This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
05 Jan 1993: Slovo, Joe
POM. Mr Slovo when we talked the last time I asked you whether this was a process about the transfer of power or about the sharing of power, but the government always talked about it in terms of it being a process about the sharing of power whereas most people in the ANC that I talked to always said it was a process about the transfer of power. You said, if I can find the answer, "Well I think there are two different languages but they reflect two different policies and they are not always represented in an honest way. For example, we are always accused of wanting to replace white minority domination with black majority domination. We are accused of advocating for the future what they describe in swear word language as simple majoritarianism, and it's absolutely clear from our submissions that that is not our standpoint, that we accept that there will have to be a period of national reconciliation, that there will have to be a continuity in the future constitutional dispensation for political minorities in the constitution." Then you wrote this paper which sparked a very significant, what would seem to be, policy shift on the part of the alliance. Could you go through first the genesis of the development of your ideas on that paper?
JS. Well I think I would say it flows from the remarks that you have just read out. There's no contradiction that there's a continuity and I think as we come closer to the crunch moment we are required to sit back and be a little more specific in translating that kind of sentiment that I referred to in terms of constitutional arrangements. So in light of the fact that we are at the point I believe where this year there must be some kind of negotiated solution, if not we're in trouble. We've reached that point and my intervention was designed to pose some fundamental perspectives in the negotiating process from our point of view and essentially I can summarise it in a few sentences and that is that we are negotiating because neither side has defeated the other, therefore we cannot expect to win power in the old sense of the term at the negotiating table and I see the negotiating table as a stage in the continuing struggle for democracy. In other words it's not the end of the process, it's part of the process and therefore we have to address the other questions related to the expectation we have that we will an election and when we have won that election we've got to ask ourselves the question, what will we have won? My thesis there is based on what I think is the reality that the day after an election victory, whatever it is, 50%, 55%, 60%, the army, the civil service, the judiciary, the whole state apparatus will be exactly the same the day after elections as it was the day before. Therefore we will inherit a complex power structure which we cannot write off. It's a reality and therefore our approach must be designed to cope with the potential of this power bloc to undermine the gains in the electoral process.
POM. What then was the process itself? How did it work? You wrote the paper, the paper was distributed, there was a draft called Strategic Perspective prepared and circulated among members of the Working Group in the ANC, there was an airing of differences in the African Communist. How did the debate take place?
JS. Well I published the paper in the African Communist and it was given wide publicity in the daily press. That triggered off quite a heated discussion throughout the ranks and the ideas contained in the paper were then presented to the National Working Committee of the ANC which had before it, not my paper, but a draft which covered quite a few of the points I dealt with in my paper. That was debated, I think at two meetings. It was then, on the basis of the debate, redrafted, adopted by the National Working Committee and then placed before a full meeting of the National Executive which then adopted the amended draft. So that was the process.
POM. One thing strikes me, and it goes back to last summer when the talks collapsed, there was a lot of criticism of the negotiators at that time that they hadn't been in touch with the grassroots, that the grassroots hadn't been brought along, hadn't been informed about what was going on, that there had been much too little consultation. Was there any broad grassroots consultation in this case?
JS. I think there has been broad grassroots consultation throughout. I don't believe there was any key substantive aspect of our package that we were ready to go through with at CODESA which didn't have a mandate from the grassroots membership. The one possible exception is that as part of the package which we put forward at the failed CODESA 2 talks, we were prepared to move from 66% to 70%. That had been endorsed by the Working Committee of the ANC, by the constitutional leadership of the ANC but that part of it occurred in the very final phases when we were right in the middle of the lead up to CODESA 2, a few days before, and it was felt that as part of the package as a whole this was a worthwhile concession. That caused more discussion than any other.
POM. I know last summer people were so hung up on the 70% and 75%, and 662/3% that they were like ...
JS. That wasn't 75%. 75% was for the Bill of Rights and that had a proper mandate. It had been discussed before. It was just the move from 662/3% to 70% that represents about half a million voters.
POM. Does this now mean that when negotiations resume that in fact one key concession that the alliance has made is that they are prepared to consider power sharing not just during the interim government period but also perhaps to have clauses relating to power sharing written into the constitution, clauses that would also involve sunset clauses?
JS. Yes, well, if you look at the formulation, you've seen the strategic document? It really puts it in a general way that it might be necessary to consider doing this. That's up for debate.
POM. You would consider it?
