About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

07 Nov 1994: Zille, Helen

Click here for more information on the Interviewee

Click here for Overview of the year

POM     Let's start off with the whole question of the reaction to the assassination of Johan Heyns.

HZ     That, obviously, is a very great tragedy, the man had played an absolutely central role in bringing the church into an agreement around the transition, the Dutch Reformed Church that is, and the Dutch Reformed Church has always been absolutely pivotal to the National Party getting legitimacy for what it is trying to achieve and I think that in many ways the Dutch Reformed churches through Johan Heyns in the transition enabled the National Party to take most of its constituency with it. I can't prove that but Heyns was to all intents and purposes, as one understands, absolutely pivotal in that. He was pivotal in that and unlike Beyers Naude, Johan Heyns worked for that from within and you always need people who are pressurising from outside and those are often the people whose principles brook no compromise, people such as Beyers Naude. He couldn't have survived the compromises that were needed to stay in that establishment. But Johan Heyns could maintain his integrity and work for that change from within. It's interesting, they are different kinds of personalities and they are often both essential.

POM     He put it in a way, as I recall it from talking to him last week, as a moral thing, it's not the right thing to do.

HZ     You see the interesting thing about him, it's easy to rationalise anything post hoc, but I think the point is that Johan Heyns genuinely could stay within that structure and maintain his integrity and his principles and work for change from within it. And those people have been absolutely essential in South Africa's history as have the people who have not stayed within structures, who have gone out and applied the pressure from outside. And I think that it was crucial to have that internal leadership as well and the measure of his success was the extent to which, I suppose as they said in the press today, Mandela was welcomed by the Dutch Reformed Church and so was Beyers Naude welcomed back. I think that was the culmination of Johan Heyns' internal leadership.

     It's a total tragedy, but you would see why from the ultra right extremist point of view people like Johan Heyns are almost more dangerous than people who fought from the outside because they have carried so many people with them. Now we can't obviously assume that it was a right winger responsible, one can't judge and find people guilty and even assume by implication the class of people who might have been involved when there has been no evidence to that effect at all. But the logical assumption, given South African politics, is that the right wing might be suspect and one could see why somebody like Johan Heyns would be seen as a major traitor by them. It's an absolute tragedy and it's another one of the people we could least afford to lose going.

POM     When I came back this time I see the press reporting that a violent crime is committed every 17 seconds, you've got the seeming inability of the police to bring the level of violence under control, you've got Mandela's accusation that the police are declaring war against the ANC, you've huge pay demands, you've random strikes all over the place that tie up traffic and disrupt, you've a simmering war still going on in KwaZulu. Is the country lurching towards anarchy or is it still on a very fine line?

HZ     When I've discussed these things with you I know that I've always distinguished between the three levels of transition, political, economic and social. I've also said to you in many previous interviews, or in some of our previous interviews, we haven't had many, that people have been too focused on the political aspects of transition. They look to be the key aspects of transition because of the logic of South African history unfolding almost against itself as it were. Our logic would have taken us into civil war, that logic was denied by active political leadership. So all eyes were on the political process because it seemed as if the miracle would happen at the political level. It did but there were two other critical levels people were not focusing on, economic level, which did get some attention but not nearly as much as the political level and everyone recognised, obviously, that a successful political transition would have to be underpinned by economic growth and not only economic growth but more equitable distribution of that growth and that wouldn't happen without education or the things we know about.

     But the third level almost got ignored and that was the social aspect of transition. Now isn't understood overseas primarily because people don't really understand what social disintegration is about in developed countries. You don't understand that because there is such a network of organisations, institutions, everything from the local church club right through to the golf club and the voluntary society and the Rotarians, that is the weft and woof of society. It holds everything together and the social cohesion of developed countries is something that really underpins economic growth and the political process. And because people take that so much for granted and have never analysed that as a pivotal part of stability they have not looked at our lack thereof as a critical failing in the South African context.

