About this site

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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

20 Aug 1993: Wessels, Leon

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POM     First of all, last year you did a tour of the hostels and in August of 1992 you told The Star that concrete results of your investigations into the hostels would be evidenced within the next five or six months. What were the concrete results of that survey of the hostels?

LW     You've got me baffled now because we're talking specific time frames. You haven't got a date to that?

POM     This would be August 1992.

LW     OK, August 1992, this was just in the build-up towards the Record of Understanding and so forth, I gave evidence to the Goldstone Commission, etc. You see we had the finances, we had budgeted for the resources but we had a problem implementing and spending the money. That was what I had in mind. A lot of things have happened, as you are presumably aware. I left the Department of Housing and am now Minister of Manpower only, but what we had in mind was bringing about the National Housing Forum which is a multi-party inclusive Housing Forum which did come about. A relationship was formed between government and the Housing Forum and that funds for the upliftment of the hostels be channelled through them. That was virtually what I had in mind when I spoke then.

POM     Because you came out in disagreement with the Goldstone Commission that the hostels should be fenced.

LW     Yes.

POM     What I'm trying to get as is, we have visited a number of hostels and it's like there is a whole reaction to the proposals. Number one, they were not consulted.

LW     They were not?

POM     Consulted.

LW     Yes, sure.

POM     Number two, to fence them in was kind of treating them like animals.

LW     I can respond to that. I know the issues. The fact is when I had visited a particular hostel, on that very same day somebody was killed. I actually saw the poor person that had been killed and the point I was making when I was arguing along those lines, that at a specific moment to save lives and property you don't consult people you actually take the necessary action. So what we had in mind was certainly not permanent structures against the will of the people but certainly to contain violence and there were precedents where exactly that had taken place and in my evidence before the Goldstone Commission I don't believe that that point was vehemently opposed. However, if you bring about a long term solution be it the fencing in or the uplifting or upgrading of the hostels you need the involvement and the participation of the people. But the whole whipping up of emotions of the hostel dwellers I believe was political mischief because people were then saying, "Look this is what the National Party and the ANC had in mind. They are not consulting the people, they are treating them like animals", and so forth.

POM     Who's making that political mischief?

LW     Well those were the accusations by nobody less than Chief Minister Buthelezi himself and I actually crossed swords with him on that issue in public.

POM     Two other things we found were that, number one, we visited mostly hostels in Thokoza and despite what looks like primitive conditions there's not a very big concern about interior conditions. They would like the place to look better and maybe water to be laid on, but they regard their homes as being back in Natal and although they had been there for maybe twenty years it was still a temporary place they were staying before they would go to their homes. The other thing was, it seemed to us, they always spoke about Xhosa speaking people believing that the ANC would like to set up a Xhosa speaking state that would dominate the Zulus and they talked about when authorities talked about building housing for them in the community so that they could bring their families, they saw this as a way that they would be dispersed into the community and therefore become more vulnerable. And two, that their families had to remain in Natal anyway because the families, particularly the wives, looked after the cattle. I am interested in what your feeling was.

LW     Well the hostel issue was a very complex one and to some extent I'm a little bit disappointed that I had to leave the matter when I did but my whole Cabinet portfolio was looked at for me to be more involved in a secondary capacity in the negotiating process, which is also wonderful. Visiting the hostels I came to a number of conclusions that were not, I would say, completely in tandem with what government thinking was at that particular moment. First of all people from certain quarters, maybe government circles, Inkatha circles, always thought that the hostel dwellers were the people that were not getting a fair deal and they were the ones that were attacked, they were the ones that were discriminated against, they were the soft targets of the government and the ANC and so forth. But in my own unscientific research I had come to the conclusion that in many hostels those hostels were actually used as launching pads for attacks on the community. I'm not sitting in judgement saying the community started this and that but the point that came across forcefully was the fact that the communities and the hostel dwellers were living in conflict and under the greatest tension with one another and it's not a simple matter of saying it's the community against the hostel this, that and the following. I have spoken to many hostel dwellers who had conceded they were bastions for Inkatha supporters. I had seen the weapons used. I'd learned of the tactics, the strategies planned in the hostels by hostel dwellers themselves so I take that as beyond doubt.

POM     Were these for offensive assaults on the community or defensive ones?

LW     I would say both. You see I think that the statement would simply be that what we had to do with political rivalry between the two groups, that statement can stand any argument, I'm not really equipped to say whether it was defensive or pro-active or whatever but it wasn't a simple matter. Furthermore, I've had experience of hostels in Natal as well where the people, the Zulus, had actually chased the hostel dwellers from the Transkei and Ciskei simply out of Natal and bullied them out of Natal simply on the basis of them being members of the National Union of Mine Workers, being Xhosa speaking and also claiming that they were the people that advocated sanctions and therefore should not complain if they are left jobless and so forth.

