This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
18 Aug 1993: Viljoen, Gerrit
POM. Dr Viljoen, as you were kind of the architect of the government proposals and positions on constitutional development, now that you are outside the whole thing looking back on it, what observations can you make about the way it developed up to the point when you left and has subsequently developed up to the point where it is at today?
GV. I would say in the first place the results that have been formulated in constitutional principles on which both the transitional constitution and final constitution are to be based have been very gratifying. I think they reflect a large measure of successful negotiations in the sense of the different parties arriving at a result which is not ideal in the eyes of any of them but which is something with which all of them can live, in other words by way of compromise. I think the results in the constitutional principles which have been formulated by the negotiating forum, the negotiating council, are I would say very gratifying. At the same time experience has shown that the moment these principles are being converted into an actual transitional constitution, for instance by way of the draft transitional constitution that has been proposed by the so-called Technical Committee, you run into difficulties. It is easier to formulate an acceptable principle than to convert that into constitutional language of an equally acceptable nature and it is quite clear that in respect of the various principles quite a number of issues have arisen in the course of, as it were, bringing them down to earth in terms of practical constitutional measures.
. Another point that I would say has been very gratifying is the fact that in spite of considerable differences 26 different parties have been participating in the negotiating council and in the sub-bodies of the negotiating council, and there have been no serious delays in the course of the past year. Since the Record of Understanding between the government and the ANC I would say it appears that a very workable spirit of co-operation has been developing especially between the government and the ANC. This has unfortunately led to negative reaction from the side of Inkatha and I personally don't believe that we can have a really workable solution without Inkatha being involved. It is clear that the State President also holds that view because he has been taking a lot of time towards bilateral discussions between himself and the Inkatha leadership and between the government and the National Party on the one hand and Inkatha on the other hand.
. These efforts to bring Inkatha back have been a bit foggy or a bit unclear because there seems to be a tendency on the part of Inkatha to shift their target quite frequently or to formulate their problems or their complaints in a shifting way which may be part of their tactic to, as it were, extort as many concessions as possible especially on the federal basis of a new constitution by making their presence something to be, as it were, negotiated for. I don't think that Inkatha is really serious with its draft constitution which was passed last year by the KwaZulu Legislature. That constitution was very much a confederalist or very close to a confederalist version. I think Inkatha is fighting to get the biggest possible emphasis on devolution of regional rights in a new federal set up. Obviously in a federal set up you can have a variety of positions on a continuum from, say, close to confederal to on the other hand very close to a union-like constitution. I think they are negotiating for the best possible option. I think most of their points of criticism against the insufficiently federalist aspect of the draft transitional constitution are shared by the government. The government is also keen on getting a clearer definition of regional powers and functions and an increase in the number of meaningful areas of government to be included under the so-called exclusive powers rather than ordinary concurrent powers. Both Roelf Meyer and the President made that point, I think, quite clear.
. One thing which I think is very disappointing is the inability of the leaders to convey the message of what they are doing and the progress that they are making and the meaning of that progress in sufficiently clear terms to their lower level supporters to ensure that there is an understanding support from grassroots level. I think both the ANC, PAC, Inkatha, National Party, all of them have a problem of communication down to grassroots levels and that I think is one of the basic reasons why there is this terrific and frightening and tragic continuation of high level violence. I cannot see that a meaningful and really acceptable election can take place with this level of violence continuing, which doesn't mean that the proposed date for an election should be postponed but it means that a very high priority should be given to measures to make sure that the election process working up to that date is something as close as possible to a fair and free election.
POM. Just to move back a bit. When I talked to you last August, which was at the height of the stayaways and there appeared to be this great distance between the ANC and the government in particular and in CODESA 2 you had really two power parties, the ANC and its allies and the government and its allies. Now in the negotiating forum you have three power blocs with the addition of COSAG and it looks a bit like the government has switched dancing partners, so to speak. Whereas it spent its time in CODESA 2 wooing the IFP it seems now more in the direction of wooing the ANC.
GV. I think it's rather different. I think in CODESA 2 it had wooed the ANC because the ANC was not prepared to accept the proposals the government made and in this process the government had strong support from Inkatha and the parties presently in COSAG whilst at present they have to woo Inkatha back again. At present there is more agreement with the ANC on the content of compromises. Inkatha has become estranged I think mainly as a result of its very sensitive reaction, its irritated reaction to that Memorandum of Understanding of September last year.
