This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
07 Mar 1995: Botha, Louis
POM It's been over a year now since I've seen you and it has been a year of many changes, indeed since our conversations started four years ago an entirely new situation exists today than existed in 1990. How would you evaluate the two and your own adjustment to the changing situation?
LB Well the system today, or the situation in which we find ourselves today, is totally different to what it was four or five years ago, totally different. The political situation, the situation as far as the South African Police is concerned, as I often say to the ANC with whom I have to have a close working relationship, like them I had instructions (when I say 'I' - the South African Police and myself, of course), we had instructions up to 1990 to perform, to act according to the government that was in place then. After 1990 it was sort of loosened and there were changes and then since the election in April last year until now there have been dramatic changes. There are further changes which are about to take place as far as the police service or the police force is concerned and are still taking place but are going to get more rapid, the change. I am personally finding this fascinating and very interesting, very challenging.
POM One of the problems, I think most people say, that exists today is the problem of morale in the police, you don't have a good public image at least in most places. Then you have rogue elements that were involved in all kinds of goings on during 1992 and 1993, 1994. How do you start dealing with these problems at the same time knowing that you are going to have to apply some standards of affirmative action and bring more blacks into leadership positions within the police itself?
LB It's a whole mouthful that you've asked there. Let's deal first of all with the legitimacy problem. Before April last year, 1994, we had a big legitimacy problem, that was caused by politics over the years, applying the so-called apartheid laws and what have you. That has subsequently changed. We still have a problem in certain areas but now with the appointment of the new National Commissioner and the new Provincial Commissioners we are hoping to get past that stage fast. I think the communities have also realised that if they don't join hands with us now that this crime wave which we are riding is going to break over the top of us, it's going to engulf all of us with disastrous consequences. So I think there's a realisation at all levels that they will have to join hands with us.
LB You ask a question or you pose a question about the rogue elements and how we can face the modern changes. You see this comes from two ways. Everybody keeps on referring to the rogue elements and the SAP and how we are dealing with it but one can pose the same question about the political parties, they still have the same problem. If one goes as recently as late last month, our MEC, Dr. Mpethli(?) was suspended because of activities of a so-called unit, I would term it a hit squad, of fifty that was, it was gangs, it was a gang. He claims, with the greatest of respect to him, that because of the problems in the Transkei in the police there he engaged these people to recover stolen vehicles but at the end of the day in the area where this group was deployed there were over 150 people killed. I'm not saying by this unit but a lot of it is attributed to the unit and the murder and robbery people from Umtata, the Transkei police, were given strict instructions to stay out of it. So if one talks in terms of rogues one must balance this out, it goes both ways, it's not just within the SAP. No doubt Inkatha has got the same thing. No doubt the other political parties have got the same type of thing. This is the reality that we are facing. As far as the police are concerned the so-called rogue element, I think in most of the cases, has been removed. There have been cases, there are cases that are pending.
POM The fourteen Generals stepped down.
LB Well I wouldn't draw a line between them and rogue elements.
POM Yes, but they saw no future in the ...
LB Well they were given the opportunity, if somebody comes to a senior man at that level and says to him well here's five years complimentary service on to your pension, and remember we're talking in terms of people with thirty, forty years service, and if you given them five years complimentary service and they don't take it I think they are being rather foolish. So one must look at it, there's a pecuniary interest here as well, a financial interest. And then one, I suppose, could say, are they committed? And if they aren't committed then it is better that they go, but one certainly can't draw a line between them and rogue elements. That would be completely erroneous.
POM Put it in the broader sense of the Truth Commission about which there is a lot of controversy.
LB There is a lot of controversy.
POM Do you think that for the purposes of reconciliation that it is better to say let the past be the past, we've made a new beginning and let's keep that new path, or do you think if you were a mother or a father and your son walked out the door one evening and said goodbye after supper and you never heard of him again, he simply disappeared off the face of the earth, do you think you have a right to know what happened and who is responsible?
LB Let's deal first of all with the Truth and Reconciliation because these are now my personal views and with my personal views I am going to also bring in other people's views as well. My personal view is I am dead against the Truth and Reconciliation Committee and all that goes with it. In America you had the McCarthy era and this has all the potential, I repeat, this has all the potential of McCarthyism. Bearing in mind that we are in Africa as well, so you don't get the, shall we say the reality or the realisation or whatever you term it that you would have got, what you got in America that stopped the McCarthyism, you won't get that here, and this is the danger of getting completely and totally out of hand. That's the problem that we face so out of that perspective I am totally against the Truth and Reconciliation Committee.
I've had as recently as Thursday last week, in the other office a senior ANC man was sitting and he said to me straight out he's dead against the Truth and Reconciliation Committee. Dr Mpethli, our MEC, said to me, I had a group of people with me in his office, he was dead against the Truth and Reconciliation Committee as well. And whenever you talk in terms of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, we'll come to the child and the mother just now because I have great feelings for that child and the mother, but let's deal with the overall thing and the implications for the country.
