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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.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 Sep 1993: Mangope, Lucas
POM Perhaps we could start with a little historical vignette that Bophuthatswana is different than the other independent states in South Africa. It has a different historical background.
LM Yes that is correct. We are different primarily because we have not been created by the apartheid system, by the apartheid policy as is generally alleged. We are part of Botswana, we are one people with the Botswana people. We are divided by an artificial boundary. In fact our forefathers were not in favour of becoming part of the Northern Cape. This is documented evidence. We have also in respect of land, that traditional land which is historically is ours. We have the ... of 1870. We became British, Bechuanaland and we feel historically we are very, very different from the so-called homelands whether they be independent or self-governing.
POM And why do you think this fact has never been acknowledged in a more broad way by the outside world, that you are in fact different, have a different historical background?
LM This to us is astonishing because I don't think any British government will deny the fact that I have just stated. I suppose you would say they are bound by the decision of the Organisation of African Unity in terms of which boundaries are not to be shifted. This is the only reason that I believe could be produced by any British government for not acknowledging our history.
POM The British have a history of dividing countries. I mean Ireland is a very good example. When you look at the situation in South Africa today, where do you think things are heading, in what directions are things going? On the one hand you seem to have a negotiating forum where people are trying to hammer out their differences and reach consensus on a number of things and on the other hand you have the townships and Natal which are just going up in blood and smoke. They are two very different South Africas.
LM I don't know. My own personal opinion is that it is unfortunate that we have a situation such as obtains now. I think the problem arose from the Record of Understanding, the agreement between the South African government and the African National Congress where they committed themselves first of all to a procedure which I cannot bring myself to accept, a two-faced procedure which I think doesn't really make for peace in the future. I would have been much happier with a situation in which the negotiating parties agreed on the principles to be enshrined in the constitution and the constitution then embodying those principles written by a panel of experts, agreed to by the negotiating parties and upheld on the draft constitution and once that is accepted an election held. But a process in which we are now told the constitution will be interim and after two, three, four years a new constitution will be written and written by an elected Constituent Assembly, that is to me totally unacceptable because it means the majority party in the Constituent Assembly can really dictate and write the constitution as they see fit and that to me is unacceptable because I must hasten to say that with the present violence in South Africa, with the methods that we know the ANC and the Communist Party and their alliance can employ in any election, I don't think that the elections can be free and fair. This worries me greatly because I don't think we'll get a constitution that we really deserve as southern Africa. Also I would much have preferred to have the powers, I would much have preferred to have a federal system of government for South Africa with defined boundaries and defined powers for the regions. Now the South African government and much more so the African National Congress are for a unitary state and the draft interim constitution at present provides for a unitary state because the powers, such powers as are said to be devolved to the regions, are powers that normally are enjoyed by towns and municipalities.
POM Those powers can be taken ...
LM Those powers can be taken by the central government. To me this is totally, totally unacceptable.
POM You talked of wanting a federal system of government for South Africa. Where in that federal system would Bophuthatswana find itself?
LM We are interested in a peaceful settlement of South Africa, a settlement acceptable to all the inhabitants of South Africa. This is why we are part of the negotiations and we are there to contribute honestly to whatever is discussed there. We have an open mind. Way back in 1974 or 1975 I proposed a federal system of government for South Africa and I still would prefer a federal system but it must be a federal system in the true sense, such as we have in Canada, in Germany and in other countries. In that event of a constitution that provides for true and honest federalism we are prepared to go to our people and say this is the position. We, as government, feel we should be part of a federal South Africa.
POM So you're not saying that Bophuthatswana should remain independent regardless?
LM We are saying we have an open mind. We say we have an open mind, we are prepared to look at it through federalism. This is why we have engaged in (I don't know if you know the concept of SASWA) talking to our neighbours here because truly we believe that a federal system could be something that we could look at. We are unhappy with a unitary state where everything will be controlled from the centre, especially in view of the fact that if the ANC were to be the government I believe that the Communist Party would have a great influence and we are unhappy with that situation where we don't know who exactly will be ruling. We don't know, it is said, for instance, that two thirds of the National Executive Council of the ANC are communist. This has never been verified so when the ANC wins the election I don't think I will be in a position to say who really is in power and this to me is worrying. And added to that of course is the fact that the Communist Party in South Africa have not even felt ashamed to call themselves a communist party after the collapse of communism throughout the world. In other countries they have changed their name and called them Socialist Party. They are not ashamed still to stand on the platform and say "We are a Communist Party".
