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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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

13 Aug 1993: Molefe, Popo

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(This is the continuation of an interview on 11th August 1993)

POM     The Buthelezi factor. Yesterday Roelf Meyer set out draft proposals under which he said the Zulu nation could gain self-determination. Now it seems to me that to use the word 'self-determination' is a very emotive and loaded word and if its good for the Zulus it should be good for anybody else. To what extent do you think Buthelezi should be accommodated?

PM     Well we seek to accommodate everybody, not only Chief Buthelezi. The concept of an interim government of national unity is clearly intended to accommodate minority parties and I don't think that Chief Buthelezi should be given special treatment. He is like all other political parties and he should participate in an election, win the required number of seats to participate in the Constituent Assembly and with regard to regional governments obviously this is a concept we have developed in order to again accommodate all political parties. When, therefore, we designed it, it is not expressly to accommodate Chief Buthelezi alone. I don't know what Mr Roelf Meyer presented to Chief Buthelezi. I still have difficulty with the question of talking of the self-determination of the Zulu nation. Which Zulu nation? Because Zulus are scattered all over South Africa. They regard this country as their own, the whole of South Africa. They have got no interest in confining themselves to a small territory called KwaZulu/Natal. I have just been talking to members of the public who tell me about a phone-in programme in Natal which indicates very clearly that the majority of the ordinary people in Natal don't even understand this argument about federalism that Buthelezi is proffering although he claims to be speaking on their behalf. I think he is important to the extent that he is a political actor in the South African situation and we are seeking to accommodate all political actors who show significant support. Perhaps in the negotiation process a point must be reached where it is stated by all of us who are generally committed to bringing about real democracy and bringing about the freedom of the majority of the people in this country, the oppressed people in this country, that we should be able to say enough is enough and we cannot allow anybody to delay the right of the people to participate in determining their future. That point will have to be reached and very soon.

POM      What strikes me is that, God forbid, if Mr Mandela were to die tonight the ANC would still go forward with pursuing its agenda and its goals or if Mr de Klerk died the government would still have its negotiating team with broadly the same sentiments being presented, but that if Gatsha Buthelezi died it would be like a vacuum. There's no-one else there. It's like he wants it for himself rather than it being wanted by the people of KwaZulu or whatever.

PM     Yes. You say you think Chief Buthelezi wants this thing for himself and if he were to go there would be a vacuum?

POM     There would be no-one automatically stepping into his position demanding the kind of things he is demanding.

PM     I'm not sure. I can't say with certainty, but certainly the kind of control he is exercising over his negotiators at the Trade Centre is one that is bordering on autocracy or dictatorship of some kind. On important matters they can't even express opinions and always have to report back to him, not even to the Central Committee. When our negotiators say they are going back they are not saying they are just going to consult the President, it is the National Executive Committee. The principal is the NEC and the National Working Committee of the ANC. But he seems to be able to stop anything as an individual any time he wants to. But I can't say with certainty that apart from him there is no other person who would pursue the same objectives as he does. Certainly this white man called Walter Felgate, who is also insistent on delaying the participation of the black people in the electoral process in which they have never been able to participate, is likely to pursue the same goals that Chief Buthelezi is pursuing.

POM     He's pretty close to Buthelezi as I understand it.

PM     Yes, he seems to be his chief adviser in fact.

POM     To talk about the violence. We've talked about violence many times. Is there something different about the violence in the townships today from the violence that first erupted in 1990? What I'm getting at is this; has this violence developed its own self-perpetuating dynamics, that even if you had some kind of settlement tomorrow morning it really wouldn't make much difference to these people?

POM     I want to turn for a minute to the assassination of Chris Hani. What impact do you think that has had on the internal politics of the alliance? And, secondly, on the more broad scale, what impact has it had on the political process that has been unfolding in the last couple of months? What impact has it had on the broader political landscape in terms of both reaction to it, the way it affects the way people think, vote behaviour, whatever?

PM     The way people think?

POM     I'll tell you why later, why I added that bit.

