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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

24 Nov 1993: Boesak, Allan

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POM     In three years how far has South Africa come and how far has it to go? Let me put that in the context of if somebody said to you three years ago when Mandela was released and the ANC unbanned that within three years there would be agreement on an interim constitution and a date set for a non-racial election, would you have been surprised and said, no things won't happen that quickly, or do you think things have happened at a pace slower than you would have liked?

AB     Well both yes and no. I suppose in 1990 when there was a great deal of optimism in the beginning after Mandela's release and so forth, I think most of us expected that things would go a lot faster than they did. It was only when we were really involved in the negotiations and you had the breakdown of CODESA 2 and you saw the calculated rise in the level of violence and frankly the delaying tactics that at that stage were employed by the National Party, then I began to realise it's not going to be as easy as all that. So I suppose that forced us to take a more realistic look at what is possible in South Africa. Now, however, it may just be the relief that we have gotten most of the things that we wanted, I still think it wasn't bad going at all. I think it could have been faster but I am quite satisfied with the results that came out and you know that there were all sorts of things, nuances in the kind of agreements that need to be made and we all, in the ANC for instance, had to be clear in our own minds that this was something that we could believe in, that we could defend, that we could take to the voters and convince people that what we will have between now and the next election will be something that really would take us forward on the road to full democracy. Yes, I'm quite happy with what we have achieved. I think it shows great promise for the future.

POM     You just talked about full democracy and many people we have talked to have said that even if there is a significant level of violence and intimidation that the elections must go ahead and take place on April 27th, that the most important thing about the election would be to give legitimacy to those who want to prevent it and that whereas it might not be a full democracy in the sense of being a free and fair election according to international standards it would be sufficiently free and fair to give sufficient legitimacy to whatever government comes in.

AB     I should think that's a fair assessment. I should also add that I think any idea of postponing the elections will probably cause more chaos than whatever might happen during the elections or just immediately before them. I think that because these elections are not just elections, I now as I talk to people at public meetings about the importance of these elections and I see the reaction of these people I understand much, much better than I did six months ago just how important these elections are for ordinary people on the street. They know it's not just the joy of voting for the party of your choice. They know this is a very, very important step towards the liberation of our people, nation building all of a sudden becomes something that people are thinking about. Making South Africa into a democratic country becomes an achievable goal. The elections are about human dignity. You talk to people who either have not been given the opportunity to vote at all in their lives or you talk to people whose vote had been a joke in the tricameral parliamentary system and they know the indignities that went with that. All of these things grow beyond all sorts of proportions because people attach not political values so much to the vote as human values, as an affirmation of themselves. If that is true, and I think it is, it would be ill advised to tamper with the elections.

POM     In that sense everyone is now hostage or locked into the April 27th as the consequences of getting out far outweigh the cost of staying in.

AB     Yes. I think that's true.

POM     Do you think international monitors, because I think the country will probably be crawling with them on election day, need to be briefed beforehand that don't go out looking for ten votes stolen here and ten votes stolen there and there was an incident of violence here and an incident of violence there, that there will be all of those things but nevertheless sufficient progress will be made, a sufficient degree of fairness, a sufficient degree of freeness?

AB     The reason why we have these international monitors here is to make sure that the elections are as free and fair as possible. So obviously if they notice some crookery they have to act against it. I am not sure that we will be able to really avoid this kind of thing totally if you look at the country as it is. One worries about what will happen in the remote areas in the homelands and so forth where people are still so easily intimidated, but that is why we will have them and my hope will be that we will have as many as we possibly can get, even though it will not be the size of UNTAG in Namibia, but as many as we can get, as well briefed as they might be and people will really come to help us make sure that these elections are free and fair because if they allow little things to happen, if they close their eyes, well there are a few votes stolen there, a few votes stolen there, it all adds up and if they are seen to make an effort to stop these things where they happen it will in the end give more legitimacy to the process.

POM     In the last three years what changes have most surprised you and what changes have you found most difficult to live with?

AB     For me one of the major things that I had to deal with in the beginning was to acknowledge that it is probably not the best idea for us to have a clear cut system of majority rule or to try and go for that at this first election, a first past the post kind of thing. I was not unhappy with the whole concept of proportional representation because my experience when I lived in Europe had taught me that that was really not a bad way of trying to create a democratic system and I like the idea of giving smaller parties the opportunity to be represented in parliament. What I still don't know what will happen is really how this government of national unity is going to work especially the ANC has bent over backwards to make that possible, to be an inclusive as possible. We go as far, as you know, as to say that even if you have only 5% you're not really eligible to be represented in parliament, but even in government? I have my worries about how exactly that will work. You have to depend so much on the goodwill of others and goodwill is not always a common commodity amongst opposition groups in any political system. So that worries me.

     Also an effect of a government of national unity could be that the ANC will have great difficulty in making its (ANC) policies, making those governmental policies. We shall try our best obviously and we should try our best but obviously this is a shaky terrain for us. I don't know how much an opposition group will try and block the ANC from being able to deliver to our people. We know that the economy is going to make that hard enough but the political system also that we have chosen now in a government of national unity will in more ways than one agitate against that.

