About this site

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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

23 Nov 1993: Zille, Helen

Click here for more information on the Interviewee

Click here for Overview of the year

POM     First, Helen, three years on how far has South Africa come?

HZ     Politically enormously far. I think there must be very few international precedents where political opponents across such a very deep divide, probably one of the greatest political divides in history, have come together from many different perspectives, there haven't only been two parties to this but about twenty-four, have come together and on their own forged an agreement about how this country should be governed. Now that constitution is nobody's first prize and it has some substantial flaws I believe and it has made some major compromises on what I would call an appropriate democratic constitution but nevertheless it's an enormous achievement and I think gives us enough of a basis on which to build a stable non-racial democracy if that is going to be possible in South Africa. There are two areas which are more important to the transition and this is a theme that I have really hammered, I know, with you time and again. There are two aspects which are going to be almost more important for the success of transition in the politics. While the politics is a very important starting point, and indeed we couldn't make any progress without a political solution and without an appropriate constitution, but in the end the successive transition is determined by economic and social factors and three years on, on both of those indicators, we are not doing well and that's our big tragedy not as well as we are doing politically.

POM     Among social factors what would you include?

HZ     When I talk about social factors I'm talking about social cohesion. I'm talking about social institutions from the family right through to major institutions like educational institutions, the whole network of banking, all the networks that hold societies together I call the social institutions and that's everything from the neighbourhood tea club to the library system to all those systems and networks that hold a society together. Particularly the kind of social cohesion that results from more or less stable social entities and in most societies those are families living in situations where there are daily markers on how things happen from the rubbish being removed, to children going to school, to set times for homework, to systems and structures that function and make a society what it is or a social community what it is. On those markers we are not doing well at all and on economics we are doing very badly.

POM     If anyone had told you three years ago that within three years an interim constitution would have been written and arrangements would have been made for election of a Constituent Assembly and there was already broad agreement that there would be a government of national unity for five years followed by essentially black majority rule would you have been surprised and said, no, it's not going to happen that quickly, or has the pace of things been slower than you anticipated?

HZ     When De Klerk unbanned the ANC and the SACP and the PAC in 1990 I wasn't one of these people who said 'm going to reserve judgement on reversibility. I knew that from that moment it was irreversible and I knew what the consequences would be. You either have partition or you have majority rule. You can try for all sorts of things in between but eventually those are the logical conclusions. What I am amazed about is the extent to which Afrikanerdom, that is the Afrikaner people have held together in following the National Party through this transition despite the very severe rumblings and the growth of the ultra right wing. So what has amazed me is that people have seen the logical consequences of taking that position so clearly and that they have seen that through and more or less kept the cohesion of the National Party despite a drop in support, which I don't think one can deny.

     I don't want to sound wise after the event but before De Klerk's speech on 2nd February 1990 I had a pretty clear idea that that was where the National Party was going to be moving from a number of interviews I'd had and I wrote the paper up for the Aspen Institute in June the previous year and once those groups had been unbanned and the negotiation process had started I pretty much felt that we could get a political settlement and it was amazing how quickly negotiation became the only game in town and from being a situation where, and this was used in a very majoritative sense, negotiation seemed reformist selling out, it became the dominant part of the political process and anybody who was not part of the negotiations was seen as spoilers, etc.

     So that was a whole change in ethos that happened. And once that established itself I realised quite soon that the National Party and the ANC had become absolutely dependent on each other for a settlement because they put all their eggs into the negotiated settlement basket. Neither of them had an alternative. The international community wouldn't allow the ANC to go back to armed struggle while there was a commitment to negotiate and the National Party could not go back to banning the ANC, putting its leaders in jail, etc. It was really an irreversible situation for them both. So they, the two major parties, became the Siamese twins of South African politics. They had to sit there and I knew that they at least would have to find an accommodation.

     I am amazed that so many other parties have gone in with them and I am not particularly amazed that the Freedom Alliance was established and it stayed out. So politically I am not as surprised as perhaps I might have been if you had said four or five years ago, but the minute those momentous events of February 1990 happened it seemed to be the road that we would go. The only alternative would be if the negotiations had not worked out and we had gone back to civil war but the cost of that was so high. One area where I think South Africans are really pragmatic is that they realise what the cost of a civil war is going to be. Deep down and subliminally we know that there isn't any alternative to getting on with each other politically. The much more difficult part comes when you try to do that socially because we do have a very profound cultural pluralism in this society and culture doesn't only refer to singing and dancing and folk songs, it refers to the way one does everything. There are things like economic culture, and that is where our biggest challenge lies. To get society going in which multiculturalism and tolerance are the norm but which can still compete competitively in an international environment.

POM     I want to go back a few things. You said that one of the startling features, and we picked up on, has been the decline in the base of the National Party from De Klerk riding the crest of popularity in March of 1992 when the referendum was held to losing whatever charisma and decisiveness he had over the next 18 months. Polls show that the National Party might draw only 15% of the electorate down from 28% 18 months ago, open fragmentation in the rank and file, a lot of divisiveness in the government itself. What has happened to the National Party that this kind of situation has arisen?