PM     Well in the first instance with regard to the impact of his death on the alliance, clearly it is that the alliance has been robbed of a very important person, a very skilled politician who was very charismatic and very popular especially amongst young people and amongst the workers. To some extent it left a gap in the alliance especially with regard to that strong link with the younger people. But it has not changed anything regarding the relationship of the alliance partners. The alliance remains in place and we continue to operate normally.

PM     With regard to the impact on the broader public and how it has affected their thinking, it is still difficult for one to say but clearly it had deepened the anger of the people, made them more impatient than they had ever been about the pace of change. It has made them want change as rapidly as possible. It has also, if anything, vindicated some of the views of some of those who believed that the regime was prepared to weaken the opposition as much as possible and that it is key in this involvement, it is very much aware of the plans of those who eliminated Chris. It made many of the people believe that. But I think it has also helped to consolidate the support of the alliance in particular the ANC as well as influencing the attitudes of white voters away from the old order. In many respects many of them moved closer to the ANC than they have ever been before and I think not only his death, the way in which the ANC handled it, the cool heads that we were able to maintain in a very difficult and emotional situation, a potentially explosive situation, has gone quite a long way in terms of demonstrating the majority of the ANC and winning us a lot of good will from amongst the white people.

POM     I asked that because this morning we had a meeting with Roelf Meyer and I asked him about it and he was the first person who voluntarily brought up the impact of Chris Hani's death. Normally I have to ask but it came up in his conversation and he said it was one of the factors responsible for the hardening of white attitudes for a movement away from the National Party, that what the ANC saw as their being able to control the situation, whites were using a different prism. What they were seeing was a lot of anger and a lot of things just about out of control so it made them less tolerant of the government, less tolerant of the government's ability to be seen to be in charge and in that sense a movement away from the government and the National Party. So there are two diametrically opposing views.

PM     But away to what? To the CP or towards the ANC?

POM     Some would say to the IFP.

PM     I would differ fundamentally with Mr Roelf Meyer. There was no mayhem around Chris Hani's funeral, therefore there is no basis of anybody beginning to say that the government is not in control of the situation. We had over 250,000 people guarded around Johannesburg that day and we managed to maintain the highest form of discipline ever seen in this country for a crowd that size. In fact we had never had a crowd that size in this country before. We have never had to deal with that sort of a crowd and therefore the issue of the government not being in control does not arise. I think the question which would have arisen and which would have made more discerning whites, many discerning white South Africans, feel that the government is politically bankrupt and lacks leadership is the failure of Mr de Klerk during that period to rise as a statesman to guide the country and of course Mr Mandela occupied that space and that is what was good. Many white South Africans have phoned us and if you go to the organising department or the Department of Information and Publicity they will tell you that we have never been as inundated with calls of compliment and white people wanting to join the ANC as happened after the death of Chris Hani and after the statement made by President Mandela. So that issue doesn't arise.

     The reason why white people are drifting away to the Inkatha Freedom Party is the failure of Mr de Klerk to articulate the positions of the National Party, to say to them where the process of negotiation is taking the country, amongst the white people. He introduced constitutional proposals for the National Party which sought to continue the power relations that exist which had built-in veto powers which would enable the National Party and the surrogate states that it has created through it's system of divide and rule and the so-called separate development to continue to call shots and therefore to undermine democracy as understood conventionally, universally and by ourselves. When, therefore, in the course of the negotiations it became increasingly apparent that the National Party is losing that argument where it would have veto for whites, more whites are becoming disgruntled and they move towards Buthelezi because he seems to be articulating the positions of the National Party better than the National Party is doing, its concept of federalism. I think that is where the answer should be sought and be found; not in the sort of argument presented by Mr Roelf Meyer. It's far-fetched.

     The second reason that has pushed whites towards the IFP and the far right movement is certainly the careless statements made by some members within the ANC as well as the Pan African Congress' continued claims that they are responsible for killing whites and their call of "One settler one bullet". Those sorts of things have created a state of panic, state of fear, state of uncertainty and therefore anyone who is committed to a programme of preventing real change in this country would provide a haven for those whites who are scared about the future.

