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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.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

Click here for more information on the Interviewee

Click here for Overview of the year

POM     Would you have been surprised, Colin, if three years ago when Mandela was released and the ANC unbanned, if you had been told that within three years there would be an interim constitution before parliament and a date set for non-racial elections?

CE     No, I think the process in a sense has been slightly longer than I thought. If you look at my predictions it would have been in place by the beginning of this year but that you would have a constitution which is as detailed and as sophisticated as this one in place is most surprising.

POM     This was one of the aims of the National Party to get a constitution as detailed as possible so that the interim constitution that went before the Constituent Assembly might only be amended in minor ways. Do you think this is a kind of a concession?

CE     I think that might have been their strategy. Our view all along was, and this is where we differed initially with the NP, we always believed that an elected body, well people who have got the mandate from an electorate should draw up the constitution. We would have not gone on what I call the 'trim track' method of first having a long interim constitution and that the parliament under the new constitution is the body to draw up the next one. We still have the view that the least best people to draw up the constitution are the people in power. You should actually draw up a constitution before people are in power and not after they are in power. So we would have said, have an election for a Constitutional Assembly to draw up the constitution and have almost an ad hoc government of national unity in the meanwhile, almost an expanded TEC if you want to call it that.

     De Klerk persuaded the ANC in the first instance that you needed an interim constitution not just an ad hoc constitution and he defined his reasons because he wanted that one in a sense to pre-empt the final one. We were opposed to having the interim constitution but we did say to the ANC, now that you've been sold this idea and accepted it we will argue that it should be a complete constitution in this sense that in the life of a sovereign country there is no such thing as an interim constitution in the sense that at any given moment the constitution that is there is the only sovereign constitution and therefore if you're going that route we're going to argue that the constitution, whether it's final or interim, it should be able to stand on its own at the time that it is there. So ours is not to pre-empt the final one but that you cannot have a partial vacuum, you must have a constitution that is going to work. Our view all along is that that is the first constitution if that's the route you're going and it wasn't our choice. [The ANC was ... from the NP and we were in no position to resist it and so we therefore said it's going to ...]

     In the end I don't think the ANC is unhappy with the detail of it in the sense that I think they also recognised that in a sovereign country you need a constitution that could stand on its own even if it's going to be amended. So that it wasn't the route that we wanted to follow but given that we had no option we also argued for a substantial constitution. What is important about this one it contains many features which could become permanent but it contains certain features which are clearly transient. The concept of a government of national unity is clearly not going to be a permanent feature. I think the electoral system in its very simplistic single list is not going to survive, proportionality will survive but not in this particular form. I say the government of national unity concept is an interim one. I think the simplistic voting system is an interim one. I think the Bill of Rights could stand on its own but the issue of whether you should expand it into what I call second and third generation rights could be an interim one and I think the final shape of the regions in relation to the centre is still also interim. But for the rest the essential structures are there and will probably persist.

POM     I'll get back to the constitution in a minute. Many people have said to us that it's more important that elections take place on April 27th even if they are accompanied by a fair degree of intimidation and violence and are not free and fair in the sense in which the international observers and monitors use the word, that the election must confer a sufficient degree of legitimacy is the most important thing that the election should confer. Would you agree?

CE     The first thing, we supported the date of 27th April, it could have been 29th July. I think it was extremely important to have a date because at the moment there was really no compelling reason to conclude the various processes. If the alternative was a new revolution then you would have had to compel the process, or if one side was dominant over the other you could compel. But when you actually had in a sense a stalemate in terms of an evenness of the balance of power in the negotiating process you had to add a time factor in order to get to a timetable because there wasn't what I call a natural timetable. You had to create an artificial timetable. For instance, if you had not set the date of the 17th of this month for the Plenary Session you would not have had the negotiations. If you had set it for the next week it would have taken a week longer. So the time factor, the timetable, the date has been one of the factors that has driven the process to conclusions at the various phases that it had. If it didn't have a time factor you would not have had it. You would also have played into the hands of those people who because they had a modicum of power under the old structures were less inclined to do deals. Why should KwaZulu do a deal unless there was a time factor? Whether the date was the correct date, the need to put a time scale to it and a deadline has been an important part of seeing that in fact the various phases of negotiation actually have been concluded or it would have gone on for ever.

