About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

04 Aug 1993: Nqakula, Charles

Click here for more information on the Interviewee

Click here for Overview of the year

POM     Charles, you had just begun by saying that what you had said up to the middle of 1991 ...

CN     You see I left the country in 1984, I was an underground worker with both the ANC and the South African Communist Party. And when one of the people we were working with underground was arrested we were advised to leave the country because it would have had very serious implications, not just for the individuals involved in our project but for the project itself. And it was, therefore, thought that it would be judicious on our part to leave the country. Then I then went into exile towards the end of 1984. I subsequently, after my training both politically and militarily, was appointed the Head of Underground Structures in the entire Cape Province. Of course, at the time we were also responsible for the Orange Free State but in 1986 it was decided that we should concentrate on the Cape. Well, our project was a straightforward one, it was for insurrection and we had to build therefore viable structures, political/military structures inside the country and part of that project was to infiltrate into the country senior leadership from the African National Congress and, of course, the South African Communist Party.

     And, therefore, when our organisations were unbanned in 1990 we were in the middle of that project and we did not immediately perceive a transformation of the political situation in the country to the point where it is today. And therefore, even in 1991 we were still talking about the possibility of a transfer of power to the majority of the people via any options that could be available to us, including armed struggle. It was, of course, very difficult to comprehend why the leadership had accepted to suspend armed activity inside the country because we thought that armed action could go hand-in-hand with negotiations. But there was some kind of legitimacy in the approach of the leadership, because if we say we continue with armed action then you can't expect the people you negotiate with to negotiate in good faith. And in any event these negotiations were initiated us, they are in a sense our baby, and we therefore ought to be at the forefront of pushing for the transformation of our country into a thorough-going democracy.

     In other words, up to that point there are certain things we were saying in the South African Communist Party. We were still looking at nationalisation as an option and not nationalisation of a few levels of the commanding heights of the economy in this country. But we are looking at nationalisation as a concept in terms of Marxism-Leninism and we were still talking about the dictatorship of the proletariat in classic Marxist-Leninist terms. Of course, as we were sitting down and negotiating, some of the positions we had been taking were gradually changing because it was becoming clearer to us that we are in charge of the process of democratisation inside the country. We have the necessary history and necessary credentials for leading the democratisation process because over many years when all of the organisations in this country were not non-racial we were non-racial and we were talking about democracy, democracy that we saw as a prerogative and privilege of all the people of this country. We never saw ours as a race and racist struggle. We saw ours as a struggle for democratisation and anyone, therefore, who is a progressive democrat in this country always had a place in our organisations. But as I say it is instructive to see how suddenly we are forced to change from politics of resistance in the classical sense to politics of negotiations where we have had to make some compromises.

POM     I'll get to those. But first I'd like to ask you about the political consequences of Chris Hani's death, both within the Alliance itself and the external world, and the larger world outside.

CN     You know, those who planned his assassination had calculated that the murder would completely demoralise and many of our people would be intimidated and we would want to, also, plunge this country into an orgy of violence. But what they did not bargain for was the fact that that assassination has motivated a lot of people and there are more people now, post his assassination, that are supporting, not just the South African Communist Party, but the African National Congress as well. Our membership has been increasing because people are saying that they would like to express their anger by participating in our struggle. There is a survey that has been done recently by one of the better respected organisations in this country, Markinor, and in terms of that survey the party standing has increased after Chris's death. When last time 15% of the people were supporting us it has now shot up to a respectable 22%. And whereas people may have believed that comrade Chris as an individual was commanding so much respect and popularity within the ranks of the people of this country, and that possibly if he was removed from the scene those sympathies and support accorded him would then be given to someone else. The fact of the matter is, in terms of that survey, the recent survey by Markinor, the number two person now in terms of popularity within the black community is Joe Slovo, another South African Communist Party leader.

     But in terms of our own structures and organisation on the ground, a lot of people have shown a lot of interest in party and they've been joining the party. And what is even more interesting to us, is the amount of support and solidarity we have received from white people. There have been many who have made inquiries in terms of joining the party, particularly Afrikaners, because comrade Chris had begun to speak with white people, and in particular, Afrikaners. He spoke, and I'm sure he's the first and possibly only leader of our alliance, with white farmers in the Orange Free State. And his last meeting was in Pretoria where he addressed white business people, farmers, academics. And in that meeting there are quite a number of them who stood up to say that, "Look, we are beginning to understand you, because for many years we have been the victims of the propaganda machinations of the system, and to us you represented chaos, anarchy and evil but now we are beginning to understand you as a warm-hearted person. And there is a person who is generally concerned about the situation in our country not only for you, in other words it is not self-aggrandisement at all, but you are concerned about all of us in this country." And they said, "We are also beginning to understand the socialist project you are involved in." And we believe that that is one of the reasons he had to be removed.