POM. Looking at this whole Buthelezi factor which crops up in many different forms, I talked with Walter Felgate two days ago and it was just hard line. They were not going to make any concessions on anything and nothing could go forward without them. That's the premise they're using and if you tend to go forward without them you're finally going to end up in a mess, so in some basic way they will have to be accommodated. You've got that aspect. You've got Buthelezi and his personal sense of honour in the sense of being insulted, in the sense of being marginalised so he seems to be continuously putting himself into a corner of where it's very difficult not to insult him by saying we're going ahead in some way without you. And then my question would be; at that point does he take action that leads to civil war or does he forget about his ego and eat humble pie or find some face saving device to bring him back into the process? And if you did satisfy him, largely satisfy him, is the ANC in Natal so out of tune with the ANC national leadership that they would find such concessions to Buthelezi so compromising after ten years of war up there that they would say, "We don't accept this, we're going to fight on"?
GV. This is a real problem, exactly as you formulated it. This is the kind of thing which the government as government has to accept as very largely its responsibility and something for which it has to take the initiative, namely to try and find a solution which without estranging the ANC, at any rate the Natal regional powers of the ANC, which are generally speaking more militant than the rest, nevertheless also succeed in getting Buthelezi to come back without having the feeling of eating humble pie. I think there are a number of problems around the Buthelezi situation. One is Felgate. I think Felgate personally is a real problem. He has been all along anti-compromise. He's not really wanting negotiation. It's a question of these are our demands and either you give in or we walk out and strike, as it were. There is Buthelezi personally who has a very honour conscious personality and who unfortunately has marginalised himself from the whole personal chemistry of the process because he has refused to participate personally in terms of the King not being allowed. The result of all this is that he hasn't been subject to the personal give and take, the personal talk and the building up of a certain degree of personal mutual respect and mutual understanding amongst the main negotiators. He has no feeling for that and the feedback which he gets, from our information and I still speak as if I'm part of the set up because I experienced this very strongly while I was still there - we have very clear information that in this whole set-up the feedback which Buthelezi gets from discussions is often very confused and conflicting, Felgate being on the aggressive side and feeding his very ego-sensitive reactions and some of the other men like Ngubane and Frank Mdlalose being far more ready to negotiate. We've recently had cases where - Roelf Meyer I know was very upset - they had already negotiated agreements and then the feedback to the principals resulted in a complete rejection on the part of Buthelezi, according to our information, under the influence of Felgate. So that is a big factor, the Felgate factor, the Buthelezi sensitivity and the fact that he is not part of the chemistry of the process.
. But then also Buthelezi has good grounds for complaint on certain issues. His complaint about the fixing of an election date is not unfounded because you cannot have an election without a constitution, transitional constitution, spelling out how that election is to take place, what is to be elected and what will be the powers of the body elected. This has not been finalised but the government has compromised with the ANC in accepting a date, and this has been a big compromise on the government's part in order to give the ANC negotiators the strength of showing some concrete results by formulation of a specific date in order thereby to ease the process for the ANC to accept compromises in finalising this transitional constitution which will have to be finalised before an election can take place. But Roelf Meyer and the President have been saying both that you cannot have an election with the violence at the level that it has been for the past weeks, but also that it is essential that that date be kept. In other words it doesn't mean that we have to postpone that date, it means that we have to take the necessary preparatory steps to ease the violence. So these are some aspects of the matters surrounding Buthelezi which I think influence him.
. Also his complaints about sufficient consensus. There has been a very clear understanding in my time and in fact I gave the personal assurance to the Inkatha leaders that we interpret sufficient consensus that the three main contestants, as we see it, of course the ANC doesn't really agree that Inkatha is a main contestant - but we say it means that all three should be in agreement on all vital aspects of an issue and the fact that that date was fixed with sufficient consensus, not with real consensus, with Inkatha and the KwaZulu government opposing it is really in conflict with the understanding on sufficient consensus originally reached. But there again, according to the confidential information that I got from my former colleagues who were participating there, the night before this matter was decided by sufficient consensus there was intensive discussion and the understanding was that Felgate and Ngubane and Mdlalose have to put up a big fight and make a big row but in the end they would go along with the fixing of the date. But the next morning, after the matter had been reported to Buthelezi, that understanding was cancelled on which this sufficient consensus decision was taken. It was a sort of informal understanding reached the previous evening that it wouldn't really be a big issue but that there would have to be a lot of noise on the side of Inkatha.
