This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
18 Aug 1993: Gildenhuys, Antonie
POM I want to ask you first, the Peace Accord has now been in effect for the better part of two years and yet the level of violence, particularly in the last couple of months, has been increasing rather than diminishing. I think the violence since March has been like 10.2 people a day compared to 4.2 people a day in the previous 18 months or so. It would be too easy, I won't say, "Is the Peace Accord working?", is it a question of not having sufficient resources? Is it working preventively?
AG No, I don't think so. When we started the violence was even higher than now, then it came down gradually until about more or less the death of Chris Hani and then it jumped up and it's now not as high as it was two years ago but it's still disturbingly high. I think one must not have a misconception of the Peace Accord. The Peace Accord is not a declaration of peace that one gets after a war, it's a code of conduct for political parties in the hope that if political parties comply with that code of conduct you will have generally a peace. Now all violence is not political violence. There's a lot of commercial violence, for instance the taxi wars that you must know about and then there's violence resulting from socio-economic conditions. Bad socio-economic conditions give rise to formation of gangs, that gives rise to a sort of Mafia control of your townships, the police are ineffective in really policing the townships for various reasons and these people have a total reign of terror.
POM What are the reasons for the police being unable to police the townships?
AG I think three reasons. The one is insufficient numbers. Our ratio of police as against community is lower than in most other parts of the world. Secondly the police were used as an instrument to enforce apartheid over the years, until three years ago. That created a certain mind set, the black community with the police and also police towards the black community and you don't change that overnight. There is still in large parts of the country a total suspicion of the black community towards the police and not without reason. There are still police who have not discovered that we live in a new dispensation, individual officers, and many sections of the community just don't trust the police. Thirdly, I think they have fallen behind in training, that we were isolated for many years and they haven't kept up with modern training methods. They are also putting it right but I think those are some of the reasons why the police are not effective.
Then on the political violence there are those, and I don't know who they are, who would like to derail the negotiating process and they would purposely foment violence which they do by driving a car into a black township and just shooting at random. That's happening all too frequently and skilfully manipulated they can cause a lot of mischief or political violence in an area. On the East Rand, I'm over-simplifying but that's where it started, and you've got the railway line, Thokoza the one side and Katlehong on the other, at the one end of the railway line is a large hostel with Inkatha supporters and that railway line then leads into town. So Inkatha has to use that railway line and the trains to get to work. That railway line was sabotaged which meant the people can't move into town, they can't get to work unless they move through ANC territory and these men tried to block them off and one thing led to another and that was really the beginning of the whole fight we've got in the East Rand. I'm over-simplifying, there are various other causes and so on.
At the moment I think the new South Africa is taking shape in the sense that the constitution which we will have is the one being negotiated now. That's not going to transfer to the ballot box. So I think it's now a more volatile or uncertain period in our history than the one which would be immediately before the election because by the time the election comes the die would be cast whether we are going to have a federal or unitary state or so on. People who would want to derail the process will do it now and people who feel uncertain will vent their anger now. It's been the experience all over the world that immediately before an election in a society in transition the violence goes up so we are not exceptional there. But what is different is the long lead time in the negotiation of a constitution before we get to the election.
POM In your analysis, do you find that the ANC is as often the culprit in incidents of violence as the IFP?
AG I think there are no angels. I won't give the ANC or the IFP a major part of the blame.
POM You won't give either of them the major part of the blame?
AG No, no.
POM So part of the blame would lie?
AG With both.
POM With both. OK. Do you think that the intertwining of the different kinds of violence, whether it's Mafia type gangs ...?
AG Racial, boycotts and all that.
POM And political, are all intertwined in a way where it is getting more difficult to distinguish one from the other?
AG Two months ago I would have said yes. What's happening on the East Rand is clearly political and while in other areas it's clearly non-political or it may be, say, a township that's predominantly ANC against a Conservative white community, something like that. I would say that it's easy to discover when supporters of a certain political party openly attack, for political reasons, supporters of another political party. But we haven't had that for quite some time. Two months ago, just before the death of Chris Hani, I thought we had won the open violence and that what we had to deal with is assassinations, political assassinations, which is much more difficult to deal with. But the clear political fights are back.
POM Would you say that was a direct consequence of Chris Hani's death? What would you say the consequences of his death have been for the body politic?
AG No, I think that is one of the factors which caused it but I would put the major one as the political negotiations and people trying to derail that and foment violence.
POM People trying to derail the peace negotiations?
POM Would that suggest again this third force or sinister force or whatever?
POM Why has it not been possible over this period of three years to gather, both the government and monitoring agencies and the Peace Secretariat, to be able to gather information that can systematically say where this violence is coming from?
