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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
19 Nov 1993: Sachs, Albie
POM First, Albie, could you give me your impression of being in the World Trade Centre at 1 o'clock or whenever the ...
AS No, I'd rather not do it that way. Let me do it in sequence, a straight presentation, otherwise it will be too heavy. I'll end with that rather than begin with that. I'll pick up the story again, what would really be to me - there were several phases. The first phase was creating conditions for negotiations to take place, talks about talks and that proved far more strenuous and complicated than anybody had envisaged. We thought the door was open after February 2nd 1990 and we discovered that the whole question of the release of political prisoners was being handled not to create a good climate but to get guarantees for the otherwise. They were releasing people in dribs and drabs with a view to gaining something each time. The same applied in relation to the return of the exiles, it wasn't just done freely, openly and generously, OK it's over and we're back.
POM When you say about gaining something?
AS So in relation to each they wanted amnesty for themselves and everything was made conditional and I don't remember the details at this stage but, as I say, it wasn't simply saying, OK, we're opening a new chapter, let's satisfy these requirements that came out of the Harare Declaration as quickly as possible so that we can get going. On the contrary, the hard, tough negotiating started when we didn't have proper negotiating teams, when we were still, I suppose, more divided in terms of what I subsequently called the breakthroughists and the trappists. The breakthroughists were that we were making a big breakthrough, we must push ahead as rapidly as possible, and the trappists saw a trap in every opening that was won and in a way each one of us individually was both a breakthroughist and a trappist and it was quite important to look at every problem from both points of view but at certain times some of us emphasised one side more than the other so it was an extremely strenuous and in some ways a very disappointing year. It was also towards the end of that year when the violence started. It came from nowhere. There had been violence in Natal.
POM You were saying that it had been a very disappointing year. The violence began in August of 1990.
AS Yes, the violence began that year and, of course, that was the worst thing and we had to re-integrate the different sectors of the ANC. The core of the leadership had really been outside, we had a very big powerful mass democratic movement with a rather dispersed leadership inside and the thing that I suppose kept the leadership inside going was the knowledge of Lusaka and Lusaka was like the point of reference, the Court of Appeal, the high command, everything. So to enable, rather a movement whose strength came from its dispersion, its organic links with different communities and different sectors of society to function well now, all of a sudden the mountain was coming to Mohammed and, I don't know what that statement is in Macbeth where the winds of Dunsinane start marching, all that was happening at once and the people were coming off Robben Island so there was a lot of excitement and a lot of confusion and a rather self appointed ANC leadership. Oliver Tambo who had always made a very special contribution in terms of selecting leaders and establishing an collective style of work was effectively unable to make that contribution because of his stroke and Mandela was now establishing a new point of reference as the head of the organisation, linking up with the people from Lusaka some of whom functioned very well and many of whom didn't function all that well in new conditions, some of them were just very, very tired and worn out after decades and decades of hard struggle. Someone commented that the first National Executive Committee Meeting he attended he just saw these people take their briefcase, pull out some papers, shuffle them around on the desk, get into the meeting, they shuffled the papers, put them back in the briefcase and that was their total contribution to the whole programme of the day. And this was a chap from the inside, the internal, rather disappointed.
In any event, it was a difficult year in all sorts of ways and I have no doubt that the ANC was being heavily harassed by various forms of dirty tricks. Our telephones never worked, people phoned up and the story was put about that the ANC isn't capable, they can't manage things, they can't administer. And it's true we had quite serious weaknesses in those departments and we had to establish how to function openly and legally in South African conditions. Nevertheless I have no doubt that the various intelligence operatives were going full blast against us. In other words the government had a strategy, it wasn't based simply upon the intellectual strength of their case. In terms of negotiations it was based on destabilisation, creating confusion and tensions inside the ANC, various forms of subtle sabotage all over the place which, by the way, they had been doing in exile. They used to mess up our transport and our cars and start rumours and the strategy wasn't simply assassination and destroying the top leadership, it was to immobilise and paralyse in all sorts of ways. Similarly the kind of destabilisation that had been used against Mozambique with very great effect through RENAMO, the random killings, creating a sense of terror and dismay in the civilian population was now, as it were, flowing back into South Africa and I have no doubt that was also part of their strategy. I suppose any historian doing an overview would have to look at the Broederbond documents to see what the issues were, where they were prepared to open up, and also the issues where they said, "These are non-negotiables", and most of the non-negotiables turned on questions of security and maintaining the integrity of the armed forces and the police and the state establishment and that was an issue that we had to battle with right through until the night before last or two days ago, dealing with the police force and the army in terms of the new constitution.
So that's part of the very general background and that's phase 1, getting to negotiations, not about negotiations but getting to actual negotiations and that would have brought us to the run-up to CODESA 1 which I described in my last presentation and everything going well until the referendum and then suddenly we discover that they are now playing, as they call it, hardball and that there are two different concepts of democracy and I think I explained last time that's why things broke down really. It wasn't over the details of the percentages required for deadlock breaking. That was the actual issue but behind that issue really lay two concepts of democracy and that's what last year was about. Looking back now I can see that the heavy debates that we had in Working Group 2 on power sharing were really at the heart of the breakdown, the heart of the whole constitutional process and we had the dead end (in Afrikaans it's called dooie punt), a dead point, the talks were not broken off but they deadlocked. We had the mass action and the massacres and eventually now we had to resume negotiations and at the National Executive Committee level after Boipatong when it was decided to break off negotiations the question was: how should negotiations be restructured? So it's a new phase that now starts and it's the beginning of a repair of the negotiation process and establishing new modalities. It's been said by some commentators that the reason CODESA 2 broken down was because of the clumsy character of institutional mechanisms. It wasn't that at all. There were forms of streamlining that certainly helped afterwards and so on but the real problems essentially were political and how to solve the political problems and at the heart of everything was this concept of power sharing versus our concept of majority rule and then the majority voluntarily agreeing to do programmes in the national interest.
If I can just summarise what the crisp issues were that led to the real deadlock in CODESA 2: power sharing from the government side involved first of all a multi-headed presidency or presidents would rotate so it wouldn't be a College of Presidents it would be one president on Monday, another one on Tuesday, another one on Wednesday and faint echoes of that continued even until last week. The presidents would be on a par, they would rotate or they would take it in turns and they would represent the three and maybe the five top parties. To some extent that was obviously intended to cater for three personalities, De Klerk, Mandela and Buthelezi. I think they would have imagined at that stage in that order with the possibility of two more. The possibility of two more might have been to encourage smaller parties to feel that this is a good deal because they would also get a show in there. Secondly, the three presidents would jointly choose the executive so the executive itself in its composition would in effect have that tripartite character.
Thirdly, parliament would be structured in such a way that the Upper House, the Senate, would be the alter ego, the inverse in effect of the Lower House. The way it was said was that the smaller political parties, or the minority parties, had a right to special representation so they would be over-represented in the Upper House to the extent that they were under-represented in the Lower House. Mathematically what it meant was that they would just negate the Lower House. So all these issues cropped up in different guises in a subsequent period and we had to decide from the ANC side now how to restructure negotiations.
By about September of last year the country was really bleeding. We had had all the pain of the mass action and the massacres. It was clear that the government weren't in control of the country, weren't able to govern effectively but very little progress had been made in terms of achieving a new constitution and there was always a strong call and a mainstream feeling in the ANC that we had to negotiate a settlement, it was just a question of how and when and on what terms. There was always a certain current that went along with negotiations. We accepted the necessity but felt very wary about it and they were worried that we might end up with a government that was so innocuous and so paralysed that the whole project would be empty and others were worried that in fact the government in fact wasn't serious at all about the whole project, they were just spinning things out with a view to wiping us out in the meanwhile and using all sorts of dirty tricks to in effect eliminate the ANC.
All these currents would crop up during our debates and what was decided was that we would re-establish negotiations but in a very directed way and two things were done. First of all the channel was created. The channel now became a very important element in the whole negotiation process, the channel was Cyril Ramaphosa and Roelf Meyer so instead of having five points of contact going and people seeking out X and Y and Z because we know we can speak to them and the newspapers leaking stuff and so on, everything had to be done through the channel. The only legitimate, organised, appropriate mechanism for negotiation now had to go through those two people.
Secondly, we laid down terms for the resumption and I might say that I was the one who first, in an NEC meeting, when I argued for breaking off negotiations after CODESA 2 because I felt we were getting nowhere and we were outvoted in the NEC at that stage and I always believed in negotiations but I felt that if you're getting nowhere the worst thing is just to carry on and get nowhere. It's better to break off, see you in court and then you actually really settle, determine what the issues are. So my argument at that stage was lost. After Boipatong and everything else it now became an overwhelming majority position in the ANC but the methodology that I've suggested of not saying that we want good faith on the part of the government, that's too abstract, the good faith would be manifested by particular issues.
I think some of the issues I mentioned were in fact picked up. One was the final release of political prisoners. I think I proposed that Joffel van der Westhuizen be dismissed as a concrete thing that had to be done. That wasn't done. In any event in the end we came up with a whole series of points that had to be agreed to and three were left over. If I remember correctly it was the carrying of cultural weapons, it was the fencing of the hostels and it was the release of political prisoners. For the rest the government had agreed on the holding of elections on a non-racial franchise, effectively that agreement wasn't conditional on enforced power sharing. The question of power sharing was left open, the question of a Senate was left open, the question of three Presidents and so on was left open. But they were not committing themselves to non-racial elections effectively in the whole country with a Bill of Rights and other non-contentious principles like that. We wanted these other steps to be taken and I know we all felt very indignant about political prisoners. It was now almost two years, they had been on hunger strike, we'd persuaded them to call off the hunger strike. We said, "Don't worry you'll soon be out", and they weren't and it was a question of our honour. It wasn't even a question of looking to the future and the kind of country we wanted. It was people who had been in the struggle, who were suffering, who were looking to us and now they were being held as bargaining chips for the other side to get different things. They were manipulating the whole procedure and there was extreme indignation within our ranks and a sense of shame that we hadn't got them out by then.