. So one has to accept that there is substance in some of the complaints of Buthelezi, but the problem arises from the way in which he emphasises the importance of issues. In a given discussion, he says, "This is my main problem. If you can fix this then everything is OK." When you fix it or make proposals which accommodate him then he says, "No, but this is not really my only problem, there is also this problem." This of course breaks down a feeling of mutual trust and causes a lot of irritation. But this all goes towards saying that I cannot see (and it seems to be that this is still very clearly also the government's viewpoint) that there can be a workable solution without Buthelezi being involved and that there is still a strong motivation that through negotiations this problem can be solved just as with very great difficulty in September last year the deadlock between the government and the ANC was actually resolved although it meant that the old negotiating organisation was to be restructured in the form of the present negotiating forum.
POM. Buthelezi too seems more inclined to play the Zulu card. I suppose there are two strategies. You've got the IFP as the national party and then you have the Zulu nation over here bringing the King into the process. Now a number of people have told me that if the King is put out there the Zulu nation is at risk. I must tell you that I have done three interviews with the King over the last three years and I have found him to be personally more hard line than Buthelezi. I don't subscribe fully that he's a puppet of Buthelezi.
GV. He can be very hard line. He relies a lot on the military potential of the Zulu.
POM. And what he was telling me was that if he made that call for the Zulu people to come together that even some Zulus who were members of the ANC would respond to that call.
GV. I think that is correct. This goes with the other point, I think it is clear that although Buthelezi doesn't acknowledge it, he realises that they have lost a lot of ground in the black community outside the traditional ethnic Zulu element. They've also lost a lot of Zulu support amongst the more urbanised and, shall I say, modernised Zulu people. It is also true that the strongest vote catcher will be the King coming out in support and calling upon the Zulus to support him. They will get a lot of support in that way but I think that will be confined to Inkatha's position in Natal. It is unlikely that in Natal, even outside the rural or traditional areas, Inkatha may get a sound beating from the ANC.
POM. This kind of begs the question, can Buthelezi afford an election?
GV. I think that is the conclusion that he's drawn from this point which I think he realises, namely that he's lost a lot of support and the fact that he's getting a couple of white votes doesn't really change the matter much because those votes are not taken away from the ANC camp, they are taken away from the anti-ANC camp, namely from the National Party and the Conservative Party. I think Buthelezi is aiming at getting the biggest possible devolution of power for that area in which he believes he has the strongest chance of getting strong enough support to rule the roost.
POM. Do you think if he can't be brought into the process that South Africa is looking at a very unstable future?
GV. I think so, especially with the support that he's getting from the right wing. I think recent opinion polls, for what they are worth, have indicated very strongly that the right wing Conservative Party has lost tremendous support. There is more support now for the Afrikaner Volksfront of which Constand Viljoen is the leader. This could mean help for Buthelezi and lead to an election that might result in strong resistance. I believe that an election without Inkatha, especially if in that process there is also a strong withdrawal from participation by the right wing, would hold a strong possibility of serious instability and even armed conflict. I think the words 'civil war', which have been bandied about quite a bit, are an exaggeration. I think the chances for civil war in terms of the reality of the situation are very low. But the basic fact is that any likely solution enjoying strong majority support will nevertheless run the risk that there are small elements feeling strongly against that solution and putting up some kind of armed demonstration, even armed resistance. I think it is likely that PAC elements or some very radical elements inside the ANC might reject whatever their overall structures accept. But I think there is also the possibility, if Buthelezi is left out, that there could be a very strong, well organised reaction from that side and therefore I think the government is right in continuing in a very active way to try and find solutions to bring them back into the process. Hopefully Buthelezi is realising that he cannot successfully rely on support from the white right wing, from the Conservative Party and the Afrikaner Volksfront, because that support would be support for a completely different constitution from the constitution which Buthelezi wants. It is for a racially discriminatory constitution, except in the case of the small Afrikaner Volksunie which accepts that a sort of nation state or a component state of a federation in which there will be a dominant Afrikaner influence, will have to be without any racial discrimination. An acceptable dominant Afrikaner influence can only be based on a majority of voters.
