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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
20 Nov 1994: Van der Merwe, Koos
POM On the way in Patricia remarked that you were the first politician we have been to see who is not surrounded by walls and barbed wire and all kinds of security devices. It's very different coming to your house. Even looking down the street the houses are enclosed.
KVM I should maybe do that because the rate of crime is such that not only for the politicians but for normal people these days it is advisable to take a lot of precautions. The reason why it's not done is maybe my negligence. If you really study the crime rate in South Africa at the moment you can't really feel safe.
POM Has crime become people's obsession in place of politics? A lot of people talk about it now whereas before all they would talk about was the transition?
KVM No, I don't think so. I don't think so except towards deliberate talking about crime. I think the crime has forced itself into the forefront because of the ambit of the crime rate itself. The talk will once again become right around constitution making in the new year because we're warming up to enter the new negotiation process early next year and then talks will be back to politics as it was for the last two or three years.
POM Could you give me your analysis of the transition? Has it gone poorly, has it gone well? What are its strengths, what are its weaknesses?
KVM The transition has one characteristic and this is that it appears to be going smoothly and there is a dangerous impression that the transition is in fact working well and that that augments very well for the future. But I think that's a very superficial analysis for a number of reasons. Firstly, the system has not really started to operate. The new parliament in Cape Town has passed very few legislations. It is still trying to find its feet. It is still trying to understand the very complicated system. We have three institutions in parliament. The Constitutional Assembly is also a body with various committees, the Constitutional Committee. Let me start by saying that parliament should consist of two institutions, namely the National Assembly and the Senate, but a distinct third institution has been added, namely the Constituent Assembly. And I'm describing the system to you now, the complicated system, especially for a parliamentary inexperienced MP arriving there for the first time. He sees a Senate consisting of 90 members and they have 13 standing committees. He sees the National Assembly of 400 people having 33 standing committees. He also sees five joint committees, he sees Speaker's committees, rules committees, he sees many sub-committees. Then apart from this there is the Constituent Assembly with a constituent committee with a management committee with six themes committees with sub committees. He sees a Cabinet consisting of 27 ministries with 27 different departments with various Cabinet committees and lastly he sees in every party at least thirty study groups.
POM Thirty study groups?
KVM Yes. In other words like mine and the ANC and the National Party, each of these parties has around thirty study groups in order to prepare to go and sit in all the other committees. So this poor inexperienced MP arrives there, knowing nothing of parliamentary work and is faced with this three headed monster with over a hundred various committees. How the hell does he understand it? He is still battling in the first few months to try to establish where the toilet is, where the Post Office is, where he gets his pay cheque, where this and this and that is, where he parks his car, where he's got an office, what furniture he has. This is what has happened in the first few months. We've been there for seven months.
POM Is it not kind of fair enough that new members, no matter where they come from, will take some time to become used to their roles as parliamentarians and to learn the rules?
KVM Especially in this instance, but the point I am making is therefore the system has not really started to work, we are still finding our feet and also in the nine provincial parliaments you have similar problems so that the whole new constitution has not really started to operate. This is why people get the impression that things are going smoothly, but once these machines are starting to operate there will be stones within these big mills, problems will then start to arise, the strain will be placed on the government of national unity, old wounds will be opened. I will not be surprised if the violence will return, etc., etc., because we have not solved the problems yet. So this is then my opinion that the system has not really started to operate. We cannot really judge. But looking at the system we can see that the government has a large degree of experience, the ministers in trying to come to terms with very challenging jobs and they persist with matters such as affirmative action and indirect forms of nationalisation and the plans for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which are all ominous signs which I think will disrupt the peace and harmony in time to come.
POM So if you had to give the government a rating where one would be very unsatisfactory and ten would be very satisfactory, where would you place it?
KVM Is one very unsatisfactory? It will be around three.
POM In the end you made a decision to join the IFP rather than, not go back to the Conservative Party, but rather than join the NP or remaining as an Independent. What were your reasons behind it, or joining the Freedom Front?
KVM My first prize as an Afrikaner nationalist remains the ideal of a place on God's earth which is the land of the Afrikaner, where the majority of people living there are Afrikaners, where our Afrikaner value system is the prevalent one, where we can live in terms of our ways and traditions and so forth in the same manner as dozens of other nations lived in the world, like the French and the Germans and all the others. That is first prize. It has been my first prize, it is still first prize.
In the Conservative Party I came to the conclusion that with them it was only a question of the philosophy or the theory and they, especially Treurnicht, could articulate this ideal beautifully, nobody better than him. The right of the Afrikaner to his own land and his own language and his own government and self-determination and freedom and all that. Beautiful. But I slowly discovered that there is a second phase which I want to call concretisation. If I say to you, let us go to the moon, I can talk you into going there, it is necessary to go but then there's a distinct separate phase; how the hell do we do it? The concretisation phase. So I slowly started to get into hot water with the Conservative Party because I kept on asking questions about concretisation. Yes, gentlemen, it's OK we want our land but where is it? Surely it can't be Johannesburg where there are millions of blacks. It can't be Durban, there are millions of Zulus. Where is our land? How do we draw borders and then also the tricky question of the apartheid laws, are we going to retain them or not? And then the third one is citizenship. If we now have a part of South Africa which is ours will non-Afrikaners have citizenship? And what is an Afrikaner? Can a coloured also be an Afrikaner if his home language is Afrikaans, he goes to an Afrikaans church, etc?
