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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
28 Aug 1992: Treurnicht, Andries
POM You just said as you came in the door, "These are very interesting times in South Africa." I'll ask you the obvious question, what configuration of forces makes this a more interesting time than, say, South Africa was twelve months ago or two years ago?
AT Well, from the Conservative Party's point of view we had the resignation of five of our caucus members on the issues of negotiation and a much smaller Afrikaner volkstaat. But it is quite obvious that there is no real difference in principle except if Mr Beyers accepts a non-racial approach for the sake of being non-discriminatory in his volkstaat, thereby giving everybody, every adult, the vote and we would say, well then you start as a loser before breakfast because even in your Afrikaner volkstaat there will be quite a large number of people belonging to other ethnic communities and if their mere presence entitles them to a vote you are lost before you've started.
POM So they are saying even though it would be an Afrikaner state that blacks and Coloureds and Indians could also live in this state and would have the right to a franchise as well?
AT That is according to Mr Beyers, one of the five who resigned from the Conservative Party. But that is where we criticise them and say it's no use them propagating an Afrikaner volkstaat and creating all the trouble inside the party and you end up with something worse than the National Party. We say that's one of the things that will have to be negotiated if you come to terms with black states, the one is the borders and the other is the question of citizenship and of course the franchise and we say you cannot start with a franchise for people not belonging to your people.
POM So a smaller homeland or a smaller state with the franchise open to everybody who lives in the state.
AT That isn't our point of view.
POM No I know that's Mr Beyers' point of view. Would anybody be allowed to apply for citizenship in this state, from other countries surrounding it?
AT From his point of view it would be, I would say, as a matter of fact, obvious that if you're there you qualify on the basis of non-discrimination you qualify as a citizen of the state. And I say, no, no, no, it isn't so easy or so simple. You'll have to negotiate what will be the position of the Zulu for instance in Soweto and white people in Lebowa, 1800 of them in Lebowa. There's a parallel drawn, the position of white people in Mafikeng. They are living inside Bophuthatswana but they vote in our constituency of Vryburg.
POM Is that right?
AT Yes. They are voters in the Republic.
POM So they don't vote in Bophuthatswana?
POM Are they the two main differences between your party and the breakaway group?
AT Well they are much more emphatic about a drastic smaller white, or Afrikaner volkstaat and we say, don't start by saying drastic smaller. If you have to negotiate the final borders of your state with the various black leaders you try and you bargain for the maximum, not for the minimum. Secondly, if you now determine your own borders and then go and negotiate with, say for instance, Chief Minister Buthelezi, from a tactical point of view it's much better to ask Dr Buthelezi, now you're speaking in terms of boundaries for your state, let's hear, what are your suggestions? I think it's tactically better to ask him, what are your proposals? Keep your map against the chest.
POM Never play a card until you have to.
AT That's what I say is better tactics. They think they can negotiate with the ANC and the PAC and the National Party and everybody and it's just a matter of time and they will agree with you or accept your proposals for an Afrikaner state, homeland. But it's quite clear the ANC is totally against an Afrikaner volkstaat, they're against the federal idea. So that's a non starter. And the National Party indicated that a separate Afrikaner state is not viable and the PAC indicated, well you can have Robben Island. So with whom are you going to negotiate and, secondly, what is your power basis? Whom do you represent? On behalf of how many people are you speaking?
POM Applying those criteria to the Conservative Party, with whom do you negotiate?
AT We? And that is where we think we have a very strong advantage and that is we have been talking with President Mangope, I think we had at least three interviews with him and a large degree of agreement between us. We had at least three visits to Dr Buthelezi too in Durban and one at Ulundi and the fourth one was last Friday with three of his members of Inkatha and three of our caucus. And we indicated over the weekend that we respond positively to his suggestion of a multi-party conference of review of CODESA. We'd like to take part in that because it's a different forum and you're not committed to a CODESA. And then alongside that is the invitation, suggestion of Mr de Klerk that he wants to have a conference in September inviting various parties, five, six members from a party, to discuss federalism. We say federalism isn't our policy but we'll take part, we'll debate the point of federalism or confederalism.
POM I want to go back a bit before we come to the present again because I must say that when I was following the Potchefstroom by-election, the previous year you had won one or two other by-elections and you were making obviously great inroads into the National Party's white constituency, of why you fell for the referendum date? Why everything was being defined on his terms, he was both the referee, in a sense, and player? And by withholding your support from the referendum you would have delegitimised the entire political process.
