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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

27 Aug 1992: Shubane, Khehla

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POM     Khehla, could you start by just putting the last year in some kind of overall context. You had the National Peace Accord signed with great fanfare last September, you had CODESA 1 and momentum building up for CODESA 2, there were signs of not just significant but substantive progress being made towards the setting up of an interim government and elections for a Constituent Assembly and they all fell apart. Was it surprising that it fell apart or was it not surprising?

KS     It wasn't surprising to me. I think we haven't reached this stage in which the Nationalist Party or the government is ready for the democratic changes that are envisaged by these organisations that represent black people, particularly those that come from a radical tradition. The government is fairly serious about its notion of power sharing in terms of which it would have to play a role in a post-apartheid South Africa, not just as an interim measure but as a permanent measure in the new constitution. The processes you describe, CODESA 1 and CODEDA 2, I think were predicated upon the fact that we were going to have what Mr Mandela calls 'a normal democracy' which would have meant that the Nationalist Party's role in government, in a post-apartheid South Africa wasn't secured and for that reason I think all of those processes had to be brought to nothing as it were. My guess is that until and unless that assurance is given to government the process won't proceed.

POM     That they will have to have an assurance of a permanent role in ...?

KS     That their notion of power sharing is going to have to be accepted and that means that South Africa is going to have to be seen as a society that comprises different segments and no one segment has to dominate over the other. All of those segments have to be represented in government. The Nationalist Party understands itself and sees itself as a representative of the white segment, so-called, and that would therefore ensure that it has a role to play in government in a post-apartheid South Africa.

POM     So that the executive would be made up of members of parties in proportion to how they did at the polls? So if the National Party got 30% of the seats it would get 30% of the executive positions and if the ANC got 70% of the seats it would get 70% of the executive positions, if the IFP got 10% of the seats they would get 10% of the executive positions, is that the kind of thing?

KS     They haven't fleshed out what they mean by it. One thing that is quite clear from what they are saying is that the normal kind of democracy that Mandela speaks about all the time is going to imply that blacks are going to dominate over whites and you therefore have to arrange all of these things in such a way that the government is constituted by the various segments that are supposed to comprise the South African society and because they represent a specific segment they would have to be in government and that would have to give them a veto power particularly on those laws and regulations that affect the segment they represent. The number of seats therefore don't come into the picture. In fact they specifically said that the Zimbabwean constitution that was drawn up at Lancaster House is absolutely no option for South Africa. I think the implication there is that you don't have to have quotas of seats, racial seats.

POM     Just have the executive power or veto power?

KS     Yes, I think the latter, i.e. give each one of those segments veto power and root it into a particular segment. For example I guess the Zulus would be represented in that scheme of things by the IFP and on matters that affect that group you can't even use a vote because those are matters that really affect a group and if you were to use a vote you would get quite close to dominating that group, other groups are getting quite close to dominating that group and that is something that is very undesirable.

POM     So as you look at National Party policy on constitutional matters since, say, 1990 or in their documents on their election in 1989, do you see any evolution towards an acceptance of what would be called normal democratic norms or are they just finding new ways to re-articulate old positions?

KS     I think this is an old position. For some time now consociationalism is something that the Nats have been speaking about fairly approvingly and, of course, I think they have adapted it to suit their own purpose or the South African reality as they would say. But if you strip it of all the verbiage it boils down in my view to apartheid because the segments that they are talking about as comprising the South African society are the same segments that apartheid said were component parts of the people's of South Africa. Ethnic division would have to be there and would have to be respected and those are important components. Whites as a group would have to be a separate component, Indians and coloureds, etc,. and to me that's what apartheid was about. Of course I think the theoretical justification now is extremely different from what it was in the apartheid days. It's no longer a question of whites abrogating the right to rule over everybody in the country. They now are saying that all of those groups, all of those segments are equal and have a right to rule themselves and they all have a right of access to central institutions of power in South Africa. The only thing they are saying now is that from within those institutions domination can't be allowed and you therefore have to devise mechanisms to ensure that that doesn't happen.

POM     Is this part of something that we really covered last year when I asked you a lot of questions about the ethnic factor in South Africa, but what I would call two different conceptions of the nature of the society; that the ANC says we are one people, we want a non-racial South Africa that functions along the lines of any democracy in western Europe or the United States or other places that have normal democracies which are normal checks and balances. And the government is saying no, South Africa is a divided society ethnic and racial lines and so it's not an ordinary democracy, an ordinary democracy doesn't work in divided societies so you must have special provisions of consociationalism or whatever in order to bring about acceptable governance structures.

