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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

15 Apr 1994: Meyer, Roelf

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POM     Roelf, this question again, in CODESA 1 you came to the question of the simple majorities and the deadlock, I get a bit confused so I'll tell you my understanding of it. First of all the government put forward a proposal of 75% for both constitution and Bill of Rights, that the ANC came back with 662/3% for the constitution and 75% for a Bill of Rights, the government then countered with 70% for the constitution and 75% for the Bill of Rights and the ANC agreed to that but with the rider that if there was not a constitution within six months that there would be a referendum and if two thirds of the people in the referendum didn't vote for the constitution then you would dissolve parliament, call a new election and the new government or new parliament would vote on a constitution for which a majority of 51% would be sufficient. Is that correct?

RM     I would have difficulty remembering exactly all the details but I think basically you are right. The rider that came in under this agreement was of course totally new at that point. I guess it was with a simple majority because that was the main objection.

POM     ... all the small parties are to blame and financial markets go haywire ... after the kind of fiasco ... Where does that leave everything?

RM     Well it leaves us with the election going ahead and Inkatha not participating but with the prospect of negotiations and the constitution going on, if not now then after the election. If mediators are necessary in that regard then it can be. My own impression is that Inkatha, unfortunately from their point of view, have not used their opportunities.

POM     Is this due more to Buthelezi than the IFP?

RM     Well I am of the impression that it is basically Buthelezi but it's probably true that there are strong elements also within but there are also elements in Inkatha who are of a different opinion, who believe that they should participate in the election. It's a question of opportunities missed, of not being used.

POM     What specifically are you looking for now?

RM     I'm not sure. I just heard from my press liaison man who said he's just heard that Buthelezi said he's not quite sure whether he will participate in another summit. Well, he's out of the election, if he doesn't want to participate in a summit what then is left for them? As you can imagine.

POM     How do you envisage what his strategy is about, whether or not he has a strategy, how he sees it meeting his goals?

RM     I think that his intention, problem with the mediation process was actually to get the election date postponed. I think that was his prime objective and I told Kissinger and Carrington that. I said to them I think unfortunately they came to South Africa with the wrong impressions because the number one prize for Buthelezi was not mediation and success at mediation, not success as regarding mediation but to get the election postponed and to use mediation as the vehicle to obtain that. I think that was his objective. The constitutional differences that we still have and that we can't agree on, I am more and more of the impression that it's being used to play a game not to participate in the election because probably he's scared of what the election will show.

POM     I'm working on a theory, you know whenever I've interviewed him the words he uses over and over again are, "I've been insulted by". The first time I met him he gave me a 600 page document that set out every time the ANC said something derogatory about him and he has this preoccupation with his own dignity and status. He's been insisting for years that he's one of the big three. If you have an election and if he loses in Natal and he gets like 2% nationally suddenly he turns out to be nothing but a buffoon and if he stays outside the process he gets more attention and it brings him into playing in a different league and that you in a new South Africa have to negotiate with him. Again he's negotiating from a position of power.

RM     Well he has reduced his own power base tremendously over time. Practically all the white support has been lost over the last year and he was very strong in white political circles about a year ago when even our own members supported him and he was very strong at that stage among the whites because people then perceived that we were, on our side we were not opposing the ANC strongly enough and that Buthelezi could fill that role. So he increased his support in that regard at that stage and he certainly was a strong player again. But at this stage all his white supporters have left him.

POM     You spent so long at the World Trade Centre hammering out the constitution and arriving at the interim constitution. It seems to me that he has been able to whittle away many of the items that were in that constitution and that he may have gained far more from staying outside negotiations than if he had gone in.

RM     That he achieved more by staying out?

POM     Yes because he had these constant negotiations going on between the ANC and the IFP and the NP.

RM     I'm not sure whether he achieved anything. In the end nothing of what we have agreed upon and concessions that we made have been accepted by him.

POM     Nothing?

RM     No. I mean he's still out, he's still not participating.

POM     OK you have an election, the election also takes place in Natal, do you have expectations of violence accompanying that to the point where it may be so destructive that you couldn't even regard the result as being legitimate? Do you tell him he'd better get into line at last or else? Is there the capacity for a guerrilla type war more like an IRA war than between two countries? Can he create a climate of instability in the country that foreign investors will stay away?

