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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

01 Mar 1995: Dommisse, Ebbe

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POM     I haven't talked to you since the elections last April. Let's talk about the elections for a moment. You had a situation where ten or twelve days before the elections Lord Carrington and Henry Kissinger packed their bags, left the Carlton Hotel and said there is nothing to mediate. The spiral of violence was increasing on both the Reef and in KwaZulu/Natal. It looked as though the country was slowly sliding towards some kind of anarchy. Then Buthelezi decides to contest the elections and overnight the violence virtually stops and there is an election held throughout the country which is hailed immediately by the international community, the UN and observers from God knows where, as being free and fair. And then they get down to the count and it begins to appear that millions of votes are unaccounted for, the process virtually grinds to a stop and then a result is announced and everyone is a winner. The ANC wins with a substantial majority but less than two thirds, Buthelezi, against what people thought were the odds, takes KwaZulu/Natal and the Nats get the Western Cape.

ED     And a Deputy President.

POM     And a Deputy President. My question isn't so much was it at the end rigged than was there an informal agreement that the result would be accepted by everybody and give the election legitimacy and the government came in legitimately was more important than if it were free and fair according to the traditional leaders?

ED     Well, I might land in court for this one. I think the suspicion is very strong that it was rigged in the end, that it was a deal. There were substantial irregularities in the election, there were thousands of votes, if not tens or hundreds of thousands of people who don't have the vote in this country, foreigners or from elsewhere, there was tampering with the boxes in the Transkei for instance. There were disputes that were never cleared and all in all to describe the election as fair and free would be a very strong exaggeration. Then came the problems with Kriegler and suddenly all the results dried up and there was the press sitting in Gallagher Estates and nothing to report and we thought we would have a ball by ball commentary all the time and there was nothing to report. And in the end a result that could only be described as a miracle. The ANC not getting a two thirds majority which would have caused a lot of problems, the National Party getting 20% and Inkatha getting 10%. And what's very interesting to me personally was that I wrote a forecast for Insig, the intellectual magazine where they asked other people as well, I was rather proud about my forecast because when I wrote the article it wasn't even sure that Buthelezi would take part and I said if he would take part he would get 10%. And I worked on the assumption that Inkatha more or less would have something like two million card carrying members and if they voted, and I was sure that Inkatha would be able to get its people to the polls, if they voted he had 10% from a possible 20 million voters. I could never understand why everybody gave him 3% or 4% because surely he can control two million voters and that would give him his 10%. Anyway, the suspicions were rife that it was a deal and they still are and nobody in power is actually talking about that.

POM     For obvious reasons. In the nine months that have elapsed since the election how would you grade the performance of the government where one would represent very poor performance and ten would represent very good performance? What range between one and ten would you place it?

ED     At about five.

POM     In what areas have they done well and in what areas have they done poorly?

ED     It's done fairly well in not exacerbating ideological problems. For instance, the talk about nationalisation is more or less dead, the fear that one had that they would repeat a lot of the mistakes of African socialism and so on, that's not really strong. In the old days they used to say about the National Party, I don't like their policy but they are efficient. Now people are saying about the ANC, I don't like their policy and they are not efficient either. And as far as the violence and crime is concerned, very poor performance, very poor indeed, and causing I think, I'm sure, a lot of the foreign headaches. You know, that people say, why should I invest in a country where violence and crime is rife, there's no stability that we want and so on and we are not getting the foreign investments which we thought we should. So, very poorly there and I think very, very weak on corruption, especially those within the ANC that are accused of being corrupt and there are quite a lot of them.

POM     You have Winnie Mandela, Peter Mokaba, Bantu Holomisa, Rocky Malebane-Metsing. In any other government it would appear to me that even the appearance of corruption on the part of a minister or high executive would be sufficient grounds for asking the person to stand down while an investigation was being done.

ED     Oh sure, there's no question about that. If there is a whole cloud of suspicion hanging over you, you should not continue in the public office. I think that's very clear and it's very interesting to me that the people who are really pushing this line within the ANC are the communists, but they are not making headway. The spirit, the liking for entitlement is awfully strong, awfully strong.

