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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

25 Nov 1993: Louw, Eugene

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POM     You were saying, Mr Louw, that the process itself, with people with very limited experience in constitutional matters coming into negotiating positions and there's distrust.

EL     Having very little experience of negotiation, knowing very little about constitutional development, knowing very little about the basics of management, even of local authority work, and in the process since they've been meeting they've been very suspicious because they thought that those in government had more experience, they were more clever, they knew what it was about and they were suspicious that the proposals made by governmental bodies could possibly hold in itself certain things which could be detrimental to them.  So in the beginning you found that there was a basic viewpoint of analysing everything with great suspicion or even saying no to everything without really analysing it and understanding the consequences.  It's only later in our dealings in the negotiation process that the parties have moved closer to each other and faith has been established between especially some of the top negotiators and they honestly believe that the various groups are looking for a solution for the future of a united South Africa.

POM     Can I go back for a moment to your own career path.  You stepped down as Minister of Defence?

EL     I completed twenty years in political public life on the 8th November 1992 last year - exactly a year ago - and I've been aiming to terminate my political involvement after completion of twenty years and I did not want to let anybody down in the process.  I was quite frank with the State President and I said whenever it suits him certainly I would like to step down and there was another reshuffle of Cabinet in March this year and then I stepped out.  I am still the member of parliament for my constituency, Paarl, I'm also helping a previous partner of mine in a legal firm who is now the MP for Durbanville which was my old constituency.  He became ill and I'm also helping him with that one, so I'm doing this until we get to the election date which will probably be on 27th April and then I'll step out of politics completely after that.  It's merely that I do not want to let down my constituents.  I wouldn't like to cause a new nomination process to find a replacement so I'm attending to my constituency work but I will certainly not stand again.  Thirty years in public life and twenty years in politics is a long session.  If you start now it's now a five year period of a transitional government and I believe that those who get involved in a five year transitional stage must be prepared to do at least another five years and I do not see my way clear to doing another five to ten years.

POM     So if anybody had told you three years ago when Nelson Mandela was released and the ANC unbanned that within three years there would be agreement between the government and the ANC on an interim constitution and that a date would be set for a non-racial election what would you have said?

EL     I never thought that was possible.  I would never have thought it to be possible.  I thought it would be possible that we could find agreement on many aspects but I never thought it possible that we could find a basic agreement covering more or less all the points required to become united in a new common goal.  And in fact we still had some doubts about this a number of months ago because time was running out and there were still so many vast distances to over-bridge but I must honestly say that tremendous progress has been made over the past few weeks especially.  Many people have criticised the fixing of an election date before there were convincing signs of agreement.  It's very difficult to fix an election date if there are still so many open-ended problems which we may not solve but which does place pressure on the negotiating team perhaps to work faster and with less sleep in a shorter period.  One is always worried when this takes place that there could be many a slip between the cup and the lip.  On the other hand if you didn't follow that process of fixing a date the points of disagreement which have since been agreed upon would have just lingered on and on for another few years.  So there are advantages and disadvantages.  Putting it all together I think it was a good policy to fix an election date.

POM     Some people say that an election on April 27th will be accompanied by degrees of intimidation and violence, that there's no way of getting rid of that and that the elections may not be free and fair in the classical sense of the word but the idea is to get a sufficient degree of freeness and fairness so that the new government takes office with a sufficient degree of legitimacy.  Would you subscribe to that?

EL     I would subscribe to it.  I would fully agree with it.  Our main concern, my main concern, would be the fact that the intimidation, although we have a new law, or law to be made with regard to intimidation, although many steps are being taken, we have one major problem and this is with so many people all having to vote on one day or two days or three days, whatever the election period may be, it's very difficult to control intimidation.  That was present on a very big scale during the Libyan elections and people were merely confronted and people said, "Look here, we will know how you voted and if you do not vote for candidate A we will cut your throat or something will happen to your family or something will happen to your possessions or to your house"'  Now that had a very strong influence on the outcome also of the election in Namibia.  But what can we do?   All we can do is to take the most possible steps one can take to avoid this or to minimise this, to try and get the co-operation of all participating parties to help us in minimising this and to proceed because if you do not do this you face a different problem that people could very easily go into a next stage of a revolution which could be much worse.  So we've got to push through and see whether we can get an election as fair and reliable as possible.

POM     So in a sense it's more important to hold the elections on April 27th despite whatever intimidation might exist than to postpone the election which would really be a capitulation to those who use violence and intimidation?

EL     Correct.  That could even worsen the whole situation.  So comparing everything I think we must go for the 27th.

POM     Looking at the last three years, what changes have occurred that have surprised you most and what changes have taken place that you find most difficult to live with?