AT Well may I say that there are two black leaders who told Mr de Klerk that they are not impressed by the result of the referendum. They were impressed by the 876,000 who voted no in spite of all the propaganda. On the one side the propaganda, etc., it wasn't a matter of equal chances.
POM Who were the black leaders as a matter of interest?
AT If I remember correctly it was Bophuthatswana and KwaZulu. Now when we had to decide on this, in participating, on taking part in the referendum, it wasn't quite so easy because how the question was put was uncertain at a certain stage. Actually we were negatively disposed towards participating but we had quite open talks amongst members of the caucus and we had a very long discussion amongst ourselves and in the end there was a vote. There was a vote and it was a draw.
POM It was? That fell to you then?
AT And I had to decide. And I looked at Ferdi Hartzenberg and I said, "Well then we fight." And the caucus rose and they said, "Well then we fight." One reason for being very cautious not to participate was that the experience of Dr van Zyl Slabbert in the former referendum of 1983 was, he advised his people to vote no and they ignored his guidance, many of them voted yes. And there were also some of our people who said, no we want to vote, we don't want to abstain, we want to vote. So we could have ended up with a small number or a relatively small number of people voting no and thereby making a very poor show and the government could say, well is that all the support you have for a no vote? It was difficult. I would say looking back it is still a very difficult decision to have made but I have no regrets.
POM You don't second guess yourself?
AT I'm satisfied. I'm satisfied that we had 876,000 people voting no, a strong base to build upon for the future, so it's no use crying over split milk. We go ahead.
POM Many of the people that I've spoken to, and this would include from the Conservative Party, from the National Party, the government, the ANC and others, would say that by staying outside the negotiating process you're effectively marginalising yourselves, that the other parties will come to an agreement and your voice won't be heard and this agreement will be implemented.
AT Well up to now I'm convinced that we decided correctly not to participate in CODESA as it was constituted. It's a failure and I think we can say we were not part and parcel of a failure. But there are new suggestions. We said we're in favour of negotiations and that is the reason why we suggested an alternative forum. We suggested that to the black leaders and we also suggested that to Mr de Klerk. Now it seems to me that both Mr de Klerk and Dr Buthelezi grasped the idea, each giving it it's own form. Mr de Klerk on federalism and Dr Buthelezi on a review of CODESA and we indicated we'll take part because it seems to us that Dr Buthelezi's conference will not allow the ANC, the PAC and the Communist Party to control the whole issue, the whole scene.
POM So what kind of a reconstituted negotiating body would you like to see in order to be able to participate?
AT I'm still waiting for Dr Buthelezi to give more detail about his suggestion but in what he said in public and according to the document provided, he expressed himself very strongly against the ANC, PAC, COSATU alliance and it seems to me he won't allow those people to dominate any such conference. And then it is a review and from that suggestions or planning as to the road ahead. They haven't got an agreement or a declaration of intent, nothing definite about that but in the meantime they've indicated they are in favour of a federal set up. Mr de Klerk is also going to speak about federalism and in both cases we're going to put our case.
POM When you look at CODESA, did the ANC want it to fail? Did the government want it to fail? Did it fail because it was structurally deficient from the moment it was instituted?
AT Well I think its irreconcilable views, principles, if principles are at stake. Although I'm inclined to think that the National Party didn't really have a plan to put before CODESA. It resisted certain demands of the ANC and the PAC. It had to make concessions, but there is a sort of a bottom line and they found the conditions and the demands of the ANC unacceptable and so that was where they cut off the rails. Buthelezi indicated in the meantime that there is no such thing as just reopening the talks at CODESA as if tomorrow you start, you read the minutes of yesterday and say we continue. He says, no go. That's why he's saying you will have to review the whole CODESA, etc. We say we want a forum with as a basis anti-communism and we want to talk with the leaders of peoples who are in favour of self-determination for their peoples, their land and own government because that's precisely what we demand for our own people. Now we know we're not in the government's position, we are an opposition party, but that is what we claim on behalf of those people who support us.
POM Would you only negotiate with those people or do you recognise - I think I read some place that you have said, or maybe it was Dr Hartzenberg, that you would not negotiate with the ANC because they do not represent a people, they do not represent an ethnic group? My question would be, aren't they at least in conventional thinking, that they have a large enough base of support that they could not be excluded from any negotiating process, that that's just a prescription for war?