POM     What role do you think the National Party plays in the government of national unity? Would things change dramatically if it were to withdraw tomorrow morning and say we're going into opposition?

ED     Yes I think it would. I think the National Party is playing a rather weak role in government, it's the junior partner and it acts like one, but it has a negative power. If it would withdraw I think foreign confidence would dip further, every time there's a threat the Stock Exchange goes down, comes back again and so on. Foreign confidence would certainly be affected very severely if De Klerk left the government at this stage. Later on it might be different. And then what's more, if the National Party started a full scale onslaught against the ANC government that would be an altogether different ball game. I know that Mandela said in that celebrated clash with De Klerk, "If you left it would not cause a ripple." I think it would cause a severe ripple if De Klerk really rallies his troops behind him and starts attacking the government about everything and there's a lot that you can attack them about. I think the country would become quite stormy.

POM     What accounts for this bitterness, almost personal bitterness between Mandela and De Klerk, more especially on Mandela's side?

ED     I think there are two reasons. The one is Mandela's obsession about the third force and his feeling that De Klerk is not completely honest about what happened in the security forces and he is always saying his hands are clean and his failure to accept responsibility for what happened under him. I think it irks Mandela, it irritates him and it irritates a lot of De Klerk's supporters as well because he was Commander in Chief of the armed forces and surely with some reason he should accept responsibility. Secondly, I think De Klerk's wife is talking too much, especially about Mandela and the top hierarchy of the ANC and these stories reach Mandela, and these two combined made him lose his patience with De Klerk.

POM     How would you rate him as president, using the same scale from one to ten?

ED     From one to ten? I would rate him quite highly. I think he personally is doing a tremendous job. I think if he should pass away tomorrow this country will be going through a rough time and I would give him seven or eight.

POM     Would it have surprised you to find yourself saying that, say, three years ago?

ED     Oh yes. At that time he was talking a lot of nonsense about giving 14 year olds the vote and he still had very socialist ideas and so on, but I think he's grown in stature tremendously and he is really acting like a Tembu chief, above the motley crowd and so on and being wise and being a very stabilising influence in South Africa.

POM     In the Constituent Assembly that is now under way do you expect that there will be merely minor changes to the interim constitution, fine tuning it here and there, adding or subtracting a clause or two? Or do you think it will come out a radically different constitution, built from scratch?

ED     I'll hold my horses on that. I still want to see where they are going. It's not quite clear to me. There is a grassroots feeling among the ANC that they should start from scratch and write a totally new constitution. I would think that's very unwise because this was a deal, the constitution was a deal and it stabilised the country to a certain degree and you should not change too much about the constitution. You know there are quite tricky things in the constitution that have changed. Speaking as an Afrikaner if they start fiddling with the rights of Afrikaans as an official language, which they can do, they can expect trouble. And there are other areas of the constitution as well, provincial powers, lack of federalism or more federalism. These things are very important and if it's a strongly centralised government then we can expect trouble in South Africa. This is a country that cries for a federal constitution and there's a strong feeling of centralisation within the ANC and I think they are wrong, but they come from the Eastern European, centralist tradition.

POM     Do you think that has changed, that seven of the nine Premiers being ANC, suddenly they have discovered power and the accumulation of power, what they want is more power so that you might find some of them who were for central government three years ago might now be very keen federalists?

ED     Oh yes, I think it is like that in the case of Tokyo Sexwale who has learnt a lot, he's not very capable. Patrick Lekota in the Free State and I think even Popo Molefe in North West, I think they would fit your description. Certainly Mdlalose in Natal and Kriel here in the Western Cape are strong federalists, but if you look at the very weak provinces like Eastern Cape, a hopeless Premier there, and Northern Transvaal in dire straits as well, I should say they would rather have more centralised power because they can't govern their own provinces, they are in a total mess.

POM     In the Eastern Cape this is due in large measure to Mhlaba's incompetence?

ED     Oh yes. Oh yes, and those around him. He's quite useless.

POM     He's in his seventies now isn't he?

