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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

18 Feb 1994: Chikane, Frank

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POM     Rev. Chikane, when you look at the interim constitution that is now in place how satisfied are you with it and rating it on a scale of one to ten where one would rate as great dissatisfaction and ten would rate as very great satisfaction.

FC     My view is that the constitution, like all the negotiated instruments, is a compromise, interim, compromise interim constitution. The real constitution will come after the elections but given the circumstances under which we are operating at the present moment and given the need to save the country through this transition out of a very difficult position, I would give the constitution eight if I have to grade it across. I think the flaw in that constitution in my opinion is its building in structures of government of national unity which are constitutional rather than choices. If you really believe in democratic structures and the right of people to choose, etc., and you ended up with a Cabinet with people from different parties who may not agree at all and don't come into the Cabinet because you ask them, like in Namibia where the winning party asked members of other parties to serve in the Cabinet, that's a much more democratic way than engraving it into the constitution. But otherwise that engravement itself it was necessary to save the country and for that reason I think we have the best that we could produce under the circumstances.

POM     On the question of the double ballot, sorry single ballot, were you surprised at the amount of attention that was drawn to it, it became a big issue very, very quickly? Were you surprised about that?

FC     No I was not. I'm not surprised. We knew that people wanted a double ballot but the agreement in November last year was a package of compromises and leaving those people who wanted a double ballot compromised the position, like the Democratic Party for instance because they believed that sacrificing a double ballot will mean that we have an agreement and we go ahead with the country, that's fine. So it was quite clear there were people who were still committed to that particular position. I am not dogmatic about it. I think I would support the single ballot simply for logistical reasons much more than democratic or political power reasons. It's how you get my mother to deal with more than one ballot paper when we told her that it was one person one vote and suddenly you tell her you vote twice. I'm also concerned about the long list of parties as well.

POM     Nineteen.

FC     Nineteen, because for my mother to go through the nineteen to find a particular party she has to vote for it will be a big job in terms of the literacy level. I think it's a logistical problem much more than power dynamics as to who will be safest by using the double ballot and who won't be safer. If you had 99% literacy rating I wouldn't mind the number of ballots, you could produce a book of parties and publish it and people go through and find the party they want to vote for, but for a country with such low levels of literacy you have got problems. But otherwise it wasn't such a surprise.

POM     Do you think the ANC in particular has gone as far as it can go in terms of concessions it is willing to make for Buthelezi? They do it on the single ballot, they do it on the entrenchment of powers, they do it on the constitution, they do it on the right to self determination.

FC     If you were press I wouldn't answer the question because it would be published before April 27th and I'm a commissioner. But if I talk outside the election, I normally say before I became a commissioner, this is what I would tell you. The point is that I, if I have to be personal, you know my views from the beginning, I feel that the ANC is the only party that has given lots and lots. The government people would argue that the government has also shifted, which I accept. You can't negotiate, that's why it doesn't work with the Alliance because they don't want to shift. In negotiations you make shifts, but in fact the ANC has conceded to so many things that it risks itself to be subject to lots of criticism from its own constituents and people simply stick with it because there is no better alternative. I think if there had been better alternatives and easier alternatives people would have crossed over easily. I think they have given more than I had expected they would for the sake of peace. I have talked to some of them in the last few days and they felt that for them to make sure that anybody who goes to a civil war concept has no leverage on it, they must give as much as possible of things that will not destroy the future, but they can't go beyond that level which will create another form of conflict like saying this will be a volkstaat where the majority of the people are not Afrikaans speaking there. It will create another conflict that might be worse than the one you would have had before.

POM     Do you think that Buthelezi would in the event of the ANC and the government saying we have gone as far as we can go, we've done everything we can do, we've given you every concession that we can do without our own constituencies turning on us? Do you think there would be a civil war in Natal, not countrywide but in Natal and sporadic areas in the Transvaal, in the townships?