     So these are things that worry me but I think one of the changes that I like, that I'm happy about, is to see how the ANC as an organisation has grown during these three years. It's actually a very remarkable thing for an organisation that had been kept on the sidelines of the political system for most of its existence, banned for the rest, driven underground, to come back and within three very short years have matured politically in terms of the normal process of democracy. That I think is an amazing thing. I also think that the ANC's ability to do that has brought about another change and that is the change in the perceptions that people have of the African National Congress. At this moment is it fair to say that the African National Congress is the only political party that shows a persistent pattern of growth, that is true nationally, that is true in the Western Cape which is another happy development and quite a remarkable change if I think of where we were in the Western Cape as the ANC in June of 1992, less than 10% of the people said that they would vote for us. Now way over 20% of the people say definitely they will vote for the ANC and there is a large margin of undecided, but that's where the hard work lies. It's been truly amazing because we haven't done it through the media because we don't have that, we haven't done it through all sorts of campaigns, we actually did that through personal contact with people, giving out personal information, and the way the ANC has been perceived. Those are some of the changes that I like very much.

POM     Patricia has been talking to Paul Taylor who is the correspondent here for the Washington Post and he covered Mandela's trip in Natal and he said the People's Forum were absolutely amazing because when Mandela gave his speech they had all these stands set up among the crowd where people would come forward and ask their questions and then either Mandela would answer it or ask somebody else to answer it. It was just amazing how everyone became so inclusive. If you look at the passage of measures that was passed last week at the World Trade Centre what is your understanding of the major elements of those arrangements with particular attention to (i) that you have referred to how decisions will be made within the Cabinet and (ii) what deadlock breaking mechanism there is if the Constituent Assembly deadlocks?

AB     I think the first one as to how decisions will be made in Cabinet, at this stage I must honestly confess I do not clearly understand. I have heard Roelf Meyer explain this twice. I have heard Cyril Ramaphosa explain this once. I still don't know what they mean. If they say sufficient consensus also in the Cabinet, I really don't know. It is one of the things that I suppose could come on my worry list as to how exactly we are going to make decisions. I am not sure also whether the same formula holds true for regional governments and whether the provision that the regional government can write or that regions can write and adopt their own constitution, whether that provision also means that in terms of the practical mechanism of how government works and how decisions are being made, whether that is left for regional governments to determine or whether we will be bound by the constitution to follow what is being said for national. I don't know that. All of these things it seems to me still have to be explained and probably will only be understood once you are in that situation.

POM     Do you think that since the last time round, at least the apparent reason why CODESA 2 failed, was their failure to reach agreement over a formula for breaking deadlocks, that this time both government and ANC realised that the necessity to move ahead was more important than trying to wrap every last detail on a piece of paper?

AB     That's right. I think you're right but to begin with they really had too much on that agenda anyway. I thought it was not wise to have all sorts of issues that you had to discuss, the language issue and all of that and national symbols and the borders of regions and all of that they wanted to do in just one session and I just thought it was too much. I will not be surprised if come next year and with this interim constitution that we find that there are a lot of gaps that we did not know. We probably will have to cross that bridge when we come to it. The basis is fairly sound, the agreements have been made so that those people who have signed those agreements will not easily renege I think and that is the most important thing. And again it means, as it stands now, that if there is a deadlock the party that wants its view to become the view of the nation will just have to work hard at convincing the people and from that point of view that doesn't concern me too much. I am not too much concerned about the measures that we will use to break the deadlock should it exist and so forth because in the end if the ANC has the ability to get most of the country behind it in this first election it surely must have the ability to get most of the country behind it when it comes to changes in the constitution that we find necessary.

POM     As you look at the last three years and particularly since the collapse of CODESA 2, what major concessions or compromises have been by government and what do you see as the major compromises or concessions made by the ANC?

AB     The government has clearly agreed to a Constituent Assembly which was a major issue. They have agreed to an election for everybody. That was a major thing that they talked about, should there be an election, shouldn't there be an election and then all sorts of qualifications built into that. They had agreed as to the form of government, you remember how strong they were on the issue of power sharing at the highest level, a rotating presidency and so forth and although most of us treated that as a joke, I do when I speak publicly about this, it wasn't really a joke for them, they were quite serious about that. Now of course they also have to agree that we will have a President and a Vice President which the ANC didn't want in the beginning so the ANC had to give in on that point. But only a party that can achieve 20% of the vote will be able to appoint a Vice President and the National Party now is down to less than 10% or roundabout 10% so they will have to work very hard in order to get that. They may, they may. It may not be such a bad idea if they do get that because a party that comes into the government of national unity with a little bit of respectability will be easier to handle I think and will be more co-operative, otherwise you are like a child and you want to prove every single day that you are more than you really are and we really don't have time for antics such as that.

     I think the ANC had to give in a lot in terms of their idea of the strength of central government, giving in on the issue of the regions having to have certain powers. And I know that wasn't easy for the ANC but I think it is a good thing that the ANC had decided to go for fairly strong regional or provincial governments. The Bill of Rights was not really a fight. It was just a question of whether we should have it in an interim constitution or whether we should wait for the permanent constitution but it is there now. So I don't think that any one of the two parties will see that as a victory because everybody wanted the Bill of Rights. It's really a question of where and when. On the question of regions having the right by two thirds majority to draw up their own constitutions I think that was a major compromise on the side of the ANC because it raises all sorts of prospects as you know and it raises all sorts of possible areas of conflict and tension between a region and central government. Again that has been a major concession. That we do have a government that will have a measure of power sharing is also a concession on the side of the ANC although the government probably did not get fully what it wanted, but there is a measure of power sharing. This whole thing about sufficient consensus in Cabinet, what the ANC wanted in the beginning was for the majority of the Cabinet to make a decision which is what will make for good government. That concession may come back to haunt us in the future unless there is a very, very clear understanding and I have just confessed my own ignorance and lack of understanding. Maybe there can be a formula found to enable us to simply make decisions where decisions will have to be made because as it stands now, simply interpreted, we have created, even before the fact, a lame duck government.