POM. Let's talk about Mr de Klerk for a moment. In March of 1992 he appeared to have achieved the pinnacle of his success, that every move he had made in the previous two years paid off handsomely both in terms of international recognition and even to a certain degree in terms of acceptance in the black community where I found many blacks would call him 'Comrade de Klerk' and would put himself and Mandela, would consider them both as men who could equally in the future be State President. He was making all the running and now it appears that things have reversed, that he has become more indecisive, that the ANC or making the running and perhaps the change was when it was Nelson Mandela who went on television after Chris Hani was assassinated to tell everybody to stay calm and the State President almost disappeared for a couple of days and it was though he might be running the country but Mandela was running the nation. You had that with the precipitous decline in support for the NP. A poll showed that only about one in four of the people who voted for the National Party in 1989 would vote for it today. There would appear to be divisions within the government between hawks and doves and I've talked to ministers who have identified themselves on either side even though they won't say there are any great differences, it's differences in emphasis rather than in outcomes we're talking about. Whither De Klerk? Whither the National Party?
GV. I think the main dilemma which faces De Klerk and the National Party is the double role which really demands two conflicting actions to be undertaken at the same time. The one is the role of promoter of the process leading to a peaceful negotiated basis for a new South Africa, which means that the government has to be the peacemaker, has to be the facilitator, the talker rather than the party making hard and strong demands. The other role is the role up to the election which has already started, where you have to take a clear unambiguous position with regard to your own viewpoints and attack the opponent's viewpoints. In this regard De Klerk has still been very much in the facilitator role rather than in the election campaign-maker's role. I think that people, his supporters or his former supporters, are confused about this and it's not been clarified sufficiently for them. It will be necessary, it will be essential, on an urgent basis - and I think we have hopefully started with this at the Natal Party Congress - to also take a more clearly formulated combative role with regard to the ANC and with regard to the coming election.
POM. Are you in a tricky situation there that the demands of negotiation - ?
GV. Are in conflict with the demands of the election? Yes.
POM. Are in contradiction and they may not only be in contradiction but reach a point where they are converging and become a conflict.
GV. And I think it's quite clear that the first priority, and it will still be so for a couple of weeks, remains to take the negotiating process as far as humanly possible with regard to transitional mechanisms enabling the country to go to an election and to set up an interim government which at the same time will be a constitution making body.
POM. So do you think in time that the support he has lost from whites will be regained?
GV. I think he will regain that support because he's got a clearer picture to hold up of what he wants to do than any of the others have. The others, amongst the whites especially, are very confusing. I don't think he will regain the black support quite as easily although it can be questioned whether the present polls with regard to support for the ANC are really reliable because these polls are mainly, if not exclusively, taken by telephone in the urban areas which means that the basis of the survey is very selective.
. If you consider the very awkward position in which De Klerk was after the Potchefstroom by-election at the beginning of last year (1992) - the National Party was really in a very awkward position after that by-election - and nevertheless he went for a referendum and the way in which he and the National Party succeeded in putting across their policy was such that that referendum was far more successful than anybody had anticipated. I think the same thing is likely to happen the moment that the National Party spells out exactly what has been achieved in the negotiating process, although it will also have to acknowledge that a certain number of policy points had to be given up, but I think on the whole we will be able to put across a very favourable picture. What is going to be vital is whether the National Party in its electioneering techniques is going to succeed in addressing effectively the completely new kind of target which is a very diverse and numerous target, large numbers of people, unsophisticated people, and completely different from the electoral target which it used to address within the white community.
. I was a bit disappointed in my own experience, while I was still active, with regard to reaching the black community. The efforts with regard to the Coloured and the Asian community were very successful but within the black community it was not so successful. But there the question is going to be how big is the silent majority and how well protected will it feel against intimidation to vote in a way which need not necessarily be the ANC way? So I think that once the election campaign is really starting up, there is every reason in terms of surveys, and of what happened in 1992, to believe that the National Party will do much better than it seems to be doing at present.
. There's one other area which worries me and that is the real policy and initiative speeches are almost exclusively made by De Klerk. He has very little support at present from his other ministers. He has to do virtually all the speaking, all the policy making and there is very little support. Pik Botha comes in here and there, but Botha doesn't always clarify policy, he's more of a sort of street fighter of the election process. But the National Party will need much better supportive campaigning from its leaders and its ministers than the President as leader of the party is presently getting.