JS. Yes, and it does lay a basis for the need to address the question of how to meet the forces that we can expect to destabilise a new democracy. It's linked with the earlier point that I made.
POM. I find almost a certain irony in the approach because throughout the whole eighties the government was attempting to co-opt the liberation movement in one way or another by bringing them in under some kind of system, giving them a minimum degree of power and here in a way you're the majority saying we will co-opt the minority and bring them in under a ...
JS. Yes because running a state is a complicated thing and we're going to inherit the most ghastly mess with very powerful forces who will not have been entrusted to the transformation, who we are certain will try to endanger the consolidation of the process and the advance of democracy and so on. So it's not a question of co-opting, it's a question of survival. I see it purely as a question of the survival of the transformation, consolidating it and surviving it and advancing it.
POM. When I read the debate that followed I was particularly struck by some of the remarks of Pallo Jordan who was very intent and very strong in his objections. What I would like to do is just to run through some of his objections with you.
JS. But his objections were to the very first draft which you haven't even seen. The very first draft of the strategic document, so it would be difficult. Certainly his response was not to my paper. He didn't respond to my paper in his document.
POM. He responded to your strategic document, the first draft?
JS. The very first draft which was just placed before the Working Committee and which was then debated in the way I told you.
POM. But he said something that would seem to be very contrary to the notions that you were putting forward?
JS. No, no. I'm not saying he agrees with everything I said, but his paper was not directed - I mean it was directed, I suppose, against some of the ideas which emerged even in the first draft but not in the form in which I would have put it. There were formulations in the first draft to which I objected. So it's rather complex the way he went about it. Anyhow, go on.
POM. One was that he said that, "The national liberation struggle diverges from an industrial dispute in that it is explicit that it is striving for power. Moreover since the transfer of power to the oppressed cannot co-exist with the retention of power by the oppressor, it is the final showdown."
JS. All I can say is that there was no suggestion even in the first draft, but now I'm entering into a polemic which suggested that the old crown retained power, that the civil service should remain the same and all that kind of thing. That is, to me, a patent distortion even of the first draft. But one thing I've learnt and one mustn't take anything for granted, in my document I had a sentence towards the end saying in restructuring the state apparatus we have to also address, for the reasons which I gave earlier, the question of the security of the incumbents and pension rights and things like that. Now the operative phrase was 'in restructuring'. It was then interpreted by critics to suggest that what was being proposed was that the state apparatus remain the same, which is a horrendous proposition.
POM. One of the demands that will be made by the government, I assume one of the demands, is that civil servants continue to retain their jobs, that there are no mass firings of civil servants.
JS. Yes. Well I think obviously, and I think we've more or less agreed in principle that we would examine this issue motivated by the thought that we cannot conceive of moving into the new period by throwing the whole civil service and the existing incumbents at all levels in the police and the army on to the rubbish heap the day after the election victory.
POM. In Namibia they adopted this course of allowing civil servants, whomever, to retain their jobs and they ran into a considerable degree of trouble.
JS. I've no doubt that up to a point we will have to do that as well in addressing the realities of the transformation. I've also no doubt that we will run into a whole lot of trouble as a result of it, including sabotage, potential sabotage by the old crowd and so on. But there's no way of moving from now to hereafter by disposing of the whole civil service. It's completely utopian and unrealistic.
POM. Do you think that the Record of Understanding reached between Mr Mandela and Mr de Klerk came about as a direct result of the mass action in early August or that it was more of a reaction to the massacre at Bisho?
JS. I think it was a combination of reasons. Mass action certain played a very important role. I think they became victims of their own propaganda believing that people were not going to move on the ground and I think they were rather shocked by it although they didn't admit it publicly, but there's no doubt in my mind that they were shocked by the effectiveness of the response. We had the biggest general strike in history and so on, and that must have been a factor in their minds.
POM. When you look at the last six months, say from the deadlock in CODESA in May to the collapse in June, to the general strike in August, through this period of acrimony between the government and the alliance, then the meeting between Mr Mandela and De Klerk, the Record of Understanding, the meeting in the bush, the cordiality that seemed to be emanating, the promise of movement in the near future, how do you trace the course of the dynamics that were operating during that period?
JS. As I say there were a number of factors, I won't put them in order of importance. First of all I think in the last six to nine months the moral foundation, De Klerk's moral foundation, was considerably eroded both internationally and locally as a result of the exposures which he could not resist any longer, as a result of the corruption scandals which infected the regime. At that level I think the international community had its eyes opened whereas a year before he was being hailed as the reform hero, questions were now arising.
