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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
11 Aug 1993: Molefe, Popo
POM Popo, since we visited you last August, which was at the height of the stayaways and the mass action a number of things occurred through the year that were turning point that have had in fact been a factor in bringing the ANC and the government much closer together at the negotiating table. Could you comment on what were the factors that brought that situation about?
PM I think partly it was as a result of the determination of the ANC to ensure that the process of negotiation does not fall apart and that manifested itself in intensive bilateral discussion between the government and the ANC during which period we were able to identify a lot of commonalities between ourselves and the government resulting in the Record of Understanding, as you will recall, which was signed between President Mandela and President de Klerk on the 26th September last year. But I think apart from the ANC's determination itself, there was also greater recognition on the side of the government that if it delayed the process too long it too would be discredited and that its support was going gradually diminish. And I think for that reason, therefore, the government too sought to ensure that it continues to occupy the high moral ground to do so. It was necessary for them to be seen to be addressing certain key issues of the time such as problems around the cultural weapons, the upgrading of the hostels, increased powers and role of the Goldstone Commission, increased participation by the United Nations Organisation, in particular its observer mission on the issues of violence. I think the government didn't seem to have much choice, it had to move along that direction.
Nonetheless, Patrick, as you know, it is now common cause that although the Record of Understanding was signed the government has not lived up to all the promises and commitments it had made in that Record of Understanding. It has not addressed decisively the question of the carrying of dangerous weapons in public, it has not seriously addressed the agreement regarding the regular searches on people living in those hostels which are identified as bases from which attacks are being launched against communities. Neither has it fenced off those hostels as it was agreed in the Record of Understanding. Nonetheless, in respect of other matters such as its commitment to an elected constitution making body, the acceptance of a Transitional Executive Council as an interim structure necessary to level playing field, I think in that regard they seem to have performed well.
POM Just to back up a little. What were the lessons of CODESA? How were they applied to make the negotiating council more transparent?
PM I think CODESA was seen by many as some kind of a forum where some secret deals were being entered into. The majority of the people appeared to be out of touch with what was happening. But I think that in the new situation the agreement that there would be greater transparency in regard to negotiations, including the regular coverage of the meetings of the Planning Committee or the Negotiation Forum, have helped a great deal in reducing the level of ignorance around that question. But I think there are other lessons also which I wouldn't say we have succeeded in using to correct the situation in the present phase of our negotiations. What has become clear in this negotiation process is that political parties which are essentially the creation of apartheid, surrogate parties, who had been brought into the negotiating process, from no position of strength at all when they commanded no support at all. But once they were inside the negotiating forum they began to command such power, as to even threaten the entire process itself and they could even create a crisis for the whole negotiating process.
After CODESA 2 we had the resurgence of a number of parties, the Afrikaner Volksunie, then you had the traditional leaders also now coming in, for example the Natal traditional leaders insisting that they want to be separate from all other traditional leaders from elsewhere in the country. And having succeeded in getting that approval, they then form a block between themselves, the IFP, the government of KwaZulu and the far-right white conservatives, like the Conservative Party and so on, including some other right wing black parties like Bophuthatswana and Gqozo of Ciskei. That block is now being used to undermine the whole process. One of the greatest difficulties we are facing and which has been posed by homeland parties, which even in those homelands they don't have the mandate of the majority of the people to govern, there's one in which they are simply refusing to be incorporated into a greater South Africa. The arguments they proffer fundamentally contradict the perspectives and stages, the phases set out in terms of which the negotiation process has to unfold.
To give you an example, we have reached an agreement that we would set up a Transitional Executive Council that levels the playing field. Then side by side with it, the creation of an independent electoral commission, and an independent media commission to prepare for open political activism, open electioneering, you know, leading up to the election. And during that period we have to deal with the question of the citizenship, the question of voter eligibility and identification. This means that we will have had to make sure that all the people, including those who are now cited to be citizens of the so-called national independent states such as Bophuthatswana and the Ciskei and the Transkei and Venda, should be able to vote in what is supposed to be the first ever democratic election, in which people vote on a "one person, one vote" basis with a vote of equal value. They are now saying that they want to retain their sovereignty, they cannot allow themselves to be incorporated into South Africa. They would want to wait for the final constitution to emerge from the negotiating process. And on the basis of the values contained in that constitution, and how relevant those values would be in terms of their own policies, their own value systems, they would then decide whether they want to become part of that new South Africa. Now, this then means that if they continue their independence and say they would not recognise dual citizenship, it means the people in the homelands would not be able to vote. But secondly, if they agree that those people in the homelands may apply for citizenship of South Africa, they would then say, "You cannot be in the civil service in our country when you are a foreign citizen". They would then create a whole lot of crisis areas for the people in that. That is creating a serious problem for the negotiations.