POM     Did you perceive the ethnic factor as being important in this, especially from the Zulus point of view?

LW     It did become ethnic. It certainly had become ethnic because in Natal the hostels, albeit it was private hostels owned by the private sector, certainly if you were Xhosa speaking you were simply chased out of the hostels and you were driven back to the Transkei and Ciskei. That is beyond doubt. And the Zulus, but now this complicates the matter, and the Zulus who had joined the National Union of Mine Workers and become friends with the Xhosa speakers many of them fled with the Xhosas but they were definitely in the minority. In the Transvaal I would say the opposite was true. In that case the residents of the community, whatever their ethnic origins may be, had formed a group to oppose, as they perceived it to be, the Zulus in the hostels. But the funny thing is I had met persons who were Sotho speakers who had changed their allegiance from ANC to the IFP and actually joined forces with the IFP hostel dwellers although they were Sotho speakers but they were in the minority. And when you were to speak to hostel dwellers sometimes asking them where they come from just on a friendly basis, many of them would denounce the fact that they had come from Natal or from KwaZulu or whatever and outsiders would often point out to me and say, "But these people do not come from the Eastern Transvaal or whatever, they are really Zulus". So it was a factor. It was complicated. It was a complex issue.

POM     Can you put that now in the context of the violence today? Is the violence that has been occurring in the last several months qualitatively different from the violence in 1990 and the violence in 1991?

LW     Yes, I can speak on that but I'm not as deeply involved in the violence as I had been then because all the conclusions I came to were from first hand experience. In other words if I had still been involved in housing I would have gone to the East Rand personally and spoken to a lot of people but with this portfolio and job pressures I don't have that first hand experience so the conclusions are simply conclusions drawn from the public press and media and little discussions here and there. I think one cannot, once again, come to the conclusion that this is an ethnic thing because in Natal it has everything to do with Zulus against Zulus and has everything to do with the politics of the matter, but that it has become pretty fierce is true. I still see some of the features of the old violence. I spoke to IFP people in a bilateral recently and they were saying to us how people were driven out of their houses simply because they were Zulu speakers. Now it compared with the incidents where people were driven out of hostels simply because they were Xhosa speakers. So this whole thing has taken on ethnic tones and I think the way that Inkatha leadership tries to do that is proof of that argument.

POM     Do you think the violence now has an inner dynamic of its own and that it is getting to the point where no authority can control it?

LW     It certainly does look like that.

POM     The ANC is not in control of its constituency in the townships, the IFP, Inkatha, Buthelezi is not in control of his people and to a certain extent De Klerk is not in charge of the police, so you've got three constituencies that not controlled.

LW     I wouldn't say that Mr de Klerk is not in charge of the police. I would like to give a perspective on that. But it certainly is true that many deeds are being done in the name of the ANC or in the name of the IFP by people who are simply on the fringes of those political movements. So I think your statement is correct that it has developed a dynamic of its own. The police is a different matter because I don't see the police having actually the muscle, not in terms of powers, but the muscle in terms of legitimacy. In other words I'm not saying manpower and resources but in terms of legitimacy, to nip much of the violence in the bud. Because they don't have the legitimacy they don't have the involvement of the community to either point out perpetrators or to warn them in advance or whatever. That is a problem and that is why hope is actually placed and based on the so-called Peace Force, peacekeeping force.

POM     What was different this time is in hostel areas where there's a very thin line between the two communities, was that increasingly we would hear IFP people say the police, it's the ANC, Xhosa speaking, and the police who have turned against them and the police are shooting at them. Then you go to ANC supporters and of course it's just the opposite, the police are siding with the IFP and shooting at them. But from both sides far more people were saying, "The police are shooting at us".

LW     Yes, well, that is a question of fact and perception and so forth and it also relates to the legitimacy question; on whose side is the police? I'm not saying they're on anybody's side but that's how they perceive them.

POM     Just to go back a bit, since the last time we talked, since at least nearly 18 months ago, what have been the key turning points in your view in development since that time? CODESA had just gotten off the ground, there was a fair degree of optimism in the air, then you move to last June and the collapse of CODESA and Boipatong and the long series of bilaterals between the government and the ANC, you got the negotiating forum and it's attendant movements. What do you think were the key things that led to these crucial changes in the process?

LW     That question is really loaded. If you could just pinpoint, crucial changes since when?

POM     Since say January of 1992.

LW     Since the breakdown? Since May/June 1992, since the breakdown?

