This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
18 Sep 1992: Gerwel, Jakes
POM First of all I must apologise for not having seen you when I was in Cape Town the last time. I was looking forward to it a great deal. I haven't yet put a face to a voice so to speak but the last trip got so crazy between the stayaways and everyone's agenda changing.
JG That often happens.
POM I was all over the place. And thank you for sending back your manuscript. I have that and I'll make the changes and send you on a fresh and complete copy. But today, let's just get into it and not waste your time.
POM Let me ask you a simple and yet difficult question. If one goes back to last May to the second week of the working committees at CODESA it seemed that all was going well, it seemed that great progress was being made on many fronts and then suddenly the whole process seemed to come to a screeching halt over the question of a few percentage points that would decide whether items were included or not in a constitution and since then those fissures have developed into open cracks revealing much greater underlying differences. What happened?
JG I think perhaps your latter remark captures it, that the differences around the few percentage points upon which things came unstuck eventually served as a symptom of deeper differences and that the speed and the momentum of the negotiation mould again served to gloss over deeper differences and those differences, it seems to me, are becoming more apparent or more exactly the nature of those differences are becoming more apparent. I just have the sense that it revolves around the ideas and conceptions of democracy. The liberation movement, one speaks about the ANC now only obviously with it were other parties too in CODESA but let's concentrate on the ANC and the Nationalist Party as the two major players, the ANC as the liberation movement had always, even if only implicitly, a conception of democracy with a greater participatory component to it. Political democracy had to mean for it also at the same time mechanisms for social change, social transformation. The Nationalist Party and its partners' conception of democracy seems to be much more of a protective democracy, minimal participation democracy and also informed by, I think, someone spoke about the tyranny of the masses. It seems that the Nationalist Party's conception of democracy is strongly informed by this fear of or attempts to avoid the so-called tyranny of the masses and it eventually came unstuck, as you say, about really in a technical way minimal differences around percentage points.
POM Yet there are many people who have suggested to me that had the government accepted the ANC's offer at that time of the 70% percentage requirement that it might have been a matter for outrage among many elements within the ANC itself and that it might have had difficulty selling it to its own constituency. Do you think that's true?
JG I don't know. You see the process of negotiations had up to now been unconnected to that mass based constituency and it may equally be the case with the Nationalist Party, I don't know sufficient about its operation. Negotiations took place in Johannesburg and although there were nominal gestures of consultation on the part of the ANC and I suspect again on the part of the Nationalist Party, the grassroots were never really informed of that process so I didn't foresee any greater difficulties about so-called selling those proposals just because it was 70% rather than 66%. I've heard say, and again I'm not sure about all the technical details of that, that if the Nationalist Party had not been as greedy and had gone into that and accepted the ANC offer it would actually have bound the ANC into an extended period of transitional government. My view, and again it may be an invalid one, is that the Nationalist Party did not want CODESA 2 to succeed, that it needed for a variety of reasons a longer period after CODESA 2. Prior to CODESA 2 they were talking about CODESA 3 already so my view is not that the ANC had balked at the idea of having to sell that to its constituency but that the Nationalist Party did not want CODESA 2 to succeed.
POM Why do you think it didn't want it to succeed?
JG An announcement made recently suggested that it thought another six months or so would give it the opportunity to strengthen itself further in Coloured, Indian and even in some sectors of the African community, that it needed control over the South African Broadcasting Corporation for a longer period in order to advance itself as a political force because it does fancy itself now as a political actor that could become a majority party. I think that's unlikely but it seems to be part of its strategy. But to answer your question, they needed more time to advance themselves as a political force.
POM Where do you think they could ever derive the idea that they could emerge as a majority party. It seems so fantastical to put it bluntly. You had Pik Botha making a statement that they were ten points away from being the majority party. Is this rhetoric? Is this designed to side swipe the ANC somehow? Is it shadow boxing of a type or is it pure fantasy?
JG I think it's partly electioneering already, but it is also based on their view that at the least they are going to be a strong and important actor, stronger and more important than one would have thought five years ago when you thought about them as the principal engineers and managers of apartheid who in a changed situation would have no role and that has changed now. They are convinced that they can be a major party and departing from that they do now have some designs of being a majority party, not on their own but through alliances and it is for that reason that this federalism proposal which they are putting forward features centrally in their ideas about themselves as a majority party or a majority alliance. Calculations that they are making, again it seems, would be that they would be able to take the Western Cape with Coloured support, that they could make a strong showing together with that Bophuthatswana area and that in alliance with Inkatha in Natal that it could be a strong alliance partner. But I don't think they are really saying that the Nationalist Party themselves alone will be the majority party but they do seem to have designs through a political alliance to be part of a majority player. I still think that that is fantastic but I think they are taking it seriously.