     Now we have a very under-developed civil society. I know you like talking about the Civics and those kinds of organisations and you often have mentioned to me in past interviews, what about the civics? And I have often said to you, don't overestimate the strength, the cohesion, the civil society capacity of those organisations. In fact our major problem in South Africa is the under-developed nature of institutional and organisational development in the townships except at the kind of level that you've mentioned, gangs, self-defence units. It's almost as if that form of organisation, the survival form of social organisation, has been what is defining civil society more and more, or at least its organised form.

     And so, as I've said to you before and I'll say now again, social disintegration remains the biggest threat to this transition. We've had our political miracle. We look as if we might well be set on a course to an economic miracle given what Joe Slovo has achieved, and given what Chris Liebenberg is saying, and given the conditions on which foreign governments are lending to us, or are giving us money, grants, what they are giving it for and the delivery that they are requiring. We might well get enterprise initiative productivity as the basis of our economic transformation, which will be the miracle. We might even get international investment.

     But I think the economic transition depended on good policy and good management and it looks as if we might have a better chance of pulling that off than I would have thought to have been the case, but at the social level we are doing extraordinarily badly. And the first area of erosion is the lack of public confidence in social cohesion. When you get the kind of stories that filled the Sunday Times yesterday you get terrified, you get really frightened of growing old in this society where you're going to have to dress up as a tramp to go to the shops. I'm being a bit dramatic now but it is a concern.

POM     Well, at least one woman did it.

HZ     I saw that, that's what I'm referring to. But you don't want to grow up in a society where you can't go out with your handbag. It hasn't got to that stage yet. We don't notice that kind of thing in Cape Town. Obviously I've been mugged before, there are very few people who haven't been mugged before in South Africa, who go out with handbags. There are few people black or white that have possessions that haven't had something stolen, or they've been mugged, it's a colour-blind thing. And the level of violent crime is a matter of grave concern as is the level of expectations that people have of delivery and remuneration unrelated to productivity. It's an extraordinarily corrosive cycle in South Africa.

POM     Do you ...?

HZ     No, I don't. I think that a key problem in the area of productivity is management in South Africa. I think where there is poor productivity it is usually, and I can't say always, but usually a management problem. People don't go to work to waste their time and to sit around, normally. But I think there's a big gap between management and workers and I also think that there's a lack of training, a tremendous lack of training. But I do think that there is an extent to which people do not understand how much value you have to add to any enterprise to get the kind of remuneration that many trade unionists are getting. Equally, may I say, not trade unionists, what I am saying is organised workers in unionised industries, may I equally say that there are far too many people in managerial positions who have no understanding of the connection between value added and remuneration. This goes right through the whole South African economy and we need massive rationalisation. We need people to understand how much work you have to do. I mean if you work hard enough to get a lovely house on a beautiful acre plot with a swimming pool and a tennis court there's no-one who would have any time over to enjoy that if you did enough work to earn the value to have those things. It's very simple. And we've lost that connection in South Africa.

POM     Will that come under even more stress and accent their ...?

HZ     It's the issue that will get me strung up, it's the issue that I had the altercation with Patricia on last time because Patricia was saying the people in South Africa are all very keen to have the transfer of power to the blacks in the polity but why not in the economy, and I was saying actually if you want to keep an economy going and part of the world economy you've got to look at delivery, productivity, output, not the colour of somebody's skin.

     There's a point at which one can obviously engage in affirmative action and I'm all in favour thereof but not in a tokenistic way. It's delivery, it's productivity, it's remuneration related to output and to value added. Crucial. In South Africa too many whites have lost the connection between those two, as I was just explaining, and the more organisations come under the squeeze and under the tight whip of economic logic and at the same time have to put people in jobs that they are not doing optimally it makes it extraordinarily difficult. I have just been told now that they've cut my budget next year and I haven't got a big budget at all. I've got to cut my next year's budget by R450,000. Do you know what a big percentage that is of my budget? It's enormous.

