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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
27 Aug 1993: Viljoen, Constand
POM General Viljoen, I must say since I've come to the country in July your name has been on everybody's lips from left to right, from centre, from everywhere. You are seen as somebody who has taken a fragmented right wing and pulled it together under a cohesive and decisive leadership. Could you maybe first of all give me a little background as to how you came to be involved in the political arena and what your political objectives of the Volksfront are?
CV I'm a typical South African Boer, come from a Boer family. I was born in the Eastern Transvaal where my parents used to farm. I got educated in the rural areas. I lived in the rural areas up to the stage when I had to come to university. I then joined the defence force and I served in the defence force for a period from 1951 until 1985. I ended up by being the Chief of the army from 1976 until 1980 and the Chief of the defence force from 1980 till 1985. I am a very fond farmer. I love the Afrikaner rural cultural way of living. I am very fond of my people and I think that in all the efforts that I have been doing in creating something for SA this last one, it's probably the last one of my life, will be to try and rally the Afrikaner nation in order to survive.
The Afrikaner nation, you probably have read the history so well, it's not necessary for me to expand on the history but from the history you will see that we are a freedom loving nation. In fact we originated from the free burghers which were people that used to work for the Netherlands East India Company which Jan van Riebeeck established here and they already then said that they are not prepared to work for anybody, they want to be in command themselves and that has been the spirit of the Afrikaner nation ever since. From that the few free burghers developed the Afrikaner nation, first in the Cape Colony and then in the Cape Colony their history, you will remember when we were subjected in that period, we were then forced to leave the Cape Colony for the Great Trek towards the north. Then we moved with the Great Trek because again we were not prepared to subject ourselves this time to British rule. Then we developed the Burgher Republics of those days before two liberation wars, the first one we won against the British, the second one we lost.
Then we had the problem of the discovery of gold and diamonds which brought from the outside money powers coming in and from our neighbouring countries mainly blacks streaming towards where the labour opportunities existed. This created a problem and this is how eventually we landed up in 1993 with the Afrikaner nation distributed all over the country and being in the minority all over the country which up to now didn't really matter a lot because the Afrikaner was a part of the white people who dominated this country. But now with the new initiative, and that is the initiative of sorting out the conflict to which we have no objection, we want to be part of the solution, we believe that this is the time to find a solution in SA but now at this stage the Afrikaner is sitting without an area of its own and if the plans that are being prepared at the moment in Kempton Park are carried through the Afrikaner nation will in effect be divided up into nine or seven pieces all over the country and because of a one man one vote election it will be subject to the ANC/SACP all over the country and that will be the end of the Afrikaner freedom.
POM Why do you think that would be the end of the Afrikaner freedom? Do you think an ANC/SACP government ...?
CV Well the Afrikaner was never prepared to be subjected. We always want to govern ourselves. We always wanted to, we fought wars for this in the past and there is nothing that has changed in this regard for the Afrikaner. For the last few decades the Afrikaner was rather quiet on the political field and a lot of people wondered when the Afrikaner would rise again and then when we started off with the 1990 initiative by the government to have, let us say, a peaceful solution we then as Afrikaners watched this closely and we were originally for what was taking place but then it soon became clear to us that the opponents, meaning the ANC/SACP, are not playing a fair game, they are not negotiating in a free and fair way, they have added to their negotiation process a complete revolution.
POM Could you elaborate a little bit on that? Why do you not think they're playing in a free and fair way?
CV Well in 1990 when we started the initiative it was decided that the armed struggle would cease. It was decided that we would sit around a table and solve the problems by means of negotiation. Now had this been done it would have been a totally different story but when the ANC came in they said, and they actually said so, that they will still seize power by means of a revolution and they will do so to subject the whole of SA to ANC/SACP rule. Now the revolution has gone on, I needn't even elaborate on this. I can just mention to you that from 1990 until now some 9000 people were killed in political incidents. You've seen what happened in the last few weeks in SA. I saw the paper yesterday saying from 3rd July until now about 544 people died, most of them black people. Now why are they fighting? Because when the ANC came in, the ANC is coupled with the SA Communist Party, and they immediately started to subject the whole of the black population to the communist discipline and way or organising communities. I don't know whether you were here then, but when they arrived back in the townships they killed the old councillors that used to be the third tier government under the SA government system. They killed them by the hundreds, they burnt their houses, they burnt their businesses, they subjected by means of a rigid revolutionary discipline all the black people of this country mainly starting in the urban areas but also extending their influence to the so-called self-determination states or independent states of Bophuthatswana, Ciskei and so on. A few other figures, more than 500 schools burnt down, more than 6000 private houses destroyed, a whole generation of our black people spoilt to such an extent that they are hardly usable for anything else at the moment. That's the so-called lost generation, you no doubt have read about it. Have you? Have you read about the lost generation?