FC     I don't believe that there would be civil war in the classical sense of the word. I actually don't believe - if you separate the right wing from the Inkatha Freedom Party there will be no civil war, there might be violence and outbreaks of violence from one place to another but civil war is a much more serious issue than just violence that we have seen thus far. I mean one could say there was civil war in South Africa now during the negotiations but it's not in the classical sense of the word. I don't think the Inkatha Freedom Party and KwaZulu has the capacity to wage a civil war because they are not in control of the army and if they are in control of anything it is the KwaZulu Police, but the KwaZulu Police without taxpayers money ...

POM     No money, no fight.

FC     Yes, and without arms supplied from elsewhere there is no way they can wage a civil war. But if you couple it with the right wing you could say there is a possibility of civil war if that happened because the right wing has access to the systems and structures. They have arms, they are highly trained and most of those rightwing people belong to the special forces of the SADF. They were the murder machine. Most of those who were engaged in the murder machine belong to the right because you had to think like that to agree to operate at that level. But even if that happened I believe that if the SADF remains intact even the right wing can't wage a civil war in this country because they are children of the SADF. The SADF knows all of them, the intelligence network, they can't set up a system that the SADF will not be able to break overnight. I said to you a year ago that when the right wing turned its guns from blacks against De Klerk's establishment they were stopped within a month and you never had those bombs exploding again. So the right wing can be controlled by the SADF. So I don't believe you will have a classical war. The Afrikaner won't go to this senseless war. With all these concessions the average Afrikaner will not join that war. It will be a minority of Afrikaners, of real racist rightwing people who have no economic understanding of the system who would go in that direction.

POM     But they can cause damage. Northern Ireland a good example is where the IRA are a minority of a minority of a minority. Countrywide they might get one or two percent support.

FC     But it is an emotive thing. That's why you just need an emotive thing, even if you are few still fighting apartheid, you would have kept that war going for a long time because there is some illegitimacy in the whole system and I'm not expecting the Ireland thing. I know that ten people can cause havoc in a country but I am saying that if you have an army to which those people belonged it's not easy to get those people. If there were another nationality or fighting some national thing like in Ireland or religious thing or whatever that's a different issue but if it's just an Afrikaner fighting another Afrikaner because the army is an Afrikaner army in the main, they are in the majority, it won't be an ANC uMkhonto weSizwe versus the Afrikaner. It will be in the main the Afrikaner versus the Afrikaner because there is the SADF, uMkhonto weSizwe is just about 10% of the total army and the war will not be between the ANC and the - unless, that's why I am saying the key issue is if the SADF turned against Mr de Klerk. Then of course you will have a crisis in the country.

POM     Do you think it would be a good thing for the country for the ANC to get more than two thirds of the vote in the April election?

FC     You will be surprised that I believe that it will be a good thing actually and I will tell you why it will be surprising. Some people would say it's better if they are not having an overwhelming majority so that they are constrained in what they are going to do, but I'm convinced that the ANC is not going to get out of its way and use that power. If they made the compromises they made now and create a possibility for Mr de Klerk to even become Vice President in a new liberated South Africa, that shows to what extent they understand the dynamics of the army, civil service, etc. and that if you want those people to be on your side and you don't want war or a coup, then you are going to have to act in a circumspect way. I don't believe they will use that actually against - that government of national unity would still be there.

POM     At that point the ANC would have two thirds control of the Cabinet.

FC     Yes.

POM     One thing that I've never found fleshed out or people have different ideas on, how are decisions to be made at the Cabinet level? Is it total consensus?

FC     I don't think it's going to be consensus. They will choose consensus as a way forward but I think the majority will still be able to - the difference is that members of other parties sit in the same Cabinet whereas in a classical democracy the other members would not be sitting in that Cabinet and the Cabinet would plan it's own thing and announce it without talking to the others. This time they will sit in the Cabinet, they will present their views, they will advise - it's almost like the church structures. You get an election where people you differ with are elected in the same community and you work out how you run the church. So I don't see a difficulty, but I don't believe ANC will be that foolish to actually use that against a minority. What a two thirds majority will help them to do is to be able to deliver what is necessary which could be constrained by a minority if they got less than two thirds.

POM     In your dealings through the church and other institutions, what level of expectations do you find out there among the ordinary African person?