     Now when I look here, the only thing I ask is, who is adding value in this place? Who is adding value? And honestly, because I've still got to produce the same output on this kind of a budget, then I've got to say to myself, where do I cut? I have to that because we've got to continue doing more with less. I can't say, well it'll look very nice to have A, B, C and D on the staff. I say who is adding maximal value? Often black people are adding maximal value, you can't say that there's a correlation, but I can't use anything else but value added to make those decisions. Nothing else. And the South African economy is going in that direction where value added is the only thing that determines an economic decision and it's very, very tough when people haven't had the same opportunities. Therefore affirmative action and equity focuses on giving people those opportunities and making sure they use them.

POM     We've been around the country for the last few weeks and very slowly or very clearly the powers required to implement the RDP are not being devolved to the Premiers of the provinces and they can't do the job.

HZ     What do you think of that?

POM     That's their position.

HZ     I'm a very committed federalist, let me say this to you. I've always been a federalist. I believe that countries work best on decentralising power to the lowest functional level. That's my management style. I do it here. But for the first time I've ironically thought that it's a good idea that the centre can determine when to devolve powers because I think there's every chance that the kind of very tough economic management that's emanating from the centre could be undermined by regional populism and we've seen it very clearly in the whole housing debate. You remember Joe Slovo's department, and Joe Slovo is a person I have the greatest respect for, he is an extraordinarily good minister, he basically said : this is how much money we will have for housing, I will fight for more but this is how much we've got. Even if we get more it's not going to build a three bed-roomed house for every family, not by a long shot. He said the state's got a very simple choice. We can either do a lot for a few or a little for many. The rest of Africa went for a lot for the few route thinking they could do it for everybody but obviously they couldn't on the size of their budgets. And what happened? The people who got the houses were not those in need but those with political connections. Slovo said no way. This is our budget. What is the role of the state and what must the state deliver? He said, land, services and a starter dwelling. That's it, a capital subsidy. You can do what you like with your capital subsidy as long as you spend it on housing. The capital subsidy he said was R12,500. He said that is affordable, that is replicable, that is sustainable but above all it harnesses individual energy and enterprise without which you cannot have a developing economy. If you get into a culture of the state delivers to everybody you're in serious trouble.

     He came with that policy. The first thing that happened was Tokyo Sexwale, who is talking to the Managing Director of Stocks & Stocks, says they are going to build 150,000 houses a year, formal houses. That was the first clash. Slovo said, "We can't afford that. We will never replicate that to serve all the needs. That's not the state's role to be giving people formal houses." The next thing, Dan Mofokeng promises to write off all the rental arrears in coloured townships. You can wipe nine billion off the RDP by doing that.

     So you can imagine decentralising all of these policy decisions in areas where the provinces do have control and there certainly wouldn't be an RDP with populist decisions like that because the RDP people have made it plain, RDP is not a Christmas present. RDP is government investment in the productivity and self-reliance of communities. It's giving them the wherewithal to get going on delivery.

POM     Do you think the government has been - again, I would ask the question about the RDP, why has it not been marketed in the way that the Electoral Commission marketed the elections last April?

HZ     First of all you can't sell three letters, R D P. What is that? You've got to have something emotive that's like Operation Bootstrap, but something, Operation Help Each Other or I don't know what. But RDP, it doesn't convey what it is. I mean Reconstruction and Development Programme does but what South Africans do not understand given all of the years of apartheid is that reconstruction and development doesn't depend on the government, it depends on each individual. And because apartheid was a policy that systematically disempowered people and told people where they could live, how they could live, where they could work or whether they could work, when to have a permit, where they could go to school, it created a whole cycle of dependency because you wait for the government to tell you what you can do and what you can't do. So people think, well the reverse of apartheid is the government giving you what you want, not telling you what you can't do. The reverse of apartheid is quite different. The reverse of apartheid is an enabling government giving people the right to work, not the right to a job, but the right to work and the right to get the space to work, the right to credit, the right to establish a family life and the right to really improve your own circumstances.

     The government's role is there to support the indigent, absolutely yes, and the people who can't look after themselves. If we get into a syndrome of the government supporting people for other reasons you cannot as a society produce more than you consume. That's not a possibility. To break the cycle of dependence on government and on government decree and will and directive and authoritarianism is the most critical need behind the RDP. That hasn't been sold.