. Leading to the second factor which is once again an effective internationalisation of the South African question, for some period the United Nations had washed its hands of the South African situation and once again the Security Council and the General Assembly and so on took an initiative. That's the second factor.
. I think a third factor was that since February 1990 I think De Klerk's dream was to create a coalition across the colour line which would match up to the ANC led coalition, if not defeat it. And the core of that coalition they were dreaming of was Inkatha, across the colour line. And events in the last six months, the violence, the exposures, the relationship between the government and Inkatha and the police force and the army had also undermined enormously plus the maverick responses of Buthelezi himself. Whereas before they were in cahoots on almost all fundamental questions this has broken down virtually completely. So that too has changed.
. The economic situation is a further fact because in the last six months it has really deteriorated in a qualitative kind of way. And it's becoming obvious that they can't deliver up even to their constituency, which is business and the white community, where for the first time you've got really substantial growth of white poverty. That's another factor.
. A further factor relates to the time scale. In 1990, well he seemed to have some years to go, but now there's a constitutional obstacle because he's got to either bring about the transformation by May 1994, it's got to be finished by then, or risk another election, all white election under the old 1983 constitution. He knows if he does that this country will sink into the most violent chaos. There cannot be another all white election so there's no more time.
POM. Has his credibility eroded to the point of where there is a danger that he might not be able to deliver is own constituency, like the white constituency. A number of observers have said that after his revelations about the Generals and the illicit activities that were going on, that it was kind of rubbing it in his nose that the ANC really just said, "Yes we know what was going on all along",' but it didn't try to exploit the situation. That his failure in parliament to have his Amnesty Bill passed was humiliating in the sense that it was of his own creation.
JS. I would doubt very much that the point has been reached where he would not get the majority of whites to support him. I think quite a number of whites have started having some doubts about where the reform process was leading as a result of the fact that it is now reaching a point where decisions have got to be taken. And it was always to be expected that this privileged community would at the end of the day have at least some reservations when faced with the actual reality. So I think obviously the regime has been discredited by absolute standards among all sections of the people, including the whites. You know, the corruption, the violence and so on and so forth. But I don't believe that he has lost the support of the majority of whites.
POM. Do you need a strong De Klerk ultimately for this whole process to come to a successful conclusion?
JS. The reality is that one cannot imagine at the moment a substitute for De Klerk as a negotiating enemy. That's how I would put it. I mean he is our political enemy, but we are negotiating for the transformation, not grabbing power, and with all the weaknesses it's unlikely that there could be a replacement for him. Therefore, for example, taking it to its extreme, if Treurnicht were to take over I think we would all be in terrible trouble. The negotiating process would falter and be at an end which would be very negative.
POM. You have said some time back that if settlement or a long ways towards a settlement hadn't been reached in 1993 we were all in trouble. Could you elaborate a little on that?
JS. Well precisely because of the fact that the alternative would be an all white election and time would have run out, the process would have faltered. I don't know what else I meant when I made that earlier statement.
POM. What about Inkatha and Buthelezi as the spoiler? A number of questions. First, is it possible to reach a settlement without Buthelezi being part of that settlement or does he have the capacity to continue what would amount to low level civil war in Natal for years to come?
JS. He has the capacity to cause problems because unlike Gqozo and Mangope, Buthelezi has got a basis, a primitive ethnic base but it's nevertheless there. However, I think that it's clear, and this is also a very significant somersault on the part of the government, whereas six months ago it would have been unthinkable to hear De Klerk say, "Look we'll go on without Inkatha if we have to", he's more or less said this now and the ANC has said it too. We, of course, would like obviously to avoid the kind of traumas which would result in Inkatha digging in. You don't need much to create a situation of instability. I think basically Buthelezi's problem is that he had visions a year or two ago of being a national leader and I think he has now settled for the fact that he cannot possibly be a national leader and therefore he is battling to retain a power base within his zone and doesn't want to leave the future to one kind of sovereign elected body. But in any case Buthelezi, in my estimation, doesn't lend himself to scientific analysis. I think he's very unpredictable.
POM. I've interviewed him three times and he's been three completely different people on the three different occasions. But when you said he can create problems, that almost sounds like a euphemism. Can he hang out there indefinitely I won't say in an Angola-like or Mozambique-like situation, but where he can have a quasi statelet?