I don't recall the exact sequence, I remember we had an NEC meeting in which Cyril came back with the Record of Understanding but with a few things in handwriting and a few gaps and, of course, it was the gaps that were the most interesting and the bits in handwriting and he said he's going to phone Roelf Meyer and we will soon know. And so Cyril went out and here's the whole NEC of the ANC of South Africa waiting for a phone call. It's not even in the room and so we carried on with our agenda and Cyril comes back and Cyril is very good at keeping a straight face, so we don't know; have we got a constitutional process? Have things broken down? Is it war? Is it peace? Looking at his face we just couldn't tell. And eventually he waits till the subject is talked through and then he says, "Comrades, I just wish to say that I phoned Roelf Meyer and he says he hasn't got an answer yet, he's still consulting." I think that went on for about two days. We were getting increasingly irritated now. We've got a document that's not a document and you can go through the records.
POM That Record of Understanding was in a sense then drawn up by Ramaphosa and by Meyer, right?
AS The Record of Understanding emerged from their negotiations and we had a text but the text was incomplete and, as I say, we were very irritated by the fact that the government couldn't give clear answers and I would say that one of their negotiating strategies that emerged all the way through and that we afterwards used jointly against other people was to get 80% agreement on something and then to say, "Well we've got a lot of agreement but there are just a few issues left", but those few issues that are left are usually the real hard ones and that was what happened before CODESA 2. We had 80% agreement but the 20% that was left over was the real hard stuff and then they could tell the world we're making a lot of progress.
In terms of the military we had the same kind of thing, 80% agreement but there's still 20%. And now they were trying that with the Record of Understanding and we said, "No, we've reduced the number of themes and issues to what we feel are manageable, are fair and not unreasonable", but there were very concrete signs of good faith on their part that if after the Goldstone Commission had reported about the carrying of cultural weapons, I think Goldstone had reported by then, they won't repeal the law that they had introduced in the very recent period allowing Zulus to carry cultural weapons and go back to what the law had always been and there was also a Supreme Court decision that favoured the course that we were going for. If they couldn't do that then it was quite clear that they weren't acting in good faith so it wasn't an unreasonable demand. If they couldn't let the prisoners out after having agreed to do that it was something so gross we just felt we couldn't negotiate with them. And then the third, picketing, putting fences around the hostels, again was felt to be something that had to be done.
So we dug our heels in on those questions and I seem to recall that we had a meeting, that was on a Friday, and we gave a very firm directive to our leaders that if they can't agree on those things or we would consult some or other, no deal, and that was like the critical weekend and I don't know what international forces came to play or what persuaded De Klerk in the end but on Monday he gave in and it looked to the whole world exactly like that. De Klerk capitulates. And that lost him support inside his own party, it lost him support in terms of that whole broad sector of South African community that wants a strong president, that they don't have to think, that he will handle everything and make sure that nothing changes while everything is changing. And there he was, he had dug in his heels, he had said no concessions and he had to give way. And he gave way on issues where he should never have held the line to begin with. It was a gross miscalculation on his part and that was really the beginning of the end.
POM What were those issues?
AS The three issues that I recall were the carrying of cultural weapons, release of political prisoners and the fencing of the hostels. Those were the three issues that stood out, three blank paragraphs in that document and that was what stood between resuming negotiations and not resuming negotiations and we wouldn't resume negotiations until those three signs of good faith had been established and we were very tough with our negotiators. We just said, full stop, if all three are not agreed to don't resume negotiations. It doesn't matter that we've got a lot of agreement from them on a lot of issues we've just got to establish that. It's the absolute minimum. We've dropped other things that we felt were very important, would leave them over, it's not even maximist demands, these were really rather, they weren't minimal demands but they were, looking back as objectively as I can, there were very concrete, very specific, very achievable and in the context of the whole debate at that stage actually very reasonable and he capitulated.
So if one was looking as a theatre person rather than as a serious scientific analyst like you are, I would say the moments of drama that stand out are when Mandela at CODESA 1, right at the end, turned and said, "This man", and pointed to De Klerk with the real special fury that Mandela has, that sense of betrayal that he had been manipulated and he had been deceived and I commented at the time, I don't know if it's on record to yourselves, that to me that was the end of white domination in South Africa.
POM What did Mandela say?
AS It was right at the end of CODESA 1 and Mandela had been completely controlled, everything had gone absolutely swimmingly and Mandela said, "In the national interest there is something I want to raise at the end", and we thought he was going to give a bouquet of flowers to somebody. He just said, spoke for about twenty minutes and he said, "This man is not fit to occupy the high position he has and I'm not surprised the right wing find him so difficult to deal with. When we had discussions about what would be on the agenda and what not and he said something to me and acted in a completely different way." It was the attack on uMkhonto weSizwe after they had agreed that wouldn't be an issue and De Klerk responded and everybody commented afterwards how much more powerful the presentation of Mandela was. De Klerk had some strength and some dignity, but his English wasn't as good as Mandela's English and his fury couldn't compare with Mandela's fury and that was the first time a black person had stood up in public on a basis of equality and had denounced that implacable, well directed anger and carefully chosen wording, but spontaneous, not read out, and then the white leader defending himself but on the defensive and at the time I thought Mandela was a little bit over the top. Looking back now I can see that there was real deceit on the part of De Klerk, there were lots of different things operating all the time and that Mandela's gut reaction at that moment corresponded to a real historic thing that was happening.
Even that I would say from a theatre point of view was moment number one and from a theatre point of view moment number two was when De Klerk announced to the world that the government was accepting the ANC's demands in relation to the carrying of cultural weapons, the fencing of the hostels and the release of political prisoners. Interestingly enough the government never really - to this day they haven't fenced the hostels, to this day they haven't seriously applied the cultural weapons aspect although I think there has been some kind of a deal with Inkatha. They have released just about all the political prisoners so what mattered wasn't even the actual following through, what mattered was the indication that they would acknowledge the need to do those things. It was a climb down in an issue where the confrontation from De Klerk's point of view should never have taken place. He took us on and we beat him and his party saw that, we saw that, the public saw that, so that would be moment number two.
Moment number three in these terms was after the death of Chris Hani when Mandela was the president for four days. He kept the country together and everybody knew that and De Klerk had something to say but he couldn't speak to the nation and he couldn't keep the country together. I suppose in those terms if we made this a two-hander drama the last act was played out the other night when De Klerk came in - and he marches in, he's very buoyant and he's got a big team of secret service people around him, like a modern president and he sat down and people crowded around and then Mandela came in afterwards and then suddenly there was an eruption and the press were allowed in for ten minutes and so we saw fifty, seventy, one hundred photographers and camera people in the kind of organised chaos you get and they all came rushing into the hall and Mandela was on the one side and De Klerk was on the other side and all one hundred of them went to Mandela and then click, click, click, click and flashed and getting him smiling and talking and all the rest and then they rushed over to De Klerk afterwards and one could see what the sequence was.
So that was the other night when the constitution was finally adopted. And I must say both of them stoically stayed there till three or half past three in the morning. De Klerk had to because he was the last speaker and I suppose out of courtesy Mandela had to because having made his speech he couldn't walk out before De Klerk had spoken and in between he had to listen to nineteen speeches which weren't organised very well, nobody was really interested, the drama was over and the people who organised it with no sense of presentation and theatre, a very strong sense of the bureaucratic necessities of getting the thing through and you can't make mistakes. We're dealing after all with our new constitution. That was beautifully done but as a piece of organised presentation to make South Africans feel proud it was a total flop and a disaster and negative.
AS So, let's go back to the channel. Now we've got the Record of Understanding and the Record of Understanding was important because it didn't depend upon phone calls between Mandela and De Klerk. We started getting irritated at the NEC when we started hearing about these phone calls, personalised communication between two leaders. That could be important but that's not the way to conduct serious negotiations and we now had the defined points of contact. It was Cyril and it was Roelf. Nothing outside of that, no pulling in different directions from both sides.
Secondly we had a framework of stepping stones, a core of agreed principles and basically the battle of the constitution was won over mass action which was usually successful, it was disciplined, it showed we had massive black support, they constantly denied that. After Boipatong the international reaction shocked and stunned the South African government, the Bisho massacre which we feel was pre-planned, we ran into a trap there, was shocking for both sides but more for the government than for us, it was their surrogates who were responsible for the deaths and even if there was an attack on some of the ANC leaders for having contributed towards the tension and confrontation the main critique was of the government. So none of that had anything to do directly with power sharing or whether there should be a senate or not, but in terms of what was acceptable, what would work and function in this country, over all the government took us on. They thought with the referendum they were now riding high and we defeated them politically and the mass action played a crucial role and any history of negotiations has to give - I have no doubt about this whatsoever and I'm not saying this to make a point for the ANC, I'm saying this looking back objectively, the public, as it were, and the public confrontation and the disciplined way in which we were able to handle all that was the decisive factor.
It was also very important for morale in the ANC because people were becoming increasingly restive, a lot of time had passed since February 2nd. There was nothing to show for change. There was more freedom, the leaders were back, they weren't banned as we had been banned before, but apartheid continued, inequalities continued, the same people who ran the country before were running the country now, the same arrogance that had been there before continued now and the general grassroots feeling, the feeling of the cadres in the organisation, the trade unionists, the people in the mass democratic movement, was that we were too naïve, we were too eager to negotiate and talk for the sake of doing that. There were lots of jokes going around and so on and no-one could follow the intricacies and the details of the negotiations. People were cross about the way they perceived the debate over the percentages and they felt that we had been willing to give away far too much and the mass action that in a way came from the trade union movement, the first concept and idea of it, revived our morale, we established a connection between the negotiating sector of the leadership and the broad movement of the ANC and re-established for South Africans and the world to know that the real strength of the country lay with this broad mass of black people living in the townships, organised in unions and civics and all the rest, who wanted change and wouldn't accept some Mickey Mouse kind of a deal.