     But what has happened is that not just people inside South Africa have now become so sympathetic to our cause, but people abroad as well. There are quite a number of people that we were not expecting to react in this fashion, who have come to us and offered assistance, particularly in the area of security, because they believed that if we had had a very strong security network, comrade Chris would not at least have died in the manner that he did. This shows you to what extent his assassination has served to mobilise our people, but it does not take away from the situation, the fact that he had very, very unique talent and his contribution to the South African Communist Party as well as the African National Congress, and therefore our national democratic revolution has been tremendous. He is sorely missed as a leader who was able to provide a very unique leadership. Many of us become very courageous in his bravery. We were empowered in his kind of leadership style and he believed very, very firmly in consultation. And therefore the collective that he has left behind is a collective that has been greatly empowered. We are not the only ones who have derived those kinds of benefit from contact with him. Everybody that he has been in contact with has been empowered. And therefore, if we were to look back to the period before his assassination, whereas we were growing then and growing steadily, our growth has now been redoubled as a result, as I say, of the sympathy and solidarity that we gotten from people. In other words, in his death we have derived tremendous benefits and we have become very strong, while on the other hand, of course, we are missing his particularly unique style of leadership and the inputs through his very incisive intellect he was providing to the party for the benefit of the party and, of course, as I say the national democratic revolution as well.

POM     There's another killing, and that is the massacre at Bisho in October of last year. I've read in many places and many people have said to me that it was the SACP who were the key organisers behind that march and that part of the strategy was that if Bisho fell and Colonel Oupa Gqozo was ousted that the next thing would be to concentrate on Buthelezi and Mangope through mass action, kind of oust one homeland leader after the other, the culmination being the ousting of De Klerk himself through mass action, through some modification of what has always been called at the time the Leipzig option, the model that people power could make things happen, that says that the people who died in Bisho haven't died in vain. Was the SACP the key organiser to that end and did they have any strategy in line just to do that? What would happen if the Ciskei would fall?

CN     Well before I answer that direct question, let me correct an impression that is obviously wrong. What was intended as part and parcel of a broader programme of action was to pressurise Gqozo, Buthelezi and Mangope to open up space for us to participate in their areas in terms of the political activity of our people there, as part and parcel of our programme for the levelling of the playing fields in this country. It was never intended that, for instance, we would have toppled Gqozo via mass action. There is not a single one of us who would have thought that people unarmed would simply have gone to the Ciskei, which is a military junta, and hope via that kind of action to topple Gqozo. We are trained militarily and we would never have envisaged a situation like that. There's not a single person who was armed when we demonstrated against Gqozo and we could not have hoped that that kind of mass action would have toppled him. Our desire was to go into Bisho and occupy Bisho, in the same way that we have been occupying a number of important installations in South Africa. And the same, approach would have been taken in respect to Buthelezi, to Bophuthatswana, to simply engage in the kind of action that would have opened space for us for free political activity.

     Of course, this kind of programme was discussed by the entire alliance, both at the regional as well as the national level. We have a national coordinating committee, campaigns coordinating committee of the alliance, and this programme was submitted to that committee. The committee agreed and it was taken to the regions and the regions agreed. And from the Ciskei we would have gone, as you correctly say, to KwaZulu and then to Bophuthatswana as part and parcel of that programme. But it was mass action to open up for free political activity. Even the Leipzig option was not meant to topple the government, it was meant to open space for democratic activity and the government was therefore forced to accept the will of the people, and that is what happened.

     But the conditions in Germany are completely different from our conditions here. In Germany one was dealing with a country, an entire country, and the Leipzig option related to the entire country. In our situation, our own option of mass activity related to these various areas where there is no free political activity. But to answer your question, the SACP was not the prime mover of this thing. It was discussed by the entire Alliance who said what, when and where, I would never be able to tell you, I can't quote chapter and verse of how this idea evolved. And as you saw on that day, it was the leadership of the Alliance that participated, that is why you saw a Cyril Ramaphosa from the ANC, a Chris Hani from the SACP, and John Gomomo from COSATU towards an Alliance project.

POM     Talking about violence in general, it seems that the violence taking place now has assumed a kind of a life of its own. Tokyo Sexwale said the other day that the violence was defeating the ANC, that it was on the verge of getting out of control and that nobody could stop it. And I've talked to a number of people in Thokoza where I talked to hostel dwellers, and IFP members, among them ANC people, and they all agree - I mean, when you talk to ordinary people, that something is happening that is getting out of control and that nobody can stop it. That even if you had a new South Africa tomorrow it would make no difference; that in the communities this kind of violence is so rooted that even a new government would be unable to stop it. What are your thoughts on the violence that is going on now in the townships or do you characterise it as there being a difference in the violence of the those days 1990/91 or 1992?

CN     Let's put this violence in its proper context. There are a lot of people who would want us to believe that this violence is black on black and who believe that this violence is as a result of political competition and rivalry between the African National Congress and Inkatha. There is obviously political rivalry and political rivalry that has an historical context. I'm not going to go into that historical context, not unless you want me to explain the historical context.

POM     Please explain what that historical context is.