HZ     Well they have moved from a situation where there was a situation of dominance in South African politics for over forty years to a situation in which they thought power sharing would be feasible and now to a situation where they have accepted majority rule. You must understand how quickly they have taken their supporters from believing that majority rule could never be an option to a point where they have conceded it. That's four years. Now I'm amazed, not to the extent that they have lost support, but to the extent to which they have retained support in that context. You must remember in the last election which was not too long ago, in 1989, which was not that long ago, in 1989 in order to discredit the Democratic Party the National Party ran a poster of Wynand Malan speaking to Joe Slovo and that was enough almost to destroy the Democratic Party's campaign. And it didn't help that the Democratic Party was saying we've got to speak to each other, it's really important, the only alternative to war is to speak to each other and we've got to even speak to the Communist Party. That picture put on all the lamp posts, all the posters, was enough to wipe out the campaign budget. A year later the government unbanned the SACP and holds its support base. In 1992 they hold a referendum and get an overwhelming endorsement for that. This is amazing and it just shows you that the question is not the substance of policy but where white voters feel secure.

     I think that in the major concessions the National Party has consistently made to the ANC people have got a bit nervous and white South Africans, rightly or wrongly look to the rest of Africa and get frightened, get really frightened, and they say we've got no guaranteed or no clear influence on decisions that are taken in positions of power, how can we be sure of any kind of future here? And for many white South Africans, or many South Africans generally, emigration is not an option. It really is not an option. So while I don't endorse that view and I'm very, very committed to working for non-racialism and I would hate anything to come through in the book which would justify white prejudice at all but white people are frightened. In South Africa they are frightened and they look to other countries in Africa and they get very, very frightened. The only example of significant success is Botswana and we look at that very carefully all the time to try and ensure that we emulate that model but it's a very small country with a very small number of people and really it can't be used, it's an homogenous people by and large.

POM     So do you think that while there has been a drop in support for the National Party, precipitous according to the Sunday Times, that is not translated into support for the Conservative Party, they have moved into an undecided ...?

HZ     I'm not in a position to say, I'm not in a position to say. I don't even know whether those polls are accurate quite frankly. I have no idea. Polls in South Africa are notoriously imprecise. What I do think is that the ANC is on a roll and I think that they will win a very significant election victory. That I do think. How the National Party specifically will do I have no idea. I think it will do very badly amongst Africans, very badly indeed amongst Africans. I think it will do reasonably well amongst whites but the ultra right wing will be a major challenge to it in the Transvaal and the Free State.

POM     Just along that line of thought, when you look at the resumption of negotiations this year what would you point to as the major concessions made by government and the major concessions made by ANC?

HZ     The concession on the regions is the major concession made by the ANC. I don't know the precise technicalities of that concession but the extent to which they have allowed regional government to have powers that may well be concurrent in many instances but certainly give meaningful powers to regions is a concession.

POM     This is not federalism in the classic sense of federalism?

HZ     No it's not federalism in the sense of having powers entrenched at regional level. No it isn't. But I would make so bold as to say that South Africa would be ungovernable unless there is a strong regional component and even within the ANC, its long term hard line militarists have said we can't wait for this regional dispensation to come in, at least we won't be dictated to by what is happening in Johannesburg at Shell House. You can't run a country as plural as this one is, and plural in every way, culturally, ethnically, linguistically, regionally, without a strong regional component and without precipitating civil war, ungovernability. You can't do it. It's a vast country with very many divisions. It's one of the most plural societies on earth who try to live in one country together, in fact if not the most. I can't think of another one.

POM     Any other major concessions?

HZ     Sorry, I've drifted a long way from the question. That was a major concession. The major concession by the government is to agree to a short term of power sharing. The power sharing concession was made by the ANC long ago and it was agreed to a very limited time for the power sharing constitution and then concede effective majority rule. Another major concession by the government was the agreement to one ballot paper for national and regional, which I oppose.

POM     I want to get to that later on. Someone mentioned to us that perhaps the biggest concession by the ANC turned out to be that they really have allowed not a short interim constitution to be drawn up but a document of 156 pages which is almost fully fleshed out and which both people in the ANC and the National Party say will probably only get slight amendments in the Constituent Assembly. So the government wanted as much of the constitution written beforehand and the ANC allowed them to do that, with all the concessions by the ANC, do you think that's a valid assessment?

HZ     Yes I think that's a very valid assessment. I think that the ANC wanted a quick election for a Constituent Assembly that would by and large draw up a constitution. The IFP on the other hand wanted a fully fledged entrenched constitution that would simply be ratified. The DP said. "We're certainly not going into an election with carte blanche, without a constitution to guide us in the interim until a new constitution is formulated by the Constituent Assembly and the extent to which the ANC has agreed to allow an essentially undemocratic body such as has met at the World Trade Centre representing all groups out of proportion to their strength on the ground in many instances, to draw up quite a fully fledged constitution, certainly was a very major concession on their initial insistence that there be a vote for Constituent Assembly to draw up a constitution. That was a very major concession but that was a process concession and not so much a content of the constitution concession.