I asked these questions because I myself struggled with them to get answers in the beginning phases three, four, five years ago and when I continuously posed these questions in the Conservative Party circles with Treurnicht and the others they, of course, could not answer me and they were trying to stay away from these difficult questions. The way they used to answer them was, "Yes, surely it's going to be difficult but we are a nation that has come through many wars and we will find solutions." But it remained theories. Then it became clear to me eventually, as you come out of the tunnel, that the CP has only a beautiful ideal but it does not know how to concretise it. It didn't have the plan how to concretise it. I then hammered this into the CP and they kicked me out. They couldn't stomach me any further and they kicked me out. I then decided to really get out of the tunnel and think very carefully and remain an independent and maybe I am a prototype of the Afrikaner who has struggled to get away from the beautiful ideal of an own land and from there on to make peace with the situation and to devise a very creative strategy for the future taking due consideration of the realities in which we live.
Then my first big realisation was that we don't have the land. Yes, the whole country did belong to the Afrikaner but now others have also settled here legally or illegally, it doesn't matter. They live here and they have lived here for decades, some for hundreds of years, and in terms of any reasonable laws outside of South Africa, in the world, any moral laws, if a person has lived in a country for ten or twenty years and he regards that place as his home he's going to get citizenship. So I then made peace with the fact that my first prize will not materialise now or in the near future. The ideal of an Afrikaner state is only an ideal at this stage, we cannot concretise it now, we can maybe do it later but in the meanwhile we've got to opt for second prize. If you can't get first prize try for second.
So I looked at the South African situation and said, "Then what is second prize?" Second prize means that the days of apartheid are counted, the days of Afrikaner supremacy are counted, we have to go for a new vision which I then said is this. Blacks are going to govern the country now. The days of white political parties are counted if they have as aims to rule the country. Any white political party like the Vryheids Front or the National Party or the others who are predominantly white, who think that they can still become the government of the country it's wishful thinking. Those days are buried. I've made peace with that. So then, what does it mean? It means you have to join either the ANC or Inkatha. I then had a closer look at it. I don't like the policies of the ANC and in examining the IFP policies I was very excited to discover that in fact this was an excellent second best. It was a very good second best because I was concerned at one stage that I may even settle for third or fourth prize.
But I'm very happy to say that I settled for an excellent second prize, namely where the ANC goes for or is in favour of a very strong centralised government with at least 105% of the power on top, the Inkatha Freedom Party opts for a federation where all the powers are vested in the provinces except those powers which they voluntarily relinquish up to the central government. I like that in particular because of the vast characteristic differences between the provinces. For instance KwaZulu/Natal has six million Zulus. The North West has no Zulus. So the language and the composition is totally different. Then in KwaZulu/Natal the prevalent language is Zulu, in the North West province it's Afrikaans. In KwaZulu/Natal you have about eight million people, in North West you hardly have one million. KwaZulu/Natal is a very well developed country with two of the best harbours in Africa, with an international airport, with a very well developed infrastructure, agriculture, commerce, etc. whilst the other province has nothing of that sort. So you cannot have the same provincial constitution for KwaZulu/Natal as you have for North West. It's totally different and therefore the IFP with its quality of asymmetric federalism or regionalism, meaning that every region makes its own constitution, I like these things.
I also determined that apart from a strong federation Buthelezi stands for another word and that's pluralism. He actually stands for federalism and pluralism. In that way you summarise the policy of the IFP. Federalism, you know what I mean. Pluralism, he says, "My party is committed within the parameters of internationally accepted norms, my party is committed to defend ethnicity." Nobody else says that.
And one of the naked truths of South Africa is that we are still a deeply divided society, deeply divided society. Ethnicity is very well and alive and where the ANC is definitely trying to build a new nation and trying to make English the language of the new nation, Buthelezi says, "That's a pipe dream. I'm not against that type of thing but it won't work because in terms of my policy a Zulu should feel confident that he can remain a Zulu and an Afrikaner an Afrikaner and a Xhosa a Xhosa and a Venda a Venda. And those", he says, "those other South Africans who have relinquished ethnicity and therefore want to be so-called new South Africans good luck to them, let them be that then." So therefore I feel that while Afrikaners are regrouping and having bosperade and thinking about a new plan and a new vision for the future, while that process is going on the federalism and the pluralism of Buthelezi is an excellent second best. Therefore, I joined them.
POM Why not the Freedom Front?
KVM Because the Freedom Front at the time when I joined Buthelezi did not exist yet. They were only established later. It's very difficult now for me to say, looking back, what I would have done; would I have opted for Viljoen or for Buthelezi? I don't know. I just feel that through Inkatha I can achieve more.