ED     Yes, he's very old.

POM     Looking at the local elections in October, let me talk about the RDP first. Moving around the country for the last several weeks and I've asked a number of questions of Premiers, heads of departments, ordinary people, about the RDP, and what I generally get is a kind of a glazed look in the eye, some don't even know what the initials stand for and others have completely different understandings of them, what the document is supposed to do. And when you come to the sixty four thousand dollar question of where is the money going to come from to implement all these policies, people just shrug their shoulders. It's not going to come from domestic savings and the reallocation of budget, I don't think there's any reallocation of budget spending or you'll see any cut in the budget itself, it has different priorities. Yet this is the centrepiece of the government's policy and in some way this seems to be one aspect which is less promoted and marketed than anything else.

ED     I'm not surprised. As of now, I saw the Japanese Ambassador in December and they promised South Africa one billion dollars I think. Up to December South Africa was unable to receive the money.

POM     Was unable because?

ED     To utilise the money.

POM     Oh, they don't know how to utilise it.

ED     Yes. And these foreign donors they have programmes nowadays and strings attached how you should spend the money and on what and you must account what you are doing. This government is really very confused about things like that. The RDP, you call it the centrepiece of their thinking, but of course in terms of the total budget it is very, very small. It's two billion out of 130 billion odd rand, something like that is the total budget, 135 I think. So it is very small but it created exaggerated expectations. So generally I should say the government cannot deliver on the election promises which were of course overboard, over the wall even. Now too much is being made of the RDP. They cannot provide the houses, you will remember that Tokyo Sexwale promised 150,000 houses a year only in his province, Gauteng. But the total production of houses in South Africa last year was 30,000 houses. They can push up production by 30% and that would give you 39,000. So 150,000 is completely out of the question. The same with the RDP and what it can do in terms of housing, in terms of health care, in terms of education, is very, very little.

     And then I think the, what shall one call it, the need or the inclination to do something about successful white schools, the Model C schools and so on, that's completely counter-productive. I don't think you should break down something that's really working and working multi-racially, not in favour of the white kids only. My wife teaches at a Model C school and she has more black children now than white, so why tinker with things like that? That's what's very disturbing about the RDP programme in general and the expectations that were falsely raised and they cannot deliver on this. Your other question, where is the money going to come from, the money will only come if South Africa starts getting a successful modern competitive economy and the education system as it is now is really very negative for such a scenario. The competence of black pupils in science and mathematics is abysmal. Do you know how many black students pass matric every year and are able to go further in science and mathematics? 1,200 a year out of a total of a few million. 1,200 a year. That does not give this country a competitive edge.

POM     Relating back to the local government elections in October, here again you appear to have a situation of where you have a confused, disinterested and apathetic electorate who wonder (a) why they have to register and (b) why they have to vote again when they voted only six months ago, or a year ago, you've only got about 5% the population in fact registered to vote. Most of the communities, especially in rural areas have no idea what local government is and Mac Maharaj told me of going into a rural area and telling the people of the necessity to register and vote, explaining it all, and one old man came up to him and said, "What are we doing now, are we voting Mandela out of office?" That was his understanding of casting another vote. So there would almost seem to be insurmountable gaps in the way of the election being held in October. Do you think they will be held in October?

ED     I have no doubt. What troubles me is whether they will go so far as to hold the elections without electoral lists. You cannot hold a local election without electoral lists, I cannot see how you can do that because you have to have divisions of the municipalities and so on and if the vote is again only with ID books it beats me how you can do that. One of the major problems of the last election was evidently a lack of registration of voters, there were no electoral lists so any fool could go and vote and of course there was forgery of these things. So, are they going to have electoral lists in time for this election? That I still want to see, and you know who the Minister of Home Affairs is, the one who is out of parliament now sitting in Natal, so we have a bit of a problem there. Secondly, one of the main reasons why I think there will be an election is because the ANC is pushing for it, the National Party is pushing for it, because the National Party's reasoning is obviously that this time will be the last time that the local election, the composition of what is statutory and non-statutory really favours the National Party. They will do better in this local election than in any one after that.