RM     I don't think so. If he had the potential he would have demonstrated it already. There might be limited incidences and occurrences of sabotage and so on but I doubt very much whether he would have the ability to really mobilise and start a civil war. The reason I am saying so is that first of all his own supporters will not want it and secondly after the election it is not as if these people will be wiped out. There are many Zulus supporting the ANC, there are many Zulus currently now supporting the National Party. We can see it now from the recent surveys in Natal. So what is happening is that his proportion of the Zulus that have supported him is getting reduced. For that reason there is no significant force that he could rely on, elements he could rely on, individuals, some communities in Northern Natal and Zululand, but the potential to really disrupt the country I believe is not there. Even those who support him at this stage I think would now be scared to go into that type of activity after the election. I think they would immediately start to realise that things are not that unpleasant for them. It's like the right wing too, it's the same phenomenon. Once the election is over and things have not changed that much even the extreme right wing people will say, "We can live with it."

POM     Just on the extreme right wing, do you think the incident in Mafikeng when in the end they really had to turn tail and go, hurt them not only nationally but in their own community?

RM     Oh yes, most definitely. The two most important incidents, the Mmabatho affair and the Johannesburg affair. The Mmabatho incident practically killed the possibility for right wing organisation. I could see it immediately thereafter and now still at meetings in predominantly white areas where you would usually expect a significant number of right wingers, reaction within the meeting, it's suddenly just simply dead. It's gone. It's as if they are ashamed to show their faces. My theory is the same has happened also in regard to the Johannesburg incident because there in that case the Zulus came to demonstrate and I believe it's very unlikely that they will try to do such a thing again on account of their experience. So although it's harsh in terms of its impression and the action it caused, both those incidents had its message in itself.

POM     When people talk of civil war do you believe they are really just scare-mongering? I put this in the context of a number of people I've talked to, factories are closing by the day, there's an awful lot of just plain crime, people don't know what's happening, they don't see anybody being in control.

RM     This is ridiculous. I'm not quite sure where these stories are coming from. Some people are saying they are coming from the supermarkets themselves, but it's quite ridiculous. I have said this week that I think the best proof that this kind of thing will not happen is what we've experienced this past weekend. For many, many months people thought the celebration or commemoration of Chris Hani's funeral, death, killing, assassination, would in fact start a disruption.

POM     Mobilise.

RM     Absolutely. I can remember that Constand Viljoen once came to see the State President specifically to urge him not to select 27th April as the election date because it would be too close to the 10th April. That was the kind of expectation they were on. I can see no reason for these kind of fears and it's ridiculous. Things will just go on.

POM     Getting back to the violence. It's now got to a point where on the East Rand where it's so communal there's no way you can explain it through politics. It doesn't matter who it is. Do you think that there would continue to be violence after an election in places like Katlehong and Thokoza, Tembisa?

RM     I think you will still find pockets because in some instances, my belief is that the local fighting is related to gangsters and thuggery and that type of thing, related causes. I don't think it's all political. So you might see those pockets still continue. Also on the West Rand, Bekkersdal in particular for instance, I believe overall the picture of violence will reduce and mainly because the political tension that is now in the air will start to calm down. It will not disappear overnight. If I have to answer the question how South Africa can look in six months from now I would say the overall picture would be a reduction in violence. That I think is going to be the positive aspect of it all.

POM     What are the political consequences of the dumping of Mangope? He was the leader of an independent state, a state that was run better or in which the people were better off than in the other independent states. What impact did that have on whites, on blacks and the leaders of the other independent states?

RM     I think it's a sort of a single example. You won't see the same being repeated in the other areas because basically they have now also started the Ciskei, they have all three decided to participate and become part of the process again. I think that the occurrences in the case of Bophuthatswana probably told two stories. The one is the relative stability that existed there was a farce, it was just on the surface. That was the reason they didn't allow, for instance, that they didn't allow normal political activity. It appeared to be very peaceful on the surface but underneath that there was a lot of tension because everything that is happening there now proves that. The lack of unions in that area is a great problem to us now in the TEC because now we can't find anybody to really in an organised way talk to, to put the people to rest there. The other message that is coming through, for example, is the fact that you can't resist democracy and the route of democracy. That is after all what we learnt in the 1980s, that you can't resist democracy, you have to toe the line, you have to follow the process. And Mangope just kept on trying to resist democracy and the normal route of democracy.

     You asked particularly what is going to be the effect of Mangope's removal. I think in the first instance, in the first few days after the incident there was some shock that it could happen so easily but I think more recently people have started to understand and get really wise about this.

POM     But the same sort of?

RM     No, that's a problem. It's a big problem on account of the fact that there's no organisation there through which you can actually start ordering.