POM Viljoen is being given a lot of credit by people on all sides for holding the right together and for operating quite effectively in parliament.
KVM What he has done, he has done something that I had in mind but wasn't in a position to help with and that was how do you get the majority of Afrikaners into mainstream politics and get them to move away from the idea of violence, get them into the system, get them to get into the negotiation process, get them to take the initiative, get them to cooperate, throw in their weight, rather than to sit outside and opt for violence? That was the challenge. And then Viljoen came in with his image of Commander of the Defence Force and hundreds of thousands of South Africans of my age and younger and who fought with him. I was his Staff Officer in the operational area, would easily just follow him whatever he says, have enough confidence in him as the Commander to say, "Well, well, well, General Constand Viljoen, what does he say?" He says we've got to go 2E, 3E, 5E, then we got 2E, 3E, 5E because Constand Viljoen says so. He has that ability. And he brought the Afrikaners in, 635,000 of them voted for him. He has castrated the Conservative Party. At the moment they are irrelevant and outside. They have no voice, they don't have a voice in parliament or in the regional parliaments, nowhere. He has that voice. As a matter of fact yesterday he had a news conference in Bloemfontein when an astounding round about 250 town councillors, city councillors turned up, so he is not only represented in the Senate and in the central parliament but also in a number of the provincial parliaments and in practically every big municipality in the country. He has his voice there and he makes the voice heard.
And this was exactly what I had started to urge when Constand Viljoen was still a farmer, this is exactly the language that I urged. Let us move out and without sacrificing our principles, but becoming enthusiastically part of the mainstream processes. In my famous Koos document I actually pleaded for Dr Treurnicht to become the driver of the vehicle, the negotiations vehicle, by pushing De Klerk out of the driver's seat and taking the wheel in his hands and take control of the negotiation process. And he couldn't, Treurnicht couldn't. They say I'm the father of the right wing reform. Maybe that's true, maybe that's not true, but I played a part and you must also remember, especially in politics, it takes a lot to move out of the so-called comfort zone. If you are in a political party or if you are working for a university or somewhere you build up a comfort zone, you feel secure, and to break out of that is very difficult because if you break out of a political party they call you a traitor, they will brandish you, you won't have your old friends and all that. It's very difficult to break out of the comfort zone. Now I broke out of it. Fortunately it was easy for me because they threw me out so I didn't have to do it intentionally. I was thrown out. The Conservative Party had round about forty MPs. I went out, Koos Botha was out, then Beyers went out with about half a dozen so that's about eight and the bleeding never stopped and then before the election another dozen or more left so that of the original round about forty of the Conservative Party about more than half of them left it and the others that remain there, still feel they are right and within two to three years they will take the country back etc., etc.
I warned them about what I called the Dal Josophat syndrome. Dal Josophat is a small insignificant place, population two, something like that, a little siding and when the train passes there it doesn't even stop. And I warned them, I said one day the train will stop at Dal Josophat and we will be sitting and playing cards and chatting in the compartments and we will feel the bumping of the train and the bumping of the train and then afterwards one of us will say, "Aren't we stationary?" "Yes we are but I hear the train running." "Yes, what the hell is going on?" And we look outside and find that our wagon has been shunted into Dal Josophat and when we step out we will be just in time to see the tail end of the train going away and we will be sidelined, the Dal Josophat syndrome. I warned them that irrelevance is looking us in the face. We've got to become part of the mainstream process. To go for second best. First best is no longer available. Let's go for second best or third best, you can always make it, try to climb back on the ladder. They wouldn't and today they all sit at Dal Josophat, those 16 or 18 of them left, they are bitter, they are making threats and they are irrelevant. Constand is the one who is still on the train and he is doing exactly what I thought he should do. I'm helping them where I can. I look at them and I have a feeling, as far as the Afrikaner is concerned that those differences of the past that we looked at as big matters of principle within the Afrikaners, big principles, we now realise that it was not principles at all, what it actually was, was just luxury, political luxuries. What we now have to face is to forget all about these principles, what do we as Afrikaners say to each other? Where do we go from here?
We've lost our land. A few months ago we governed this country from Cape Town to Messina, from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean, with one of the strongest armies in Africa, strong, the Afrikaner was in control, things went according to our laws. Today, we are totally out. Blacks form 85%, 90% of parliament. The whites represented there in the National Party, Freedom Front and some like myself are very insignificant because most of them are still dazed and don't know what's happening. We have no power left. We've got bugger all left. We are spread among South Africa, we are fragmented. What are we to do now?
My feeling is that we need a new vision. The new vision will be born once the Afrikaner goes into a series of very, very serious bosperade. You know what is a bosperade? We will have to hold dozens of bosperade. We will have to talk to each other and say, what the hell went wrong? We governed yesterday and without spilling a drop of blood we're out, totally out. What did we do wrong? And with total frankness and open-heartedness we must table the mistakes we've made, the strong points, the weak points, and then we must come forth with a vision for the future.