So now the negotiations resume and a lot is put into streamlining the process and what had worked well in CODESA 1 was a group of planners doing things behind the scenes, managers really of the process. And so the Planning Committee now became a key organising group and the Planning Committee really had to deal with methodology. People who should chair, and chairing played a very big role at crucial times because decisions had to be taken on what constituted sufficient consensus and as one saw right at the end the key chair people were Pravin Gordhan and Dawie de Villiers and they were both excellent in terms of style and they both moved things along and certainly once ANC and government through bilaterals had come to an agreement the core of consensus was there already. But as I say the chairing couldn't just be a random thing. Some people were more adept than others and we were always fighting against time.
Then there were all sorts of problems related to getting in parties that hadn't been in before. I'm not going to say much about that. I wasn't directly involved with the PAC side or with the right wingers, IFP and all the rest. In fact my participation now was of a completely different order. Having been heavily involved in CODESA 1, having been directly involved in Working Group 2 which was really the key political/constitutional negotiating group, I was now out of the picture. I wasn't on the Planning Committee and the format was now to have Technical Committees. There would be a Negotiating Council, [Have you got information on this? So I won't go through all that.] but just to say in terms of how it affected us, the Negotiating Council was very important, it was very few people and I wasn't among them and many others who had been full time negotiators were now out and the Technical Committees consisted of people who were not too openly identified with any political party so it meant that probably 80% of those of us who had been negotiating full time were now in the background and core people were in the Planning Committee, Negotiating Council and then we would just do the briefing. We would receive documents, I don't want to see another document fax.
AS Well it's the first report of the Technical Group, the second report, the third report, I think we were up to the 23rd report. It's quite an amazing achievement actually I would say. It's almost as high as the pyramids and it could go down as one of wonders of the world. So now we were working in the background commenting on these reports, making proposals, sending proposals through to the Technical Committees and there was a kind of an informal liaison with different people so it wasn't seen as improper interference. They would phone us up, we never told them, "Look you must do this, that and the other", it was never done on that basis. They weren't mandated party representatives, they worked as a collective in the Technical Groups but by showing drafts to the various political parties it was an indirect form of negotiating and it was often convenient to say, "Well the technical negotiators have come up with a solution, we can live with it", and that was a phrase that was used over and over again. We don't like it, we don't want it, it's not our choice, can you live with it? In the end the constitution is a constitution we can all live with and it's not brilliant in many ways but I would rather live with a good solid constitution than die under a brilliant constitution that tears the country apart.
AS So the formatting and so on was very, very different and then we had quite a few surprises. The main focus was on the Working Group dealing with the constitution and the composition there turned out to be very important. The ANC connected person was Arthur Chaskalson. The Editor of the Sunday Times, when attacking him at a certain stage, well indirectly praising and attacking him at the same time, called him 'Awesome Arthur' and in some ways he is awesome. He has a formidable brain, he is most persuasive in his arguing, he's polite to a degree and courteous, very fair and very decent and if one had to establish a kind of model prototype super negotiator whom you would rather have on your side than the other side and you would look at Arthur. I don't suppose a person has to be male, as tall as he is, but he really was outstanding in every way and he gave us confidence and I would say this was extremely important. He had joined the ANC Constitutional Committee, I guess it would be early in 1990, he and George Bizos on the recommendation of Nelson Mandela. So now the Constitutional Committee was being reconstructed. We had our core from exile, some working from Lusaka and then Kader Asmal and myself from Europe and now we were joined by people from inside, Zola Skweyiya, Dullah Omar, Bulelani Ngcuka, Essa Moosa, Brigitte Mabandla had already been on, Fink Haysom who afterwards played a very big role in negotiations, particularly in the military and police area, these are the names that spring to mind. There were some people who had been involved in the Mass Democratic Movement, the National Association of Democratic Lawyers plus Arthur and George.
As far as I know Arthur and George never formally joined the ANC and it took me a long time before I could say, "Comrade Arthur". I stayed at his house, I'm very friendly and very close to them but I don't know if you call someone who is so awesome 'comrade', but I think he actually enjoyed it. It's like calling your brother a comrade you know, it's a bit funny. I just knew him too well and I respected too much his status as himself to embrace him and subordinate him with the term, equalise him as it were, with the term 'comrade'. In any event the huge advantage he had, he had been with our committee from the beginning when we started discussing constitutional principles and in 1990 we had several meetings, I would say and I don't mind putting it on record, the Constitutional Committee was ignored by the ANC leadership for most of 1990. There were other people there and they were doing all sorts of negotiating and they thought they knew how to do things and it turned out to be a damned good thing, not for the arrangements that were made in 1990. I think looking back now many agreements made could have been done far more effectively and we could have saved the country and ourselves, political prisoners and others, a lot of hardships if there had been more involvement and so on. But the good that came out of all this was that we had time to ourselves and this was the time when we learnt to develop a working style and I would like to pay tribute here to Zola Skweyiya who was the head of the Constitutional Committee. He has got a strong brain, he's a bit diffident in his manner, he's not a natural communicator, not a natural public relations type person but he takes decisions and he's got a good sense of balance, he knows ANC politics very, very well, he's been around a long time and he's a critical independent thinker. He's not a hack and he's also, something I like about him, he doesn't set out to become popular to ingratiate himself to get in with any personalities or groups as far as I know. We needed somebody like that because lawyers, we're all prima donnas, it's part of our trade. You've got to sparkle, you've got to impose your argument on the argument of the other side and that means not being afraid to shine, that's a very nice way of putting it, a certain kind of hauteur and a certain kind of self confidence that lawyers need and we had that in good abundance. Some are quieter than others but we all had that certain kind of doggedness and a sense of sureness that we were right. We needed somebody at the top whom we respected to make a team out of this very disparate group and I think Zola has done a really good job in that respect and I hope he gets due recognition for that. So we spent a lot of 1990 mapping out the kind of constitution that we wanted for South Africa even to the extent of drafting all sorts of clauses, elements of which subsequently came to be used in the draft that was accepted the other day at Kempton Park.
But more important than the actual textual elements was the kind of thinking adopted after a conference for proportional representation. It was the ANC who first came out with that. It was a conference where our regions were strongly represented, we had international experts, somebody from the electoral reform society in the United Kingdom came and we broke up into several working groups and each one reported in South African conditions that proportional representation is going to be the best system. We discussed the possible role of a Senate and I can still remember I said, "Well you need a Senate to mop up all those politicians you don't know where to put them and if you want to get an agreement it's useful to have a Senate". They said, "Well, Comrade Albie, that's not a sufficient foundation". And then we were so worried the Senate wouldn't be democratic that we tended to make the Senate simply a carbon copy of the Lower House, but then what's the point of having a second House if it's the same. So eventually we came up with the idea of regional representation which meant that when we came into this interim constitution in principle we had already accepted the idea but we wanted to leave it to the Constituent Assembly but we didn't have a fundamental objection to that. We had worked that out ourselves.
We also started working on the question of the regions and I recall the first time I became, as we lawyers say, seized of the subject, was at the conference I think in November 1990 on the electoral system when Mike Sutcliffe from the Natal region of the ANC who is a geographer had some transparencies showing, because the proportional representation we were going to have would be based on national lists and regional lists. That was an ANC idea that we came up with after that conference. The regional lists were to have some sense of local accountability and we opposed the idea of the German system which would be national proportional representation and individual single member constituencies because of where to draw the boundaries in apartheid-ridden, Group Areas Act South Africa and we would all be fighting over the boundaries before we even got to the elections. So we proposed regional lists. But what would the regions be? And Mike showed us that in fact the Development Bank of South Africa had nine regions, the ANC had fifteen but if you put together Northern Natal, Midlands and Southern Natal that would reduce the ANC number from fifteen to thirteen. If you saw the Transkei not as a separate region but as part of an Eastern Cape then it took the number down one more. If the Orange Free State was seen as one region rather than two, one more. And in fact what we discovered was the Development Bank regions which had been created on functional economic terms and the ANC regions very largely overlapped, the main difference was the northern part of the Transkei was included in Natal and clearly the Development Bank did that partly on a genuine economic basis and partly to make it non-ethnic and we just felt that wasn't viable, so we proposed the Development Bank regions in essence plus a tenth region which would be the Transkei/Border/Ciskei.
In doing that it wasn't simply a question of regions for the future constitution that we wanted, we had to start thinking about federalism and I was involved right from the beginning on that partly because of our Mozambican experience where everything was too centralised. Even the Frelimo army couldn't go into battle unless Samora had signed and Samora was down in Maputo 1000 miles from the front, up in wherever it was, and in all sorts of ways they were so worried about that they called regionalism that tends to divide and fragment the country and so keen on national unity that in essence the government became over-centralised and it provoked regionalism, it didn't undermine the negative kind of regionalism that they wanted. So we spent several weeks discussing the whole question of the regions and I was telling our committee that the battle of the constitution couldn't be over the voting system and so on because we just couldn't agree to anything less than a non-racial franchise, proportional representation which was manifestly fair and sound, so it wouldn't be over that. There could be some debate over aspects of the Bill of Rights and so on but I foresaw that the two big themes over which we would clash would be the regions and the Upper House. In other words we were winning the basic question of the suffrage, the non-racial character of the South African constitution but as I said there are still structural things.
AS I might mention that we also debated at that stage the whole question of the president, the prime minister, should we have a directly elected president? We said no. We didn't want a second source of authority with very great legitimacy that would have the effect of downgrading the role of parliament. We wanted parliament, for which we had been fighting all these years, to be the central organ of power in the whole new democratic set up with the president playing a very important leadership role but the president relating to parliament and not relating to the South African population directly. We didn't want too much concentration of power in any particular person and this was as a matter of principle, it wasn't related to any personality. It was just looking to the whole constitutional future of South Africa and bearing in mind the impact of colonial rule that was very despotic in the past, the impact of the years of PW Botha and so on, of high authoritarian white rule, we felt looking to the future we should underline the central role of parliament in terms of authority for decision making and we started working on the question of the regions and we came up with the formulation. I know it was before the ANC conference because we had to get the document ready for the conference, that was in July 1991, so it was before that that our basic approach to the regions was worked out and the document said in essence: what we want is strong national government for national tasks, strong regional government for regional tasks, strong local government for local tasks. That was our basic approach. We prepared a document, we went through it line by line. It was at the Johannesburg Sun, it was then called, and we went through till midnight one night but line by line, word by word, on the whole question of the ANC or Constitutional Committee's position on the regions and it was accepted by the committee with lots of different little adaptations here and there, a new chapter at the end summing up the whole thing and that came out in a very nicely produced blue and yellow type of book on the regions and it so happened that some of the funding for this work came from Sweden and it turned out those were the Swedish national colours. They felt very happy.
