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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

29 Nov 1994: De Villiers, Dawie

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POM     Maybe I should begin by asking, whither the National Party? It is part of the government of national unity, at the same time it's trying to be an opposition. Where does it lie in relationship to its own constituency and how can it develop and broaden that constituency for the election in 1999?

DDV     Well let me just recap again by pointing out that the concept of the government of national unity, of power sharing, was actually something that we have promoted right from the beginning. We actually suggested that it should be a firm part of the constitution and not only a temporary five year agreement as it is at the moment. Why? Well, because we believe that after the divisions of the past and the problems of the past South Africa needs a period of rebuilding that will require the cooperation of all parties. Put differently, the kind of political system of, say, Westminster where one party, for instance, takes full control even if it only has slightly more than 50% of the votes would not suffice in South Africa. We need to be more accommodating, we need to take other parties along. Divisions are too strong, not only black/white divisions, but within the country so as to participate in the political activity as you may find in newly developed countries. So how do you combine democratic opposition on the one hand with cooperation at the political level at the other hand? And that is where the concept of a government of national unity comes in and we will have it according to the present constitution for five years. I think it is very important for confidence, not only in South Africa but also for members of my party to know they are represented right into the Cabinet, the Deputy President is there, he has a standing, he has a role to play, for the international community to know it's not just one party running things, there is an interaction, there is an effort to accommodate the views of other parties. It adds to confidence. The confidence is there for investment, economic growth, etc.

POM     I have been going round the country for the last four to five weeks talking to Premiers, MECs and MPs and ordinary people and I found a kind of demoralisation among white people, that it is basically co-option rather than power sharing.

DDV     Well, I would disagree with that, not with your reading of what the people say, but whether it is merely co-option and therefore ineffective or whether it is effective. I think the proof of the pudding lies in the eating. However the most important issue is economic policy. Now the economic policy of the government of national unity is so soundly based on the principles that we of the National Party have propagated that we can't find fault with it. There's fiscal and monetary discipline, there's a commitment to reducing the deficit, for borrowing from 6%, to 4% over a period, there's a commitment to reduce consumption expenditure by the state to lower levels which will enable us to use the role of the state and create a smaller civil service and lately also an agreement to look at privatisation as a way of implementing these policies. We couldn't have asked for more.

POM     Did you ever hear the word privatisation from the ANC four years ago?

DDV     No, never, never. And it's there. So if we say that a sound economic policy is of the greatest and utmost importance, there it is. But now, whether it is the influence of the National Party or not, these things can be academically or theoretically ironed out. But we are there and the result of the government of national unity is a policy that we are very happy with. It's a challenge now to see whether we can keep those commitments, but therefore we will be there to remind the whole Cabinet all the time to say that you can't do that because the whole confidence in this government will start to collapse if we can't keep our word. So I can argue that in many ways where the result has been quite substantial and there is no way in that the ANC will be able to run away with something and we are just shouting behind them. In all of the other issues a process has been engaged in, be it the Truth & Reconciliation Commission, be it education, a process has been engaged in, in Cabinet, in government and even in parliament where the inputs of all parties have been to a large extent considered and absorbed and the end result has been a product which all parties find quite agreeable, and that has been the process.

     Of course I understand, one can almost say, the dissatisfaction or the despondency amongst many of the white electorate, they have been used to the fact that for ten, twenty, thirty years their party was in government, their leaders were there, they received the attention of the media, they made the policies of the day and therefore the focus in the news was inclined to give them a more preferable position. We have now Mr Mandela as President, we have twenty, twenty-two ministers from the ANC against six or seven from the National Party. Obviously the exposure in the media would be different. You have a parliament of 400 with the National Party being 20% of that, just over 20%. You have nine provincial governments where the National Party only have a Premier in one, so the whole scene has changed and I think although people expected a major change, what it will exactly look like has not been contemplated perhaps as they now realise what it means, but I still believe that if they look at it carefully and weigh up the role of the National Party and let's say the IFP for that matter, I'm just speaking on behalf of my party, they will realise that we play a very constructive role, that our role is necessary for confidence in this country's future and that confidence is necessary really to get the growth that has been going down for ten, fifteen years, to get that going up, and we have made the turn.