KVM Now, my vision is very simple. It's the Israeli one, the only nation that I think really has a parallel to us. The Israelis won because they had their Diaspora, for 2000 years or so they were without a land and they would trek all over the world. We now don't have a land and we're spread all over South Africa. We don't live in one area where we are in the majority where we can say this is our land. Now what did the Israelis do when they realised the solution? They did two things. The one was they kept the home fires burning. They kept their Israeli beautiful ideals going. They went to their churches every Friday night, they kept on trying to speak their language and continuously devised means of how to keep the Israeli fires burning, the idea of the nation and so on. That's the one part. The other part is they had their eyes on a piece of land called Israel. They knew that the way to concretise their ideal of having an Israeli state again was to be the majority in that particular area. In 1917/18 when General Allenby moved in the first world war into Palestine only 17%, I believe, of the people living in Palestine were Israelis. But they sat down and they said, without apartheid and stuff like this, what we should go for is majority occupation. And in only thirty years they made it. In 1948 they were the majority and in 1948 they became independent. So this is the vision. Keep the fires burning by way of schools and other means and also work on a piece of land where you can become the majority without apartheid and stuff where you then can, in South African terms, become the government of a province firstly and then secondly, if you want to you can become independent in ten or 20 or 50 or 100 years.
But the question is going to be whether the Afrikaner has the capacity to pay the price as the Israelis have done. For 2000 years they succeeded in keeping the home fires burning and then when Israel was taken for 30 years they paid the price, the difficult price, of building nationhood. And even today through many wars, until I'm talking to you now, their problems are still not over, but they are now a recognised Israeli state, the majority of people there, their language, their value system prevail. That's their land.
POM Do you think that the Afrikaner has that capacity?
KVM That's the question. I don't know, I really don't know. Let's take me. You see my environment here? Until such time as the government is making it very, very difficult for me to live here, why do you think I would abandon this?
POM You wouldn't.
KVM That's what I think. But it is quite possible also that things will become difficult for us. If taxes are to be levied, if measures are to be taken that we hear, I may find in the future, in time to come, in the next few months or years that living here is intolerable and that I either have to make wars which I think I'm too old to have a capacity for that. I would then take the challenge of either emigrating or moving to another area where all our people, disillusioned Afrikaners want to go to. And then if we can very cleverly devise ways and means of establishing full power, power that will pull us towards that place, economic development and other things, then I will probably move somewhere, let's say to Carel Boshoff's area or so. I would probably opt for that before I go to England or America or so. So I think the answer to the very valid question, does the Afrikaner have the capacity to pay the price, the very, very expensive price over a period to establish his own country, will depend on how difficult the government is going to make it for Afrikaners. Those are the push powers.
POM What are the initial signs you get from the way this government has operated?
KVM I think the signs are negative. In other words it's negative for the Afrikaner.
POM In what sense?
KVM In the sense that first of all the RDP. The RDP is one big bluff. The RDP is just a platform. People are now changing it into a wonderful recipe, the RDP, you just shout RDP and everything will be OK. Like we shouted in 1948, "I vote for apartheid", and everybody voted for apartheid and didn't really know what it is. The RDP is simply the platform, the policy of the African National Congress coined in the slogan, "We offer a better life." And the RDP is therefore their attempt to implement their platform. It's a normal thing. The Americans when Clinton comes to power he has a platform and he now tries to implement his policy. That's all they want to do. But they've turned it into a magical word which is extremely dangerous because people outside now want houses, they want cars, they want jobs, they want better infrastructure, they want roads but they can't deliver. They can't deliver because they don't have money and Clinton has only given 600 million and the world is not going to give them money, or enough money. As the pressure from their own people for the RDP's implementation, as that pressure is mounting, the pressure will be on them to get funds to do it and eventually there will be only one place to get it, from the haves. You're looking at one of them. Negative sign.
So what is going to happen? They will tax us. They will find creative ways and means of taking away from the haves always under the very handy excuse of apartheid, the exploitation of the people and then they will take away from us. Therefore, this house of mine, which will be empty for six months of the year, I may find that they will say to me, like they're doing in Johannesburg - you know what they are doing in Johannesburg? Where there are buildings that are standing vacant they put people in. They put them in, they determine a value. They say, "We think you can pay R200 for this flat. Pay the owner R200." The owner says, "I don't want you in my building, I've got other players." They say, "Just shut up. The people have moved in. They are physically in now and they will pay R200 a flat." And he says, "But market related rentals are R2000." They say, "You're getting R200." So I won't be surprised if they seize my house and put in two or three families here and say, "We can do it. You've got a house in Cape Town. We're taking this house, number one." I won't be surprised if they squat in my yard. I won't be surprised if they find ways and means of taxing my second and third car. I've got four cars, two here and two in Cape Town. You need one car. So there's a tax on the second and the third and the fourth car. Highly increased debt increase. And various other forms of creative tax to take away from the haves to give to the have-nots, to implement the RDP. Therefore, the first negative sign is they are going to tax me, bleed me white.