POM Now just a week ago we were talking to General Holomisa and he very definitely sees himself as an ally of the ANC but he said he favoured re-incorporation only after an election for the Constituent Assembly. Why would somebody like him who sees himself as an ally of the ANC really go along with the likes of Brigadier Gqozo?
PM No, he is not really going along with them. His approach is a different one because it's also a debatable question. He is saying, "Look, we are not sure if De Klerk is honest about negotiating a genuine settlement, but somewhere along the way this negotiation can collapse, and if it collapses at a time that we shall have surrendered our sovereignty and we are nothing, what is going to happen to us?" That's the point he makes. And he says, "We are prepared to comply with everything that the independent electoral commission wants us to do, including allowing our people to participate in that election, we are prepared to participate in the Transitional Executive Council and subject ourselves to whatever it wants done, but the question of the independence thing should be rescinded, independence should be rescinded when a Constituent Assembly has been established and we begin to create an interim parliament and interim government of national unity". And it's the same argument held by the Venda government.
POM Now if, say, most of these organisations really can come under the umbrella of COSAG, if the CP, the IFP, Ciskei and Bophuthatswana stayed outside the process, refused to participate in an election, would that undermine the legitimacy of the election or would it produce of a state of instability in the country as whole?
PM It would certainly not undermine the legitimacy of the outcome of the negotiation process. Because those parties combined they would not produce even 15% of national vote, all of them, they would not produce that. However, they do pose a serious danger in respect of the capacity to destabilise the country. The IFP has got a number of trained people. It's common cause that they were trained to destabilise the ANC or perhaps even in preparation to destabilise an ANC government. Then you have what is called the Afrikaner Volksfront, which is this new alliance of right wing formations, led by military Generals, army Generals such as Tienie Groenewald and General Constand Viljoen. They draw their support from different echelons of the security forces, the South African Defence Force, South African Police and including the Prisons Service. All these are men who are highly trained, some of whom control the security forces.
So if you have that sort of a group alienated it may be in a position to destabilise the country, especially when it is not so clear as to what is the extent of the control that Mr de Klerk's government commands over them. That then poses a serious danger and for that reason we would try to persuade them to return to the negotiating process, and we are going to try our best to do so. Of course if everything else we do fails, we would leave everything else to fate. They would have to consider very seriously some kind of intervention by the United Nations Organisation. But, you know, if the National Party would decide to put pressure on governments such as that one of Ciskei and Bophuthatswana, they could be brought into line very easily. We are informed that the government of Bophuthatswana relies for 70% of its budget on the South African government. And 25% of that budget comes from the mining companies there, which are essentially South African companies. Now, part of the 70% that they get from South Africa, say approximately 30% of it, it's something that comes from the customs and excise duty arrangement. So, it's very easy, you can stop that and they are finished. Ciskei is even worse. It probably relies on it's 90% or 100% of its budget from South Africa.
POM That sounds very rational when one looks at the world, at the conflict situations, they very rarely behave in a rational way. People of Yugoslavia destroyed their own country, I mean they smashed it to pieces. You've got Somalia where there is no government, yet you have warlords. I don't see pulling the financial plug to make people suddenly submit, it may make them more rebellious.
PM No, but here you see, we have this serious problem if the security forces do not toe the line of the new government. If they do, I mean they have enough capacity to contain whatever happens. And in South Africa they can stop it within a matter of months. Just stop it and flush this genocide in a matter of months.
POM What do you think happened in the last year? Like this time last year the right wing was seemingly on its last feet following its crushing defeat in the March 1992 referendum. They have now made a fine start, everyone sees them as a real threat; they are more organised and they are more cohesive and it looks as though they have to a certain extent a strategy which is a short-term one. What has accounted for their rise? At the same time what seems be a collapse in the base of support for the National Party which appears fragmented and one recent poll showed that of those who voted for National Party in 1989 only one fourth would vote for them again.