EL     I would say the greatest breakthrough is undoubtedly the fact that whereas the government's policy at all times has been participation by all people in a new democratic government, power sharing, I place emphasis on the power sharing attitude as against the ANC attitude which at all times has been one of power; in other words the most powerful group should basically rule and regulate everything in terms of its own will.  And that I think is the greatest and major breakthrough in the entire negotiation process and also in the preliminaries to what is now taking place with regard to a transitional constitution.

POM     Do you find a five year power sharing period to be an adequate period before majority rule becomes the norm?

EL     I think it is a sufficient period to sort out the problems of the future and I am not so sure as to whether, in terms of what one understands under majority rule, as to whether majority rule will then become automatic after that.  It's now still a matter of whether we revert to a Westminster system or whether we can in this period sort out a formula in terms where of we can have power sharing and participation by all parties obtaining a certain amount of support at the polls.

POM     In fact it looks like even though negotiations were formally concluded last year and the constitution is before parliament, the negotiators are still working out of the Trade Centre every day trying to reach agreement on some things.

EL     It's still going on at the present moment too because there are still many loose ends which still have to be tied up and there are also still a number of attitudes or decisions taken which are in the process of working out the details or reviewing it in fact.  There's a very new debate now starting as to whether they must really have one ballot paper only for both the regional election and the other one.  So that's a new aspect which has also now cropped up.  So in the next few weeks especially there will still be very intensive negotiations taking place.

POM     When you look at the last three years again and the whole negotiating process from when it began in 1990 through to the adoption of the interim constitution last week, what were the critical turning points in the process?  Let me give you a context for that.  In CODESA 2 it looked as though the government was aligning itself with the IFP, with a number of the homeland parties and with a number of the independent states and the idea seemed to be to draw some grand alliance against the ANC so it was a bipolar relationship with the ANC on one side of the table with their allies and the government on the other side of the table with theirs.  After Boipatong and the collapse of the talks, out of the Record of Understanding came a new alignment with the government and the ANC who more or less said, listen we've got to put this act together between us.  We are the major players and we must be the engine that drives the process.  If you go back over the whole three years what things could you identify that materially changed the direction of negotiations?

EL     I think a very important fact is probably the one that you have referred to directly or indirectly, the one that the ANC, because you had a number of groups of people including Inkatha who were in and out, in and out, and they were participating, then they were out and they were submitting all sorts of demands.  The rightist group naturally never wanted to come in so eventually the government came to the conclusion that if they and the ANC cannot get together and take the initiative the whole thing would drag along and there would be a long extended argument between twenty six or twenty nine groups of people and they would not be able to get consensus how to start and proceed with the process.  That is the main reason why the government and the ANC have been the major role players to take the lead and try and draw in as many other groups as possible.  I think that has been decisive in fact.  Many of the other groups really realise that if they miss the boat now they will never get another chance again.

     A very typical example is this Freedom Alliance group that we have at the present moment.  They are out of the picture at the moment.  It would appear that only during the past two or three days, and talks have taken place very intensively yesterday and the day before, that there may be a new line of thought, consideration on their part.  This is that they should well come into the picture in whatever form.  They have been making certain demands with regard to regional rights and it seems as if the beginning is there of a closer co-operation. May I just say that as far as the rightist groups are concerned we have at the moment the four groups forming part of this Freedom Alliance, these are the Inkatha group, the Volksfront group of General Constand Viljoen, plus the Conservative Party, plus AWB, plus the rest, and you've got Bophuthatswana, you've got Ciskei.  Now they are all linked together at this stage as an alliance but as came out yesterday in political debates it was an alliance of agreement to oppose, it was not an alliance with regard to political philosophy and that's very important because there are major differences between them.

     I merely take the CP group, the Constand Viljoen group, and I take the Inkatha group.  The Inkatha group is very strongly regionally based, based on federalism whereas the rightist group is based on confederalism and there is a vast difference between the two concepts.   The CP group could never ever serve under Brigadier Oupa Gqozo of Ciskei; they probably would never serve under Bophuthatswana.  They have still very much a racist attitude and policy.   They would basically, to a large extent, like to revert to the reintroduction of apartheid.  The other three groups would never agree with them so there are still very vast differences between and among those four groups there and especially between the rightist group and the rest but they have got together with one common view to oppose the government and not to come into the ANC/government negotiation structure and I think a lot is to be blamed on the never ending strife between the Zulus on the one hand and the Xhosas on the other hand, Mandela and Dr Buthelezi.

