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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.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: Zuma, Jacob
POM Mr Zuma, I would first like to read you a brief quote from a book by a man named Donald Horowitz that came out last year, results of constitution engineering in South Africa, and the quote went - he was talking about the nature of the problem: -
"There is disagreement over the extent to which the conflict is about race as opposed to being about oppression merely in the guise of race or among nationalisms among groups demarcated by race, two contending claims to the same land. There is disagreement over the identification and even the names of the racial categories and there is disagreement over the extent to which the conflict also involves ethnic differences within each of the racial categories. There is no consensus whether a future South Africa might also be divided along racial and ethnic lines so how severe such division might become and there is discord over what measures might be required to reduce future conflicts. There is the lack of a common conceptual flame. There is conflict about the nature of the conflict."
Do you agree or disagree with that analysis?
JZ Well I don't know. Those are the views of somebody who has also given himself time to study what is happening. I am sure some of the elements are part of the process but I am not just certain whether the nature of the conflict is actually in dispute. I don't think it is a dispute because I think we all know what is the nature of the conflict. I would find it difficult to agree that there is disagreement about the nature of the conflict. There has been in the past disagreement because the National Party in particular pursued a particular ideological direction and it thought it was correct and the overwhelming majority of people said they were wrong so there was no hidden content of the conflict. It was very clear. Then because of the situation the National Party reached a point where they realised their policies were wrong. I think that goes a long way to explain that the nature of the conflict has been clear. Even those that were in dispute with everyone came back to accept that, yes, our policies have been wrong, we need to change, we can no longer rule the old way. And everybody welcomed this. I think there was an agreement, an appreciation and of course that kind of admission by the National Party meant that a number of fronts that had been opened as fronts against apartheid had to be in one form or another adjusted, some abandoned, but there was a question of time, when do you abandon this one and when do you abandon that one?
Basically because the saying of the National Party that we now agree that we have been governing wrongly, we have been pursuing wrong policies, was a declaration more than anything. It was not something concrete in the sense of, yes, we have been wrong, we are now saying this must happen. The only thing which everybody agreed once again was, then let us talk. I think there was agreement about the necessity to talk and correct the situation. What is at dispute at the moment is how firstly, what the real new South Africa that we all agreed we need, how should it look like and secondly, what steps, how do we move into that new South Africa. That's where the conflict is I think. That's where the disagreements were put.
POM Let me relate that to the nature of the problem in a different way. This refers almost specifically to the question of ethnicity. Some objective scholars, nothing to do with South Africa, would say there are ethnic cleavages in South Africa, ethnic and racial, that South Africa is what would be called a divided society and therefore that you need special governance structures to take account of ethnic differences. White scholars here if I ask them, "Is there an ethnic dimension to the conflict?" would say, "Yes there is", but would not speak about it because if you bring it up you sound like an apologist for the old apartheid regime. You are somehow saying the government was diagnosing the problem right but they got the wrong prescription. You also point to a role up until very recently as being the only Zulu - I came across your name, Mr Zuma is the one Zulu on the NEC. Do you think ethnicity, particularly Zulu nationalism as such, is an important element in the conflict as a whole and that a way must be found to accommodate it or do you think it's part of the manufactured left-overs of the apartheid regime?
JZ Firstly that statement is not always correct to say that Zuma is the only Zulu in the NEC.
POM But they said up to the elections last year.
JZ Until the elections last year there were even more Zulus up to July and even now there are still Zulus in the NEC. I think it's a political diagnosis of ethnicity, I mean how people look at it. I can say up to July last year we had Josiah Jele who is a Zulu, we had Stephen Dhlamini, I'm just mentioning a few, even now we still have them amongst the NEC so that is not a correct statement. If then people said at the topmost that I would understand. Even if you sat down and talked to people and counted how many Zulus you would find there is not only one. It may be one in another sense, perhaps in terms of high profile, etc., that kind of thing.
However, coming back, I would still have a problem with people who say the issue is not clear because I think the issue is still clear that even if we come to the question of ethnicity there isn't a single society in this world that is just one homogeneous grouping. There isn't. Even if you went to the smallest nations in Southern Africa, we could be talking about the Swazis or the Sothos in Lesotho, you will find that within the Swazis much as they are all Swazis there are small little differences in terms of clans, etc., so you can't say that is not an issue. The problem is once the ethnicity question is politicised that becomes a problem.