AT Shall I put it this way? As long as the ANC really ignores the very existence of our people and stands for domination of the whole country and denies my people's claim to land and claim to govern ourselves, it hasn't got any sense to talk about. They simply have to be resisted in some way or another.
POM If you had a new negotiating table and, (I'll tell you why I'm saying this, because I've been involved in a way in a similar thing in Northern Ireland with talks that took for ever to get off the ground), if there are no pre-conditions, that everyone comes with an equal claim to their own particular position and that you don't have to agree on anything until you agree on everything. So if there are various components that are being negotiated, in the end everything has to be agreed upon in the end in order for it to work, so everyone has to have their respective claims in some way adequately met. The ANC come and say, we want a unitary state, the CP comes in saying we want an Afrikaner state, Buthelezi with a different position and you've got the National Party with a different position and everyone starts haggling. What do you find deficient about that approach?
AT First of all I deny the authority of a conference like CODESA to make decisions on the issue of a border, for instance, a boundary between my land and KwaZulu, or between ourselves and Bophuthatswana. I think that isn't something for a multi-party conference. That is a bilateral or probably in certain cases multi-lateral agreement between leaders of various peoples and when you negotiate as to the boundaries I think those negotiations are between the leaders of, shall we say, the white people on the one hand, KwaZulu on the other hand and not a body like CODESA, multi-party or no party, the ANC isn't a political party, the PAC - what do you call them? And other sort of organisations. So we think priority should be given to the question: what political structure or structures do we agree upon? We think we first have to find an answer to the question: do you want a confederation with autonomous states or a unitary state in which you've got states with relatively small powers? That I think is the first question to decide upon.
POM Would that be decided on a multi-lateral forum?
AT It could be, but suppose KwaZulu says we claim KwaZulu, we are the Zulu nation, we claim KwaZulu, we want the boundaries first, we want the boundaries between ourselves and others, then I would support them and I would say draw those boundaries. By doing so you recognise that that is a state and the leaders of such a state can in the next phase negotiate with the leaders of another state as to, shall we say, the overall structure or no overall structure like a common parliament, one parliament or national assembly or one executive, one cabinet, but to have a sort of bald council but not a parliament with legislative authority or sovereignty. That's something on which we agreed with the five members of our caucus. That priority is first to get it clear. Do we want various states in a confederation or a unitary state?
POM A forum that was held to discuss that you might take part in and if you didn't like the result you could say, well you don't accept the result and walk out, rather than saying it must be answered before we participate in any way?
AT Well practically we have two suggestions now before us. The one is this conference of review and we will have to see what is on the table. What does Chief Buthelezi propose? What are the view points of others? What is their criticism of CODESA and what are their suggestions for the road ahead? And retaining our right to agree or to disagree. We have a certain definite political point of view and they know it. Perhaps in the discussions it may become clear that what they call a federation in view of the specific powers of a particular state, namely budgeting, legislation, borders, own executive, own parliament, etc., that comes very close to a member state of a confederation perhaps, but it's just a matter of a name but the baby in the cart being a member of a confederation. So that's a possibility. But we say don't start by accepting a federation and by accepting an interim government and by accepting that you're going to have an election for a constitution making body because then you accept a unitary state. You accept the unitary state and it's more difficult to get out of a unitary state than to get into it.
POM How do you find your relationships with Mr de Klerk? Do you still meet? Do the people from the National Party, the Conservative Party meet? Is there any kind of attempt to hammer out, work out differences, an attempt to provide a consolidated single position on behalf of the white community?
AT That's the reason why we accept the invitation to meet with members of the government, have talks with them. We started, I would say, with talks about talks. But during the discussions some basic principles were raised. I don't think we have reached agreement with that. Now there are others who say we must back Mr de Klerk in his resistance against the ANC. We must support the National Party. That's Koos van der Merwe, even Andries Beyers and others, and now I say I needn't support the National Party to be against the ANC, but their view is in a unitary state or in an election on the basis of one man one vote, in a unitary system, if you go in for that then you accept the principle and I say stay away from that principle. First decide on other issues and that is, do you have separate states, do you have independent states or do you have one central government etc? And then of course we say if we support the National Party what are we supporting? Because the National Party is in favour of the sharing of power. They even accept that their own party will consist of a majority of blacks in the long run or short run. They accept that a black majority will rule the country. Now we feel so strongly against those things that I won't be associated with a party standing for those things. I will stand against the ANC on my own or next to them to oppose the ANC, but I would rather try to persuade the government from negotiating with the ANC on the basis of a unitary state and an interim government and a national assembly, try to prevent him from deciding in that direction and to assist me, my strategy is to find co-operation from President Mangope and Dr Buthelezi and perhaps a couple of other black leaders who also refuse to enter a unitary system.