POM     They will do better in this one than any one after?

ED     One should think, yes. And there will be an election, I'm fairly sure about that, but whether Natal/KwaZulu will take part is a bit of a problem.

POM     Now are you walking down the same kind of risky path again with KwaZulu/Natal? Already I see political violence beginning to go up again, 131 people in January alone and now you have the ANC and the IFP competing over specific areas. The results of one study said that only 26% of people were prepared to allow opposition parties to campaign in their districts.

ED     I think that situation is dangerous, but I think it is really quite easy to get out of this dilemma simply by giving Buthelezi his international mediation. I can't understand why they don't give it to him. It was agreed upon before the election that it would be speedily after the election. How many months have we passed now? About eleven months and it still hasn't taken place. He has a legitimate cause that it was an agreement, honourable agreement amongst three parties, so let him have it.

POM     The mediator could come in and say there's nothing to mediate.

ED     Well what it comes down to is the position of the King and the kingdom and autonomy for the provinces, so I think there is something to be mediated about.

POM     So he's moving beyond federalism or is he talking about autonomy for KwaZulu/Natal exclusively?

ED     I think the government and the NP's position is what does it mean and we have to agree about autonomy and so on. But I think that's really the subject of mediation, get somebody in there, some clever guy like Kissinger or whatever and let him decide what it means and point out the differences and pick a side if he wants to and get the whole damn thing over and done with. He's had his mediation once the international mediators are there. I don't see such a big problem with that one. I really don't follow the reasoning of Valli Moosa and Roelf Meyer and so on.

POM     Valli Moosa and Roelf Meyer, their reasoning is what?

ED     They don't firstly advocate whether there should be mediation and secondly what it should be about. So Buthelezi lists them, these are the two major points that he lists. So get the problem out of the way.

POM     Again since I saw you the last time, there has been a switch in the standing of the King. I interviewed the King I think four or five times and the first was 1990, so till 1994 at least he sounded more like Buthelezi than Buthelezi himself, strong on how the Zulu nation would not be subjected to the rule of the Xhosas and the ANC just wanted to set up a one party state, the whole thing. Now he has, or appears to have, switched allegiances and has cut his ties with Buthelezi to a considerable extent and would be leaning more with the ANC. What do you think brought around this Damascus like St Paul conversion?

ED     Well it's always money, filthy money. I think, at least promises have been made to him or he was reminded that his salary is actually, or he is better guaranteed with the central government than with the KwaZulu government because of funding of the province; you can also say it comes from the central government. I think that played a big role.

POM     As I understand it then, the Bill that Buthelezi was instrumental in pushing through the KwaZulu/Natal legislature was one that would weaken the position of the King and make him one among equals?

ED     Titular head.

POM     Yes but in fact it would be reducing his authority rather than maintaining it which would be completely, a 180 degree turn over where he stood last year that the King should have a place at the table and the Zulu nation had its own inherent rights.

ED     At that time the King was on his side, now he's changed. I don't know why they really fell out. I think there must have been promises made to the King by the ANC, obviously, and then secondly Buthelezi conquered his power base, the Amakosi are now on the side of Buthelezi, Buthelezi is Chairman of their meeting. So he's destroyed the King's power base, or he's stolen it, how should I put it?

POM     If KwaZulu/Natal did participate in local elections, do you see it going again in the direction of an IFP victory?

ED     Sure. No doubt about that.

POM     Even though after the last election, I mean Harry Gwala is very hard on this point, in his mind millions of their votes were stolen and there were irregularities of every description and he was prepared to go to court to contest the results.

ED     Sure.

POM     And the national leadership said, "Hey, forget it".

ED     Cool it, yes. Because he was putting the whole election result in jeopardy then with court cases and all that. Because by then they knew they had the majority and that's what they wanted.

POM     There was always this fear of people, or people would say they were afraid of South Africa going the way of the rest of Africa.

ED     They are still saying it.