     But coming back to your first question, it's very important to note that the basic principles of the government, stated very clearly in 1991, are the principles that have now been recognised in this agreement process.  I am referring to principles such as a strong judiciary, principles such as human rights, the manifest of human rights.  Now that has been basically agreed upon.  I think there are still internal differences about the content thereof but that has now been accepted in principle.  Power sharing has been accepted, the principle of this.  The principle of strong regional government has now and is in the process of being accepted.  So many of these things which have met with very strong opposition two, three years ago have now formed the basis and the foundation stone of many of the agreements reached over the past few days and few weeks.

POM     There was this six-pack agreement last Wednesday and I must say that everyone we have talked to in the last week, when we have asked them to identify what the six items in the six-pack were, they had difficulty in articulating them and they have had more difficulty in articulating such things as what form is going to be used to reach decisions in Cabinet and what deadlock breaking mechanisms are there going to be.  What is your understanding of it?

EL     No, the deadlock mechanism has not yet been finalised in full.  I think it is the subject of very intense talks at this very present moment.  There have been a number of proposals varying from consensus, at one stage a basic majority situation, and lately I think it's been a situation that the constitution couldn't be changed unless there's a 60% majority and if that is not obtained then you go to a referendum and if you don't succeed there you can go to an election although there is some bit of a duplication in first going to a referendum and if you don't have success there how can you go into an election because the same people vote on the same matter. So there's a bit of duplication but it may never be necessary to get that far.  I think between these poles there is a lot of space to come to an agreement.   I think one of the major problems is that the parties do not really know how strong they are, they do not know what percentage of support they would obtain and so they are all trying to build up protective measures. That I think is one of the greatest problems of the moment, they do not know how strong they are.

POM     We were talking about how parties are trying to situate themselves so they would come out best at the polls.  What about the mechanism for decision making in the Cabinet?  Is that still undecided?

EL     That is undecided although I think the consensus is that it should be on consensus.  Now consensus is a very difficult thing because I don't know that everybody understands it very well.  So far it has worked wonderfully well because you have got free expression in the Cabinet, if there are two or three or four people who are against it, it depends on the quality of the opposition.  Is it a basic principle we are concerned about or is it a minor detail?  If it's a minor detail the chairman who will be the State President will rule that consensus has been obtained.  And so OK consensus was obtained on the principles but we've got to sort out a few details.  That works very well in the present Cabinet and if there is too much division of opinion no decision would be taken and it will be postponed to next week or till further investigations take place.  That works very well.  In this new thing it's experimental so people do not know how this works.

POM     I find that very interesting because -

EL     Many of the participating groups do not know this consensus story.  They believe in majority decision, 50% plus one it should rule.

POM     What I find interesting about it is that CODESA 2 collapsed mainly over the issue of trying to devise a formula for a deadlock breaking mechanism.  This time round, and I don't know whether it's because the major negotiators now trust each other a bit more -

EL     I think that is very important.

POM     - and that they have said, "Listen, let's put these things aside and deal with them when they come up rather than trying to write them in stone."  Some things they find it very difficult to agree on.

EL     Their attitude has been let's try and get consensus on the basics and if we get this the other things - refer it to committees for investigation and then come back to us.  Quite right.

POM     There's a sea change, a shift in attitudes.

EL     And also some of the leaders on the ANC side, and I could mention one name, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, I think he has also been instrumental to exert pressure on his comrades to say, "We must now get clarity on this matter.  We've got a D-date, help us."  So there's been a lot of assistance on all sides.

POM     When you look at that whole package, and I've asked this of everyone since it came out, on a scale of one to ten how satisfied are you personally with what has emerged out of that package?

EL     I would say about 60% plus.   60% plus.  You can never get 100% agreement so full marks are impossible.   What you would like to strive for is possibly 75% to 80% but there are number of loose ends, details which have to be sorted out.  There's still the problem with regard to the ballot which is a problem to me personally and I think to many others.  [There were major problems with regard to the constitution of the ...]

POM     Again as you look over the last three years what would you identify as the major concessions or compromises made by the ANC and made by government?

EL     A major one would be that power sharing has been accepted or not accepted, there's some doubt but at least the principle that all participating parties obtaining a certain percentage of the vote should be entitled to representation in the Cabinet.  That I think is important.  In other words the principle of a government of national unity has been accepted and participation by everybody.   I think the fact that the ANC, at least for the time being, is away from a majority rule situation, you're going to have a five year period and a five year period is going to be a wonderful period of exercise, people to get together, to learn to know each other, to work out a common solution which will suit South Africa best and I think this is going to be the time of blending thoughts and ideas and trying to really build and develop something which could work for South Africa, for the uniqueness of South Africa.  So those I think are two important cases.