CN     Buthelezi, according to him, was a member of the ANC Youth League, that is not in dispute. But in the 1970s, the late 1970s, there was a meeting between Buthelezi, leading a large delegation from KwaZulu, and the African National Congress led by Oliver Tambo. There was agreement at that meeting that Buthelezi would resuscitate Inkatha. Before that, Inkatha was only a cultural grouping of Zulu people and it was now entering the realm of politics. And the arrangement, therefore, was that Buthelezi would use Inkatha as a vehicle for the African National Congress for our national democratic struggle. And when he came back into the country, he began to do a lot of things that the ANC was doing, he began to use the slogan of the ANC, "Amandla nga wethu", and as you can see, their flag now is exactly the ANC flag bar the red, which is a recent thing, and the white. If you look at their ties, you look their epaulets and what have you, it's the colours of the ANC. Well, there was no objection to that, we thought it was part and parcel of our arrangement but it became clear very quickly that he had his own agenda, and there are people within Inkatha who detected that he had his own agenda. As a result his first Secretary General had to resign from Inkatha.

POM     That's Oscar Dhlomo?

CN     No, Sibusiso Bengu, who is now the Rector at Fort Hare University. He was their first Secretary General and he could see the drift away from the ANC, and could see that Buthelezi had his own agenda and he resigned. But immediately he resigned, and because he knew so much, he understood what was happening, which was contrary to the arrangement with the ANC. His life was threatened and he had to go into exile because his life was threatened. He's come back now with the unbanning of the organisation. And from that moment it was becoming clearer and clearer by the day, that Buthelezi was actually not working with the ANC and began to attack the ANC, attack the ANC because of the armed struggle, attack the ANC because of our sanctions stance. And he has been, from those days, as a big challenge against the ANC because he thought that because the ANC was banned and the leadership of the ANC was in exile, he could then impose himself on the political scene as the alternative to the ANC. And because that has not worked, and, of course, he was going for membership, he started a recruitment drive where people were being forced to become members of Inkatha. But then, as soon as the ANC started its own programmes and put into place viable underground structures, it became clear that a number of people had not aligned themselves with Inkatha. And this became worse when the ANC was unbanned.

     And whereas many people, particularly people abroad, believed that he is the leader of the Zulus, he is not. There are so many Zulus who are members of the African National Congress, of the South African Communist Party, PAC, AZAPO and other structures in this country, that he cannot claim to be leader of the Zulus. He is leader of Inkatha, and the support that he has among Zulu people is support from Inkatha not support from the entire Zulu tribe in this country. And the best thing he can do now is to use violence against our people. But it is not his desire to use violence because his own people are being killed in this violence.

     But there are other people who are using violence to delay the process of democratisation in our country, and to even plunge this country into a full-scale orgy of violence so that there is no change at all, people who are benefiting from the status quo. And they see in him a person who would be quite happy to be used in that fashion, and it's even possible that he does not realise that he is being used. Why are we saying there is a third force in this country? We are saying so because there have been many instances where people, who don't even speak the local languages - you know when you are in South Africa I may not be a Sotho speaking person but at least I will understand that this person is speaking Sotho, that person is speaking Zulu, Pedi, Tswana, and what have you. But there are people who have gotten on to trains, who have gone to people in mourning at vigils and wakes, who have gone to people relaxing in shebeens and what have you, and simply blazed away at those people. And they have not uttered a single word, because they don't speak the local languages. Even in terms of giving instructions to those who have been shooting, it has been some kind of silent assassin that has been responsible for the escalation of this violence. And fortunately, recently the police took a video shot of some people in the East Rand at a hostel there who shot at the hostel from behind when there was march of the ANC that was passing by. And the people in the hostel, obviously, believed that it was the people, the ANC people who were shooting at them and they also fired back, so to speak. But clearly those people who were behind the hostel were not part march and obviously not part of the ANC. But the strategy there was to provoke the hostel-dwellers. It's not the only situation where this has been illustrated in no uncertain terms.

     But let's come back to the political leadership, particularly the regime. Many has the occasion been when our people have reported instances of the police picking up hostel dwellers from the hostels and dropping them off at a strategic point, for the hostel dwellers to launch an attack on the communities and after that attack, these people being accompanied by police and soldiers in Casspirs back to the hostels. There are many of those instances, Munsiefield is one of them, there was the press there that recorded that incident. And the few who were arrested were finally all released, no charges preferred against them. The recent upsurge of violence and our people actually going to Thembisa on Sunday - and what do they find there? They find some policemen, and the policeman in charge is asked pertinent questions. One of the things that happened is that despite the fact that the attack had taken place on the Saturday evening around seven, there were still corpses inside cars that were burnt out, that had not been removed. And when people asked this policeman why those bodies had not been removed, he said well, they were still waiting for experts. I suppose these would have been forensic experts. But people asked at the time, it was 4.30 in the afternoon on Sunday, people asked but when are these experts coming? Then he said, "No, I do not know."

     It shows you the lack political will on the part of the regime and the police who are charged with the task of stopping this violence. They are not going to stop this violence, but more than that, if policemen and soldiers really want to stop violence, why do they allow people from the hostels to leave the hostels go into the townships in the presence of armed forces and they are not stopped, why is that? Because, I am telling you, if we were in charge and we were responsible for law and order, we would simply have a cordon of armed people preventing people from the townships attacking the hostels and people from the hostels leaving the hostels to attack the people in the township. We would obviously want to do that, but it is not been done.