AG I don't think the third force, and I've got no evidence, but I don't think the third force is some kind of sinister super organisation hiding out somewhere. I think it's more a lot of loose, unco-ordinated cells, you can have ten or twenty people who can cause this kind of havoc. If you look at the Hani assassination it was three people. I think it's more that kind of thing rather than a co-ordinated, centrally planned, sinister kind of force that tries to create havoc.
POM So you would see it as groups of ordinary individuals in different areas going into townships?
AG Yes, but individuals aligned to a specific political group. For instance, let me take an example from the left. The APLA groups who went haywire in shooting people at the wine tasting and then there was one at the Spur restaurant in the Eastern Cape. I don't think there is in the PAC structures a department of destabilisation but I think it's quite possible that individual PAC committees could decide that the time has now come to show that we're the top bods and we're going to pull a few tricks.
POM And would the same apply to the ANC and Inkatha or is that more territorial, specifically territorial?
AG No I think this kind of thing is more far left and far right. I can't see the ANC actually fitting into it except in the form of revenge attacks that we get. It's like you have small fires when you've got the community attention and we succeed in putting them out but if the fire gets too big before you can get to it then you can't put it out and these groups are professional fire raisers and sometimes as in Thokoza they beat us to it and if it's gone too far we can't put it out any more and Thokoza is now a counter-attack, it's a kind of vendetta.
POM In fact I went out there one evening to see a family that I interview there and it was eerie, there was nobody on the streets or on the sidewalks at all, just empty, silent and people deadly afraid. When I talk to people who are ANC people they will talk about being attacked by hostel dwellers and police helping the hostel dwellers and when I talk to IFP people it's just the police and the ANC. Both tell the story with enormous conviction and persuasion so you're left really dangling.
AG But in their perception the ANC attacks them, the counter-attack is self-defence and in the ANC's perception of the attack, the self-defence isn't attack and their counter-attack is self-defence. But both sides have told our structures, "Just get out of the area for a week and we'll solve it". Which they will over many thousands of dead bodies, but actually they want a fight.
POM But do you believe that that level of violence has to be brought under control before you can have anything approaching a free and fair election?
AG You can't have a free and fair election in Thokoza as it is now. It's out of the question. You'll get shot if you try and put up a polling booth there.
POM Yes that's right, never mind a poster! This kind of rivalry, whatever it is, won't just stop over night. One woman said to me that if there was a political settlement tomorrow it would really make no difference, that the violence is now so ingrained here that it will continue despite any political settlement.
AG If you look at Namibia and if you look at Zimbabwe it stopped and I think Zimbabwe was torn by a war much more intense and much longer than we have here and it is now an extremely peaceful and friendly country.
POM There weren't third forces or there wasn't?
AG Yes they had all the experts, security forces, the Selous Scouts and all those groups.
POM So would you predict that as the elections approach the level of violence will increase?
AG Yes, yes.
POM Does that make free and fair elections possible in areas such as Thokoza?
AG I think it would be better to have elections that are not entirely free and entirely fair than to have no elections at all so I think we've just got to do the best we can and go on regardless. If the whole country becomes a second Thokoza well then obviously we can't but I'm not that pessimistic.
POM How about Natal? Is Natal a special case?
AG Natal is a very difficult case. It's the most difficult nut to crack. Thokoza will disappear again. That doesn't in the long term cause me particular worry. But in Natal we've got the Zulu nation in the process of transition. There it's 50% ANC, 50% Inkatha support amongst the Zulus. Both Inkatha and the Zulus will tell you they've got 70% and the other side has got 30% but I think the truth is possibly about 50/50 but with the tide turning in the direction of the ANC. Some of the communities have said, "We're now just sick of the politicians and we're going to do our own thing and we're going to promote peace", M... Langa is one of them, while others in the majority just carry on. It will be difficult in Natal even now to have free and fair elections. Natal is a big problem but it has much to do with what Buthelezi does. If Buthelezi should continue with what he is doing now and boycott the elections it's going to be very, very difficult in Natal whereas on the other hand if Inkatha comes back into the process and gets to be part of the process I think things can improve dramatically in Natal.
POM Do you think, given what you said about the level of support being roughly 50/50 with the tide perhaps marginally in favour of the ANC, if you had a close election do you think the loser would accept the results?
AG Well it depends on what kind of state we've got. If it's a unitary state I think opinion polls say countrywide Inkatha's got about a 10% support and they will have very great difficulty in convincing anybody if they achieve 10% in an election that actually they should have had 50% plus.
POM I'm talking about Natal.