     The third very important point, and this is a very strategic aspect, and that is as much power as possible be taken down to the regional level.  That has been a very important breakthrough there.  Probably many other aspects as well.  The principle of human rights being entrenched is absolutely most important because in the human rights document we're going to protect many of the fears of many of the peoples of South Africa that their property would be taken away, that there would not be a fair and equitable judiciary in the country.  The other important point is that everybody has agreed that it would be a constitutional state; in other words that the court of law will decide on aspects even when the government takes decisions which do not conform to the principles of your constitution.

     So I would say those are some of the major aspects which have changed the attitude and brought parties together much closer than at first would have been expected.  I never thought it would be possible to get agreement within the short period on these principles because they are new principles to many of the participants and when they started they were miles apart, absolutely miles apart.  This has proven to come into a situation of now being a formula that is good news for us.  Once again a lot, I think, is due to the fact that faith has been established between some of the major participating and negotiating parties.  May I say that I attended some of these negotiations where you start, it's almost like there's a coldness in the chamber, there's one row of people on that side of the table and there's one row of people on this side.  You're like two rugby teams or soccer teams staring at each other, what are you going to do, are you going to attack each other like two heavyweight boxers?  Eventually the people became friendly.

     If I had to deal with defence I would learn to know my counterpart very well and we would also probably socialise and this happened between Cabinet members and negotiators.  I think there was a genuine feeling of greater confidence that came into existence to such an extent that I think some of the participants even were tremendously upset about what took place among their own party members as far as violence was concerned and participation in violence was concerned, because they really did not want to go on with this sort of thing.  They wanted to bring this to an end but it was difficult for them to control all their people.  It was still difficult for them to do so.  And they were always suspicious.  The defence force was involved, there was a third force present, the police were involved and there were always at one side of this sort of thing.  OK there probably would have been in a large organisation like the defence force and the police, there would have been many individual cases of unfair action but the basis was always sound.  There were many doubts about the suspicion about this.

POM     It's been like for three years that it's the government that's behind everything.

EL     Yes.  That three year period though was most essential.  I do not know whether it was a short period or a long period, one can argue that it's been a very short period if you think of the intricacies of the South African constitutional situation.  You can argue that it was a very long period because it's taken so long to come to final agreement but the three year period brought the parties together and moulded the parties.  There are still many, many discrepancies, they are still miles apart in certain attitudes but at least they have been brought together to such an extent that you can now sit around a table and we can now discuss the problem, whether you agree and whether you don't agree and that's a major breakthrough.

POM     And now you have the context in which to deal with the problem.

EL     Correct.   If something appears on the environmental front you know you can contact Mr A of the Inkatha or ANC or whatever the party is and you can discuss it and get together, get a committee going to investigate the problems.

POM     Now one of the key things that the government wanted all along, for that matter Inkatha too, that as much as possible of the interim constitution should be put in place so that it would only be subject to minor revisions and amendments in a Constituent Assembly whereas the ANC wanted a short amendment to the existing constitution, the government wanted almost -

EL     They wanted a very thin constitution and wanted to develop a constitution to come in to place in five years time.  This has also been a major difference between the government and the ANC especially.

POM     It's now 156 pages which is quite voluminous.  Do you think the ANC conceded really on that point?

EL     They have.  No doubt about this.  They have but I think they have also come to understand why this is necessary because you must go to an electorate of millions and millions of people.  It's only reasonable that any person going to the ballot box must at least know what is awaiting him with regard to the future constitution and if you don't do this, and I think the ANC has also now realised this especially over the past six to twelve months, that people become extremely perturbed about uncertainty.  Uncertainty has caused the loss of many, many well trained and qualified technical and knowledgeable professional people.  They have lost them.  It's caused many investments to be withdrawn, it's caused many people to emigrate away from South Africa and this means a further loss of job opportunities and I think this has caused great concern also amongst some of the participating parties.

POM     To talk for a minute about the two very controversial aspects of the six-pack, one is the Constitutional Court.  Now my understanding is that the Minister for Justice and Defence, Mr Kobie Coetsee, floated this principle and that they were making the ANC an offer they couldn't refuse.  They were saying the State President shall appoint a majority of the members of the Constitutional Court, which the ANC have criticised because it is inherently anti-democratic because between an institution and an individual to give the State President the right to appoint all the members of the Constitutional Court can lay the basis for undermining the entire constitution, having it interpreted the way just the President wants it interpreted.  Why did the NP go along with it?