POM     No I want you to go before that.

LW     OK, if I'm not on target you'll let me know. In January 1992 one was looking at the Working Groups of CODESA working, grappling with the issues and so forth. And there was this aura, this optimism afoot that all the outstanding issues would be solved within months. I sat on that committee dealing with the time frames and one kept on saying, "But you know it's more complex than this and that". Yes, but the Working Groups had to be compelled to work faster and so forth and you had CODESA 2 which simply did not, that really was not the moment to settle. Looking at it from different points of view COSATU was not ready to settle, the ANC asked a lot, so that I believe was why the whole January mood had changed to this nasty mood of the post-CODESA 2 breakdown. Subsequent to that you had to have this campaign of mass action which was really Mandela's referendum. You had the referendum in between and that was Mandela's referendum on the streets.

POM     Was that appreciated by the government that this mass action in a way had to happen?

LW     Yes, and it was not going to last. That's why we did not clamp down on it the way we would have clamped down say in the mid eighties on actions such as those.

POM     So there was an appreciation of his political dilemma, of being caught between the hard liners in the organisation and the moderates?

LW     Sure and that this was also a moment of the liberating movements to actually mature in their whole approach because it was clear they would not muster the kind of masses they were talking about. And I don't believe that they really, that was the time you had the Bisho incidents and so forth. You may have had many Bishos' or you may have had many incidents where the mass action has simply been a takeover or a walkover of issues and events. But I think as things went on to the Spring of 1992 everybody realised that we have to take the issues forward and unless there was some form of understanding between the government and the ANC on the process, that logjam which arose at CODESA 2 would not be broken and that's why the Record of Understanding was agreed to and signed.

POM     In retrospect do you think that the collapse of CODESA 2 was inevitable?

LW     I still think it was unnecessary.

POM     Unnecessary to?

LW     To have that collapse. I have an opinion on that which four years embargo is too quick to express that opinion.

POM     That's fine because nothing I say gets published till 1998 at the earliest.

LW     It depends on where you sat and where you were involved. If we could have had the spirit of the Record of Understanding, in other words the spirit of September 1992, going in May 1992, in other words in the build-up towards the collapse, CODESA 2 would not have collapsed or if we had the spirit of the World Trade Centre today CODESA 2 would not have collapsed.

POM     I have heard a number of views on the break up. Last year I spent a lot of time talking to people about it and two things stand out. One is a consensus maybe on the side of the ANC, but you get it also from government people, that the government probably got offered the best offer it would ever get with that 70%, without going into the details of it, the 70% could have put them in the driver's seat as far as being able to put together that share of the vote in an alliance. And the second thing was that people on the ANC say, "Whew, thank God we got off the hook. We would have had a great deal of trouble selling that to our membership."

LW     I think that's true. I think that's absolutely true. I've listened to a few people saying that COSATU was not ready to settle and COSATU would not have sold that agreement and that amongst others is one of the reasons why the ANC actually got themselves off the hook.

POM     Jay Naidoo and COSATU were playing the leading role in the mass action.

LW     You see they were very much outside, they were very much out in the cold. That's the way they perceived the whole thing. They were not ready to settle with the ANC themselves and they had already had this mass action thing in the back of their minds to prove their worth and they now had the opportunity to do that during the mass action campaign and they also had the opportunity to negotiate a pact with the ANC pertaining to reconstruction and participation in parliament and so forth and all this took place post the CODESA 2 collapse which I believe is an interesting thing. I haven't thought about it in depth but the whole idea is quite attractive to me.

POM     In the build-up to mass action you saw it was COSATU people who were on television, every evening it was Jay Naidoo or Sam Shilowa who made all the statements. Cyril Ramaphosa and others in the ANC, they weren't even in the newspaper any longer.

LW     Yes, I think the COSATU role has not been properly investigated, certainly not by the politicians in this country. For a long time I think that COSATU were the best negotiators, that's where Cyril Ramaphosa comes from, that does not mean that he was the only good negotiator. They are left with a number of good negotiators in COSATU. They had been studying the political scene for a long, long time. They had been preparing also for a long, long time how to deal with a so-called political settlement. That's why they are actually now looking ahead beyond the negotiating stage, that's why they're talking about pacts with the ANC on reconstruction and so forth.

POM     Coming to more recent times or at least until the end of last year, The Star last December in an editorial said, "The government is discredited and divided. The military may need to meet Buthelezi once secession and APLA threatens a race war." I was struck, coming back this year, by the degree to which there was unanimity about the collapse of the National Party as a party, that it's base was taken away, that it was in disarray and very fragmented and there were also some serious divisions within the government between hawks and doves, you being referred to as a super dove on some occasions and people like Kobie Coetsee who would be labelled as hawks. One, are all these reports an exaggeration? Two, if there has been a decline in basic support for the NP, why so? And, three, are differences in the Cabinet over tactics rather than strategy?