KS     You're right. I think you're capturing the true vision of the democratic alternative, if I may put it that way.

POM     Do you find that white academics tend to support the divided society? Do you think that black academics don't?

KS     It's not that clear cut. It's very specific white academics, I think ... for example would be the doyen of that kind of thinking. I think he's done the most work in terms of elucidating at a theoretical level the kinds of things you're talking about in relation to divided societies and how those could design structures to govern themselves. There would be, for example, white academics particularly, I guess one could characterise them, it would be crude but I think that would be a proper characterisation, as people who supported radical alternatives to apartheid they would go against that conception of democracy in South Africa and they would support the view that a normal democracy in South Africa can work. The fact that you have different cultural groups does not mean that you have to design a democracy that says that we're so different in South Africa that we couldn't be accommodated within common institutions of government. And some of those academics would challenge the notion that we're a deeply divided society a la Israel, for example, and those kinds of societies. Some people would challenge that notion to the extent that I understand what people from that academic perspective have been saying. I think there's a group of people in South Africa that devised apartheid and have kept it alive, kept it afloat for a very long time and now that that same group of people seem to have accepted that apartheid is simply not going to work they now are advancing viewpoints that seek to maintain the same system under a totally new guise. Some of those people would point to interviews conducted with white folks who seem to suggest that yes, we are prepared to live in a common South Africa and use common situations.

POM     So if you look at the ANC since 1990 do you see any evolution in its strategic thinking on constitutional matters?

KS     There has been a move in that direction. I think a great many of the things that formed part of conventional wisdom, conventional constitutional wisdom within the ANC have now been debunked, majority rule for example is now qualified, how you arrive at decisions within government. ANC before 1990 would have said you need 50% plus one to take decisions. There's a greater appreciation now of how important those things are and a two thirds majority would be far more common within ANC circles now than it was in the past. A Bill of Rights for example, I think it's universally accepted within the ANC as an instrument that is absolutely and completely required in South Africa. Proportional representation is something that I think is fairly common within the ANC. And all of those illustrate the moves that have occurred within the ANC and the reasons for that I think are valid and many.

POM     But do you see government slowly moving at a quicker rate towards the ANC's positions than the ANC moving at quicker rate towards the government's positions? Which has been doing the most compromising?

KS     My guess is that there have been compromises on both sides. It's very difficult for me to quantify who has been doing more of those compromises than the other. I guess the compromises that have been made up until now have been about fairly marginal objectives of both groups. I think we're coming to core objectives now. If we're going to be going into an interim government we need to state quite clearly who is going to be driving those processes within an interim government, if there's a Constituent Assembly who is going to be playing a role in drawing out that constitution. I think you're really dealing with core objectives of both groups. If the Nationalist Party for example loses power at this level it would have lost power for ever and it is absolutely critical for them to structure the process now in such a way that, if they still want to be in power, in such a way that that objective is achieved because if they can't achieve it now I doubt if they ever will. If the ANC is going to compromise about those core objectives of a non-racial, normal democracy as they speak about it, the time to do that is now because they either will have to accommodate the Nationalist Party now or it's going to be extremely difficult to find a way of accommodation past this point if those compromises cannot be made. The point I'm making is that I think push has now come to shove and real decisions have to be made about the nature of the democracy we are going to have in South Africa.

POM     Do you think either party wanted out of CODESA. One gets two entirely different perspectives. From some you hear that the government wanted out because it wanted to take more time to build its base of support in the black community and to further destabilise and weaken the ANC in the townships so the longer they could drag the process out the more it worked to their advantage and the more against the ANC's. On the other side some say the ANC wanted out of this process once they realised what they were agreeing to. They were being pulled into a series of processes that were antithetical to the way they perceived the situation, the primary ones being that a transitional constitution would be drawn up by CODESA, that that transitional constitution would enshrine the powers of the state in the constitution, that the boundaries of the regions would be decided during phase one in a forum other than by parliament, so that many of the key things the ANC talked about, at least it seems to me that they kind of gave in.

KS     Except the ANC has never agreed, has not agreed to those things. It hasn't agreed for example to regional boundaries being agreed on before a Constituent Assembly sits. The argument has been that that Constituent Assembly has to be sovereign and it can't be bound by anything that proceeds it. Regional boundaries, powers and functions have to be decided at that level and of course the Nationalist Party insists that we have got to agree on those things beforehand, and the role of the state, powers of the state, the Nationalist Party itself, must be agreed upon prior to a Constituent Assembly and a Constituent Assembly must simply accept those as givens. There never was agreement, in fact that was part of the deadlock at CODESA.