In South Africa in fact at times people think that the National Party invented this way. You had the colour bar before, it was there, but the manner in which at a political level, at a governing level it was emphasised by the British colonialists, it was on a different kind of level and the fact is it was there. Some of the things were not necessarily enshrined in the constitution and they were not the main policies that actually determined how South Africa moved. As soon as the National Party took over it's main, main, main thrust was to ensure that the question of ethnicity is the thing around which they are going to rule this country. I think that fact is important to come out clear. They then politicised it, went further, not only politicised it in practice as is the case in other countries, actually went in to entrench it in the laws of the country, institutionalised it and that's what made it to be what it is. In the process of doing so, because they were not satisfied that, as you say, there are laws governing the Bantus, governing that one, they began to look at the ethnic groupings as actually big nations which could have states of their own and proceeded to establish the homeland policies, separate development very deliberately. Nothing to unite the different groupings so that you have a South Africa, but everything to separate them.
Now somebody who says we are not clear and even if you talk about it you look like you are condoning what has happened is actually causing a problem because those academics would be failing to look at the reality in order to correct the situation. That is the legacy we have in our hands. You see, if I could just divert a little bit, if you look at the National Party approach today on the constitutional matters you have to pretend in order to realise that this is a National Party of the old. If you take one issue, for example the regions, we are agreed in general that you need regional governments, local governments and national level government. We even go further to say from the ANC point of view, we need a strong regional government, strong local government so that things could be done properly. The National Party says we want regions with autonomy, autonomous regions and you see you have regions everywhere, it's not an issue. The regions are not an issue. The issue where you see apartheid not just showing its head but once again being put. We are saying, once we say so they are then saying that kind of autonomy should actually be entrenched in the constitution to legitimise the autonomy so that we have got then federated states in this country. It is in part the old policy of the National Party which people don't realise because it is sugar coated with the niceties of the modern constitutional language.
The point I am making is once you entrench the regional things and make the autonomy they are talking about, you are actually having the homelands in a new form, that's a reality. Now the kind of problems that we are going to have are not like the problems you could have if you have just regions under one government because you would be dealing with almost like states. I am saying it's an old kind of problem. You can take other examples: South Africa could be one. You can take Nigeria. You know when Nigeria got its independence I don't know how many states they had, about three or so.
POM There are now 30 or so.
JZ And I'm sure they are still going to produce a few. Now I'm saying it's a question of how people emphasise ethnicity. In Nigeria the issue is even worse in my view but because the manner in which it is politicised is different from here, so the point I am saying is, nobody can say the issues are not clear, even of ethnicity, even violence. When the National Party moved into the grand apartheid and it actually created states and it saw the states as satellites, as shock absorbers to the onslaught against it and began to sharpen them whether in terms of political or security forces to defend it, and that part of the claim which I make always, that in fact is at the root of the violence, is apathy. If you talk about the Transkei or the Ciskei army or a soldier like Gqozo, whatever, it's the creation of an apartheid policy. If you talk about Mangope and oppression or we talk of the KwaZulu Police, if there are problems there, it is an apartheid creation situation notwithstanding the fact that the KwaZulu state existed a long time before. The point I am making is it has been politicised in line with apartheid policies so that's the problem that we have.
POM I see what you are saying so let me put it into context, true context. One is Yugoslavia would be a good of where ethnicity was politicised and then all hell has broken loose. That is one place. The other, we spent quite an amount of time in hostels, talking to hostel workers most from KwaZulu. To a person on different occasions, whether it's here or any place else, talk about attacks from the Xhosa speaking people. They see the ANC as a Xhosa dominated organisation, that it's out to dominate the Zulus and establish a one party state and they see everything through, ANC or whatever it becomes, Xhosa-speaking, Xhosa-speaking, Xhosas, and they reduce everything to the level of ethnicity and this ethnicity is stoked by Buthelezi and now to a certain extent by the King. So the reality is that it is politicised to some extent here. And my question is: how do you depoliticise it or must you recognise that it potentially is an explosive issue and must find governance structures to deal with it?