POM     You've created a government of paralysis.

AB     If that is the case then we cannot hope for many, many good scenarios to develop from that.

POM     Taking everything that you said into account, and I ask everyone this question, on a scale of one to ten how satisfied are you with the proposals of both the interim constitution and for the Electoral Bill? How satisfied are you with the outcome? Zero represents very, very dissatisfied and ten represents very, very satisfied.

AB     No I won't give it a ten. Probably round about 7 or so. Fairly satisfied, satisfied enough to go out there and defend it. Satisfied enough to know that everything taken into account it is not that bad at all, so I will go out there and defend it and build on it if at all possible.

POM     Many accounts say that in the last days of the negotiations the National Party simply caved in and that the ANC got its way on most of the major positions in the six deal package that was put together. Just from your observations and your readings and your conversations would you agree with that comment? That at some point their will just broke?

AB     I don't know. Only those who have been intimately involved in those sessions can say that. Looking from a distance I can say that the ANC has not come out of there with something that will cost it too many votes.

POM     It's in a pretty good position.

AB     I think so.

POM     People in the ANC say about what you say, sevenish. People in the government go down to fiveish. There's a consistent trend around here.

AB     OK, OK.

POM     The threats to the new order of things. You have the Freedom Alliance which I would like to break down into Buthelezi on the one hand, we'll talk about him, and on the other hand to talk about the white right wing. If the white right wing stays outside the process do you think they have the capacity and the means to mount a campaign of very sophisticated destabilisation in a new dispensation?

AB     Yes. If the white right wing stays out there are two possibilities for them to follow. One can be this sophisticated campaign and I guess by that you mean sabotage in the civil service, in the police and in the army.

POM     Bombs, conducting a campaign like the IRA does. Random, doesn't take too many people.

AB     The terror, the terror. I think that is possible. Or they can go for all out war, challenge the South African Defence Force on the streets as it were. I don't think they will go for the second because I think they know well enough that that is a battle that they cannot win. They do stand more of a chance with that other campaign. I should think, however, that once the elections have taken place and a government of national unity is in power and hopefully they begin to do things, a campaign like that depends on a very well co-ordinated network of people not only with the capacity but with an abiding grievance. I don't know whether all of those people who feel unhappy today will be staying in such a closely knit sophisticated group. Number one, too many of them are not trained to think that way and I think that the group will make mistakes. The government will obviously launch a vigorous campaign against that. They will not be dealing with a white run government who will be afraid to touch these white people because they need every single white vote that they can get, which is the case now. You will not be dealing with a police force that will be totally in the hands of a National Party government. There will be people from our side in positions where they will be able to do certain things, which is not the case now.

     I also think another thing will happen, I also think that even though many people in the civil service and the police and so forth will co-operate with these people that pretty soon they might begin to think it might be better for us not to do so. I think there are many people in the police and in the army and in the civil service who know these people and who for many reasons will not want to be associated with what they do and who for many reasons will want to see this experiment work and I think that will be an element that these people will have to deal with because they have been with these people for many, many years. They will have to get their explosives from somewhere. Now by arrangement almost they break into some SADF armoury and they get what they want. I think when the atmosphere in the country changes many of these things will not be so easy as they seem now. My view is in any case that if these people start doing this, the government will be duty bound to act vigorously and act quickly if they do not want this country to slide into a malaise which will be much, much worse than the kind of situation we found ourselves in the last three years.

POM     Under that scenario could you see a situation where you would have a new government come into power and that in the face of this kind of sabotage and terrorism you would have to declare a state of emergency and perhaps detail people?

AB     It might come to that. If government action does not bring results in the beginning we will probably have to face that kind of decision. It will not be an easy decision to make. I do not think that a new democratic government will want to start off with something like that but it may very well be that we will have no choice.

POM     Do you think the emergence of the Committee of Generals and in particular of Constand Viljoen as the head of the Freedom Alliance so to speak has given the white right wing a respectability that it heretofore lacked? A credibility.

AB     Yes I think one could say that. Viljoen certainly makes a different kind of picture than Eugene Terre'Blanche. He also gives a different impression than a man like Ferdi Hartzenberg, that's also true. But he gives them more. The Afrikaner still has this German instinct, the longing for strong man leadership. They don't find it in de Klerk and so they look to a General and Constand Viljoen fits the bill I think. When, however, he has to explain political policies in the next few months it will be very interesting to see whether he will be able to sustain this credibility because as it is at the moment his credibility and his respectability and respectability of the white right wing hinges upon the fate of the IFP. We haven't yet spoken about Buthelezi. And the IFP's fate hinges upon Gatsha Buthelezi and his fate hinges upon his sanity I suppose. It's a very complex mix and a very explosive but very vulnerable kind of mix as well.

POM     What does Buthelezi want?