The book came out, it was hardly distributed because people felt that the regional question was just so important and the question of the boundaries and the criteria we had to have a conference on regions and that's when we came out with the ANC coloured document. We had to re-write the whole thing. I would say the basic core thinking is the same. The new version was much stronger on the fiscal side and that's where we got a lot of help from people at the University of Western Cape who knew much more about money matters than we did and some of us, the same people who had to write the first document, we had to write the second document and you had to be quite clever not to repeat yourself and actually quite confident of your ideas. And then we had the conference where we accepted the second version and the key to the approach on the regional question was concurrent powers and that has actually emerged as the key to solving the whole question of federalism, as it's called, in the interim constitution that has just come out.
And that we got from our visit to Germany. About ten members of the Constitutional Committee went there in, I'm a bit confused about the date but I suspect it was 1991, and it was a very good visit and we met people from state government and we met people from central government, we met university people, people from the courts. Until then the debate in South Africa had been, who gets the power? Is it the centre or is it the regions, can the centre delegate to the regions? What they told us was that there were concurrent powers, well most important matters were handled by both but with the centre effectively having an override and we based all our thinking on that. We also took a decision fairly early on to try and avoid the labelling of the terminology which can argue the metaphysics of a unitary state and federalism for ever and to rather develop a system that corresponded to the needs of the country and then let the professors say afterwards what we've got. I, in fact, came up with that I think in 1990 already at a meeting where I met Francois Venter for the first time who turned out to be a key person from the government and I made that point. Afterwards I heard Tertius Delport and others saying the same thing, "Let's follow that kind of approach", and I even claimed authorship at one stage. I was a bit embarrassed afterwards for being so territorial about the whole thing.
In any event we had a basic philosophy in relation to the regional question with quite intense debate in our own ranks with some people being more nervous about acknowledging the regional dimension than others. I pushed very hard for what I saw was the importance of accountability and democracy at all levels and I felt that you actually build a more powerful, more united nation that way than you do by concentrating on the centre and symbols and trying to push everybody into shape and my vision was that the ANC must compete for office at every level and solve the problems of the people, come up with solutions at every level. It was actually good for us as ANC.
But what we had to avoid was ethnic regions and we had to ensure that the Bill of Rights and the basic democratic concepts applied everywhere and we had to ensure that the power, the capacity of the centre of the nation to embark upon housing and educational transformation and land reform and so on wouldn't be diminished. These were the key elements, not the technical forms of state. To the extent that Arthur and others were party to those debates, he knew what the essence of the matter was and so he could make the proposals at the Technical Committee level that could be very creative and very useful for getting solutions without feeling that he was destroying what ANC people have been fighting for for a long time and that became very important and the hardest parts of the interim constitution debates were over the questions of the regions and their powers and functions. Arthur in particular, I would say, played a critical role in that whole area, developing the concept of concurrent powers and ending up with this idea that you would define what the areas of concurrency would be and within that the national input and control and regulation would prevail in relation to certain criteria and the regional would prevail in relation to the rest. That really became the key aspect of the interim constitution in terms of the key area of contention and Arthur, I think, played a very creative, active role. All the time we as part of the ANC, it was called Negotiations Forum, that's outside of the - we had a Negotiations Commission directly under the national leadership to do the negotiating but the commission consulted with the forum, the forum had people from all the regions and different departments and we would meet sometimes weekly, sometimes once a month, to go through the documents, give our views, to take back to the regions what had been agreed upon but also to pass on the regional view to the negotiators. It was that kind of a balance that in the end became the ...
POM Just to clarify. In the interim constitution there are regions. Are the powers of those regions entrenched in the interim constitution?
AS What we agreed to early on, and that's in our blue and yellow book, to identify the book, was that the fact of the regions, their status as legal entities with a constitutional foundation and their capacity to function as democratically accountable regional governments, that would be entrenched in the constitution. So it was carrying on from the old set up in South Africa where we had the central Union government and we had the provinces and the provinces had a very important role, quite a significant role in South African public life until they were abolished with the tricameral constitution in the early eighties, but the provinces had no constitutionally protected position so that the tricameral arrangement ended up with simply eliminating the Provincial Councils and they were replaced by appointed bodies. So entrenching the provincial constitutions, entrenching the status of the provincial governments was something that we felt was appropriate. We wanted that in South Africa. We didn't want the Indira Gandhi kind of situation where if she didn't like a particular government leader she could just dismiss them and declare a state of emergency and rule by presidential decree. We didn't want that kind of situation. So we had agreed to entrenching a role and a function and a status for the provinces in our thinking early on.
Where we had difficulty was in relation to the revenue raising capacity of the regions and particular powers and until then the whole debate about the powers was: who gets the powers? The centre or the regions? And our visit to Germany showed us that in fact the centre gets the powers and the regions get the powers through concurrent powers. There are some powers that only the centre has basically, otherwise there are concurrent powers and then the constitutional question is: what is the appropriate means of intervention in relation to those powers that the centre has, what's appropriate for the regions? And when I'm presenting this and I've done it all over the country, I always give the example of health. Is health a national problem? Everyone says "Yes" and clearly it is and I say the germs don't stop at the boundaries and the whole question of getting resources for a health programme, of the qualifications of doctors and nurses, has to be dealt with comprehensively. Then I say, "Is health a regional problem?" and the audience says "Yes". I say the decision about where to site a hospital, who should be appointed there if it is a major hospital, that shouldn't be left to the centre and I said there are some diseases that are purely regional. We don't have malaria in Cape Town and even the most hardened unitary state people wouldn't say we've got to introduce mosquitoes into Cape Town for the sake of national unity. So malaria is a problem for the Eastern Transvaal and let the Eastern Transvaal deal with the question of malaria. And then I said, "Is health a local problem?" and the audience says "Yes". Where you site your clinics and how you go for health education, health delivery has to be done locally. So the real problem of the constitution is to indicate what is the area of health that belongs to the centre, what belongs to the region, what belongs to the locality and we've more or less come up with a format for dealing with that.
POM That's not yet finally decided upon is it?
AS It is, it is. The interim constitution goes into some detail and health is one of those examples of a concurrent power.
POM Concurrent powers are powers that regions can exercise?
AS No, no, it's got something like twelve or thirteen areas of concurrent power and all the rest goes to the centre, what's not specified there. The concurrent powers are areas where the regions can act and then the big battle was over if you have a conflict between a regional law and a national law in relation to health which law would prevail? Our argument had always been that the regions can do what they want within their sphere provided it conforms to the Bill of Rights and conforms to national legislation. They said, no, the regions must go for complete autonomy within the Bill of Rights. We ended up with this concept of which law will prevail and the national law will prevail in five sets of circumstances where there have to be uniform standards to maintain free circulation of goods, labour and technology for economic development policies. I forget exactly what they are, you'll have to check up there, but I think there are five, but right at the end, the very last day literally, we introduced environment as a concurrent function but conserving the environment would be one of areas where for the purposes of conserving the environment, environmental protection, the centre would have the last word. So there are no areas of exclusive regional jurisdiction in the new constitution but the regions will have their elected assemblies, they can pass laws and the regional laws will prevail in relation with concurrent powers, say in relation to health except in so far as they conflict with a national law justified by those five sets of circumstances. The Constitutional Court would have to decide in the end.
PAT Are the governments, their chief ministers elected by ...?
AS Yes, the executive authority is answerable to the Assembly. They are not appointed by the centre and we had a lot of debate in our ranks on that, in the ANC Constitutional Committee, but we liked the idea of a link. In the Union of South Africa days the Administrator was appointed by the centre, that was part of the compromise but it's a bit difficult to justify that so now the Premier will be appointed by the Regional Assembly and we're going to have regional governments of national unity, but in effect that's what's going to happen, similar to the Cabinet at the national level.
POM Just to contrast, in the United States, states have rights and they are entrenched in the constitution and the centre can't take those powers away so the residual powers are given back to the centre. The African situation is that powers of the regions are defined in the constitution as concurrent?
AS The South African situation is the areas where the regions can function are defined in the constitution. By implication residual powers go to the centre. The functioning of the regions, they are going to be called provinces, will be concurrent but subject to a national override only in relation to these five specified areas where national legislation will prevail. I might say that the Constitutional Committee visited the United States and we found that whatever the text of the constitution says in the end a federal law would prevail over the state law. In the end the clauses being used to effectively give power to the centre. In the end the federal dollars can buy anything in any state anyhow and we found your constitution is a disaster from the point of view of people designing a new constitution because it says one thing but practice after 200 years is totally different, everything is mangled by these amendments that came in afterwards that were tagged on afterwards, after a civil war and the plight of the women's movement.
PAT We still haven't got the women's one on yet.
AS I was going to say the women's movement managed to get equal voting. It's a wonderful constitution in terms of the role of the Bill of Rights and concepts of citizenship and the sense of the nation. It is your first prototype but as a model for today it's a disaster and we were tending to get more and more involved in debates about the American constitution and they didn't help us. That's where the visit to Germany turned out to be so useful. If I had to give four constitutions, and I do this publicly, that were particularly useful for us what do you think they would be? You give up so easily?
POM The German would be one.
AS OK, the German, the American, you've got to start with the American it's the first one, Namibian and the Indian. And it's partly diplomatic for me to say that because it's the four great continents that are involved and it's showing that we're not looking simply to European and North American experience. But in fact those were the four that I would say have been the most useful and probably the influence of the German constitution will be seen as the greatest influence in the interim constitution in a number of different respects particularly in relation to the whole centre/regional sort of balance.