JZ Firstly I wouldn't put the blame really, really speaking, to Buthelezi or to Chief Buthelezi or King Zwelithini. I would still put the blame to apartheid. They actually planned that we should have this situation. We complained long before the issue was politicised at the level at which it is now that even the manner in which the migrant labourers in the mines were actually put by industry now, not just by the government. They actually create Xhosa sections, Zulu sections, etc. We always believed politically that it was part of the divide and rule policy. That if you divided them they are not united at the factory floor, it's better to handle them. When it comes to politics then it becomes another issue. You talk to the hostel dwellers in the Transvaal you will get that kind of answer. But you could again pose the same question, go to Natal where the people in the townships are Zulu speaking, the people in the hostels are Zulu speaking and talk to those hostel dwellers. They are not going to say we are being attacked by the Xhosas because there are no Xhosas there. In fact I always argue in terms of violence that this violence has taken ground in this country over the decade, perhaps more than a decade, it was two decades now.
At one point Transkei was very violent under Matanzima's rule. These were all Xhosa speaking. You couldn't blame any ethnicity there. At another point the violence was very rampant in Venda [under Mpepu(?)] and there were all Vendas there, there was no ethnicity. At another point, up to this point in Bophuthatswana under Mangope, there is a lot of repression and violence there. It went to the cities at a given time, I mean in the Ciskei, not under Gqozo but under Sebe, a lot of repression there. There was no ethnicity. Then in the Western Cape at Crossroads violence for a few years, no ethnicity, all Xhosa-speaking. You then went to the Eastern Cape, you remember the huge thing at Uitenhage? Violence has visited every corner of this country. Not on ethnicity basis but on political lines. It then later went to Natal. What it has found in Natal was then the question of ethnicity could be exploited there. That's the situation.
It started within Natal among the Zulu speaking only. When I got into the country, the violence was not in the Transvaal. My own interventions with my colleagues, I actually warned that if we don't attend to violence whilst it is in Natal, once it gets into other areas the question of ethnicity is going to be prominent. Now the point I am making, whatever those individual workers are saying, this is what they have been politicised to say and not necessarily by Chief Minister Buthelezi or Zwelithini. It's part of an onslaught by the government, by the security forces, an old plan that was beginning to unfold. The issue is, if you want to depoliticise it there is no doubt, and even my colleagues may not agree with me on this one, you just have to have political tolerance, you just have to have relations with the leaders of this country who have the interests of this country at heart to begin to forget about their differences in attitudes and meet and discuss and let those ordinary people who are talking to see that there is talking, that there are relations. That is an important thing to depoliticise.
You have to make organisation to have relations in order to - I mean if I could quote you an example: I came into the country in 1990 and as I landed at the airport the head of the special branch met me, the man who had been hunting me for years, the man or his predecessor had arrested me and sent me to Robben Island. We had to talk. As I was talking to him there was news that Zuma is in the country and this man started looking for me. The fact of the matter is because even his men in the process got to know that we were talking with the government, we are trying to solve the problems, the attitudes changed. Later I had to meet his men and deal with them on a variety of issues. I called his men any time there are problems. Now it's crucial, it's a painful thing to politicians because politicians take hard positions which are not easy to move, I'm saying that's how you could depoliticise it. As long as the ordinary people on the ground see hardened attitudes at the top they are not going to soften their attitudes.
POM The National Peace Commission, again we talked to people in Natal about the effectiveness of the National Peace Commission there and they would say that it they meet and they talk and they go out and the violence goes on, that it hasn't really been effective and yet it's really about setting up the kinds of structures and relationships that you are talking about. Why do you think it has been so unsuccessful or am I being unduly harsh?
JZ It's part of the same problem, but I think at the top people have not come around to say what we have agreed upon we must ruthlessly implement. I can give you an example, I went to Natal in 1991, or was it 1990 when I was elected Chairperson of Southern Natal, and violence was very rife there. I decided to move on and deal with violence and I didn't deal with Dr Frank Mdlalose on it, I actually started with Steven Stetebe (?) the Interior Minister where we signed the Umfolozi Accord and moved from there and went from area to area and people saw me and Frank Mdlalose talking, addressing them jointly. We ended up addressing joint rallies of Inkatha and ANC people. People follow leaders. It's not vice versa, you can't have leaders follow people. Leaders are to lead people. I am saying we were able at that point to bring violence in Natal almost to zero except for two areas where there was a little bit of a problem, Richmond and another place. But people experienced for a long period a lull in Natal. Now I think it's not difficult to deal with the issue and you look at any political conflict in the world, it is basically what we leaders do than what the ordinary people do, they will follow the leader.