POM     They still say that, but nine months on is there any tangible evidence to indicate that that's true or has the government adopted not just the principles of a market economy, they've moved from three years of talking nationalisation to talking about privatisation. They deserve at least a year to learn.

ED     Well I think as far as moving towards the market economy is concerned there is no question in my mind that the elite of the ANC has moved a huge distance. The question in my mind is whether the pragmatists are in control of the ANC or the populists. Under the populists I would reckon people like Winnie Mandela, Peter Mokaba, Holomisa and so on, these people. That's not putting it quite accurately, I would say now clearly the Mandelas, the Mbekis, the Ramaphosas and so on they are in charge, they control the ANC right now. The question is really, and I think that's the question in foreign investors' minds, what's it going to be a year or two years from now? Are these pragmatic ANC leaders, will they still be able to control the disaffected masses and the populists lurking within their own wings? That is the uncertainty that is causing the disturbing perceptions about South Africa both internally and externally.

POM     And in order for the pragmatists still to be in command they will have to have shown that their policies have paid off to the masses in some way that is tangible to the masses?

ED     That's right, and of course that's very difficult. That's very difficult.

POM     The ANC would say that they were shocked to find out the true state of finances in the country when they took over. I mean literally the barrel was empty.

ED     Was empty and still being stolen from.

POM     And there is nothing to work with.

ED     You see they worked under the assumption that this was a rich country. They did not work under the assumption that as far as the rest of the world is concerned, Africa is a wasteland and a basket case, and the perception of the rest of the world is that South Africa is the one that has a chance to lift out of this depressing mess, but then any African country has to work ten times harder to keep up that perception than say Taiwan or Hong Kong or Singapore or whatever to get the necessary investment and to get the confidence that could really build this economy.

PM     If I were to say to you, if I were sitting here as a foreign businessman and I wanted you to make the case to me of why I should invest in South Africa, what case would you make?

ED     Well I'll make the case that every businessman makes. We have a very advanced infrastructure in South Africa, we have a very modern business sector and banking sector, the communications that you need, we have the work force, not very well trained but we can train it. And then you might ask me about the work ethic and I'll have to admit that it could be much better, we're not in the class of South East Asia or so but it's improving, I would say, praying while I'm saying it, and so on. That's what you say. And strategically we're well positioned with the Indian Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, we're in the centre of that. We have one of the strongest economies in the Southern Hemisphere and there's a huge lot of shipping going around the Cape. We have the harbours, we have the railways, we're really the gateway to Africa. If you want to get into Africa you have to work through South Africa. You say all those kind of things, and they are all true. But still the doubt remains, will South Africa really keep up to its promises? And that's what the government is finding out.

POM     I saw today in the paper a piece about Valli Moosa being assigned the task of undermining, or the culture of entitlement - getting rid of it.

ED     Getting rid of it?

POM     Getting rid of it, that very big problem. Is it 80% of the people in the townships are not paying for any services? And now white people and Coloured people are saying if they don't pay we don't pay. In fact the administrative capacity of most of these townships is such that most people don't even get sent their bills. Now they are being asked to pay so it seems that the great pay-off of freedom and the abolition of apartheid is that your standard of living goes down and now you're expected to pay for services which you never did before, now you're supposed to pay on your housing bonds which you never had to do before. How much of a problem is this?

ED     Severe. Very, very severe, and with no solution in sight.

POM     How would you go about solving it? Because it's like you have to unlearn behaviours that you've done, before you fought people, before you were told make the place ungovernable, this, this, this, this. And now they say switch sides, make it governable.

ED     That is the, how should I call it, the miserable end of revolutionary tactics. I think Kafka had that famous quote, "Every revolution ends in the slime of a new bureaucracy", and we're experiencing it now. I see great difficulty for the government to get tough on this culture of entitlement, great, great difficulties. Firstly, it has to get very tough on crime and violence and if they succeed against crime that will be a major help because people aren't feeling safe in the streets, nobody is feeling safe in the streets in South Africa. Feel safe in the streets and then you come to the question of employment. The latest figure given by Mboweni is three and a half million unemployed. I think he's way below what it really is but that's official, three and a half million unemployed. That's probably about 40% of the workforce. It's very, very high. So, it comes again to the question that the economy must get going and then, you know there are other dangers lurking in this non-payment of rent for instance. Also what the SABC, we had a discussion about that today, what the SABC is doing to Afrikaans and Afrikaans listeners are not willing to pay their TV licences because they say you are discriminating against my language, why should I pay your licence?