POM     Going back to content. With regard to the package of measures agreed to at the World Trade Centre, what is your understanding of what arrangements were agreed to in relation to the constitution?

HZ     I read these things in newspapers. When I was negotiating there a year and a half ago it was quite different because I was really in the thick of things but I declined going back because it was taking so much time and my family was just going down the river, as was my business, so I really just couldn't do it again this year. So I have just been reading about it in the newspapers which is not the best focus. You say what are the key elements?

POM     Yes, key elements in terms of, for example one of the things that led to the collapse of CODESA 2 was the inability of the parties to agree on a deadlock breaking mechanism. That's one thing. Are you any clearer now from what you've read about what that mechanism is or, two, one of the big issues that they had to face was how decisions would be made within a government of national unity.

HZ     My understanding is that decisions are going to be made by majority decision in Cabinet. You're not going to have to have total consensus. That's my understanding.

POM     By a simple majority.

HZ     Yes.

POM     Somebody, Albie Sachs ...

PAT     Don't believe what you read in the newspapers!

POM     He said it's not by majority rule but he couldn't say what it was by.

HZ     My understanding from reading the press is that if there is majority agreement in the Cabinet a decision will be passed, that we have deviated from the notion of consensus in the Cabinet. That is definitely my perception on that one, from reading the press. What is the other question?

POM     The deadlock breaking mechanism.

HZ     My sense on that is that they fudged that issue and let me tell you why I think they fudged that issue. My sense is that it has become less important to all parties to concentrate on that because they have a more or less fully fledged constitution and I think there will only be slight amendments and my real perception is that both the key National Party and ANC people know that this country is ungovernable without them doing it together and that they are going to have to become the main partners in this endeavour. They have become partners in this endeavour. They are going to be likely to remain partners in this endeavour and I think there's a sense that things will work themselves out down the road and it will be a necessity to continue some kind of government of national unity rather than to reach a situation where one or the other is taking a decision - if you see what I'm saying.

POM     Is there also a factor at work whereby this process, this time, had to produce results, that neither the ANC nor the government could afford another breakdown?

HZ     That's very much a part of it. That's very much a part of it. They agreed to 27th April as the election date, there's no way that either of them can go back on it (a) for the international consequences and (b) for the internal consequences. There is no way either of them could have gone back and that's why I think they have taken all non-essential elements and put them aside although a deadlock breaking mechanism is not a non-essential element if one is envisaging the process in which two protagonists are trying to force their will on the outcome of a constitution. Now that that outline is more or less signed and sealed, (a) it lessens the importance of a deadlock breaking mechanism and (b), I think both sides recognise that the ongoing notion of a government of national unity is going to be quite important no matter whether we say five years or whatever. That's my perception but it's from the outside, it's uninformed.

POM     I suppose my general point on the constitution is that as knowledgeable people still appear to know so little about it that the average person must really have no understanding of what they have agreed to at all except that there's going to be an election and simply don't know what the finer points are.

HZ     But I don't know who's fault that is quite frankly because I know that I've seen twice in the newspapers in the past week a defined guide to the constitution and I skim read them. But you know what I do? I follow what the Democratic Party says. I read all of the stuff but the Democratic Party is so tuned in on what a democratic constitution will or will not be, especially Colin Eglin, that I read very carefully what he says about things and if he's going along with things and even on the issue of the judiciary and the changes that they managed, or the concessions they managed on that, if he's saying this is more or less OK and more or less forms the appropriate framework, I say, "Fine he's done his job". I've got enough confidence in him. I've worked with him for years.

POM     If you had to rate the constitution and I ask this question of everyone, only politicians try to wriggle out of it, on a scale of one to ten how satisfied you are with the constitution that has emerged and the Electoral Bill? Zero represents great dissatisfaction and ten represents extreme satisfaction. Where would you find yourself in that spectrum?

HZ     Between six and seven.

POM     Between six and seven. So during this three year period what changes have surprised you the most and what changes have you found it most difficult to live with?

HZ     During this entire period? The changes that have surprised me most are a ruling elite agreeing to abandon power voluntarily which very rarely happens and one of the changes that has surprised me the most is the extent to which South Africans have come to the conclusion that plural, multicultural, democratic society is the solution for them when most of the rest of the world's plural societies are moving in the opposite direction. So that's been a surprise and it's a very pleasant surprise. What was the second part of your question?

POM     What changes have you found most difficult to live with?

HZ     It's not a political or policy change that I've found most difficult to live with but the increasing social disintegration and violence has been the most difficult thing to live with and the fear that has become a part of life that was never there before.

POM     Do you think that this violence will be brought under control in any meaningful way before elections or that in many areas it has developed a life and momentum of its own that might endure for years after no matter what kind of South Africa comes into existence?