FC     Their expectations are very high, some of them very unrealistic, some of them created by the political leaders as well. But the Freedom Charter is not very helpful either because it says there shall be education for all, houses for all, jobs for all. It's an idealistic, I call it a kingdom of God concept, I mean document, sovereign rule of God and in an ideal situation you would have all of those things but I must say that in the last three years, now after the last three years of the negotiations, there is more realism setting in among the black community about the realities of the situation and that you will not get what you wanted overnight. I think it's beginning to set and after the election unless the ANC fail dismally on basic things that they should deliver, then we have had it. But if they show that they are trying to meet the needs, even if they failed, at least there will be an understanding that they have got a commitment and they are trying to do it but there are constraints in the way.

POM     Just to go back to Buthelezi for a moment. What is he after, in your opinion?

FC     I have tried to understand him. I think even the press by yesterday was beginning to say, "We really don't understand." But my understanding has not shifted. What he wants is a definition of his status engraved in the constitution which will not be determined by an election. It may not be secession, I never pronounce that word right. Secession. It may not be breaking away and forming a different government state completely, but he wants something in the middle which will still make sure that he remains the chief of the place and that's what he wants. How he wants it structured I really don't know. I've listened carefully, there are many compromises that have been made. Even the constitution before the compromises made provision for them to have their latitude to develop whatever they want to do in the region. But of course the fear is that if the ANC win a majority in Natal then of course he wouldn't even be able to exercise that leadership then and so the definition will make sure that the votes will not determine who leads it. I think that's what he wants to have and therefore the election is not the priority. The key issue is to have a definition to secure the position.

POM     I've one theory, I've interviewed him about four times now and on each occasion he's a completely different individual. Two things I noticed, one was that he uses the word 'I' truly, more than any individual that I've ever heard, and he uses the words 'insulted' and 'insult' in the same way. So for four years he's been propagating himself as one of the big three and he's been downgraded and cut down to size and if he now contests an election and he finds out that he has national support of four percent and if the ANC beat him in Natal, it would be the greatest humiliation of all. He's not prepared to take that chance.

FC     I think he would rather lose debating the issue rather than go to the election. That's why I would be surprised if they did agree to go an election on Monday when they meet. If they did go I think they will go without him as a person. I suspect he would not risk himself to do that. I don't know what he will do but Inkatha Freedom Party itself, there isn't really a party. It's not like the ANC that would exist whether Tambo is there or Mandela is there. You know what I am talking about? It's not like the Chief there with people who help the Chief, set the Chief, and Inkatha tends to operate in that way. Even if they have ideas they can't do much about them because the Chief really determines what happens in that institution. I've talked to many people at the top level who when they are alone they will tell you their real feelings. So that's the situation. I don't know what he's going to do. Anything he does now leads to his demise because what can he do? If he gets to the elections he will lose, if he doesn't get to the elections he loses.

POM     The level of violence itself, it's at such a level, if it continues at such a level as it is today can you have free and fair elections in parts of the country?

FC     I belong to those people, as you know, even last year or the year before last I maintained that we will not allow the violent lot to make sure we don't democratise the country and that the people don't become free because if you do that then they create more violence to make sure that you never get what you want and that's why I differ with what these churches, Afrikaans speaking churches, said yesterday that because of the threat, etc. they would rather delay the elections than face a civil war. Then I'm saying that type of statement plays into the hands of those who want violence. I believe that we can create conditions that will enable people to go and vote even if this level of violence is maintained. You see it is possible to go to Thokoza for that particular day and make sure that people can walk in and go and vote, you may not be able to create that condition as a permanent condition but you can create it for that particular day and I believe we can hold the waters for that particular day and let people vote. There is of course intimidation at different levels, some will fear even doing it even if you created that climate but I believe that this climate, even if this climate continues we still must have elections. The question of what free and fair elections really means, we are doing that study as a commission, we have covered documents, I've got a file full of documents, in all of them I am convinced it's a relative term.

POM     I've been on observer teams in the Philippines and all over and I've noticed that Americans want everything done by the book. If they find one wasted vote it's like fraud. Whereas what other countries should do is to send observers from other countries into America and observe the American elections and they would find a lot of them are not free and fair.

