the government will employ to lead them to this situation?
AK. I don't think I would be competent to comment on that. But very clearly, as I indicated, they must have a plan and they certainly don't intend to hand over power. That's unrealistic. So they are going to try and negotiate an agreement at a Multi-Party Conference which is hopefully acceptable to all, but how they're going to go about that I wouldn't know.
POM. Do you think that the revelation that the government was funding the opposition parties in Namibia at a time when it had signed a declaration at the UN to be an impartial overseer of the electoral process strengthens the case the ANC makes that the you can't rely on the government to be both player and referee, that some kind of interim structure is required to separate one from the other?
AK. I don't believe that and the reasons are very simple. First of all one must accept that you are dealing with a totally different ball game. The sort of destabilisation policies that were set in train by the former government under PW Botha and his predecessors very clearly have ceased. I think that's been internationally recognised. So we're dealing now with different circumstances. As I indicated earlier I think it would also be very surprising if those forces that were within the state structures could all be disbanded overnight. I don't think that would happen. Hence, for example, this attempt to influence things through the funding of these rallies. But certainly I don't believe that that is state policy and I think that's just politicking. It would be surprising if the ANC didn't use that tactic because obviously they're also going for power and they will throw everything at the opposition. But I think that's an unrealistic assessment.
POM. Do you see any circumstances at all under which this government would resign, would cede sovereignty to become part of an all-party government?
AK. No, well, it depends when you say 'cede' sovereignty, no I don't believe that's realistic because first of all there is a constitution in South Africa and in terms of the constitution there is a parliament and there are laws. Now until you've changed the constitution you can't actually disband the existing structure. I think what they will do, they may accept interim arrangements where, for example, there are inputs from other contenders for power in the army and the police and in some of the state administrations. But no, I can't see that they will cede sovereignty. That would not be possible and I think it would be extremely dangerous.
POM. I want to go back to your remarks about consociation within the government and to relate them to a broader question and that is how you would define what the problem is. Just to give a range of possibilities: some politicians and academics say that it's about racial domination or about the white minority over blacks; some say no, it's more about competition of two nationalisms, broadly speaking black nationalism and white nationalism. Others say yes, there are racial disparities but within each racial group there are significant ethnic cleavages and if these are not taken into account, if future conflict is to be avoided, there are those who say the problem is really one about access to resources, those who have, those who don't. If you with the assembled negotiators were sitting around a table and you were told to give them a short definition of the problem they were to face?
AK. Well that's a real mouthful of question. I would say there are elements of all those issues in the South African situation, of all of them. I think at the end of the day there are two powerful forces at work. The one is, if you look at the opposition, whatever it may be, whether it's the ANC, Inkatha and everything that goes with it and all those that are disgruntled, and those that currently hold power, both trying to compete ultimately to control the state machine. Now those forces very clearly are such that I think, as you said earlier, there is no chance of a revolution in South Africa. The sort of rhetoric of armed struggle and so on is nothing but rhetoric. So, given that sort of scenario you have to have a situation where there has to be give and take because now the contender is able to shift the other one out of the way. I think that is a fundamental reality and there are elements of, as I say, all those issues in it. For example, there's no doubt that there are huge ethnic cleavages as we've seen. That is where much of the violence has emanated from and those have to be taken into account. There is also no doubt that there's going to be a huge competition for resources and I think that is where the biggest problem of all is going to lie because aspirations among large numbers of black people have now been kindled to such a degree that they simply cannot be met. It doesn't matter who's in power. So I think one has to accept that whoever is at the helm is going to have a huge problem with the electorate generally because the economy is simply not in a position to deliver.
POM. Do you think this is reasonable? It has been suggested that even if the ANC emerges as the dominant party, the political party, that it would engage in a coalition government perhaps with the National Party first time round?
AK. That depends on the constitution. You see that's going to depend on what constitution emerges. Whether the country is going to be fragmented, not fragmented but where the power is going to be dissolved downwards, where there are going to be much stronger federal units. It's going to depend on the outcome of those talks. That will determine it. I can't see personally in the short term that you are going to get, as you put it, a coalition because I think a constitution will be negotiated hopefully in terms of which nobody will feel threatened and that there is actually an interest to work together in terms of a constitution.
POM. So you would see something more akin to what the government has proposed, that is a Multi-Party Cabinet?
AK. Yes. I think that is, as I've said, I think elements of consociationism are going to be imperative in South Africa. I really can't see any other scenario that will work.
POM. I want to talk in relation again to the question of violence. Increasingly in the last year the violence in the Transvaal has been portrayed in the West as being ethnic violence to the extent that the Economist about five or six weeks ago said that there really was no difference between the violence between Xhosas and Zulus and the violence between Serbs and Croatians, in essence they were both ethnically based. Do you think that's a correct analysis?
AK. Yes it is, but only in so far as people have made the political mistakes that have made that possible. As I indicated earlier, for example, if you look in Natal, Zulu and Xhosa have co-existed here for very long periods of time, particularly in the south of Natal there has been free intermarriage, there's been enormous interaction between the two and there has been no violence. What has brought that about is the policies to try and isolate KwaZulu and people perceived, and obviously on the other side there were people that actually fanned those flames of nationalism and the government no doubt would have supported it as well because they saw it was in their interests. It was extremely stupid to do that, and dangerous, but yes it ultimately did, one cannot deny that. There are lots of writers that have actually pointed that out. I remember one particular individual from Maritzburg who is a really well known journalist who actually feigned deaf and dumbness in Johannesburg lest his Zulu accent be picked up because that would have had serious consequences.