POM As you look at the, this is a kind of a two sided question and since you're talking about the National Party I'll deal with them first, as you look at their history since 1990, how do you see their position as having evolved in terms of what they want to secure and the way in which they hope to secure it?
JG I think what they want to do is make sure that the kind of majoritarian democracy that we understand and have always understood we are aiming at would not come about, building into any constitution strong vetoes and minority checks. The question should be: why do they want to do that? What can they achieve through that? Again it seems as if the answer to that is twofold. In the first place it is the racial one, this whole racial idea about culture, about how one lives, and that ethnic groups or cultural groups in the racial sense of it be protected, their way of living, whatever that may mean. But secondly I think it is more material. It is through that protection of material interests, this whole spectre of falling standards, of the third worldisation of South Africa, that through all those checks and balances whether through regional or federalism, protection of minorities, that those mechanisms can serve to do that. So in short what they are aiming at is to protect that racial conception of identity. I think the politics of identity are going to become an important point of contestation in South Africa and then secondly the protection of material, historically acquired material privileges.
POM Do you think, just to side bar, that the whole brouhaha about the singing of the South African national anthem and the waving of the South African flag at the rugby matches and the neutral colours that participants in the Olympic Games were required to wear, I found that among Afrikaners these things touched the deepest of emotions, these things that are symbolic of identity in so many ways. Do you see issues like this, symbolic issues, issues over flags, monuments, names even of buildings or whatever becoming matters of major polarisation?
JG It could be mobilised for those purposes. These things are not, of course, natural. Again Mr de Klerk and his party seem after the early period, after 2 February 1990, to have changed their tack. They now seem willing to use those issues for short term political gain. It's very short sighted because in the end we've got to build a nation. It has not been my impression that the National Party was saying that we should retain the same symbols whether it be the flag or the national anthem in a future South Africa. It's my impression that they accept that those things themselves will have to be negotiated. So for them to make short term political gain out of that, as they are now doing, really complicates that nation building exercise which will have to come at a time. You know the flag was never an issue at South African rugby, there was never much flag waving at South African rugby matches. I am not sure that the national anthem was an issue at international rugby matches but it is being used for those purposes now and I'm not worried that it is really going to be a big issue. I think those were flare ups growing out of an irritation with what they saw as the African National Congress having gained the upper hand with regard to the normalisation of sport and rugby is exceptional in that. I don't think the other sports are really taking it as seriously as that.
POM Just to go back to this change in attitude on the part of the National Party, many people have said to me that after the whites' only referendum in March they said that De Klerk, rather than taking this as an opportunity to fasten the process of transition and move forward, that he hardened his attitudes and began to take a much tougher and less flexible negotiation position. Would that be your perception of his behaviour?
JG Yes indeed. Prior to that there was a sense or a greater sense in which the Nationalist Party needed the ANC and I suppose that was reciprocated as well. The reason for it needing the ANC was the threat of the Conservative Party. After the referendum the Nationalist Party interpreted things as if they no longer needed to fear the Conservative Party, it had dealt with the Conservative Party so its sense of needing the ANC was lessened. In fact it seems to have interpreted the referendum elections as an indication that it could now become tough with the ANC.
POM Do you think at this point, up until the referendum it sought more maybe in terms of the necessity in the future for some kind of strategic alliance with the ANC and that after the referendum they began to think in terms of being able to forge this majority alliance with other parties, that at that point it began to think in terms of we actually could win something if we played our cards, we don't need the ANC.
JG I think the referendum also served to give it the impression that it had majority white support so that that constituency was sewn up as it were and that it could now reach out, as it is trying to do, to the Coloureds, the Indians and have these alliances with, amongst others, Buthelezi, Mangope and others. So, yes, I think the referendum served to provide them with the basis in their own immediate constituency to go forward to alliances and broaden their own political strength. That's the way that they saw it I think.
POM Do you think that that referendum has effectively dealt with the threat of the right wing, that they are now a marginal force in South African politics at least for the foreseeable future or that the threat still looms out there?