AB     Buthelezi wants to be the President of South Africa, that's what he wants. He wants it because he has told himself he will get it and for all of his political life white people have told him so. Let's be fair white people in this country, the business community have always said of all the black leaders, "Buthelezi is it". He has had lots of friends in the West from Margaret Thatcher to Helmut Kohl to Ronald Reagan and all those people who kept on telling him that he is the alternative to Nelson Mandela. Every single time we said, "The man is not our leader", we were ignored, we were told that we do not represent anybody and they had built him up. He was the last great white hope, like the title of that movie of that boxer. Now all of a sudden in the harsh light of, I hate the word but let me use it, 'real politic' in South Africa, when you go beyond just image building and you begin to test people in terms of their character, in terms of their intelligence, in terms of their vision, in terms of their political commitment to basic values that we hold dead, Mr Buthelezi fails the test and dismally so. He fails the test in terms of projecting the kind of image that this country needs at this time. He fails the test with ordinary people in the street and not only in Cape Town and Johannesburg but very, very remarkably so in Natal.

     So what he wants he can no longer get and then he evolved a strategy that now has ensured that what he could have got, namely the regional leadership, is up for grabs, very much so. There are not many signs that tell us that Chief Buthelezi will easily win the region in Natal. In fact the signs point the other way. So where lies his hope? To become involved in national politics via the Freedom Alliance but who is this Freedom Alliance? A fascist contract almost where the worst that the country has to offer, no political vision that makes any sense and I think even Gatsha Buthelezi in his heart of hearts cannot be happy with that. He must know that somewhere something is radically wrong. So what he was told he will get he will not get. What he then hoped to get doesn't look as if he will get it and this Freedom Alliance I don't even think will make it through the election.

POM     One scenario that's been suggested to us is that if Buthelezi were burdened with the white right he will lose his own black votes so that they will separate and run separately and then afterwards pool their resources so that he would separate himself from the white right and run under the banner of the IFP.

AB     Two things to that, I'm not sure whether the constitution allows that, that you can run separately and then make a kind of an alliance after the fact in government or in order to get into government. I don't think that would be acceptable. One needs to check that. I would be surprised if that were the case. But secondly, even if he should run under the IFP only, the IFP as an organisation is not doing very well. There are separate polls for the Freedom Alliance and separate polls for the IFP and in black South Africa the IFP is not a very well respected organisation any more, these days, where it had been the case maybe in certain circles. Before this election I think we're going to see some quite fundamental realignments again and one thing that I cannot get out of my mind, that keeps cropping up is that I think the Freedom Alliance will not hold but that Constand Viljoen and F W de Klerk are probably much closer to each other than most people think. I do not exclude a breaking up of the Freedom Alliance as it is now but a reconvening of some alliance with as main partners the National Party, the IFP and Constand Viljoen.

POM     So you would rule out a scenario which has a Freedom Alliance coming second to the ANC?

AB     I would be very surprised if the Freedom Alliance holds till then and I would be very surprised if they could actually go into an election with that combination and get significant support. Again we're not now talking about the polls and say today they are bigger than the National Party, we are talking about spelling out coherent policies to people who will go to the polls within two months or a month or a week. Within that scenario I don't think they will do that well. What might do a lot better is, as I say, a realignment, the National Party with the IFP and with Constand Viljoen. I keep on thinking that Constand Viljoen moved out of the National Party not so much to break up the National Party but to stem the tide to the far right so that he serves as a buffer and he's keeping people from going totally bonkers and by being what he is the Afrikaners can say, "Oh well not Terre'Blanche and not Hartzenberg but certainly Viljoen", and if he then makes a good case, white power structure, Afrikanerdom, the calling of the Afrikaner, all sorts of things to justify his position - I can write his speech for him right now, he will bring to him many people who have left the National Party. What he cannot bring back to the National Party will be those people who have left the National Party to decide for the ANC.

POM     Again just going back to Buthelezi, at this point what would your best guess be as to what he will do?

AB     I don't know, I really don't know. It's difficult for me to place myself in his shoes and try and understand his mind because most of the things that he has done up to now politicians would avoid like the plague. He now has said that he will quit. If he does it might just turn out to be the best decision for the IFP. It might very well be that under another leader the IFP will do a lot better than with Mr Buthelezi but I don't know whether he would want to do that because that means that he will have to retire from politics really and whether he is ready to do that I don't know. There's no sign of that either. But I hope that he doesn't think that he can resign and then form a Zulu army to take on the rest of the country.

POM     Does he have the capacity or means of spoiling the process or ensuring a sufficient degree of instability in Natal/KwaZulu that gets the new government off to a shaky start where it would have to be concerning itself with what's going on in Natal and foreign investors say, "Oh my God this is what the new South Africa is going to be like for the next decade. Goodbye"?

POM     Would you think that their demands both on the white right wing and Buthelezi, that they must be in some way accommodated or you will not have a stable, peaceful South Africa coming into being or do you think that at some point the ANC and the government must simply say no, and let events take their own course?

AB     You really can't make more concessions than we have already done. If I see how the ANC has been willing to talk and accommodate and so forth. The thing that they want is the right to secession and an ethnic state which will be such a denial not only of the whole struggle of so many decades but a denial of the purpose that this country now has. It cannot be tolerated. So it seems to me that the government will have to say to them between now and the elections, "Please reconsider, please reconsider. Come in if you want to, let's talk about it and so forth but we cannot give you a homeland and we cannot give you the right to say Natal will secede from the rest of this country and so forth. If you don't then you'll just have to make a decision about it and it's not a happy prospect." And one does not talk easily about this but if I think of the old words of John Vorster, "The alternative is too ghastly to contemplate." If we give way to what they really want then there will be no democracy anyway and there will be no future anyway.