POM     There are a couple of families there in Thokoza that I track every year, that I talk to, everyone in the family, the children, the aunts, uncles who live around. And one of the families is pretty politically active in the IFP people. Now this woman could document from dates, times when the SAP was siding with the ANC, when their house was attacked, I don't how many times it had been burnt out. Her whole interpretation was that, "The ANC, with the help of the South African Police, are trying to eliminate us, burn us out of our homes." While I was there a couple of women came in from another area, they'd been burnt out of their home the night before. And if you listen to them you get the impression that the ANC is some kind of a monster, that's in collaboration with the South African Police. But these are real people, nobody was making anything up. How do you deal with a situation like that or can you?

CN      Yes, I can. You know what, in this violence we are more likely to lose. We are going into an election and it is our people, the blacks, who are getting killed, and not De Klerk's people. De Klerk's people are not getting killed. And it is our people who fearing an attack even when they queue up to cast their votes on election day may not turn up because they may not turn up because they are intimidated. It is our people, it's not the white people. How do we get involved in that kind of violence that is eliminating the voters that we need, which is going to keep those very voters away from the ballot boxes simply because they fear that someone may come and simply open fire on them? How do we get involved? We are the ones that are going to lose in this situation and we would not want to lose voters. Therefore our interest would be to stop the violence, and not encourage the violence.

     But more than that, I have already indicated that, one, we are involved in a national democratic struggle, and we want to see South Africa democratised sooner rather than later and this violence is threatening that transformation. How, then, do we reconcile the fact that we want a speedy transformation of our country which will benefit us, that will benefit us in terms of our national democratic revolution? And if we go to the poll early, in other words, sooner rather than later, we have more chance of winning those elections. But for as long as there is a delay we are likely to lose because of the violence. And, therefore, we cannot encourage the violence, it is not in our interest.

     But there are people when you sit down, who clearly are going to reap handsome benefits from this violence. Firstly, there is the argument from Buthelezi and his Inkatha, that for as long as there is violence in this country we can't start the process of democratisation, in other words, we can't even hold an election. Which means that he has an interest in the escalation of the violence. The same with the right-wingers. Now, if I go to my people, suppose I was a member of Inkatha and we have meetings, I would simply say to them, "Listen here, don't you see that when the police come they favour the ANC?" so that among members of the armed forces here who are sympathetic towards us, who would want to arrest IFP people because they are carrying dangerous arms and are involved in assaults of people? Then when I address my people, if I was Inkatha I would say, "Those people are siding with the ANC." And this is a fact. You will realise what I'm saying from what Goebbels was telling his own people in Germany, you see. You tell a lie, and you tell it a hundred times and people will believe you. But the facts indicate the contrary, that we are not benefiting from the violence and we would be stupid to want to escalate violence because it affects our chances of being the next government in this country under a democratic dispensation.

POM     It simply, perhaps, suggests to me that no-one is really in control of their constituency any more than De Klerk is in full control of the security forces or the police, and that the police may do what they want, just be with Inkatha one day, disobey orders and not carry out investigations, or be slow to respond, and that he's not in control in that sense, and that both Mr Mandela and Mr Buthelezi could issue common declarations or appeals to lay down your arms, stop the fighting. That's simply going nowhere in certain townships and in certain areas in Natal this is a kind of a war at the grassroots that no one can get their hand on. That's why I was referring back to what Tokyo was saying in terms of the violence, that, "If IFP don't get the violence under control it will defeat us."

CN     It is true, I mean we can't even in our own ranks claim to be in full control of our people on the ground, we can't. It has gone out of hand, but what we have to understand if we look at the facts, is that many has the occasion been when the violence has died down in quite a number of our areas and when, and it is not the grassroots people who'll have this kind of political perception and perspective to understand the changes and dynamic generally in the political situation, but when there is about to be a breakthrough in terms of the negotiations, there is a sudden flare-up. Why is that? Would you believe that the people in the squatter camps where this is happening understand the dynamics of the impending breakthrough? They don't, they would not understand those dynamics. There are others, though, who would understand that if there is no violence then this breakthrough happens, we are in problems, therefore, let us stop that breakthrough by escalating violence. And then there a is sudden flare-up that we can't explain.

     There are a lot of instances of violence now and escalation simply because we are on the verge of an important breakthrough and that breakthrough is that by the end of August negotiations must have been completed so that we can put into place transitional structures as the first phase towards democratisation and towards the holding of democratic elections. And, therefore, whereas we may admit that at one level that this violence now has become uncontrollable, the fact of the matter is history will prove that there have been moments when it has subsided to a point of completely dying out. But when we are about to achieve certain things in the negotiations process it suddenly flares up. We must not believe that there is no-one who is stoking up this violence. Facts point to some third force that is stoking this violence and no-one can convince me that the people in the squatter camps understand when a breakthrough is about to happen, no-one can tell me that. So that, whereas, ordinarily there are people who are seen to be attacking and there is counter-attack, we ought to investigate why does the attack, the initial action happened in the first place.