POM Thabo Mbeki has ruled out a tax increase in fiscal 1995, the economy is not strong enough to permit the widening of the tax base. I heard Mbeki talking about privatisation. Now if four years ago someone had said to you that in the vocabulary of the ANC the word nationalisation was out and the word privatisation was in, what would you have said?
KVM Just read that quote again.
POM "The tax increase in fiscal 1995, the economy is not strong enough to permit the widening of the tax base."
KVM I would say that is an informed person speaking. And those of the ANC who have 'arrived', they've made peace with reality, they now know that it's easy to shout from outside but when you're inside you've got to deliver the goodies. But this is not the problem. The problem is the vast and unrealistic expectations created among the people who want their share of the cake. They say you are on the gravy train in Cape Town, you get millions, they say to Tokyo Sexwale, "You're spending R88,000 on improving your bathroom, you could have built ten houses for us." They say to Tokyo Sexwale, "But you promised us 150,000 houses before the end of this year. It is now the 20th November and there is not one house built. You're not going to deliver." So, as I said, there will be a surge from the bottom, there will be more and more pressure mounting on them and whether that is sound policy and whether it's true or not there will be so much pressure from down that they will keep on taxing.
Now two or three weeks ago the editor of Rapport wrote an article about the State of New York and he said what is happening there is the social problems are getting higher and higher, for the unemployed, for the single parent and for various social programmes. The expenditure on that in New York is increasing month by month, year by year, and also the crime rate. This means that the rulers of New York are forced simply to take more and more from the haves, they have no option, and then you come to the point where the haves say to themselves, "Do I stay here and bleed myself to death or do I go?" And that becomes the question for South African businessmen. Do I stay and be bled white in debt or do I go?
POM Do you think the business community, do they ask about the RDP?
KVM They're playing a game. I think the business community is clever enough to realise what's happening in this country and I think they are playing along, I think they have taken a vast amount of money out of the country to start alternative businesses somewhere else and as we're playing the death march here they are playing along. Yes for the RDP, I'll give another so many million to the RDP, of course we've got to support the RDP, yes First National Bank is absolutely in favour of this. But they know we're playing the death march. I can't see how they can control their masses. Van Zyl Slabbert thinks - are you seeing him also?
POM I saw him last week.
KVM What did he say? He told me that by the next election, 1999 or so, we will probably have a clamp down. Things will go out of hand so much that the government will have to clamp down on everything. Was that his message to you also? What does he think about the economic trends as against my opinion?
POM He's got a question mark against most of them. I asked this question of everybody, where will the resources come from to finance the RDP given that you have an unemployment rate of 40% or so, given the fact that on two occasions last year and this year I have spoken to Derek Keys about the employment situation and he bluntly said that between now and the end of the century employment would increase at best by 1% a year, hardly making a dent in the problem. People can't buy houses unless they have money and they can't have money unless they have jobs so you've got to create the jobs.
I want to talk about the IFP, three things, one is the elections and local elections next year and the rift between Buthelezi and the King. One, you had a situation coming up to April 27th where the country was slowly sliding towards chaos, Then you had Buthelezi saying, "I'll come in, I'll contest the elections." Immediately an aura of calm prevailed throughout the country, the violence died down. You had elections held that were immediately called free and fair by the international community, by observer groups, by the media. Then you had a small problem, you had complaints by the ANC and the NP, in Natal particularly but also in other areas of the country, about vote rigging and pirate stations. Then you had the ordeal of the count where up to 30 million votes may have been lost.
KVM Not 30 million. Ballot papers. But many millions of ballot papers.
POM Millions anyway. So then you had a result that emerged from all that in which everybody became a winner. Buthelezi got Natal, the National Party got the Western Cape and the ANC got a large majority but not a majority that would put the country into a one party state. It has been suggested ...
KVM That a deal was struck in the Cabinet and the leaders in the Cabinet and the way I read you, wasn't the whole thing planned?
POM Brokered in the end, that in the end if you needed a result that the legitimacy ...
KVM ... the senior partners. I have no evidence of that but it sounds to me the type of thing that happened and I will tell you, if you were to rely scientifically on the election it was simply a farce, where thousands of people were waiting to vote they couldn't vote on the Thursday, they waited. Now blacks have a culture of waiting. They just throw their brains in neutral and sit there, they stand, three hours, five hours, a day. I know some of the Thokoza, four or six of the senior Zulu Indunas get in a car here and they go to Durban and they go to Buthelezi's office and they say, "We are here from the Transvaal and we would like to see him." And then they said, "OK he's not here at the moment, he's coming back from Cape Town or overseas late." And then they wait and they get lunch and they get dinner, they get a place to sleep and sometimes they wait three or four days and then he arrives and says, "I believe you want to see me", and then they talk to him. We have appointments.