POM     The theory that I've been playing around with is that we've seen him (Buthelezi) four times and he's been a different personality on each occasion, sometimes charming, sometimes hostile, sometimes defensive but the one salient characteristic and that is that he is obsessed with being insulted and every other word talks about being insulted, a blow to his dignity and he produces documentation and all kinds of things to show how often he's been insulted. The theory that I've been developing is that he knows in his heart that if the IFP were to contest an election ...

AB     He'll lose.

POM     - nationally that they would come up with maybe 5% of the vote so rather than be seen, as he likes to see himself, as one of the three major players it turns out he's just a minor player and that would be the biggest insult of all for him to bear and therefore he can't afford it in terms of his own psyche.

AB     That's why I said that the IFP, if he resigns, would be much better off because then they will be able to go into the election with a better chance. Whether they will gain a lot of votes I don't know but for all of these things I just think Gatsha Buthelezi cannot afford to go into these elections if he wants to remain as the major player he sees himself to be. What does he do? He can retire gracefully but I don't think he can.

POM     What if he were not to participate, disrupt the election process in Natal/KwaZulu with violence so that there's really no election? And then with the new government say "Let's sit down now and talk"?

AB     That's a Savimbi option.

POM     That he will bring himself back in through the back door.

AB     This is not Angola. If he should try that I think the government would be under so much pressure from the people that if that should happen there will be rebellion in the streets. You are dealing with people who have never had the vote before but who know perfectly well what democracy is, who also know and accept that what we will be dealing with afterwards is incremental democracy. It is not the genuine article just as yet and they have accepted that. But if the government will allow Buthelezi to blackmail them with a Savimbi option and they will accept that and bring him in via the back door, so to speak, I think that that government will lose such credibility and legitimacy that they will have no way of having any meaningful relationship with the people or of controlling the people. If they do that, any Tom, Dick and Harry with a hired army will try the same thing and I just think that that should be one thing that any new government should be very, very clear on from the very beginning. You cannot wilfully, yourself, undermine a process that you so painstakingly have tried to build over so many years.

POM     So when Buthelezi talks about there being a 50/50 possibility of civil way you say that's an exaggeration?

AB     I think he's bluffing. I think it's desperate kind of talk that one gets from people who have painted themselves into a corner. But he knows that there will not be anything to gain afterwards. Who will, in this country or internationally, give him any support or respect which is what he wants most of all? Respect, if he should try that, he cannot then turn around and say, "Well this is because the ANC wants to kill our people." The ANC doesn't want to kill anybody. The ANC just wants people to vote so that we can win the election and have Natal also as an ANC region. That's what the ANC wants. So the ANC has no interest at all in creating a climate of violence and fear and the threat of civil war anywhere in the country least of all in Natal. So he will have nobody to blame but himself. He will be the open aggressor. What do you think it will do to the IFP or to whoever because the majority of the people, I understand, of the leadership in the IFP want to contest the election. Why don't they do it? If their leader threatens "I will not but I will make it impossible for you to do this, that or the other', what will it do to them if we have to send in the South African Defence Force, full force, to go and fight the KwaZulu Police or hordes of volunteers, Zulu volunteers? The prospect is just crazy. My feeling is that if we can talk about these possibilities they must too, the IFP leadership, and they must have come to some conclusion and I would suggest that they do their very, very best to get this man retired or to change his mind.

PAT     Didn't the ANC also provide an obstacle for them. If their position was, as you've laid out, the real prospect was to contest a regional election and do the best they could in what was their home territory, by going for a single ballot, the ANC closed that option for them, they now have to run a national campaign.

AB     That is possible.

PAT     Is this part of the ANC strategy?

AB     No I don't think so because the ANC really, at the point that the decision had been made at Kempton Park, the ANC had no reason to think that it would lose an election in Natal. Everything pointed to the fact that even in KwaZulu, and this was true already in February, even in KwaZulu the ANC would win the election if it were held today so that could not have been the reason. The ANC's main reason I think, and you must talk to the negotiators, and to maybe others, but as far as I could understand a single list was by far the most simple and the ANC was thinking more of those 22 million people who had never voted before, 60% of whom are illiterate or semi-literate than thinking about all sorts of tricks to keep the IFP out of the Natal Assembly. That would have been their driving motivation.

POM     I've a couple more questions on the single ballot but they're further down the list. A couple of questions on the National Party and then some concluding words on the constitution. During CODESA 2 the government aligned itself with the IFP and with the homelands and it had some idea of building some grand alliance that might be able to defeat the ANC, then after Boipatong and the mass stayaways and then the meetings in September of last year that led to the Record of Understanding they switched dancing partners, themselves and the ANC became the major players and they formed an alliance of convenience if nothing else at least with regard to finding a political solution. Why do you think the National Party made that switch?