     It happens because there is someone who will pretend to be Inkatha, lead and attack on an ANC place, and the ANC retaliates. Same thing with respect to Inkatha. Someone pretends to be ANC, they attack Inkatha and there is retaliation from the ranks of Inkatha. What needs to be done, because there is no other way, De Klerk is not in control, as you have said, of the situation, we are not in control of our people, Inkatha is not in control of their people. But as soon as our own people see forward movement, I'm telling you, they are going to support us for what we were doing. They were despondent now because they don't see any forward movement. And as soon as we say, for instance, "Here's a transitional structure", our people are going to be happy with that because it signifies the forward movement. And in order for us to deal once and for all with this violence it is necessary that the armed forces be under joint control. There is no way in which it is going to be done, there is no political will to do so from the ranks of the regime, the armed forces themselves are in such a state that they don't care what happens in terms of this violence. You should understand that many of them are also protecting their own interests. They are not certain about the future, but what is obviously sitting in their minds is the possibility that after the transformation many of them may be removed from the armed forces, and others may be even be prosecuted in terms of the past activities. There is that fear among the armed forces. And to them, therefore, it is better that the process is delayed rather than expedite it. But as soon as we have armed forces under multi-party joint control ...

POM     To turn to another matter, the constitution, draft constitution, that's got on the table since last Monday week, on a scale of 1 - 10 how satisfied were you, or the SACP, in terms of how it met the requirements of what you would want to have seen as the ideal constitution?

CN     There are certain measures that we require to handle the transformation before a constitution has been drafted. In fact we are worried about day one after the elections. If at twelve 'o clock the announcement has been made that here are the results, you know what happens at that moment that the National Party is no longer in government and all the structures, there's no structure that is in government? The TEC itself is not in government at that point and between that of the announcement of the elections and the appointment of the new structures of government, do you realise that effectively there's no government in the country? It would be a very, very terrible constitutional void, because anyone can do anything and there'll be no-one who is ultimately responsible. The only structure that will be there at that point will be your peacekeeping structure because the TEC shall have fallen away, but at least there will be a joint control, joint military control at that point. But these would be the only people who'll have a structure that is in control of anything but there would be no minister who would be ultimately responsible for the armed forces. Which means that we need to have a measure that will take care of that period.

     Let's come back to the draft constitution. That draft constitution simply takes into consideration the period before a constitution has been drafted in the country. But the measure is a measure that proposes to take care of a period in the future and conditions may completely change which may necessitate the promulgation of other laws, other interim measures to deal with the situation at that time. The draft constitution that is now in place could never have satisfied anyone, because it sought to take in the interests of all the various organisations there. And to us it obviously does not satisfy our own understanding of what ought to be happening. And one of the things that I've already indicated to you is the constitutional void that will happen during that period before the appointment of proper and adequate government structures.

     And on a scale, therefore, of 1-10, we in the party cannot claim to be satisfied to a 50% kind of position. To us, and of course we accept that interim constitution, it is an interim constitution as far as we are concerned and the constitution makers subsequently are not going to be bound by that constitution. They may throw it out in its entirety, but it is not the kind of satisfactory measure that would have satisfied our interest in the party. And on a scale of 1-10, therefore, I would say our registration would only be four.

POM     When you look back to last June, when CODESA 2 collapsed, up to the present time, what concessions do you see the government as having made and what concessions do you see the Alliance as having made in order to bring things back to the point where they are today?

CN     Let's look at the Alliance first. We had a scenario that we had mapped out and to us at the time that scenario would have put into place a situation where there would not have been any doubt. For starters, we said that the party that wins the elections forms the government, and at its discretion other people could be appointed from other organisations in that kind of a government. The shift that has happened in respect to that one is that it would be a government of national unity. In other words, whether we liked it not, organisations that satisfy a threshold of 5% would of necessity become part and parcel of the government structure in the land, it no longer becomes optional on our part. We would have to do it as matter of constitutional understanding. Also, we were talking, in terms of the transitional executive, of a situation where we would simply be part and parcel of people who would be in charge of certain areas of governance in this country. We were obviously looking at defence, law and order. We were looking at finance, local government and foreign affairs, something like that. Our arrangement was to simply ensure that the regime did not unilaterally do these because we would be disadvantaged if this were to happen. And as part and parcel of that, and in particular with respect to the armed forces, we were then saying that we needed a command structure to be responsible for the armed formations and this would be a multi-party joint control structure.

     But to a very large extent, in discussions that we have had with the generals in this country, it has become clear that the regime is looking at something else. They are looking at integration of our forces, and the generals remaining the chief participants. Command and control would remain in the hands of the generals. Of course we are still pushing that the position ought be where there is joint control so that the entire armed forces are monitored by everybody inside the country. But there are certain things to which we have now agreed where the police, for instance, would be in charge of law and order during this period, where we are saying there will be monitoring that will be taking place. But where we are not saying that we will then choose, because the history in this country is peppered with incidents where the police, in particular, we responsible for our oppression. And given that situation, there are obviously those people that we would not want to be part and parcel of the law enforcement process because of their particular history. But we are dropping that and saying that there ought to be some kind of joint structure that monitors what happens in terms of the police force. And to a very large extent, this is not going to alter the situation at grassroots level. The notorious policeman would still be there at Zakheni in Natal Midlands, he'll still be there in other areas and will still be continuing with the work that he has been doing to further perpetuate the oppression of our people because we are no longer insisting that those people have to be withdrawn and we have a force that is going to be multi-party, and therefore subject to other instructions.