HZ     I certainly don't believe we're going to control the violence before the elections and it will take a massive security effort and commitment to enforce law and order to stop it after the election.

POM     Now if after the election you are also faced with a right wing that engages in a sabotage campaign a la the IRA, the IRA have no more than 50 operatives who tie down 30,000 troops which has resulted in all kinds of detention orders and sweeping emergency declarations and the like and it seems to me that the right here have both the skills, the weaponry and the knowledge to conduct a campaign like that. If you are confronted with that too and also confronted with a Gatsha Buthelezi who has stayed outside the process and is making his appeals to Zulu nationalism you could have a South African state come into being under the most unstable of conditions where one of its first acts might have to be to declare a state of emergency. Could you see that happening?

HZ     It's a possibility. It's certainly not beyond the realms of possibility.

POM     Let's talk a little bit about the Freedom Alliance and the alliance between Buthelezi and Mangope on the one side, particularly Buthelezi, and the Conservative Party and the AWB on the other. One thing that many people have said this time round is that Constand Viljoen has given a respectability to the right that it lacked before and therefore because of his presence it has to be taken more seriously. (a) Do you think a way will be found to bring them into the process? (b) If not, will they contest the elections? One scenario put forward yesterday or the day before was that the if AF would contest the elections it would finish up in position number two so that Constand Viljoen could be Deputy President and they could then undermine the government from within. And (c), will they resort to violence, to sabotage, to terrorism?

HZ     I think that they are right that Constant Viljoen has given respectability to the ultra right. He makes very reasonable statements based on the concept that Afrikaners constitute a separate nation and can't be subject to domination. That's the reasonable right speaking there. It's not the lunatic, racist fringe and that certainly has changed the perceptions of the right. I'm not sure what kind of resources the ultra-right has to wage an election which is a factor but not the over-riding factor in the history of South African elections. It will be very interesting to see if the Constant Viljoen, the AF and the right wing sections of the Freedom Alliance fight this election, how they do and what role they are able to play in a new government. Certainly I know from all my work on the far right wing that there will be elements who will try to undermine and destabilise a majority rule government, yes, and I think one way of resolving the issue might be to take seriously this notion of an Afrikaner homeland and at least have discussions on where and how such a thing could be constituted because I think that might well do a lot to diffuse the passion and the fear that underlies a lot of their concerns. I think it's a totally impractical proposal, I don't think they are going to get a place where you can draw any boundaries or have any economic viability at all but while it's a symbolic thing that makes people feel at least there's an exit door, an escape route if they need it, it might be very useful and most certainly Constand Viljoen would stay in the process if he felt there was a hope of negotiating 'freedom' for the Afrikaners through constitutional mechanisms. Of course that's a very difficult and complex situation but nevertheless he's the kind of guy that given enough recognition of the issues that he is raising would remain constructively in the process which is a better option than having the right waging civil war. That's my view of the subject.

POM     Do you think in that situation that there would be a reasonable possibility of them outvoting the National Party? If you tie the alliance between the IFP, the AF, the Conservative Party?

HZ     If the IFP, the Conservative Party, the Freedom Alliance as a whole goes into this election with Mangope, the Freedom Party the ultra right wing parties and Gqozo, although he doesn't command any support in the Ciskei really over the ANC, there's a chance that they could.

POM     It would have pretty dramatic consequences.

HZ     I don't know how many Zulus still support Buthelezi, that's the problem. Mandela is having a hugely successful tour around Natal and I think that the ground-swell of support especially amongst Africans for the ANC is going to be enormous. I can't imagine a first election where Africans aren't going to vote for this incredibly rich symbolism with a 75 year history. I can't see it happening. But I can, depending on how much support Buthelezi has, how much support Mangope has, I'm not sure that Gqozo has any and how much support the ultra right has, there is a vague chance that that could happen.

POM     Looking at Buthelezi, we have now interviewed him four times and on each occasion he's been a different person, but one thing hasn't changed and that is his insistence on pointing out every occasion on which he has been insulted and who has insulted him. He documents this. What is he after?

HZ     He's after some power, that's what he's after. Like most South African leaders of different groups, or different entities, tribal entities or cultural entities, he's after power in a specific territory. So territorialism is in many ways the bottom line of South African politics which is why I said that I was so amazed that the Afrikaners were prepared to relinquish power. Not all of them but the ones who follow De Klerk are prepared to relinquish power. The emergence of the right wing indicates that the notion of territoriality and the power the group in this particular space of land is critically important still and I think that's what we see in Buthelezi. That's what makes him a very natural ally with the ultra right wing.

POM     He has said that if the IFP takes a decision to contest elections he may quit the IFP. Is this kind of bluster when he talks about the Zulu nation will not be party to any constitution or agreement to which they were not a party to in the first place? Is this serious? Again, does he pose a serious threat if he stays outside the process?