POM I've asked many people in the last couple of years about what is a South African communist and no-one has yet come up with a really good definition, not even the South African communists themselves. Could we talk a little bit about SASWA, about the violence that's occurring in South Africa? In your view who is responsible for that violence, for the violence that is happening in the townships on the Reef and in Natal?
LM It's extremely difficult to say. The ANC have said there is a third force. I believe there could be members of the South African security forces who want the status quo to remain, but I also know that there is great enmity between the Xhosas and the Zulus. This is historical. I know that there is great enmity between the IFP and the ANC but also I think we've got to take into account the fact that there is great economic recession. There is a lot of poverty, there's a very high rate of unemployment and all these are contributory factors in my view. Just to go back for a second to the question of elections, there are areas in South Africa which are no-go areas and it will be extremely difficult for any party that is not favoured by the majority of such an area to campaign in such an area and this cannot make for free and fair elections.
POM Last year Jeffries in her book Bophuthatswana at the Crossroads outlined a number of options that were available to you. I'll just run through them:-
Ø Retain status quo.
Ø Forge confederal links with South Africa.
Ø Return to South Africa as part of a new expanded region.
Ø Disappear completely as an administrative unit.
Ø Become part of a confederation of Southern African states like Lesotho, Botswana and Swaziland.
Of all of those options, which would be your most preferred and which would be the one that would be totally unacceptable to you?
LM Well we have always felt and we are convinced that we are entitled to be an independent country. That would be our preferred scenario option, of remaining as we are. But as I have said, we are prepared to look at a federal option also as part of South Africa.
POM Which would be the one that would be totally unacceptable to you?
LM I would not accept a unitary state in South Africa where everything is controlled from the centre. That would be totally unacceptable to me. I may also, of course, say that I am unhappy with the South African government for the reasons I mentioned, the Record of Understanding, but also because in my understanding of their stand they have viewed what they call power sharing, for want of a better word, they have misled the public by giving the public to understand that by power sharing they mean federalism when as I see it in fact power sharing is a very narrow self-serving concept. They are only interested in sharing power with the ANC as a Nationalist Party.
POM Do you think that the ANC and the NP really cut a deal in their talks between September and January and that they have worked out what they want the future to be and are really kind of enticing everybody along?
LM This is my belief. This is very, very strongly my belief and that stems from the Record of Understanding. I really believe that they have a deal that is clinched and that they would like to implement after 27th April next year.
POM Just to compare or contrast the situation of Dr Buthelezi and yourself, what things do the two political situations have in common and how are they different and the third part of this question is how would you relate this to the concept of sufficient consensus?
LM I think we are agreed, Chief Buthelezi and myself, that we need federalism. We believe very strongly on that and I think we believe that we have the right to exist, we have an identity as a nation and we have the right to exist. I think also in respect of the procedure, the process, what I believe in is what he also believes in, namely that we should not have a two-phase process and also that an elected Constituent Assembly should not write the constitution. I think we are agreed. I think we are different in that constitutionally we have a constitutional status which is different from his. I think we differ in that respect.
POM I'd like you to talk a little bit about SASWA, where this brainchild came from, how it has been progressing and what interest you have in the solution from your neighbours.
LM Well SASWA originates from our belief that first of all as neighbours we have to co-operate and work together. We believe that this region can be viable if the constitution of a federal country of South Africa is a fair one and I think this is a realisation that we share with our neighbours that we can unite and co-operate to the advantage of our region here.
POM Many of your neighbours would be called supporters of the right wing, of the Conservative Party or even those who are looking for an Afrikaner Volksland. Do you find them receptive to the idea of ...?