POM What if, come say October, parliament reconvenes and the government introduces legislation that would amend the existing constitution to provide for what was called in CODESA 2, the Transitional Executive Council, that an interim government was in fact formed and that part of it's mandate was to make provisions for a Constituent Assembly? At that point what kind of options are open to you? The game is moving in one direction, it's not a direction you like.
AT Well I can tell you quite frankly such a dispensation will be unacceptable to us. The question will be, what practical steps will we take in such a position. I think that is practical tactics which we won't reveal before, maybe. Our key word now is 'mobilisation' and it means mobilisation in every sphere of social life from education to local government to Chambers of Commerce to security, commandos, etc., mobilise and even our own form of mass action or passive resistance. But I'm not convinced that the government would be so foolish to introduce an interim government with the ANC disregarding the strong feelings of a man like Chief Buthelezi and Mangope, Gqozo, perhaps also Mompedi.
POM Even if all of them were represented in the interim, even if provision was made for representatives from KwaZulu and Ciskei?
AT That's an if. I would say that's open for discussion. I'm not convinced that they would necessarily be in favour of such a thing. In the meantime, in the next month or two, that's precisely what we are trying to do and that is to persuade them from accepting a unitary system and go for a federation if you don't have something better because a federation excludes a one man one vote system for the whole country. Because in a federation you've got definite states with their own political structures, elections, etc.
POM And then the national structure? Would it be just a federation of states something like the European community?
AT We say something like the European community or the commonwealth. Separate states, autonomous states which from the ground upwards, from the roots upwards, the power is delegated upwards up to the highest form of authority inside that state. In other words it's an autonomous state and on the basis of its own autonomy, together with other autonomous states, decide now what are we going to do in connection with defence, or water resources, or foreign affairs? Can we have some agreement on that without denying your own autonomy? Instead of starting with an interim government with control over the defence force and the police and Mr Mandela still having in reserve his uMkhonto and the Azanian People's Liberation Army. Instead of that, start from the ground and create your states with their own structures and autonomy and they then deciding upon a sort of a superstructure.
POM Relative to that, when whites voted yes in the referendum, what were they voting for and what were they not voting for?
AT I won't deny that many people who voted yes voted for the government's political proposals, they were voting for power sharing, etc., but I think many people voted for the opportunity to vote again. Many people voted on issues such as the cricket tour and the possibility of the All Blacks and the Australians coming to South Africa. You know we are sport mad and farmers, your fruit farmers in the Western Cape and others who were so scared of boycotts etc. They want their fruit exported, etc., and they thought the only way to ensure that is to vote yes. And of course the propaganda made by Saatchi and Saatchi was just overwhelming against us. But we also had many, many people afterwards saying, well we voted yes but we don't know what we voted for. How many people? I don't know. But there are quite a large number of people who have second thoughts about that.
POM If that referendum were held today might it have a very different result?
AT I think a different result. I think a different result. People were putting their hopes on CODESA, by negotiation you can solve the problems. And the negotiations at CODESA failed so they realised that something else will have to be done and in the meantime the influence of strong leaders like Buthelezi and Mangope, I think you can see the influence of those opinions also on South Africans and what I tell my own people is, don't play in the hands of the National Party by simply accepting there won't be another election. I say, whichever way we will vote again. We will vote again if it's in a federation, in our own state, we'll vote. But I don't accept it's inevitable that the ANC will govern this country. I don't accept it.
POM Would you accept that the ANC in partnership with the National Party might rule? The ANC in partnership with the National Party and the IFP?
AT I don't accept that as probable. I don't accept it as probable. There are indications that IFP feels so strongly against a unitary system that I doubt whether they would participate in a sort of a coalition government for the whole country because then they accept the unitary state idea and they reject it.