POM. I want to couple that with the rise of the right. A year ago after the referendum they appeared to be in total disarray, demoralised and no cohesiveness about the way they were approaching things and today they seem cohesive, coherent.
GV. They are cohesive in the sense of all resisting the government but not in the sense of providing an alternative. Constand Viljoen, who initially, I think, proved to be a big drawing card, is now being drawn more and more towards the CP, and ultimately even the old HNP, viewpoint that the white nation state, the boerestaat, will be a state in which there will be a majority or a very large minority of non-whites who will not have any political rights and on that basis I think they will be rejected. They were rejected very clearly and unambiguously in the referendum in which that point was quite clearly spelt out in the campaigning.
. The one thing which might upset the apple cart is the question of violence because I think the concern and the worry amongst the people about the extent of violence and the apparent inability of the government to find techniques of handling the situation successfully may upset the apple cart. That could have a devastating effect on the whole picture because it would not be resistance or rejection to or the negotiated constitutional solution, but deep concern about the overall picture of what the new South Africa is likely to be like.
. One of the ministers who is a very good friend of mine, recently in his constituency area, together with a couple of adjoining constituencies, had a big meeting with the very view of explaining the recent positive achievements of the negotiating process against the feeling that the National Party has been consistently the capitulators. In the end he felt the only serious problem remaining here, after he had argued a lot, was the question from some cattle farmers of that area, which borders upon black neighbouring states, about cattle theft and also murders and assaults accompanying these cattle thefts across the border, and the question was: if things go as badly as they do in the present old South Africa with its insufficient rule of law, insufficient emphasis on the importance of being a constitutional state, where the constitution determines what should happen, how will the position be in a new South Africa with new people in control? And that is the concern of people - how the new set up, even assuming that the National Party will still play a considerable role in it, will be able to ensure a more stable and a less violent milieu than the present.
POM. Let's just talk about the violence. I have spent quite an amount of time out in Thokoza and Katlehong talking to people, there are families out there that I interview, IFP and ANC. I talk to hostel dwellers and to PAC people, what have you, and two common things seem to emerge, or three. One is that both Inkatha and the ANC are increasingly pointing a finger at the police. They say the police are shooting at us, the police are siding with the ANC, the police are siding with the IFP. Point two is a belief that even if there was a political settlement tomorrow morning it would do very little to dampen the violence, it's got its own internal dynamic at this point and has little to do with national politics as such and a lot to do with what goes on at the very grassroots. The third problem outside of that there is no way, a tacit admission that the ANC is not in control of the youth, Buthelezi is not in control of his warlords, and with regard to the actions of the police there is a limited amount that De Klerk can do.
GV. I think all those points are true, but the very nature of the new set up, the new structure, is that not one party is in control but that all three of these parties, together with some other parties, have a joint responsibility both with regard to inability to control their own supporters and with regard to the charges made against the police. On the one hand the police are charged that they are not using the full force of the state to restore order. The 'full force of the state' is a phrase that Mandela has been using very frequently but the moment that they use anything like force, not to speak of full force, then the side who apparently has been in the wrong, who has apparently been the aggressor and who then experiences this force, complains that the police are in cahoots with the other side. This I think could change if all parties are jointly responsible for the actions of the security forces.
POM. Do you see joint responsibility for actions of the security forces as a prerequisite for an end to the violence?
GV. I think so yes. I think in the present situation the lack of confidence and of trust is such that a form of joint responsibility is necessary which in the run up to the election would be exercised by one of the Transitional Executive Sub-Councils. They will not have a governing function but will have a compelling moral power to identify executive or legislative measures which mitigate against a free and fair election. Once the government of national unity has been set up, as a result of an election, there would then really be a more direct rule by the multi-party government of the whole situation and that could contribute to a more favourable atmosphere for controlling violence.
POM. In your own personal view do you think the violence is going to increase as election time approaches?
GV. I think so, unfortunately yes.
POM. Do you think it will remain at some substantial level even after the election?