JG I had always, and I might have mentioned in former discussions, I'm not sure, I'd always thought the threat of the right wing to be exaggerated. It made good copy this almost spectacular threat of neo-nazis. There's always the potential for them making trouble or disrupting things but I never really thought of them as being a major threat unless there were within the South African military establishment a coup but that would have to be with a lot of collusion from De Klerk or De Klerk aligned people. I don't see the military just like that having a coup against De Klerk. The point is that those fringe right wing groups never really posed that kind of threat but the referendum objectively did in demonstrable effect, did weaken the right wing, the morale of the right wing. The Conservative Party has split since and that is directly because of the referendum I suspect. Many of the right wing parties are now making overtures to the Nationalist Party with regard to negotiations. So the force of the right wing has been considerably weakened by the referendum elections. I think it was quite an astute master stroke by De Klerk calling that referendum.
POM Were you surprised by the extent of his victory or was it something on the cards that could have been foreseen?
JG I predicted around 80% vote for De Klerk for a variety of reasons, one, that the Nationalist Party may be reforming but it remains the most ruthlessly effective political machine in the country. I did not think that they would go into a referendum without having done their homework. I don't think it was just a spontaneous, taking a chance decision. I wouldn't be surprised if historians show that they in fact threw the Potchefstroom election in order to get to a referendum. Then the way that the media, the business controlled media as well as the public media combined to manipulate that referendum. All of us were hoping that it would be a yes vote, I mean nobody was hoping for a no vote, but I don't hope that the media ever again manipulates the public as it has done then. Even an ANC election victory I hope never comes off because of that kind of manipulation. The picture that was presented of South Africa being barricaded if there was a no vote, it was just the most horrendous. I actually found it a frightening way that the media combined about that. So, no, I wasn't surprised by the extent of the vote and the question was posed in such a way too that it was easy for people to vote yes without necessarily giving their consent to something very specific. It was asked whether people supported the President continuing the negotiation, and they said yes.
POM I was going to ask you that. What do you think people were voting for when they voted yes and what were they not voting for when they voted yes?
JG I think they were voting yes against the spectre of South Africa going back to pre-1990 politics, state of emergency, insurrection, international isolation. You know we've just got back into international sport. The cricket tour for example, South Africa was playing in the World Cup at that time, that cricket tour which gripped the imagination of all South Africans. I got up early in the morning to watch the cricket games and that was used, that cricket tour specifically, if there is a no vote that tour going on at that time was presented as being in danger. Those cricketers were brought on to TV to say they were going to vote yes. So people were voting against the possibility of going back to the pre-1990 state of our society.
POM Most of the reports that I got out of South Africa at the time either from news clipping services that I subscribe to or listening to the BBC or reading reports in the New York Times or Washington Post all framed the referendum as being a referendum about a process in which whites were being asked to share power with blacks. It was always put in terms of it being about power sharing. Did that come across to you?
JG Not particularly. I've read it again, it really asked, to say, "Do you agree with the Conservative Party being against the process of negotiations or do you agree with the State President being for the process of negotiations." That question was really very open with regard to negotiating and the way that the Nationalist Party conducted its referendum campaign it was actually promising whites that it would not negotiate away its right of existence, whichever way you want to look at it. So the message which came through in the referendum campaign was a pretty conservative one. It made it comfortable for many whites to vote yes for the process of negotiations. So it didn't really state very specifically that this was a vote for power sharing. It was a vote for negotiations with the understanding that what is best for our future is negotiations rather than a Botha style confrontation.
POM Do you think that if that referendum were held again today that it would pass with the same margin of support?
JG That's difficult to say. Probably yes because if everything that has happened between then and now had happened and an election was called now I think there may even be greater confidence in De Klerk to stand up to the ANC, stand up to the communists, stand up to black rule.
POM I want to run back through some of the responses to questions the last time and then get back to some more current stuff and to try to tie the two together. You said last year that the political process or the political dispensation negotiated must be such that the social transformation doesn't take place fundamentally and there will be more or less the same disparities. You were saying that redressing economic and social imbalances had to be part of the political process of settlement. Do you think that CODESA if there had been agreement on this 70% percentage mechanism that you would have emerging out of that a constitution and a government that could successfully bring about that social and economic transformation?
JG A constitution weighted down too much with minority veto powers could find itself quite emasculated in terms of that. In the one sense the collapse of CODESA around that point may be to the eventual good because the ANC is now going back to a 66% majority position rather than the 70% one. But your question, no I think that would seriously complicate matters of social transformation.
POM Yet at one level it seems to me that political transformation without this social transformation is almost like window dressing. My question would be how would negotiators, so sensitive to the need for economic and social transformation, almost throw away the leverage for bringing it about in the process of negotiation?