LM I think if we formed a region with them we would have problems because, for instance, since we became independent we have not had any discrimination based on race or colour, even before South Africa abolished such laws as they had, such as the Immorality Act or the marriage across the colour line, they abolished those laws. We definitely would have problems with the AWB, inevitably they would form part of our region. We would have problems with the Conservative Party, there is no question about that. And this brings me to the question of COSAG. We are not in COSAG because we are soul mates necessarily, we are in COSAG because we don't accept the Record of Understanding which binds the Nationalist Party government to the ANC, but we differ when it comes to our political philosophies.
POM How in this expanded region would you be in a majority if it's the region that runs from the Western Transvaal down to the Northern Cape? Would you envisage a form of power sharing government?
LM Well we don't believe in discrimination based on colour. This is why I say we would have problems because if we were to be a region that region would have to have a constitution of its own, it would have to be a constitution that provides for no discrimination whatsoever, such as our constitution. We would not accept anything less than what is provided for in our constitution and undoubtedly if they believe in apartheid as we have known it then we would have problems.
POM So do you see this idea going some place or is it really very problematic?
LM I think in the final analysis they would fall in line with us rather than with the African National Congress and the Communist Party.
POM Why do you think so?
LM I say so because they come to our hotels here where we don't have any discrimination. They frequent the resorts we have here. In a sense I think we have acted as a catalyst in their thinking. This is why I believe that they would in the end fall in line with our philosophy.
POM When you look at where things were last June when CODESA collapsed and where they are today and you look at the respective positions of the ANC alliance and the government who do you think has made most concessions, most compromises?
LM I really believe that the South African government, the Nationalist Party government, has simply capitulated.
POM You think it has?
LM Yes I think so. It is interesting that after meeting with Gatsha the last time, Mr de Klerk should come out as saying he is going to be very strong and firm now on the question of federalism. That implies that he has not been so. I really think that they have capitulated. Before CODESA the Nationalist Party government were in the same camp with us, before the collapse of CODESA they were in the same camp with us. They did not believe in the two-phase process. They did not accept the writing of the constitution by an elected Constituent Assembly. This only happens after 26th September 1990 or 1991 when they came out after a bilateral meeting with the ANC. I think they have really sold out on the honesty of the process.
POM Why so? Why would a party that ruled South Africa so vigorously and, some may say, so ruthlessly for forty years bend over and more or less say, "We give up", even though they never have been defeated militarily by the ANC? Why do they suddenly just cave in?
LM Well I can only surmise. I believe when they attempted to sell the concept of power sharing to the ANC, the ANC said, "We will include you in the government", and they meant the Nationalist Party and in my view they sold out on the integrity and the honesty of the whole negotiations.
POM They have even given up on power sharing that would be entrenched in the constitution. As it is proposed now you would have power sharing for five years. It sounds like a small thing to sell out for.
POM When one looks at opinion polls, and I saw one yesterday, we all disagree about what opinion polls say and don't say, but Professor Hermann Giliomee of the University of Cape Town said that support for the Nationalist Party may be as low as 12%. There is general agreement that support has fallen off significantly, that only one out of every four voters who voted for the National Party in 1989 would vote for them today. There are divisions within the party and in the Cabinet. Do you think that if these circumstances continue to prevail that Mr de Klerk can actually deliver the white community to any settlement that is proposed?
LM It's very, very difficult. I think in the not distant future he is going to lose even more support. This is my guess, I don't want to put it any higher than that, because I see him and his colleagues as people who are only interested in themselves as a party and not in the interests of South Africa. I would like to say if ever we decided ultimately to be part of South Africa in a federal state, although our philosophies are totally different from those of the Conservative Party and the AWB, but I think we, the Conservative Party, the AWB and Inkatha could be a great influence in not perhaps altogether halting what the communists and the Communist Party could do, but I think we would be a great influence in applying brakes and ensuring that some of the principles we believe in, the free enterprise system, Christian values, independent judiciary and the right to own property, I think we would be a great influence in the South African parliament.
POM The question of sufficient consensus; again CODESA seemed to be defined as once there was agreement between the National Party and the ANC that that in itself constituted sufficient consensus. Inkatha has challenged that and continues to challenge it. In your view what does sufficient consensus mean for issues that concern Bophuthatswana?