     Just to conclude this remark, if we should, the National Party, Deputy President de Klerk, should tomorrow say, "Thank you very much, we're not going to continue to be a part of the government of national unity", it will send, I think, such a wrong message that it will destroy confidence and who will suffer from a lack of confidence? We will all suffer. There will be no investment, no economic growth, it will open many of the old wounds. This marvellous experience of reconciliation of 1994, expressed in the election and the inauguration of the new President, will start to come under severe strain. So I think that is almost a knee-jerk reaction from people who now find themselves in opposition and they have never had that experience before.

POM     How will the National Party broaden its base?

DDV     By extending its power base. Well broadening the base for the National Party means only one thing and that is getting stronger support from the black community because if you look at the last election we can hardly do better amongst the coloured and Asian community. We can certainly improve our standing in the white population, but amongst those three categories there is not that much scope. I think it's more a question of consolidating and building up through the elections next year for local authorities, up to whenever a next election will be. Now the challenge of really getting more support for the National Party amongst the black community is complex. I believe that the National Party will do that by spelling out its policies more clearly. We should not be seen only as an anti-ANC party. That would not bring us support. We should be contrasted with the ANC on many important issues, the question of law and order, the question of values, religious values. We have 70% of the population indicating that they have Christian convictions, there must certainly be strong feelings about family life, about education, about bringing up children, about abortion in this country, and many of these issues. The National Party must clearly position itself policy wise. We want smaller government, we want more freedom for people, less government interference, we want more opportunities, etc. So that is the first point.

     Secondly, the National Party road is hard to define as more of a party with which black people can associate, the leadership cadre will have to become black. At provincial levels, at national level we will have to not only absorb more black people in our ranks but credible leaders must begin to identify and associate with the National Party. I put the challenge. How to meet that challenge, what strategy is required, that is a different and more challenging aspect. But the National Party must look at the third world.

     Thirdly, I think one must accept, it may be a theoretical departure point, but I think that the political landscape will change in South Africa over the next five years, over the next ten years. The tensions within the ANC are manifesting themselves in many ways. The power struggle in the North West Province around Popo Molefe, in the Free State around Terror Lekota, and around the position of the Secretary/General are all cases in point as well as the levels of the tension building up between trade unions and the ANC. The ANC must be a government in which international business has confidence and how can we do that if you do not accommodate the views of trade unions. It's a different and a difficult position. So there will also be disillusionment within the ANC which would add to the realignment. I don't say those people will leave and join the National Party, far from it, but if the position becomes more fluid the position of the National Party will change and the whole political scene I think will enter a phase but later perhaps, not now, only six months after the elections, two years, there are already elections next year. But look down the road, in the next five to ten years, it's just my feeling, my conviction, that the position, the political landscape also in terms of party politics will change dramatically.

POM     ...

DDV     Let me deal with the first one, the devolution of powers, which someone like Roelf Meyer or Valli Moosa can give you more detailed information, but let me just briefly say that of course creating nine provincial governments and one central government out of the plethora of governmental structures, many of them in the last number of years if not longer, of almost ineffectual government, is not an easy job. In many new provinces, let's take the Eastern Cape, you have to rationalise two independent countries, the Cape Provincial Administration, the national administration, four governmental structures into a new government both at the level of officials and at the level of implementing the new constitution it has been difficult. That process has been speeded up as fast as possible by the central government and by the President himself. But secondly, what is even more worrying is the ability of many of the provinces to take on the part and we have been criticised from within our own party about not pushing federalism fast enough and far enough and it is now a serious concern that with two or three of the provinces almost on the verge of collapsing whether the transfer of more powers would change that or rather aggravate it, and theoretically, it would have been a far better process had this taken time and the powers been devolved more slowly when the structures were ready. But we have the commitment in terms of the constitution and there is no dragging of the feet but it is problematic.