GV. I don't think it will be so everywhere. There seem to be certain hot spots and it is encouraging that whilst in Natal and on the East Rand and to a certain extent in the Western Cape there have been continuous serious incidents of violence, in the rest of the country, in the black communities at any rate, the matter has in recent weeks and even months been fairly under control, fairly quiet. The other aspect which has worsened in recent weeks and months is the violence against especially elderly people in rural or semi-rural areas, which is generally interpreted as an outcome of Mokaba's 'Kill the Boer, kill the farmer', because most of these people are Boers in the sense that they are Afrikaans and that they are farmers or sort of farmers. The mistrust of white people in the leadership of the black political organisations has been very, very seriously affected by this.
POM. In fact the ANC has really made no inroads into the white community.
GV. No, I think they have lost support to the same degree as the National Party has lost support amongst the blacks.
POM. What impact do you think the assassination of Chris Hani has had?
GV. I'm really trying to figure this out. My feeling was it had a lot of impact on those who were more closely connected with him in the militant organisations, within the ANC and amongst the sort of informally organised comrade groups, but for the rest I think the anger has been very largely artificially pumped up as it were by the more militant elements. I'm not sure that the Hani assassination really bears a big responsibility for the increase in violence.
POM. Let me put the question in a different way. In the ANC they are quite proud of themselves for the way they managed the whole situation and kept serious violence under control.
GV. You mean at the Hani assassination?
POM. At the funeral. Mandela was very impressive going on television and appealing for calm. So their assessment of it is all positive in terms of, "We showed that we are in control". Whereas from white people that I spoke to the predominant position would be that there was a lot of violence, that things looked as though they were getting out of control altogether.
GV. I think the popular reaction amongst the whites is like that.
POM. So you get two different perceptions of the same thing.
GV. I think the real fact is more in favour of the ANC. I think they did quite well. But in the few cases where matters got out of hand they got out of hand rather badly. I think it was almost a natural reaction, an understandable reaction amongst the ordinary run of the mill whites that they generalise this and say, "This is the kind of thing that you can expect".
POM. But you have had over the last 18 months, in particularly over the last year, what seems to be a hardening of attitudes among blacks and whites?
GV. I'm not sure that I can really assess that point very clearly. I think there has not been a hardening of attitudes on the negotiating level because a lot of progress has been made there. I don't think there has been a hardening of attitudes on the level of violence on a large scale as between the races, between black and white. Of course though these individual assassinations and robberies in the semi-rural areas which are black on white and did increase, I don't think it is of sufficient extent to really reflect a widespread hardening of feeling. I think it's rather a criminal element of people who have developed a reckless lifestyle and maybe they are encouraged by the statements of people like Mokaba and by these songs that they sang. But I'm not sure that there is really a hardening of attitude amongst the ordinary man in the street. One gets very little feedback from employers that there is a hardening amongst their employees, although perhaps I haven't got sufficient information to make such a statement, but this is my feeling. On the shop floor level relations are not that bad and the pressure exerted by blacks through the trade union movement has become more and more part of the system. Although people often resent it I also think that the trade unionists have handled this quite responsibly, I won't say this in public, but they acted quite responsibly in the recent months in view of the bad economy of the country. They didn't come forward making the excessive demands that they tabled last year; it may still be cropping up, but so far they haven't come forward and there seems to have been an understanding of the economic realities of South Africa judging from trade union demands and this has not led to a bitterness or aggressiveness on the worker level.
POM. When you look at the ANC itself and its evolution over the last three years do you see it as an organisation that has factionalised into left militants and moderates, realists or whatever, and the labour union component, all of which will have different agendas?
GV. I'm not sure that the militant element in the ANC has increased, I rather think it has been pretty strong all along. What I think has happened is that the element which represents the ideological viewpoint of Marxism has entrenched itself much more strongly in influential positions, not only in the formal structure of the ANC but also in certain public bodies and I think we are going to see - I predict this, it is already showing here and there - an increasing exposure of Marxist orientated members of the ANC who's real home is in the Communist Party rather than in the ANC and who are taking more and more public positions, become more visible, become more, one could say, popular figures.
. A man whom I respect but whose viewpoints I am scared of is Dennis Davis. He's a Professor at Wits in Law and Accounting and he's been conducting a television show, 'Future Imperfect', where hot issues are being exposed and where there's a very broad audience representing different viewpoints. He aggressively presents opposing viewpoints and he seems fair and balanced, doesn't take any side. He's becoming a highly respected and popular presenter of these television shows dealing with current issues by panel discussion. He is, according to information that I have picked up here and there, apparently a pretty well motivated Marxist. This kind of man becoming more popular through more representative handling of television could exert very considerable influence. You could have workerist leaders coming forward very strongly who are critical of the ANC and who feel that the Marxist, socialist demands of a workerist governing party should dominate the new South Africa. I think this is very likely, it's already taking place. But I think they are handling and managing it very cleverly, very carefully. There won't be any serious conflict or clashes until after the election. I think they will pool their resources to the utmost in the run up to the election.