JG I think there was an anxiousness with the ANC to get to a political democracy. There was the argument that violence and poverty could only be addressed once there is democratic control over the political processes and political apparatuses, so there was that eagerness to come to a settlement and to start the real work that I think drove people and I think drove them even to make those kind of compromises but I think they would have found out afterwards that those compromises would have made it so difficult and even impossible to bring about social transformation. There will have to be quite considerable shifting around of resources. I'm not talking about redistribution in the crude sense of the word, taking away from the rich in that very crude way, but there will have to be major redistributionary practices also amongst regions. This whole question about federalism and regions having a high degree of autonomy or too high a degree of autonomy may make it difficult to shift around resources in terms of taxes and other things which in a large country like our own when it is marked by regional inequalities would require that kind of redistribution.
POM Let me tell you one way, from talking to people, looking at the documents and whatever, what I see is happening at CODESA and then I'd like your comments on whether my perceptions are on the mark or off the mark. It seems to me that the government had gotten the ANC to agree that a more or less full blown interim constitution would be drawn up at CODESA, that the ANC had agreed that the powers of the regions be entrenched in the constitution, which essentially is the ANC had agreed to federalism, that the ANC had agreed that the boundaries of the regions would also be drawn up at CODESA rather than in an elected assembly and that by pushing the margin for the threshold veto requirement up to 70% or 75% they were really turning the Constituent Assembly into a body that would amend an existing constitution with these very high percentage levels involved rather than draw up a constitution just based on broad constitutional principles and that in a way they had almost outfoxed the ANC and that if they hadn't been so greedy they might just have gotten away with it. Is that off the wall or not?
JG No I think you're in that sense quite accurate and there was a week or two after CODESA a sense of relief amongst ANC negotiators I sensed, almost as if they suddenly woke up and saw what they so nearly fell into. They were indeed outfoxed. Again that's why it makes it so incomprehensible why the Nationalist Party stuck to their demands for 75%.
POM It looks like pure greed or it looks as though "We've outfoxed them this far, we should take them the one final step."
JG And again I'm not sure why they would want it. Why 75%? 70% is quite heavy by any means, which strengthens my suspicion that they did not want CODESA to finalise things. I think they will regret not having done that. They really could have sat in the driving seat if they had agreed to that.
POM Do you think they have turned down the best offer they will ever get?
JG I suspect so because that also served to mobilise the ANC constituency, mass based constituency who had become almost disinterested in CODESA and that had suddenly focused attention on CODESA again. It's not going to be possible for the ANC to go back to that 70% offer again.
POM That was going to be next question in fact. If you take from the period of the deadlock in May when you still had De Klerk and Mandela putting the best face on things, saying a lot of progress had been achieved and then you move one month forward to Boipatong being a catalytic event, you have the talks move from deadlock to collapse, you have the ANC withdrawal from all formal talks with the government, you have mass action being taken from the back burner and being put on the front burner, you have Mandela making very personal attacks on De Klerk regarding the violence. What do you think were the internal dynamics going on within the ANC that moved it very forcefully in this new direction?
JG Just CODESA itself, the collapse there, the ANC wasn't responsible for that so it was saved from that in spite of itself. But Boipatong touched a really raw nerve. It's Sharpeville, it's Soweto, it's that kind of litany within which Boipatong came. The decision to break off talks was taken quite unanimously I was told. I serve on the Regional Executive Committee of the ANC here and from the report back that we got from National Executive Committee members it was clear that there was no hard liner or soft liner divide in taking that decision to suspend the talks with the government and the demands and the way that they were framed was also in a way to make it possible for the government to address them and for talks and negotiations to resume. So, again, I'm not a political member in that sense of the political party, I'm much more there as a kind of a social, educational component of that but I really had the sense that the demands were drawn up around matters that were, as Cyril Ramaphosa said, doable ones, and it was not intended to be demands to stave off negotiations for ever. In fact the organisation committed itself to negotiations. My sense was not that Boipatong was being used by factions within the ANC, that there was really a genuine abhorrence at that in the sense that negotiations couldn't take place unless a number of issues, which had been on the agenda previously, were addressed.
POM One thing that struck me in July and August when I was in South Africa was the way in which COSATU had appeared to move on centre stage. Has COSATU achieved a new prominence? Is it more of a player now that it was say a year ago or 18 months ago? Is it becoming more "politically" involved in the whole negotiating process?