     Secondly, you're quite right when it comes to the RDP. Different people have completely different ideas. To many people in the street the RDP is the mechanism that will provide my house, my job, my whatever. Let me just say briefly how I try and explain the RDP to the ordinary electorate. I say the RDP is actually a way to reprioritise spending in South Africa. Now spending the budget over the years can be compared with one of these big oil tankers sailing past the Cape and they all say turning an oil tanker takes almost a number of days if not a number of hours. How do you do that if your expenditure has been based on historical spending, on hospitals, on education? It is to prioritise those areas which you need to give more money to quickly. In terms of health spending one would say not the old style of building big hospitals but primary health services, clinics, etc. The RDP is a way to say, "I'll take away some of your money, 5% cut in all departments, that goes into a fund, now you can reapply but former allocations will only be made insofar as you can implement these higher priorities." Over a period of four or five years the whole RDP will run out and everything should be back in the budget. There might still be a fund left that will continue implementing these aspects. How do we fund it? Two and a half billion rand was provided out of cut-backs in the first year that we're in now.

POM     That follows. You base your projections on?

DDV     No, no, that is just in the 1994/95 budget. For the 1995/96 budget a provision of around five billion rand will be made supplemented by international support, etc. into the RDP fund. Now five billion rand out of a budget of say approximately 150 billion rand is not half the budget, it's relatively still a modest, important, but still a modest amount and that amount can then be fed back into, because delivery will be through the departments and through the structures of government to enable this big ship to be turned around. Five billion rand next year and that builds up over a period of time for five years and you will have this cycle completed and then by that time the reprioritising within budget, the departmental budgets and within the budget of the country, should have been completed and whatever is left over in RDP funds and rolling capital etc. can then be phased out.

POM     I understand that ... it all makes sense, that kind of thing

DDV     In the department I can tell you I have not received any. I have applied for but not received, but I know there are projects of course that you are aware of have been approved, 140 clinics, etc. Delivery is a problem through all the structures and we are concerned about the RDP because it's a good programme to have not only a few single projects but to have an integrated programme. Projecting the needs of people on a priority basis is good if your delivery line does not become too long, if the expectations are not out of place. The RDP is going to be implemented through regional and local communities, those communities will all put up, aim for the clouds and they might get very little because the cake is not big enough. So I am worried about the reaction eventually in terms of the RDP in 12, 18, 20 months time, it's like that. And then like many of these funding people will say, you spent X amount, how much of that really got to the end of the pipeline into the house? How much, I want to say, in pockets? Forget about that, just how much got stuck in the pipeline itself, in bureaucracy, in structures? So it is a problem. But let us just again look back, I think the ANC positioned themselves and the RDP during the election, there is a lot of merit in identifying priority spendings on the RDP. We took it up, it became the policy of the government of national unity. It was repositioned in that we strongly argued for a long time about the RDP, how do you fund it? If you can't fund it then it's just a menu without prices. The prices on the menu say this is what we can spend, fine, we will support and we will cooperate, but we have our concerns.

DDV     Let me give you an analogy. The scrum is the area where the big forwards are battling for the ball. So he would actually say the question of possession is worrying him. If I have possession of the ball I can pass it out and people can start running and score tries. But we are still engaged in this scrum and I am not getting possession. My loose forwards might refer to Cabinet colleagues, or who else would they refer to? So that is my only analogy. We should really get our things in order in government and not get into each other's way, get a clean ball with which we can then start running and give an opportunity to other players on the field to run and the result will be tries.

POM     ...