EL     I don't know the inside details but it's very clear that there's one very important principle; I'm a legal man too but when a President appoints people he does so in Cabinet.  In other words he will get clearance from his Cabinet. The Cabinet cannot appoint judges to rule over the mistakes of the Cabinet itself.  This is a very basic point in law and if I appoint a judge to decide upon my own deeds then I'll appoint a judge who is most suitable, to which my misdeeds would be more acceptable.  So the principle is completely wrong and why this happened I do not know.  I think the two were so far apart they tried to go for some common solution.  But this was immediately criticised by politicians.  This was immediately criticised very severely by the legal people of South Africa, the association of legal practitioners and the basic principle that the law should at all times be above the state as such, there should be a distance between the two aspects and nobody should ever affect the mind of the judiciary.

POM     Did this cause some consternation within the National Party itself.

EL     Yes.  One must bear in mind that when this news became available parliament was not together so we were all in our individual constituencies, but it caused a lot of question marks and questions and uneasiness because it was not clear what was being aimed at as visually it appeared to have too many discrepancies.  Immediately people from the National Party objected.  Other groups of people objected and of course the legal people objected and the Democratic Party too.  But I must say that whereas the Democratic Party tried to claim victory by commencing a new initiative it was basically the State President who took the initiative and who went and spoke to Mr Mandela on the whole issue and got the whole wagon moving again.  This is basically what happened.  In fact there was collaboration between the State President and the DP, and the DP leader I know also phoned the State President. In fact the State President said something about this in parliament yesterday but I think the State President took the initiative in this connection.

POM     What about the defence forces? And I remember when I talked to you when you were Minister for Defence the reservations you had about members of the MK and other paramilitary organisations being integrated into the SADF.  Again there seems to have been some kind of formula worked out that is not quite clear.

EL     The details are still being worked out.

POM     Do you still have the same kind of reservations?

EL     No, because at that particular stage the parties were wide apart.  The MK was very much involved in violence.  In fact even the ANC had no discipline over them whatsoever.  But I think the ANC have stepped up discipline, brought them into the stable and said we must find an agreement.  And in this spirit the parties are prepared in principle to incorporate all these other unofficial so-called armies and work out a formula in terms whereof they could be incorporated in a common army.  Naturally everybody will not be able to be assimilated in this army, there will be too many, so for those who have served for a long period there has even been talk of working out a sort of a pension scheme for them.  But the principle that the parties get together and be represented in a new common national army that has been accepted.

POM     Would this affect the command structure of the SADF?

EL     Not immediately.  I think the command structure will stay.  Those people who are qualified to be given positions in the command structure will certainly have to be considered but I think there may in the beginning be a very vast discrepancy with regard to training and experience especially.  Many of these people could have belonged to the various unofficial armies of the various political parties for many years but the training has been very poor indeed and the experience has been very poor.   I think I mentioned to you last time for a person to become a Colonel in the South African Defence Force army requires a minimum period of seventeen years, that includes not only experience but many, many courses he has to attend and to pass and in the process he must also attain a certain standard so he must prove himself and he must also prove himself in practice while doing his work in whatever rank he was appointed to, whatever job.  So there is that tremendous discrepancy between the members of the unofficial armies and the S A Defence Force.  But I think there are leaders with potential and the government will certainly see what they can do to assist these people and help them further with training.   We have the point that many of the army leaders, officers, of places such as Ciskei have been trained by the South African Defence Force.  Still they don't have the experience but at least they received the training and they have been involved in the spirit of the SA Defence Force activities.

POM     Was General Constand Viljoen still active when you were Minister for Defence?

EL     He became active during my tenure of office and during the latter part of my tenure of office he became involved, was basically brought in from the outside and became involved in the rightist politics.

POM     He seems to be held in high regard.

EL     Oh yes, he's been respected by many people.  One must bear in mind that thousands of military trainees were in fact trained, they did their national service with Constand Viljoen as their head.  In the army you always have major respect for the head of the army.  The head of the army is a person of character, of integrity, normally, and has a high standing especially among army members.  The same applies to the police but I think it applies to a greater extent to the army.  You know if you're going to defend your country, you've got to go to war and you fight for life or for death and so he would always naturally have had a major influence.  This would not necessarily mean that he has the support of all the ex military trainees.  Very definitely not.

POM     Do you see his being the catalyst that has drawn the various fragments of the right together?

EL     Yes he can have a good influence because he's not as extreme as some of the extremist groups within the CP and the AWB and all these rightist extremist groups so he can exercise a stabilising effect and I think he has already done so.  In fact he's taken the initiative to have talks with the ANC which is a major breakthrough and he's been severely criticised for this by members of the rightist group so he can have a stabilising influence and that could be of importance.

POM     Would it be your belief, and I know that this is speculation, that a way will be found to bring the Freedom Alliance into the process or do you think part might be brought in?