JG I think COSATU has certainly asserted itself to a greater extent than it had done, say, prior to the mass action and I'd always thought about them as a formidable political force to be taken into consideration in the alliance and in the country generally. I think they have underlined that and they have placed themselves much, much more centrally now with regard to the political process. There has been agreement reached about the economic forum. It hasn't started of yet, and again there COSATU too is asserting itself as an important shaper of the process of change. Yes, they have certainly placed themselves much more on the centre stage.
POM Would you see, again this is interpreted in so many ways it's hard to get a fix on it, as there being any shift of the power balance within the ANC to those who might be termed more hard line vis-à-vis those who would be the more pragmatic just as negotiations disposed elements in the leadership?
JG Your question is whether?
POM Where there has been a shift in influence towards - have people who would be called hard-liners seized the initiative for the moment? Has there been a shift away from the moderate elements in the leadership towards more hard line elements?
JG I think we may be politically naive in that aspect but I'm not sure that I know who the hard-liners in the ANC leadership are. There are shifting permutations of positions around a variety of issues so that it's not as if someone is a hard-liner on every aspect. Some of the people that I know who are sometimes referred as hard-liners I personally know that they are committed to the process of negotiations. There are fears sometimes about what the negotiations will produce, what kind of democracy is it that we are negotiating? I sometimes share those concerns which I've expressed to you that this is a kind of a political settlement without making sure that the content of the formal settlement is such that it brings about changes in the life of the people, something that would disturb me. And it may be that the hard-liners, if one wants to call them that, are the people concerned about those aspects. The ANC remains committed to negotiations and remains committed to returning to negotiations once certain things have been achieved and Mr Mandela recently articulated those again. So there has not been a shift away from a commitment to negotiations. I hear and I read talks about insurrectionary dreams -
POM The Leipzig option.
JG - in the Communist Party. Again I'm not convinced that there is an official and a concerted position towards insurrection.
POM Do you think from now on that those who have said that mass action must be an integral part of the ANC's negotiating tactics, that there must always be what are called the 'tap' people who think mass action is there and you use it when it's advantageous to you, you turn it off when it's not, that those who continue to advocate continual mass action until there is a negotiated settlement are having their way, so to speak?
JG I don't think so and again a lot of this depends upon the government if they can indicate clearly if they are responding to the ANC's demands and negotiations of one form or the other continue, then I think the momentum is going to go out of mass action. Mass action can only be successful if people respond to calls for mass action and the massive response that we've seen now should be read as the mass of people responding to the way that they read the political situation. That political situation is fundamentally informed by the breakdown of negotiations. If negotiations resume the drive is going to go out of mass action as well.
POM Do you see the mass action as having been a successful mass action and by successful I mean do you think that it sent a message to the government that it's requiring the government to respond in a political way to the demands of the ANC or do you think the government shrugged it off? Leaving aside its propaganda and saying it's all due to intimidation, do you think at their heart of hearts - ?
JG I think it got a powerful message through to government. A comparison has been made between the mass action on the part of the ANC and the referendum on the part of the De Klerk government and I think the government has got that message. That march in Pretoria and some of the other marches were really massively successful. I must quite frankly say I doubted the capacity of the movement to pull that off because people had not been responding to calls for mass action and mass mobilisation since 1990, but the breakdown of the talks and Boipatong had again ignited that energy into mass action. Yes I think it was massively successful in sending a message to the government. It will obviously deal with that in its propaganda. One's got to understand that too.
POM You had also said, this is just another interesting response from the last time that I would like to link into what we're talking about now, you said Inkatha is the one organisation which plays quite deliberately and explicitly on the ethnic factor. You have Buthelezi sitting up there in Ulundi making dark threats about he and the Zulu nation and the Zulu King will not be party to any agreement reached at CODESA or any other negotiating forum to which the Zulu nation are not a part, hinting at the use of force in a more deliberate way. My question is, does Buthelezi have the capacity to be a spoiler and by that I mean say if you had agreement between the ANC and the government, but it was an agreement to which Buthelezi withheld his support, does he have the capacity in Natal to induce a continuing low level civil war that would just result in instability and spoil the process of moving to a stable non-racial democracy?