     In fact the time factor oddly enough from de Klerk's point of view would have been the 6th March of 1995 because that's when this constitution would have run out of time. So in any case that would have been a time factor. If people say that it was rushed, what I want to say is the 27th April will be four years and 2½ months since Mandela came out of jail and the ANC and everybody was unbanned. I don't think that four years and two months can be said to be a short time in terms of negotiating a reasonable revolution. It's actually nonsense. I think there have been too many delays and while the time factor did have a pressure cooker effect which you can say was less than desirable, it was more desirable than not having a decision, put it that way. So I think the time factor and the 27th of April which has become the fashionable date, was a very, very important factor in propelling the process to conclusions which it would not have done without it.

POM     In the last three years what developments have occurred that most surprised you? And what developments have occurred that you find most difficult to live with?

CE     I think the significant degree of what I call convergence between the two major parties has been surprising. From the government side, leaving aside what I call the racial building blocks of the new structures which is what it was for the first year and a half and just accepting what in a sense was a non-racial solution, it was a fairly fundamental departure which happened more easily than I would have anticipated would happen. The other one is, in a sense, I say the maturity of the ANC as a liberation movement while clearly the yearning for power was a factor, the need to throw over the old system was a very important factor, the need to get rid of apartheid. But equally the desire to put something credible in its place to me was very significant. I don't think in terms of liberation movements and revolutionary movements, the main concern is what you put in its place. The main concern is to take over power. This said, in advance of taking over power you must actually see that this is a genuine democratic system that is going to work. So I think the pragmatism of seeing that it was going to work and the idealism of seeing it was going to be democratic, to me have been very significant factors which two years ago I wouldn't have believed it was such a strong element in this society.

POM     And the things you found most difficult to live with?

CE     There are a few things which I find difficult. I think what is concerning is that so far the negotiations which have been successful and which have had form and which I think are going to be relatively easy to complete and that will be the election of the next parliament and the introduction of the new constitution. I think at local and community level the process has fallen far, far behind and I think the question of restructuring South Africa at local government and community level is going to be much more painful and much more difficult. What worries me is the unevenness of the process. The process has been focused on the top and I think the other levels have been left behind and I think we're still going to face a considerable amount of agony trying to get that in position with the same degree of give and take and sensitivity that we have had at the top.

POM     Again, when you look at the last three years what would you point to as the critical turning points in the process?

CE     Once again the formal turning point was that first twelve days in February of 1990 when (a) on the one hand the government shifted and (b) they unleashed a new political factor and that is the unbanning of the ANC and the other political leaders. I have a view that that moment, the day Mandela walked out of jail the process was irreversible. You didn't have to wait for all the other things to happen. There is no way you could actually put Mandela back in jail and re-ban the ANC and if you look at the forces that this unleashed the process became inevitable. I think what was an important element was that if you look at de Klerk's first speech it was not so much about getting rid of apartheid, it was about normalising the political process and so for the first year it was how you normalise the political process, how do you get prisoners back, how do you remove the restrictions on freedom of political activity and mobility and all the rest of it. It was only in the second year that it was driven home to the government that if you want to create a climate within which negotiations can take place you actually have to get rid of apartheid and to my mind that by-product of the negotiation process became one of the most important products up front but it wasn't the original intention.

     The original intention was you can carry on and negotiate while you are still gradually winding down this. In the end in 1991 the government was forced to the decision if you want to get the process of negotiation off the ground you not only have to normalise the politics but actually you have to normalise the laws and so you had the mammoth repeal of all the socio-economic laws. What of course persisted is that until this coming month every apartheid constitutional structure is still in place. They are all there, that's now 3½ years. What is happening this month is not only that you are going to create a new constitution but you are finally demolishing the old one and I think the fact that the government in the end started off with let's normalise the political process but let's live on with the system as long as we can, in the second year was compelled to actually say we're going to normalise the system and get rid of apartheid. That was a fairly dramatic change from the government's point of view forced on them by the historical process in any case.