POM     Can a political party that is really based on an ideology of apartheid continue to exist after it abolishes reforms or gets rid of the ideology that held it together or is it almost an historical given that the National Party will simply disintegrate, people would move off in all different directions whether it's the CP or the IFP or do you think they will pull their support back?

PM     Once you move away from that ideology and once you create circumstances in which people can freely choose what political party they want to belong to, once people have a range of options, range of alternatives to the National Party, certainly we do not expect it to be able to hold those people together like it did before. And in a new situation it is bound to become a very small party, but there is no way in which, in my view, the IFP with its current policies and current strategies would become a party stronger than the National Party. I don't think so.

POM     So what party other than the ANC do you see emerging out of this whole process as being a party of substantiality, a party that would head up an opposition so to speak?

PM     Well at the moment the National Party remains such a party but it remains to be seen. If the National Party continues to be inconsistent, fails to provide leadership and vision, it too would begin to disintegrate and it would appear, therefore, that under those circumstances the only real party that would emerge as a major opposition can only be the PAC if it begins to improve its organisational capability. Indications are that it is improving its standing especially among the black people. It has tremendous potential of growth.

POM     If anything goes wrong, expectations are a mess, they are the only alternative people can turn to. They will say, "We told you so, we told you so, we told you so. It was a sell-out and that's why ... "

PM     In South Africa it's unlikely we would have the situation such as that one in Zimbabwe of ZAPU/ZANU. We will not have that situation but I think the PAC has a potential of emerging as a significant force and even becoming the major opposition, I think that is quite possible. There is another possibility of course, another possibility could be an alliance of the National Party and the Democratic Party which could perhaps try to hold things together and prevent the PAC becoming the major opposition. I think the IFP is increasingly damaging itself by running with the extreme right parties and by constantly appearing to be opposed to the process of transformation itself. It is making it very difficult for anyone to freely associate himself with it. However, if it mends its ways now obviously an alliance of the IFP, the DP and the National Party might form together a grouping that could become quite a strong position.

POM     It's hard to see how they could.

PM     What does the DP stand for? The DP policies are the same policies as the National Party. And what is it that the IFP stands for which the National Party does not believe in? They are almost the same. So there's a lot of common ground for them if they want to unite.

POM     What happened to De Klerk? He began with great bounce and vigour in February 1990 and for a period of time he was the person who was forcing the pace, he was always one step ahead of the ANC in terms of garnishing international headlines about his reforms and whatever. He seems to have moved from being a decisive, fairly daring leader to being indecisive, fumbling, dropping the ball on a number of occasions.

PM     I think in the first place when he started obviously what he did was quite dramatic, it was unknown in National Party politics and it was bound to hit headlines internationally. Secondly, when he started his initiative he had already put in place such an effective communication network and communication strategy which was able to put him on the map of international politics as a man with a vision, a man with initiative. If you read some of their communication strategy developed even long before he released Mandela it was quite clear they were planning these sorts of things. But because he was hoping that the ANC that had just come from a tradition of liberation and intensive armed struggle with profound anger and hatred for the apartheid system and De Klerk as the state structure, that in the course of this negotiation process as the ANC increasingly found it difficult to tackle the issue of violence it would take positions which would help him to consolidate his leadership of the political process and continue to occupy the centre stage. He thought he was going to do so but of course in time he has made a number of historical mistakes which made people begin to question him.

POM     How would you list those mistakes?

PM     The first one, agreeing to the Record of Understanding and failing to carry out his commitment, his obligation. Secondly, setting up, for example, the Goldstone Commission and when that same commission that he has set up makes certain recommendations he simply ignores them. We see that. Revelations, which you and I spoke about in your earlier interviews, such as his government's involvement in funding the IFP up to the tune of over seven million to undermine other political parties. Continued revelations about how senior people in the security forces are involved in the current violence. His continued delay in terms of moving the process forward. All those things combined have begun to raise questions in the minds of many which made it difficult for them to believe that he is still that same man of 1990 or at least that he is still the man with a vision displayed in 1990.

