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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

23 Apr 1994: Botha, Pik

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Rapport

POM     In the end it appears that Buthelezi just caved in?

PB     I know that is a perception but it's not as simple as that. He himself does not see it as caving in or capitulating. His own explanation is that he got what he wanted, namely parliament to assemble and to pass or rather amend the constitution to provide for the security and maintenance of the Zulu kingdom. That is the first point. The second point is that international mediation, all mediation would continue even after the elections. His point of view is that with these two matters secured he almost got what he wanted. Now that does not mean that he could have achieved this earlier.

POM     The offer about the King was made some months ago.

PB     Yes the National Party specifically made proposals to that effect but then the ANC was against it. The ANC did not want a reference in the constitution. They said the matter could be resolved by the KwaZulu/Natal provincial constitution, not the constitution of the country as a whole. The ANC, I must say, appeared to me to have made a concession on this one so all in all I think it was a give and take process once more but the National Party, my government, really had to agree to nothing because we had already agreed to what was on the table. It was ANC and Inkatha who had to agree and we egged them on, encouraged them and actually President de Klerk acted as a mediator.

POM     What about the constitution itself? On a scale of one to ten where one is that it is very unsatisfactory and ten is where it is very satisfactory, where would you put it?

PB     Give me again your scale.

POM     One is very unsatisfactory and ten is very satisfactory.

PB     Seven and a half. Seven and a half, which I think is close on ...

POM     When you look back over the last four years what would you identify as being significant turning points?

PB     Well I believe the agreement reached last Tuesday, insignificant as it might be in substance, has this tremendous effect of bringing Inkatha into the process thus immediately reducing the immense tension that has built up during the past few weeks. The King of the Zulus publicly stated that all Zulus should now vote. That removes from the minds of our Zulu people the fierce struggle, tremendous psychological struggle that was unleashed when the King said they should not vote because they wanted to vote but at the same time they wanted to remain loyal to their King. So that removed that tension. Then generally there is the perception of our people that with this agreement the shooting, the conflict between Inkatha and the ANC would now at a steady rate diminish and be reduced.

POM     The ANC when I ask people there what the significant turning points are, they often point to the Record of Understanding.

PB     No I don't agree. The Record of Understanding from our point of view was indeed what it says, it was a record of a number of understandings already reached reformulated here and there. The ANC did away, broke up CODESA, they did it, and then the Inkatha Freedom Party walked away and for a long time after that and particularly after the Boipatong killings the ANC immediately blamed it on us, on the police, which later proved to be absolutely wrong and incorrect factually. They had to be brought back. We provided a face saving device for them to come back but that upset then the Inkatha Freedom Party and again there also not a single point in that Record of Understanding that was not cleared with Inkatha beforehand. Not a day or two before but weeks and weeks before in bilateral talks.

POM     Why do you think Buthelezi fascinates people? No-one appears to like him. I've interviewed him three or four times and he's a completely different personality every time I talk to him. He ranges between surly and a closed man and close lipped and giving me very short answers to my questions.

PB     Who are you talking of?

POM     Buthelezi. Do you think he will gain more out of the process or has he gained more out of the process by holding out to the very end, that he slowly milked inch by inch which he would not have been able to do had he stayed in the process from the beginning?

PB     It's very difficult to answer. He himself explained that that Sunday before the agreement, I think it was the 17th, he said as his plane was leaving, just taking off, something went wrong with the engine so he had to turn back and when he turned back there was this friend of his from Africa, Professor Okumu, and he said that he saw in that an almost divine destination or destiny direction and furthermore I do believe that he felt that the alternative of staying out of the election would increase the tension and conflict and bloodshed and the killing of people and that he might have to take a good deal of the blame for it one day.

POM     Did you ever get the feeling when he was in CODESA that he was an ally of the government?

PB     The problem was he never really attended the many discussions in CODESA. He was only there for one or two main meetings and the problem is this, the ANC started off with insisting on a strong central government with a Constituent Assembly to be elected urgently and a Constituent Assembly to write and draft a constitution entirely. Our original position was that we should have an interim government, not necessary elected, to govern and work on the constitution and then at the end of it hold an election. The IFP they wanted the provinces to be autonomous and have elections and then decide which power they want to give to the central government. So you have this position of ANC - no election, strong central government and a central government to decide what devolution of power will take place and what powers they will distribute to the provinces. The IFP - the provinces deciding what powers they would give to the central government. And my government, I would say, an attitude in between, saying look you are both on the extreme now. You can have both a strong central government and a strong federal system by clearly defining the powers that will go to the provinces and then provide in the constitution for the central parliament not to interfere with those powers allocated to the provinces. And simple as this might sound this very problem kept up busy for two years.

POM     As far as the principles, the 23 principles that were set out?

PB     Twenty four.

POM      As a guideline, twenty four, guidelines, have any of those ...?

PB     Not guidelines. Those principles will not be changed.

POM     The powers the regions have now are theirs, they can't be taken away?