DDV     I don't think first of all it's businesses role to implement the RDP. It's the government's role in any country to look after the needs of the poor. Business should be successful so that they can pay more taxes enabling the government to provide more means to look after the needs of the poor. So I will not criticise business, but we are slowly implementing the RDP because business will start building the houses and the government says business will grow if there's confidence and if there's economic growth, that will create more jobs, more tourists come in in my field and jobs will flow. If there are more exports the jobs will be there, that is a wider macro-economic issue, so I don't think it could have been very serious in really criticising business for not being quick off the mark to implement the RDP. It's a government project.

POM     I suppose what I'm getting at ultimately is that if the RDP is to be implemented successfully, you have to have people vesting ownership in their programme, not something just handed out by government. I think what surprises me is that more effort hasn't gone into marketing it.

DDV     Well I think you must not underestimate the marketing effect, but you might have more discussions with people who are not going to be affected as receivers from the RDP. I think in the townships you will find many people with very high expectations. There are committees set up, or in the process of being set up, many have been set up, to identify the needs of that township. Do we want a school or do we want roads? For example, in the Northern Transvaal they took water as their number one priority. They say that what we need, forget about the houses now, is just a tap and water first. So that is, as you have said, a way of giving ownership to the communities in terms of what they will eventually receive and I think that is a good development. We haven't had it to that extent in the past and that is instead of saying the departments are going to give you more money to look after the needs of the poor, there is now a champion to drive these needs and to drive it in such a way that correctly the community itself feels important and takes ownership, and that's a good process. I think one must give credit for establishing such a department.

POM     Within government, within the Cabinet, the government of national unity, was consensus reached on all questions, and when it's not does the ANC say - ?

DDV     Well let me first of all say I've been serving in Cabinet for 14 years, I've never had a Cabinet that always agreed. There have always been very, very strong arguments over many matters in Cabinet even consisting of members of the same party. So that kind of exchange does take place and very often you find members of different parties, or rather members of the same party on different sides of an argument, but with little exception we have found an acceptable conclusion to the debate on almost all issues. Those that we haven't, we have either said, look this is such a minor issue we still disagree but we won't take it any further, we will rest our case. And that has happened with the minority parties. Or we have said, look we are not going to stand in your way, we are going to express our disagreement in public, which we have done, and we will continue to do so, but we are not going to break down the system or we don't regard this as such a large issue that we are almost going to launch a campaign against it. It will be a challenging test to the party to what extent it can eventually come to what is maybe regarded as a more crucial issue and say, well we don't go along with it but you're the majority party and certainly you can implement that. Then we would certainly reserve our right to object to it in public and campaign against it as such. To what extent that would strain relationships is difficult to say. At the moment there's still a very good working relationship between all members of the Cabinet and I can't say that there are any strained relationships between us because of this accommodative process that we've all been engaged in. And I think that applies to the National Party as much as to Inkatha and Buthelezi as much as to De Klerk.

POM     It sounds like a honeymoon period.

DDV     Could be. It could be. No-one foresees that really to last for ever. I think it might have been a bit ambitious of the National Party to talk of such a government of national unity, such a power sharing formula can continue, and the strains of political life and government will definitely bring us sometimes to hard clashes. Whether the structure for the time being will survive the clashes I don't know, but I think the fact that we have been, honeymoon or not, successful so far is a role model that is being favourably looked upon by countries with as great divisions as we have, like Mozambique. I think it's obvious that Angola will have to follow the same route and if you can in a year, two, three, five years in terms of the rebuilding of your country in this way I think it's worth its while. The only thing as a political animal which many people like to do, then it may not be the correct way, I think the country will pay the price for that. You only position yourself and say, what can I do to fight and strengthen my political position and that comes paramount and it might not be the right avenue.

POM     If you had to rate the transition on a scale of one to ten, one being very unsatisfactory and ten being very satisfactory, where would you place it so far.

DDV     I would say six perhaps seven.

POM     And how would you rate the government of national unity?