JG If by the government, you're talking about an agreement between the government and the ANC, if by the government you mean the entire government including its security forces, then I would say, no, Buthelezi doesn't have the capacity to be a counter-change force. The ANC, you may recall, when the violence started spreading to Transvaal made the studied statement to say that elements in Inkatha were responsible for that rather than blaming the entire Inkatha and it made the point that Inkatha doesn't have the capacity to do that kind of systematic destruction which took place in the beginning of that violence taking place. I think that applies to that Inkatha on its own without the security establishment support that it undoubtedly is receiving won't be able to do that. But I've often thought about that same question but in different terms. If we do come to a settlement the desire, the wish is to have a nation which voluntarily bonds. Coercive measures against any part of that nation are going to destabilise the process and the project of building the nation. So it's going to remain, and the burning issue will be how do you deal with a dissenting Buthelezi? I think Buthelezi is going to be a dissenting figure no matter what kind of agreement we get to. But your question, no, I don't think without support he has the capacity to be a serious disrupter of that process but if he gets support as he does presently, yes, then he can be highly destructive.
POM Have you been able to come up with an answer of how you would deal with a dissenter?
JG I think democratically. That's why the ANC had really, I mean this violence has obscured a lot of other things that have happened. It's position has been that Inkatha is a force even though it's got within the national context minimal support but it is a force and it's got to be accommodated in a democratic way and one will have to find ways to do that. We're really talking about bringing about a South African nation where the constitution and the new state are shared by all South Africans. One of the most disastrous things to start off this new nation is with having to police parts of that nation.
POM This also is related to that response in a way. Regarding the violence you said last year that, "My inclination is more and more towards suspecting that there may be greater government collusion in the violence than one suspected a little earlier. The third force idea might have been forces in government but not with the collusion of government responsible for it. There is a growing wariness with regard to the violence, wondering whether the state is not more implicated in it than we originally suspected." A year later would you be of the same opinion?
JG No a year later, I just spoke yesterday, we have a series of peace and democracy lectures at the university following the mass action where we thought that an education institution rather getting involved in mass action as such we should have an ongoing series on peace and democracy, and yesterday as part of that peace and democracy series we had also mourning for Bisho and I spoke on democracy, contesting perceptions of democracy and the players in that democracy. But I must say that I just felt it difficult not to say more disparaging things about De Klerk and his government than I had previously thought to do. This attempt to get a general amnesty without us knowing what it is they want an amnesty for, the increasing evidence of state complicity in murders. I must say I am completely, totally disabused of any ideas of a government that may be not as complicated as we thought at the time. My view about the Nationalist Party, even the De Klerk Nationalist Party, is one which must be dealt with, must be respected as a major political player. It represents the majority of the ruling minorities, it has access to the state, the apparatuses of the state, the parastatals, but it is devoid of moral capital. I really have a pretty deep sense of, perhaps I shouldn't have been disappointed, but a deep sense of disappointment at this lack of moral leadership that it's giving in this process of change.
POM Yet the Goldstone Commission seemed to have gone out of its way in its interim report and even more recently to say that there no evidence of government complicity or security force complicity in the violence and while acknowledging the legacy of apartheid as being one of the prime causes of violence he also put more emphasis on ANC/IFP rivalry than he did on any involvement of the security forces. Where do you see Goldstone standing?
JG I think Goldstone, the Goldstone Commission, those activities, the Peace Accord, were important mechanisms for establishing ways that we deal with potentially very destructive violence. I think one should continue to respect that. Another point that I made yesterday is that studied even-handedness in a situation of patent evil sometimes serves to create a moral nihilism which we must combat and perhaps it is the legal technicalities that withhold Justice Goldstone from being able to say more firmly what the general South African populace recognises to be the case. The Weekly Mail once responded to that in just saying that it fails to understand how the Judge could say that there's no evidence because time after time evidence has been drawn, but perhaps it's a question around the legal definition of evidence and other forms of evidence.
POM Do you have a copy of the remarks you made yesterday?
JG Yes I do.
POM Would you be able to send me on a copy? I'd really appreciate that.
JG Yes I could fax that to you.
POM Let me give you my fax number. Just a couple more questions and again thank you for taking all this time. I know how busy you are and I appreciate it.
POM Again just on De Klerk, I think it was the Star that said some months back that evidence was accumulating to suggest that De Klerk was not in full control of his own security apparatus. Do you think he has full control in the sense that he is free to take action to fire people like General van der Westhuizen or that he can make the large scale restructuring that is necessary to eliminate elements of a third force? Do you think he knows where those elements of the third force lie or is the whole security establishment so cumbersome and clandestine that he has not been able to get it under his grip or that it could reveal information that would be embarrassing to him of his own participation in decisions in the past or government decisions in the past? Are there real constraints on him in the way he can handle the security the forces or that he's simply not willing to do so?