So that was the one big theme and probably we've had more fighting over that than anything else. Right until the very last day, I was speaking about it as if it was the ancient, distant past yet it was just the day before yesterday! And it wasn't even 48 hours ago, it was in the late afternoon of the last day we had what was called the basket with six final political themes that had to be resolved. The package, the six-pack. And one of them was whether or not regions could have their own constitutions. That we had agreed to along the way but we had agreed to it on the basis of a two thirds majority in the Regional Assembly and a two thirds majority in the National Assembly and we finally dropped our insistence on the two thirds majority in the National Assembly for the regions to have their own constitution but their own constitution can't conflict with the national constitution and with the Bill of Rights. So it was like a concession to the concept of a separate, independent regional identity.
POM The other five elements, the other five items in that package were? The six-pack?
AS All right, let me come to that later on. Let me just develop more points on the regions now. The big new aspect of thinking on the regions that the ANC had to bring in was the whole question of how the fiscal arrangement should be and again, what I call the federal logs, the people who want federalism with a passion for its own sake as a good thing, as the answer to all the problems of government independently of outcomes, independently of how it would function in South Africa, independent of implications given the whole history and background of fragmentation and ethnicity in our country. They were insisting very strongly on fiscal federalism, on the federal elements, or the regional elements being fiscally autonomous and again we found the answer to that in Germany. In Germany the basic tax revenue, as we understand it, is achieved in the following way; property taxes are local, it makes sense, they are in the areas, they have to be collected locally, they go back into the local institutions. Value added tax, income tax and company tax are collected in the ... but they are directed towards a central pool and then reallocated in terms of a fixed formula, it's a mathematical formula based basically on head count but that takes into account a regional equalisation factor and we lit on this regional equalisation factor with a vengeance. We were very keen on that. So that was the essence of our thinking and when we studied - somebody told us about Australian and Indian experience, they have a Fiscal Advisory Commission so even though Australia is a federation with the states having come into the commonwealth with their own independent statehood, and it's a classic example of a very strong federation where the centre has limited powers, at least theoretically, nevertheless they have this system of pooling the tax revenue and reallocating or allocating it on the advice or recommendations of the fiscal advisory commission and you will see that that is the basic theme that's been followed in terms of the revenue allocation in terms of the relationship between the centre and the regions in the new interim constitution. I would say most of the thinking was done by us because we were looking much more concretely at these questions.
AS To sum up in a way I think would be for the first time after the new interim constitution you have the honour or otherwise of receiving the overview. The debate on the regions has focused almost exclusively on the question of who gets the powers and we've ended up with a system of significant empowerment for the regions. It's really meaningful, it's not just formal, that's entrenched but within the framework of a single country through the system of concurrent powers that I've mentioned. There was some debate, but very little, about the question of finance and we've ended up with the system based very much on the Australian, Indian and German set up, not the American, not the Canadian, in which most revenue is pooled and then allocated by this body, very important body called the Fiscal - something - Commission.
POM Is that appointed by the central government?
AS The Fiscal Commission is appointed by the president but it will have one representative from each region so the regional element comes directly into the composition of that body. It's an advisory body but obviously its recommendations carry a lot of weight and it would be very difficult for the central government to politically overrule the recommendations. But two other areas were almost completely ignored from the debate and they ended up the very last themes to be agreed upon in the negotiations and that is the whole question of the structure of the civil service where we are going to have separate and parallel civil services, a federal civil service and then provincial civil services and the end result has been no, we're going to have a national South African civil service but functioning on a tiered basis and I would say we haven't thought through the question of accountability fully but it will be a single civil service with single conditions of service with promotion on a career basis moving from province to province, moving from one level to another level on a coherent kind of a basis.
POM So you could be appointed to Pretoria, spend three years there and then be reassigned to Bloemfontein and spend three years there?
AS We would want to encourage that and to the extent that the centre has override in terms of establishing a common market in South Africa and free movement of labour it would be consistent with that so we wouldn't have independent bureaucracies but exactly how, for example, the Department of Health in the Western Cape province would function and to what extent it would be answerable to the Minister of Health in Pretoria and to what extent it would answer to the Regional Minister of Health that still has to be worked out. But we're not going to have separate civil servants. There will be civil service commissions for the regions but their function will mainly be to help on the re-integration for the homeland civil services and the provincial administrations and basically there's going to be one national public service commission and we envisage a national civil service. I would personally be very pleased with that.
AS Finally, the fourth element was the organs of power and that was decided literally on the second last day the final decision was made, the South African Cabinet okayed it on the very last day in the morning and that deals with the police, the prisons and the army, and in terms of the army it was agreed fairly early on in the last period of the debate that there wouldn't be separate regional armies, there has to be a single South African army and the big battle there wasn't over tiering it, the battle was over whether uMkhonto weSizwe should join the South African Defence Force and also the Transkei Defence Force and Venda, Bophuthatswana and so on, and we rejected that approach and legally the approach that has been adopted is the so-called independent state armies, the SADF and the armies of political parties that are represented in the Transitional Executive Council, that would be uMkhonto and APLA if they wanted to come in, they would be treated on the basis of legal equality and would come together to form a single South African Defence Force. Certain guarantees were given in terms of serving officers in terms of job security but we're going to have a single Defence Force.
One minister in negotiations said we can have the Prison Service, he says the prison service doesn't give you power it only gives you headaches, he said we've already agreed that that is going to be national but the Police Force, they right to the end wanted provincial police forces and right to the end we rejected the idea of separate, autonomous organs of power answerable to provincial governments but we accepted the idea of a certain degree of autonomy from the regional Police Commissioners in terms of what is called 'visible policing' where you site your police stations, your patrolling, your day to day crime prevention in the provincial areas will be done under the command of provincial Police Commissioners but the provincial Police Commissioners will be appointed by the national Police Commissioner and will be part of a coherent national structure of policing, there will be uniform standards throughout the whole country and any provincial legislation dealing with policing would have to be subordinate to any national legislation on policing. So effectively we've got a national Police Force but with a certain degree of delegated powers for the Regional Police Commissioners who will also have to be answerable to the Regional Assemblies in relation to the exercise of those powers.
PAT Pretty much like the homelands function now, would that be?
AS No. We don't know how they functioned and they vary from area to area and certainly the KwaZulu Police for us was always the negative example of what we want to avoid, authoritarian, jobs for pals, very ethnic in their composition and accountable really to almost nobody and that's what we wanted to avoid. We don't want a Zulu ethnic police force in Natal. We want a Natal section of the South African Police Force and obviously most of the cops there will be Zulu speaking and most of the Station Commanders and probably the Regional Commissioner but we don't want it to be seen as a KwaZulu Police Force and we don't want it to be in cahoots with the local political authority in a way that might be damaging to the national interest so it becomes effectively guns in the hands of the local politicians. And we've ended up, it was very hard, we battled very, very hard over this, but with the format in which the regional element is meaningful and most of day to day decisions will be done by the Regional Commander without consultation or reference to the centre but within a national framework and the concept is of a national but tiered police force.
In terms of the judiciary that was accepted more or less from the beginning, that's where the conservatism of the legal profession turned out to be quite progressive in the sense that they didn't want a separate, fragmented judicial organisation with provincial Chief Justices and so on. We'll have a Judge President in each province but there will be appeal to the Appellate Division and the Constitutional Court of course will supervise the constitutionality of the whole country.
So, I don't know, I leave it to you as the professors to tell us what we've got. I think we've got a unitary state with very strong federal features. I don't think it's even terribly useful to try and sum it up. One can say we've got a federal state with very strong unitary features. I think it would actually be useful to invent a new term and I think it's quite an interesting modern type solution to the whole question of the powers of the centre and the powers of the regions. I think we've made some quite creative contributions to international political science and constitutional thinking in that respect. That's the whole theme of the regions which was probably the most contested area, certainly the area that brought in the whole question of the right wing because Democratic Party is right wing to begin with, the government is the right wing of them and then the others are right wing of the government and also Inkatha.
And I can tell you, it's not a secret, the Inkatha negotiators were very pleased with the outcome, they feel they got a good deal and it was right at the top in the case of IFP that the decision was taken to pull out and it certainly wasn't the thinking of people like Joe Matthews and Ben Ngubane and Frank Mdlalose. I'm not giving away a secret here, it's an open secret. They felt as ardent negotiators for the Inkatha position they had got a lot out of the process and they did. Themes like provincial, regional asymmetry, they got that, separate constitutions with the scope for regional variants and the idea of regional legislation prevailing except in certain respects in relation to defined areas and very important areas of daily life, that's most things. Most people are not concerned with the defence force, they are concerned with health, they are concerned with education, and things of that kind belong to the regions. So they got a lot but our concern, which was the concern that the national interest would be forgotten, that the capacity for reconstruction would become impossible and our worry about the ethnicising of regions, our concerns had also been catered for and a very interesting result has come out of it. As South Africans we can be very proud of what we've achieved.
POM What are the other five?
AS The basket?
POM Of the six-pack?
AS Another question was the question of how decision making should take place in the Cabinet and that really comes back to power sharing. In the end the big dispute that led to the breakdown of CODESA over two concepts of democracy was resolved by some concession on our part and major capitulation on the government's part. Normally I wouldn't use these terms capitulation because one doesn't want emotive language to be used but the essence was that they had to acknowledge from the long term point of view the fundamental principles of ordinary democracy and the importance of elections and no permanent entrenched power sharing in the ways that they wanted. And until we solved that we couldn't have got a constitution. You can battle over the powers of the regions and the centre and there are very good arguments, quite independent of the South African situation for establishing this kind of balance or that kind of balance but in terms of the concepts of democracy we had to get agreement.
Our big concession was five years of government of national unity. We had a long, passionate, intense, serious, deep debate in the ANC. We set aside a morning, I think three hours, four hours, five hours, because our meetings got earlier and earlier and we started at about seven, then we started about nine and we're going to finish at one, on the whole question of the government of national unity and we didn't finish by one and we didn't finish by six that evening. I know because my name was up there and I was so tense and nervous before speaking and there was a list of the next ten names we've got and it stopped just before me, so I was on tenterhooks the whole day just waiting to speak. It turned out to be the best thing because it gave me the evening to think about it, to get composed and if I mention what I said it's because I remember my role in these different things, it's not to say it's more important than anybody else's and then I can't be contradicted if I get it wrong. If I said Cyril said something or Dullah said something and I get it wrong then history might be angry with me.