POM One fourth, 25%. They are going to retain 25% of their support base. So the weakening of the National Party and the government, seeing the right wing emerging as some kind of threat. How did that happen?
PM I haven't checked the latest statistics as to whether that disillusion means the right wing movement is getting more support, I haven't checked it properly. But certainly the right wing movement is beginning to get more support amongst the security forces and amongst the rural whites, in smaller towns and so on. But I think that is traceable to the fact that the negotiation process is taking too long. I mean, when it started there was too much excitement. People expected it to deliver too soon.
Not that ours has been too long a process. I mean, in Namibia people started negotiating in 1978, as I recollect, and they only reached a settlement really in 1989, which was much longer, it took about eleven years. And we can quote a number of other instances where negotiations took much longer than others. But I think the publicity around it, the fanfare with which it started raised the hopes of people very high, but it also created a great deal of uncertainty amongst the whites. The rising levels of violence also clearly presented the De Klerk government as an impotent one, unable to deal with matters of law of order and security. Mistakes from the side of the liberation movements too, the random attacks on the police, the attacks on white people, especially on the farms, by what purports to be the PAC, and some statement made repeatedly by members of the ANC, fairly senior people within the organisation, like in statements such as "Kill the farmer, kill the boer" created a great deal of uncertainty and fear and panic.
There is another factor which contributes to the declining support for the National Party and it is the state of the economy. The economic situation is going from bad to worse and it is affecting whites as well. The privileges that they were used to are gradually now evaporating, and that too increases their fears. Now, all these factors, therefore, that have created very fertile ground for the right wing movement to organise and to begin to appeal more to the sentiments and the emotions of white South Africans. It is true that never in the history of this country had the right wing movement been able to call a meeting of anything near 10,000 people. But these days when they call a meeting they get 10,000 people, they get 15,000 people turning up. It shows that there is a great deal of anxiety, people want to know what the future holds for them and they'll go to anyone who offers them any security. At the moment the right wing with its paramilitary elements such as the AWB and so on appears to be that movement that is strong and can offer that protection, it can deal with terrorists decisively; thus, they're running to it.
But I don't think that they enjoy that much support. Most of the discerning South Africans, those who can think, those who understand the signs of the time are increasingly looking for an alternative to the National Party, more to the left than to the right. People who saw the Democratic Party as an alternative to the National Party over the years since the National Party has adopted the same policies and the DP has not been able to move forward, they too are looking for a better alternative, and only the ANC provides that alternative. Because those who are already inside the National Party, some of them are moving towards the IFP now, especially its MPs. But I think it's happening because the National Party is unable to offer leadership.
POM Is the collapse in support for De Klerk and his ebbing leadership in his own community creating concern in the ANC that your major partner, so to speak, in this whole process may not be able to deliver his own constituency?
PM Well, it obviously is a matter of serious concern for us and it is a disconcerting matter. We would have liked people with an orientation towards a negotiated settlement such as the National Party to be able to deliver the greatest proportion of the white constituency because their capacity to do so will bring us closer to reconciling our people and lay a firm basis for nation-building. But if they are unable to deliver that constituency the situation will be pretty bad for us. Because it will mean the negotiation with them is not different from black people negotiating among themselves. Because if we can't deliver whites to the process, then we haven't resolved the problem. So that is why it is important that De Klerk must move now, must move fast. This whole question of him now talking about declaring a state of emergency is not going to help him. Because he is going to unleash other forces, and there'll be demonstrations, mass actions, labour strikes, school boycotts.
POM And negotiations? Walk out of negotiations again?
PM Yes. So he must just forget about iron-fist methods and begin jackboot tactics and begin to move steadily forward, come, come, get his police to act decisively in dealing with the questions of violence. One doesn't need the state of emergency. What is needed is more decisiveness in terms of the way in which his law and order agencies are dealing with the situation of violence.
POM But may we not have to find a way to give him a helping hand? To kind of help him win back some of his constituencies or do you think he is so enfeebled that he's no longer a serious negotiating partner? What can you help over?