     And then in terms of our scenario by now we ought to have finished negotiations, by now we ought to have already put into place a transitional structure. But again, we had to compromise because new people came in, and there were delays in the negotiations process and we did not want to force a quickening of the pace in the negotiations process. As a result a lot of our people are seeing a gradual movement away from our original positions and "kowtowing", so to speak, to the interests of what they see as the minority. Every time we speak on public platforms we talk about white fears, and our people are asking us, "What about black fears?" Now, if you speak about black fears you multiply white fears on one hand, and you can't move forward in that way. Which means we have to seek a balance between the two.

     With respect to the government, the concessions they have been making will not be as perceptible as the concessions that we have made because we have had a number of bilateral meetings with the regime, and, at the end of the day when there is agreement it is because they also have moved away from their positions and we've moved away from our position. So that what constitutes compromise on our part is also compromise on their part. Because this is not how they envisaged the transformation. At best the regime was looking for what we now call "low intensity democracy" in terms of which it would just be a perception that there is change in the country, change via the ballot box. But we understand that the ballot box does not change the lot of our people. You can go to the ballot box as often as possible but it will not change your lot if conditions really change in terms of the people's lives and livelihood. And the regime, therefore, had a scenario that would not have changed the content of our lives in this country which would not have been thoroughgoing democracy to even change the power relations in the country politically and economically. That is the situation.

POM     The question I've asked everybody in the last four years is, is this a process about the sharing of power or a process about the transfer of power?

CN     The transfer of power. Because it has not happened as a result of insurrection, for instance, it becomes difficult to achieve as just one stroke. It has to come about as a result of changes in terms of attitudes, in terms of material conditions on the ground. But we have agreed to power-sharing simply because we need a measure inside the country that will ensure that at least after the first election, which will be an election about the installation of democracy in the country, all those who have, through a democratic election, been elected into office as law-makers and as drafters of the constitution as part of the constitution-making body, ought to be involved in terms of phasing-in the new democracy. There are many structures that will not be in place, as I've already indicated, on day one after the elections. Local government structures will not be in place, regional structures will not be in place. There is also going to be a process, after they are created, of law-making and therefore, the evolvement of constitutional constitution at those levels. When all of that is happening, you need a united body as a government of the day responsible for governance to facilitate a smooth transition and, suppose the ANC with a 54% victory margin even a 60% victory margin that has 40% people in opposition to it, were to immediately after the first election assume power and it is only the ANC and its allies that form government from that moment onwards, we would have to deal with counter-reaction, we would have to deal with a Gatsha Buthelezi who would refuse to accept our leadership, with the Afrikaner, the National Party, everybody else who would be fighting us. And we would be involved in a situation like Angola, Mozambique and the other areas and we would, therefore, not find time for smooth transition.

POM     What, just on the question of government, instead of being ANC government only, what have the people the right to expect after five years?

CN     After the first election?

POM      Yes.

CN     After the first election, assuming that things go well and the constitution is completed, we'll have an election on the basis of the constitution. We would be foolish, therefore, if we were to assume government immediately after the first election. Because at the second election, we would probably have problems because we would not have, in the first few years, the lot of the people. And because we shall not have done that, a lot of people who would have voted us in the first election might not vote for us in the second election. That is why we believe that for the first election we need power-sharing, but for the second election the party that wins the election will be in charge of government.

POM     Alan Boesak one time put it that the trick is to lose the first election because they will get blamed for all the lack of delivery ... and their expectations which are pretty high.

CN     They are pretty high, but what we are saying to our people, you know, in public meetings and in our pronouncements through our policy documents, is that they cannot expect a government of national unity to begin to deliver to them because that government is in the main going to be phasing in the new democracy. At least after the second election when the parties that win those elections put into motion processes that will lead to programmes of action designed to benefit the people, can you then blame that party if it has not delivered by the time of the third election in this country.

POM     The SACP ... like a post-transition scenario and obviously a lot of the policies that had been adopted by the ANC, particularly their economic policy that is centrist and not meant to encourage the West, that there be a mixed economy if they were looking for foreign aid, and unless there's foreign aid there can be no sustained growth in the economy and there's some other policies which are contrary to socialist policies, as true socialist policies. Do you say after a government is installed, do you say, "OK, now we go out on our own, and we develop our policies and our own constituency, we are no longer a party to the alliance or you stay in the alliance?

CN     Yes, to start with we have a lot of interests as communists in the first elections in this country.

POM     Which?