POM     How about Boipatong and the breaking off of negotiations last year. At that point the government was aligning itself with the IFP and with the other independent states and homelands and then when negotiations resumed after the Record of Understanding they more or less switched dancing partners.

CE     You had different alliances at CODESA when there were nineteen organisations, there were nine as allies with the government and nine as allies with the ANC and you had the DP as non-aligned. When you came back the next time of course it was at least a tri-polar situation, if not a quadra-polar situation, because you then had the government and you had the IFP and the Patriotic Front, you had us but then you had the PAC which introduced another element. So one of the fascinating differences between CODESA and the next one was CODESA was essentially a bi-polar arrangement, the other one was a multi-polar one in which you had to do much more negotiating and compromising to get it to work.

     To me it's absolutely fascinating that the massacre at Boipatong in a sense precipitated the termination of formal negotiations. The massacre at Bisho had exactly the opposite effect. It actually precipitated the re-start of negotiations and so you had that awkward period of four months of stand-offishness until when Bisho happened, and I think it had a particular effect on the ANC, that in fact mass action which is a legitimate mechanism for pressurising the government could get out of hand and it could be taken over by violence rather than mass action. I don't think the negotiations terminated during that period but they were done at long range. It was send a message through Roelf to Cyril and send a message from Cyril to Roelf, it was going that way.

     But there was no doubt that the government and the ANC at the end of the mass action period the government realised that they couldn't win without the ANC. Equally I think the ANC said that unless we can get negotiations going again the negotiators might lose out and so it brought what I call the negotiation component of the ANC back into the fold. You had this Record of Understanding which I say is the most timid way of saying you've reached agreement. It's not even saying it's an agreement, it's just a record of understanding but clearly what was very important, I got an overview of what happened at CODESA, it was all kinds of things but, inter alia, if Cyril and Mandela had gone to the National Executive Committee on the basis of the CODESA issue combined with the violence that was taking place and it was then seen to be third force or police involvement, and somebody said, we've listened to you and we can hear all the things, the concessions to the government, in what way has the government conceded to you? He wouldn't have been able to say anything. In other words there wasn't enough of a deal in the first one for each side to say, "We have won", and this is where the government, when Cyril was brought in in that last week to squeeze a dramatic concession from the government, the government wasn't sensible enough to understand it was a strategic necessity not a political necessity, not an ideological one. It had to be said, "We have also won".

     Now if you go back to the Record of Understanding the general perception afterwards, especially in ANC circles was, now we have also won and therefore we can start again because we are now even with the government. If you look at the Record of Understanding on the two constitutional issues, the procedures and the model, there was no concession at all. It was almost identical to what it was at the end of CODESA but the release of the high profile political prisoners, including McBride, the fencing of the hostels, the ban on traditional weapons put together with a package, allowed it to be perceived that the ANC had won that part of it. So at the end of CODESA the government appeared to have won. At the end of that period the ANC appeared to have won and the fact that that was perceived in that way is evidenced by Buthelezi's reaction. His reaction was, this is a concession from the government to the ANC because it touched on two very sensitive areas from his point of view and so while I think the ANC achieved its objective of withdrawing from the negotiations both of them can say we've also won.

     The effect of that was, of course, to alienate Buthelezi from both of them and in particular to remove him from the side of the government to some other side wherever he may be. And if you look at the original, what they now call Freedom Alliance, whatever they were called before, they had no common attitude other than that they were all hopping mad with the Declaration of Intent because it looked like an ANC/government ganging up against the rest. I find it fascinating that the one bloody massacre ends the negotiation and the next bloody massacre precipitates the start of the negotiation and it's all part of the chemistry of what was going on. The one the ANC was still angry with the government because they had won, the process went through and mass action was effective enough combined with the Record of Understanding to say now we have also won and therefore we can talk to each other. But the winning in that way obviously alienated Buthelezi and it changed in a sense the metabolism of the negotiating process. So the Record of Understanding was critically important in getting the process going but it was also critically important in changing the configuration of the negotiators.