PM No we can't. The only way we can help him is to develop strategies and tactics that can move the process rapidly forward. And whether we succeed in doing so is going to depend on how he responds to what we give. We have already done a lot in this regard. We have offered an interim government of national unity. Up to now we grapple with how he can input in that government. They talk of power-sharing but there's no indication that if they had the opportunity to win as many seats as we think the ANC would win that they would have cared to include us in that government; I don't think they would have cared. So those are some of the things we are doing to try and move the process forward rapidly. There was a serious problem regarding the question whether we should be discussing the powers and functions of regions. Our initial scenario was that each of the regions was not to feature, but again we have bent over backwards to accommodate them, to even deal with those issues long before the constitution is drawn up, to try and accommodate them. So, we can't go out and campaign for people to join the National Party. It is really not our responsibility. But we can be as creative as possible as politicians to provide leadership and guidance that would speed up the process.
PM How would you then, distinguish between power-sharing as the government sees it, and the government of national unity as you perceive it? Is it two languages which really say the same thing or are there fundamental philosophic differences in both concepts?
PM Well, both of them are power-sharing. The difference is in conceptions. Our conception is of an interim government of national unity which surely means that we share our power with other parties, means that the majority party would continue to call the shots because it has the majority of the votes and therefore majority of the voters. And therefore, it has more legitimacy to make decisions on behalf of the people than a party that has got 5% of the seats. But once you draw in that party, to some extent that party influences the way in which you make your decisions because you want to accommodate them and you can't ride roughshod over their heads on the basis that they've got a minority seat. But this, therefore, means that the party with the majority of the seats should be the party that invites others to join it in what is essentially its own government and that the president would then come from the party with the majority of the seats.
Power-sharing as proposed by the National Party would mean an arrangement in terms of which there would be a rotating presidency either amongst three or five parties. That when there is problem you can't blame one president, everybody becomes responsible for everyone else's crimes. Now if you have one president, if he messes things up it's him, you can't say someone else is also responsible for that. But they also want to have an arrangement in terms of which minority parties, the losers, would continue to exercise a veto on the party that has got the majority of the seats. You recall that in their two-chamber parliament with the senate consisting of regions, they had expected that that senate should not operate like other senates where they have the effect of reviewing legislation and delaying. But they would actually be the ones who decide whether legislation has passed in an orderly way if one party in that senate disagrees with something, so nothing happens, you see. So, that is where we differ we with them.
POM But they've moved away. De Klerk, in May I think it was, in an interview with the Financial Times came out very strongly saying that they would insist on enforced and permanent power-sharing and then he dropped the concept altogether. Did anything dramatic happen that they moved from the staunch steeliness support of their original position to completely abandoning it?
PM I'm not sure if they've completely abandoned it. It's just that they can't win the argument, it's a very difficult argument. But if you watch their statements they keep on returning to it from time to time, you know.
POM Did they say now that they'd like see in the final constitution that power-sharing in principle should be accepted?
PM Are they saying in the new constitution or in the interim constitution?
POM No, they would like to see the final constitution that there'll still be some article that would say "acknowledge power-sharing in principle".
PM We will not agree to that. We would definitely agree to proportional representation as an electoral system but not to entrench power-sharing such as that one in Zimbabwe. If we do agree to that sort of an arrangement it will be just for the period of transition. And in our view that period should not extend beyond five years.
POM If you look at again where the ANC and the government were at this time last year, what concessions have each side made to arrive at the position they are now at?
PM I think if we look at the side of the government, I mean certainly one of the first concessions is that they've now accepted that the constitution-making body should be an elected body as distinct from just an appointed body as opposed to an appointed body of experts. They had rejected the concept of the Transitional Executive Council but they've now agreed to it. They've agreed that there would be multi-party control over the security forces. Of course there are still differences as to what is the content, what does that control really mean. There are still some differences, we're still debating the issue. But they've accepted it, they have accepted that they can't run an election in this country. It has to be done by an independent electoral commission. They have made compromises regarding the involvement of the international community in the process. It is not as much as we would have like it, obviously, it's still a limited one but they have agreed to it.
Those are some of the concessions that they have made and I think they've also accepted that the incorporation of the homelands is going to occur. In fact they are much more eager than we are, they want it to happen immediately. They had wanted it to happen quickly, quickly before the elections. We are only now beginning to come to terms with the fact that it has to happen before the elections. But otherwise our view was that that incorporation could occur only after the election was held, subject to us being able, of course, to make sure that all the voters regardless of where they are, whether in the Bantustans or in South Africa, that the whole of the so-called white South Africa, that all of them would be able to vote in that election.