JS. I don't believe he can. I think he can create instability, he can create violence, he can cause problems but he hasn't got the base or the power to declare UDI as Smith did. That would be unthinkable. His position in any case is untenable even within his own terms. 23% of the population lives in KwaZulu/Natal and it produces 14% of the GDP, so if he hangs out on his own it's a recipe for impoverishment of that whole region. [If he really cuts ...]
POM. And yet you see the National Party in Natal embracing the idea?
JS. The National Party. Do you mean De Klerk's party?
JS. I think there are elements within the National Party and some of the leadership in the National Party who are in cahoots with Buthelezi. It's absolutely clear to us.
POM. I suppose my question would be, looking at it in the most cynical way possible, could Buthelezi be a stalking horse of sorts for De Klerk since he's really putting De Klerk's federalism option more clearly out there on the table.
JS. Well, it depends how Machiavellian one is in one's thinking, in assessing the other side. I say it's rather a long shot that. There's clear tension between them. They couldn't possibly be playing this kind of game as a manoeuvre without evidence of it emerging. So I don't believe that that is so. I think there are real substantial differences between them based on differing interests because De Klerk is not concerned so much with the future of the Zulus in Natal or the future of Buthelezi in the power bloc, to him I think he still has a desire to retain as much as possible the privileges of the old crowd. That's his key motivating factor, the key motivating factor in his strategic approach and he believes that Buthelezi is becoming an obstacle to something which he believes he has to do even in the interests of his own constituency.
POM. Just looking at the longer haul, say from February of 1990, what broad changes in ANC strategies would you see as having taken place? What broad changes in government strategy would you see having taken place?
JS. Well we've discussed one of the key elements of the change in the ANC's strategies as reflected in the debate and in the strategic document. As far as the government is concerned, I think they have been forced by pressure and a combination of pressure which leads to a bit of pragmatism to move away from some of their previous positions which could not form the foundation for a negotiated solution. They did begin with explicitly demanding a minority veto and a second chamber which would be based on minorities and so on and so forth. I think they have been forced to move away from that ambition. Deeply imbedded in their minds I think remains the desire to prevent a real transformation, but they know they can't. They know they've got to move, they've got no option. And as I might have said before that's the difference between De Klerk and his predecessors. They're all knee deep in apartheid, but De Klerk is a pragmatist, a leader who has emerged on the scene and grasped the nettle of reality up to a point.
POM. The SACP and COSATU, have they as organisations formally endorsed the strategic perspective?
JS. I'm not sure. I know there's been a conference or a central committee meeting of the party but I would say by and large it is accepted. For example, there was a regional conference of the PWV region of the party which broadly speaking accepted the main content of the strategic perspective. So the issue is still being discussed in a way. It is policy, it's policy adopted by the NEC of the ANC. It's still up for discussion at grassroots level and regions are continuing to debate it and to discuss it. Until it is changed it remains policy. But by and large the impression I have both within the ANC at the regional level and within the allied organisations, maybe they don't agree with, I wouldn't claim that everyone agrees with every sentence, but the broad thrust of the document I believe is accepted.
POM. When De Klerk took the action of firing his Generals and suspending some other ones how would you relate that to what you yourself have pointed out, which was even under a new dispensation the capability of stability from within the security forces, do you think De Klerk is in full control of his security forces or that he has to tread carefully, is forced by the need for ...?
JS. I'm sure that one of the factors could be that he's had to tread carefully because of the dangers from anti-reform elements within the security forces. Could be.
POM. What's your analysis when you look at it?
JS. My analysis is again that he's changed in a way. He was and still is perhaps a combination of pragmatism and opportunism. Pragmatism as I described earlier, there's got to be a transformation and that can only be brought about in negotiation with the ANC. Opportunism is the sense that the ANC is his political enemy and he would like to weaken it. I believe for a period of time after 1990 the actions of these maverick elements within the security forces suited De Klerk, hoping that it would weaken the ANC politically and therefore it influenced the degree to which he was prepared to open his eyes to what was really going on. I think the point has been reached for the other reasons that we've discussed where he can no longer continue tolerating, but I don't suggest that he was necessarily planning it all, but tolerating what was going on. It was obvious that unless steps were taken in the light of the revelations, exposures, the whole negotiating process would be in jeopardy. It had reached that point. Before his responses were, "Give me the evidence and I'll act." The evidence was there. He has been forced to act. So it's a different situation.