POM How did the violence re-escalate then after the lull?
JZ Of course the violence re-escalated because relations between IFP and ANC deteriorated again, even in Natal. Even the meeting that we held between delegations of the two Executives, the decisions which were wonderful decisions that were taken, which we used, myself and Frank Mdlalose, but I don't think both organisations in totality and ruthlessness were able to implement all of that and that's where the problem is. People began saying, "But why do we have these decisions and they are not being followed?" That's the kind of problem. I'm saying there is no other way of depoliticising the issue.
POM Is there any situation where leaders can agree but that no particular leader or organisation is in full control of its constituency any longer and that at the grassroots very often instructions and agreements made at the top don't percolate down in a way in which they are accepted and implemented?
JZ I would still believe that it is how the leaders do. If in each organisation the entire leadership agrees and they begin to talk the same language and do the same things there will be no problem but if there is no unanimity then you will find one or two leaders doing something else, you begin to see different signals which are sent to your constituents, that's the problem.
POM In the overall context, does Buthelezi have the capacity to be a spoiler and by that I mean, let us say at a reconvened negotiating forum the IFP attends and there is an agreement hammered out between the parties there but Buthelezi still sits up there in Ulundi bitter and resentful and making noises about he and the King and the Zulu nation will not be party to any agreement which they did not negotiate. Could he if he feels severely unaccommodated use Zulu nationalism or use a base of rural IFP supporters to create a situation of more or less permanent civil war in Natal along the lines of Northern Ireland? It's not massive but it's there all the time, it just goes on, it is disruptive to the functioning of civil society and slowly becomes endemic and in that sense he makes all of South Africa, reduces its prospects of being able to find its new identity and proceed with reconciliation.
JZ I wouldn't really like to make an example with Chief Minister Buthelezi in particular. I would rather generalise the issue because in my view it is a political reality. Any person with a following of any size has a potential to destabilise any process no matter what the views of the opponents could be. I could give you an example, in Angola when the Portuguese decided to give in, MPLA under the leadership of Agostino Neto, FNLA under the leadership of Roberto and UNITA under the leadership of Savimbi, organisations that had been fighting were made to form what was called a government of national unity. MPLA felt that government was wrong, they thought the reasons to be wrong and therefore they destabilised it, destroyed it. They had their own feeling about what UNITA was, what FNLA was. They had a country, they had the Soviet Union to help them, they had the Cubans to practically as soldiers to help them. They had everything, but year after year that country was going into shambles irrespective of what MPLA's view was about the two other organisations. FNLA of course in the process got more disintegrated but UNITA became a monster to the governing party. After a decade MPLA finally was forced to do what it ought to have done in 1975 to save the country and talk to UNITA because there was no solution. The same thing applies in Mozambique. In Mozambique it is even worse because there was no political party or political organisation like FNLA or UNITA and because of the changing situation MNR was born and the Mozambican government, Frelimo, felt these were just bandits. We have to destroy them, uproot them, deal with them. They had the country, they had the help from the Soviet Union, from the socialist countries, everybody. They tried. Year after year that country was going into shambles, politically, socially, economically. After a decade when the country was zero plus they had to come back to talk to UNITA. Something they could have done in the seventies. They didn't do it because they had a particular view about a political grouping.
Now the point I am making, I believe politically that you cannot undermine another politician. It's not your duty. It's the duty of the population in terms of voting that they will not vote for that party either because they don't believe the party is giving the right kind of policies or if they voted a party into parliament and it is not following the policies, if you determine beforehand, which often happens, you actually glide over issues. The problem here is I think it is wrong to undermine and criticise and put people in their corners and I thought we had overcome the problem by the very call of the all-party congress to work out a South African situation which led to CODESA. I think CODESA is actually an answer that everybody must be part of the solution. If you exclude anyone you are actually saying, "Here is a problem", and you've got to find a way because there are two things. Either the party depending on the circumstances could die a natural death or could remain weaker, just with a voice, but it could also grow. So you have to look into that.