FC     Yes, yes. There isn't such a thing as really free and fair. Actually our Act recognises that. It talks about the extent, we have to determine the extent to which the elections are free and fair. It means you could never say 100% fair, even in the United States you would still have some mishaps there. Or you could say but in Thokoza people were not given the time at all to vote so we disregard the votes in that area. You could do that by eliminating a small percentage of the total voting population which wouldn't change the seats in parliament, you would still have to accept that as a fair type of outcome. But if people become fearful and don't go to vote you can't say because 30% didn't go and vote therefore it's not fair unless you can show that they were physically stopped to do that. So it's a relative term but I'm convinced that we can create conditions on that particular day to make sure that those elections are relatively free and fair to acceptable levels.

POM     When I began interviewing people first the question I asked them was, "Which is more important, a political entitlement or economic entitlement?" And most of them in the black community would say when push came to shove that put political enfranchisement first and economic second whereas most whites I talked to would reverse them. They were concerned with hanging on to their levels of power in the economy. Now when I saw Derek Keys go with Trevor Manuel to New York and Washington, to the IMF and the World Bank and kind of kneel before them and saying yes we accept this and we'll accept that and we accept all these constraints that you put on nations you give loans to it made me think that the government had won the first round, the government had won on the question of the economy.

FC     I don't actually think that they have won. I think your scenario of mapping out these two who have been used is quite correct. For blacks they believe that if they get political power they will be able to deal with the economic power. But if you have to go into economic power before political power it means you must be subject to those who are economically powerful already so you become weak right from the start. I understand the logic but I don't believe that the government has won the economic debate. What is happening with the ANC is that it is developing in a hostile world, a hostile world which sees anything that is not classical capitalism as unacceptable and with the demise of the Soviet Union and the United States taking the leadership and the western countries being in the powerful position they are in at the moment, it would be foolish not to be strategic even about what you believe in and they would have to adjust their position in a way that they would not spend time fighting wars than changing the country and a middle way needs to be found and that's what I'm understanding about this, it's a game really. Every word that the ANC utters here they get attacked on economics and anything they say there will be an attack, overwhelming, DP, Nationalist Party, business, etc. Every suggestion they make about reconstruction they are attacked, but none of those parties have ever presented a position to say this is how we plan to meet the needs of black people who have been excluded all the years. They will say the market will determine that and we all know that the market doesn't work like that. It gets more privilege, more better privilege than those that do not have.

POM     As you said at the beginning the Freedom Charter and the Harare Declaration are like museum pieces by now.

FC     Oh yes, those are ideal things. They are slogans that you needed at a particular moment. In fact that Freedom Charter kept us alive during very difficult times and so that's why I'm seeing it as a gospel, the idea of the kingdom of God type of document which is necessary to keep that vision that you strive towards but you could not attain it overnight. But obviously there are risks with what the ANC is doing because if they went into power and discovered they can't deliver to the people they might also settle with the status quo and benefit out of it and come out being better than others.

POM     There are different kind of people one bumps into and one section says that an ANC government will be like every other African government, there will be wholesale corruption. That is based on their impressions of what happened in other countries. Do you think that the ANC as an organisation and as a government will be immune from that?

FC     Firstly I must say I don't believe that their analogy of relating to Africa is the right one. I think if they are using Africa they are using a bad reference for it. Africa in the main was governed by the few elite and in some countries about eight or so people had degrees and worked with the colonialists, you know what I am talking about, and the colonialists gave them the freedom, they didn't fight for it and they made sure that they squeezed those countries and drained them and the elite because it was empowered by the colonialists who made sure that they can exploit their resources and were defended in their corruption. So in a sense there was no democracy at all, there wasn't even choice to remove the people who were in power whereas it is different in South Africa. If they fail they will be out in five years time. If they get into corruption they will be out in five years time. So the analogy for me is not the same. If one says that South Africa will be like any other democracy with all its problems that go with it I would say, yes, I think they will. There is nothing extraordinary about them, they are as human as any other. In fact when faced with difficult situations they may just be human and rather than be extraordinary, because at present they are extraordinary. You need to be extraordinary to be willing to spend 27 years in prison when you have a degree, you are a lawyer, you can make it in life, etc., then you must be extraordinary and leaving your family, etc. But given a normal situation they also have the capacity to be normal human beings but I don't believe the story that they will be worse than, say, the De Klerk government. There is no such a thing, it was as corrupt, in fact it was more corrupt than anything except that it was protected in terms of security considerations. Everybody closed their eyes to everything they were doing, fighting the Soviet Union and the communists. But immediately you removed that then you began to see the corruption in the system.