PAT     Once the ANC agreed, which they did, to some kind of a dual election system where you would have parties based on a national level and then individual parties based on a regional basis for the Constituent Assembly, this was their 400 member assembly divided into 200 and 200. There had to be some process to draw those lines out of which those regional elections were going to take place and we thought, in terms of what we read, as something that would be either CODESA or a sub-committee of CODESA or an all-party Election Commission, but it would be an all-party Constituent Assembly that would be elected.

KS     No it's not correct. The Nationalist Party has installed regions and the ANC has it's own that are not the same as that of the Nationalist Party and the ANC has been arguing that you cannot give the duty of demarcation, of drawing out and deciding powers and functions to an unelected body. That is a matter that should be dealt with by an elected body. Now that doesn't mean that a Constituent Assembly itself has to draw up these boundaries. What could have happened is that a Constituent Assembly could have decided on a commission to draw up those boundaries.

PAT     Before you even got to the Constituent Assembly you were going to have an election for the Constituent Assembly of which half the seats were going to be based on regions.

KS     No, but the ANC was suggesting a unicameral parliament for the purposes of the Constituent Assembly. The bicameral one comes after that process.

PAT     For the new parliament?

KS     It's the Nationalist Party that was suggesting a bicameral for the Constituent Assembly.

POM     This is a statement that was published in the Weekly Mail just at the end of CODESA. It puts down agreements and disagreements and the agreement states:- Regional boundaries and powers of regional governments would be defined in phase one prior to elections. It would require consensus from all parties in a constitution making body which needs to be changed. Is that correct?

KS     It was in the working group. It doesn't say all what has to be said about that because at that stage of CODESA when everything was going towards that huge CODESA 2 meeting an argument that had been reached is that the transitional phase was conceived as a two-stage sort of thing. The first state would deal with those issues that had not been agreed upon in the processes prior to that stage, i.e. the first phase would contain both elements of CODESA, i.e. it would be a continuation in some way of CODESA and at the same time it would be working towards establishing elections for a Constituent Assembly. Two, the government had put forward proposals that had not been accepted which of those, I think they called them transitional councils.

POM     Transitional Executive Council.

KS     Right. Now I think at that stage things that people had agreed could go forward to that first phase excluded for example the social economic questions, housing, education, welfare, health and those sorts of things had not gone through that stage. In my understanding those were going to have to be dealt with at a much later stage, phase two of this whole thing we're talking about. It was my understanding that the reason the ANC brought out a document shortly before this stage setting out its regions that were different from the regions that the government had, was to indicate to government that, look, your ideas about regionalism are not the only ideas that are available and you are going to have to find a mechanism to put those ideas together. And the ANC has consistently been saying that you cannot get an appointed group to draw boundaries and decide on functions and powers and the result is that both parties having told us what the functions of regions are going to be, in spite of the fact that they have drawn boundaries, the nine regions as far as the Nationalist Party is concerned and the ten regions as far as the ANC is concerned, not a single person has told us what the functions and duties of those regional government are going to be other than a reference to those regions when people are talking about a bicameral parliament and how that is going to be constituted.

POM     So this statement to you sounds incorrect?

KS     Incorrect, I would say that.

POM     To go back to the original question which was: did either party want out of CODESA at some point?

KS     I don't think so, at least it wasn't clear to me that that was a desire of any of the two parties.

POM     How would you analyse the breakdown that resulted from the deadlock?

KS     I would think it was a very deliberate decision taken at a fairly late stage in all of those processes by the Nationalist Party to stall the process. When CODESA deadlocked the Nationalist Party was absolutely insistent that they needed a 75% majority to decide on certain questions. Two weeks later, in fact a week later, they said they were ready to accept the compromises that the ANC had advanced, i.e. 70%, at which time the ANC had said they were not interested even in a 70% provision. They were back to their initial demand of two thirds majority. And I think the reason the Nationalist Party stalled the process, it was quite clear that if the process had gone beyond that point there was absolutely not going to be another convenient stage of stopping it, because beyond that stage it would have been impossible to argue for an interim government not to be instituted in South Africa. Beyond that stage the ANC would have been in government and would have had, I think, more or less the same access to institutions, to state power, as the Nationalist Party and I think would have been able to drive the process more or less in an equal sort of way.

POM     So in a sense the government got to the Rubicon, looked at the water and decided not to cross to the other side?

KS     I would want to make that argument, yes.