POM Yes indeed.
CV So I needn't elaborate on that.
POM What strikes me is that you have your perception of violence, the ANC/SACP as being the cause of it.
CV No doubt, no doubt.
POM And they, if you talk to anyone in the ANC, for three years have sworn by every bible, by everything, that a third force is behind the violence, it's the government that's implicated, that the government is trying to weaken it's organisation.
CV Well let me tell you up to now they have not proved a third force. What they are saying is that the government is funding and aiding the Zulu people to defend themselves against the black people. Now that is not possible now. The government has been through such hell in the last two years that no government, they don't even have the courage to carry out normal government functions never mind support a third force against the ANC. Can you think what's going to happen if such a third force under the present system would be opened up? It's absolute rubbish. There is no doubt, it has been proved, it has been said by the communist party and the ANC, the top structure, the National Executive, that they will seize power in SA by means of a revolution and that is what's taking place and that is what's causing the violence. No doubt about it.
I do not say that in the past, especially in the CCB connection there was a complete clean record on the part of the SADF. Why the SADF were every involved in activities such as the CCB I don't know. In my time there were no such activities as the CCB. But I can promise you that ever since that time after the CCB I don't think anything possibly could have been done to create a third force. I don't know whether the outside world, the British Intelligence, MI6 or the CIA whether they are funding or aiding such things, I don't think so. I am telling you, you can read through the reports, you can go through many Intelligence people, you can hear what the police are saying at the moment, the ANC/SACP is causing the violence in this country due to the revolution that they're carrying out.
I want to say one thing further to you, I'm now off my story, don't be surprised if there will be no elections because the ANC/SACP are not keen on an election. They are planning to take over by means of a big incident, the government by force before there is an election so that they don't have to carry out an election. The moment the election is finished they will carry on with the ANC/SACP's policy to introduce a new revolution which will be the revolution of socialism and Marxism because Joe Slovo in the first congress after being unbanned they made a decision saying they will prove to the world and SA that the Communist Party is not that bad, that they can rule the country and they have hijacked the ANC top executive, the National Executive, and that is what they have in mind, to prove to the world another experiment that communism or Marxism will work. We Afrikaners will not take it, I'm telling you, we will not take it. We are not prepared to form a part of another experiment in the world to prove that communism is wrong.
POM So what options do Afrikaners have?
CV I've explained to you now what the development was up to now. Now you ask me, what are the options? We have gone, since the establishment of the Afrikaner Volksfront, we have rallied the Afrikaners around this problem and we have, by means of a very large number of public meetings, we have informed the Afrikaner nation and the Afrikaner nation stood up, they rose and they said politically we will not accept this. So what did we do? First we tried in the normal process, the so-called Kempton Park process, which has got a built-in ... Can I just explain to you what goes on in there? There you have the SACP, they have just about, I think very recently they have announced that they now have 50,000 members. They say that they have expanded from 2,000 to 50,000. In the World Trade Centre you have the Communist Party, you have the Natal Indian Congress, communist, you have the Transvaal Indian Congress, communist. They control the whole of the ANC. That is communist. In fact they control the whole of the Patriotic Front.
So the brainchild behind the whole thing is the SACP and no wonder with the normal process we Afrikaner people got nothing. We opposed the election date for very good reasons which I can give you if you want to talk about that. I don't think that's applicable now. We opposed the election date, it was wiped off the table. We made suggestions on self-determination to be included in the constitution for the Afrikaner, it was wiped off the table. We came further and we said to the people when we had the demarcation, this idea as to how to divide the country up into regions, it was wiped off the table. Virtually nothing that we tried in the formal process could we get any positive action.
Now normally we would then say there is nothing for us in negotiations, let's go over to war. But we didn't do that. Subsequent to that position we started a process which we're still busy with of intense bilateral negotiations because we are committed as a group, we are committed to explore all the possible, peaceful ways of solving this problem before we go any further. So we have embarked on these bilateral negotiations to try to find a solution by means of eyeball to eyeball discussions amongst everybody.
POM How does the Front differ from the CP?