The points that I made, I made two points. First of all I said, is something wrong? We're going to have elections soon. And that was another whole thing, it was after Chris's death. If we hadn't got a date for the elections the country would have just exploded. The impatience, to feel it's real, the government are not just spinning out, spinning out for ever, that was absolutely central to the whole process. And we knew that we had to agree to the sunset clause because it was part and parcel of a total package of arrangements and yet we didn't want it. It stuck in our throat. We knew if we stepped back and pulled away the whole thing would collapse, but we felt if we agreed to it what's all the fighting been for, all these years, we're going to end up with the other side determining the outcome. So I remember saying we're going to have general elections in South Africa, it's going to be the most wonderful day in the lives of all of us, the thing we've been fighting for and nobody's happy. What's wrong? Why don't we have a sense of celebration? And I said it's because of the way we envisage this government of national unity, that we will win the elections and we will be tied hand and foot and I said it's not necessary to envisage a government of national unity as being a government of national unity and paralysis, five years of paralysis. If we call it a government of national unity and reconstruction then the function of national unity is to aid reconstruction not to stop it and we have to reconstruct the civil service, the army, the police force, we have to put all the new regional structures and local structures in place, we have to embark on educational programmes and health programmes and the economy and we can do all these things better if the other side are involved than if they are outside sabotaging. I think it actually had some influence on the debate.
POM This is a variant of the famous Lyndon Johnson quote ...
AS Which we've quoted many, many times. I might have quoted it then and it's popping up - I think we introduced the joke in South Africa now people come back to us. And it's funny trying to hear us trying to do an American accent.
In any event one could just see all the people who had been tense and unhappy, including myself, about this government of forced coalition suddenly getting a totally different vision which was the government of reconstruction, then it's actually better having them inside, you make them party to it. And then other people said it doesn't mean minority veto and they started working on decision making. There's no formula on decision making. In the end it's a part of the six-pack and what was agreed upon was parties can be represented in the government in proportion to their representation in parliament, in the Cabinet, if they've got over 5%. That's agreed upon. There's a complicated formula about the president appointing, I think it's in consultation with the leader of the party and we all became experts on 'in consultation with' and 'after consultation with'. 'In consultation with' means you have to get agreement. 'After consultation with' means you have to listen to and take seriously. So one's 'in consultation with', one's 'after consultation with'. One is the portfolio and the other is the person. I forget which is 'in consultation with' and which is 'after consultation with'. The person gets the one and the party leader in effect gets the other. That's been agreed upon but the actual decision making in the Cabinet in the end was left to a convention that will emerge and the formula and the formula is roughly that the Cabinet will function in a way that pays due regard to or takes account of the importance of the government being a government of national unity and the importance of effective government. There is no majority for decision making, there's no separating out important issues and less important issues, it's left completely open.
POM It's funny because The Argus or The Cape Times said yesterday said that Cabinet decisions would be taken by 51%.
AS That's wrong.
POM It's wrong? I was working it out in my mind that effectively would mean that the ANC would be in control of the whole process, there would be no government of national unity.
AS It's wrong and The Argus said it would be consensus and that's also wrong. There's no exact formula. The president is obviously in a very strong position and the president must try to get Cabinet agreement. We don't take votes in the ANC. On the issue of government of national unity 62 out of 85 members spoke and not even all of the 85 were present. We spent a day and a half on it and after the proposal that I made about the reconstruction theme being built in to the concept and others worked on the question of decision making we ended up so elated, we had worked our way through. The debate had ended up in a way that no-one had anticipated and we came out, we sang the anthem for the first time since the very first time when we met. And the journalists were all waiting outside, they had heard of the split in the ANC and the hawks and the doves and we came out with big smiles and they couldn't believe it and then we announced it. So that was crucial on our part. We had to concede a kind of soft landing that not everything would turn on the first election, it wasn't take it or leave it, and once that was agreed upon the government relaxed enormously in relation to all the other details. We still had to fight over everything but it wasn't like make or break. That was the key negotiating moment, was the moment when our NEC agreed to five years of government of national unity, up to five years. It was very difficult in the ANC, in our organisation, but I don't think now people are bitter about it. Let me just finish off the national unity.
Another element was the Constitutional Court. Shall I do the six?
PAT Yes do the six. Is 5% just 5% of the national vote, no geographical distribution?
AS Not the national vote. 5% of the seats.
PAT 5% of the seats in the parliament.
AS I think that might mean 5% of the national vote.
PAT There's nothing else that goes with it?
AS Nothing else.
POM I was going to ask you about the Constitutional Court, the deadlock breaking mechanism in the Constituent Assembly?
AS The deadlock breaking mechanism became a deadlock in itself and we had to find a mechanism for breaking the deadlock over the deadlock breaking mechanism. Again it became fairly clear the problem wasn't the deadlock. It was one of the leaders of the Democratic Party who in conversation said, "For us in the DP there are three crucial aspects." The one was the Constitutional Court, the other was the amending procedure, he said, "Amending procedure, that is the deadlock breaking mechanism?" Again this was an area where I think one has to concede that the ANC conceded. We didn't want a full constitution. It's 156 pages now, I think of small print, basically single spaced. We wanted a relatively short, compact amendment to the existing racist constitution, tricameral constitution, just putting in sufficient to enable us to get to general elections and then to leave everything within the agreed constitutional principles to the new parliament with the two thirds majority to be adopted. The other side wanted a detailed constitution that would last for some time, it would have a Bill of Rights in it, it would structure government, it would deal with the powers of the regions, it would be as full as possible. That was where the whole debate over one stage or two stage constitution making came in. And the compromise was two-stage but they packed a hell of a lot more into the first stage than we had ever envisaged. We gave in on that.
I don't think looking back that the result has been all that bad. I think it forced us to deal with lots of problems about structuring the police and the army, about how the regions would function, about how the financial structures would operate, than I think we would go for in the Constituent Assembly, we would have gone for anyhow and most of them we still can but I don't envisage that there will be huge changes. If anything we might have been overconfident because we've had to battle so hard, we've had to be intellectually strong, we've had to rely on maximum international experience in the different areas and it's forced us to do our homework much earlier than we would have done otherwise. We made big concessions in terms of agreeing to put in all that detail. And I suspect the Bill of Rights will be quite substantially revised both in terms of its presentation, in terms of what's been left out and possibly in terms of some of the detail that it's got. For the rest it remains to be seen.
The deadlock breaking now becomes even more important because once you've got such a full constitution, so rigidly textured, the tendency just to go along with it is very pronounced and the argument in favour of not easily amending it becomes stronger because that's what deadlock breaking is going to be, amending the existing constitution. In the end what mattered was the very last percentage that was required. It was agreed upon two thirds, the government gave in on that, no more fights. It was so fraught and international pressure was saying two thirds is very reasonable and the government, I think, lost the presentation and communications battle of the breakdown of CODESA 2 on that particular one, but not lost resoundingly but lost that one. So they agreed to two thirds as normal and then there would be a referendum if we can't get the two thirds, we had 60%, then there will be a new parliament voted for and finally 60% in the new parliament. We went up, we said 50%, we were always willing to go to 55% and we finally agreed to 60%.
PAT Two thirds, if you can't get agreement you go to a referendum and the proposal with the majority and that takes 60% and if you don't get 60% in a referendum then you go to an election and then back to ...?
AS Our understanding was the threat of an election was in fact the most important. Yes, the importance of the election is the wonderful effect it has on the legislators who realise that they mightn't make it next time so they damn well find an agreement. Anything but an election. The loved the last election, they don't like the next one, and then you just find the solution. In any event, so that went into the six-pack and it was seen as a concession to the government. I think it's reasonable myself, 60%. If you don't get 60% support for a constitution there's something seriously wrong in the country.
Then, of course, there was a highly publicised battle over the Constitutional Court. The ANC was the first organisation to take the Constitutional Court seriously and we had a conference, probably early in 1991, it was in the Western Transvaal and it was a very good conference, it was a weekend, we had judges from Constitutional Courts in Germany, Portugal and the former Chief Justice of Zimbabwe came, we had somebody representing the Constitutional Court of France and a Nigerian Supreme Court Judge, somebody from the Caribbean, from Ghana, so a very interesting mix of visitors with a lot of experience and then the Constitutional Committee presented papers as individuals and then we had people from the Bar organisations and as we always do, people from the regions of the ANC, quite an interesting mix and various individuals and professors and so on. And there we worked out our basic ideas on the Constitutional Court. It had to be a court, we came up basically with the idea of a hybrid system.
In the American system the Supreme Court is the head of the ordinary judiciary that deals with constitutional matters. It can't take cases directly except a very limited number it gets from Congress. The Austrian system is Constitutional Court completely separate and only receives cases directly and the ordinary courts can't deal with constitutional matters. The Portuguese system, they call it the hybrid system, some matters go straight to the Constitutional Court, some have to go through the ordinary court system. That's roughly the system that we agreed on for South Africa but we didn't want the Constitutional Court to be simply a branch of the present Appeal Court, Appellate Division it's called. We felt if that were the case it would be too heavily influenced by the styles of thinking, the personnel and the extreme conservatism even of the more progressive judges who had grown up in another kind of a setting, who made successful legal careers in a certain setting with all sorts of assumptions and styles of thinking and working that had very little to do with respect for fundamental human rights and a lot to do with protecting vested interests, property rights and so on. So we were very worried that this final court, or the most important court, would simply be an extension of the existing judiciary.
And I might mention the present judiciary, it's changed. At the time we had this conference every single judge was white out of 180 and there has been change since then, it's now 179 are white and one is black and 179 are male and one is female. Occasionally it's 178 to 2, there's a woman who acts, so it's like one. And there's no chance that if we allow the existing judiciary to continue that enough black judges and women judges would make their way up through the system to get to the top in time to be even noticed. And we felt for this court to take decisions, to have credibility in the eyes of the general population it had to look like South Africa and there was no objection to having a number of the existing white male judiciary represented in the Constitutional Court but they mustn't be allowed to dominate.