LW     Those are different issues adding on. Let's look at the National Party. I think the National Party's power base and the perception that it has been eroded has very much to do with the so-called collapse of the regionalists or the federalists post-CODESA 2 because in that build-up towards the CODESA break the National Party was sailing on the referendum results, it was perceived to be a party very much in charge of a big broad grouping, an alliance that will work in a closely knit understanding with one another and so forth. But taking a leap from there to here one sees the AVF, one sees the Buthelezis drifting apart, one sees the violence eroding the confidence of many people, you see a settlement still far on the horizon and therefore people who did actually vote yes in the referendum campaign and did support the National Party are actually questioning our ability to bring about this new South Africa through a negotiated settlement which they were supporting during the referendum campaign.

     All this adds up to that. I'm not despondent about that simply because many of us are tied up with tremendous responsibilities, so to speak, and that's why we are not on the road campaigning like Constand Viljoen is doing all the time. His main task is to make public speeches and we have other things to do. I have said to him that he should take this as a political honeymoon because none of us have really seriously debated these issues with you in public or campaigned against you. So I am still hopeful that if one could work out a political agreement at the negotiating table one could have the transitional structures in place and you would have the additional energy and time on hand to forcefully put the National Party's case. Many of the so-called undecided people who have drifted away from us could be won over to the National Party flock or cause again and hopefully one would also be able to reach better understandings with the people that have driven away from us. That is one scenario on the power base thing.

     There's another one if one looks at it really in a futuristic manner, and I'm not claiming that I have thought this whole thing through, that what you are seeing now is the beginning of a completely new political alignment. I believe all of us, all of us being everybody across the negotiating table, are under pressure. All political groupings be you from the AVF or Inkatha or whatever, some are more inclined towards a political agreement, some others want to make it a fight to the finish, this and that, and as we progress with political agreements and build this new dispensation I believe the pressures will simply mount on this second scenario of mine and people will have to decide on various points. It's a completely new topic altogether because I find myself in the situation over and over again where people who had been in the past vehemently opposed to certain issues or to certain political actors changed their stance either because they have a new understanding of what you mean or it's a re-discovering of the person.

     I think I've said a lot with those few points. If you want to hear more you can ask me on that.

POM     Just one variation on it, one or two people suggested that apartheid was the glue that held the NP together. Take away the ideology, it's driving ideology, there's a vacuum and a tendency towards fragmentation.

LW     I go along with that. That is putting what I'm trying to say differently. You see in the past Afrikaners were united against anybody who was not Afrikaner and not in the so-called separate development, apartheid fold. But now the one issue that is very close to my heart is the issue of human rights. The Afrikaners were fed on a diet that human rights is not good for their politics and now human rights have become a cornerstone of a future dispensation and you have the conviction of the converts in this case who are also from National Party, Afrikaner circles. And that puts a completely different approach, not only on the issue of human rights but also on your political perspective. How do you see the future? Can you be an Afrikaner in a dispensation where there is collective self-determination, the right of civil society to organise yourself, yes or no? Or do you need a special territory and a special legislature to be an Afrikaner? It's not finely tuned arguments but it's coming across very forcefully. The day of the invasion at the World Trade Centre, I can remember people that I know well and have known since my student days who were in Afrikaner student organisations with me, being on the other side and for me saying to ANC supporters, "Well to me it's quite clear on whose side I am", not meaning I am on the ANC side but simply meaning that what is happening here is simply an erosion of basic human rights and the distinction I draw is based on the value system, not based on the fact that we are all Afrikaners so to speak. And that new reorientation has not taken place completely and it's an idea that I like to play with.

POM     Linking that to the rise of the right, last year.

LW     Could I just interrupt you before you ask me that question. The issue of doves, super doves and hawks and whatnot was the second one linking on to that. I believe that has also very much to do with how you see the political reorientation. I have made up my mind not because it happens to coincide with Buthelezi's point of view. Others would argue differently and say, "Well, this sounds like a good proposition but what does Buthelezi have to say about it?" Because if it is a good proposition and it does not have Buthelezi's support it will not carry the day and I am simply saying that is not how you go about making up your political thinking. That, amongst others, I would say is also a difference in approach between doves and hawks on those matters. But the doves and hawks issue does not relate to specific elements or points on the political agenda. It has a wide range of issues coming to the fore, negotiations, security, where do you stand with Constand Viljoen and Inkatha, are you naïve in your outlook towards the ANC, do you accept what they say, and so forth. all those matters add up to a dividing line between doves and hawks but the one thing that Mr de Klerk has been known for is that he has never been party to a political clique and he makes up his mind on how he sees the issues and the way he looks at the issues. He, I think, believes that there are two sides to this coin and that's why he judges it accordingly. If you just look at the latest debate on negotiations, yes, the World Trade Centre must go on but then there really cannot be a final settlement if Buthelezi is not on board, that kind of thing.