Now the people sat there waiting in a queue, they waited and waited and at about half past ten the door opened and a dozen or two tired blacks came out and said, "The ballot papers are finished. Wait we're going to get some more ballot papers." So they went in and got more ballot papers and then the people started to vote. So all the ballot papers issued to them they sat in there, those four ANC people, and they just voted, boom, boom, boom, one after the other, thousands and thousands and thousands of them, they voted. My son was in Venda and he says when they counted votes they took out of the big ballot boxes, they took stacks of them like that, never folded. Stacks of them clearly just voting ANC. Thousands and thousands and thousands of votes. So of course it was rigged, and of course it appears as if a sort of a deal was struck. I don't know about it but they said to De Klerk, "You want to be Vice State President, you get 20.5%." They said to Buthelezi, "OK 10% for you, 20% for them, a few for the others and we'll take the rest but we won't go for a two thirds majority." And they said to Kriegler, "OK this is the result." Quite possible.
POM Did you ever hear of a political party in the world where they lost an election and where the winner got 50.3% of the votes, where they didn't demand a recount?
KVM Like KwaZulu/Natal? Yes, no recount. I believe that Mandela very shortly after the Natal election, he walked into a place where there were dozens of very senior ANC people and they were absolutely worked up, furious. They said to him, "The IFP has crooked, has rigged the election in KwaZulu/Natal. We want to do A, B, C, D, E." And Mandela said, "You keep silent. Don't think what they have done here was not done elsewhere in the country. Let them rule the province. It's the only way we can get peace here. Now I want you to accept the things as they are and we go into the future like this. I want no further nonsense from you." And they just subsided.
POM How would you rate his performance as President?
KVM The only negative thing is his getting old and apart from that I think he's doing his best. You know he has, hopefully, he has lost the poison and the viciousness and the vindictiveness of others like Dullah Omar who wants that Truth Commission, he wants to grind people. I don't think Mandela really wants that any longer. He's made peace. He's buried the hatchet, but he's old, he's really old. You can see the way he walks. He's an old man. He can be very special. I made a speech in his budget vote in which I said to him, he sits about two yards from me on the right, and I looked at him and I said, "Madiba, with great, great respect, I also want to tender some humble advice to you and that is you should go out there and you should tell the people that Father Christmas does not exist. Go and tell the people that there is but one way that you will get houses and jobs and that is if we work ourselves." I spoke to him like that and in the end I said to him in Afrikaans, "Madiba, you must go well." I didn't plan to say that, but very, like you speak to your father, "Madiba, you must go well, hambagahle", and I got a tremendous cheer from the ANC and as I walked back and I sat down and my eye met him he actually stood up, he rose from his desk and he put his hands together and he bowed towards me, thank you very much, and he then sat down.
And about a month ago I was travelling in and I parked my car in the basement and when I tried to walk out the policeman came to me and he said, "Come with me please", and I thought what did I do wrong. And there was Madiba. He had just arrived in his car and he stood there, he told him, "Go and fetch him." I said, "Hello Madiba", I speak very little of his language, and then he said, "Fine." Then he said to me, "You are doing well", and I said, "Thank you." And we spoke a little and he shared some thoughts with me on the Afrikaner. I said, "Madiba, I will always remain an Afrikaner nationalist." And he said, "I have beautiful recollections of the Afrikaners." He said, "You know when I was tried for high treason I stood in court for four and a half years, Monday to Friday, I had to sit there in Pretoria." Incidentally, I remember those days. I was working at the courts in those days and I actually knew about their case and I sometimes saw them there. And just to further interrupt myself, I happen to be the only person as far as can be established who was present the day when he was sentenced and the day he was released. I told him, I said, "I was there the day you pleaded." I told him about it and I said, "I was there when Justice de Wet gave you life imprisonment and I was there when De Klerk released you." And then he said the four and a half years of trial he had a big problem because he was running an Attorney's practice at the time and he had a wife and children to support, and how to do it when he can't be at the office, he can't be in court. But those days courts still sat on Saturday mornings. He says, and so he went to the Afrikaners and he really spoke seriously to them and he said, "You know, Koos, if you go to Afrikaners and if you really talk seriously to them they help you. And I said to them "Gentlemen, no matter how we differ I've got a wife and children to support. What do I do?"" He says, "Koos, you know what they did? They arranged for all my cases to be done on Saturdays. They postponed them all, they helped me tremendously, they enabled me to support Winnie and the children for four and a half years practising at weekends." He said, "When I was in jail Afrikaners used to come and sit in my cell and we would talk for hours and through the night and we shared stories." He said when he was in Victor Verster he had this Afrikaner who took him out and took him all over and they drove around and they talked. He said, "I'm well disposed towards the Afrikaner. I understand him."
KVM Now this shows an improvement of relationships between ANC and others and I was quoted in Rapport this morning. One of my quotes was that the interpersonal relationships between ANC members and other members has improved tremendously. The ANC came there with a lot of enemies and so did the IFP. Enemies. And the Nats and all the others. And slowly but surely in the standing committees, at first we shouted at each other, slowly we discovered that they are also good human beings and they've got names and they can also make jokes. Today I know scores of ANC MPs and I joke with them and I talk to them and they with me and all that and when I have a chance in parliament to say a few words in Zulu or Sotho I do so and they cheer me and there is a much improved relationship except from the Nat side. I know I'm diverting a little. But the Nats are sulking. They are sulking and they are getting bitchy, the Nats. I think it's because they have now realised they no longer govern the country. After seven months they realise it.