HZ     If his party decides to contest the process and he stays out he's finished because he's got no independent base outside the IFP and Inkatha. He really doesn't have an independent base so I think he's well and truly finished and it might be the best of all possible options if the IFP takes a decision that he disagrees with to contest the elections. I think that that would be useful all round if he refuses to participate in them. What is going to happen in the future, especially, for example, if the ANC wins convincingly in Natal and there is a lot of resistance from a minority to that victory I have no idea. But the potential for violence conflict is enormous.

POM     Some polls have the IFP and the ANC neck and neck so that no matter who wins the loser is going to accuse the winner of fraud and intimidation and say it wasn't a free and fair election so it will not settle the question of Natal, so to speak.

HZ     It's a very possible outcome. I don't think it's going to be neck and neck. I think that the ANC is going to do a lot better than neck and neck, but that's my gut feeling from a distance, it might not be correct. But whether it's neck and neck or whether it isn't, the potential for violence is enormous.

POM     Looking at some of the provisions two thing surprised us. One was that the ANC went along with the proposition that the composition of the Constitutional Court should be in the hands of the State President which would seem to undermine the whole basis of the constitution in the first place and secondly, their stand on the single ballot which is inherently unconstitutional as it restricts people's choices at the regional level and also at the national level. Why do you think they initially ...

HZ     The ANC you say?

POM     - could go along with these decisions in the first place?

HZ     Because they will benefit most from them. That's why. What puzzles me more is that the National Party went with them but that the ANC went with them doesn't surprise me. They're likely to benefit hugely from it.

POM     But it goes against - maybe the best example I could point out is we had a conversation yesterday with Govan Mbeki and it was on the single ballot and he couldn't understand at all why people would want more than one ballot. If you voted ANC, that's it.

HZ     Well that's the whole point.

POM     So it's ... to democracy rather than a weakness?

PAT     The question is I think, is there really a democracy value in the ANC?

HZ     Well that's the question. That is the key question. I think that one can't simply say that the litmus test is that that proves that there isn't a democracy in the ANC. I think that there is amongst many people but I think in South Africa generally, and I've got to be very careful what I say now, the rhetoric about democracy has been a very useful cover for the drive to power and when the power stakes are up and when you can have rather less constrained power than more constrained power the democracy value tends to be put in second place. And this not only applies to the ANC, the National Party government is notorious for this over the decades. That's why people like me are very keen that the Democratic Party should stick around.

POM     Watchdog function?

HZ     Absolutely. I believe that there are far more democracy values in the ANC than the National Party, put it that way, over the years. I believe that people like Albie or people like Mandela or people like Sisulu are very committed democrats. I really do believe it but I just do think that the notion of having rather untrammelled power is attractive to anybody and I would prefer to see - how can I put it, I've got to be careful, I've got to survive in this society. You're not going to quote me on this are you?

PAT     How much does it concern you though?

HZ     Of course it concerns me greatly. All politicians everywhere use all kinds of wonderful benign sounding rhetoric to promote their strategies to achieve power. Politics is about power and that's why the parties who understand what politics is about but aren't good at playing political games don't usually do very well, a la the Democratic Party, and I think you'll see that parties all over the world don't particularly like the democratic restraints that are there for a reason and I don't believe that the ANC is any exception.

POM     I think there is an additional factor with the ANC that many of its leadership were trained in Eastern Europe or the Soviet Union so essentially they have a background which is, by the training they received, non-democratic.

HZ     You see I don't want to have a knee-jerk response, for example, about the SACP or communist countries in general but I do want to say that in the communist philosophy democracy is not the alpha and omega of a constitutional political process. The concept is based on the fact that certain people have the appropriate consciousness are in the vanguard of a just revolution and therefore have the right to determine what happens so it's not an inherently democratic notion at all and although I know the South African Communist Party has moved a great distance from that original philosophy and are in many instances serious democrats I'm not happy with the alliance. I must be quite honest with you and I think that the notion of the vanguard of the working class and the right to determine and the whole concept of false consciousness and all the other theoretical notions on which one justifies vanguard leadership and a single party state are inherently undemocratic notions and I am not comfortable that that is entirely, can I use the word 'purged', from the political lexicon and understanding of people.

POM     By the same token do you think it would be bad for the country if the ANC were to receive more than two thirds of the national vote?

HZ     Yes I think it would be bad for the country. I think good democracy requires a bit of balancing, a bit of a balance of power.

POM     But also if decisions are being made and they get close to 60% or something, or even 55%, and decisions in the Cabinet are made by simple majority, they would have that majority to start with so that in effect you would have majority rule.

HZ     From the beginning.

POM     From the beginning in so far as the ANC would always prevail.

HZ     I would like to have a strong ANC. I would like the ANC to get about 60% of the vote. I would feel quite strongly that the ANC should get 60% of the vote because we need a strong government able to take some action. We really do. And we need a government that feels legitimate enough to be able to, for example, restore law and order and to take some bold moves on a whole number of fronts, development, distribution of resources, a whole number of fronts. So I would like them to get about 60%. I think the extent to which they are going to enforce - you see this country does become very difficult to govern without a broad basis of consensus between the major players. If the National Party does extremely badly in the election that makes it much easier for the ANC to take a whole lot of decisions unaccountably. It depends on how well the National Party does but I would like to see the ANC get about 60% of the vote. Does that make sense to you?