POM     Since 1990 Nelson Mandela insisted that there was a third force, people highly placed in government were implicated in the violence. Now the Goldstone Report comes along, maybe two years ago, and now it appears that there is involvement of senior police officers. How could your own government in its investigations not have uncovered that?

RM     Let me first say I think it's too early yet to make such an assessment to say there is a third force.

POM     Goldstone is a cautious man. He would be unlikely to have it in a Report if there was no evidence.

RM     He says there are suggestions of it from the evidence that was brought to him and he believes it's prima facie evidence, but it still has to be investigated. He also says that a proper investigation is required. I have publicly said I think one must distinguish here, the third force can only be actually in existence if it is state sponsored. If it is not then it's something else, rogue elements, individuals who are coming together maybe on an organised basis but not within a structured, state approved way. There's a big difference between the two. So I would still argue that this is, even from what is available in terms of current information, is not an example of a third force. But the fact that something like this could have existed, in other words elements or individuals were busy with this, I have in my own mind indicated, and I might have said that the chances for something like this I think one could have spotted it for the first time in August 1991 because very soon after the Pretoria Minute on 6th August 1991 this type of violence started to erupt, train violence. I always had the impression that this is not just coincidence. Still up to this moment one can't say really whether it was in the final instance whether it was these individual police people who were responsible for that or whether it was other elements, or maybe both. I still have the feeling that there could be more than one here. I hope the investigation currently going on will show the whole picture for us. If it was coming from individuals from the police it's very difficult, almost impossible to uncover that because they were operating obviously on a secret basis and unless you have somebody to break the chain it is simply not possible to get into that framework. These guys are operating in a very secretive way.

POM     I know when I talked to you at first I asked you whether this process was about political entitlement or economic entitlement or both. [Now you ... whites it was more important ... political empowerment ...] Do you think that given that Derek Keys and Trevor Manuel went to the World Bank and the IMF making South Africa's case, that in one sense the government won that round?

RM     In what sense?

POM     In the sense that the ANC had come around to, for the most part come round to its way of thinking, on the nature of the market economy?

RM     I think there was some progress there. Whether they came around I think it is too early to say yet. It will have to be seen what policies they adopt.

POM     But the aid required from the World Bank and the IMF are so crucial ... against the divisions in how the economy should be run.

RM     That is true but it could also have been for pragmatic reasons. All that I'm saying is that I think it's important to see over a longer period of time whether that pragmatism is going to hold. I think it's a little bit too early to make a clear assessment, but surely that is one of the areas where I would say a significant change has taken place if you compare what they say now with what they said four years ago after Nelson Mandela was released.

POM     The word nationalisation has disappeared from their vocabulary.

RM     I believe there is a certain tendency to move away from socialism.

POM     What about the civil service. Everyone has been told that they will still retain jobs. On the other hand some place must be found for blacks. Do you think that there could be a problem regarding the civil service, that if the ANC took over on its own it would find itself with a very hostile civil service? Do you think some of that hostility exists? Do you think that by the affirmative action programmes that would come into being they could create a lot of resentment?

RM     Well this whole situation will have to be managed very carefully. Let me first of all say that the civil service will in any case be expanded in a certain way [because of the ... administration] but also due to the fact that there will have to be real additional services provided. I think what one can probably look at in the short term is vacancies especially at the top level and vacancies might even be created for that purpose to ensure that there is a bit of change at the top. And then as far as the rest of the levels are concerned I think it would be a question of additions and expansion in the normal way. The negative side economically speaking would be that we would probably have a bigger civil service than ever before. That seems to me to be unavoidable. Fortunately on the other hand the administrative structures are going to be reduced in terms of numbers, where there were 16 or 17 it will be reduced to ten. There is only going to be one central administration. But I think it depends on how it's going to be managed and I think there is a way to do it. The way in which we have succeeded through the multiparty negotiating process to find solutions and even now in the TEC, is there. It's a good example of how the integration already took place. I think we can definitely keep both sides happy.

POM     Good luck.

RM     It's going to take time and it will take a hell of an effort. Our biggest problem, however, now for the short term is how to integrate the civil services from the TBVC states. That's going to be the biggest problem because they have different cultures.

POM     And then you'd have what the provincial governments had. The Zulu nation would never be subjugated to the Xhosa nation, it is out of the question and rather than seeing the King as being ... When you met the King what sort of impression did he convey to you in terms of intelligence, ability to argue his point, to make his case?