From our side I think there are a number of things that we have done. In many respects we have thrown away many labels that they have had problems with. They have had problems with this question of regions. We've now agreed that we could discuss the role of regions, the boundaries, functions and powers, we are discussing it but subject to the Constituent Assembly retaining the sovereignty and therefore the right to decide the final boundaries and the final powers, functions of the regions. So, the principle of majority rule for us remains firmly in place. But for electoral purposes we're agreeing to deal with the issue of the boundaries, powers and functions of regions. I don't know other compromises, I can't remember.
No, I must say that initially we did not contemplate a government of national unity that could continue up to five years, that was not our position. For us an interim government was something that was going to just see to the levelling of the playing field and once the constitution has been adopted by the Constituent Assembly, then put in place a democratic government which governs the country based on majority rule. We have now made a compromise to accommodate this arrangement of joint multi-party rule for a period of up to five years.
POM On a scale of one to ten, if you look at the proposals, constitutional proposals put on the table yesterday, and the second draft of the constitutional proposals, to what extent do they meet your strategic objectives, on a scale of one to ten?
PM It's difficult for me to remember what is article one to ten. By the way, I've also been out of the country. I'm only going to read these documents tonight, I just got them today. Some of the things that you are saying I have not seen myself yet, I haven't studied them. We're going to have a full discussion on those proposals next week. What specific aspects are you referring to? What is it that is contained there that you think is problematic or you're not sure of?
POM The major difference between it and the draft is that it actually specifies the powers that the regional governments would exercise and explains what would happen in terms of what powers are being exercised concurrently. They more move towards federalism than towards a unitary state.
PM Yes, when the negotiation process started we argued on the basis that South Africa should be a unitary state. But we have long moved away from that, it's been three years and in our view those were just labels because in the first place South Africa has always had features of federalism. We have had a country with four provincial administrations. We, ourselves, even before we started the negotiations that produced the draft constitution, in our constitutional guidelines we recognised the need for strong regional governments. The issue of regions, there's nothing new about it. We've always advocated regional government in order to take the government closer to the people, strong regional government structure, strong local government. The critical question regarding that was, "Where should these regional governments be located?" Some parties which have benefited from the system of apartheid want existing boundaries, created by the apartheid system to remain as they are, perhaps with a little bit of addition of land but they should continue to be the ones who run those regions. And we are saying that in dealing with this question you obviously have to look at a number of hectares and potential for development, the economic questions, language questions, etc. Those are some of the issues we have to deal with in dealing with the issue.
It's true that we do deal with powers of those regions but in what I glanced through today, I did not see anything that is so problematic. There are some aspects which are not clear, which could, of course, could cause problems later such as who decides on the question on cultural affairs, in the language issue, for example, who decides on issues such as broad policy issues such as questions of education, electricity, housing, etc. taking into account the existing situation. So, if you therefore look at those issues you'd realise that why we give them the regions, we refer specifically to delivery of those services, delivery of electricity, delivery of other social services. But I'm sure we would return them to, and place them under, what is supposed to be the concurrence of powers which would therefore mean that they would operate at both national and regional levels. The delivery aspect more to the regional government and any other policy that relates with delivery within the region. But the overall standards regarding that would have to be set by the national government to ensure that if you have 90%, like we do have in this country of the African people who do not have access to electricity, you do not leave it to one region, to a region to deal with it. It's a responsibility of the government to ensure that electricity reaches everyone.
POM One thing surprises me again in the draft proposals and that is the mechanism that's there to deal with a deadlock. In part, the Nationalist Party kind of pulled out of the talks in CODESA because of the stipulation regarding the deadlock-breaking mechanism where it came down to 51%. [51% of the legislature of the Constituent Assembly would decide here and you've a very similar process that something that arrived at in two years and there's a referendum, 30% of people have voted for this new election and the legislature will about the 51%.] I'm kind of surprised that the government seems to have so easily agreed to that. The very concern before was all you had to do is sit back and do nothing for a couple of years then you present the constitution you want.
PM No, that is still a subject of debate, they've not yet agreed fully to everything, the matter is still being debated, those at multi-lateral and bilateral levels were still a matter of debate. What we have is the draft presented by the technical committees. So, It does not reflect a consensus position. It's a consensus position amongst members of the technical committee.