     You remember when Nelson Mandela was released from prison and about six weeks afterwards there was a letter in the Cape Times and the letter said, well Nelson Mandela has been out of jail for six weeks now, where is my house? Direct corollary of that position. And if you remember the Freedom Charter with a whole series of strings of exhortations, "There shall be housing, security and comfort. The doors of learning and culture shall be open." That creates a whole ethos. But I don't think you can blame the Freedom Charter. It was a series of exhortations and promises. It certainly wasn't a policy.

     The enterprise of societies that are run by authoritarian governments, if you look anywhere from East Germany to the Soviet Union, to Ukraine, to wherever you like, to South Africa, independence, enterprise, initiative are the first things to be destroyed. The first things to be destroyed by authoritarianism. We didn't have a totalitarian government, we had an authoritarian government and if people are never free to take decisions because there's always somebody else telling them what they can do and what they can't do because of the colour of their skin, three quarters of the things you can't do anyway. That's the kind of disempowerment that results and to turn that round is extraordinarily difficult. If you look at Germany, if you look at the difference between West Germany and East Germany, I've just come back from East Germany so I've seen it, a culture of a society can be changed by the style of government. Now even though East Germany has only been in the grip of communism since 1945, that's not a long time, how to transform that is extraordinary difficult. The state shall deliver and the people are finding the whole switch to 'it's up to you' is a very, very difficult switch.

POM     The performance of the government, where ten is very satisfactory, how would you rate them?

HZ     The Northern Transvaal's to the far north. I'd give them probably nought, probably one. I mean they are falling apart there, there's chaos. Eastern Cape is also bad. I'd give top marks to the Free State, I think they are doing well. North-West isn't doing badly, not doing brilliantly, but anybody who has to incorporate a homeland is battling. You see the Northern Transvaal has to incorporate five different administrations, three of them homelands. There's all the corruption and the mal-administration and the malaise. Those weren't obviously confined to the homelands, but when you get three homelands having to be wrapped up in one new province it's extraordinarily difficult and you've got to keep everybody on board because of the promise that was made of nobody losing their jobs. Everybody thought that that was to protect the white right wing, it's actually to protect all of the homeland bureaucrats, well that's what it's resulted in doing. So I think the Northern Transvaal and the Eastern Cape are doing the worst. I think the Free State is doing the best. I think the Northern Cape isn't doing badly, given that it's an unbelievably difficult resource base. I think that the Western Cape is doing OK except for the internecine conflict between the ANC and the National Party and ditto Natal. In Transvaal, Matthews Phosa, I get quite a good impression of him.

POM     You have a good impression?

HZ     Of Matthews Phosa. That's his name? Yes. I get a good impression of him but I can't say anything more. He's got a very poor area to govern. I think that Terror Lekota is probably doing the best and I also think that Popo Molefe is doing OK and Matthews Phosa is doing fine. And I think that, but this is just impressions, this is from reading the newspaper, and if I look at Natal, Mdlalose, I think he's a good man. He's one of the best guys Inkatha has. He and Ben Ngubane are two of the best guys Inkatha has. I think he's trying to make a go of it but it's a conflict situation.

POM     There were many suggestions after the elections that a miracle happened and many people I've talked to suggest that the results of the election were rigged.

HZ     Apart from reporting in the press I haven't got any concrete evidence that anything was rigged. I do not know how unfree the election was in parts of Natal for example. I do not know, but I do believe there were irregularities. That I think is common cause. And I do think it became so critical to have that election work that that was the number one consideration. If that election hadn't worked the odds were so unbelievably great that this country would have been plunged into chaos. Look how many billions we spent on that election anyway, there just wasn't the money to do it again.

POM     I know of no political party in the world, particularly given the animosity between the ANC and Inkatha ...

HZ     A re-election, absolutely, absolutely. So you say that they deliberately inflated figures in order to ...?

POM     Give everybody something that would keep them in the same tent.