     Let's give you an example, his lack of decisiveness with regard to this attack on the World Trade Centre. The television screens show the leaders of the far right, Constand Viljoen, Ferdi Hartzenberg, Terre'Blanche, moving in there, walking behind an armoured vehicle that is breaking, smashing the windows and the doors of the Centre and he is unable to act against them. He says, no, he wants to go and investigate and those people remain free and they dare him to arrest them. They do that. His own police officers and the army say, "No, no, we gave them guns when they came here to collect guns to go and demonstrate and we had expected them to bring the guns back when the finished demonstrating", and he says, "No we are still going to investigate". That man talks a lot.

     It is an accumulation of these mistakes which increasingly is discrediting him, that is part of it. But secondly, I think he has begun developing cold feet with the resurgence of the right wing movement and he has suddenly become doubtful and reluctant to move forward and the more he becomes like that he makes it difficult for people to support him especially because he doesn't say that he is not able to control his security forces. He simply begins to make statements. For example, this statement like this one of yesterday to say that the election cannot take place when there is violence. This violence has been there long before he decided to negotiate. 1985. It has been escalating but as he got in the negotiations more than 6000 people have been killed. Another 3000 people died while he was involved in these negotiations. I think another 2000, which brings it to approximately 11,000 people who have died since this violence started. And he has been involved in negotiations, therefore he cannot say today that we cannot go to an election when there is this violence because that election itself is about ending this violence. It's about creating circumstances which can give hope to people and also create state structures with the capacity to deal with the issue of violence and supported by a number of parties.

POM     Did you see his speech in Durban yesterday?

PM     I haven't seen the text.

POM     In which he lashed out at the ANC and said the IFP and the government had more things in common, they had a natural opponent in the ANC. Do you see, despite their mistakes and their zigzagging, do you see them as having still a real design that they can turn into a theme in a political campaign, i.e. that they are the only people that can restore stability to the country?

PM     Certainly. That is for most of the elections that they have won, especially since 1976, they have won all those elections on the ticket of law and order and they will do it again. They are escalating this violence, their own forces are involved. They are going to call on them to stop it but before they do that they are going to say to the voter, "We are the only ones who can maintain law and order", and then they call it off, they push in their army and the police force into the townships and say, "You see we have stopped it. Vote for us. The ANC won't give you stability. You business people have no future, your businesses cannot survive under an ANC government, an ANC government will be chaotic". That is why even within the ANC they are pushing in undisciplined elements to join. The ANC is a mess organisationally, it becomes difficult to know who is there and who is not. They are pushing there. Of course some statements made by Peter Mokaba and others are helping them and then they are going to say, "This ANC is an ANC controlled by children, stone throwers, looters, necklacers, arsonists, communists and so on; they are going to create chaos". We are aware of that but I am sure we will deal with it.

     The unfortunate situation and perhaps the pleasant surprise for Mr de Klerk is going to be that unlike in the heydays of apartheid, South Africa is open now to exchanging opinions and information with the international community, the media is much more open than it was before. South Africans therefore are better placed to make informed decisions and to make better judgements than they were at the time when they would block everything that the UDF would say when they were campaigning on the law and order ticket. They would have locked us all up in jails, the ANC material would not reach anybody, the ANC would not speak for itself. But now the situation has changed. I think we are going to be able to answer him word for word and match him pound for pound when that moment comes, especially now that he no longer controls the Board of the SABC.

POM     Two last questions. One relates to the election.

PM     Can the election take place in the current violence? Do you think the date of April is a reality date? What was your question?

PAT     What's your answer?

POM     Do you see any circumstances in which the vote would not take place on April 27th or is it symbolically so important that it take place that it just has to?

PM     Well I cannot foresee any circumstances which could lead to that but anything is possible. I think to determine whether that would happen would only do so once the Independent Electoral Commission has been put in place and it has developed it's own programme of work and in its own judgement it arrives at the conclusion that the time available to it is not enough for it to accomplish all the objectives set in the programme of work including the training of people who will be running the elections and various technical skills, the mobilisation of a sufficient number of monitors, the issuing out of ID documents. We are looking at approximately five million people who do not have ID documents, so those factors might, if the IEC has not got sufficient resources both human and financial to deal with those issues, might make it necessary for the election date to be delayed. But I think if we succeed in persuading the international community, especially the United National Organisation to take this election seriously and in fact to put resources into it we should be able to meet our deadline. For our part we are going to put pressure on the Independent Electoral Commission to move. We have moved the process of negotiations very fast and we expect them to match the pace at which we have moved. Of course not at the cost of effective participation by all the people who are supposed to vote.