AG If it's a unitary state it doesn't matter all that much. If it's a federal dispensation there I think they have quite close to equal and he may well say it if he loses but I think the ANC may also say it if they lose because he doesn't allow any ANC activity in KwaZulu and Inkatha, the Natal areas which are inaccessible to ANC, is larger than the ANC areas inaccessible to Inkatha. So if Natal has got a separate election I think it's more likely that the ANC will call foul with good reason.
POM Do you think that once the election is over and the interim government in place which may not be accepted by one of the parties, by the IFP for example, that the violence will continue, that you have an interim government but basically an unstable South Africa?
AG 10% can cause a lot of problems but can't make the total country unstable and if the ANC and the government and the police and the military join forces, the IFP is going to find themselves in a very difficult position. You may have a short kind of civil war situation that they are brought to heel forcibly or that you have the third invasion of Ulundi. What will probably happen, and I'm guessing, is that if Buthelezi refuses to co-operate under a new dispensation he will be forcibly removed and somebody will be put in his place.
POM Forcibly removed?
AG From his position as Chief Minister of KwaZulu because then there is no more KwaZulu and what's his position then? He becomes a nothing.
POM When you say 'forcibly removed', by whom?
AG The new government if he tries to continue ruling KwaZulu.
POM This will be the new government?
AG The new one that comes in after April.
POM The interim government would take military action to remove him?
AG Yes they must because if he doesn't participate in the election there will be a regional winner for Natal. That regional winner has to take office. He is now de facto in control of Zululand, they can't allow it.
POM But would there be elections at all in Natal?
AG There will certainly be elections. It may not be possible to get polling booths into KwaZulu but there will be in the rest of Natal.
POM So if you assess the situation from what it was at the time the National Peace Accord was established, what are the plusses and what are the minuses in the way things have developed?
AG It's better now than it was at that time. Three months ago it was much better, now it's marginally better. Plusses are that our structures have remained credible and they have remained intact. They are providing room for the parties to speak to each other and they are being used for that. We've prevented a lot of violence from spreading and large portions of the country, the majority of the country is peaceful, by far the major portion of the country is peaceful.
POM Do you see the vote on the 27th being postponed or does it have to happen on the 27th?
AG No. One may end up in a position where it has to be postponed but I hope that won't happen and so far I don't think it will happen.
POM That would be because of the level of violence?
AG Yes. If the whole country becomes a second Thokoza there's no option but to postpone.
POM I was also looking at an interview that Cyril Ramaphosa gave already six weeks ago, his timetable for events, and every timetable that's been set up for things to happen has never really been met, the TEC being in effect by the beginning of August and it's now nearly the end of August and it's not going to be in effect by the end of September the way things are going. All the key issues have still got to be resolved.
AG The TEC is not of our making.
POM It's not of your making?
AG No that's the politicians. We try to keep out of politics totally. We're not politically comprised which means we can't make value judgements at all and the moment we become involved in the political process, specifically the Secretariat, we lose credibility amongst the ones whom we criticise. We may make a general comment that the process is taking too long but that's not particularly helpful, you must go for those who delay it and that we can't do.
POM Just in general, the Star last December in an editorial said: "The government is discredited and divided, the military may mutiny, Buthelezi wants secession and APLA threatens a race war. De Klerk fiddles while South Africa burns." De Klerk moved from a position of prominence, the pinnacle of his power so to speak in the March 1992 referendum and now he appears to be subdued, making slow or bad decisions or slow to make decisions.
AG It's almost impossible for any leader to survive a political transition. Gorbachev couldn't. We're in a political transition and he is actually negotiating his own giving up of power or his own surrender of power, not just of his own but that of his followers also and that's not going to make him popular.
POM Again a year ago the right was being dismissed, it was demoralised, it had no direction, but when I come here now it seems that it is much more cohesive?
AG No I think the really far right, maybe 200,000 strong, well Inkatha Zulus are two million strong, both can cause a lot of mischief but I think the Inkatha followers if we don't reach an agreement are much more dangerous than the far right.
POM Increasingly it seems that Buthelezi is playing the Zulu card, bringing the King out to make political statements.
AG Well he is the King's uncle, I think you know.
POM I must say in the last three years, I've been interviewing them both each year, I always found that the King was much more hard-line than Buthelezi.
AG Yes, you're right, he's considerably more hard-line.
POM There is a kind of belief out there that somehow Buthelezi is manipulating the King whereas I think he's very much his own man when it comes to these things.
AG No, he's more hard-line.
POM People have also said that the Zulus, Zulu tradition or whatever is that if the King is to call upon the Zulu nation to stand as one that even members of the ANC who are Zulu would rally to that call. Is that fantasy?