HZ     Something that would keep them in the system.

POM     At least they could say to Buthelezi, "You got Natal." The ANC got two thirds but enough to make them satisfied, and the NP got the Western Cape.

HZ     If you plotted the outcome like that on a graph in order to ensure stability that's the outcome you would have come up with.

POM     My larger question is, I've been doing election observing since the Philippines, I see a change happening. Whereas before the emphasis other than on left and right, the emphasis was always on fairness, freeness and what level of irregularity. Along with those considerations, it's now in government, unity is what they need. Before you get to the real democracy you have to go through a series of steps.

HZ     Can you just repeat those last two sentences, I lost you.

POM     It changes the picture.

HZ     If you do what?

POM     If you say that the emphasis now in countries undergoing transformations towards democracy should be on the production of a stable government and a government that is regarded as being legitimate even if that means the election wasn't free and fair.

HZ     You can't ever give up the semblance of freeness and fairness because otherwise people who were sacrificed in order to give the legitimate outcome you are looking for are going to be very furious and rightly so. The ANC wasn't only persuaded to let Buthelezi win Natal because that was the way it should be in order to guarantee legitimacy. If they felt they had won and been robbed of victory in a very serious way they would have challenged it. I know that Zuma did try to challenge it and I know that he went to court to try to do so and I know that he was dissuaded from doing it, but if the case had been overwhelming you wouldn't tell everybody, "Down, down boys." Mandela might have tried for the sake of keeping the thing together but there's no way that Zuma and company would have accepted. We're not a tame country. I mean people would have said no. I can see why it's easy to sacrifice softies like the DP on the altar of expedience, but people who are fighting to win don't get sacrificed easily. I think that that may be a factor, that may well be a factor in determining the outcome but if it was the overwhelming factor which did not reflect the will of the electorate to some degree it wouldn't hold together.

POM     This rivalry going on between King Zwelithini and Buthelezi, is this a threat if it moves along as it seems to be moving along?

HZ     I must say possibly because I know that the legacy of the Zulu King is a very, very major one and Inkatha is the political organisation to which patronage is dispensed and all of that and the King does have a lot of loyalty although I really do believe that this whole issue needs to be challenged head on. Buthelezi will do everything to ensure that his power base isn't eroded and if it means coming into headlong conflict with the King he no longer buys that. I mean into headlong conflict with the King because he no longer buys it or is being advised by different advisers then it's going to be serious. That's my view. But I don't know enough about it to say. What I'm telling you now, Padraig, is just as an informed reader of newspapers. I'm not involved in any of this stuff any more. I just read papers so I hope that that gives you some kind of understanding. I'm not an expert.

POM     I suppose what I would be looking for would be the common belief that there is such a thing and your colleagues and friends and the people you socialise with ...

HZ     The common belief among the people I socialise with is that this whole institution of the Zulu monarchy is one whose bluff should be called. This whole thing of him now having his seventh wife and all this reverence around the King doing this and the King demanding that. At a point you've got to say there are certain values that we stand for in this society and the issues are not compatible actually. But it's a complex one, boy is it ever complex. I mean if I said that to any of my Zulu colleagues or friends there would be massive resistance. The same way I feel about the British Royal family. Exactly the same way.

POM     I don't think there would be much massive resistance any more.

HZ     But that's what my circle think.

POM     I want to go back to the restructuring of the civil service. It seems to me, you mentioned that everyone's job is entrenched, therefore nobody loses their job.

HZ     Iniquitous.

POM     Meanwhile you have to recruit blacks into management positions and it will simultaneously be done.