POM     When you look at the package, the package of six items which was passed last Wednesday night, we have talked to a lot of people who should be knowledgeable, or some people who were even in the World Trade Centre, and I've had a lot of trouble finding out exactly what those six items were, what the inter-relationship between them was and in particular what mechanism is in place to make decisions at Cabinet level and what mechanism is in place to break a deadlock in the Constituent Assembly if there were to be one.

CE     I can only remember five of them. Let me say this, I don't think we can say who won or who lost. If I put that together I can't really see what the government gained from it frankly. If you take the question of decision making in the Cabinet, if I look at the original input, from the government side it had to be 60% I think for ordinary decisions and a higher percentage for financial measures. There was no doubt that they were looking for a formal process of decision making in the Cabinet. If I listen to the ANC they said no formal process. In the end there is no formal process other than to say like all Cabinets we strive for consensus within the spirit of the Cabinet. So I don't know why the government raised the issue in the first instance because that's what it would have been if you didn't have a formula, so to the extent that they didn't get a formula I don't know what they gained by having raised it in the first instance. That you could have a decent statement, that you strive for consensus, but that's what you would always do if you had a government of national unity so I don't know what that was about.

POM     This really says that ultimately a majority wins.

CE     If de Klerk needed that statement to sell it to his voters, and he may be under pressure and good luck to him, but if you ask me it is overwhelmingly an ANC position and not a government position. So there you are. The ANC could have said the decisions must be by simple majorities but then that would also have been defying the concept of a government of national unity because that's not the way you work. I would say that that reflects an ANC position and not a government position on that. That single ballot paper on which we're still going to have a stinking row, that was a total ANC position. All kinds of assurances till the day before, we will never surrender on this, and what irritated us about that was that it was originally floated from ANC sources. The Negotiating Council considered this and while they didn't change their position they said to the Technical Committee, "Also draft one on the basis of two ballot papers", so in a sense before us was an option. They then appointed an ad hoc committee to deal with the Independent Electoral Bill or the Electoral Act, in which the ANC was represented, which they unanimously decided for two ballot papers and poor old Popo Molefe goes back to explain this to the NEC and he comes back and says, "I feel like a sell-out", because he was the only person there who wanted two ballot papers.

     So in the end there was a decision of the ANC National Executive, not the negotiators, the negotiators had actually been part of the unanimity of going to two. It then goes back to the ANC Executive because the ANC, I presume, said, "We are inflexible on this because we have a mandate to do this thing" The government just said, "Oh to hell, we'll have one ballot paper". My anger with it, and I see The Argus has called it a shabby deal and all the rest of it, is that this smacks of two big parties doing a deal without any consideration of the smaller parties and particularly the regional parties. It just suits them to say this is our deal. It doesn't affect us in terms of votes because we're going to fight nationally, but to the extent that there are parties that want to fight on a regional basis and all the rest of it, this actually undercuts them. To my mind it is just a squalid deal between big parties at the expense of small parties and that's my objection to it, the nature of the deal.

POM     It's patently undemocratic.

CE     When the ANC negotiators agreed that it shouldn't be like that and it goes back to the NEC and they say, "To hell we're going to have it", so that was the other one. So that was a complete sell-out by the government on that particular issue. I don't quite know how the deadlock breaking mechanism is going to work to the extent that the final figure of 50% is now going to be a figure of 60%. All I know is that the ANC, almost from the time that they first came with the deadlock breaking mechanism, had accepted that that was not a valid mechanism. All that one said is, if a party with 51% can hang in long enough it's going to win, so it must just be stubborn all the time and gradually wind down until you get there. I happen to know that the ANC was looking for an alternative to the original one. If I was the government I would have said if 66% is a valid percentage the first time it should also be a valid percentage at the second time. The fact that it's not 50% is irrelevant, that was a nonsense in the first instance. If you ask me, that favours more the ANC than the government on this thing.