POM     Just taking it a step further, there's talk on this line of thought, there's talk now of reconvening a new forum that would be more inclusive, like the government has been talking to the PAC and to AZAPO and to the new right. One cynical way of looking at that is to say that this suits the government because in a way it represents having to start all over again. There's no reason why the PAC or AZAPO or the new right should accept some of the agreements that were already entered into at CODESA so you just drag the process out again. Would that be too cynical to look on it in that way?

KS     I don't think so. I think the government is intransigent in making that process as complex as possible, but I think those complexities can be resolved. Again this process that's been reached, that now is going to have to address the questions that led to the collapse of CODESA 2 and the key question is whether or not those parties, whoever they are, are going to be prepared to accept the notion of power sharing as propounded by the Nats. My guess is that at least the ANC, PAC and AZAPO are simply not going to be able to accept that, but the demand is that that must be written into the constitution and my guess is that unless and until there is a political acceptance within the Nationalist Party that democratisation of the country may mean that they may not have a role to play in government in a post-apartheid South Africa, I can't see how we move forward.

POM     Could you have some kind of clauses written into the constitution that would be sunset clauses? For example, it would say the first two governments would be governments of national unity.

KS     Oh sure, sure.

POM     Then after that you move right on to a majority rule situation.

KS     And I think the ANC have been playing around with those ideas and I think they have put them forward to government. My guess is that the Nats are not interested, at least for now, in a short term arrangement. They think they can squeeze a concession from the ANC which would ensure that those clauses are there permanently in a constitution.

POM     What would you think would be their reason for believing that they can in fact do this?

KS     I think simply because in terms of control and power they are the better off party, at least now. Unless and until their control of the state is diluted and diluted by the entrance of parties other than them within state institutions they should, and they will in my view, remain the most powerful party in South Africa. It's the referee and negotiator.

POM     So in the short term you don't see the situation changing?

KS     No, except that there has to be something that has to happen by 1994, from whence I can't guess what that is going to be.

POM     A whites' only election under the present constitution is scheduled.

KS     Sure. And they have said that they are not going to have a whites' only election. What is happening now, I think, is that they are working quite hard to demonise the ANC in the international community by saying that these guys are not at all interested in negotiating. We are ready to resume talks this minute and they are not saying as part of that story that the reason the talks broke down was because we insisted in A, B, C and D, which is impossible for the other guys, at least as things stand now, to accept. Some people have been making speculations that I find very difficult to believe that we may move into a situation, the closer we get to 1994, of wholesale repression. I can't believe that.

POM     By the government?

KS     And there are views floating around that suggest that that could be the way in which we may have to move.

POM     So what leverage does the ANC continue to have in terms of forcing the government's hand? Mass action would seem to serve a couple of purposes. One would be to regroup the black constituency around the ANC to pull in various fractious elements that were disaffected or disappointed with one thing or another, another would be to send a political message to the government of the strength of the people. I will quote you an article that was published shortly after the collapse which said: -

POM     "CODESA ignores the fact that 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 material improvements of the daily living conditions of its supporters would follow suit thereafter. The followers of the ANC made it clear that the grassroots would not tolerate an elite pack. 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 the future re-negotiated forum will have to accommodate the people's character of the ANC.

POM     Would you find yourself in agreement with that analysis?

KS     No, because the leadership of the ANC has acted as a leadership in the sense that it has taken initiatives that might be out of sync with the accumulated beliefs and perceptions of its constituency. Nationalisation for example, there have been significant shifts that have been articulated by the leadership of the ANC. Much as those caused consternation within the broad body called the ANC, eventually it has been accepted by the following of the ANC that they might have to compromise on this question. And a whole range of other questions that were thought just not part of what the ANC was prepared to compromise on. The point I am making is that that leadership is not a prisoner of the masses that comprise the ANC base. It is in a position to take initiatives, move ahead with those initiatives and explain them back to its membership. And of course if you look at negotiations there's a great deal of very critical issues that have been discussed outside of that mass membership and it is only after some time that mass membership came to know agreements that the ANC leadership had concluded with the government. The D F Malan Accord is a typical example. And secondly the suspension of the armed struggle, by all accounts there was no widespread consultation with either uMkhonto weSizwe cadres in the camps abroad or people inside the country. That was a decision taken by the leadership. The point I'm trying to make is that what is called elite pacts there, mass involvement in all of these processes has to be seen as things that are proceeding side by side. And the ANC I think has managed those things pretty well in the two years that it has been unbanned and operating inside the country.