HZ     No, it's not possible. It's not possible to guarantee everybody his or her job, cut back by 200,000 and apply massive affirmative action at the same time, unless, and there's only one way you can do it, unless all the good people leave because no-one who can't get a job elsewhere is going to leave and you can't force them to leave. OK? If you are going to cut 200,000 jobs out, most of them will be through natural attrition which will mainly be by good people going elsewhere because they have lost their options for promotion through the civil service, because they don't see any change of getting ahead and then you may well have good affirmative action with very good black people, and I do hope that they are very good black people and they don't all go to the private sector because one of the woes of Africa, one of the great woes of Africa has been that good people have often avoided the public sector and government and gone into the private sector and international NGOs and international agencies. So we want good black people in government and it would be very good if good black people did go to government. But my concern is that if you're trying to cut out 200,000 jobs and making the only path of advancement through specific routes, affirmative action routes, you're going to end up with a very, very emasculated civil (well that's a bad sexist phrase to use), but you're going to end up with a weakened civil service.

POM     Is this country in better shape now than it was? I ask that in the light of a question that I asked Derek Keys two years ago to which he replied that the best this economy could do for the rest of this century, that this is the economic problem, the unemployment rate is 40%, and at best it can grow at 1% per year until the year 2000. Mbeki a couple of weeks ago said there would be no tax increase in next year's budget, where is the money going to come from?

HZ     The 1% growth?

POM     The resources to transform society in terms of expenditure on education, expenditure on health, social services.

HZ     Are you asking me where the resources are going to come from or how the economy can grow? The economy has got to effectively grow 3,6% per year if we're going to have an increase of 1% in employment because population growth is 2,6%. So if we can get an average of 3,6% growth to the end of this century, I agree that's the best we can do. That is the best we can do. I think that ordinary individual taxpayers are really taxed very substantially and the only way it's going to happen is the state is going to cut down massively it's support for things that it now considers non-essential. It's going to go for, I think, in terms of national policy, it's going to go for equitable spending across the board and anybody who wants anything more must pay for it themselves. So, for example, in the little school that I'm very active in, on the Board of Governors, etc., my children's school, there we are seeing that we are going to be slashed by ten teachers and if we want to maintain the fabric of the school we parents have got to find the money to pay ten teachers every year. It's a good little school with tremendously dedicated teachers and not too many resources, it's not an over-resourced school and it hasn't got a high income base from which to draw its pupils, but the challenge of maintaining what we've got is extraordinarily big because all of the burden is being passed over to us and in terms of the constitution we may not exclude anybody from that school who can't pay.

POM     You can't exclude anybody from the school who can't pay?

HZ     We're getting our resources cut. We're going to lose ten teachers.

POM     While your resources are also being cut.

HZ     This is the thing. We've all got to do much, much more with much, much less and that's as simple as it us. And it's biting at this university as well. This is one of the last two internationally recognised universities on the continent of Africa.

POM     What's the other one?

HZ     I don't know. One whole continent without an internationally recognised university; it could easily happen.

POM     The right wing?

HZ     That's a hard question. I'm actually very nervous about how this is going to be used because if this bit gets used and that bit gets used it's going to affect one in a very bad light if things get used in certain ways.

POM     That's why I send transcripts on so that people can review them and say, "Gee, don't use that, take this out."

HZ     I must do it with more regularity but I've been so busy, especially running a business and this job.

POM     At the end of the interviewing I will give everybody a copy of all the interviews together so that they go through them sequentially, not one year at a time.

HZ     Good, good, that's useful. You see, Padraig, the right wing was very powerful, was very influential at the time. Then their teeth were successfully drawn, (a) because there was no option, I mean you could fight till you were blue in the face but this process was going to change, secondly because Constand Viljoen led the responsible right wing into a settlement, thirdly because they got this Volkstaat Council in terms of the constitution and fourthly because the church brought most Afrikaners into the dispensation to settle, fifthly because after the assassination of Chris Hani the key plots to assassinate leaders was completely undermined and also because that invasion into Bophuthatswana ended so disastrously.

POM     For them.

HZ     For the right wing. So all of those factors together, I think, showed the majority of people who cared to think about it that taking a last ditch stand in the trenches and fighting was not going to work. Now the assassination of Johan Heyns may well be an indication that there are still very angry individuals or small groups of individuals around and they can cause havoc, small groups of individuals are very dangerous. But my perception is that the real risk of the right wing is a slow mobilisation from this point as white people start seeing their interests really fundamentally threatened or things don't work out as people expect it.