POM     Even if that gives them the capacity to almost take decisions unilaterally in the Cabinet?

HZ     Well let's say between 55% and 60%, but that doesn't make too much difference. I think we need a strong clear outcome in a mandate, I think we do.

PAT     Your point is that they don't have to make unilateral decisions to take the kind of bold action that you're talking about.

HZ     It's not a compromise but I would imagine that the National Party and the ANC would take those decisions together because they will remain the Siamese twins of politics after the election as well even though they have been in major contestation during the election.

POM     Has the ANC a vested interest in seeing that there's a relatively strong National Party?

HZ     They have a vested interest in ensuring that the PAC doesn't come in too strongly and that the ultra right doesn't come in too strongly.

POM     Yet in Natal Mandela said, "Vote for any party other than the National Party".

HZ     Yes. What can one say? I think if the PAC does too well he won't be able to do any of the things that the ANC has stood for with any kind of bold action and if the ultra right wing does too well he's in a lot of trouble. I don't know what his rhetoric is and I don't know who writes his speeches but that's an objective evaluation of mine.

POM     When you look at the last three years, what in your mind are the major turning points, the critical points at which either the past negotiations or even the strategies of the major players changed? I'll give you one example. In CODESA 2 the government was clearly aligning itself with the IFP and trying to build a grand alliance against the ANC whereas when negotiations had resumed they had switched dancing partners with alacrity and they and the ANC have been in a partnership of a kind ever since, at least in the terms of negotiations.

HZ     I think that's true.

POM     What considerations do you think led the National Party to abandon its former strategy and opt for an alliance, so to speak, with the ANC?

HZ     Let me say that I believe the National Party knew that they had no alternative but to reach a negotiated settlement. That was the first point. They had no alternative but to reach a negotiated settlement and the key plan in that process was going to be the ANC in reaching that settlement. They would have preferred to do it with a broad alliance behind them so they could force concessions out of the ANC but my perception is that when they realised what a difficult bottom line the IFP was insisting on and the unsaleability of that they thought they would have to go it alone in an agreement. So I don't think they ever made a partnership with the ANC but I think they went alone into bilateral negotiations with the ANC rather than being backed up by all of the other parties and they found it easier it forge an agreement with the ANC than to bring the Inkatha Freedom Party away from its ridiculously high bottom line. That's my perception.

POM     Do you already see cracks in the alliance, COSATU wanting to take a more independent line?

HZ     I think if we look at it from the point of view (I hate to use these simplistic terms) of who are going to be the winners and who are going to be the losers after the election. Now that's a very simplistic way of looking at it but the big winners in the new South Africa after the election are going to be the black middle class with education. Already I'm finding that here. We get requests every day for good graduates but they've got to be black. That's the proviso that all employers put on, they want to employ black people. So black middle class with education are going to be enormous winners and they are in the ANC. The second category that are going to be enormous winners are the emerging black bourgeoisie who are the people who are going to get good contracts with the government, etc., etc. People with contacts, the people with 'in' are going to win. The other group is going to be the organised black working class, the COSATUs of this world, etc. They are going to inherit the new South Africa in a big way, organised lobbies, good contacts, sympathetic policies, part of the power elite.

     So where there are cracks appearing in that system let me really say to you that they are all going to benefit and have an interest in holding the rinks that they do. The people outside that, the unemployed, the marginalised, the uneducated, the rural poor, it's going to be critical for the ANC if they want to remain in power to incorporate those elements as well with those huge tensions and huge potential conflicts between the interests of the insiders and the outsiders. My sense is that although the insider group, which I've just identified, are showing some signs of tension and some cracks, they aren't nearly as deep as the tension and cracks that flow between those and my sense is that although a lot of the outsider groups who currently don't perceive themselves as such will vote for the ANC in the election when they don't see their demands and their concerns being met are very likely to find that the cracks really go between the poor, uneducated, marginalised rural people and the educated organised linked power elite that is going to form the basis of the insiders. And those cracks aren't appearing yet but that's where the real crack will appear and it will pose the biggest challenge and it's where the PAC and maybe the SACP will move in to pick up that constituency of disaffected people.

POM     After five years, Mandela said in Natal again, "If we don't produce throw us out", what does the average person who lives in a township or squatter camp have the right to expect from the government after five years in office?

HZ     Really a continuation of the present trajectory. Now they are going to put seven billion rand into housing. It's housing education and potentially jobs that people want. There's nowhere that South Africa on the current national budget could put more than seven billion into housing. There's just no way. So they can expect a similar proportion every year going into housing and hopefully an efficient infrastructure delivering housing. They've got the right to expect access to schools and an improvement in the dreadful school situation where you get at least competent teachers and the correct infrastructure and they've got a right to hopefully expect an improved economy and the prospect of some kind of job and potentially a small unsecured loan to start a business of their own. That's what my perception is. Any higher expectations than that are misplaced.