CV Well the Front is not a political organisation. The Front is an umbrella organisation binding together all the political parties on the right wing and all the cultural organisations as well as the agricultural unions as well as the Mineworkers Union and the Iron & Steelworkers Union. So this is what we tried to do. We decided in the Front that we will concentrate on the aspects amongst the right wing Afrikaners that will bind people together and we have been very successful in this regard. By that I do not mean that we have cut out all the little petty party politics differences. That still exists but in the idea of survival for the Afrikaner nation we stand together. So we make very good progress in this regard.
POM In terms of proposals, what you would put on the table to be considered?
CV For example, about two weeks ago I made a public speech and I invited the people and I said now let us get a top summit of leaders in SA together. Let's get the Mandelas and the De Klerks and the Hartzenbergs, Buthelezis and Mangopes, let's get them all together, let's sit at a table, face each other right into the eyes and discuss what we should do in this country. It was wiped off the table. The leaders of this country are not prepared to see each other, to talk to each other, which I think is very wrong. We are prepared to discuss, to talk and to meet anybody in the effort to find a solution.
So that was wiped off the table and what is the solution now? We're still busy with the bilateral discussions. We are making progress because our philosophies are right. There is nothing wrong. What we say in the Afrikaner Volksfront, and this is the crux of our story, we say that we're an Afrikaner nation, we're a volk, we qualify in all aspects to the definitions of a determination of volk. By that I mean that we're culturally one, we've got one language, we're cohesive, we like to live together, we have very specific characteristics. We have been in this country, we have been in government in our own republican areas, the two old Boer republics, the Free State and the Transvaal. We were involved in that for more than half a century. We've fought wars together, there is no doubt about the fact that amongst all the white people, remember we're not standing for the white people, we're standing for the Afrikaner people. The Afrikaner people are the only ethnic tribe amongst the white people who can say that they are an ethnic tribe.
Now there is a resolution in the United Nations saying that a nation is entitled to self-determination in its own area and we, therefore, as the Afrikaner nation say that because of our history, because of our involvement in SA, because of our desire to find a solution for the present conflict in this country, we make the offer, we say give us an area of the country. We have to divide up the country into regions, do the cutting up or the demarcation in such a way that we will have an area that we will be able to be in the majority and that we will be able to say this is the Afrikaner/Boer Republic.
POM Is there such an area in the country?
CV I will show you now. Give us such an area and then in that area let us have the right of self-determination in that area. We will establish a majority in that area and the other Afrikaners from all over the country will come and stay with us and we will govern ourselves. This is more or less what we have in mind if you look at this, the green. The two Boer republics used to be the Free State and the Transvaal, those were the two Boer republics. Subsequent to that area we had the gold and diamonds and we had the development of this very rich area H which is by far, it's the economic heartland of SA. This used to be part of the Boer republics.
POM Does this include Johannesburg and Pretoria?
CV It can include Pretoria, it definitely includes Johannesburg, from Secunda on the east of Johannesburg down to Welkom in the south, including all the mining areas. So we said, as Afrikaners, we will cut out this rich portion. We don't want to be accused of taking the rich parts of the country for ourselves. What we do want then is the green area which used to be our area in the Boer republics.
POM You were talking about the green area.
CV This used to be the Boer republic areas and we exclude now, for the purposes of our claim, the rich areas in the centre and we also exclude the other areas that in the meantime were given to the blacks under the previous system of separate development, those areas which were given to the blacks. Because what we don't want to do, we do not intend moving a lot of people out of this area, this is not our intention. We want to inhabit this area with Afrikaners. At the moment 82% of all Afrikaners are staying in this green area and the Afrikaners in this green area form about 51% of the total population in that area. We feel that if we get this area demarcated for the Afrikaner then we will be able to move in from this area other Afrikaners that would like to share with us or if anything goes wrong in these areas here then they have a place to go to. I used to call this 'our own Israel', our little place where the Afrikaner will live happily and where they will govern themselves and where all the other Afrikaners will have a place to move to in case they don't find it possible to live under the new conditions.
POM Now would everyone who lives in this area have the right to vote?
CV Whatever system we're going to do people will have to vote. Now we are investigating at the moment different kinds of votes. You have, for example, the idea of nationality and citizenship. There is a system in Israel, for example, where people living in that country are nationals, in other words they have nationality in that area, but citizenship will be restricted, but we have not completed that. What we say is the people inside must have the vote. But whatever we do as Afrikaners we are not prepared to accept the system here that will in ten years time put the Afrikaner exactly where we are today.