. The ANC is certainly going to have to exercise a lot of control because these persons are going to be elected on an ANC list which the ANC will control and which, to a certain extent, will give the ANC disciplining powers over the persons elected on those lists. They will be COSATU people, Communist Party people and people from all kinds of groups who are not completely in agreement with everything the ANC is doing but who are, for the moment, generally supporting it in the so-called liberation struggle.
POM. What about the issue of power sharing? And maybe I should put it in the context of dual formulation on the one hand, the National Party have almost dropped the words 'power sharing' altogether, it surfaces from time to time. Everyone talks now about a government of national unity. What's the difference between the two or is it just semantics?
GV. I think it's just semantics. In principle there is really no difference, you can load either term with a certain meaning content. But I must say I think this is one of the areas where we can run into great difficulties in the short term, namely what is power sharing or multi-party government meaning in respect of the executive? A lot has been said about the legislature and about the constraints upon the legislature, especially in its capacity as constitution maker. What about the executive, the Cabinet of a transitional government, of a government of national unity? A lot has been said but very little clear consensus has been achieved. I think the ANC position is that the majority party should appoint the head of the executive, whether it's a president or a prime minister, and that that head of the executive should then appoint additional members from other parties in consultation with the leaders of those parties but he has the final say. The National Party's viewpoint is that according to the strength of a party as a result of the election, there should be a formula that each party gets so many seats on the executive and that the party, and not the head of the executive, appoints those people which it considers best. I think the National Party has moved away from its rotating head of the executive, the Swiss model, and accepted that the majority party will probably have the head of the executive but maybe with one or two other posts like a deputy head of the executive or a chairman of the joint sessions of parliament which might be shared by other parties.
POM. It's not clear yet whether the individuals chosen from the majority party would be chosen as individuals rather than as party representatives?
GV. That point has been debated but the Technical Committee has not yet made any proposal. It said in its first two reports that these are matters which they still have to consider and on which in due course recommendations will be made before a complete decision about a new transitional constitution can be taken. This is a matter on which I think interpretations of what is meant by national unity or by power sharing or by multi-party government have not yet been resolved and there can be serious delays on that point.
POM. The government has given up on its insistence that power sharing, just for the use of any other term, should be entrenched in the final constitution?
GV. Well the government insists that the constitutional principles which are accepted on a basis of unanimity amongst the 26 participants to the present stage of negotiations, should define the contents of both the transitional constitution and the final constitution. My feeling is that the government is still exerting itself to get power sharing in the form of a pro-rata representation on the executive included in the final constitution but that will need a clearer formulation of the present constitutional principles.
POM. Might there be some kind of trade off like the government understanding that the ANC couldn't go to its constituency with part of its programme saying that it's going to be permanent power sharing?
POM. Would there be an understanding nevertheless that when the five years is over that power sharing would just continue because if it works it will be better?
GV. I personally don't think that such an agreement will have much meaning because the people who make such an agreement now are not the people who are going to be the decision makers in five years time. There may be quite a big change in the personnel of each side. This is a matter that has been considered and it is certainly one of the options.
POM. With the draft constitutional proposals that are already on the table, the first and second draft, on a scale of one to ten how satisfied are you that they meet the objectives which you had set out with in 1990 when negotiations first began to get under way?
GV. In many ways it's been very gratifying but there are two areas where I feel it is absolutely essential that more should be done. The one is in respect of the deadlock breaking mechanism, the possibility that ultimately the constitution could be approved of and could be changed by something like a simple majority. I don't think that that is acceptable and that was the issue on which CODESA really failed. The question was not which percentage of votes was required but it was this whole principle of a 51% majority. The second one is I think there must be a stronger content given to exclusive powers for the regions. I think the present content is federal in the sense that there are exclusive powers and exclusive powers cannot be tampered with. I think there are too few and I think there are certain aspects of the powers on which there is concurrent jurisdiction which also have to be entrenched in the constitution. I think that can be achieved. I don't think there is a big problem about that, but I think it's going to be tough on the question of the deadlock breaking mechanism.