POM On Chief Buthelezi for a moment, do you see him as a key actor in all of this? Let's say there's a conference, a negotiating forum and it doesn't accommodate him, there's a unitary state, what he wants in terms of federalism or what he wants in terms of a Zulu nation is not accommodated and he says, as he has said in the past, that, "I will not be a party to any agreement reached in a place like CODESA to which the Zulu nation is not a party and I was not a part." Does he have the capacity to be a spoiler in the sense that his power and his resources are such that there would be a civil war in Natal at least that would turn it into a kind of a Mozambique? Or would it be a case of what some say, the government could deal with Buthelezi by simply pulling the financial strings out from under him, take away the central government subsidy and he's nothing?
AT I really think that if KwaZulu chooses to go it alone it will be difficult, but I am quite certain KwaZulu is not alone in this. They already had meetings between themselves and Bophuthatswana, Gazankulu, Qwa-Qwa and Ciskei. Those five already met. There's a sort of an understanding between them, an agreement and three of them, Mangope, Buthelezi and Gqozo, actually demanded from the government, don't call elections before the boundaries are drawn. Very strong, I saw the paper. Shaun Johnson reported on that. So Buthelezi won't stand alone and if there's any possibility of the ANC dominating a central government, well some people speak in terms of civil war. I had a man from the Afrikansehandelsinstituut here yesterday and he said in such an event you have civil war between the Zulu and the Xhosa and the boere won't accept it either. Talk is cheap, but the mood of the people can rather suddenly change to, I would say, more militancy. At this stage people are still hoping that a peaceful solution will come forward but the answer to your question is, when the choice is to go without the subsidy or subsidy plus ANC domination I think they would opt for going without the subsidy knowing that they won't stand alone. And of course they will have support inside South Africa from the Conservative Party who will support them in any choice against a unitary state.
POM If by some means there were a unitary state or a federal state, a federal state along the lines of the United States where the states have rights that are entrenched in the constitution, there's also a federal constitution and a central government, you would find that an unacceptable outcome?
AT Unacceptable because practically speaking the United States, they have the different states but it's centralised government to a very large extent. They have their federal force, their federal troops and their foreign policy and one State President, etc., so that's unacceptable and it seems to me that Zulu leaders won't find that acceptable either because what they want is more powers for their state to prevent any domination from one single element or a combination of elements. I said to Dr Buthelezi, if you accept a federation you're putting your King's head on the guillotine because I can't see how you can retain a King of your nation and subject your King to another President. But he thinks it's possible somehow.
POM When you mentioned a federation before, a federation of states, did you mean confederation?
AT What I was referring to just now? I said if, I said to Dr Buthelezi, if you accept a federation then you're putting your King's head on a guillotine. But our view is a confederation.
POM Yes, but ten minutes before you said federation where you meant confederation.
AT No, our view is a confederation. That's why we think the United States model is not acceptable to us.
POM Do you see armed resistance as an option of last resort?
AT Well if you stress the last resort, but I don't think at this moment it is practical politics. At this moment we say we'll go all the way trying to find a peaceful solution and that's why we talk with the government and it seems to us the government is pliable. They are moving, at this stage it seems to me, moving in two directions. The one is towards a unitary state and interim government and the other is federation which I would say precludes interim government and one national assembly. I would say that is the sort of dilemma within the National Party and we try to convince them, identify the various regions and, secondly, if you define a region you will have to consider the ethnic communities because if you include, as they intend doing in the Northern Transvaal, Pretoria with Lebowa and Venda and Gazankulu and Kwandebele and all the blacks in the territory, we say you're starting with the very basic problem which faces us all over the years. You start with a black majority in your regional state. It's unacceptable. The Zulu may have the advantage of having a large majority inside KwaZulu, it's their advantage. The same with the Xhosa, the Sotho, etc. But for the white people to include them in such regions where the blacks are in any case in the majority you don't provide for the freedom of your own people. So we say we're not unconditionally supporting you in your view of regions and regional government.
POM It depends on how they are defined and what powers they are given.
POM You said the government are moving in two directions, where do you read the ANC? They participated in CODESA. Some people I've talked to say they wanted out of CODESA, they began to realise that they were making agreements that were entrapping them in situations that their supporters would not tolerate and they forced it, offered something that created the deadlock and then the talks moved from deadlock to collapse because they wanted to walk out of the talks altogether. They've had their mass action. They're sitting out there saying Mr de Klerk must give their fourteen demands before they come back to the table. How do you read their strategy? Are they in a weaker position than they were in last May, or a stronger position? Are they forcing the government towards being more accommodating to their point of view or are they really banging their heads against a brick wall?