AG No, there's a thinly dividing line between politics and culture. If it's a cultural event, yes. If it's a political event I doubt it. They've got some very prominent Zulus in the ANC also, Jacob Zuma for instance.
POM Are there any other on the National Committee that you know of?
AG There certainly will be but I can't put names.
POM So if the King were to say that the Zulu nation's cultural identity was under threat?
AG Yes I think so depending on what you mean by cultural identity. They've got a rather antiquated culture of headmen having much power, labour is going on a single basis to work, staying in hostels, while your Zulus who see the bright lights are mostly ANC and I think there is a threat that the old system may disappear, which some people don't like.
POM It would go in time anyway with increasing urbanisation.
AG Yes. But it may mean giving up power by headmen who have been absolute tyrants in their own bailiwicks.
POM It doesn't happen easily.
AG It doesn't happen easily. That's what's happening in my view.
POM So rather than being really political is it part of social transformation of a new order?
AG Yes social transformation in a highly politicised society which must necessarily give the transformation process a political flavour.
POM This is a general question, do you think the white community has acknowledged and accepts that it did great injury to the black community during the forty plus years of apartheid and that some form of compensation, whether it's in the form of affirmative action or whatever, must take place or do they still just say, yes apartheid is over now and we're a new South Africa and we should all begin on an equal basis?
AG I think it's something in between. Most whites say that during the previous regime they acted with ... at that stage and we presume that was not wisdom or lack of wisdom, they were quick enough to acknowledge it. I think affirmative action in the sense that you must get the ethnic balance of public organisations to reflect the society will be acceptable but in the sense that assets must be confiscated from whites and made available to blacks certainly won't suit them.
POM Just on the question of ethnicity, again from speaking to Zulus who are in the IFP they look upon it almost strictly as an ethnic conflict. Whenever they talk about the ANC they talk about Xhosa speaking people.
AG I think they are wrong. There are very few Xhosa speaking people in Natal.
POM I mean down here on the Reef.
AG Yes, I think it just happens to be Xhosa speaking people because your Zulus, or Inkatha Zulus, leave their family behind. It's part of their culture when then go to work. So on that basis you get a few Zulus with family, Natal Zulus with family, coming to live here. So Inkatha Zulus won't find the same enemy they have in Natal, namely the ANC Zulus, in the Transvaal so they take the next best and that's the Xhosas.
POM But their perception of the conflict is one of ethnicity, that it's the Xhosas who want to dominate, who control the ANC. It's really a covert organisation and this organisation wants to establish a one-party state and nominate Xhosas.
AG No but they will have the same difficulty if those groups were Zulus and those groups are Zulus in Natal so the fight is not against the Xhosas. The fight is against those who wish to impose political programmes which they don't support.
POM Do you think that with the demarcation of boundaries that the disputes that would arise over individual pieces of land will in the new age serve to bring ethnic differences to the front or that they will surface where they haven't surfaced before?
AG Just repeat that. I'm not sure whether I understand.
POM Would the demarcation of the boundaries of regions and with different people making competing claims to pieces of land, do you think it would bring to the surface ethnic questions which haven't surfaced so far?
AG If I understand you correctly there are certain tracts of land which certain black groups regard as their own because their forefathers were buried there and so on. That could cause problems, yes.
POM But a single piece of land might be claimed by two different groups saying it was ours first. It's yours, we took it from you and whites took it from us, rather than a group from whom whites took it getting it back, the group who were initially dispossessed would be looking for it.
AG Oh you're now referring to the Trust expropriations 10 - 15 years ago to establish the Bantustans, that those communities want it back, or what are you referring to?
POM Just areas that are in dispute as they draw up the regions where there are two groups who have competing claims to the same piece of land.
AG Could you give me an example because I'm not sure if I'm getting it?
POM I don't know what the regions are, I don't know what areas are in dispute.
AG Well you could get, and I don't think you are going to get very much of it, that Zulu and Xhosa said we lived here for generations and we lay claim to it, but I think it's unlikely because everybody will know whether the people who lived there were Zulus or Xhosas.
POM As you look at the next year what are the major obstacles that you see that can derail the process?
AG I think it's the preliminary sabotaging of peace by the third force groups, as I've mentioned. I think political intolerance is a very big obstacle. The effectiveness of the police is a very big obstacle. The poor socio-economic conditions in which the people live and the resultant wrongs is a very big obstacle.
POM And the violence itself?
AG No, I'm now addressing the causes of the violence. If you can address those the violence will disappear, if there's no political intolerance there's no violence. If there's equal socio-economic conditions the violence that sprouts from bad areas will also disappear.
POM OK, thank you very much.