POM. When you look at where the ANC and the government were last June when CODESA collapsed and where they are today, what would you identify as the major compromises or concessions made by both sides?
GV. Well the ANC's compromises are in the field of accepting strong regional government and giving much more content to regional government than they were prepared to do before. Also in accepting the principle of power sharing, however they may differ about its details. There's no question of entrenching such a principle with regard to both the transitional and the ultimate parliament. The concessions made by the government I would say are mainly that the constitution can be written by an elected body and the majority required, namely two thirds, is much less than what the government had tried to achieve in the form of 70% or 75% last year. If this is not contaminated by an unacceptable deadlock breaking mechanism, really invalidating this clause, I think it would be a major concession to the ANC.
POM. Do you think that election will take place on 27th April, that all the work will be done?
GV. I think it can be done, yes, I really think it can be done. One of the biggest problems was the extent to which regional government on a new basis must already be functioning at that stage. In the second draft of the constitution the formulation was found, which I think is sound, that the new political structures should be in place but the administrative structures should go on as they are in the present apartheid systems but with a view to phasing them out as quickly as possible. That I think was a major practical meeting of the minds. Whether this has been accepted I'm not quite sure but I thought that was a very good way of distinguishing between the political structures which have to be in place and the administrative structures which could still be changed, and which meanwhile are under total control of the political structures.
POM. So if you go back to 1990 and the first opening salvos in the debate about what a future South Africa would look like and the government talked about the protection of minorities and different kinds of thoughts emanating from that, do you feel today more than reasonably satisfied that the interests of the white population have been taken into consideration and there are sufficient safeguards in the system that you can say "We've done a good job"?
GV. Yes I think so. I don't think we've achieved everything that we wanted and I think there are still some things we are likely to achieve on the way forward but on the whole we've made good progress. The one thing which worries me most is the lack of a sufficient democratic culture and especially the lack of tolerance towards opposition viewpoints. The ingrained inability to accept that and the ingrained resistance against that especially amongst blacks but also amongst whites is a fact which I didn't quite assess properly. I think it's very serious and I think it can upset the whole process because without a basic understanding of democracy and the tolerance factor the thing is not going to work.
POM. Finally do you think expectations are still too high, that no government can possibly deliver?
GV. I think that is also a very serious problem, pumped up or inflated expectations, especially in the economic field.
POM. This in an odd kind of way may play into Buthelezi's hand as well because he can say in effect, "I can make this country have a situation in which instability prevails", and the outside world will simply watch and look but they're not going to send their money in here.
GV. That's true. The one thing about Buthelezi which I think is a very vital element is Buthelezi is a very serious Christian and he has all along in his resistance against sanctions and against violence and against fragmentation of South Africa, motivated his views very strongly on the basis of a Christian ethic and I think he's been pretty sound in that respect. He hasn't distorted Christian ethics as I think we in the apartheid times often did and that is an aspect which I think will restrain Buthelezi from over hasty movements towards irresponsible action. I wouldn't say it will stop him entirely but it will certainly have a restraining effect.
POM. Have you any final words, looking back on this long, laborious process?
GV. Yes, I would say first of all I'm very worried about the degree of violence and about the inability of the government to come forward with techniques of handling this successfully and we've talked a lot about this. Secondly, I'm very excited about the degree to which consensus was achieved on vital elements on which the parties initially differed very strongly in the formulation of the constitutional principles. I'm also a bit worried about the inability of the parties, and especially the technical committees, to find formulations of the draft constitution which effectively embody these constitutional principles. I think the step from the constitutional principles to the constitution in practice has not yet been handled as successfully as the issue merits.
POM. OK, thank you very much. This last final question is do you think the white community in general acknowledges or accepts that they did great injury to black people during the years of apartheid and that part of a settlement is an acknowledgement of that injury and compensation for it in some way?
GV. I think that is accepted, I wouldn't say generally, but by most of the people. But there is concern that this compensation might be done in an unfair way and especially in a way affecting the validity of ownership of property. I think it is generally accepted that there is going to be an increase in local government taxes in order to improve in the short term at an accelerated pace the quality of housing and of provision of services for those areas which are predominantly deprived communities. I think that is generally accepted but again on the assumption that it will not be a tax which will cripple the economy.