POM. Do you think the evidence is there to fully support the ANC's contention from the start that it's been the government that's been behind the violence?
JS. Well there's been a third force within government structures. I wouldn't say, myself, that the Cabinet was sitting taking decisions about attacks on Boipatong.
POM. One of the people have said to me that part of the problem in relation to the violence is that the ANC never admits to its own role in the violence and it is an actor in the violence.
JS. It has admitted to that, more than once. Of course some of our people have acted in an undisciplined way, have gone in for revenge killings. I think there have been statements to that effect. But, I mean, this doesn't detract from the main basis, for the continuing violence in the last few years which is the trigger mechanism. In a situation like South Africa you don't have to actually plan every act of violence, you can trigger it off and leave it to the inherited prejudices, ethnic feelings, emotions to make it continue rolling. And this is what has happened in the past. Not every act of violence can be attributed to the third force. Some are obviously connected with third force activity, like the attacks on the trains which are planned, blind attacks on people who are not even political targets. It's obviously not robbery, not desire for material gain, just to kill to create an atmosphere of violence. Now who benefits from that? It's not even the ANC now attacking Inkatha or Inkatha attacking the ANC. The train violence is just blind chaos, the creation of chaos by forces that have an agenda and we've seen the political kind of direction behind what they've been doing in many ways.
. One of the signs of what it's all about is if you look at a graph as to the level of violence when De Klerk used to go overseas, it just shot down for the period that he was there. I'm not suggesting he issued orders for it to decline. So you've got many indications that it is politically motivated violence, not just political forces fighting one another. It's incited, instigated. We know from the exposures relating to Inkatha how the state apparatus, I mean this is common cause, prepared Inkatha for the violence, training them in the Caprivi Strip, supplying them with weaponry, supplying them with money for the purpose of outmanoeuvring the ANC in the political field and so on. So then you can leave it to Inkatha once you do that. You don't have to sit and take decisions about each attack.
POM. Do you think the violence has reached a level of where it is on the point of getting out of control, that it develops a momentum of its own that just feeds on itself?
JS. Yes, there's a danger of that and it has partly happened in different areas. I think the whole Peace Accord process has helped to de-escalate violence, not in absolute terms but in relative terms. I think it would have been much higher had it not been for the Peace Accord efforts and one hopes that in this coming year at any rate we will be able to do something about diminishing this ghastly violence.
POM. My question would be that if the level of violence persists at its present levels, could you conduct free and fair elections within the next year?
JS. Yes, quite clearly. It would cause problems in the electoral process but as Cohen, the Secretary of State for African Affairs, told De Klerk in the communication which has been published, he must not use the level of violence as a way of postponing an election because this is conceding to the dark forces exactly what they want us to concede. There's no way in which one can postpone the process as a result of the violence. One's got to try to reduce the level of violence and I think that it's possible to do it. I'm not saying it's possible to eliminate it altogether. There will be elements, among the white right wing, for example, who have got even a greater capacity to really prevent any kind of transformation on the argument that you can't have a fair election in an atmosphere of violence. So we will just have to do our best.
POM. Let me ask you a question that's slightly, not side-bar, but parallel. If you look at what's happened in Europe, particularly in Yugoslavia in the last two years which has turned into a horrendous blood bath on the level that most western nations wouldn't even have considered possible five years ago, where the language has been debased with new phrases like 'ethnic cleansing', do you think that that widens the parameters in which other people see scope for taking action on their own?
JS. You mean the example in Yugoslavia?
POM. Yes. Whites who were prepared before to maybe be less accepting, be more insisting on carving a white state.
JS. Well I think if anything the horror of what's going on in Yugoslavia should convince any thinking white that they face a ghastly future if they were to attempt to trigger off a Yugoslav type situation. They've got more to lose than even the blacks in that kind of situation, especially with the race element. Well it is in Yugoslavia too an ethnic element but not based black/white. In this country with the reality of the numerical proportions in the population to risk a civil war between white and black, I don't think any sane white (there are a few insane whites) would risk that.
POM. Since you've come back into the country and in all your dealings with the government at official and unofficial levels have you ever received an acknowledgement publicly or privately on their part that apartheid was wrong, was morally wrong?
JS. No. I think there's only one minister who has actually ...
POM. That's Wessels.