AB     The National Party could not really be seen to be siding with people who decided that they would be the spoilers of the democratic process. The National Party knew from the very beginning that it will have to contest the elections. It knew also that it would have to be the second largest partner in the government of national unity, so the National Party had to do everything in its power, you see they also discovered that their strategy for delaying the talks and delaying the talks and destabilising the black community and putting the blame on the ANC and getting the halo off Mandela's head was not a good strategy at all. The party that lost from that was in fact the National Party so they had to switch. Buthelezi was becoming a burden, a serious liability and so were these other homelands. How can you have Oupa Gqozo in an election as your alliance partner? Even the belligerence of a man like Mr Mangope doesn't make for good election politics. The best thing that the National Party could do is to say, "We are on our own, we don't have these alliances, the ANC is still our political opponent if not an enemy but we have to take the role of the responsible political party here and be responsible and say this is the group that is the largest in the country, we have to come to an understanding with them and when it comes to elections we will fight them, we will not form an alliance with them but we have to play this role."

     It's a bit of a losing thing for them because when they said that they did get more respectability in the world but they lost more white support. They didn't gain any significant black support but it was the only chance that they could take. The good thing about that is though it does give them a far better and a far more solid base to run any election because they can now say, "We knew that we were going to lose votes, we knew that the right wing was there chipping away, we knew that they were doing all sorts of things. Even though we knew that we were not concerned just for the National Party, we were concerned for the country." That's what they could say and they probably should say. They can then say, "We don't like the ANC but for the good of the country we have come to some agreement with the African National Congress but now we will run against them." They can now turn around and they can form new alliances. On the basis of that they don't have to, they broke the obvious pattern of the early alliance. They can now if they can drive a wedge, which is what they are trying to do, in this Freedom Alliance they can make new alliances, they can in Natal make an alliance with the IFP, they can in the Transvaal make an alliance with the Afrikaner Volksfront of Constand Viljoen, they can in the Western Cape make an alliance with the DP. They can because they in all of this have succeeded in holding on to some credibility and the ANC gave them a lot. The ANC gave them so much respectability from keeping them the major partner to Mandela saying, "We will share the Nobel Peace Prize." All of that and so the National Party as it is now has a much better chance of once again becoming the second largest partner in this group in the government of national unity than it would have had had it stuck to its old alliances. My suspicion is and my expectation is that the 10% they have now will not remain so. I think they will grow.

POM     How would you account for their precipitous decline from de Klerk's peak of popularity in March of 1992 to the position of the polls which is now around 11% or 12% where only one in every four voters who voted for the party in 1989 said it would vote for them today? Is de Klerk losing his touch? For the first couple of years de Klerk was the man out front, the man making all the running, all his moves seemed brilliant and he got the international acclaim or whatever and then since last year he appears to have become much more indecisive, less vigorous, far less charismatic even to his own constituency.

AB     That's true. De Klerk, I think there are all sorts of reasons. He miscalculated terribly. I have mentioned the delaying tactics that have backfired. He miscalculated also in that when he made his decision to enter into negotiations with the ANC he really believed that it was such an important element in Afrikaner Calvinist politics that he could control the politics every step of the way. He found out subsequently that negotiations developed a dynamic of their own. You can't really keep everything under your thumb, it's impossible. He could not have foreseen that his alliance with the homelands could fall apart in the way that it has. He really could not have foreseen that the National Party, because it has nothing to offer for the future, that that would catch up with him. He really cannot spell out a convincing vision. It's also very difficult to spell out that vision even though he has the power of the incumbency everybody knows it's an illegitimate incumbency. He speaks from within a party that really cannot truthfully say, "We have always been there for the best and we wanted to do the best for the country and we have always been there for everybody." He can't even say that. But the major reason, I think, is because de Klerk has fallen apart in many ways because de Klerk lacks the moral conviction to do what is right. We might have talked about this before, I don't know, but de Klerk did not enter into negotiations and begin the change in South Africa because he thought morally it was the right thing for him to do. He cannot truly, honestly go on a stage and say, "As a Christian I made these decisions." And therefore he cannot properly and sincerely bring himself to say, "I am truly and genuinely sorry for what we have done." He still hasn't done it. He waffles. He cannot, therefore, make the moral appeal to the Afrikaner and they don't have anything else to appeal to now, nothing else. When we talked a little while ago about the Afrikaners wanting a strong man they look to the one who sounds most autocratic, powerful, authoritative.

POM     PW Botha.

AB     They jump from PW Botha to Constand Viljoen because he's the same kind of person. But there's an alternative, you don't have to have that military projection almost. If you have a spiritual strength and you have the power of your own convictions you don't need that other kind of power. You can persuade these people and you can persuade the Afrikaner, I am absolutely sure of it. I'm talking now of people who think like I do, who believe like I do, the same Calvinist background, the same language, the same cultural concept. But he can't say that and so they miss in him that strength and they don't trust it, which is true. If he could say on stage, "I know that we are in a very difficult position. I know that we have to give up power. I know that we have to give up all of our privileges. I know we are uncertain about our language, about our place in the sun, whatever. I cannot give you a homeland. I cannot tell you that there will be a place where Afrikaners rule themselves. That's a pipe dream. I must say this to you. And I know that we have many fears for the future but I also know this, what we have done as a nation we have done because we believe this is what God wants us to do." He can't say that because he doesn't believe it himself. He cannot invoke the most powerful persuasion that Afrikaners have beyond guns and tanks and oppression and political manipulation and because he cannot do that they don't know where to turn. And because he cannot do that he cannot even get the church to back him up because the church is also very confused.