RM     Well certainly you have your own impressions, but he relies very much on his so called advisers and that whenever it comes to a discussion or a debate when he has to put a point of view forward he is reluctant to do so. What he normally does is he presents a paper to start off the discussion but thereafter he doesn't participate in the discussion and he relies on his advisers to speak, and that was the case last Friday. I had the impression looking at the King last Friday that he was very uncertain of himself and actually had to deal with this situation. I tend to think that he is, knowing that this situation has affected him, it has affected him in a negative way. One might even think that it depended on him.

POM     How about Buthelezi? Does he negotiate or argue?

RM     None of them are actually negotiators. They are basically putting a point of view and if you don't accept it you're not on their side. But they can't negotiate from the position where they say, "OK let's look at the following concessions and compromises," and that makes it very difficult. That is our experience all the time with them right from the start of negotiations. They want something and if they can't get it they blame you for not getting it.

POM     How about de Klerk? What I'm trying to find here are your observations of the key top people during the last four years, how they have evolved, changed, matured or got worse or whatever. Have De Klerk and Mandela changed?

RM     None of them were actually part of the negotiations or at the negotiations. They never sat in in real negotiating situations. Whenever we had to refer matters to them for resolution it was basically to make a decision and not so much to negotiate a solution and that would apply to all forums. But I think what was important in terms of my own experience especially of the last two years, because I was only two years in that position, is the fact that FW could at all times assess the situation very clearly and be in a position to take decisions. In other words whenever I had to refer matters to him he would be extremely cooperative and supportive of the direction that we as negotiators would be busy with. He would give sometimes direction in another area or give guidelines in another direction and so on but he has basically taken up a position four years ago to say well we must bring about democracy in South Africa, and whatever he did since then was to keep to that course and to materialise that ideal although in certain cases he had to make very difficult decisions and concessions also. He succeeded to ensure that we basically achieved our goals politically and found agreement through the process of negotiations in such a way that we could have the feeling that we are walking out as winners. Now if the other parties could walk out as winners ...

POM     Do you think there was some dynamic at work? I think now of earlier in the year, Viljoen had just emerged as a political leader, Terre'Blanche and the right looked quite formidable in terms of its capacity to sabotage or engage in antics like that after the election. I was wondering about the homelands, how do you bring them in? Mangope was listening, Buthelezi was listening and Gqozo was listening, it was almost a sequence of events. The threat on the right had dissipated, that the homelands ... and that things are in fact in far better shape than people think they are.

RM     What is going to happen after the election? The average person is uncertain and that brings about fear. You and I who are well acquainted with the situation, we know the role players quite well, have a totally different perspective of what's going to happen. But the vast majority of white people and even some black people, they don't have this perspective and are uncertain about what is going to be happening when the new government is coming into force. People still tend to think it's going to be a complete ANC takeover and are therefore fearful simply on account of the impression that it will be, in African terms, a black government, without thinking about what the consequences are. First of all it's not going to be a takeover government by one party, it's going to be a government of national unity. Secondly, we have developed a situation in South Africa where there will be a continuation of the process, so to speak, because that is probably the most important thing that we have succeeded here, to ensure that what we have built up over the last four years is to be continued with in the next phase. It's difficult to tell people that and make them believe it. They will have to experience it. But what happened in the case of the homelands, I want to emphasise again, happened on account of the fact that no resistance can stand up against the normal processes of democracy.

POM     The things that people value, money, whether they are going to get their pensions or not. It seems to me ironic that ...

RM     The reason why that is coming into the picture is not so much coming from the central government, it's coming from all these homelands where people are fearing ...

POM     Would the independent states be free to manage their own pension funds?

RM     Those that have anything left will have to be brought into the central structures. Allocation can take place through the new provincial administrations but I'm afraid some of them have already got rid of their pension funds.

POM     Mandela. You've watched him now for four years. How has he evolved? How is he different from four years ago?

RM     I think he's stronger now in his organisation that he has ever been before. I think his role in politics and his participation in politics and the normalisation of the political process in South Africa has made him stronger. I think it goes together with the fact that the ANC has gradually started to become a political party. It was not four years ago. The ANC was a liberation movement, that's all, and he was the leader of a liberation movement. Gradually over the period of four years, as negotiations proceeded and especially over the last year and even more specifically over the last six months, as the ANC became part of the governmental structure, participating in transitional structures where they had to take joint responsibility, they started to change and become more and more a political party. My impression is that in this process Mandela has become stronger in his organisation. Because it is something different to be a struggle leader than to be a political leader of a political party and having to take responsibility. Probably the liberation movement won't necessarily have to take responsibility for what they or their followers are doing. Therefore what I'm trying to say is I think Mandela has become more and more of a political leader and in the process he has become stronger and stronger in his own organisation. That is my experience.