I have a view that insofar as the situation in Natal if you talk about Chief Buthelezi you are not just talking about a small little kind of a political player. In many senses and there are many factors that I think politicians have to take into consideration, that if you adopt a particular solution you may end up with serious problems. Some people could resolve them but at times it may be difficult to resolve. My own view would be no party, no player in this country should be put outside and be ignored. We ought to have everybody in here. That's why even on the issue of violence I think in order to have the deepest, the most dynamic interaction with the IFP in order to deal with violence, because if we don't do so then we are not addressing the violence.
POM Dr Treurnicht almost said something similar to me but in an opposite kind of a way. He said that what they had not got to do was get involved in the process because that would corrupt them, that they were more important outside the process, they remained a greater threat than being inside it because being outside the process they can, as he intimated make certain points.
JZ That's the wrong view.
POM Yes, but could they again resort to violence and destabilise the situation?
JZ They can. There's no doubt. They can resort to violence. What is crucial is that there is no party, no one party that can stop the whole country from changing. The point I am making is that in order to make all the considerations, if you take Chief Minister Buthelezi, he has gone into the process, he is there. They have got to give him his due. But with Treurnicht that becomes a problem because the man that remains outside does not want a solution. Now you can't hold the whole country at ransom, that then becomes the issue because there is no part of the population that is going to sympathise with you standing outside not wanting to forge a solution. So Treurnicht's point is a different one. If you stand outside you want just to be attacking the system from outside because then your premise is wrong and I don't think that one is a kind of a problem that then all the parties have to see how to deal with it. One way is to try, as we have been trying to do, to say please come into the process, but if they don't come then you proceed. If they destabilise, all these parties will unite against that party because they would have worked on something, so the country would in fact be saying, "We can't accept this one". You have to have a situation where if you reach a solution that is supported by the majority and somebody who is in the minority on wrong reasons like Treurnicht who then destabilises then you've got to find ways and means to deal with that person. There is no way you could do otherwise. But the person who comes in and argues his point, for the fact that the person has come in, you should be expecting that at some point that person is ready to make compromises. He is also expecting you to make compromises.
POM Does the CP or the right wing have the capacity to become a Renamo of the right?
JZ They do but not exactly to the same extent. The circumstances again are different. Renamo is basically, could be rooted to the population in the rural areas in Mozambique. I don't think the right wing could be rooted throughout the country because I don't think they would get the support from the black community and even with the white community in the final analysis very little support they will get. So you could have a situation as you have described earlier on, the Ireland kind of situation. They will take power, they will explode bombs here and there but with time, if the solution is found, it could not be an everlasting situation because in Ireland I think again there are other elements, religious elements, all of that, that come in which make people there to be more fanatic, etc. I have a view that the right wing, once we forge a solution here, is a matter of time. They will realise South Africa is nothing like hell as they think and begin to integrate. That's my view. It is the correctness of the method of reaching the solution and how that solution addresses the situation in the country that will actually be an eloquent message to the right wing, I think, because at the moment they suffer from the fears of the unknown and they take decisions on the basis of that. Once you know South Africa, the new South Africa and know what is happening, and I think they are intelligent enough, they are not going to say, "This is hell", they are going to say, "It looks like it's working". That's my view.
POM Two more questions. Let's negotiate, I was going to say three. Everybody sat around the negotiating table and everyone talks about democracy and the ironic part of it is that no parties to negotiations have ever experienced democracy in any real way. How would you differentiate between your understanding of democracy and the government's understanding of democracy? What are the value differences?
JZ Very briefly, I think in general, theoretically speaking, we all know what democracy should be in fact. But I think there are practical experiences and psychological frameworks that are a problem to that.
POM When you say, "We all know what it should be", it should be democracy?