AT Personally I think their support from abroad is not quite the same. I think it's less. But that's just a perception. Secondly, I think inside South Africa their sympathy amongst white people is not as much as they would have wished although according to certain polls, about which I have my doubts, they still have a large majority of blacks supporting them. I don't know, because the same poll said that my own party has got only 11% of the support of the white people and that after the referendum and after the 1989 election. But their dilemma might be that while they are still trying to negotiate something to achieve, and I don't think there's any change in their final objective and that is to get control of the power over the whole country and to introduce a government by the people on the basis of one man one vote. They know they could have the majority according to that recipe. It seems to be that there are hard-liners amongst the ANC. Mandela has to keep a certain pose as a negotiator and at the same time making the claims of the more radical.
POM Where would you read him? Which wing do you think he naturally gravitates to?
AT I don't know. I don't know. If he doesn't meet certain demands of his more radical wing, well they will replace him because they so firmly believe that in the negotiations or through mass action or through armed struggle or revolution they will be in power. They want to replace Mr de Klerk. They want to replace the white government. I don't think they have any alternative to that in their aspirations. They want the power over the whole of South Africa. If Mandela would settle for less he won't be acceptable.
POM What other options do they have. The armed struggle is really, it never was a terrific armed struggle to start with and if it started again the government knows where every MK person in the country is at this point. Some people say they are running short of funds, that finance from abroad has dried up. Others say that their own constituency is impatient, it's been 2 years since they were unbanned. Not only do they see no change in their lives, most of them are worse off than they were two years ago so the level of impatience is growing. Does the government say we will wait them out? We will wait them out till they come around because their own constituency, and financial constraints and other forces will make them more accommodating, or does the government try to deal now?
AT I don't think it's a very simple reply because the government has made quite remarkable concessions and with this retrenchment of eighteen Generals, firing eighteen Generals for the sake of the new South Africa, and the new South Africa is still a new South African democratic system for the whole country on the basis of majority vote. That's the one leg of the government's intentions and if it continues along those lines it's playing into the hands of the ANC. They are the waiting ones. They are waiting. You go along that road and we will vote you out of power because if you call a general election on the basis of one man one vote they are quite certain they will have the majority. So if the government continues on that road they say, we can wait. In the meantime they put on the pressure and the threats of their mass action and the boycotts, etc. Should the government choose the other road and that is federalism, and the ANC quite frankly rejects federalism.
POM We're not just talking federalism. We're talking strong federalism, not a weak structure.
AT According to Barometer and their spokesmen, the ANC spokesmen ...
POM Barometer is what now?
AT It's a publication in English. That was a very definite statement by a spokesman of the ANC, they reject the boerestaat, the Afrikaner volkstaat, they reject federalism, specifically. So if it comes to that type of choice we'll fight, we'll fight with the government in opposing an ANC take-over, but we say your own strategy is weak because if you say you're against an ANC takeover but at the same time the membership of your party is open to all races and you foresee the possibility of a majority of blacks, a black majority in your own party and you still stand for the sharing of power and you accept a black majority for the whole country, although not an ANC, we can't support you on that. So that's where we say the government will have to come round and make a clear statement on those issues.
POM Do you see any evidence of rethinking on the government's part?
AT Yes, the fact that all of a sudden they grab the idea of federal states I think it's a considerable change of direction but as I tried to indicate there's a sort of a dilemma in their approach. On the one hand still interim government, on the other hand federal states and giving attention to the boundaries of the states. Now you can't do those two things at the same time.
POM Talking about the defence forces, what role do they play in all of this? For example, let me give you the argument that I heard on a number of occasions, that Mr de Klerk was not in full command of the defence forces, that he couldn't take drastic action even if he wanted to because after all they are the only thing that stand between him and the ANC and if negotiations fail and the situation gets worse he has to have the backing of the security apparatus, that he alienates them completely, they simply may refuse to back him. That was one. The second was, the police force would be further demoralised by, as what happened yesterday, wholesale firing of Generals. So there were political constraints on him in terms of the degree to which he could go to mould the security forces to his own liking.
AT Well the question is, what is his own making? What does he intend doing? Because apparently he is surrendering power before the sharing of power.