POM     One of the criticisms of CODESA 2 is that negotiations were being conducted among elites and there was no transparency, the person at the grassroots didn't know what was going on and just heard all kinds of rumours of deals being made behind closed doors. The negotiating council seems to have been not very much different, much of the important work was done in bilaterals behind closed doors, again negotiation among elites with very little feedback to the people on the ground. Do you think that will pose, I'm coming back to the knowledge factor and does anybody really in order to cast a vote in this election, does anybody really need to know the contents of the constitution? Or do you simply go to Mandela, De Klerk?

HZ     That's how people will vote for sure.

POM     So you don't see any effort being made to educate people as regards what the constitution says. For example, one of the outstanding omissions in the Bill of Rights that I have found was that while there is a clause in their protecting property rights there is no clause protecting second generation rights, the right to health, the right to education which the ANC vowed never to move away from, which were part and parcel of the Freedom Charter.

HZ     That would have been their death knell if they had put it into it because every single person would have taken the government to court after five years. There is no way in a developing country that you can deliver those things this side of paradise. It's absurd. Second generation rights are what they say, second generation. When we've got the first generation rights in place, which is God knows enough of a leap for South Africa, when we've got our economy going which is what we hope we will do, we will get to a point one day when we can offer second generation rights to people but you can't do that in a country that doesn't produce the resources to sustain that. We're not a rich country. It's absurd to start promising all sorts of things to people on a basis that the fiscus can't afford.

POM     This is the situation I talk about, cracks in the alliance. In many regards the interests of COSATU which are for its membership could be diametrically opposed to the interests of the government, i.e. what's good for the country. Is COSATU or the trade union movement in general most concerned with advancing the interests of its members through higher wages and higher benefits which would create more joblessness. Businesses will simply substitute capital for labour. Somebody put it very succinctly and they gave a statistic which I'll only quote, I can't verify, that a black member of a trade union now receives 85% of the salary of a white doing a similar job with a similar level of skill, which if true would put the gap between them much closer than it is between what women earn in the United States and what men earn for doing comparable jobs. His point was that the real division down the road would not be a division between black and white but between employed and unemployed, those who have and those who haven't.

HZ     That's what I've just tried to explain now. It's going to be the insiders who are going to be the alliance, and the outsiders. That is where the division is going to be. There's going to be lots of tension between COSATU and the ANC, yes, but much more tension between COSATU and the ANC on one hand and the unemployed, uneducated, unemployable on the other hand. I agree with that analysis.

PAT     I have a question. Non-racialism, you referred to it a couple of times, is it part of the rhetoric or is this an issue of progress saying what we would say, there's no 'there' there. Non-racialism was a term, a rhetoric developed as an alternative to racism like much of what happened in the struggle, the movement, more than a social context of blacks and whites. What is it in your sort of principle, because you talked about how it's an objective that you have in your job on the campus, and it would be one that is part of the character of this constitution?

HZ     So what do I understand by non-racialism?

PAT     Yes.

HZ     I understand it as the endeavour to ensure that people from very different backgrounds and cultural contexts and social contexts can work and live together in shared spaces, in shared institutions without conflict and on an increasingly common value basis. So, because we've got such a plural society and such a very broad cultural base of divergent cultures in this society we lack all of the glue that normally makes for a single nation state. We've got much less than the United States has. In fact the United States has more or less a common culture despite the divergences. So what we need is a common set of core values and if I understand non-racialism working in South Africa I see this multicultural plural society formulating core common values that we share and against all the odds in what is going to be undoubtedly the world's most difficult project, try and live by that common core set of values in institutions that become increasingly jointly owned. Does that make sense?

PAT     It does, but it also seems, without making a personal criticism, it seems like Africans would say, "That's fine, you all had it before now it's our chance to have it."

HZ     Have what?

PAT     Have the structures, have the power, have the institutional authority and now it's our turn, and it could look as a mechanism, again, for white survival, couldn't it? Sharing as a code to now providing a chance for Africans or for people of colour to be able to have access to the institutional power of the majoritarian camp.

HZ     What do you mean by white survival?

PAT     What I mean by it is, the issue is that before whites dominated. Now with majoritarianism coming in whites want to share, even the most progressive of whites want to share as opposed to stepping aside.

HZ     I find these conversations increasingly difficult, not because they hit on issues that I can't answer but I'm wondering whether the answers will be understood in a serious way. I want to ask you, Patricia, is the only determinant of progress in the South African context a head count of blacks and whites?

PAT     Well it can't be. That would be my answer but I think we see, as we've gone through these four or five years with people, an increasing antagonism, so to speak, by Africans towards white liberal progressives who used to be their partners in the struggle now looking for those people to step aside and let them have their room. Do you know what I mean? You must feel it and experience it yourself. I would assume that maybe that's the norm. Maybe that's not a correct assumption. Certainly a lot of people that we talk to who have been in the progressive white Democratic Party and other social action types of groups working together are feeling pushed and talk about being pushed.