POM Even though they are in the government of national unity, part of the decisions?
KVM That doesn't mean anything.
POM In the end the majority rules.
KVM Mandela is the boss, full stop. The ANC governs the country 62%, finish. And De Klerk can be there with the minister of A, B, C, D, but foreign affairs and police and defence and trade and industry and those important ones are with the ANC.
POM What would happen if Mandela met an untimely demise?
KVM Today? Thabo will become the State President and the ANC will close its ranks and ensure that they don't break up because their leadership understands that the only way they as a group can remain in power will be if they stand together. They will close ranks and it will just go on like it does now.
POM And Ramaphosa?
KVM Ramaphosa's big sin is he's not a Xhosa. I think he's maybe a better politician and a better overall person than Thabo. I know both of them, but he's not a Xhosa, he's a Venda and do you think the Xhosas will give a Venda their vote? I think you told me the other day that Clive Derby-Lewis tried to out-Afrikaner the Afrikaner. I think it was you. When you get a foreign body who enters the body it wants to be better than them, it can't be normal, and Ramaphosa is simply the odd one out. Ethnicity is alive, they won't select him. He will then probably, suppose Mandela tips over today, Mbeki will be the President and maybe Ramaphosa will then become a Vice President. That's one possibility. The other possibility is that he remains Chairperson of the Constituent Assembly, remains that and waits, just lies low and waits and then maybe take foreign affairs or something. He will watch his step and just wait for opportunities. He's young, he's round about forty. Thabo is probably about fifty five or so. Fifty or fifty five, there's about ten years difference I would judge.
POM Why are you so down on the Truth Commission?
KVM Let me explain to you. What does that word truth mean? They want to establish the 'truth'. Now in a government in real difficult times like we're living in now, they want to go out and establish the truth. Let's just look at the definition of that truth? What is it we are going to try to establish? It is not like a motor car accident where a magistrate tries to establish the truth. He can get to the truth. He asks questions of witnesses under oath, three or four witnesses, independent witnesses who said, "I just happened to stand there waiting for a friend of mine. I do not know who the people are in the two cars, but this red car went across the red light." There are three independent witnesses who don't know those people. The magistrate says the truth is that the red car went across the red light and the truth was established. The truth about these things, the truth about the political history, how do you determine that, because it will be politically driven? The ANC will drive this commission to find the truth and no matter what they come up with as the truth it will only be the truth according to a segment of the population. The IFP will reject that truth, so will the National Party, so will other parties and it will tend to be counter-productive towards its own aims, namely reconciliation. So you cannot do that.
The second point is it's not for a government to try to establish the historical truth. This is established over decades and hundreds of years by people. I believe that when they asked Mao Tse Tung what are the lessons learned by the French revolution he said, "It's too soon to judge." So it's very difficult to establish historical truth quickly, if you go and establish it quickly it's rubbish.
The third thing is, how can this be coupled to amnesty? Amnesty shouldn't be something that is given by Truth Commissions and lay people, it should be on the plate of lawyers and people who go into the reasons why these were committed people trained for that. So what is going to happen is, I think you had a number of commissions in America, I think it was called Munro and it was to establish the truth about communism things like that. It obviously only established what a segment of the population believed to be the truth and in the end it worked counter-productively and reconciliation was not achieved and in fact there was more uneasiness about the whole thing. So what I think is going to happen is that it will work counter-productively as far as reconciliation is concerned.
POM Just a couple of final questions. The state of inter-governmental relations: we found that when we went around the country that senior officials in the governments of the nine regions were very resentful of the fact that the central government was so slow in devolving powers to them and saying no, we're not getting the powers to do the job and in particular we're not getting the resources to launch the sort of voter education programmes, registration programmes, the demarcation of boundaries for the October 1995 local elections. One, why is the government so slow to devolve to the regions? Two, do you think that the country will be ready for local elections in 1995?
KVM OK. The first answer is I told you right at the outset that the system is not operating properly. That could be one reason why the powers to the provinces have not been correctly devolved. Secondly, it could be that the government is holding it back with intention because it doesn't want to create a spirit of federalism. It wants to retain it and show that federalism cannot work. Whilst I think that federalism is unstoppable in South Africa because these nine provinces, seven are ANC, they are demanding this, I've told some of them, I've told Matthews Phosa and Terror and Tokyo and the others when we discussed federalism, I said, "You are going to be the great and big instruments to further federalism because once you have tasted power in your province and you've got powers and a big house and people are coming to you Mr Premier, and every day when you sign ten orders and nine come back and they say Cape Town must decide, very soon you're going to say fuck Cape Town, I want to do it here, so thank you for furthering federalism." So the answer is then either the slow and ineffective parliament is doing its best to devolve but it can't yet, or it's deliberate to stop the furthering of federalism.