POM     I'll get back to the Buthelezi factor. The rise of the right follows from talking about the National Party. A year ago the Conservative Party was left for dead, it was demoralised, divided and really humiliated by the extent of De Klerk's victory in the March referendum. One comes back this year and finds that they are more united, more cohesive, more confident and in a similar light has Constand Viljoen as a leader that gives them more respectability. Is the right a threat?

LW     Well the right have changed their colours. Informally they have new leadership, they have new policy, they want to stay abreast of the issues. But once they come up with a clear-cut policy I believe they will go the route of the Conservative Party. The Conservative Party, I still believe is a spent force. If you look at the ratings of the leadership, the Conservative Party's leadership and of their policies and what the Conservative Party is telling us around the negotiating table are simply not the policies they put forward at their rallies. Now if we manage to strike a deal with them, even on the basis of their proposals, there is no way that they will be this cohesive force. They are a rainbow coalition one way or another and when you really pin them down you discover that. Are you a Eugene Terre'Blanche Afrikaner? Is that your version of a boerestaat? Are you a Carel Boshoff Afrikaner, his version of a boerestaat? Constand Viljoen, which is a completely different animal compared to Ferdi Hartzenberg? Hartzenberg to Andries Beyers? And they all form this magic thing called the Afrikaner Volksfront. I think they are on a political honeymoon, I really believe that. They are, however, a force to be reckoned with.

POM     If they link up with, as they have in COSAG, with Buthelezi, will they become more potent if there's a combination of the two?

LW     Yes, it's a marriage of convenience because what they tell us around the negotiating table pertaining to their land claims, Buthelezi I predict will never accept that, but never, what they put forward as their land claims. What Buthelezi tells us pertaining to their racialistic approach to matters, they will never accept. It's a marriage of convenience - we have to stop this communist take-over of the ANC. That's the way they close their arguments, "There's going to be a communist take-over". Now that is emotional rhetoric which much to my surprise is still finding favour in only just about this part of the world.

POM     It just shows you how well the total onslaught propaganda worked. If you look at where the ANC and government were last June when CODESA collapsed and where they are today, what would you point to as the major concessions or compromises made by each party to get to this point?

LW     Well it has to do with the process. The Record of Understanding was the basis for all that. I was deeply involved in the Record of Understanding and even as I look back on it now I see that much clearer than I did at the time, the significance of the Record of Understanding. Actually two things, the process and the ANC moving away from their Harare Declaration, Constituent Assembly, unsupervised, uncontrolled one person one vote election and their moving towards a regional dispensation and us moving away from the position where we said everything had to be written and finalised at this stage before we entered into an election, actually President de Klerk opening the door for a two step approach through a transitional phase and a final phase. I think by and large, I don't know whether this is really a general acceptance, but I think the whole idea of power sharing only on the basis of a transitional arrangement is also one of our major concessions because we were thinking of power sharing for ever, ever, and now it's shifting it for the transition, agreed to for the transition and then making it a matter for politics and persuasion post the transition.

POM     Just one thing surprised me enormously was that you had Mr de Klerk coming out as late as June or late May in an interview he did with the Financial Times in which he said the bedrock of government policy would be the entrenchment of power sharing permanently and that was followed up by an interview he gave in Time Magazine where he envisaged how the decision making process in the TEC would work; that while you had a Cabinet composed of parties that had more than 5% of the vote, then you'd have an Executive Committee made up perhaps of the three parties that had more than 15% of the vote and these parties would all - and that seems all gone, suddenly it was gone and there was no more talk about power sharing.

LW     One of the interviews, I think the Financial Times interview, he actually subsequently claimed he was not correctly reported on and I believe he did issue a correction on certain matters. But I think this is so wonderful about the present negotiating process, it offers everybody an opportunity to compromise and change their stance. If you're in there you can do that because you can say, "Well I was there, I listened to all the arguments, the spirit of compromise influenced me to make this concession, this agreement." If you're outside, like Buthelezi is at the moment, you have a problem. I mean how does he justify his concessions he still will have to make? And that I believe is one of the outstanding elements in this negotiating process that we will have to address and resolve.