POM Is that how you interpret the retiring or firing or retrenchment or whatever of the eighteen
AT It's not understandable. I can't understand that a man, unless you accept he is bent on surrendering of power and to let himself be replaced by an interim government and that he doesn't care for the defence and the protection of his own people, that he puts all his trust in consensus and in checks and balances, I think that's foolish. I really think that's foolish and to undermine your security forces in the process and they are doing so. The largest percentage in the defence force and the police force are already black and I warned years ago when Mr Louis le Grange was still Minister of Law and Order. I said the whole security forces, that's essentially part of your self-determination. And he said, "Against whom do you want to defend yourself?" I think that was a silly remark and this is now precisely what's happening. If you have the majority in your security forces black and maybe a large number of them may even be supporters of the ANC and you get a crisis where there's a conflict of interest of rights and if you have to rely on your security forces, you're lost because you've destroyed your own power bases.
POM So you think de Klerk is moving in the direction of destroying that part of his power base?
AT For the sake of dismantling apartheid he has been destroying his power base.
POM Where would you reckon the senior officers in the defence forces lie? Do you think they're looking with some scepticism at the process?
AT I think there is scepticism. The question is where is, shall we say, the final stand? Will they be able to do so? Now what's the question? I can't point to that. We may have certain sympathy amongst certain high officers but whether they would be willing to take a firm stand against the surrender of power to a black majority, like Generals, etc., that's a question.
POM Could a situation develop of where there's an attempt made to implement a military state? KwaZulu has said no, we will fight it. So has Ciskei, so has Bophuthatswana. The violence in the townships continues at escalating levels, anarchy begins to engulf parts of the country, the power sharing government, whatever it is, is losing its ability to control the situation. The economy continues to deteriorate. Do you see any possibility that the defence forces might step in? Are the defence forces here grounded in the old tradition of separation of state, the civilian arm of government and the defence arm?
AT I think the easiest reply is I don't know. General Liebenburg's approach is, of course, the standard one and that is that the defence force stands on the side of the government of the day. I think there will have to be other forces stepping forward to avoid a takeover by, shall we say uMkhonto weSizwe or something like that. You can speculate on that but if there are any such organisations below the surface they won't reveal it.
POM The Star two days ago had the revelations by Colonel Hugo.
AT I haven't seen that. I know there was something about a Col. Hugo but I don't have the details about it.
POM On this question of elections, given the level of violence in the country, is there any way that one could have at the moment free and fair elections?
AT The way the government treated the ANC and all these organisations and allowed them to build up their influence and their power and listening to all the threats it seems to be a free election for the whole country, or even a free election for white people only can be very difficult, can be disrupted by mass action, etc. So that's a very serious question whether one would have free elections in the future.
POM Do you see any prospect of the violence being brought under control in the short run or has this violence now got a momentum of its own, that it just fuels on itself like a forest fire? It just spreads and spreads, at some point gets out of control?
AT Well I'm not inclined to think that anything is unavoidable, something like that. The government will have to show much more resoluteness, determination to maintain law and order and not to undermine it's own power bases and to dismantle the army and the police and to introduce explicitly introduce a black majority into the army and the police. They will have to think again and they will have to do so quickly.
POM Just two last questions. One is, when you look at the ANC's mass action, the week of the mass action, did it impress you in the extent to which the number of people stayed away from work and the marches and demonstrations around the country? Do you think it was impressive enough to send the government a message that the ANC at least could mobilise huge numbers of people to stay away from work, damage the economy, put pressure on business to be more accommodating, to put pressure on business to put pressure on the government to be more accommodating to the ANC, or it is a kind of action that has diminishing returns?
AT I am inclined to think that there is a limit to the effect of mass action by the ANC because in the long run people have to work, people have to eat, they have to take care of their families, etc., they have to pay basic things, so I don't think their strength is unlimited. But they can harm the economy. Whether it's an absolute ability I have my doubts and, of course, they will meet with a stronger sense of determination amongst the white community. The response from the white community, and not only from the far right amongst the Afrikaners, there are English speakers who very strongly respond to mass action and intimidation.
POM Do you see mass action works in a way materially to your advantage? That the more the ANC engage in mass action the more they white community becomes alienated, the more they are displeased with what the government is doing and the more they start shifting back to your party? Do you pick up any sentiment of that?
AT Yes, I think so. Two of our best canvassers are Mr Mandela and Mr de Klerk because of the way they handle the things. Mr de Klerk not being determined enough and Mandela with his claims and knowing what they envisage is a socialist state, redistribution of property, of land and income, etc. And there are many people who realise, and after the referendum who realised, that that isn't acceptable to them and are having a second look at the CP.
POM This time next year when I come back, where will things be?
AT Is that a threat or a promise?