POM     Is there evidence of that?

ED     Oh yes, yes, most decidedly.

POM     In favour of English or in favour of other languages?

ED     There is a favouring of English in the SABC and cutting back on Afrikaans, that's happening, and then Afrikaners are not going to pay the licence and that feeds this boycott mentality of not paying for services. I think it's dangerous because then again now whites are saying or Coloureds are saying, "Why the hell should we pay when the blacks aren't paying?" But if whites don't pay blacks will say, "Even less reason for us to pay". So this is very disturbing.

POM     Derek Keys when he was Minister for Finance told me that the best this country could look for between now and the end of the decade, the year 2000, would be a rate of decrease in unemployment of about 1% a year and after he had quit I went to see him again a year later and I said, "Will you still stand by the estimate you gave me the last time?" and he said, "Yes", full of confidence. If this is true as it would seem to be, is South Africa on the verge of being in a position where it's ability to deal with multiple problems at all levels almost simultaneously far outdistances it's capacity to do so?

ED     Sure.

POM     So no matter what they're doing the problem's getting worse not better. Even though you're building more houses that means that there may be provision of houses, more people may come from rural areas because houses are being built and suddenly you've more people in the squatter camps than you had before, not less.

ED     Sure, that is the problem. It's a cumulative problem that needs rapid addressing on different fronts. They now forecast a growth rate of maybe 3%, maybe, and the population growth is 2.7%, but among blacks it's 4.6% and that's the majority of the population. It's declining but not nearly fast enough to cope with the incoming work force. You know the figures, 360,000 a year coming into employment, new jobs, 360,000 a year, of which, I hear the latest figures they are throwing out is 7%, but I thought it was about 3% that could be met. Only at best 7% of those 360,000 will get jobs and that's apart from the backlog which now is estimated at three million, so it is a huge problem. It means really massive foreign investment which will not be forthcoming.

POM     So are you optimistic about the future? I mean more optimistic than you would have been four years ago?

ED     Well South Africa is a very funny country. The economy is really remarkably resilient and in spite of the squatters and the problems and so on somehow the country keeps going on. I think the common day to day relations between people are quite good and the feeling of revenge which one feared has not taken place. It might get worse if this Truth Commission is not handled in a very capable and clever way. This Truth Commission could cause a fallout which could be quite severe.

POM     Let's talk about that for a moment. If I am the relative of a victim do I have the right to know (a) what happened to my son or daughter or whatever, and (b) who was responsible, without taking revenge into account at all but just saying I should know those two things? Do you think that that's the way it should go?

ED     That's not the way it will go. Thabo Mbeki told us last week why it would not go like that. He said, "Say I am an ANC supporter in KwaMashu and I murdered an Inkatha Chief and I am told that I can go to the Truth Commission and I can testify and I will get exonerated, I will get amnesty and my name appears in the paper the next morning, that night I will not be alive any more." So that's a big problem I should say. If the family knows X killed my brother, somebody is going to get X, so how do you get past that one? I don't see any way of getting past that except in secret testimony and no names. Although the family is entitled to get that name, I agree with that, but that person is in mortal danger if his name gets known. That's one. Secondly, some of the ANC hard-liners are taking the line that the Truth Commission should investigate at a basic level transgressions of human rights by the armed forces. That simply won't go down because there were severe violations of human rights by the ANC and by the PAC and by Inkatha, the whole damn lot stand guilty as charged. If there is not an even-handed approach by the Truth Commission we will be in a worse situation.

POM     I was asking Cyril Ramaphosa about this yesterday and he said heads will roll of people in high positions. He said it won't be just on their side, heads are going to roll on our side as well, quite prominent senior people in the organisation.