     What else have we got? Regions must be able to draw up their constitutions provided they are not in conflict with the principles and in conflict with the national constitution. I would assume that was almost that in any case. What this now says is that it can't be reversed in the new constitution provided it has already been accepted, marginally that's helpful. I don't think it helps the government, I think it was there for the government to help the Freedom Alliance to come back. I would say from the ANC it is marginal as to whether that is a concession or not. The other one is you can't change regional powers without a two thirds majority of the Senate. I think it's that. That's exactly what the DP moved at the Negotiating Council and the NP rejected. When I say rejected, when we moved that the Senate should operate with a two thirds majority in this field. Any other supporters? Nobody supported us, including the government sitting over there. If they didn't have the guts to argue then I'm not very impressed that they actually won this point now. I don't know what other - I've got five points, I can't think of the sixth. I should have a memorandum, I haven't got it. What I'm saying is this, on balance it strongly favoured the ANC's point of view on the major issues. That's what I think.

POM     A number of people have said that and I know a number of the newspapers have said that the government in the last 24 hours simply caved in, threw its hands in the air.

CE     Well caving in, that's a newspaper headline. I would not say caving in in that sense, but in the final deal ...

PAT     The Constitutional Court?

CE     Who did they cave in to? Us? They didn't cave in to the ANC. You had Kobie Coetsee with - no, no I was the one who said it's all very well for you guys to have packages but if we had a package we would have included the Constitutional Court but they didn't include it. No, no, the Constitutional Court was passed on Monday because Chaskalson had to leave for overseas at lunch time on Monday, the issue of a Constitutional Court was dealt with on Monday morning with the government and the ANC supporting the one that the majority would be nominated by the Executive and Kobie was giving a vigorous defence of this bloody thing. In a sense that was already decided upon. It was only that in the end we had to get hold of de Klerk and we had to get hold of Mandela through de Beer to say, look we don't normally make a fuss but understand our whole attitude towards this constitution is in the balance if this thing carries on like this. And while I don't think de Klerk did much other than say to Kobie, "Look at this thing", my reading is that Dullah Omar got some kind of message because he didn't have to defend that one because it wasn't their initiative, it was Kobie's brainchild in any case, but I don't think they necessarily said they are going to agree with our alternative. The government, because Kobie was there defending his own thing as far as he could, but he was under tremendous pressure from elements of the judiciary, from his own party and from the Nat press. The cartoons and things of him on the Tuesday morning were diabolical and I think he realised he was under pressure and he got a message from de Klerk, "I'm not telling you what to do but if you want to adjust it". I think a slightly different message, and I can't say this from gospel, from Mandela via Cyril to Dullah, "It wasn't our thing in the first instance so if there's a better one than that let's explore it."

POM     Why would the government put forward a proposal?

CE     No, you must go and ask Kobie. I can't tell you, you want to hear him. I suppose it was the government that had always appointed the judges themselves and so they now said four of them were going to be appointed with the consultation of the Chief Justice, that's better than it was before. I can't understand, Kobie actually thought this was quite good until it rounded on him and now he's got all kinds of - listen to him in the House yesterday - they really wanted a Judicial Commission but, but, but, but. But what was embarrassing for us was that the other Cabinet negotiators and other Cabinet Ministers who contacted us separately all said, "Won't you do something to get this thing changed?" Kobie was actually right on his own on this one and they all turned their back on him. OK, Roelf and Dawie were decent enough not to say they weren't consulted on this and he said, "Well I've got to get hold of de Klerk." "You have told de Klerk who is angry about it?" "Yes". I said, "We've told de Klerk, well, OK, it's not our thing", and they were putting a distance but other Cabinet Ministers actually contacted us and said we can't live with this thing. And the back-biting that was going on.