POM     I'll get to him in a minute or two, he's on the list. But first, when you look at the constitutional proposals that are already on the table on a scale of one to ten how far do you find them acceptable or moving in the right direction?

LW     I think they are moving absolutely in the right direction, six, five to seven.

POM      Six, five to seven.

LW     Yes.

POM     OK. And then turning to Buthelezi, the question I've asked in years before, can a stable and lasting settlement be reached without the inclusion of Buthelezi? I did an interview with Walter Felgate three days ago and he was so hard line, there wasn't a crack in the whole thing. Then this morning I hear first thing on the news, "The Star says I have to come back into talks". Last night he did a speech in Pietermaritzburg in which he said the ANC would have to abandon the idea of a Constituent Assembly or face the consequences of civil war. He's painting himself into such a deep corner, how does he get out?

LW     I don't know how he gets out. I don't know how Chief Minister Buthelezi gets out of his predicaments, how he and Mr Felgate get out of their predicaments because my experience has always been that we find the Zulu negotiators very accessible and very accommodative. They stick to their policies but when you speak with them they often would make concessions, not in the sense of saying, "We agree", but by saying, "Well that looks like a constructive proposal, we'll have to take it back to principals and maybe that is a way to open the door", and so forth and then suddenly find that the door has been slammed in our faces. But politics change quickly, they change overnight. Let me just give you a few examples. The Conservative Party post-referendum under Andries Treurnicht, you came to the conclusion that they were a spent force. The right wing a few months later, Andries Treurnicht off the scene, Constand Viljoen has a new mobility altogether, Mr Mandela looking old and grey and then makes an appearance after Chris Hani's death, many Nationalists say to me he suddenly looks like a statesman. That sort of thing happens. Mr de Klerk making the 2nd February speech, making the victory speech after the referendum looks like Mr Know-All and Mr Be-All. Mr de Klerk trying to get Buthelezi back into the negotiating chamber and not losing the support to the right but also realising that he has to maintain the understanding he has with Mr Mandela looks like somebody who has simply got too many, his eye on too many issues. And all this in this process of transition, polarisation, reorientation, could change overnight.

POM     If he persists in staying out, this is Buthelezi, I assume that the process at the World Trade Centre is going to go forward anyway, that he won't bring it to a halt? In that situation do you still see elections being held on the 27th April?

LW     I'm very much in favour of Buthelezi being challenged, challenged on issues in public and debated with him and I'm very much in favour of Buthelezi being challenged at the ballot box one way or the other, a mechanism devised or some sort of thing and call his bluff. I have said in public that I believe his rhetoric does not equal his support.

POM     Do you think that in any way he might know that he doesn't have a lot of support and therefore can't face the test of an election because the results might be humiliating for him and the fact that this man uses the word 'insult' in every single sentence he ever utters, that unable to face that reality he is forced not only to go to the brink but to go over?

LW     Yes. Let me answer you from a different angle. I'm not responding to your question. The prospect of Buthelezi not having all the power in itself is frightening for him. He may win an election but he will not have all the power. He will have in a Legislative Assembly, in KwaZulu/Natal he will have, even if Buthelezi wins 50%, carries 50% of the vote in the spirit of power sharing in the transition, also on the regional level in the spirit of proportional representation, he will have to face a lot of opposition. He cannot stand that. So I am not saying he has no support, I'm just giving you a different response and I believe that in itself is something. I'm not so sure that he's that democratic.

POM     Does he have the capacity to destabilise? The net result of this whole process is a South Africa that has a democratically elected government that is in a state of transition, but where he can cause instability and where that instability might require the government to take actions they are even contemplating now or instability in the sense that foreign investors would say, "Let's watch what's going to happen here"?

LW     The whole idea of long agony and strife is not a very pleasant one and I do believe that they do have the capacity to prolong the agony, so to speak. But I doubt that they will have the capacity to make this country an unattractive investment prospective like Bosnia Herzegovina seems to me when I look at my television screen. You cannot keep on playing these games. This is a political game and I believe if it goes that far, as far as you have now predicted, or we have predicted, you and I have predicted, it will become a political game to arrest the democratic process on the one hand and on the other hand to cling on to power that cannot match the support of the people on the ground.

POM     Increasingly he's playing the Zulu 'card' with the King out there talking about the Zulu nation and they are under threat. Some people have said to us that Zulus respond to this and that many Zulus were ANC members, some Zulus who are ANC members will respond positively to a plea from the King for Zulus to unite because they are a nation under threat.