POM     Before we came here many of the articles coming out of South Africa talked about the mood at the grassroots, disaffection of the grassroots, the dissatisfaction with CODESA with it being too secretive with people not knowing enough with the deals that were being made or were not being made.

KS     But the one thing that those articles have not been saying is that most people have been dissatisfied with all of that not because the ANC was failing to articulate the views of those constituencies in CODESA but because those communities were being squeezed by violence. Arguments were being entered into in the Peace Committees and everybody else was saying things about the violence but the violence was simply not abating.

POM     OK, so you think the dissatisfaction was over the issue of the violence?

KS     Among other things, I think there's a whole lot more things that are cause for dissatisfaction, unemployment, high levels of violence, a whole range of those sorts of issues.

POM     So you would subscribe to the school of belief which says that had the government accepted the proposal made at CODESA for a 70% veto threshold on the constitution and 75% for a Bill of Rights that the ANC would have had real difficulty in selling it to its membership?

KS     Well if the immediate past is anything to go by I don't see why it should have been a problem. The ANC leadership has been able to sell a number of things to its constituency that at first looked impossible for them to do. The question of the armed struggle for example. Before that announcement was made that the ANC was suspending the armed struggle it seemed an impossible thing for anybody to achieve. People within the ANC seemed to be wedded almost to that strategy but come the 6th August 1991 Mandela made that announcement and there was a fair amount of consternation that was expressed by people in various parts of the country and even outside the country but by all accounts the ANC leadership seemed to have been able to sell that idea to everybody and it seems to be a generally accepted ANC position now. The point I'm trying to make is that leadership has demonstrated that it can do those things and my guess is that this would have been one of those things.

POM     On the violence, I remember two years ago, at least in 1990, you were spending a lot of your time in Soweto putting out fires. How has the character of the violence there changed over two years or are the characteristics almost the same?

KS     Certain things remain the same. Chiefly among those things is the fact that this is just not spontaneous violence. It still remains violence that I think is planned and carefully advocated but what has changed is that that violence, i.e. planned, carefully executed, etc., etc., forms some kind of an umbrella under which lots and lots and lots of forms of violence have been legitimated. There's a great deal, for example, of personal violence that occurs and goes on and often in the newspapers and in the media it appears as part of the same violent concept that has taken root in those communities. But I think there are distinct forms of violence that have been legitimated, that's the point I'm making, and it's not just personal violence, criminal violence, for example. Ordinary thugs feel much more confident to pull out a gun and shoot a person with impunity and it does happen with impunity. Cops are not interested in policing that type of violence. Those are the two chief continuities and discontinuities that immediately come to mind.

POM     The ANC's insistent and unchanging position since August 1990 is that the government is behind the violence, either it has failed to act or through direct involvement or by acts of omission or commission; it has been unwavering in that position. The Goldstone Commission in its first interim report said that one of the major causes of the violence was the political struggle between the ANC and the IFP and in a subsequent report it said that it had found no evidence to date of complicity between security forces, the Cabinet Ministers and De Klerk in violence. Buthelezi accepted Goldstone's view that political competition between us is a cause of the violence. I have never heard anyone in the ANC make an admission that they are also a party to the violence in the sense that they contribute to it as well as being the recipients of it. I would just like your comment, is it because they are not in any manner, shape or form responsible for it, that they do not commit it and if they do it's strictly in self-defence or whatever or are they a part of the problem too and if they are must they be able to admit that and accept it before we can make progress towards getting it under control?

KS     I think the reason for that is that often when attacks are lodged almost invariably those attacks would be described in the media as attacks on ANC, either groups or strongholds, etc., etc., but when you look at these attacks or carrying on their attacks on communities, for example if you take the Alexandra case, this was an attack by people who were based in the hostel and they said they were attacking ANC people when they attacked huge chunks of that township and it's just absolute madness to suggest that people who live in that part of the township are all ANC members. That's lunacy. Another example is that if people march into a train and start hacking everybody they meet, it's total madness to say that it's ANC members you're hacking unless the argument is that everybody who's not part of us must be part of the ANC. Now it is that which has made the ANC say, It's not even us who are being attacked, we are being attacked as part of the community. But I think it's wrong for the ANC to say that they as a group have not responded to that violence either by arming themselves or going out there to go and prevent these attacks. We know for example that the ANC has formed self-defence units and those self-defence units have been involved in the violence either in a defensive role or in some cases an offensive role. The fact of the matter is that they have been involved. It is my view however that even if the ANC were to admit its role in that violence

POM     How about Natal, how about KwaZulu? Would that be part of the political competition between the ANC and the IFP? I'm not just talking about violence on the Rand exclusively, I'm just talking about violence in the country as a whole.