JS. No, I mean, from the very first meeting at Groote Schuur there's a record of, it's unfortunately confidential, De Klerk spent much of his time responding to Mandela on apartheid and maintaining the position that the people who initiated it and practised it were wrong in the sense that it turned out to be impractical, but they were motivated by the highest ideals.
POM. Do you get any feeling from the larger white community that apartheid was wrong?
JS. I haven't spoken to the larger white community, but one senses that more and more whites have come to accept that apartheid was morally disgusting.
POM. Do you think there must be some acknowledgement of this on their part before a true reconciliation can take place, or are the politics of power simply ...?
JS. I'm not saying there must be an acknowledgement before we can reach a settlement. We can't say to them unless you bare your breasts and say we were a lot of bastards, we can't settle. But I think in the end as a process, reconciliation demands that more and more the past is cleansed in every sense, both at the personal and social level, that people recognise the horrifying past from which we've come. It's very important.
POM. Let's go back to CODESA for a moment. I know my hour is nearly up. I think I've talked to almost all of the principals who were involved in the negotiations last summer on both sides and on the question of what happened regarding the percentages moving from 662/3% to 70% on the ANC side, from 80% on the government side. Everyone has a different version of what was at issue and the sequence of events. What was your understanding of what was the sequence of events?
JS. No, no, the real divide between us was (it's rather difficult to give you a sequence of events without reminding oneself with documents) but the fundamental divide at CODESA 2 relates to the question, "Who writes the constitution?" The government in various shapes and forms was putting forward proposals which would in fact amount to a constitution, the essential elements of the constitution being decided at CODESA. Our position was, and is, that the essential elements of the constitution have got to be adopted by a democratically elected body. So all the rest is really basically peripheral.
POM. Every government Minister that I've talked to, and that would include both Tertius Delport and Roelf Meyer, would say that it was agreed at CODESA that the powers of the regions would be entrenched in the constitution itself and that the boundary of the regions would be drawn up in a forum other than a Constituent Assembly. Would you agree with that?
JS. Not true. There was a formulation. We did agree at CODESA that there be certain constitutional principles, universal constitutional principles which would be entrenched and indeed the Constituent Assembly would not be permitted to depart from them. These are the general universal human rights, freedom of association, independent judiciary, general divisions of powers between executive judiciary, etc., etc. And among the constitutional principles was a paragraph which said there shall be regions, which we've always accepted, and the powers and functions of the regions shall, I don't recall the exact formulation, but not, certainly not to be determined at CODESA itself. There shall be a division of powers.
POM. What I'm getting at is that there's a very different interpretation of what actually was agreed on, they're going on the assumption that these issues have already been settled. You're saying they haven't been settled?
JS. It's absolute nonsense. Absolute nonsense. It was agreed when that was the very issue, one of the very issues which led to the deadlock. They wanted, sometimes not so directly, they wanted a second chamber which would be representative of all the regions not based on proportional representation really, but equal representation and the constitution would have to be passed by that chamber as well. That was another mechanism for trying to get that issue out of the way, which we rejected. But there was never, never an agreement that we decide at CODESA what the powers and functions of the regions would be and whether it would be a unitary or a federal state. Indeed if you look at the minutes of CODESA you'll find on this very question as to whether there should be a federal or unitary state there's some formulation and there was a rider added which was agreed to by the Working Group at which we were all present that this neither accepts or rejects unitarism or federalism and this formulation must not be interpreted to either accept or reject. In other words it was to be left to the elected body.
POM. During the negotiations who impressed you on the government side? Who did you come away from with respect for their skill and their diligence?
JS. I think Viljoen was quite a capable negotiator. I think Meyer, Roelf Meyer is a reasonable sort of person, at least he projects himself as such. It's easier to negotiate with him than somebody like Tertius.
POM. You found Tertius hard to take?
JS. Yes. My personal theory for the collapse of CODESA 2 is that two days before we met Tertius developed the most terrible flu and he behaved like he was really a sick man in the last stages. Anyway, that's just an aside.
POM. Why did the circumstances surrounding this percentage issue, why did it arouse so much debate and passion within the ANC itself? Again, for example, I've talked to many members of both the NEC and the National Working Group who said, "Thank God the government turned down the 70% because, gee, we might have had real trouble in selling it to our constituents, it could have been a mistake of major proportions."