Then secondly, as far as the elections are concerned, I can't see how we can hold them next year because we don't want another Kriegler. We don't want another Kriegler operation. We want to do it correctly. We want to have proper voters' rolls that if you arrive there, to identify yourself as number so-and-so on the roll, they see it's you and you vote. It cannot be prepared in such a short time. In the meanwhile the new structures are not really in place. They are still fighting hard about this. It's totally inadequate, too soon. Unless they can make another deal like they made on the sixty, twenty, ten I don't know how they can do it.
POM In KwaZulu/Natal will local elections re-ignite the conflict between the ANC and the IFP now that they will be fighting over an even narrower piece of turf?
KVM Possibly. Whether it's narrow pieces of turf or wide ones they always like to fight. I believe there is a country just west of England where people also like fighting. Do you know which country I'm talking about? It has a northern part also.
POM OK, I can figure a random guess.
KVM I have a quip, maybe you know it, they say, "The Irish don't know the devil what they want but they're quite prepared to die for it." The people are always spoiling for a fight there. And then, of course, the exaggerating factor is the government of national unity. How the hell do you incite your bed partners? It's a hermaphrodite system. What is the ANC? Government or opposition? What is the National Party, government or opposition? And the same for the IFP. Hermaphrodites. And then how do you fight your other, or maybe not other, it's a Siamese thing, how do you fight your Siamese twin? You've got to be separated before you can fight him otherwise you can't really fight him or you can fight him up to a point.
POM Is the rift between the King and Buthelezi serious?
KVM I think it's serious but I also think, to my amazement, that the King is by far the loser. I was under the impression, as I think many other people were, that the real power is with the King and that what the King says goes and so forth, and to my amazement when the rift erupted a month or so ago the caucus in Cape Town just fell in totally, solidly behind the Buthelezi. So did the IFP caucus in KwaZulu/Natal and here in the province although they were free. All the Zulus in the Transvaal fell in behind Buthelezi and the important structure is called the Amakozi, the plural for an Inkozi who is the Chief, the plural for an Inkozi is Amakozi. So I believe there are something like 300 Amakozi in the Zulu nation, Chiefs, and on the 14 October some 240 of them met. Unanimously, without one dissent vote, clearly behind Buthelezi and kicked egg into the face of the King.
POM But even the parliamentary caucuses fell in behind Buthelezi?
KVM Yes, all for Buthelezi, all against the King. And I was amazed and then slowly I understood when Senator Bengu addressed us and others, I shouldn't mention names. The point was that the Zulus in leadership realised that it was Gatsha Mangosuthu Buthelezi who has rebuilt the monarchy. It appears as if King Shaka was the first king and they regard him as the greatest, they compare him to Napoleon Bonaparte and people like that, Julius Caesar and so on. And he established the kingdom between 1818 and 1828 and then he was killed by his brother Dingaan, he ruled for about ten years and then it was other kings, but then the whole monarchy thing petered out and eventually I think just after the turn of the century one of the kings was charged and thrown in jail and kept in a small jail for many years somewhere in Middelburg in the Transvaal and Buthelezi forty years ago as a Zulu nationalist wanted to restore dignity to the nation and to the Amakozi and the Indunas and the King. He actually restructured this thing. He went out and he picked up some of the Amakozi who were drivers here and there, and over a long period, especially when he had the authority in the KwaZulu government, he instituted structures, he brought the King in. On big occasions the King would come in and everybody would shout for the King, not only this one, his father before him. And he built it up. Every time they had problems they ran to Buthelezi and he would build it up and now after forty years it is totally clear to everybody who enforced the monarchy and on the other hand the present incumbent is a fool. He can't take pressure and so on. So, therefore, as far as the rift is concerned the ANC has succeeded in hijacking the King it appears, but they've hijacked the truck but the gold was not in it. The gold was safely in Buthelezi's store. It won't make much. You must also remember that there is no history of corruption and problems in KwaZulu/Natal like in the other provinces. We had the Inkathagate thing which was about the only one you could mention. But there's a solid administration, things are going well in the province in comparison to others and I don't think, therefore, that the rift ... I think the rift will even strengthen us.
POM OK, Koos.
KVM Is that it?
POM We could go on all day.
KVM We have to stop sometime.
POM I'll be back in a couple of months, probably in February.
KVM When are you stopping?
POM In 1997.
KVM So how long will it be then. Is this your fourth or fifth visit?
POM 1989, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94.
KVM You had an excellent decision, I said to some of my Nat friends, to make proper inroads into the coloured population but you failed because you are power hungry. There are at least 12 or 15 of the members that they have returned that should have been confined to pasture. People that should have retired, but they brought them back, Alex van Breda, Keppies Niemand, all these old ministers. I said to them, if you had just forgotten about these 15, let them go on pension and if you had selected 15 top coloured people, principals of high schools, very senior people, religious people and others, and you brought them in, that would have been your surest insurance policy to stop any bleeding in your support and getting massive coloured support. You should have moved better into the black roots also but you wanted to retain your white faces. So the whole idea of De Klerk, De Klerk's dream to be the President again, is stillborn because it's just a question of being power hungry, they just want to get the power back.
POM OK. We're off to Witbank.