JG The willingness and the constraints may not be two distinctly different things. Generally in situations like that one's willingness is conditioned by constraints. I don't know because I don't know sufficient about that murky world of security, but if one is going to depend upon publications like Africa Confidential and others it does seem as if there are conflicting interest establishments in the military and that it is not as simple for De Klerk just to say today, "I'm cleaning up." I'm willing to give him that benefit of that doubt that it is not easy to do what should be done. However, he is not giving any signals, making it easy to believe that here you have somebody battling to clean up but finding it difficult to do so. Just objectively I can see that it must be difficult for somebody like De Klerk coming in. He had not been part of that military establishment which P W Botha had built around him, to do immediate corrective steps around the complement and the structure of it. However, they're saying he's doing nothing to signal to the world, to the country at large that he is making progress in other areas. Again coming back to my point, he's not sending out a signal that here is a person bringing a certain kind of morality to our politics but finding it difficult to do some other things.
POM How was his firing or forced resignations of the 13 or 15 Generals in the SAP received? Was that seen as window dressing or more as a real effort to reform and restructure?
JG You know there was great cynicism about that, the way that it came about. Again it leaves one with a sense that you can't put trust in what's happening there because those people who had been retired none of them were really ever suggested to be implicated in what needed to be addressed and at the same time people who had been implicated, some of them had been promoted. A guy that was in charge in the Eastern Cape was just at that time involved in that Addo incident which you may know about, making statements and finding people guilty before they had ever appeared in Court, and that Eastern Cape security outfit has got a very bad reputation. At that same time he was promoted to a post in the Witwatersrand so there was great cynicism about that. It didn't change anything.
POM You see to talk where there has been a steady, in a way it the suggestion has been, at least for your own part, a steady erosion of the trust or the benefit of the doubt that you were prepared to give De Klerk two years ago, that in one sense South Africa is more polarised now than it was two years ago. Am I hearing, interpreting you correctly or is the larger point - ?
JG I think we are seeing more clearly the differences that there are now than we did prior to 2 February 1990, immediately prior to that, or immediately after that. Again, and I'll fax that to you, what I said yesterday was that the responsibility is now to the African National Congress as the one organisation with the history and capacity to do that, to give that moral leadership to the country and to move us as swiftly as possibly out of this phase, that it should itself avoid gamesmanship of any kind, or unnecessary gamesmanship. I suppose politics must always have its gamesmanship. But avoid any unnecessary political gamesmanship in order to move on as quickly out of the situation which could just deteriorate unless we do that swiftly. So my view is that we should not look to the De Klerk regime for that moral leadership or for trusteeship of genuine democracy in our country. So in that sense, yes, I think we've moved in terms of empathy apart from one another. But I would not translate that into saying that we are standing gun to gun in that kind of confrontation to any greater extent. The suspension of the armed struggle, for example, is hardly on the agenda. The commitment to negotiating out of this impasse, out of this present lingering transitional period, that commitment is still very much there. But yes, the erosion of trust very definitely, but that may be a good thing.
POM A good thing, because?
JG Just for myself, I just find myself thinking much more incisively about what needs to be done and I think that may be more general of attitudes.
POM Just in connection with that question of moral leadership, one thing that struck me again talking to people for the last three years and reading everything I can read and trying to take in all I can take in, is that the ANC insists that the government is behind the violence or that it is Inkatha operating with elements of the security forces and that is behind the violence and it has never admitted to having any role in the violence itself, that it too may be part of the problem of the violence. Do you think it must in some way acknowledge that? I'm getting to the whole question of how do you bring the violence under control. They always put themselves in the position of being the injured party or the victim of the violence rather than acknowledging that they too may be all a part of it.
JG I think there's been recently, for example, with Chris Hani talking about the self-defence units, in places getting out of hand, an admission to not being blameless with regard to the escalating violence and part of that moral leadership may in fact be to take clear stock of what the organisation has done, always realising that a liberation movement like that is in a reactive role vis-à-vis a situation of oppression. I think it must also speak much more clearly about instances where it can clearly say, look here we have been party to that violence and we are going to do this and that. That's what I said yesterday too. That killing talk by ANC leadership at any level must be immediately and unequivocably rebuked. The Secretary of our Regional Executive Committee here, for example, has now been making statements saying in speeches that the Ciskeian dictator should be killed. Now the ANC did distance itself from that but I think we should be very clear in rebuking such statements. The same in Natal, I have no doubt that that violence in Natal is primarily instigated by Inkatha and the security forces but the African National Congress have not been just blameless bystanders, there has been reaction and the war comes from two sides.