     So Kobie was clearly under pressure within his own party and luckily because the proposal wasn't an ANC proposal, it was one that they had bought from the Nats, they didn't feel wedded to it and therefore they were prepared to open up the discussion although the decision had already been taken, it wasn't that this was negotiation. The decision had already been taken but under pressure of the next two days and I think a certain amount of leadership intervention this thing was re-opened and that's how it crumbled. I found in the dealings with this - I thought the chap who was remarkably good in this whole thing was Dullah Omar. He wasn't defending an indefensible position, he had no position really because what had come through originally was that the parliament should do it and nobody was going to argue that any longer. But that Kobie was under pressure didn't worry him very much so I found that Tony and Dullah put the nuts and bolts but each time it would be Dullah who would come to me as the leader and say, "Look I've got a mandate to negotiate further. This was the outline, we're going to go and talk about the detail. Is that OK?" "That's OK, let's get on with the detail." I must really finish my notes because I must makes notes on that chapter in South Africa's history, not just what appeared there but what I know from my side happened behind the scenes. OK others will have different stories behind the scenes.

POM     It was like a gift to the ANC.

CE     As somebody said, when they got this they put it in the bank before somebody takes it away! Oddly enough in spite of that I think that the ANC and Dullah Omar actually believe the new one is better. Once again I think the ANC might have a different idea of democracy from other participants but once this thing was open there was a feeling that we should be able to do better than that and so there was a willingness to look at an alternative which was good.

POM     It had gone against their own conception of what democracy is about.

CE     The winners wanted to be able to nominate the court if they could and then the government says yes, that's fine, and then they say that's wonderful. Upon reflection I think when Dullah Omar says, "We now have a much more credible court", I think he actually believes it and I think it is going to be more credible. People may not be as good as we want them to be but in terms of credibility because of the process it will have a status which the other one would not have had.

POM     So if you look at the entire package that was negotiated and came out of the World Trade Centre, this is a question I've asked everyone since last week, on a scale of one to ten where would you place the interim constitution? Zero being absolutely dissatisfied with it and ten being superbly satisfied with it.

CE     I will rephrase that question slightly. How do you rate this as an interim constitution not as a final constitution? I would rate it nine out of ten as an interim constitution. I'd rate it very highly because the interim constitution contains not only the conditions for governance in the interim, it contains the constitutional principles for the final one and the mechanism for getting there. If it didn't contain those and this was just a constitution which could persist for a long time I might have a different view on it but as I said, and I'll give you a copy of my speech yesterday, as a mechanism for launching us into a new democratic era it's highly acceptable. As a final constitution in that democratic era I would have a lot of reservations. If you say what do I think of this as a transitional constitution I rate it very highly. If you ask me what I think as a final constitution I would rate it less highly because it hasn't been fleshed out. There are certain elements within the principles which haven't yet been given effect to because it's not intended to be the final one. But if you ask me as a mechanism for launching us into new democratic era I find it a highly acceptable constitution.

POM     When you look at the negotiations that took place what would you identify as the major compromises or concessions made by the government and the concessions or compromises made by the ANC?

CE     I think in that last package I would put those as compromises and concessions. I wouldn't put the rest in that context in the sense that I think the major parties were engaged in a self-education process over that period. They both started poles apart. One started from an apartheid starting block and the other one came from a liberation struggle, revolutionary starting place. I think the impact of negotiation, the realities of South Africa, the subtlety of moving from liberation to election politics where you have to now take electoral pressures into account caused the parties to converge in a central position. If you look at capitulation I think history will show that the only real capitulation was the NP from apartheid. In historical terms that was the real capitulation, the rest is all a mechanistic kind of adjustment, there's no capitulation in that sense. OK, the ANC came off, they were strongly unitaristic, majoritarian when they started but it hadn't been codified, it was a concept which flowed out of the struggle. I think the question of significant federal features is really part of the evolution of the ANC from the liberation movement to an electoral party which has different criteria which you take into account. I think the parties on either side were pushed along by the process, by the realities, by the thought of looking for votes and constituencies to a converging point of view. In capitulation, history will show the capitulation was from the people who believed in apartheid to something else, the rest of it was a refinement of the process.