CN     The first election in this country - and we want the African National Congress, as leader of this phase of our struggle, to win very handsomely in those elections in order for us to begin the process of transformation into a thoroughgoing democracy because it is that democracy which, to us, will create the spring-board that we need for socialist transformation in the country. That democracy, therefore, has to be a thoroughgoing democracy where the working people must have a stake, a clearly defined stake in the running of the country because it is the working people who will form the foundation that we need for socialist transformation. In other words, our role at this juncture in respect to those elections is to mobilise the entire mass democratic movement and the forces of change in this country behind the African National Congress for its decisive victory. And there are organisations and people in this country and elsewhere outside the borders of this country whose interest is anti-democratic. They have been served well by a system of government that has oppressed a certain sector of the South African population and provided privileges for another sector which has been a very, very small minority and the power relations have been loaded to benefit that minority. Those people, therefore, are resistant to change, and they are going to continue to display their resistance and, to a very large extent, their resistance will be translated into violence. Therefore, what the democratic forces need to do is to consolidate the gains of the democratic election and defend the new democracy. This cannot be done by the ANC alone, it has to be done by the ANC and its allies in the mass democratic movement. There is a traditional alliance between the African National Congress, the South African Communist Party and the workers movement in this country, particularly COSATU. And you will rely mostly on that alliance, in order for you to be able to do the two things I'm speaking about. Because that alliance was forged in struggles on the ground as a result of certain conditions prevailing at the time. There is no-one who can predict where we are standing now, how the conditions will impact on the new situation and therefore, alliance at any given time in future.

POM     With due respect that the right wing will fight, take up arms or ...

CN     There are many ways in which the right wing is going to express its resistance to change. Some of them will want to engage in violent activities which will include a array of action, of course, including armed action as well. That is not going to stop, they are going to do it. And this is not just the right wing in the classical terms of the South African situation, where many people believe that the right wing exists only within the white community. The right wing involves even black organisations. I'm sure you are aware that in the Ciskei there is a controversy revolving around a consignment of AK47 assault rifles which were sent to Gqozo and the question will be, "Why is he collecting those rifles, what does he want to do?" And the answer, obviously, not unless we want to be naive, must be that he is preparing for action after this new democracy has been born. And Inkatha is also not going to stop its violent actions inside the country, as I say they are going to be a lot of these actions.

POM     So there'll be a need for the alliance to hold firm?

CN     There'll be a need for the alliance to continue to exist, and build a bulwark of defence of this new democracy. Of course, there is a discussion that is taking place within the SACP and the workers' movement and then the ANC itself, about when this alliance will come to an end, if it is going to come to an end. But as I say, it's difficult to answer that question because we don't know what kinds of conditions we are going to contend with after the election, but more than that, there is this task also that is awaiting the alliance after the new democracy has been born. How it is going to take to consolidate the new democracy is another matter and, of course, while we are strengthening it we would have to defend it as well.

POM     One last question, and thank you for the time ...

CN     Thank you very much, I was beginning to get worried.

POM     I know, you've been very generous. There's this question I asked Joe Slovo last year, I asked Chris (Burnett??) too, I am just getting the different views. There are really two questions, one is that you can have political empowerment with the lot that has been going on at the World Trade Centre, but economic empowerment, the key to this thing, do you think the negotiations are taking that adequately into account?

CN     No, we can't expect that kind of discussion to happen at the World Trade Centre, we deliberately kept away from the World Trade Centre because we would have been introducing another aspect of the discussions which would have delayed the process there. What is happening instead is that there is a national economic forum that has been established involving primarily the state and labour and capital. And within our ranks we are also discussing what we call a 'Reconstruction Programme', and that reconstruction programme is the kind of programme that will ensure that there is both the political and economic empowerment of our people.

POM     The last one then is, how has the collapse of communism in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union affected your belief system, are you still strict Marxist-Leninist, or have you moved away from that, and if you do believe in the Marxist-Leninist principles what do you mean by that? Is what you regard as the South African Communist Party today different from the SACP that existed before the collapse of communism in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union? And last, many of your membership have spent time in the Soviet Union/USSR, how could they have been so blind as to what went on all around, the antithesis of democratic states?

CN     Yes. You see, to answer the last one you have broached, it is true that many of us were in the Soviet Union, and you must remember, during a time when there was so much antagonism directed at the Soviet Union and the socialist world by western powers and their imperialism. And we felt a duty to defend whatever was done by the Soviet Union and to the extent we could even emulate some of the things that were happening there it is quite instructive, and Comrade Chris said this in one of his interviews in the past, that everything we did was based on what was happening in the Soviet Union. Even when we were receiving instruction in terms of the building of the underground through a programme of military combat work, it was the military combat work programme of the Soviet Union that we were following to the letter and we were not evolving our own in terms of our conditions inside this country. And this kind of loyalty was born as a result of the solidarity and support we were getting from the Soviet Union. And to us this was an ally that had to be supported through and through. Even actions undertaken by the Soviets, including what happened in Hungary, for instance, so on and so on, we supported because they were among our main supporters in terms of our own revolution. We were heavily biased towards the Soviet Union and even when I know that some of us were involved in debates with other comrades and immediately you attacked any of the Soviet leaders you were almost seen as a counter-revolutionary.