     And so for example if we get a situation where the quality of life, let's look at an institution like this university which I think has been extraordinarily bold in changing its student profile very rapidly, in defying the apartheid laws during the eighties to mix residences and to do everything. If there were to be a perception that that is accompanied by all the things that were mentioned in the Weekend Argus two weekends ago, which is an increase in violence, an increase in disruption of classes, an increase in militancy, volatility, rape, all of the things that were mentioned, and if people who are used to different kinds of contexts start mobilising a resistance, and they will be black and white people, you could have the organic growth of a right wing that will have a very different complexion, as it were, from the previous one and many of them without the option of leaving. So many liberals who don't want to become right wing exercise the option to emigrate.

POM     The local government elections for next year in October, we have gained the impression travelling around from one region to another that there is broad scale feeling that they will be postponed and a different kind of process this time. Do you think those elections will take place?

HZ     I'm sure they will be postponed. What we have to do is compile a voters' roll for that election. You know how difficult that's going to be?

POM     You have to register the voters too.

HZ     You've got to register the voters and compile a voters' roll. Now I mean that's going to be a huge task in itself. A lot of areas, like the Western Cape for example, aren't ready at all for an election on that basis. There's going to be massive voter education needed, there's no budget for it as there was for the previous one. There are a lot of problems and I think it might well have to be postponed. But no-one is tackling the local government elections with the kind of resolve that they tackled the national elections with and I don't know what Van Zyl Slabbert has to say about it but it looks very, very messy to me; all the things that have to be done before elections on a voters' roll can take place.

POM     Again this is just a question of your own opinion, if there were local elections next year or when there are local elections will this re-ignite the violence between the IFP and the ANC at even a more intense level because you're talking about smaller areas of territory?

HZ     It could well. My impression is that it could well. I'm sorry! Padraig, are you getting very optimistic answers from everybody else?

POM     No, it's interesting to see how they differ. The Truth Commission, how far should it go?

HZ     I think the Truth Commission was sorely needed. I do. I believe, and having seen it myself how much undermining and destabilisation and anti-ANC work was being done by the police and stuff like that and assassination squads and that sort of thing, I believe that that needs to come out and we need to know what happened so that we know what happened to people like Matthew Goniwe for sure. I mean we know they killed him but nevertheless these things just have to come out and it's absolutely critical that they should. How are you going to prevent it from becoming an arena of vendettas is a complex issue and one can't imagine how it will pan out but it's a very complex thing to manage well and prevent it from getting very messy. I think it should sit for about two years to give enough time for these things to come out, to gather momentum, to pull it all together and I think it should look at all clandestine activities in which organs of the state were in any way used to undermine political opponents of the state in clandestine ways or in which state money was used for those kinds of operations.

POM     Do you think it should also extend into an investigation of the ANC, why no action was taken against individuals?

HZ     My sense is, I don't know what it's local standing would be, my perception was that it was going to look at the South African government's misuse of state resources and state funds for the purposes off undercutting its political opponents. If it is simply investigating human rights abuses then obviously it should look at the Quatro camps and all human rights abuses of the ANC. My understanding was that it was not a body to investigate human rights abuses but it was to look at the secret projects, the nefarious activities, the dirty tricks campaigns that it carried on against the opponents of apartheid using state money, state resources, state functionaries.

POM     Now if people are MPs, should they resign?