EL     I think so.  Whether they will come in as a Freedom Alliance I'm not sure, whether they will come in as individual parties - perhaps there's a better chance there.  It seems as if Dr Buthelezi is becoming more obstinate lately.  He's been refusing to attend certain of these invitations to have further discussions.  He feels bitter about the fact that the government and the ANC have taken the initiative and he's been left out in the cold.  There have been many, many talks with him, many, many talks and he's very much a regional KwaZulu man.  There's no doubt about this and anything which in his mind could affect the future of KwaZulu, he is basically dead against the total principle.  It's a great pity that he hasn't come in to freely participate in the negotiation process because if he could have done this it would have served his purpose and his people better.  Then at least you have a conference table where you can place your problems on the table.  Now he's criticising from the outside and they are going to miss the boat.

POM     Do you think that after a new election when there's an interim constitution and a government of national unity in place that the extreme right will continue to pose a problem in terms of its capacity to disrupt, to engage in acts of terror?

EL     That's been their threat lately, it's become quite prominent lately.  Whether they will implement that threat I do not know.  I have my doubts.  They are still fighting to see whether they can obtain their volkstaat there, their own regional territory.  If they could succeed there they will probably subside.  On the other hand if they succeed there it's going to be very close to the reintroduction of apartheid and the entire negotiation process is to get away from that so if you've got to choose between the two you've got to get away from that.

POM     So, we were talking about Constand Viljoen and the capacity of the right to disrupt and to make transition to democracy difficult would certainly scare away foreign investment.

EL     That is their threat at the moment.  That is why lately we've even said that the threats by the rightist parties could be much worse than the violence and intimidation we have experienced to date on the part of the leftist group.  So all we can hope for is that in the period between now and the election that we can obtain greater understanding between ourselves and the rightist group.  They also have a dilemma at the moment and their dilemma is that if they are going to keep on boycotting they will not participate and if they do not participate what are they going to do with regard to the election?  Are they going to stand as a party?  Are they boycotting it?  If they are boycotting it they are basically playing cards which are favourable to the ANC so if they want to oppose an ANC situation they must stand as a party and they must place their policy on the table.  Basically I have always been hoping that in South Africa at any election poll there will be one dividing line, those who are basically in favour of an ANC related policy with their record and those against it and if we can get to that situation it could mean that the entire Freedom Alliance and the DP and the government and all other related parties could more or less, although each retaining its own individualism and independence, at least those could vote for and against.  In the process I'm afraid the CP will have to nominate candidates.  They will have to put candidates up for election otherwise they disappear completely.  But it could, there is that risk that this could happen.

POM     The matter of risk, does the greater risk come from the far right white rather than from Buthelezi, or from Buthelezi?

EL     At the time being I would say it's from the far right.

POM     Does Buthelezi have the capacity to be a real spoiler?

EL     No I don't think so.  He's got a police force, he hasn't got much of an army so he hasn't got the physical strength to do this.  The far rightists, they have been training their own people and they're a bit absurd and they're a bit emotional and so they can do anything, but they certainly cannot do anything out of a position of strength, that they cannot do.

POM     We mentioned the single ballot before and here again it seems to be a case of where, well it's patently undemocratic, you're told if you vote once - it's constricting the right of people to vote, it certainly constricts their rights to vote for regional parties and to that extent is anti-democratic.  Are there noises in the NP about that or are members quite happy with the single ballot rather than the double?

EL     No.  I personally am not in favour of a single ballot.  It could work but I feel it's more democratic to allow a constituent to decide separately how he would like to vote.  We've had the example of Natal for many, many years when there was still the United Party government, which has now become the Democratic Party, where the Natal Province, the white constituents, voted for the National Party government but they always voted for the United Party regional government because they had more confidence in the Natal United Party regional government but they voted central government Nationalist.  So this sort of situation could arise and I think it's important that a person should have the choice then, the democratic choice, to have two ballot papers and vote for a particular party or different parties in two situations.  May I say there is quite a bit of uneasiness in the ranks of National Party members.  I do not know how strong this is but also as a result thereof there are new talks being instituted.   The only reason why they have not, why the government has yielded, is on account of the fear on the part of the ANC that there would be too much confusion among new voters who have never voted before for two ballot papers.

POM     In March 1992 through the referendum De Klerk was riding a wave of high popularity.  Up to that point it appeared that he could do nothing wrong, he was the person who was making all the running.  Since then there seems to have been a slow decline in his capacity to move things or to control things and his popularity has slipped enormously in the white community.  You are probably aware of recent polls that show that the NP might get no more than 13% in an election and that only one in four people who supported them in 1989 would vote for them today.  And again in 1992 in March you had the right in shambles, discredited, certainly demoralised, and certainly with no real sense of in which direction they should turn.  And yet there seems to have been a reversal, a decline, a fragmentation of the National Party and a resurrection of the right.  What do you think has accounted for that?