LM Well sufficient consensus is a concept that we have all along questioned and about which we are unhappy. It was unfortunate that the Supreme Court would not really give acknowledgement to that ... finite, but we have made it clear that where there is sufficient consensus and material consensus and we have said on issues that vitally affect our interest and our destiny we will not accept sufficient consensus.
POM You would exercise a veto?
LM On issues that affect us materially, we won't accept, we have made that absolutely clear to the negotiating forum.
POM And on matters that involve, say KwaZulu?
LM In matters that affect other parties we give our view on the merits of the issue as we see them and we attempt to be as honest as is humanly possible. If we reject an issue then we go on record as rejecting that issue regardless of whether it is ultimately decided on the basis of sufficient consensus or not.
POM The question of the subsidy of the independent states and self-governing homelands always comes up in discussions of the future in South Africa and one prevalent or popular point of view is that, well, all the government has to do is pull the financial plug on the independent states and the self-governing homelands and they would all fall into line. Would Bophuthatswana be able to survive economically if all its direct or indirect subsidies from Pretoria were cut out or would it have a lot of difficult surviving?
LM We would prefer to have the situation as prevails now. We would prefer that but in the final analysis we have to choose between freedom and oppression by the African National Congress/Communist Party. We have taken stock of ourselves and we believe that we can make sacrifices which should make us exist in spite of whatever measures are taken against us. There are, of course, issues which in my view are moral issues such as, for instance, the Customs Union share to Bophuthatswana. This is not a gift, it's not a grant, it's something that we are entitled to because our people do a lot of business with South Africa. It's therefore my view that this is not a handout. But we have included whatever share we get from our Customs Union agreement into the package that could be denied us by a hostile South Africa and we believe very, very firmly that we can make it.
POM Even if you are faced with a hostile South Africa.
POM Some commentators have said that no settlement can work, no permanent lasting and peaceful settlement can work that leaves Dr Buthelezi, the IFP and KwaZulu government out of the process. One, I would like your comment on that and two, I want to ask you a similar question with regard to Bophuthatswana. Can there be a lasting, stable, peaceful solution that would bring about the dismemberment of your country and attempt to suck it into a unitary state?
LM Well we are taking part in the negotiations because we believe that the negotiations should be as inclusive as possible and that all parties should be party to whatever is agreed upon at such negotiations and for that reason I don't believe that there would be peace if KwaZulu were to be left out the final solution. We are a peaceful people. We are, compared, for instance, to KwaZulu, we are very quiet which people sometimes tend to interpret as cowardice and this is not the case at all. If we are in the final analysis wronged and we feel that the solution is such that it does us injustice then there will be no peace. But we have said that we will remain at the negotiations until such time as we feel it does not serve any useful purpose to remain there.
POM However, you reject the Technical Executive Council that has been set up?
LM We say we cannot be part of the Technical Executive Council because by being part of the Technical Executive Council in a way means that we are in fact reincorporating into South Africa, that we cannot decide on re-incorporation until we have the final constitution.
POM Can there be a stable lasting peace without it accommodating the ANC?
LM No there can be no peace without accommodating the ANC.
POM Would you talk a little about the relationship of Bophuthatswana and the ANC? It has been one of antagonism and conflict, I know, over the years. How has it affected politics in your country?
LM The difficulty, of course, the root cause of our difficult relationship with the ANC is that they will not acknowledge and recognise our history. Now it is our view that no self-respecting people can accept that they don't have a history, they don't have roots. Therefore that is the cause of our problem with the ANC and because they will not accept our history and our historical background they have opposed vigorously the existence of Bophuthatswana. They have had as their policy making Bophuthatswana ungovernable and as recently as 29th May of this year they had a conference at Wits the theme of which was how to destroy Bophuthatswana. Now we are in our reaction in fact defending ourselves, it's an exercise of self-defence against the African National Congress. Now they have alleged that our system here is repressive because if you look at the documented resolutions of this conference I've referred to at Wits you will find they have said they must infiltrate our security forces, our public service and our teaching profession and so on and so on with a view to not only making Bophuthatswana ungovernable but with a view to toppling the government of Bophuthatswana. Our reaction has been one of self-defence. We say when they say politically we don't allow them to operate in Bophuthatswana, we say they should register as a political party and therefore be accountable for what they say and do here and that they will not do. And this has been the impasse, this has been the difficulty between us. But in spite of that we have had discussions, even this afternoon my people will be taking to the African National Congress. They had discussions last week. Since the talks at the World Trade Centre I attended last week we have already had five meetings where we are talking.