In terms of appointment the international practice, certainly on the continent by and large, gives parliament a very central role in appointing the Constitutional Court judges and that was our basic approach. And we opted for parliament or the National Assembly appointing all the judges en bloc with a very high majority, 80% majority. That means that you have to have a balanced package and in order to get that majority you have to satisfy the smaller parties that the court is not too heavily balanced one way or the other. As in the United States everybody knows roughly what the basic tendency and thinking of the particular judges is likely to be so it's not secret. We felt that was the fairest way of getting a good balance and we always kept open the idea of having some kind of Judicial Service Commission playing a role for ordinary judges and possibly playing a kind of a consultation role or filtering role for the Constitutional Court judges.
The Technical Committee on constitutional matters made a report some weeks back accepting parliament as the key agency and proposing that a Select Committee be established based on equal representation for all parties. We were horrified. It would mean the ANC would be one and the four or five opposition parties would each have the same representation as the ANC and we would be a tiny minority so we were very unhappy with that and there had to be a unanimous decision, very, very unsatisfactory. A bilateral was held and the bilaterals became extremely important in the negotiation process, probably the most import aspect and there was even joking afterwards if you wanted to date somebody you'd said, "Let's have a bilateral". And then the bilateral would refer matters to the channel.
So the channel would be not just Roelf and Cyril, the channel would be the decision making mechanism when problems cropped up in the bilateral. The bilateral established it's own sub-committees to work on the police, to work on the army, to work on the court, so everybody belonged to one or two or three different things. I was on the language and as it turned out it was me against a chap, the Deputy Director General of Education but he had Neil Barnard, the former head of National Intelligence and they were answerable directly to De Klerk, they didn't even go through the channel. It was like above the channel, so there was little me, three quarter me on the one side and this mighty weight on the other and we got it through. Everybody felt at the time it's wonderful, it's not going to work but it's wonderful and in a way when you're dealing with language it's more important, the wonderful part is more important than the working part because if the feeling is right you can negotiate the practicalities. If the feeling is wrong you will never get the practicalities right.
PAT I told Padraig I remember you making that proposal, I could hear it being made at the table when you were in Namibia in late 1989 or early 1990 you gave a presentation on the Bill of Rights and you made this exact proposal on multiple languages and people kept saying, "But it won't work", and you were saying, "Well that's not what's important here".
AS In fact it will work because then people don't mind adjusting and negotiating and we have come up with a very interesting formula there. In any event this is just to indicate how we structured our bilaterals and these were working until late in the night and negotiating councils going on as well and technical committees receiving documents from the bilaterals which they then had to convert into formal documents for the negotiating council and quite an interesting process. Somebody maybe should take you through from the negotiating council's point of view, how they structured the whole process. A lot of intelligence and a lot of experience went into that. It was quite a sophisticated thing and it left parties like the Democratic Party feeling very marginalised, but then they are marginalised in South African life in way. Their major contribution was in CODESA 1 and CODESA 2. Since then effectively it's been the ANC and the government and the bilaterals have been the foundation of the new constitution.
An example of where the DP did play a role is in relation to the Constitutional Court. So it was the government, Kobie Coetsee, who proposed four of the judges coming from the existing Supreme Court and the President of the Constitutional Court he accepted would be appointed by the president of the country and the other six would be appointed by the Cabinet and of course that enraged the Democratic Party. The debate in the negotiating council was very intense. Personalities come into this a little bit. Tony Leon is the only effective debater on the Democratic Party side. Colin Eglin is an outstanding thinker, he's very quick, he presents very well but he's an impatient debater and he doesn't have the flourishes and the kind of emotional tone that makes an impact in terms of presentation. Tony goes over the top but you listen to him but because he was very emotional in his presentation the response tended to be very emotional and, if you like, the DP side of the debate came out very well. The feeling from their side that what the ANC wanted to do was really to pack the bench and take over and appoint a whole lot of hacks and the feeling from our side that what the Democratic Party wanted was that the present white male domination would continue and the people who made it under apartheid would continue to make it after apartheid with maybe a sprinkling of blacks and maybe one or two people from the human rights side coming in, but the whole thing would be under the control of that racially constituted, sexist type bench and the legal profession.
POM Why did the National Party go along with you? One would have though their objections would be the very same as the DP's, that you would be perpetuating ...
AS They are used to the executive and I suppose they thought that with the government of national unity, and if they could tie up decision making in the executive and dock it, they would have four of their type judges to begin with and through the executive they could in effect veto anything else. That was before decision making had been finalised. The way it's working out now is that the president will have a much stronger position vis-à-vis the Cabinet than they might have envisaged at that stage but in terms of appointing the judges the Judicial Service Commission will have a decisive role in determining the pool from which the president has to draw so it's quite a good balance. And it took high level intervention on the Democratic Party side, Zac de Beer and Colin Eglin spoke to Mandela and that was thrown in as one of the six points in the package. I think the final outcome is something that's more than acceptable. It's important to have people like the DP and the existing judges and lawyers happy about the constitution. It's important not to allow them to dictate and to think that they are public opinion. The tendency of people like Tony to regard themselves as representative of public opinion is very pronounced but it's public opinion that is actually confined to a very small part of the South African public and public opinion in Soweto can often be totally different and possibly from their point of view the less they said about public opinion the better for their positions.
AS OK, how many have I done now?
PAT You've done four, the regions, the Cabinet, the decision making, the deadlock breaking in the Constitutional Court.
AS OK. The single ballot, the double ballot. This is a very difficult one because there are very strong arguments both ways. It's not a matter of principle and the issue here was, we're going to have elections by proportional representation on the list system and there will be two lists, this is for parliament, there will be a national list and regional lists. That wasn't the problem. The problem was on the same day we're going to vote for the regional assemblies. This will only happen once. In future one assumes that the assemblies will be elected on another day and obviously you have a separate ballot for that. Our worry in the ANC was that if you have two ballots you have spoilt papers. In Angola what was the percentage? 20%?
PAT One ballot, 20%.
AS One ballot? No, but one was for the president.
PAT Oh that's right.
AS So effectively it was two votes and that was a terrifying figure for us particularly as it's the illiterate people, which would be very much our constituency, who are most vulnerable to spoiling their papers. We also heard that in Germany on one occasion they had two ballots. You vote on one occasion but on two ballots and there was something like 10% spoilt papers, one or two million, a huge number. We were so eager that the first election would be clean, straightforward, simple, understood, that we couldn't risk lots of spoilt papers. That's why we went for one ballot. Once you do that all sorts of other arguments come in and secondary arguments and the opposition to one ballot came from those who really wanted to sponsor parochial type regional parties. Now that didn't appeal to us. We want the sense of the national vision and we don't mind the national parties having strong regional components and certainly in local government anything can happen, people can set up their own organisations, parties and so on, and in particular since the regional assemblies will be choosing the Senators we didn't want people at the centre, the regions are represented through the regional lists of national parties rather than regional lists of regional parties. That's what we would prefer. As I say it's not a matter of principle. The question of one person one vote is a matter of principle. We can't concede on that except a tiny bit in terms of local government where the low density areas will be over-represented in the first elections for local government. But the question of one or two ballots is the question of the greater convenience and in the end we felt that the greatest convenience and the integrity and success of the election process would be better guaranteed by one ballot instead of two.
POM Did you have much trouble selling that to the government?
AS Sure, right till the end. It was part of the package and most of the six in fact - that was for us and the decision making in the Cabinet was for us. The decision making in the Cabinet was very important but they had no other formula that could possibly work. The government of national unity will work not because of prescriptions and the experience in Cyprus and the experience in Lebanon where they tried to fix prime minister one, the president the other, the minister this, the deputy that. It's a recipe for conflict. It will work if there is that spirit of trying to achieve common objectives. Just as the constitution came about because we had this agreed, there was sufficient agreement on the government side that there had to be a constitution and overwhelming agreement on our side and so we just had to find ways and means of overcoming the problems. The same will apply to the functioning of the government of national unity. It's the conventions, the style of work, to some extent the personality of the president. With Mandela it shouldn't be too difficult. He does that in the ANC. We don't take votes and he gets a sense of how the current is going and there are some things where the current is so strong he doesn't leave it like that. Just thinking aloud now, it would even encourage a certain measure of cross party thinking. If it comes to votes you have to side with your party. If you leave the matter open to a kind of basic agreement in the Cabinet about how to move forward you can actually find people from the same party supporting different currents, different positions. That only occurred to me now. I wouldn't say that was a motivation.
AS Now what was the sixth one?
PAT I don't know.
AS I think the sixth one was over police and in particular the appointment of the Regional Police Commissioners and the agreement there was that it would be the National Police Commissioner who would appoint, the Regional Assembly or governments would have a veto, that the Regional Police Commissioner essentially would be part of a national police framework, answerable to the National Police Commissioner but also have to account for the functioning of the police force in the region to the Regional Assembly. That decision was seen as basically being more in favour of the ANC position and I have already commented on the idea of essentially having a national police service and I think that was one of the most important themes that we held on to. Interestingly enough the police General who participated was even stronger than we were on the importance of a unified police service and I think the other side hadn't even though through the implications of their approach. They were so eager to have a kind of autonomous police force in the Western Cape and maybe in Natal they hadn't realised that an autonomous police force in the Orange Free State could end up very disadvantageous to the existing white police officers there and the one thing we really didn't want was this idea of regionalised police forces that became power bases for ambitious politicians and, to use a phrase that I used once and that Simon Barber is normally extremely critical of anything any ANC person does, has repeated twice in his columns and called 'elegant', that regional government can become instead of a bastion of freedom, it can become a stockade around intolerance. Far from regionalised police forces being guarantees of freedom in South African conditions they are far more likely to be bastions of intolerance. Then you get the regional Police Commissioners running for office and trying to cosy up to the politicians, the politicians also giving them special powers and perks and so on to keep them happy. The ethnic factor would almost inevitably become pronounced and we could end up with a Yugoslavia. So we were quite firm on that one fortunately.