LW     I don't believe that. I simply don't believe that. I'm told that the Zulu King is very restless, he's very uncomfortable, Buthelezi is hijacking him. The information that we have is that he who pays the piper calls the tune and we have even had advice from people saying you should not allow the KwaZulu Administration to pay the King's salary and his perks because that's why he's playing these tunes and that he's pretty unhappy about the situation. This is based on gossip and rumour. I don't know whether it's fact, but what I do know is that I have been in the presence of many Zulus who have actually expressed their disappointment about the fact that the King has been so politicised.

POM     I must tell you that we have met with him three times since 1990 and have found him to be far more nationalistic minded, far more hard line than Buthelezi. He makes very, very strong statements about the way in which he personally was treated by Mandela and buying into this conspiracy of ...[ and ANC is ... wants to dominate Zulus.]

LW     I take it you have spoken to people like Oscar Dhlomo on Buthelezi and also listened to him. They give a different version to what one sometimes reads in the press. But something has changed. Maybe you would not have picked it up, but in the Transvaal the Afrikaans newspaper, Beeld, has written very, very critical articles about Buthelezi. They have had very critical cartoons about him which simply is not in the mood of Afrikaans newspapers say 12 - 18 months ago.

POM     I'll have to learn Afrikaans. So you see him potentially as ultimately an irritant?

LW     He can cause a lot of trouble, he can make a lot of things very, very difficult but I don't believe Buthelezi has the capacity to turn this country on its head.

POM     What about his complaint about the definition of sufficient consensus? Like when you had CODESA 2 you had two parties. You had government and allies, ANC and allies, both in a rather adversarial role so that if one walked out the other three didn't have sufficient consensus. This time around you have government, ANC, COSAG.

LW     I get very annoyed, not at you, when they talk about these matters because I happen to know what was happening there and the final decisions on sufficient consensus were not pursued. In other words the negotiators did not try to resolve the matter to the satisfaction of everybody the day of the negotiating forum at the World Trade Centre, the 2nd July, simply because Buthelezi's negotiators told us that this was, and I'm quoting verbatim now, "This is a put-up job. We will be back in two weeks. Don't worry about it, we will be back in two weeks." Their chief negotiators were saying to me and Roelf Meyer, separately and collectively, we've compared our notes, we've checked it jointly and that was their position. So for them to argue sufficient consensus they had the policy, one should never forget it was their official policy to employ what they called 'constructive filibustering' and they were not even prepared to withdraw that statement by qualifying it or whatever. It was their official policy, constructive filibustering. It was written in documents handed out at the World Trade Centre, speeches read by nobody less than Professor Ngubane of UCT who read that speech and when she was asked, "Is this the official policy of the KwaZulu government?" she said "Yes", in public and against the background of constructive filibustering and behind closed doors agreements that , "We would be back in two weeks, don't worry, this was a put-up job", I simply cannot see them playing straight-faced, approaching this whole matter of concession, sufficient consensus open minded and in an honest way.

POM     Do you believe that there is a gap between what many members of the IFP would go along with and negotiate and what goes back to Ulundi and comes down as a dictatorial no?

LW     I do believe that. I do believe that. They were called back on the Thursday night. They flew back in an aeroplane and they were jetted back the following morning and we were told during the course of that day that we shouldn't worry, they have their instructions, they have to do this but they'll be back in two weeks time. They want to get back but they're finding it very difficult. How do they justify it now because they want us to revisit the decisions taken and I cannot see us doing that.

POM     Chris Hani's assassination. What impact did that have on the political environment?

LW     Well I believe that was, if you study the incidents of violence, it certainly had an impact on that. Violence rose rapidly, figures rose rapidly post Hani's assassination. There was a greater hardening of attitudes from the Patriotic Front on the sense that they now wanted a settlement, time was now of the essence as far as they were concerned. But jointly the negotiators, so to speak, I believe post-Hani and post the World Trade invasion by the right wingers were more committed towards peaceful settlement than ever before.

POM     Did the white community think the ANC did a good job in marshalling their supporters at that time to prevent ...?

LW     No, I don't think the white community, that is too loose a term, many whites did think that but not all the whites thought that they did a good job because they did not have an understanding, I believe, of the pressures in those communities.

POM     What is the difference between a power sharing government and a government of national unity?

LW     What was the first term?

POM     A power sharing government and a government of national unity.

LW     I believe that is a discussion for the connoisseur.

POM     Is it a matter of semantics?

LW     You see at the negotiating table we have developed this thing when a concept becomes a bone of contention you simply write it with a stroke. You would say, "Would Walvis Bay be incorporated or integrated?" and they would say "Incorporated, integrated". "Are we talking about states, provinces or regions?" They would write it "States, provinces, regions." And the whole power sharing concept has a completely different connotation and I think it matured into what is now called a 'government of national unity' because 'power sharing government' very much has, in my mind, the features of something strong, of power blocs being locked into the executive and so forth, whilst a government of national unity is much more subtle. It's the power blocs working together in this whole process of establishing peace and nation building and reconciliation and so on. But structurally and finely defined I don't believe that . One may find differences but I'm not into that sophisticated debate.