POM     With reference to the future, dividing the Freedom Alliance into two parts, looking at the Buthelezi component and then the white right wing component, which is the bigger threat to the development of the progress towards a stable democracy?

CE     Once again I don't know, in the next couple of weeks one will see how this whole thing develops. I would see the white right wing as a greater threat in that I think Buthelezi and whatever he is about and stands for, I think it can be absorbed within the whole political process, the electoral process. In fact I think in the end he just may be undermined by the process himself because I think the right wing and the further right you go, it could put yourself beyond the electoral process and it must be much more difficult to be able to absorb that. It may not be as large in numbers but it could be effective as an ugly racial irritant within the society for some time to come.

POM     You wouldn't see them having the capacity of, say, an IRA which has only about 40 or 50 operatives with a support base perhaps of 500.

CE     I know the capacity of the IRA to disrupt but I don't know the capacity of the IRA to change the politics of Northern Ireland. In the same way it may well be that some lunatic right wingers have that capacity to disrupt but I don't know whether the effect of that is going to be to have a new Afrikaner Free State. So I think the vast majority of whites who are not part of what I call the lunatic fringe are going to come into the process. I don't want to say that's born out of the womb of the NP which is what the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) is, it's a child of apartheid and if you look at some of the stuff that I was reading only a few years ago they are quite right. I think in 1987 the newspaper advertisements in that election against us, "Over our dead body would we vote for the ANC so why should we vote for the PFP?" And then the whole thing is that the day you release Mandela or unban the ANC that is the day the communists take over. That's only 1987, that's six years ago so apart from the ideology of Afrikanerdom and apartheid if that was a valid point of view which was put seriously by the government of the day against what was then the official opposition, why shouldn't they form a Weerstandsbeweging? So I would say that they are the creatures of apartheid and I use the words, they were born out of the womb of the NP, they've spawned them. Nobody else spawned them. I think the problem of the right wing is if they had a viable alternative that they were struggling for I think they would gather a lot of ground but they haven't got a viable alternative. If they had a territory, if they had a thing that seemed to be real but they haven't. They are dangerous not as a political factor for change but as a disruptive factor in the process. Yes, I think they could be.

POM     Do you see them coming into the process? Do you think any formula can be worked out?

CE     No I don't think the far right. If you're talking about the Weerstandsbeweging, no they aren't a parliamentary party. If you ask me are the rank and file of Afrikaans speaking South Africans going to vote in the next election, yes, the rank and file of the Inkatha members are going to vote in the next election. What are you going to do? Unless you've got an alternative that is worth fighting for in the sense that it's a credible alternative what do you do? Do ordinary people take up arms? There's no alternative. One of the problem areas is because it's easy to mobilise on the emotions on a local level, who's going to do the re-integration or integration of local government which is probably going to be more difficult to do because of this disruptive element at local level and because it's at community level that in fact that's where the passions run much higher than they do at national level. I think in that area, more than the general election, they could be a disruptive factor.

POM     Is Constand Viljoen a factor in this in so far as he's given the right credibility?

CE     I really don't know. You can go and ask him. He didn't ask for this job in a sense, he was a retired General. There seemed to be a need for somebody to unify the Afrikaner and that's what he brought into this thing. I don't think he's a political philosopher. I don't think he's really got an alternative and I don't know whether he's leading his troops or whether his troops are leading him. I don't think he's basically an evil person but he is the product of the total onslaught era and things like that and I don't think he wants a civil war. I don't think he wants to lead an army but equally he doesn't know what he wants to do. So here's a man who didn't come into that political office by design or because he said I've got a long term plan to lead the Afrikaners. He filled a vacuum when Treurnicht died because Hartzenberg is not a credible Afrikaner leader and Treurnicht with all his faults had a certain stature, a philosophical nature of things. There was nobody, so get some Generals to come along.

     We're running out of time now, do it within three minutes if we can but I've got a practical problem.