POM One a scale of one to ten if you had to rate your satisfaction with the interim constitution?
AS On a scale of one to ten I'd say about twelve. It's not what we wanted in the sense that it is far more detailed and it's got a lot of transitional arrangements that correspond to the very unsatisfactory nature of power in South Africa at the moment, the protection of existing jobs and pensions and all the rest, it's concerning something that's unsustainable, that there's no other way to expect people to negotiate their own demise is just unreasonable and there is a principle of - it's a trade union principle of respecting people's job rights but that might be something that's, as I say, the balance corresponds to the existing balance which is an unfair balance. The Bill of Rights is an interesting mix, it's not elegant as a document, it's not inspiring in a way one wants a Bill of Rights to be, it's a product very much a compromise. You can see it in the actual terminology and some clauses being very, very long simply because everybody insisted that if that goes in something else has to go in and it says nothing directly about social and economic rights and from that point of view wouldn't be acceptable to the majority of South Africans who have this concept of basic rights being indivisible, the right to education, that's there a little bit, but the right to health and something about housing and something about nutrition and so on has to be part of a package. We'll have to find an appropriate way of dealing with that bearing in mind the problems of justiciability and not promising things that can't be delivered and also the problem of not allowing the judges to become too much substitute politicians. That's a certain area that needs to be worked on. We can look at the provinces again after we've gained some experience.
POM But at this point it would be your belief that the Constituent Assembly won't start from scratch and draw up an entirely different constitution?
AS I don't think one should judge it from this point. We are so tired that the thought of having to go through all that again can't - isn't an intellectual justification, but my sense is that we actually mapped out a lot of things, none of which are inconsistent with our fundamental philosophy and principles as far as I can recall. Some things are transitional in their terms. These transitional arrangements, the first elections for local government are to some extent weighted in favour of the high density areas, the wealthy areas, to give them a guarantee that they will have a third of the seats effectively in the first integrated non-racial local government authorities. That is clearly a one-round type thing. I'm not sure. The rest will depend very much on practice, how things were working out, but I don't have any sense that terrible things were forced upon us simply for the sake of getting a constitution and I don't sense that there's such a sense of outrage from any of the other parties.
The PAC criticised this, that and the other but they hadn't really done much real homework, they had no plans, very little that was concrete to offer so when there's a clause that deals with land restitution we fought hard to get it pushed back from 1948 to 1910 or 1913. The PAC said 1652. Well that was quite a good try but in fact far from strengthening the claim for restitution actually weakens it. It makes it so general that it actually undermines concrete claims. And I must say they seem to be enjoying their participation. They spoke a lot, they were there, they got on to the TV, they were actors, they were participants and they didn't have to do their hard homework like we had to do.
The Democratic Party have got their ideologues. I had one interesting discussion with one of their leaders one day and I was quite amused. If there is one phrase that was doing the rounds it was 'sell-out' and we joked the day before yesterday, we said "Last chance, last chance, bargains going, last chance to sell out. Roll up, roll up, roll up." And he was saying that, "Well, you know, a lot of people accuse us of selling out but we think we've got quite a good deal." You'd find that amongst the ANC leadership as well. People accuse us of selling out but we feel we've got quite a good deal. In terms of the government they are the ones who are getting it the hardest, people like Roelf Meyer, and the others are really hard, bitter and you could see it in the body language of a lot of the ministers.
POM You say Roelf Meyer was bitter?
AS No, no, Roelf Meyer was genuinely happy. He thought it was a major accomplishment. De Villiers played a very positive role in terms of style, a good diplomat, never taking cheap shots, maintaining very correct personal relationships all the time. And Leon Wessels. It was quite striking how they stood out and their whole approach. They could be quite tough negotiators but their whole approach was to find solutions where some of the others clearly were angry and irritated and holding out right to the end. One of them, I don't want to mention names because there were like in conference type discussions, but one of them even said at the end, "Well I just want to say now that it's all over that I think you people pushed us very hard and we've got a raw deal", and he said almost like a joke against himself, "I'm accepting it but with very bad grace", and one could see written all over his face. So they were also accused of being sell-outs and maybe the best constitution is one where everybody sells out. As long as you sell out equally in terms of some fundamental set of principles that correspond to universal values you've got a good negotiated settlement.
People shook our hands, congratulated us. I think we all deserved congratulations but the way the congratulations went, they came to the ANC. It was as though, kind of well done and we felt like that. We were so excited on the morning and the excitement just got worn out by the fatigue and the delays and the boring speeches right at the end and then we had a party at five in the morning. Roelf Meyer lit the candles, there was champagne. It was for Cyril's birthday and that made it nice because that was an easy thing and then, I don't want to say we out-negotiated them, I think we did out-negotiate them. We had stronger teams. That's the interesting thing. The National Party could never have negotiated. They had to have the government and use the government full time employees. We had very few full time employees but we could call upon a lot of the intelligentsia of this country, a lot are in the ANC and many others were quite happy to work with us, and internationally as well.
So intellectually we always had the edge and consulting is much easier for us than it is for them and that also gave us a very big advantage. I think we were better able to control our more dogmatic toughies than they were because we have a collective style of work more developed than theirs. I suspect that they listened in to our National Executive Committee meetings and found that these long intensive debates actually strengthened the ANC whereas their approach would always be, the President would come in, push the line, maybe hear a few little, and then come out with a totally monolithic kind of position. The story was that towards the end they were opening up more and having more discussion and debate and maybe one is totally ANC centred, which I confess to quite easily, but I just suspect that they found that our system did more to keep the party together than their system of very tight control from the top.
But in addition to all this we out-danced them and that will be a nice note to end! And I said to a journalist, the journalists were also enjoying jumping around with us. I said, "That's the reason why we won, they don't know how to dance", and they're over-bureaucratised, they've been in power for so long they've lost touch with people in the country and we still have that. Of course we are for the majority, for the oppressed and so on but we have a kind of a vitality which they just didn't have. You really feel the power at the moment in South Africa is very unsedated. It's a network of people who support each other, come from the male section of the Afrikaans speaking section of the white community and it's going to be very important for that sector not to be totally demoralised and humiliated and in a funny way I sometimes worry about that a bit because I can understand an aspect of Afrikaner nationalism that's based on past humiliation and oppression of Afrikaans speaking people and it's all too easy for democracy to be seen as just another variant of the British imperialist type domination and I think that would be very unfortunate if that happens.
What was interesting, I was thinking about this in the bath this morning so I'll just pass it on to you as well, thinking of the personalities who took part in this last round, the one section that was least represented were English speaking white South Africans who make the most noise in terms of access to the media and control of the press and access to international diplomats and possibly even to international political scientists, but in terms of the actual hands on negotiating on their side it was white, male Afrikaners. Sheila Camerer was the one exception both in terms of gender and in terms of first language. On our side it was mainly male, maybe 10%, 15%, 20% female. It was African led, Coloured, Indian and white in fair numbers, maybe over-represented in relation to the total population but again in that community sense, cultural sense, we drew on a much bigger crowd. But the one grouping that was very under-represented, not at all on their side except for Sheila Camerer and not very strong on our side were the - Billy Cobbett was there, very important, one of the guys from Economics, Neil Middleton. It was quite interesting looking around. It was mainly Africans and Afrikaners who negotiated the settlement.
Just in terms of numbers and in terms of basic thrust Cyril was the most outstanding negotiator, a manager of the process and he's a natural consulter and he consults. It's partly for reasons of democracy but it's partly I would say that everybody's a party to it. It keeps everybody on board, in the tent and he did an extraordinary job in that sense. Valli was excellent as a back up and then Mac Maharaj is an amazing behind the scenes person and we joked with him. We said, "You're going to stay in the underground for ever", but an excellent planner and organiser in that sense. Those were the key people. Thabo in an earlier period played quite a very big role. He's looking good these days. I think since he's been chosen as National Chairperson it's just given him a certain comfortable sense of self-affirmation that goes very nicely with him and he and Cyril seem to get on exceptionally well, very easily, you don't feel rival currents.
POM Thank you ever so much. You've just got to the end of my first question, I've got fourteen to go!
AS Is there anything major?
PAT Not about what's happening but just your own thinking about the future. The question about the security files and what in your sense of individual rights should be done with those files? Should they be exposed, should people have access to them? You probably saw yourself from where you sat, what happened in East Germany and Czechoslovakia for the new government to ... people got into the system and innocents are guilty and people's lives have been destroyed from making any productive contribution to their future society.
AS I can just give you my own personal interest. It's the most complete biography that anybody could ever want. I would be distraught if they destroyed my file. It's my whole life since I was 17. I've been ... ever since and it affects you, it follows you around everywhere and in some ways the more intimate you are the more you want to be along, the more you feel you are being snooped upon because of the very intimacy. It can be a love relationship, it can be anything and I am sure my ears would burn quite often if I saw it. The only argument I've heard against releasing those files is that it would mean giving away informers and I'd like to think that through but if the price of getting the files is to maintain the privilege of the informers I would say it's a price worth paying. The main thing is not to get the informers. One is curious as hell just as a natural existential curiosity. Who were they? But that's not the main thing and if the policy is one of reconciliation and truth then even if there were informers it shouldn't make any difference and should even make their lives a bit easier in a way if they don't have that secret they're hanging on to and terrified that someone might find out. So the first thing would a guarantee against persecuting informers. I think that ought to be given. Possibly a protection of informers or some mechanism for protecting informers. For the rest we're entitled to our files. It's our lives and for historians, can you imagine? Because there were a lot of files and a lot of people and it's all there, the records, the dates, the speeches, the documents, it's an amazing archive.
I mentioned this to one of the security persons whom I was dealing with, not on a security question, and it was a little bit freaky for me thinking this guy might have signed the authority to put the bomb in my car and he knows if he did or he didn't but I don't want to discuss that with him now. We had another function and so on, but I did indicate that I hoped our files would be maintained.
POM Wonderful, thank you.