PB     Yes. They're exclusive powers, they're exclusive in the sense that the central parliament may not interfere and they are quite, I would say as a beginning, ample because they deal with functions connected with just about all the important aspects of the individual's life, where he lives and works, the local police, education, housing, medical services. All these important matters of life are now in the hands of the provinces.

POM     Do they have any autonomy now?

PB     Not autonomy but they have original power of taxation, but so has the central government also. A province may in addition to that also levy their own taxes, yes.

POM     It's been a four year process and you have been at the centre of it most of the time. Just effectively what would you say for you were the high points and the low points?

PB     Well the low point certainly was when CODESA virtually came to an end and we had to pick up the pieces and work from there and the high point certainly was the agreement we reached with the ANC on the constitution and the third or second high point was the agreement with Inkatha to come back into the process.

POM     The ANC would say, have said to me anyway, that their mass action after Boipatong, this rolling mass action that they got into at Bisho, I won't say scared the government, but frightened the government with their capacity to close the country down and make life very uncomfortable, that really the government capitulated.

PB     It's absolute nonsense. If you look at the history of events and then the events themselves contradict that statement altogether. If anything it delayed the negotiations and that can also be proved if you look at the timetable. We gained everything that we promised the voters in the referendum, just about everything. We wanted a strong bill of rights. We got it. The ANC came with ten vaguely formulated items, we came with twenty five. Twenty five were agreed upon. The ANC did not originally like the idea of a Constitutional Court which can adjudicate and can declare any law of parliament null and void if it violates the bill of rights or the constitutional principles. It's there, it's in place. We advocated freedom of religion as a principle, freedom of speech, private property rights, a market orientated economic system. It's all there, all of it is there. We advocated this idea of having a federal system with exclusive powers for the provinces. It was agreed upon. So, with all respect, if you look back - oh yes, the most important point was the ANC started off with nationalisation, everybody knows it, we ended up with their leaders now telling countries abroad and investors abroad, "Don't worry your investments will be safe, no nationalisation." So if you look at it from that point of view the ANC did make really important concessions but they are very good at presenting it to their followers as if we gave in and they scored. I don't mind because we succeeded in getting what we wanted and it's the score card that counts at the end of the game.

POM     On the ANC side who impressed you? What negotiators impressed you?

PB     No, no, no, I don't want to become personal.

POM     OK.

PB     I think what is important is that through this process former enemies became negotiators and discovered common ground in their South African citizenship, sharing, community of interests. I believe that the events in the former Soviet Union and central Europe played a tremendous role. It robbed the ANC of a power base it used to enjoy for years. It robbed the ANC overnight and they also had to adapt to this changed international situation. But really you know, sitting, eating and talking with people for over three years does bring about a situation where persons on a personal level become friends. I think mutual trust on a personal level has been built up in respect of many personalities so it is a totally different situation I believe from that prevailing in Yugoslavia or even the Middle East or even up to recently Northern Ireland. Here, as you can witness everywhere, we really are together. We can sit together in the room on Tuesday, ANC and De Klerk and us and Buthelezi making jokes at each other, humouring each other. There's no personal animosity, no weakening, we do not have that and this is very encouraging. I think as the government of national unity gets off the ground we will even discover more, to a greater extent, how we need each other to impress the world, to convince the world that this country has a future. That's in the interests of all of us.

POM     If anybody had said to you four years ago when Mandela was released that four years after that South Africa would be having a non-racial, democratic election to govern the country and to draw up a constitution, would you have believed it would have been possible in four years?

PB     No, no. Personally I would have liked it to happen earlier. In the very first year we already reached agreements of a remarkable nature with some very good aspects and that indicated to me that if we could overcome those obstacles at that time then the rest should not be that difficult. It was the withdrawal of Inkatha who then sided with the right wing parties which really played a delaying role, it had a delaying effect on the country.

POM     On that line, when you look at the government what major concessions did it make in the four years and when you look at the ANC what were the major concessions they made?

PB     I tried to tell you already, I told you what the ANC did and as far as we are concerned we agreed to the release of political prisoners in a way which was really very unpopular in South Africa. A vast number of prisoners were released who were in fact criminals. We also would have liked the government of national unity to be more or less a permanent feature or to provide for it constitutionally for a longer period. Then on the other hand if this country doesn't put itself right within five years I wouldn't like to be a member of such a government. So looking back we obtained what we promised the voters in the referendum I would say up to 90%, up to 90% and I regard therefore this constitution as a good constitution.

POM     It won't be amended very much?

PB     No because you have the Constitutional Court, you have the constitutional principles and you have the Bill of fundamental rights all of which are agreed to. Of course there is a fear that if the ANC obtains too large a majority that they would simply tear up the constitution. That might be so but I think it would be extremely foolish of them to do so because they would immediately meet with resistance from the whole industrialised world and they will pay a heavy price should they even consider doing so. So I'm rather hopeful, very hopeful.

POM     Do you think foreign investment will come in in the short run?

PB     Only if the National Party comes out strongly in the election and forms an efficient and effective part of the new government, assisting the new government to reduce violence. Yes then investments will come in and jobs would be created, unemployment would be reduced, crime would be reduced and the country will take off.

     I think we must stop now.

POM     OK, thank you.

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.