KS     I think one thing about violence in the country as a whole is that it takes various forms. For example for as long as it was restricted to Natal it was competition either between the IFP and the UDF before 1990 or the IFP and the ANC after 1990. It wasn't a tribal thing. When it came to the Transvaal it became a tribal thing.

POM     Goldstone said this political competition between these two groups is a major cause, not the exclusive cause, but a major cause of violence.

KS     It's a form the violence has taken. It has assumed that form in actual operation of ...

POM     Buthelezi said he's correct. The ANC just made no comment at all. They didn't say he is correct. Do you know what I mean?

KS     If you say it's political competition between the IFP and ANC in Soweto for example, where is the competition there? There isn't a mass IFP organisation that exists in Soweto. There just isn't. There isn't a mass campaign of enlisting membership that exists in Soweto. And what content does that competition take in that particular instance? If you go into the Vaal townships that have been in the news for such a long time, what content exactly would that competition take in that specific instance? We know for example that the IFP would control certain hostels and that's almost where they exist and nothing more beyond those hostels and that's where violence would always emanate into those townships and each time that thing happens it isn't ANC people that are picked up. Boipatong, for example, it was just shacks indiscriminately that were attacked and many of those people just - that's the point I'm making.

POM     So you're suggesting that you disagree with Goldstone's analysis?

KS     I have misgivings with it, yes, I wouldn't accept that conclusion as it stands.

POM     About the mass action, do you think that the mass action was effective as a political instrument in exceeding the government's expectations of the numbers that would turn out on the marches and the almost totality of the stayaway and that it has sent a message which, while not making them tremble in their boots, would make them more amenable to getting back to the negotiating table and being more accommodating? Or do you believe even if it did exceed their expectations ...?

KS     I think for the masses, at least for those people involved in the dispute in South Africa, if people ever thought that the ANC had suddenly lost the support it had in 1990 and before that, that was self-delusion I think. But to the extent that there was a build up of representations of what was happening in South Africa as implying that there has been a massive loss of support for the ANC, the mass action was very important in addressing those doubts that were beginning to occur. But I think for those people who have been concerned with South African issues, who want to resolve this question, there just has not been any reason for them to suspect that the ANC has lost any support. The other point to make is I think when it comes to critical issues the Nats still think that they can absorb all these blows of mass action and whatever else and therefore when it comes to critical issues in the negotiation process I don't think mass action has moved the Nats one bit.

POM     So what instruments does the ANC alliance have to back up its positions? It's the one who has to get the government to change. What power instruments does it have at this point? Sanctions are gone, the international community looks on South Africa in quite a different way as evidenced by the UN debate and evidenced even by the Vance Report and Boutros Boutros Ghali's subsequent report. Where can they turn to if mass action won't move the government?

KS     I don't know.

POM     Who do you see, in hard terms, who do you see as being in the relatively stronger or weaker bargaining position at the moment?

KS     In the short term the Nats are undoubtedly strong and that strength is reducible to control of state power. You can do just about anything, mass action or anything, for as long as those chaps, the army, the police force and just everything that they have to exert control. There just isn't going to be movement. But in the long term I don't think the levels of violence, instability, economic decline, etc., etc., I don't think South Africa can take those blows.

POM     Mass action moves or works not in its direct impact on the government but by its impact on business which in turn begins to put pressure on the government. This is one of the government's main constituencies and in order to lose that it upsets the balance.

KS     I'm not convinced that business is about to put that kind of pressure on South Africa.

POM     More stayaways?

KS     I believe for example that the COSATU/SACOLA accord that was almost concluded fell apart because the government insisted that it just wouldn't be prepared to play ball on the basis of that accord and business withdrew at the instance of government. The point I'm making is that if they were as independent as suggested by your question I think they should have stood their ground to say that in our best judgement we think we should reach some kind of an accommodation with these fellows.

POM     But would a subsequent mass action, if the same thing were to be repeated again and maybe again, lead business to start modifying it's attitudes?

KS     I think if people were to realise that we're losing just about everything, that may begin to drive them to do that.

POM     OK, a parallel with that: what do you think would be the ANC's capacity to mount a similar stayaway a month from now or two months from now? Is it an instrument that brings diminishing returns because the workers, the people, just can't afford it?

KS     I think in all of those communities that are squeezed by violence the ANC can just click its fingers now and say, Mass action tomorrow, all you need is Mandela making that announcement. Those communities, I think, would react.