POM     Did you watch the debate last night?

RM     Yes.

POM     What was your assessment of who won and who was rejected?

RM     Who of the two?

POM     Yes.

RM     Well of course one looks at such a debate in a subjective way. Mandela's mistake was probably the fact that he kept on more than was necessary to play the man who was accusing FW of being less than candid and that type of thing. I think he overplayed that and in that situation I think he created a negative impression of himself. FW probably in some instances also should have come out more clearly on particular issues. I think there were at least two instances where he could have done it. But overall the picture, to my mind, was one of reconciliation, of strength. Some of the papers projected it this morning, the message overall probably is that we can rely on these two gentlemen.

POM     Their level of debate was far higher than amongst the presidential candidates in the United States. I thought he was cold, imperious, very dignified and dogmatic and judgemental. I was sitting in the lobby of the SABC waiting for an interview and in strolls Mandela and he gave us six photographs and in three minutes he was a completely different personality. He was warm, gracious. It was remarkable to contrast the two.

RM     I am looking forward actually to this period of government of national unity. I said to Cyril the other day, we'll just have to get the action over now because at the moment we are naturally in a political context and we can't avoid it and we can't avoid ourselves from that role. The sooner we can get over it, to work together to build the country together. Fortunately the relationship between FW and Mandela has also improved. You will recall that quite a significant, the chemistry disappeared for quite a long time. But over the last, I would say, six to nine months it has gradually started to come back. At the moment they are getting along quite well. I have often been together with them recently and the relationship is getting to become a warm one again.

POM     To start wrapping up. Do you believe that the elections will take place on election day, that there may be sporadic incidents of violence on the East Rand and more or less definitely in KwaZulu/Natal, that Buthelezi will still sit out there in the cold, that if he turns to violence the government will deal with him, that foreign investors should see investing in South Africa is a very worthwhile investment?

RM     That's effectively what's going to happen.

POM     And after next week? I mean he has no parliament, he has no ...

RM     Well he's probably thinking that we're going to invade but it will not be necessary because a new government for the province will be formed in Pietermaritzburg.

POM     Do you think there is a danger of civil war? Do you think you could see or envisage a situation where after the election that a state of emergency in Natal/KwaZulu would have to be strengthened and that in the process the SADF shoots some Zulus, suddenly then it is a question of an invading army and 'our people, we must stand together'?

RM     I doubt whether that situation will occur. There is of course a very careful balance but I doubt very much whether that situation will occur. For a short moment I thought that that potential was very strong, some weeks ago, but my impression at the moment is that the chances are remote.

POM     What changed your mind?

RM     The Johannesburg incident.

POM     You saw the political loser after ...?

RM     Johannesburg? Oh yes. In my mind it was immediately. They invaded Johannesburg and they came second, for whatever reason. And lastly and probably most importantly is the fact that Buthelezi is losing support from his own ranks, and the fact that the King's call for Zulus not to vote is going to be ignored. There might be intimidation but in terms of the major regional surveys that I've seen, two thirds of Zulus in Natal are saying no on the question of whether they are going to adhere to the King's call.

POM     To call the result of the election, who's going to get what?

RM     No, no, I would never try that.

POM     Do you think it would be bad for the country and the ANC if the ANC received more than two thirds of the votes, that it could write its own constitution if it so wished?

RM     I'm not so much worried about its own constitution because I don't think they will be so concerned about writing their own constitution because they are basically happy with the existing constitution. This constitution will remain.

POM     I've gone through the 33 principles and ...

RM     I'm not expecting that to be a major concern in itself but I don't think it would be good for the country to have one party with that much power, I don't think that would be good and for that reason I would argue that it would be far better to ... for the sake of ordinary government.

POM     Thank you very much.

RM     Just one point. Right at the start you asked me whether I could remember exactly what the proportions were of CODESA 2, I'm not saying this is the point you were aiming at but if the deduction from that was that was the percentages and that in the end we settled for far less in terms of the figures, that is not a correct assumption because at the time of CODESA 2 there was no clarity on some of the major issues relating to regionalism, government of national unity and other things. In other words the percentages at that stage had to be high on account of the uncertainties. At a later stage when we proceeded with the negotiations we could settle for far lower percentages because the deals were then agreed upon.

POM     OK.

RM     There might be a tendency to say ...

POM     That was the best offer that the government ever got and that they threw away their best opportunity.

RM     It's very relative.

POM     It's difficult to get a coalition of 30% of the people and therefore ...

RM     CODESA 2 was a mishap.

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.