POM     I question I used to ask, I'm sure I've asked you at least twice and I've asked everybody twice, is the question of whether this was a process about the transfer of power or the sharing of power? Looking beyond the five year mark, looking at the longer term, the medium term, is it a process that's really about the transfer of power?

LW     No I don't, transfer of power is something which is to my mind comparable to the handing over of power and the way I look at the process post power sharing, or post national unity years, transitional years, is an open society where you compete for power and in the build-up to this election you may form alliances on a voluntary basis but post the election you may be compelled by circumstances to form alliances not because the constitution so dictates but simply because that may be the wish and the mood of the country at that juncture or simply because you do not have sufficient support other than to go into forced coalition, or forced other instruments or whatever.

POM     Two last things. One is on violence again. If the level of violence stays at its current level, it's current levels both on the Reef and in Natal, can you have free and fair elections or must the elections go ahead regardless of that?

LW     Well I think when one decides on that issue one will have to look at what the violence will be if you don't have the elections. Will it be less or will it be worse? And one can never allow anybody who actually stimulates violence to hold this process to ransom by conceding that if there is too much violence there will not be elections.

POM     The last question refers to the white community. I think we've discerned this time a hardening of attitudes. I'll put that in the context of - do you think whites sufficiently accept that they did a grave wrong to black people?

LW     No.

POM     That some retribution must be paid for that wrong so that what they see as blacks being pushy is really blacks - they shouldn't see them as being that but in the historical context of what has been done to them?

LW     So I don't think there is sufficient, I don't think the debates about the past have really started properly. That is a long, long story and it's a long, long thing of which I have in various ways tried to articulate. But I don't think there is a complete understanding of why the old dispensation was an unjust and undemocratic dispensation and therefore one needs to move to a new order, a completely new open, democratic order. Many people still think you have to move to the new order because the old order had failed and had collapsed but it's not only because it had failed and because it had collapsed, it is also because it was an unjust order which caused a lot of hardship and hurt many people. Those second and latter qualifications I believe have not filtered through properly because the debates about the past, as far as I'm concerned, have only just begun. We're talking about freedom of the press about the future, but we haven't had freedom of the press about the past.

POM     OK.

PAT     To get back to the violence and the election issue and Buthelezi. If by some way Buthelezi comes back into the process in time for the elections and wins KwaZulu/Natal, do you think that Harry Gwala and the ANC will accept the result or that this civil war would continue? And what would the ANC as a major partner and player in government here do if the ANC in Natal does not accept the results?

LW     I believe the leadership, the core of ANC leadership, is basically democratic. They will have a problem but I believe they will discipline the mavericks, albeit they sometimes do not discipline them the way we would like them to discipline them but one must not forget it was the ANC that disciplined Winnie Mandela, it was the ANC leadership that disciplined Peter Mokaba one way or the other and it was statements, speeches of Mandela when he visited the East Rand saying, "We concede people have behaved out of step and they are not doing that with the sanction of the ANC". So I firmly believe that the core of ANC leadership subscribes to those values and approaches. But coming back to my old thing, they will increasingly be under pressure also from their wings and I don't believe the ANC as a liberation movement can stand the test of time and be untouched. The pressures of a post-election, post-apartheid phase will simply work into them because there will not be an apartheid state to offer all the glue to keep them together.

POM     One variant of that question is that could Patricia's scenario happen and Buthelezi was given as much as could possibly be given to him, the ANC in Natal are saying, "We're not going to tolerate this. We've been dying for ten, twelve years to preclude this from happening. We see it as undemocratic. We see it as caving in to Buthelezi." Could an ANC led government, which is a major partner, find that one of its first acts would be to declare a state of emergency in Natal?

LW     That is a very interesting point because the whole scenario and the difference between the ANC and the PAC on these matters relate to these issues because the PAC wants to stay out as long as possible in order not to have anything to do with the mopping up of old apartheid, or the old vestiges of an old order and the ANC wants to get involved and they may well declare a state of emergency and they may well be the first people to say to the trade unions, "This strike is not in the national interest". They may well be.

PAT     The power that SWAPO has had?

LW     That makes me excited. That's why I say to whites that there is life after the elections. There is life after the negotiating process.

POM     Thank you ever so much.

LW     No, thank you. I'm sorry we missed out. Once I didn't see you.

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.