JZ Everybody agrees that it should be democracy, that people should decide what government should be there, etc. I think there is a general agreement at that level, perhaps it could be at, as I say, the psychological level, whatever, where people then begin to interpret that from a selfish point of view and I would say, particularly from the government. We have had no experience of governing in any country. We want democracy as we see it. There could be a lot of things that may not be practical about it, but democracy. There are basic things in democracy that you need the will of the people to do. What the government is saying, whilst agreeing, but they say, "But you can't do that because in South Africa we've got different conditions". We have a democracy that has loaded kind of things. So they know exactly what they are talking about. They know exactly why they would say, "Not here". It's not just democracy in general. We have got to have a Senate, for example, with all the powers to veto what the majority does which then undermines the very democracy. That's the problem that you have. In other words it's feeling being, "We would like to remain something in power", because psychologically they still feel if you did not have us this country the interests of the white community may be in danger, if we are there we could ensure this. How then do you entrench this in the legal system and constitution, etc? So you get into the technicalities rather than the concept itself where they are trying to explain it and then it becomes difficult for people to understand why you accept it and at the same time you actually, when you move to implement, you actually deny democracy. I think that's a problem.
POM Last question. In CODESA two agreements that were reached were, one, that regional powers, state powers or whatever you want to call them would be enshrined in the constitution and the second was that the boundaries of the regions would be drawn up at CODESA rather than in parliament, and the third was the offer of 70% as a veto threshold for the constitution. At the policy convention later in June or July they convention adopted three resolutions that were diametrically opposed to both agreements. It was that power should be devolved from parliament; borders should be defined by the Constituent Assembly and a sixty six and two thirds percent threshold. Are they binding decisions in the sense that when you go back to the negotiating forum some of the things you agreed to at CODESA are no longer on? That when you said the package was off you meant the package was off and if you draw other parties into the process can they veto some of the things that were agreed on at CODESA or do you have to start negotiating with each of them in turn and try to develop a consensus?
JZ Firstly let me just correct the agreement. There was never an agreement on the fact that we should entrench the regional kind of things, nor that CODESA should draw the boundaries. That was never agreed. That has been one of the points of debate. Our view is CODESA can't write a constitution. Those issues are constitutional issues which must be dealt with by a constitution-making body. The government's view is that those issues should be discussed in CODESA. There were points of debate which were never agreed so I just want to correct that. Our conference was not undoing what had been agreed at CODESA, it was debating the issues that were still there. We still feel very firmly that a constitution ought to be drawn by an elected body. CODESA is not an elected body and that's why we steered away from reaching any conclusion on those issues, nor debating the issues. We think those are constitutional matters. The conference takes decisions as ANC policy that the ANC will go to the constitution-making body with and to listen to other parties and see how those negotiations are carried on and how we reach agreement. But those are our positions that we put forward and argued for.
Insofar as the 75%, two thirds majority threshold we went to CODESA as part of negotiations and our position was two thirds majority and in the process of negotiation we went up to 70% but the government was not ready to come down. So because that was not reached as an agreement, there was no agreement at all. So our conference really affirmed our firm position on the two thirds because it began to see exactly what I was saying before, that in fact the government is actually trying to deny the democratic process by raising majorities to unaccepted heights. So that's the kind of point that we are making.
And therefore those are not agreements, the three points were not agreements, but on issues that have been agreed at CODESA we are all accepting the fact that we agreed and we made quite a lot of important agreements in fact. But as long as you have not agreed on the constitution-making body, because the issue about negotiations is the new constitution in any way, then you are like building a house without a pillar and that the whole house is meaningless without a pillar, or creating a human being without a heart. So we said if that is not reached then you can't move with other agreements, but the others, when parties come in they will have to respect that. We can't say, "Let us undo those agreements". I think they were negotiated over a long time, hard negotiations and there were very sensible agreements that were reached at CODESA and I think very correctly with the majority of players and I don't think it will be correct to undo those and to allow people to come and undo because they have now come in.
POM So if others players come in now they have to accept them?
JZ If other players come in they will have to accept. We may listen to what they say even about those things but I don't think, because nobody had said they shouldn't come in in any way from the beginning. They were here. They knew, they knew we were to discuss various issues. So I don't think we could do that because that would undo everything.
POM Starting from scratch all over again.
JZ Starting all over again.
POM Would the government encourage them to do it, just to prolong the process indefinitely?
JZ We will argue our case very strongly against the government itself. I don't think the government would like to do so.
POM Some say the government never changes, that they will find another way to delay and this is the way to delay.
JZ Of course. That's the culture.
POM Everybody must be heard again.
JZ That's the culture of governments but we are aware of it, we'll deal with it.
POM OK. Thanks ever so much for the time.
JZ Thank you very much. I'm sorry that I have to rush.