Our problem is what I explained to you, we have been distributed all over the country because of the British taking over the country after 1902 and that left us without an area for our own. So if we get another area whatever arrangements there will be, and we will be as fair as possible to the other people, we do not want a system whereby the Afrikaner will be swamped again by numbers.
POM If you're at 51% of that area it doesn't take very much to upset the demographic equilibrium.
CV That's why I say 51% is just the majority at this stage. If we just take the normal population growth in ten years time we will be in trouble again. So that's why I say we have to resettle Afrikaners in that area, if necessary even if we have to assimilate people from outside, prepared to associate themselves with the Afrikaner volk, but we must have a system there by which the Afrikaner will govern themselves and that is what we are aiming for.
But now the advantages of this, let me just go into this, these areas here, these are actually the main food producing areas of the country so if you have peace in these areas with the Afrikaner at least the food production for this country will be secure which is very, very important. You've got to have peace with the Afrikaners and I'm telling you there is no way that you can subject the Zulu to the ANC/SACP. There is no way that you can subject the Afrikaner to the ANC. We will not accept subjection.
Remember what I said at the beginning. I said had these people in 1990 taken the hand of friendship offered to them by the government to say we will now stop the armed struggle, we will go for the negotiations, if they had done that it would have been completely different but it is not different and we have no faith, we do not want to enter into a mixed country with these people, under no circumstances. This is the message I have.
POM Where would you put the Zulus in comparison to the Afrikaner? It seems to me that Dr Buthelezi has increasingly put himself in a corner, it's like as though he was on a branch and he's sawing off any way out.
CV Who Buthelezi? Why do you say that?
POM Well he's laid down categorical demands that he would not be any part of an election for a Constituent Assembly.
CV Sure. I don't blame him for that. You know what this Constituent Assembly is about to do? All the talkings in Kempton Park is for two years, you realise that? That interim constitution is only for two years. Then the Constituent Assembly will have a constitution lasting for five years and thereafter? Open. And thereafter they can establish another Constituent Assembly based on a pure one man one vote and they will have a complete subjection of the whole of SA to the ANC/SACP. We're not prepared for that.
POM Would it be your view that Dr Buthelezi will in fact stay outside the process and say, "I'm not participating"?
CV What I want to say to you, there are no solutions if you put the Zulu under the SACP/ANC, there will be no solution if you put the Afrikaner there, there will be no solution if you put the Tswana people there. Now what actually is happening in this country is we are starting to get a polarisation. We are getting that part of the country in one group at the moment excluding this yellow area, maybe Venda and the Gazankulu area. So the point I'm making is we have polarisation at the moment because of this very important point; whether people like it or not ethnicity in SA is a fact, you can't ignore it, and ethnicity here plays a factor. Buthelezi at the moment won't emphasise ethnicity because of the stigma on the word ethnicity and the coupling of ethnicity to the previous system of separate development. But now remember the mistake that the previous governments made, the problem of ethnicity, is to create states like this forcing them to become independent states such as Bophuthatswana. That was a mistake. But to use ethnicity as a factor to divide the country so that you have a homogeneous distribution of people in certain areas and that people belonging together, nations, will govern themselves as federal states or whatever states you may call them. There's nothing wrong with that and that's what Buthelezi is asking for. Buthelezi is asking for this area where the Zulus will be the federal government and Buthelezi is saying, "I don't want to have the dangers of a constitution lasting for two years, for five years and thereafter it's free for everybody. I would like a solution now that would solve this problem." I've been to Buthelezi yesterday and this is his view still. So Buthelezi is very strong in this regard, we are very strong in this regard, that man is very strong in this regard. Those people there are very close to following us. Qwa-Qwa sitting here are trying to move towards us. What I'm explaining to you is the importance of COSAG.
POM Venda is close to following you too?
CV Yes. What I'm explaining to you is the importance of COSAG. COSAG started because of the concern of the people for this situation. So this is the point at the moment, that's what we are trying to establish now. We believe this is the way to ensure peace in the country especially as far as the Afrikaner is concerned.
Now, one further step. We do not say that this area will be completely independent. It would be foolish for anybody to say that the country with this shape can be independent in SA, it's not on. So what we say is this area, there will be a central administration or a central government, call it what you want. We will from this area give certain functions to the central government which we feel should be done centrally, for example, economic planning. Another point is certain services, distribution of electricity, railways, road networks, etc., that can all be given to the central government but the rest of the government will be with us.