HZ     I think that's an objective fact. I don't find it in this department at all. I think that is an objective fact. The point is one can't talk about these things without coming across as a racist. I just prefer not to. It hopefully will get to the point in South Africa, and it won't be for a long time, when there is a common core of values that will judge performance, delivery, ethics, integrity, in ways that don't say what is the colour of a person's skin. And if we can achieve that we will certainly be a lot more advanced than the United States because when Americans come here they simply say, "Now is this good or bad, we'll count the number of blacks, we'll count the number of whites. Oh, obviously bad." It's simple racial head counting not what is this person's record, what is the level of integrity, what is the level of competence? Nothing. Just are they black or are they white? Is it good, it is bad?

     And the ANC is far more advanced in its understanding of non-racialism, I think, than that and that is certainly evidenced in their past history. I think obviously there is a strong rebirth of black consciousness in a very profound way. And understandably so. There's going to definitely be that. And what I understand by non-racialism is getting to the point where we have an objective, shared set of values about the importance of other things such as hard work, such as delivery, such as systems of structures and reliability, which are non-racial things. They aren't only western values. They are values that make a society function and if we can have an agreement around those sets of values then increasingly whether a person is black or white becomes less relevant. If you're going to say that permanently in the society the question of your colour is going to be the determinant of your possibility to achieve anything in this society you're going to have a situation in which whites will emigrate increasingly, as they are. That made me hell of a useful to all sorts of people who only determine whether a place is functioning well or badly or making progress by the colour of people's skins but it's not good for development.

POM     OK.

PAT     One thing that I thought was, that you started with, in some respects relates to this, it has to do with your social structures, don't you think when you look at, I almost said the developing role but I don't think that's even accurate because you would certainly look at it, what exists here is a very strong well founded civic, or what is more typically called non-government organisation structures like virtually no place else in the world. Maybe the closest it compares to is the United States but the United States doesn't have the discipline of the structures that exists here. These are typically more associated with government or funding from the funding institutions than they are in terms of having ... It would seem to be anyway that that is one of the real potentials for the social structure in this country, that it is not as deprived as perhaps you are looking at it to be.

HZ     How am I looking at it to be?

PAT     Well when you were saying that the successes of the three years are political but there has been some real lack of success in terms of the social and economic factors and that those are fairly depressing to look at, that the prospects for the future compared to other countries that have gone through political transitions, better prospects might be found with these social structures than maybe even the political institutions.

HZ     It depends whether you see that to be strong or not.

PAT     And you think that they are not by and large? I look at them to be strong in comparison to other countries that I am familiar with. In many countries they are virtually non-existent. Certainly in eastern Europe there was never the ability to develop those kinds of structures and for that matter there are very few of them in western Europe, but particularly in the Scandinavian and north western countries.

HZ     Let me simply say that I think that people think they are stronger than they are.

PAT     Is that right?

HZ     Much. I think that that's the situation.

POM     But you have no doubt that an election will take place next April?

HZ     I'm sure an election will take place. In what context and whether it produces a legitimate result I don't know but an election will take place unless there is some major development that makes the holding of an election such a risk that it's called off, unless there's such a massive escalation of violence.

POM     Do you think it more important that elections be held even though there is a fair degree of intimidation and violence rather than they be postponed because of the level of intimidation and violence?

HZ     My sense is that if intimidation on a limited scale manages to postpone the election then everybody who wants the election postponed has got a vested interest in continuing the intimidation to prevent an election from happening. I think we just have to bite the bullet and get an agreement on security involvement in place under the Transitional Executive Authority and then press ahead with this election come hell or high water. We have to have it.

POM     On this first occasion as long as elections are sufficiently fair and free it's perceived as more important than getting in an absolutely free and fair election which probably exists no place. Some of the standards that are applied by western observers sometimes have nothing to do with the reality of the situation on the ground.

HZ     There's no way that we can have a free and fair election in the traditional sense of those two words. There's no way. What it has to do is produce a reasonably legitimate result. That's the best we can hope for. And let's hope we can do it. I'm not sure.

POM     OK. Thank you. We're now staying in the country. We've got a house in Johannesburg and we're staying through the elections next year.

PAT     Whenever.

HZ     They will be on the 27th barring some major crisis. There will be on the 27th or thereabouts. They might change the day here or there but they will be about 27th April. I feel more and more strongly that South Africans should get out and write some books on the reality of this situation rather than persistently be under the microscope. And there's a genuine fact that a whole lot of yardsticks that I think are inappropriate to judge our situation - but it's a very strong topic for me now because everybody who has ever written a book is currently in South Africa updating their publications and I'm slightly exhausted by it.

PAT     There don't seem to be a lot of South Africans writing books?

HZ     A couple.

POM     So I'll be back to you in six months and thanks for the time. You're always most interesting and provocative which is the best kind of interview.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.