POM     Good. I remember my two questions. One is, go back to 1985 or 1986, would you have imagined that within ten years South Africa would be on the verge of its first non-racial election? Is everybody guaranteed a vote?

PM     One could not prophesy at that stage but once colonialism collapsed in Namibia in 1989 and South Africa remained the only white dominated country in a country in which the majority of the inhabitants were blacks it became clear to us that its days were strictly numbered, that the days of racist rule were strictly numbered in this country and we knew definitely that we too were next on the agenda of freeing the nations of the world. From the confines of Robben Island and Pretoria Security Prison, we had begun to discuss the issue of negotiations, we had begun to discuss the possibility of suspending the armed struggle, the possibility of the unbanning of the ANC, the release of Nelson Mandela and it became quite real to us. So in our minds therefore we knew it is coming because also we were looking at the fact that the world powers, especially the United States and the Soviet Union, had begun accepting that regional problems and conflicts needed to be resolved by means of negotiations, the process of disengagement in Afghanistan, in Angola, in a number of other countries had begun to occur and that to us was a clear indication that South Africa could not be excluded, could not remain immune from what was a general process of decolonisation and a general process of ending occupation of certain countries by foreign forces and so on.

POM     But taking February 1990 as a barometer, as the starting point, have things moved quicker than you expected, slower than you expected or are things about par for the course?

PM     They have certainly moved slower than we had expected, Patrick. We had expected that by, for example, the end of December 1992 we would have had an election for a Constituent Assembly. That is what we had thought would have happened but as things stand that has not happened and we are still negotiating. But we do not consider this delay to be so bad. In our view relative to other countries we think we have done pretty well, we have moved pretty fast.

PAT     If elections take place in Natal do you think that whoever the loser of those elections is won't accept those results? If the elections are able to take place throughout Natal and all the parties participate, i.e. the IFP doesn't boycott the elections, do you think that whoever loses, be that the ANC and its allies or Inkatha and its allies, will accept the results, that the loser of the election in Natal will accept the results or do you think the civil war will continue because whoever loses isn't going to accept the legitimacy of the process?

PM     Well I don't know if the IFP would accept the legitimacy of any process. I don't think they would accept any results in which they lose, any election that they lose. But certainly for the ANC and other political parties it is clear that they will accept the outcome provided those elections were clearly free and fair. If there were mechanisms put in place to ensure that then we had supported them we would accept the outcome. We have already said so. Even this election. If we lose it we would accept the outcome as the ANC provided everything that we have put into the electoral roll and the rules of conduct have been observed, not to the letter but to a significant extent.

PAT     So that the election is legitimate, a legitimate process. It might not be free and fair but the standards they judge ...

PM     Yes we would accept the outcome. But clearly Buthelezi is not even prepared to accept the outcome of the negotiations. Since we started we have made many compromises in these negotiations, many compromises, bent over backwards to accommodate him and the National Party. But he is still firm, he stands on one thing, he gets what he wants. If he doesn't get it he would not participate. That is his attitude and that is what I meant when I said that somewhere along the way a point must be reached where we say, "Enough is enough; the process cannot be held hostage by a party that cannot demonstrate that it represents a significant section of our society." We cannot allow it. Our people must be given a chance to say who must represent them, who must shape their destiny. They have got to be able to say it. At some point that has to happen. Whether we even hold a referendum now to say, "Who should represent you in the negotiations?", if they want that we can do it. We could have done it right at the beginning and that would have excluded a whole lot of parties. We did not do it because we wanted them to be involved in a set-up in which we could reach compromises that could enable all of us to move forward. But once they begin to try to stop it we cannot allow it. The people of the country cannot be held hostage by people who wield guns and nothing else.

POM     OK. Thank you for your time.

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.