POM     Why do whites have such difficulty with the Communist Party? If you ask around what is a South African Communist nobody can tell you. Do you think they have been indoctrinated?

FC     That is historical. There has been indoctrination, they have been told, the ticket for the war, the enemy symbol, when you want to fight a war you must define an enemy and have the symbol to shoot at. It made lots and lots of sense to dramatise the issue of communists. All of us, when I was detained I was detained under the Terrorism and Communism Act even when I am running a church and you can see that the issue wasn't really communism. It's only that for them dramatising directly the leadership, they knew the western countries would support them and therefore it was the best possible way to survive but in the course of that they made the people really believe in that story. I am surprised that De Klerk in his campaign now is enacting it, he is appealing to it because he knows that the majority of those Afrikaner rightwing people would support him for that and so he raises it up even during this time when communism is not a major issue. But I think we shouldn't simplify it that much, for conservative Christians, even blacks, if you are told that communists will stop you from worshipping your God it's a very emotive thing and it is being used at the present moment. That's why there are these Christian parties that are emerging.

POM     Somebody said to me that the key to this whole election might be how members of the Zionist Church vote, whether they will vote in a kind of a Christian block against communism. They are so indoctrinated, that the Bishop could exercise a lot of influence.

FC     Unless he made a public call I don't believe that their network is so effective that they can actually ideologically move the church. I think he has control in terms of a spiritual leader but unless he stands up and says go and vote for the Nationalist Party because I don't want the ANC with its communists, if they did that they would most probably sway a lot of them but remember that those people are also community members in the townships and they have got their own positions and we have people coming to the SACC talking to us and encouraging us to help them liberate, be liberated from the machinery that's running in Morea by some whites who really are an infiltration of the PW Botha era, who are running Morea rather than the black members themselves doing that.

     So in a sense I'm not that threatened about it but remember as well that the trade union movement is doing a lot of work on the ground and those workers relate at a different level than the church and would most probably on political issues listen to the trade union rather than any particular church leader, but it is true that the issue of communism can be a sensitive thing in South Africa but it is so stupid in my opinion that that whoever uses it will pay in future for it. People have asked me, why can't the ANC separate itself from this? And I have said, if you ask me and I didn't know the people who are called communists in the ANC, I would say to you yes, but they should do that, politically it makes sense. But if you know that it is the human beings who have sacrificed in the struggle together as comrades, who have personal relationships, you're not going to separate it like a political party like that. It's not going to work like that. I think what will happen after the elections is that those who would want to take a dogmatic position will most probably go their own way. But I think the core of the ANC, even with those who are called communists will still remain within the body.

POM     Just a couple of final questions, and thanks for the time. If anybody told you four years ago when Mandela was released and the ANC unbanned that you would be entering a period where elections were going to be held on a one man one vote and to all intents and purposes a majority power would come into being, would you have been surprised or would you have said, no it's got to be shorter than that?

FC     You mean in terms of time?

POM     Yes.

FC     After 1990.

POM     After 1990. Did you think that by 1994 the interim constitution will be negotiated and the country will be preparing for non-racial elections?