POM     What accounted for the resurrection of the right and the virtual collapse of the NP in the period from March 1992?

CE     Mandela has managed to do it more skilfully than de Klerk. When Mandela and de Klerk decided to stop the struggle, the armed struggle, on both sides and to negotiate they actually didn't prepare their constituencies for it and so you had constituencies geared to the struggle and negotiators committed to negotiation. Now I think that has gone on and I don't think de Klerk has managed to take or educate his constituency for what he is doing. I hope de Klerk realises it now but I don't think many whites realise how profound the change is and as they start realising how profound it is they become more and more uncomfortable. I think this was a case of a political leader taking a decision which he announced here without preparing his party for it or preparing the public for it.

     So there's always a problem of how do you take the public along and when things go badly, when there's violence or disruption or the process doesn't go smoothly, then people turn on the leader or turn on the party. I look at these Nats and good luck to them, they've got to stick together. I don't think they can be very excited about negotiating their own demise. That's not why they came here four years ago. They came here to be Cabinet Ministers and junkets and things like that and here they are sitting here seeing that the transition to majority rule is as painless as possible and that's not what they want. I think there are a few of them, in the Cabinet I would say Roelf, Dawie, Sam and Leon are actually committed to this and actually would like to make a future for themselves in the new South Africa. De Klerk is doing it out of a great sense of duty and because he finds himself in the position where he can't do anything else. For the rest I don't think they are enthusiastic about it at all. I'm not saying they're not going to do it because there's no alternative but you can just sense there are the chaps who are already enjoying the new process and others who are hating every minute of it. [That'll be the whites ...] De Klerk, oddly enough if he had consulted his constituency, wouldn't have been able to make his speech. Mandela might also not have been able to come out of jail and negotiate. If he had actually gone to his troops and said, "Are we going to call off the struggle and talk to these murderers?" I think they would have said no. But there comes a time in history when political leaders have got to take decisions and hope that they can take their followers with them.

POM     If you think that the NP was founded on the principle of apartheid and that it wants to take apartheid away from it there's really nothing holding it together?

CE     It was actually founded on the principle of virtually looking after the Afrikaner community, that was essentially what it was. In the end that was converted to apartheid because Africa changed and South Africa changed. My view is, I'm not saying that there hasn't been a significant degree of conversion and Paul on the road to Damascus and all the rest of it, I actually don't believe that the oppressor for 45 years could finally end up as being the liberator. I think it can be an important catalyst in the process but quite frankly if de Klerk and the NP had to win this election nobody, including myself, would believe that in fact South Africa had changed. It's not that de Klerk and co. are evil. You cannot have a history like that which you espouse with exactly the same enthusiasm as you do now and say that people must take us seriously. There's no doubt that de Klerk in the sense that he's kept his party together here and keeping a political majority here has been critical even if the rest of the party is falling apart, has been a very important and actually a courageous agent for the change. There's no way that he can lead us into the new South Africa. It's not his role. Somebody else must do that.

POM     Last question. Would it be good or bad for the country for the ANC to win more than two thirds?

CE     I would say it would be bad for the country. I think it would be bad (a) because I don't think they will come up with the right constitution, but I think the constitution will not be seen to be the product of the society as a whole even if it is a good constitution as would one in which you had to do some negotiation in order to get there. I think the constitution will not be as good as I want it to be and that's the perception. Is it a constitution that flows from the nation as a whole and I think the idea of the largest party being forced in a situation to negotiate with others will create the right kind of image and the right perception of what the constitution is about, even if in fact it's position is so dominant that it can do a lot of forcing and arm twisting. I would say the perception would be quite wrong that this is labelled that this is the ANC constitution for South Africa. So I would say that that would not be good for South Africa. Maybe better than a lot of other things to the extent that it is still limited by certain constitutional principles and adjudication by the court but I would say the perception of it being a national constitution, not a party constitution, is an important feature for the future.

POM     OK. I have lots more questions.

CE     We'll do it again.

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.