I agree with you, similarly with the investigation into abuses that might have occurred in ANC camps and there has been an investigation done by them, and again it's to the credit of the ANC that it has done that, but again it should, without the party irretrievably damaging itself, it should in a moral way be able to say this and this has been found and this and this will be done with regard to that. I really think our country is in need of that kind of moral leadership. As I say, Mr Mandela is a person of immense moral stature. He's a world historical figure and the ANC now has a responsibility to conduct itself in ways allowing him to give that national moral leadership.
POM Almost last question. Is there any way you could have, given the level of violence that exists or the climate of violence that exists across the country, is there any way now (I don't mean next week but in the next six or nine months) that you could have free and fair elections in South Africa?
JG I think so. The increasing involvement of international observers is starting to create the conditions for that to take place. There are simple logistics which make free and fair elections a reality, logistics which are complicated by the violence, by the social disintegration which accompanies such violence. But, yes, I think it can.
POM Last. This is a quote from Philip Nel who wrote an article after the collapse of the talks and he said: -
"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 soon thereafter. The followers of the ANC made it clear that their grassroots would not tolerate an elite pact. 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 a future renegotiated forum will have to accommodate the people's character of the ANC."
Do you think that's a correct characterisation of the ANC and the way in which it must respond to "grass roots pressures"?
JG I don't know what that means in terms of negotiations. Negotiations will always have to take place between representatives or leaders or elites whichever way you wish to call it. It is the responsibility of the ANC to find ways to genuinely connect with its grassroots following in what it presents at the negotiating forum but I don't think the forum can necessarily be changed. There have been calls by the South African Communist Party, for example, that all discussions at CODESA should be public and that's perhaps one way to do that, but apart from that I'm not sure how you give formal expression to the varying characters of the organisations. But the characterisation of the ANC as an organisation that had traditionally relied on its mass base and who took seriously its mass, because I think that is correct, but that is the challenge. How do you translate that into political procedures and practices? The ANC has in its constitution, at least in its old constitution, the statement that the major decision making body of the ANC, organ of the ANC, are its branches. That's no longer in practice the case. So there the challenge is on the ANC how it retains a participatory democracy but that the negotiations will have to take place amongst leaders or representatives of political organisations, that's inescapable.
POM Very last question and this refers to Bisho. One got the impression here in the way it was treated in the press of a degree of blame being attached to the ANC for in a sense knowing that violence might occur and provoking it. Was there a breakdown, like in the press reaction or media reaction, was there a breakdown by race, as most crudely as I can put it, in the manner in which the killings were perceived and the role the ANC itself had to play in it?
JG You say a breakdown in terms of?
POM Of race. Did the white press say the ANC behaved irresponsibly? I haven't seen any reports yet. Is there a different perception in the black and white community regarding the attribution of blame for the killings? I suppose that's what I'm really asking.
JG I must say when it happened I was on my way through London to the US I read the British press, The Guardian, The Independent, which gave eye witness accounts of what had happened. It was on coming back to South Africa that I read about the ANC being blamed. I found that especially the Democratic Party, and I said that yesterday too in this paper that I'm sending you, that it is really to the shame of a party like the Democratic Party that it at all even slightly shifts the blame for the Bisho killings away from Bisho and more so on those behind him. Well the press here is largely a white press. It made a lot of how the ANC should have known that these are undisciplined soldiers, they should have known that there could be bloodshed. But tyrants are opposed because they are tyrants. The black press, well the Cape Town alternative newspaper which I'd seen on that had a different view. It laid the blame where I also think the blame should be laid. So there are different perceptions.
I was coming from a conference in Natal the day before yesterday on ethnicity and violence and spent two days there discussing and analysing this and on the plane back I was sitting next to an old white lady and started chatting and she just mentioned to me what a gentleman Mr Buthelezi is and she is sure it's the ANC that's responsible for all of the violence in the country. And I didn't argue with her, there was no sense in trying to argue that, but it gave me an insight into a kind of generally internalised view of the white public on such issues.
POM Just for information, the conference on ethnicity and violence was held at?
JG The University of Natal at Pietermaritzburg.
POM I'd like to find out and get some proceedings if there were from it. Is there anybody there that I should contact?
JG I'll just write that down when I send you the other paper, who the contact person is.
POM Thank you ever so much for the time and at Christmas when I'm over I will just maybe drop in to see you for five minutes so I can identify myself to you.
JG OK. Are you calling from Dublin now?
POM No, from Boston.
JG Oh from the States. OK, certainly, I hope I will see you sometime.
POM OK. Thanks ever so much.