EL     When it took the initiative, it certainly was absolutely new ground so it was a major initiative taken by him, but his initiative is undoubtedly curtailed by the fact that all the new things he wanted to do through which he could have kept the same power with regard to new initiatives had to be negotiated, to be sorted out with the ANC.  The ANC severely criticised him for taking new initiatives because they demanded they be consulted in all introductions of all new aspects altogether.  There were many aspects, even unreasonable, and in order not to upset the negotiation process Mr de Klerk, I think, acted very wisely by not taking too much new initiative but sorting this out also in consultation with not only the ANC but also many of the other participating parties.  On the other hand in the same period violence increased and people have been losing lives and there has been a major increase in violence between the Zulu people and between the Xhosa people and as a result people have become upset, they have lost faith in the negotiation process.

     The question raised and the opinion expressed has always been that if this is taking place while negotiations are taking place and while people are making progress in establishing a common consensus on aspects, how on earth would this be if there is a new government with a new majority party who is participating in a new democratic national unity government?  So people have not been unreasonable to come to conclusions and say that they really fear what is to be expected in the future. At the same time the rightist groups have exactly been doing the same.  They have also been involved in certain aspects of violence and they have been expressing many further threats with regard to further violence.

     So as a result of this, I think Mr de Klerk was basically forced back into a position where he is curtailed in taking further initiative.  The ongoing process of unrest has been a major setback to the government and as a result of this I would say that most of the people who have been leaving or yielding their support to the National Party, exchanging their support to the rightist support, have been doing so on account of the fact that they thought the violence could not be controlled; the government has therefore lost its grip on maintenance of law and order, that's why they have moved over to a rightist group, not to support their policies but because at least they were people who expressed themselves as being dead against the ongoing process of violence.   So that is the major reason.  I have no doubt in my mind that once this new negotiation train is really on rail that most of those people will revert and support the new future initiatives.

PAT     Do you think that Mr Mandela has set the tone for this campaign by going into Natal and saying that President de Klerk should not serve - ?

EL     Yes he retracted that again, on television too, I heard it personally.  It's not always clear what Mr Mandela says and what he doesn't say.  He's got an exceptional knack, he's got charisma, but he's got an exceptional knack to say popular things to various groups.  If he talks to a large gathering of youth he would say, "I think 14 year olds must get the vote."  If he talks to elderly people he will say, "I think you must get pensions.  It's completely wrong that whites only had pensions, you've got too little pension, you've got no pension and you've got no work."  If he talks to a strong labour force then he says something popular, "You sit there, the white people have got all the soft jobs, you've got no work we must rectify this matter."  So he's been saying many things and when he explained this on television he said it was completely incorrectly reported.  If he had said something to that extent he probably meant that by using the word 'De Klerk', he probably meant the National Party, the National Party government, would not be able to control a future government as they have been doing up to now.  And this is part and parcel of the new participating process which is taking place.

POM     After twenty years of public life you're leaving it.  What are your final thoughts?  You've been through an extraordinary period.

EL     All these phases of constitutional development; we're entering into a completely new phase.  I've got no doubt in my mind that there's been no other way out.  It's very clear that if this could have been started earlier the progress would have been better and much faster.  On the other hand if it was started earlier, seeing now in retrospect, it would have been much better to do it much earlier but if you had started this much earlier more white people who were the traditional voters would not have understood this and if De Klerk took this initiative five years ago or six or seven or eight years ago he would have lost power in parliament, he would have lost it.  So he had to do something, take a new initiative but take this not at a stage where it would affect his position in parliament.  You see what has happened subsequent to this, this would have happened much earlier and he would have lost his seat and he would have lost his initiative.  At least by marking time he has retained a position still to take initiative and he has been doing so.  If he took the initiative seven years ago we would not have got to a 2nd February 1990 speech.  It would have been an ongoing process and my prediction would have been that there would have been more violence and the violence would have been much earlier and it would have been over a longer period and we can only stop the violence in one manner; if we get all parties to agree and to co-operate to do so.  The signs are there that the ANC and their collaterals are now keen to assist us in this connection and it will be wonderful if this can take place.  This is the only solution we can have.  In the meantime we felt the pinch, withdrawal of investments.  On the other hand all the countries have now basically uplifted their sanctions which is a good sign.  They have not started to reinvest but there are good signs also in this connection so I think there's no other way out.  This had to be done.