JS. Well you pays your money you takes your choice. I don't believe it would have been difficult to have sold that package and it was a package that was in fact adopted by a majority of the Patriotic Front before it was put forward, not just by the Working Committee of the ANC, but by what we call the Patriotic Front at CODESA. A meeting was called before this proposal was made and I believe had that package that we put forward, and of course you'd have to examine that, had that package been accepted I think it would have been, to me, a worthwhile forward movement and it wouldn't have really undermined our position in any substantial way.
POM. Did the government turn down the best deal it could ever have gotten? Did it, out of greed push for more?
JS. I don't know. I don't know. We still don't know what deal we're going to have either.
POM. In many respects they will think you will have made what to them would be a key concession?
JS. You see that's why you must not look at it in an isolated way because that key concession was based on the rest and the rest was unacceptable to them. Had they accepted the rest I think it would have been, as I say, quite a significant forward movement. And I think somehow it would have been understood. I think it's a red herring the 70% issue.
POM. But it means that when the government goes back into negotiations you believe the government goes back in a weaker negotiating position?
JS. Yes, I would say so quite objectively speaking.
POM. So the balance of the negotiating power is beginning to seem to give the ...?
JS. For the other reasons that I mentioned, tried to outline earlier, you've got a much weakened, compared to the day after the referendum where they really became arrogant and became victims of their old propaganda that they had now received a majority from South Africa although it was only from the white constituency, and this infected their attitude and they were arrogant. I think there's less of that now.
POM. Just two last questions. How did De Klerk interpret that mandate that he got in the referendum?
JS. Well he interpreted it as a mandate to try and go ahead with, certainly in relation to his own constituency because he was in trouble. He didn't hold the referendum in order to strengthen his hand against us.
POM. But he could have moved forward more quickly and he chose to go the other route, to toughen his attitudes?
JS. Yes. And a result of it is the psychology of the white politician now, that he thinks he's strong because the whites have given him a good majority and this infected their thinking.
POM. Last. In resuming negotiations is there one issue in which the ANC has a bottom line, which is in essence non-negotiable.
JS. Oh yes we have quite a few non-negotiable bottom lines. The key one is that the constitution has to be drafted and adopted by an elected body, a democratically elected body. From that we cannot retreat. That there be nothing in the constitutional principles decided at a multi-party conference, whether it's CODESA or some other forum, which will replace the constitution making process of an elected body with the kind of ... There are a whole lot of other issues from which we can't retreat at all. They would have liked to have drawn up now a Bill of Rights which would fix forever the kind of economic future of the country and which would limit the possibilities of the newly elected democratic government to engage in affirmative action. Things like that. No way.
. But on other issues like regions, you've seen our regional policy document? We've moved on that. At least we've begun to think about it, not that we've changed so much. We've always accepted that there would be regions and they would have to have some powers, but we are prepared to discuss and we are going to discuss with the other side, leave aside emotive words like federalism, unitarism, let us see what is the gap between us on this question, as between the two of us. What should be the powers of the regions and what should be the powers of the central government? We're prepared to discuss that with them. Not as part of a constitutional principle which would bind an elected body but bilaterally to reach perhaps, if we can, some kind of agreement. And this might well be even in the case of a short period of a government of national unity between us. But again, we're not prepared to have it entrenched permanently as they wanted all the time in the constitution.
POM. OK, thanks.
PAT. Just one question. It has to do with preparations for elections. By your own longest timetable there are 16 months between now and May of 1994 and even that date doesn't seem to be acceptable to the ANC which keeps trying to push elections before, to 1993. But if one looks at elections that have occurred in Africa in the last six months, Angola, Ghana, Kenya, Ethiopia, the democratic forces have suffered greatly because there was insufficient time and preparation for those elections. Where is the time frame here? Where do you think it is absolutely essential that there be an transitional authority and election commission, a date set for elections that has to happen in order to get ready?
JS. Well our time scale is that the Transitional Executive body and the Independent Electoral Commission and the Independent Media Commission should be set up by March or April and we believe there would be enough time.
PAT. And do you think all these issues and differences between the government that are still here, that are fundamental, can be resolved by then?
JS. Well we hope so. If we can't resolve them then obviously the time scale will be out of focus. But we're meeting and we're going to discuss all these issues. This is, we believe, realistic and possible.
POM. Thank you very much. I'll send a transcript to you in due course and in due course I'll contact you again.
JS. I didn't know this was a sort of life's work that I am going to be engaged in.
POM. Both your life and mine.