ED     That's interesting because I put that question to Thabo Mbeki, it was the Conference of Editors. The English editors have a feeling that it will be only Magnus Malan and Vlok and maybe De Klerk and people like that, so I asked Mbeki about this, "And your people?" He's expecting at least two ministers, Nationalist ministers in the Cabinet will have to go. And I said to him, "And your people, if they are found guilty, will there be people in the Cabinet from the ANC who will go?" He said, "Yes", and I asked him, "Will there be any Cabinet left?" and there was a very awkward silence. So, you know, this could really turn into something very, very nasty. If De Klerk goes out of the Cabinet, Modise, Thabo Mbeki himself? Who else was named? Steve Tshwete, Ronnie Kasrils, all responsible for bombings for instance, for killing innocent civilians. I never thought the Truth Commission was a very good idea.

POM     On the other hand, to bring about reconciliation, you can't say the past is over and done with, we're in a new South Africa, let's move on. For too many people out there there's too much pain and a continuing sense of loss and a continuing sense of wondering what happened to their people. So the truth should appear before you say all is forgiven.

ED     It's like the cancer patient. You cut off an arm and a leg and maybe you cut off the top part and what the hell is left? It is a very dangerous exercise this one, on all sides. Maybe they will get to some agreement. I know they're working on some kind of a deal. What is it that this side wants to know? And I know that the police are sitting with hundreds of dossiers of dirty stuff on people within government. If you look at who's in government, look at the whole lot of them, there are top class scoundrels in this government.

POM     And the Cabinet?

ED     In the Cabinet, yes, I'm talking about the Cabinet. Should it all come out? What about the impimpis, the traitors? The ANC was infiltrated terribly. And who in this Cabinet were agents, double agents? It is an awful, bloody, dirty story.

POM     They did this in East Germany, they opened the Stasi files on people and a woman could find out that it was her husband had been informing on her for fifteen years or vice versa. It did more to create divisiveness than to bring about any kind of healing.

ED     We have one here, we have a Stasi agent here, a convicted Stasi agent who is the PRO for the Ministry of Housing. Can't believe it. I think this is a very dangerous exercise. That's clear that people have the right to know who murdered who. There's another thing, the stability of the country, the stability of the government and the ability of the government. As you pointed out what they have to do, it is a tremendous job and if this government gets torn apart, people being kicked out left, right and centre, what about stability?

POM     One last thing, the IFP walkout on the question of mediation. Is this brinkmanship or do you think there's a real possibility that Buthelezi will say the IFP are not going to contest the local elections until there is some form of international mediation on the issues that you raised?

ED     Well firstly I've asked quite a lot of people about his actions before the last election, whether it was stupidity or a kind of bravado or was it the most brilliant piece of brinkmanship that South Africa had ever seen and you'll be surprised at how many people think it was the most brilliant piece of brinkmanship imaginable, because it was a week before the election, he couldn't lose anything. Had he done badly in the election he would have said, "Well what do you expect, I had a week's time". If he did as well as he did, then he would say, "Just imagine what I would have done had I been on the campaign trail for three months or something like that." I personally think he must have nerves of steel or be very stupid but bringing it off was remarkable. So this time I think it's a bit of his usual brinkmanship. I think he has a problem, if his MPs stay away more than sixteen days they automatically lose their seats.

POM     Sorry, if the MPs stay away?

ED     More than 16 days, from parliament, they lose their seats.

POM     Is that consecutively?

ED     Consecutive days, yes, they lose their seats. He can't risk that.

POM     Then they are no longer in the government?

ED     Coming to think of that, probably he has the right to appoint new ones. How many has he? Forty or whatever, he can appoint new ones. Yes, he can appoint forty new ones because you're not allowed to switch allegiance of parties because of this stupid constitution that we have. So maybe it's not such a big problem as I thought, although those forty that are gone then will be very disappointed I should say. I don't think they are allowed to enter parliament again during the life of this parliament. I should check on that. Anyway, the Weekly Mail had an interesting article last week that Buthelezi has the ANC and Mandela over the barrel of a gun, what can they do? It's been promised to him, mediation, and he simply said, "Well it's eleven months, why was nothing done?" Morally I think he's in the clear and he will probably get his way, I should think. I can see no other outcome. So it's quite clever politics.