PAT     In your own personal career where did you realise that things might have happened, made a dramatic shift since you came in twenty years ago?

EL     Yes I would say I started realising this about ten, twelve years ago, but how to implement -

PAT     Half way through your career?

EL     If not earlier.  Probably after eight years of my career, seven or eight years.   The old policy, strategy of apartheid has always been: give these people the opportunity to develop, help them and bring them into the total picture, but unfortunately apartheid became an ugly word politically.  Originally the intention was one of positive development but it became a political -

POM     Dinosaur.

EL     Yes, correct.   As a result thereof the good things which were intended by apartheid completely fell away.   The old original idea that getting apartheid, bringing the people together, the under-developed people, helping them, establish them, get them trained, get them to participate in one common society then bring them together.  It never worked out.

PAT     Because of the original intention being one of a positive nature is that why there is so little apology for apartheid that comes from the National Party?

EL     I think the National Party has said it very, very clearly at various times that they are sorry this has taken place, seen retrospectively it was completely wrong.  Seen at the time they thought it had good elements in it but it's failed completely and the party has said so, the government has said so umpteen times and a few times even basically went on their knees to apologise for all the wrongs that have taken place in the apartheid era.  But I would say about six or seven years into my career we decided this could not go on.  Probably after the first five or six years, this could not go on, we had to find a different solution.  We thought the ideal solution would be to get all the people together.  Now remember to get all the people together was basically part and parcel of extreme left wing policies which was being fought by the government throughout its career, which was about thirty to forty years at that stage, so now to completely switch over to the opposite policy of your own party was a major decision.  It started the thought that this could not go on, it started brewing, brewing.  And we often had discussions; what could we do, what concessions could we make?

     The eventual concession which is now being implemented, which is now getting body, which probably transformed in the process of thinking, in the latter three years it has now been the sorting out process, but in the ten year period prior to that this thing has been in the mind, it's been undergoing so many changes, so many debates and so much philosophising that it grew and grew and grew until Mr de Klerk took the major decision to announce it.  You know Dr van der Merwe was a Minister of Health about 15 years ago and he said openly there was only one solution and we had to get together and I think everybody realised it but they never knew how it could be implemented without losing power.  In other words the option would be to implement completely opposite policies, make a full somersault and lose power and you would become negligible, you won't be able to retain power by propagating this new belief, otherwise doing this slowly and retaining power, and the government probably settled for the second option, they took a long time.

     You can see the results now today of what has been taking place but that would have been a major problem if this had happened ten, twelve, fifteen years ago.   When the government started on this new path the Treurnicht party broke away.  This is about thirteen, fourteen years ago.  They broke away and that was only the beginning of the initiatives which came out in National Party thinking when they decided that this was nonsense about not allowing a chap and his jockey or a brown cricket player to come to South Africa as a member of an international team and they completely broke away as a result of new thinking within the midst of the National Party.  If we took the steps twelve years ago when they broke away, which we've taken now, it would have been war.  War between whites.  So that was the difficulty.  How to implement it, when to take the major decisions.

     Altogether I think it was a good path, there was a lot of criticism, 'too late' but nobody would have known what would have happened if it had been earlier which would have suited everybody much better.  It would have been easier for the negotiation process but we would have had terrible strife in white politics, in brown politics especially.   Brown people have made a complete somersault in regard to participation in the new government thinking.  This would have been very much different at the time.  And traditionally the whites and the browns worked very closely together.  Then twenty years ago, or twenty five years ago, a crevice developed between the two peoples politically.  It has now been over-bridged again, whites and browns are now getting together again in a wonderful spirit of co-operation.   The brown members of our party, they make a positive contribution and probably when we have new elections you may even have a better quality of leadership becoming involved in politics among the brown leaders.  I say this because when these present members became members most of them got in with a small ballot, a 10%, 15%, 20% ballot which was not representative of the coloured people.  There was boycott action as a result of the principles of political philosophy, but these people are giving their full co-operation.  In fact when we have caucus meetings in our caucus, which is always on a Thursday starting at ten o'clock, we get together the whites and the brown people and the Indian people.  I say to my people so often that I hear more English in the caucus than I hear anywhere else.  The Indian people don't understand Afrikaans and we basically talk English in caucus now and now and then say a few words in Afrikaans.  So things have changed dramatically and we are the people who are the advocates for the retention of Afrikaans.  So this gives you an idea of how things have changed.

PAT     And next year you'll be speaking eleven languages in caucus.

EL     Unbelievable.

POM     Thank you ever so much.

EL     All this I think will probably move down to English as the western language in most cases.

POM     Thank you ever so much for the time and I hope I see you 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.