HZ     Yes. My sense is that they have all so hotly denied at the time and it wasn't as if the matters stopped during the period of transition. I saw conflicts being stoked tremendously by the police. Now if these were just renegade groups within the police force who were indulging in their own strategies and if that is found by the Truth Commission then there can be an excuse, although if you take the doctrine of Cabinet responsibility it's hard to find one, but there can be a reason why some senior Generals should stay in office if it's going to help the transition and help the government of national unity process within the police force. But if such instructions to undermine the ANC wherever it could find a conflict were issued to any member of the police force from anyone then that General should not be part of the government of national unity because this has been denied again and again and I cannot see how it is possible for people to work amicably and constructively together when that is the history. Now clearly the two armies were pitted against each other but the police for as long as I can remember had elements, and it certainly wasn't the whole police force, but had elements who saw their job, their main task, as undermining the ANC. And quite clearly, I think certainly if they were simply policing apartheid laws then it's a bit more difficult because you're a policeman and there's the law and, 'I know that I was only doing my job', is a Nuremberg trial classic which hasn't gone down in that forum. But I think it's somewhat different in the context where the ANC and the National Party functionaries I suppose were doing their job in terms of the law. You can't use that for the ANC but obviously the National Party were looking for members of proscribed organisations or stuff like that. That's different from running dirty tricks campaigns and using government money to assassinate people, to have hit squads, to undermine your political opponents. Quite different. And that's what they should be looking at and I don't think that people who ordered such activities or who ordered assassinations or who ordered dirty tricks campaigns should be staying on in government. It's not a Johan Heyns position but it would be mine. No, I'm just saying it's not a work from within position.

POM     It could so undermine the transition.

HZ     I need to know because I was so peripherally involved in these processes but I saw them happening and I still am so angry to this day. I think one needs to know.

POM     I kind of gather the impression that most white public figures say let's just get on with it. But you can't get on with it.

HZ     That's my view. My view is that you can't.

POM     The PAC. They have just almost disappeared down the drain with their performance in the election.

HZ     That doesn't mean to say that the kind of politics that they stand for has gone down the drain especially as all the complexities of the transition, the black/white issue comes into stark relief. It does, it does. In all kinds of work places, especially when questions of economic culture come together, it is so easy to say this is because I'm black or you don't understand this because I'm black and you're just a white culture around here. So I think that the whole thing of mobilising around a common culture is not something that has gone from South Africa, not at all and with all the complexities coming up in the transition the question of black/white politics rather than class politics and rather than non-racial class politics which was the leitmotif of the ANC, I think the politics of race and gender are going to be absolutely pivotal, but race is the politics of the PAC. Systematic discrimination against black people. And that's going to remain a very strong one. I mean the politics of the PAC are the key politics of American race relations. That's what it is and it's that that's going to come up in South Africa.

     Everything in America in terms of race politics or the politics of race is black and white. In South Africa it's different which Americans don't want to ever understand. We don't only see things through that prism but I think that that's going to change more towards the American model, is what I'm suggesting. The PAC I don't think will resurrect themselves as an organisation because they haven't got the infrastructure, they haven't got the financial support, they haven't got the management, they haven't got the leadership. But that politics that is the PAC's stock in trade will become more and more part of the ANC. Does that make sense to you?

POM     Mm-mm. Again, is the transition in your view proving to be on course or beginning to slide gradually off course?

HZ     It's more on course than I ever imagined it would be, much more. I mean we've had the political miracle. We are now moving quite rapidly into what could be the basis for an economic miracle, given where we start from. The only thing that looks as if it's going to be beyond any kind of a miracle is the social disintegration and the social part of that whole process may well be what derails the entire thing. Yes, it may well be. But then we will have got two steps down the road instead of no steps down the road which is where everyone expected us to be.

     The very fact that we pulled off that election was a real miracle. The very fact that gets non-populist leaders like Joe Slovo, Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, I mean the whole rest of them saying, delivery, you earn what you work for. Reconstruction and Development Programme is people putting their effort behind their own upliftment and their own empowerment. That's a miracle in our context. It really is. And that you're getting some results from that.

POM     A final question. Is Mandela the glue that holds this together in a certain way?

HZ     Largely, at the moment yes.

POM     What would happen in the event of a bid for the leadership?

HZ     Our view is that they will hold it together, that they will hold it together in a proper process, that the ANC has got a strong enough centre to take it through a leadership election without causing chaos in the country. I think it will be between Thabo Mbeki and Cyril Ramaphosa. I think Thabo Mbeki has fewer enemies than Cyril. However, I think Cyril is a much better manager and management is what we need in South Africa above all else.

POM     Fine.

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.