     So at the moment the greatest thing that is lacking in all of Afrikanerdom is this moral conviction. For people of faith that is very important. We used to sing in Sunday School, "I don't know what the future holds but I know who holds the future", that kind of thing. That's a sermon that I have preached and I keep on thinking of a sermon that I preached in 1983 when we called for resistance to the new constitution. It comes from Exodus XIV where Israel leaves Egypt and they come to the sea and they say, "Oh my goodness there's nowhere else for us to go", and they look back and here comes Pharaoh with his horses and his chariots and his soldiers and there's a massacre that's coming and they are going to be taken back into slavery. And then Moses gets up and says - and then the people of course tell Moses, "What in the world have you done? You've taken us away from Egypt", and all of a sudden Egypt becomes a land of protection and certainty. "Now you've brought us here in order to die and we're not going to get anywhere and it's your fault", and Moses prays to God, "Please, please, please." And he comes back and he says, a wonderful story, he says, "God says you mustn't worry. You must be quiet and I will fight for you." And then God says, "No I didn't say that. Why do you keep on telling the people that? This is what I told you. Go", and Moses says, "Where?" "Through the sea." Now it's crazy but that's the way faith works. No guarantees, no way, you just have to believe that you are doing the right thing because God wants it. That is a message that I believe all these Afrikaners who go to church on Sunday will understand, but they don't get it, from nobody. And that I think, with all of the other things, miracle analyses will agree and all sorts of things, that is de Klerk's single most important failure. I have found that if I speak like that to Afrikaners, which I did in May of this year here in Parow, they respond to that in a way that I find amazing. My job is to make sure that they get this kind of message from the ANC rather than from the National Party.

POM     Just a couple more questions. You're a terrific interview. Two things disappointed both of us about the ANC at the World Trade Centre last week. One was it's acceptance of the proposal that the majority of the members of the Constitutional Court be appointed by the State President which has a potential for enormous abuse and undermines the very foundations of democracy so I wouldn't have thought that since they have articulated so many times over so many years what democracy means and how it must function as a participatory democracy that they would participate in something like this. That disappointed me. The second thing that disappointed us was the acceptance of the one ballot all the way through which really says we are restricting your range of choice, we are putting you in a straitjacket, once you go one way you've got to do that all the way through. That's also undemocratic.

AB     We may have a problem but the problem is also that the whole thing, once you accept, which is what we were told, you've got to accept that we are not going to be able to deliver a full democratic package unless we will be able to do certain things, lay down certain principles, lay down certain foundations and build. I found that very hard to accept in the beginning, as you will remember, but I accepted that. The consequences of that, however, could be something like this that once you have accepted that framework and you have made an agreement with the people that you are negotiating with that that is going to be the framework then within that framework you can do a number of things that might not look democratic but can be justified because the framework has been put.

     For instance I would have liked for the President of the country to be directly elected by the people. I would have liked for the Governor of the region to be directly elected by the people. My argument has always been the accountability or to be not so much vis-à-vis the National Assembly or the Provincial Assembly but you have to be accountable to the people who elected you. That is the last and final say there. Well, they said no and I think that that is not democratic enough but if you have accepted a framework in which you say we are moving towards full democracy then you can justify that decision.

     The other thing that I am also unhappy about is that somehow I think this list thing bothers me. The way people get on to the list, the way somebody decides who is where on the list, the fact that there are no constituencies, that you are not placed on the list by the people who want you there and they elect you or they throw you out. All these things bother me. It sort of jars with my sense of democracy. But once again we have accepted that you can't have everything and that is the same with this thing. I daresay that the argument for the one list I find more convincing than the arguments against all the other three examples that I have mentioned. If you say if we have more than one list then if you give in on the question of more than one list then you really will find it very hard to limit the number of lists or arguments around that. And once you have more than one list how difficult are you going to make it for those people who really don't know how to vote basically? And the ANC says if people make mistakes on the ballot paper, nine out of ten times we're going to suffer, it will be our people. To limit that you must make it as simple as possible and the only way you can do that is having one list. Now you can argue and you can say it's not properly democratic, the ANC will probably say yes it's true but do you really expect us, we have given so much, we have even given you consensus in the Cabinet, we have given you 5% and you're in the Cabinet, we've given you all of that, do you really expect us to go out there and make it even more difficult for our people to vote? I find that more convincing than the other arguments against all those other things. In terms of the Supreme Court I'm sorry that we lost that one.

POM     Sorry that you lost it?

AB     Yes.

PAT     A real democrat.

AB     I'll tell you why, I have truly more faith in Nelson Mandela's sense of democracy in appointing judges to the Supreme Court probably in consultation with whomever, judges from outside, than I have in the judicial institutions that we have. I don't trust the law profession or the judges. They are all white males, they grew up in privileged positions, they have certain things that they will defend. They have not been on the side of our people. There are judges there who without blinking an eyelid for forty years and thirty years and twenty years have made sure that apartheid laws have been substantiated by the courts. I have known only one judge who came to me and said, "I'm sorry that I had to make that decision ten years ago but I had no choice." Only one. Only one. I don't think that the people on the bench in South Africa have been able to build for themselves the kind of reputation that would make them legitimate to now sit down and appoint people on the Constitutional Court. I don't think they have that kind of understanding of our community or of democracy for that matter because they never ever raised their voice in defence of democracy. They put us in jail when we defended our right to fight for democracy. My people in this country will not have any faith in that court.