POM     We were in Thokoza a couple of weeks ago talking to some people there and some had lost their jobs because of the stayaway, they were small businesses. Their complaint was that the people who called the strike, COSATU, their members were all protected. Their members didn't lose their jobs. They had no protection and they were losing their jobs so it was like the people who are making the decisions, in a way, for them, their memberships don't feel the consequences in the same way.

KS     I'm not arguing.

POM     Just your reflections on what these kind of sentiments mean.

KS     Oh sure, those sentiments are expressed almost every day and I'm not meaning to imply that there aren't contradictions in all of these things. I think people who are out of work want to get jobs and people who are working want to maintain their jobs. At the same time you leave your home, you've got the bus you're travelling in or the train you're travelling in may be shot at, the level of concern and worry is fairly high among those people, or your children back at home may simply be attacked and so on and people have to constantly juggle and see what it is that we need to do to, one, protect our jobs and, secondly, ensure that we are safe in our houses. And those don't lend themselves to neat kind of outcomes and people may act in ways that aren't in their immediate material interests in the hope that if we do this somebody else will listen and lower the level of violence for example. It is in that sort of context that I have been reading this enthusiastic support for mass action in its broader sense. I'm sure you people will have read about the major highlights of mass action, not the small little things that went on in small little localities. There was fairly enthusiastic support even from the most surprising quarters. The PAC for example said, We want to have nothing to do with this campaign. But you would find townships that are supposedly PAC in their outlook supporting calls made by the ANC and my only guess is that these communities were making a statement against the violence and not necessarily saying, We have suddenly realised that the ANC is the best organisation in this country and we're going to follow them. There are all those contradictory thrusts, that's the point I'm making.

POM     If you were a political adviser to the ANC what advice in terms of strategy would you suggest to them at this point, given just all the things that you've outlined; the power of the state, constraints on them.

KS     In the short term they must prepare themselves to take further blows. I think the level of violence is either going to be kept at the level it is or it's going to increase. Certainly not going to decrease. And the kinds of things that everybody has been saying about the ANC, i.e. they have no control over their constituency, those things are going to continue to be said and those people who say them I think are going to be able to point to concrete things on the ground that support their viewpoint. I would say to them that they must brace themselves for, if they think they have absorbed blows in the last twelve months, they must brace themselves for a few more very hard blows in the next twelve months.

POM     Do you believe the ANC has lost control of parts of its constituency? Let me give you two examples, one was Mandela's statement that people should pay their bonds, that the bond boycott was madness. Moses Mayekiso he was actually saying, Go screw yourself, we're not doing that. We're going to pursue this bond issue. You have the teachers' strike. The ANC is saying, This is absolute madness eight weeks before examinations. Our children, their education is one of our major things. The teachers are saying, Screw you. We're going to go on strike. All these interests within that constituency.

KS     I think there's levels in our society where, for example, whether teachers go on strike or they don't go on strike the education has simply collapsed. Their going on strike or not going on strike is just not going to do anything to affect the outcome of the exams at the end of the year. Those exams are going to be disastrous, that's universally known. The ANC, I think, has a great many constituencies not just in South Africa but out there in the world to respond to. If a boycott of schools is called six weeks before exams of course people are going to be saying the ANC is mad, how can they allow a thing like that to happen? But the point I'm making is that if you're a school teacher, you're a parent or a child at school in any of these townships, at least in the southern Transvaal, to strike or not to strike just makes absolutely no change to the outcome at the end of the year. I think what's happened there is that the very fabric of the education system in those townships has collapsed and it's going to take some time to rebuild it. There just isn't a preparedness among people who have the power, the capacity to get that repaired to do that. That's the one point I'm making. The other is if you go to Alexandra for example and tell those people that, Disarm yourselves chaps, don't fight, they won't listen to anybody. Not De Klerk, not Mandela, not anybody because there is a concrete situation that is extremely violent that they have to deal with and they know from experience that when they've been squeezed by that violence nobody has come to their rescue. They have had to fend for themselves as it were against that. The point I'm making is that there are those things happening. The DET, for example, is squeezing those teachers, taking them out of schools, etc., etc., and I don't know what you do if you are in that situation. If I was in that situation I would do exactly what those teachers are doing regardless of anybody saying anything to the contrary and that wouldn't be a reflection of either my support or non-support of the ANC.

POM     But you're saying that in a way the ANC with its wider constituency, i.e. not just in South Africa but as an organisation that's viewed from abroad, would have to be seen taking the responsible position and the responsible position is that teachers don't go on strike eight weeks before critical examinations.