DDV     You see rating it, again you need a bench mark, you have very little to go along with it. If you talk about efficiency, if you talk about general acceptance, it is very difficult to put numbers on this. You need to have a feel, a ruler to measure, and I find it difficult, I don't have a ruler. I would say it has worked remarkably well regardless of all the fears and concerns. It has worked more above average, more than I expected. If it's a honeymoon period, who knows? I don't know, but so far it's working well, it's working to the advantage of the country. Whether it's the prevailing mood, where there is a will amongst all participants, even in difficult things to really seek consensus, and it applies to the major parties and also to the minor parties, not to stand and hammer on smaller issues that could be accommodated. How long that will prevail is difficult to say. But I would say the government has done, in that way, in a conciliatory manner in acting as a government of national unity, in facilitating the transition, in bringing people together and working for reconciliation, it's done above average. I would say it has done remarkably well. Seven perhaps.

POM     And Mandela?

DDV     I think as a figure of reconciliation and symbol of reconciliation he has done very well. He has not functioned that much as a Prime Minister or a hands-on President and he has left a great deal of that work to his two Deputy Presidents, but that might be the correct way, not to waste his energy that much on day to day running the country.

POM     That's what Ronald Reagan did and it made him the most popular President in the United States this century.

DDV     Could be a good example to follow.

POM     You mentioned divisions in the ANC?

DDV     You know, before answering you, I must go in my assessment also on what I hear from the media, from people. I think at this moment in terms of succession Mbeki is certainly in a far stronger position, yes. But you know politics. What the position will be two, three years down the road will depend on many factors, how the political scene is going to change. So for the time being now, yes. I have seen in many countries as you certainly as a political analyst see, how the second in command or the accepted next line of command disappeared and the Crown Prince very seldom becomes the King in politics. So given time no-one knows and I think it's a bit of a premature struggle. It's more a position within the ANC than a struggle and give it as it may be, at the moment, the way I hear it is, yes Thabo is certainly fairly strongly positioned to take over the leadership if something should happen to the President.

POM     Your views on the Truth Commission?

DDV     I am in principle for the Truth Commission. I think it is important not to just hide things and cover things, let it be allowed to come out. The experience in Chile has been a good one, perhaps against the experience in other countries where they have tried to let things come out. Let there be therefore a better understanding and based on an understanding and forgiveness, an effort to overcome the past and really work to conciliation. I have two concerns which the National Party has expressed strongly. The one is that there should be even-handedness in this process, that you should not give a privileged position to those who were freedom fighters against those that tried to uphold the law as they saw it and defend the state. And thirdly I would support that the commission must be well put together, people with objectivity, and that the commission should also provide an opportunity to meet outside the limelight of the public so that every statement is not in the press before it can be checked. That I go there and say the following about Professor O'Malley and the next day you read it and then the bad news is out so that a judged situation, a weighed up situation could be presented. I don't say hide the truth. I say create a mechanism that will provide that kind of revealing of the truth.

POM     If a minister was shown to be implicated in what would amount to a crime, would he have to stand down?

DDV     It's very theoretical now and if the same would apply to members of the ANC. We say a crime, again there's a definition, what is a crime? Is it a crime to be a member of the army to fight for freedom, or is it a crime in terms of your responsibility to defend the state? So definitions are very important here. It's often in the eye of the beholder. We talk about terrorists, which is criminal activities, would they be regarded in terms of the Truth Commission as criminals? I don't think so, they are part of the freedom struggle. The other way round, the oppressors. So I would just say if it was done in good faith in terms of the accepted objectives, some people for other agendas transgressed the law, went outside of their powers, well certainly those are transgressions that should be dealt with in terms of the process of law, process of the court if necessary. So everything can't just be ignored, I can't just say I raped because I was a freedom fighter. There may be very good examples to say, well we can't, that is not in terms of the brief of our commission, we can't just close that book, you're guilty and you know that you couldn't have taken the law in your own hands against people like that. It cannot be defended in terms of your objectives either in serving the state or fighting for liberation.

POM     OK, I've got a lot of questions but I'll save them until I come back. Thank you for making the time.

DDV     You're welcome.

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.