     That kind of situation was borne out of particular circumstances and, of course, when Gorbachev took over the reigns of power, there are certain things that we were beginning to understand with respect to the Soviet Union. But others we were not understanding and we were not understanding why certain things were being done. And to a very large extent we were affected by the collapse, but our analysis of that collapse informed us in the first instance that it was not the collapse of socialism as a concept, but the collapse of administration that had become elitist, administration that had in place commandist economy, administrations that were no longer acting in the best interests of the greater majority of the people and therefore, administrations that had betrayed the cause of the working people. And we then said in our situation we must ensure that we move away from that kind of approach and with respect, therefore, to the kind of party that we are today, we are Marxist-Leninists and what we are doing is what those great masters were talking about, that firstly, and you get this in fact from the time of Marx, is that you cannot transform socialism from one country lock, stock and barrel to the next. It is the conditions in the given country that determine to what extent you can push your own socialist project.

     I was talking about comrade Chris the other day at universities in Cape Town, University of Cape Town and the University of the Western Cape, and I was talking about Chris, and I quoted from Borges, the Latin American writer, who says that he has been fed up with a number of interviewers who would like to compare Fidel Castro to those masters, to Lenin, to Stalin, and what have you. And he says that, "Yes, when you take Marx, Lenin and Stalin and bringing them together, they produce a Fidel Castro because he has qualities of each one of those. But that Fidel is not a Euro-communist and you'd not look at him through the eyes of European communists and you cannot compare him, therefore, to Lenin, you must look at him in terms of his conditions in a Third World country, in Cuba, which is the same with respect to us.

     And, therefore, whereas to a very large extent, particularly when we were in exile, we were building the character of the South African Communist Party in terms of the definitions of socialism through the eyes of Euro-communists, we are no longer doing that. We are defining our roles in terms of the current situation inside the country. And because of that we have moved away from what we stood for a few years ago where we were talking of complete nationalisation in this country; "When we come in we will nationalise everything as people in Mozambique did." We can no longer speak in those terms, because of the present situation in our country and we are therefore, accepting that we must have in this country a mixed economy.

     But when we look at reconstruction, we are saying that the three most important components in terms of that reconstruction will be the state that must formulate guidelines and intervene in terms of certain categories relating to the economy of the country and certainly in terms of the commanding heights of the economy of this country, that there must be general guidelines, and part and parcel of those guidelines must make openings for small and medium businesses. This is not a new thing in Marxist-Leninist terms. This is what Lenin was saying in 1921 which means we have not moved away from that concept. We go further to say that the state alone cannot bring transformation in this country, that must benefit the people that we represent, the poor people who are the working class of this country. And, therefore, there has to be some kind of co-ordination between the state, labour and capital for reconstruction is this country which as its first task must redress the wrongs of racial oppression in our country.

     There was a time when we were talking, I mean even in our camps we were talking about the dictatorship of the proletariat and many of us did not understand that concept in clear Marxist-Leninist terms. And the dictatorship of the proletariat, which became incidentally one of the biggest debates in 1903 at the Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Workers Party, is the definition that was given then. People like Plekhanov, people like Lenin, who was there, people like Trotsky and so on and so on, there are quite a number of people who made an input to this. And the understanding then, and this is the correct understanding, was that the working class would have, via insurrection, taken power from capital and capital would have wanted to fight back. Which is what happened after the 1917 victory of the Socialist Revolution because there was immediately counter-revolution and there was a civil war in the Soviet Union. Correctly, therefore, they were saying that when power is transferred to the majority of the people, the minority that was deriving benefits out of the old order would want to fight back and, therefore, the majority must defend the new democracy, therefore there must be a dictatorship of the majority.

     Now, what we are saying in our country is that, the dictatorship of the majority will come about when the minority attacks the new democracy. The majority would have to defend that new democracy and, therefore, use the dictatorship of the majority against the minority. But you can't use dictatorship in that way because in the present conditions when we talk about dictatorship it is defined narrowly by people. They look at those people who do not want to use the democratic processes for the benefit of other people but people who want to dictate to everybody. And we do not want to dictate, hence the negotiations, hence the compromises that we have been making. Because we believe that even the minority has a right to participate in governance.

     That is why we say the threshold cannot be higher than 5%, to accommodate even those people who have 5% support in our country. So that when we talk about dictatorship, if we will talk about dictatorship, and we don't like the term now because it has those vulgar connotations, we are talking about leadership of the majority of the people which is the same as the dictatorship of the proletariat as was defined in 1903. In other words, the party we have today is a party that is living, not just in the present but in the present in South Africa under specific South African conditions, but a party that does not forget that leadership in the national liberation struggle phase must be in the workers and that the workers in the final analysis are the repository of democracy. And under a socialist dispensation it is the workers that must lead and must effect a change in the power relations without trampling on the rights of people who have built good conditions for them to live in this country. But, having said that, there are certain commanding heights of the economy where the state must intervene. At the end of the day this means we have not moved away from the economic understanding of a socialist dispensation.

POM     Thank you ever so much.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.