     If you look at it from that point of view then I think if you had said the State President in consultation with a panel of judges that he appoints, because I can now think of a number of people, I would gladly put Laurie Ackerman, Johan Kriegler, I don't even know who on the Cape Bench I would put there because they have been a bad bunch for all these years. I will bring back Justice Newall(?) of Durban, even Corbett from the Appeals Court. There you have four. There's Dikgang Moseneke and maybe two or three others. In consultation with that panel he could, but the right should have been his because I think in our situation right now Mandela has more sensitivity in terms of democracy and what our people need and in terms of justice than any of these people that automatically will now become. So for that reason I truly believe that democracy would have been served better that way under these circumstances.

POM     In that context do you think it would be better for the country if the ANC does not secure more than two thirds of the vote in the elections?

AB     No, I first thought that but now that I look at the government of national unity and how decisions are going to be made and how difficult it is going to be I think the stronger the ANC is in government the better it will be for the country. I am hoping that the National Party will gain more votes than it seems to be getting now simply because, as I said before, it will be better for us if they can come to the table with more respectability and credibility than they have now. I have become convinced that a stronger ANC will be better for good government and for simply making decisions and it will be better I think in building up that relationship of trust for the vast majority of the community which we have never had and which we now will find difficult to build up because it is a government of national unity and because it's not full and genuine democracy as from the word go. So from that point of view I would hope that the ANC would get a fairly strong majority.

POM     Last question. Many people we have talked to both in the Cape region and in Johannesburg say that the ANC have had a very difficult time making inroads into the Coloured community. Why is that?

AB     Let me first say this, as I said to you last year, in June they were down about 9% or so. Now we are up 26%, neck and neck with the Nats and growing. There are many reasons. Coloured people are all of a sudden very aware, because of all this talk of minorities, that they are a minority. They know what white people have done to them all these years and they are being told by the media that the African National Congress will not really care about them. Many of them did believe that the ANC is indeed an African organisation and that it will take the interests of Africans first. All of us in this country have been contaminated by racism over all these years and in the pigmentocracy of this country the whites were up there and the Indians were second and the Coloureds were third and so the relative privilege that they had helped them to understand themselves in racist terms rather than in human terms. Also the Western Cape has been a Coloured preferential area for many, many years under apartheid. If Africans move into the Western Cape as they must and they should, the threat is not to the white people in terms of their houses, for instance, the threat is not to white people in terms of their jobs. The threat is to the Coloured people because the Africans have to sort of go through them to get to the white jobs. So all of these things.

     The National Party is running a very negative campaign and will run an even more negative campaign and if you take more or less thirty years of propaganda in every single newspaper, English speaking or Afrikaans speaking, on the radio, on television about the ANC, what it is, a terrorist organisation, an African organisation, a communist organisation, anti-Christ, all of that, to a group of people that basically are more or less conservative, very religious and so forth, have always been very uncertain about their position politically. If you take all of that put together and even now 80% of our people speak Afrikaans but if they read they read Rapport, Die Burger, these Afrikaans magazines, they watch TV1, they listen to radio, none of which the ANC controls. The negative message that comes across for the ANC is still there and will continue. We will not be able to change the SABC between now and the elections. I have given that up, I don't think it will happen. We will not be able to buy a newspaper, we won't have that kind of money and so forth.

     So if you took all of this together I think it is remarkable the breakthrough that we have made. Obviously there is a lot of work to do, a lot of hard work to do and I say to people in this region, just remember, don't get dizzy because of the figures and because of the way our meetings are being attended which is wonderful. Really I work so hard that I enjoy every single minute of it. Monday night I was in Porterville and I thought if this is the way the election campaign is going to go it's just so enjoyable, and even the places where you can see, where you go to the don't-knows, places here like Delft and other places and some areas of Mitchells Plain, they are not giving you a hard time, it's more that they really just do not know. They are scared, they are uncertain. But I say to people the election campaign ends at midnight on 26th April, not before, so we're not taking anything for granted. But for all these reasons it's been very difficult and it will remain difficult.

     [If I look at myself (you don't have to put this in the interview) the National Party does nothing else, I mean Rapport and Burger do nothing else but look for ways to discredit me personally because they know if they can get people to say, "Oh no we can't vote for Allan Boesak", then nobody will vote for the ANC. That's the reality.]And all sorts of things, last Sunday again the Dutch radio is going to have a whole week in December when they are going to concentrate on South Africa and every single programme will be somehow linked to the South African situation because they are excited that after many years of apartheid these breakthroughs are coming and so forth and they have asked me to be the person from South Africa in all of those programmes. They are starting off with a church service. I have selected the church, a Presbyterian church in Guguletu, a reformed Presbyterian church. One of these white Ministers from the white Presbyterian church who I do not even know, who has nothing to do with this church, then writes (this is a Dutchman, an immigrant) a letter of protest to the radio station to say how can you allow Boesak in this church? He is a politician. I will never allow him on my pulpit, neither will my church. It's not his church. The arrogance of the man that he can say that this black congregation in Guguletu should not have, even though I preach there regularly and I go there with my family regularly, so what Rapport does is they have this big thing 'CHURCH AGAINST BOESAK PREACHING'. Is it? That's what we will be up against in this election campaign and I don't have a newspaper in which I can refute that. [I'm not even sure that we're going to get the money from the ...]

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.