POM     But you don't see any severe increase in violence in KwaZulu/Natal on a scale that existed that existed before the last elections, or is there potential for that still?

ED     Yes. I lived in Natal in the late fifties and every weekend there was violence in Natal, so it's nothing new for Natal. There will always be violence. I spoke to Bishop Hurley, the Roman Catholic, the old one, and he just throws up his hands in despair. He says these tribal feuds have been simmering for decades and there is always this tribal in-fighting over demarcation of areas and God knows what. It's been going on for ages so it might get worse, yes, sure.

POM     OK. I'll leave it at that. Thanks very much. You do get your transcripts don't you?

ED     Yes but I don't think I received the last one.

POM     OK I'll have it sent to you.

ED     How long are you here for now?

POM     Well I've been almost living here. I spent eight months last year here and I came back in February and I'll probably stay through the end of April, go back to the States for a couple of months and then come back and certainly be here for the local elections and the wind-up to it. My problem now is that I have a surfeit of material. I have interviews, 800 hours of interviews which is no way to manage in a book. One thing I will do at the end of it I'll give everybody who participated a bound copy of all the interviews they did so they can see the progression of their own thoughts at particular points in time over a period of eight or nine years. The two people I have to nail at this point are Mandela and

ED     Mandela has a way of rising above the small stuff. I thought he made a very good speech at the opening of parliament. We have to get it right and that means less crime, less unemployment. That is the only way to go.

POM     Think small. How is De Klerk coping with problems?

ED     Well you know with his clean hands approach and so on it doesn't convince anyone and secondly his unnatural optimism, kind of skimming over the real problems that there are, is not convincing. I know we had a reporter covering him in Germany and the reporter talked both to the business people and the labour movement afterwards and they said he's quite eloquent in talking broadly but very weak on specifics.

POM     Has he changed during the last four years?

ED     Oh yes he has.

POM     How would you describe the change?

ED     He's a very worried man.

POM     Worried because of Truth Commission, that revelations will come out of the activities of the - ?

ED     No I don't think he's worried about that, but the way the economy is going and secondly the way his party is going. There's no clear strategy or vision and where does he take the party or where does the party take him? That's worrying him even more.

POM     It's very difficult to keep your identity if you're a junior partner in a coalition.

ED     Very.

POM     You can't at the same time operate as an effective opposition.

ED     Very difficult, but the party has to have a profile and it doesn't have a profile. Secondly, the big question is, can a reformer having reformed go on or is his job done? Gorbachev left the scene.

POM     Actually I think the latter, that he did the job of reformer and essentially he should get out when he's ahead.

ED     There's nobody to take his place you see, nobody to take De Klerk's place. That's the problem.

POM     Do you think that this whole thing would have turned out differently if Barend du Plessis had become head of the National Party and subsequently president?

ED     Sure. Barend du Plessis has even less of a philosophy than De Klerk. De Klerk's major problems were caused by the inexperienced people he sent in during the negotiations. He lost Viljoen, he lost Du Plessis, he lost Van der Merwe and before that people like Heunis. Not very likeable politicians maybe but very experienced and he had nothing of that kind when the moment of truth came. Roelf Meyer was a very junior minister and it's still reverberating against De Klerk.

POM     Within the party?

ED     Oh yes, definitely.

POM     They don't think he did a very effective job at the end of the day in terms of what was in the final negotiations package?

ED     Yes.

POM     That they were in effect out-negotiated?

ED     Yes. That's the perception. And a tougher guy there might have gotten away even with a weaker second. A tougher negotiator might have gotten away even with a weaker second, but nobody had confidence in the top line of negotiators. That was the major problem.

POM     So the perception of failure almost preceded - it never happened.

ED     The actual outcome, yes. And you know that remark that Ramaphosa made at the end, the National Party just caved in. Gee, it was terrible. Anyway.

POM     They're still good friends.

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.