FC     All of us, those who have been victims, expected it to happen during 1990, that's the problem and that wasn't based on the logistics and political contradictions, it was based on the fact that we fought for this thing and we wanted to be free and when Mandela got released everybody thought that's the day. We will move, there will be a few days of talking and then - I think that was the view. No-one anticipated that we would negotiate for three to four years, not at least in the black community, not even amongst ANC people, leadership in the ANC. No-one budgeted for what we have gone through at the present moment and it has been a pain. But the Nationalist Party also didn't budget for that either. What is happening now is not what they envisaged in 1990. They also have been derailed from their original scenario. Their original scenario was to bring the ANC in there and quickly strike a deal that will make them prisoners of that deal for a long, long time. And it didn't happen like that. And so everything else fell apart on the way. And even business, if you ask business, I mean business is good at putting up scenarios and all their scenarios collapsed as well. By 1992 all the scenarios fell apart and we had to start again and re-map our way.

POM     If you look back over the last four years what would you identify (i) as the critical turning points, and (ii) the major concessions made by ANC and government?

FC     I think the critical turning point was November last year. I mean that's where things gelled, that was the turning point. After that things were moving straight into an election, etc. Before then there were squabbles, debates, differences, etc., but if you look at the ANC, there have been battles between the ANC and the Nationalist Party throughout but after November last year you see a different scenario unfolding. Immediately they guaranteed that there is a possibility of them sitting in the Cabinet, etc., because that's what happened in November. Immediately that was done the movement began to happen.

POM     The Record of Understanding, was it?

FC     No the Record of Understanding was signed earlier. It was signed earlier in September.

POM     Was this a meeting the ANC and the government had?

FC     No, the Record of Understanding was 1992 wasn't it. It wasn't 1993. It was 1992, I'm now losing track but the Record of Understanding came out of the deadlock between the ANC and the government and since that coming together it then pushes Buthelezi into the right wing so that by the beginning of last year you had rightwing alliances forming by say May, June, with Inkatha Freedom Party and by the time they had marched to this place they were already together by that time so I think the Record was 1992. I would say that that Record of Understanding was significant but the battles between the ANC and the government continued because the government wasn't sure it could control the events.

POM     This is until November of last year?

FC     November. Immediately November comes last year then the turning point happened and that's why you had these announcements overnight of the offer they give to the Alliance, in a joint way even if they debate as to who did it first. But the point is that a relationship has been developed. They had reached a stage where they believed the only way to save the country is to cooperate by making the compromises that they have made, which is not the case with Buthelezi because he is not looking at it in terms of how he saves the country, it's more about how he saves his position. And the right wing as well it's not in terms of how they save the country but how they save themselves whereas the Nationalist Party and the ANC are looking at it in the broad sense of the word.

POM     And the major concessions that each have made during negotiations?

FC     I think for me that a major concession is the one of creating a Cabinet which makes it possible for opposition parties to be part of the Cabinet and even become Vice President of the country. I know of no other arrangement like that except in coalition governments, where you have a coalition and the Foreign Minister comes from the other party and you make deals but it's not a constitutional definition and that's the extraordinary event for me. The issue about double ballots, etc., for me are not really the major issues because they are not major concessions. The real concession was the one made in November.

POM     When you look to the future, you look at it with a great deal of promise?

FC     Promise, that's a difficult word. I was asked today what I think about what's happening and I said, "If you look at it, it tells you that the future is bleak ahead." If you read the newspapers, watch TV and listen to all this, the ordinary person would say we have had it. But my view is it was worse than this. For some of us who come from where we come from, it was worse than this and we survived and we are where we are and there's no reason why we can't take it further with all the problems that are there and so it's more based on hope, that's based on shape that relies on history. It's historical experience that makes you believe the future rather than looking at the abstract future and feeling threatened by it.

POM     How about the land, the farm land that was taken from you?

FC     I think that the land is closer to being resolved. I mean the government has moved a lot from the positions they held where it was not negotiable, it was not feasible to return the land, to a position of saying where possible they will do so. And now they are going with that position into the new government and I think where practicable, I think land will be returned to people except the difficult, sensitive areas. Of course the Land Commission and Committee which met in Bloemfontein took the ultimate position, putting restrictions that limited one farmer one farm type of thing. That's really taking it to another level but the issue of returning land to the people I think it's almost resolved.

POM     Thank you.

FC     OK. Thank you very much.

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.