What is important for us is to say that because we have such a distrust in the ANC/SACP we do not want at this stage to be coupled politically strong to these people, we want to be coupled politically weak to the central government. In other words we're looking for more the confederal type of thing or a very strong decentralised federal system in which we will define which functions will be given to the central government and the central government will not have the right to bother or to redistribute functions between the central government and our government here.
But economically, can I just finish? Politically, therefore as this is possible, economically as integrated as we have it at the moment because the economic integration here is a reality. There's no doubt about it.
POM So you're talking in a way of an association of states that might be akin to the European community?
CV That's a good point. But even more closely knitted economically. Remember we actually have one economic system here, there's no doubt, same currency, everything. That people have to stick to.
I have a few minutes more, about five minutes then I must see somebody else. If we can finish off please. I'd rather give you the time to ask questions now.
POM Are you optimistic about the prospects of an arrangement that will suit you and suit COSAG?
CV Yes I am. I am optimistic about a lot of things. Our philosophy, I have given you only the broad outline. It has been tested all over the world. We've tested it internally, we've briefed a lot of people, we've discussed this with a lot of people and there is general acceptance of the idea. There is one problem and that is the perception that the ANC and the SACP has at the moment. The perception which is created by the government, our government, and by the outside world that the ANC/SACP will be the winner that will take all. This is the problem. As long as the ANC sticks to this idea there will be a violent clash. As long as they realise that remember in 1990 we started off from a position of no defeat and no win, not for the ANC/SACP, not for the other opposing partners. So from this position of no defeat or no win we started the negotiation process. They have already added the violence, the force of a violent revolution to theirs and what we say is we are perfectly happy to carry on with what is being planned, with all the elections that they have in mind provided we know as Afrikaners that we will have this area that we will govern ourselves. That's all we want.
POM So you are saying that if a piece of land is cut out that will be ...?
CV Let's not say 'cut out', demarcated.
POM Demarcated, and that meets the Afrikaner's right to self-determination and you will be prepared to take part in federal and regional elections come next March.
CV April. That means in April we will be involved in the elections inside our own area and maybe, depending on what the arrangements would be, for the central administration, voting for the central administration.
POM One question I'd just like to ask you. In this Afrikaner state, since there would be a large number of Africans also living there, would they have the right of citizenship?
CV To leave?
POM No, the right to stay and to vote?
CV Yes. I said that we have no intention of moving people by force. We have no intention to do that. If they want to leave because they would be more happy elsewhere let them go. We will not stand in their way. We will certainly not force them to leave. The exact system of voting, the exact system as to how we Afrikaners staying here will ensure that this area which is our land then will remain in the Afrikaners' hands, that system will have to be negotiated still and that's what we're having bilaterals on at the moment.
POM Would that still revolve around one man one vote?
CV There's no doubt that the one man one vote idea is generally accepted in this country. Whether we will have one man one vote all over for everything, in other words also for changing the constitution, there will have to be certain reservations on this because this is now going to be the Afrikaner land and this is where we will stay for the next fifty to a hundred years.
POM And in the absence of your negotiations, bilaterals, paying off, what do you then see?
CV You all come with the same question. I want to say this to you, I'm very honest in saying that we will take all the necessary courses to find a peaceful solution but there must be no doubt about the Afrikaners' determination to exercise this. We will not be part of the future under the ANC/SACP as they proved themselves to be in the last three years. So this is what I say, and we need self-determination, plain self-determination in terms of the UN and there is no doubt about this. I don't want to beat about the bush, I'm a military man, I talk straight.
POM Thank God. Roelf Meyer in Durban put forward some proposals that were kind of enticing Dr Buthelezi back in which he talked about regions which would have the right to determine their own futures.
CV There is that determination, there is, exactly.
POM Self-determination came into the language, discourse for ...
CV Yes, exactly. Mr Buthelezi has already said he wants self-determination for the Zulus and he is prepared, he is happy to have self-determination for the Afrikaners. He has said so, he's supporting us.
POM OK. Thank you very much. I hope to see you again in maybe three or four months.
CV Yes. Then maybe - oh, can I just talk about Pretoria? Pretoria is basically the Afrikaners' city. Now the problem that we have in Pretoria is that there are such a lot of foreign embassies in this area but a lot of investments as well. So we have come to the conclusion that Pretoria should be a shared capital, a sort of a Washington DC. It can be the capital of the central state for diplomatic and so on purposes but it will also be the capital for the Afrikaner state for this green area but it will have to be shared.
POM Do you have a copy of this?
CV This is the only copy. This is not the real right map. I asked people this morning but I don't think they've found it yet.