POM Are you making progress? This is not being published till 1998 so ...
LM Well I wouldn't say we are making progress but there is talking and we are making our standpoint. They have still to respond. We don't know what their response will be.
POM How about the right? A year or eighteen months ago after the referendum of March 1992 which Mr de Klerk won so decisively the right appeared to be humiliated and debilitated and they had lost a lot of their credibility. Now one comes back eighteen months later and finds that they appear to be a force that is to be reckoned with, a force that if not accommodated again in some way could lead to destabilisation in the future. One, what do you think has been the source, as it were, of their regaining popularity? And, two, how much of a challenge do you think they could be to a future National Party/ANC state or whatever?
LM Well I think the right have regrouped, if I may use the term, after the referendum because of what I said was the perception that the National Party government has capitulated to the ANC/Communist Party alliance as evidenced by the Record of Understanding. I think the Record of Understanding was extremely politically extremely damaging to the Nationalist Party and I think it was the reason, the main reason why the Nationalist Party has lost support. The right wing can be very dangerous if they are not accommodated. This is my view. I think they can be extremely dangerous if they are not accommodated because we saw what happened at the World Trade Centre when the AWB crashed into the World Trade Centre and they, I think, have great influence. I don't know what influence they have in the security forces in South Africa, I wouldn't express an opinion on that. But in other aspects I think they can be very dangerous.
POM Do you think the fact that the Committee of Generals coming to the fore more or less to take leadership has given it a respectability and a credibility that it didn't have before?
LM Yes, exactly.
POM A question I've been asking everybody for three years has been to what extent is the conflict in South Africa ethnic? That is that South Africa would be treated in the academic literature as a divided society with many groups competing against each other and many groups trying to look after their own self-interests. We've found that liberal white academics will say, "Yes there is an ethnic element but we don't talk about it because if you talk about it you seem somehow to justify the government's programmes of independent states and homelands and you're really just saying they did it the wrong way but their concept was right". Should the factor of ethnic divisions in South Africa be of real concern to negotiators?
LM I really believe that ethnicity would be ignored to the peril in the end of South Africa. I think in acknowledging ethnicity it must be taken into account where the majority of such ethnic people are, where it is acknowledged that in a given area the majority of people belong to a certain ethnic group, it must be ensured that there is no apartheid in that area. Those who don't belong, who are not members of that ethnic group should not in any way be discriminated against, but it cannot be wished away. It is a reality in South Africa and I think it has to be accommodated.
POM Just a final few questions and thank you very much for the time. One is the KwaZulu government or Dr Buthelezi or the King would say that the ANC is out to create a one party state and to do so they must destroy the Zulu nation. Would you agree with that analysis and, two, what do you think the ANC really wants? What's its end game?
LM The ANC is an enigma. We don't know how much communism is in the ANC, but I am certain that the ANC is terribly, terribly hungry for power. I know that the ANC, apart from the Communist Party which has other groups, is predominantly a Xhosa movement and therefore I believe that the Transkei will benefit a great deal from an ANC government. I am certain of that and I think other black ethnic groups will be discriminated against by an ANC government.
POM As you look to next year are you in any way satisfied with the constitutional proposals which have been put on the table? Are you in any way satisfied with the delimitation of the boundaries of the regions that were put on the table?
LM I am extremely unhappy with the draft interim constitution, very, very unhappy. It doesn't make for a federal state at all in my view. I think the Delimitation Commission was too hurried in their work. They couldn't, in the period of time that they had to make such an important recommendation, do a thorough job and I believe it is the reason why they have been asked to go to the people in the areas. I hope that next time round they will produce a better document.
POM Thank you very much Mr President, I really appreciate it and I would like to come back maybe in six months and so another hour with you on the latest developments.