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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

30 Nov 1993: Moosa, Mohammed Valli

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POM     A lot of people that I have talked to believe that an election must take place on April 27th even in the face of high levels of intimidation and violence and that the elections may not be free and fair in the sense that international monitors use those words, but that it's more important to have an election that confers a sufficient degree of legitimacy than to wait for ideal conditions because ideal conditions will simply never happen. Could you comment on that?

MVM     Well I agree with what you're saying. We had insisted earlier this year, around April this year, that an election date should be set and confirmed and finalised and the reason why we said that was in order to stop the high level of uncertainty, anxiety and frustration with the political process that was developing, that until the point where we were able to set a firm date for the elections the reality of change hadn't struck people. There was nothing that people could really hold on, the election date was a very tangible thing and certainly I can say since that time there has been a much more optimistic view in the public in general about the negotiation process. Therefore it is important that we stick to the election date. Of course there is nothing magical about 27th April itself. What is important is that you set a date and you stick by that date. I cannot see what can cause us to change the election date. Everything seems to be on track up to now and those who argue that the violence may not subside by 27th April are also correct but the violence may not subside by whatever date you set the elections.

POM     In fact you're giving an incentive to those who believe in violence to continue with it.

MVM     Absolutely. If you say that elections cannot go ahead if there is violence in the country it means that every time the election date is set those who perpetrate the violence would simply escalate the violence.

POM     If anyone had said to you three years ago at the time when Mandela was released and the ANC was unbanned that within three years you would have in place the structures for a TEC and a date set for an election in 1994 and that indeed a transfer of power would take place at that time, would you have thought that person too optimistic in their assessment? Has it surprised you the speed with which the process has gone or has it gone slower than you expected?

MVM     Well if you're talking about from the date of Mandela's release in February 1990 by the time we reach 27th April it will be four years since the release of Nelson Mandela. I, and I think many others at the time expected the elections to take place much sooner than four years time. We were at the time outraged at suggestions that settlement may only be reached in 1994, that the first democratic elections would only take place in 1994, so one isn't surprised at the speed of it at all.

POM     So what were the obstacles that were raised which precluded negotiations going ahead at a faster rate?

MVM     At the time?

POM     Over the last three years.

MVM     Well I don't think that there was a deliberate - if one looks back now I don't think anybody had a completely coherent blueprint of the transition process. Everybody had certain ideas, everybody had a vision, different parties had their bottom lines but it was virtually impossible to have a coherent blueprint and it is something that emerged over a period of time. Nobody could anticipate all of the obstacles and difficulties that would arise. Certainly as far as the ANC is concerned we did not think at the time that it would be possible for us to negotiate the kind of package which we have today. The settlement package is very, very favourable from our point of view. It is much more than a settlement package which provides for the creation of an elected Constituent Assembly which would draw up a new constitution. It in fact begins in earnest the entire process of democratising the state, that is what it does. It virtually provides for majority rule so that is something that we had not expected at the time. When we thought about interim government at that time we understood it as a government that really would engage mainly in a holding operation that would not be able to implement any serious reconstruction programme. We had even thought in the very initial days that it should be an unelected government, that it would be an appointed government appointed as a result of the multi-party negotiations process and if it was to be an appointed government obviously there wouldn't have been majority and minority parties in such a government because it wouldn't have been formed as a result of elections and therefore it would have been not very different from what the Transitional Executive Council is to be. So that we have achieved I think, and to my understanding and many others, much more than what we had set out to achieve but we didn't expect it to take as long as it did.

POM     One thing that has struck me during CODESA 2, which was like bipolar negotiations, the ANC on one side with its allies and the government on the other side with its allies and the government was attempting to put together this grand coalition of homeland parties and independent states and indeed on occasion boasted that it would come out first in an election with the right combination together. After Boipatong, the mass stayaways and the Record of Understanding in September of 1992 it looked as though the government switched dancing partners or the ANC switched dancing partners. Could you explain that?

MVM     Well what happened after the signing of the Record of Understanding, the Boipatong massacre, etc., is that the government's system of alliances had broken down completely. There was a time when from the government's point of view it was in their interest to delay the negotiations. Their strategy was to drag out and delay the negotiations in the hope that firstly they would be able to strengthen themselves as the National Party. The National Party had the great limitation of being a party that had only white membership. They had hoped to set themselves up as a non-racial party by extending their membership and influence into the black areas. They needed time to do that. At the same time they were well aware that the longer the negotiations dragged on the higher the degree of frustration amongst members and supporters of the ANC would be and it was their hope that the ANC would therefore be weakened in the process. They also, of course, thought that it was necessary for them to break what they perceived as a great myth about the personality of Nelson Mandela, and the ANC as an exiled liberation movement, by making these sort of names more commonplace, the aura ...

POM     Would be demythologised.

MVM     Yes and the aura around the ANC and Nelson Mandela would be broken and this would put them in an advantageous position. However, the strategy of delaying backfired on them very seriously. Rather than the ANC becoming weakened and becoming divided one found that the National Party itself was becoming more and more divided, more and more weakened internally, less and less cohesive, that the system of alliances which they set up had broken down completely, that the popularity of De Klerk had continued to plummet over the past two years and the ANC's popularity had continued to increase. It remained a unified organisation and after the Boipatong massacre the ANC was able to show very clearly, and I think the government needed to be reminded about this, that it was the major political force in this country. By engaging in a programme of mass demonstrations throughout the country, the programme of rolling mass action was important to bring the government to the realisation that (1) there is no solution without the ANC and (2) that the longer they delayed the transition the more weakened they become as government and as the National Party. That is what drove them eventually to sign the Record of Understanding which was a precursor to the present round of negotiations.

POM     You mentioned one assumption they had made about if they dragged the process out the ANC would get weaker and they would get stronger and be able to make breakthrough into the black community, what other assumptions can you point to that in your view they made that turned out to be erroneous?

MVM     Well they assumed that the ANC would split up and that there would be a major division that would set into the ANC because they perceived that only a certain fraction within the ANC was genuinely committed to a negotiated settlement and they were convinced that there was another powerful faction that was completely against the negotiated settlement. They of course misread the dynamics within the ANC completely because the ANC as a whole was genuinely committed to a negotiated settlement so that no such division had materialised at all. In fact it hadn't succeeded in weakening the ANC at all.

     Secondly, they also, I think, under-estimated the extent to which the international community would rally behind De Klerk for releasing Nelson Mandela and unbanning the ANC. It is true that international pressure had eased immediately after February 1990 but as they dragged on the process, the breakdown of CODESA, the Boipatong massacre, international pressure once again increased and they found themselves becoming isolated and being criticised by everybody, the special session of the UN General Council after the Boipatong massacre. So that's another factor I think that they miscalculated on.

     And then they miscalculated their own ability to rally around them the homelands and the various apartheid structures that they had created, the Coloureds and Indians in the tricameral parliament and everybody else in the homelands. They had assumed that in the multi-party negotiations process they would be able to rally or marshal a lot of those forces around themselves and that didn't happen. The ANC, I think very wisely, entered into an alliance with those whom we had fought against very, very strongly in the past, those in the homelands.

     So those are some of the miscalculations. I think that perhaps one of the biggest problems that the government had is that unlike the ANC, while the ANC were unable to predict exactly what the course of events would be, we were unable to predict exactly what the settlement package would look like, we had a strategic approach. We had a very clear strategic approach and vision of where we wanted to go to.

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.