KS     I would agree with that. They have been saying to Natal branches of the ANC, Don't carry traditional weapons. But the situation is such that if those people don't carry traditional weapons they invite attack because if they carry those traditional weapons they don't get attacked. It seems to me absolutely and eminently reasonable for those people to belong to the ANC and carry those traditional weapons and Inkatha carries them, why the hell not these people? It's a mad situation I agree but I just don't know how you come out of those situations without either displeasing some people, being attacked by some people, being seen by some people as a non-representative organisation and so on and so forth.

POM     So how do you see the next very short term?

KS     Bad news for ANC.

POM     Negotiations won't get back on track?

KS     Oh negotiations will get back in another month or two but violence won't de-escalate. Communities that have been subjected to violence will continue to be subjected to violence. The kinds of frustrations that you've seen within the ANC are going to continue in the short term. And maybe things will start looking up by 1994 maybe.

POM     By 1994?

KS     Depending on what the government thinks. If they think that that's a sufficiently important date for them to start doing something then things might begin to change.

POM     Let me relate this to the question of elections. If the present level of violence were to continue could you have free and fair elections?

KS     No, it's just not possible.

POM     Some argue that in the face of that recognition you must have elections because ...

KS     We must?

POM     Yes, the argument being that if you say that, you are telling the people who are perpetrating the violence that the way to preclude elections is to ensure that the violence continues. So if you've got elements of the state involved you're saying to them that if you want to ensure there's no transition just make sure that you keep the level of violence up.

KS     Those people who deliver violence are far more powerful. I think they have the power to do that, particularly that aspect of the violence that's planned. Those people just have about everything they need to continue doing what they are doing. So you can have those elections but they won't tell us anything about what they are supposed to tell us.

POM     Buthelezi. Does he have the capacity to be a spoiler?

KS     Oh sure.

POM     That an agreement can be arrived at that the ANC and the government and most other parties would agree to but which he feels undermines him, undermines his authority, undermines what he calls the Zulu nation or whatever, but that he would have sufficient residual power to ensure a level of violence in Natal that exists today, like a low scale civil war.

KS     Oh sure. He does have that capacity and it's massive in the short term. That capacity is huge in the short term.

POM     Some say that the way you deal with it is you simply take away central government purse strings. That's far too simplistic an analysis?

KS     No, in the short term I think it's far too simplistic. I think if there was an argument between the ANC and the government for levels of violence to de-escalate that agreement would have to involve also a bilateral agreement between the government and the IFP in the first instance and perhaps an agreement that would involve the IFP or Buthelezi, the government and the ANC. But in the first instance that question has to be resolved between the government and the IFP. You simply can't assume that you can strike an agreement with the government and exclude Buthelezi.

POM     He said to us that the one thing he would die for was federalism.

KS     He would die?

POM     He would die for it. He was in a funny mood that day so he could have meant anything, but he was very strong on getting more of their lands back and he was talking close to what would be called in other circles as autonomy.

KS     I believe him.

POM     Well you've depressed us for the day!

KS     I'm sorry.

PAT     How do you read the talks that are taking place between the government and the PAC? Does the PAC think perhaps it made the wrong decision by not coming in at the beginning, they are getting cut out, is there a strategic reason for coming in now, or is the government really once again being very clever and playing this off against the ANC?

KS     I think from the point of view of the PAC they know that eventually they will have to come into the talks. They can't go it alone, that's what I'm saying. People who support the PAC abroad have been saying, Chaps, you really need to be there, and I think they've got the message. At some stage they need to come in. Secondly I think they realise that the mood is such that both inside and outside the country that talking is just about the best thing that's happening and that's where they want to be. I think the government is following through on what it has been saying, that we want as many people as possible to come on board. Simply nice for the PAC because I think all the arguments they've been making are simply going to be baseless fairly soon. They will realise it is not who is there that determines the outcome but it is what various parties want and who has power.

PAT     What's changed them from last September when they thrashed this out last year? They went to their conference and their delegates said absolutely not and some of their leaders were almost threatened with dismissal for pursuing it. What's changed internally within the organisation?

KS     Nothing. What has changed is that their African friends, I mean countries like Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, have been saying to them, You must be there. I think there's a perception at the leadership level that if you aren't there support and aid is going to be cut off and if that is cut off we are in serious trouble.

PAT     The whole world works the same way. It's the money. The tail wagging the dog.

KS     That's true.

POM     Thank you. You'll receive the transcript in due course and I'll be back.

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.