If you're going to start digging back into the past you're going to pull people out of government, you're going to pull people out of leadership positions and our danger is, if I can use a person as an example, and I don't say this person is involved, please don't misunderstand me, let us use Mac Maharaj. If you pull Mac out of the government you're going to leave an empty space, a vacuum, you're going to leave a vacuum that won't be filled so easily. He's a very competent man. If you pull a person like Buthelezi out you're going to cause a vacuum and you're going to cause a problem with the Zulu's sitting that side so you've got to look at the broader good and that's a problem.
If one can use the trade unions as an example to what I'm saying, if one can draw an analogy, if one looks at the trade unions they had excellent, first class negotiators, and those negotiators that were there yesteryear are sitting in parliament, people like Cyril Ramaphosa and the RDP man, Jay Naidoo, first class negotiators, they are sitting in parliament, but the people that came up behind them weren't as effective, weren't as good, do you understand? And that has led to some serious strikes with far reaching economic implications for the country because the people that subsequently took their place didn't have the know-how, didn't have the ability, didn't have the understanding, didn't have the wider knowledge.
Now the same can be said at the government level. For various reasons it's obvious that there is no depth in the government and I am referring now to all the sides and if you take the leadership out you're going to get another group of people up there that are going to be less effective, are not going to command the same respect, not going to command the same control, or whatever you want to call it, as the present leadership, and that's the other problem that we are facing because whatever we say, whatever we say, everybody is looking at the SAP at the moment or then at the Nationalist Party but it must be stated very clearly that there are leadership figures within the ANC that were involved as well. The ANC's Motsenyane Commission found that certain leaders of the ANC, and some of them are in a very senior position, it was recommended that those people never be given certain leadership positions within the country because of their activities outside the country.
POM The Quatro camps.
LB The Quatro camps, that type of activity. And it's obvious if one starts pulling people in front of - these things are going to come out again. It's all very well saying it's good that it comes out but the consequences for the country are going to be disastrous. That's my concern, that's my concern.
Now to get back to the mother. I have the greatest of empathy with that mother. It is so, we all want to know what happened to people, that is so. But by the same token there are many different people that want to know what happened to their people and again we're living in Africa which has a long arm, or a long memory, and it's not going to stop with the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, it's not going to stop there. It will go wider and you are going to find tit for tat immediately afterwards, and that's where the danger lies because if X hears that Y killed his family or members of the family, he's dead and it won't be through the legal structures. In other words it won't be via the court. And the minute that happens his family are going to come and start killing the other people again so you have that potential and don't let anyone ever tell you that it's not going to be otherwise. Bulldust. We're living in Africa, in the third world and the sooner we realise this the better.
My other problem with the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, and this is a personal view and it's a backhand one, one must look at who is driving it. Who is driving the Truth and Reconciliation Committee? Is it really to try and get beyond the truth or is there personal gain in it? Personal gain in the form of money? Personal gain in the form of positions? And that's all I'm going to say, because if you sit and you look at that you're going to start finding answers, and then again look to Africa and you'll find the answer very clear.
Sorry, I haven't finished with Dr Mpethli himself, the MEC, said to me very clearly, he said, "Colonel, when is this going to stop? It has the potential of bringing the whole country to its knees." Now the ANC is obviously, and I'm referring to the ANC because they are the strongest party in the GNU, they can't take anything other than the party line, the same as the Nationalist Party, you must keep toeing the line, and the official line is they support the Truth and Reconciliation Committee. But I think many of them have realised what the implications are and that's where the problem lies.
Again, coming back to the mother and the child who disappeared, I have the greatest of empathy with her really. It is a disaster, and it cuts all ways in South Africa because it's not just the police involved here, there are thousands and thousands of cases where the police were never involved. So it has horrific implications.
POM Just talking about that there was the release of some figures over the weekend that showed or compared murder rates in South Africa with murder rates in other industrialised countries and they were shocking.
LB That's correct.
POM The United States which is seen as the most violent country in the world had a murder rate of eight people per 100,000, South Africa has 93 per 100,000.
LB That's correct. I gave the figures of 88 the other day, I didn't realise that it had been upped and it's possible. The figure that I've got is 88 per 100,000.
POM Now people blame it on impoverishment, poverty and whatever, but other countries in Africa, in every part of the world, are far poorer by any yardstick than South Africa. Why do you think the murder rate is so high in South Africa, so out of line with anybody else's altogether?
LB All right, we are dealing with South Africa at the moment, and this is again in my personal view, dealing with South Africa at the moment we are at the end of a revolution. A revolution is not a thing where you switch a light on and off and it stops and everything is hunky-dory and normal. So over the years there has been encouragement for political reasons to commit murder. This is what I say, this is where the problem arises with the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, so for political purposes over the years, and there are ample examples of this, there are hundreds of examples where one or other of the revolutionary groups have encouraged murder to obtain an objective. The converse is true. The whites were defending their position, what they thought was their rightful place in the sun. They also committed certain acts. Now when we spoke about the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, I said remember we are in Africa. Now there is revenge and counter-attacks still going on as a result of what went on over the last thirty, forty years, and that's not going to stop now.
With the election coming in October we can expect an upswing of that because we are seeing it already, people positioning themselves and they don't understand anything other than the violence because it's become a part of almost a culture, like a sub-culture. Don't resolve your differences peacefully, take a knife and remove the man permanently or take a gun and remove the man permanently. So there are various reasons. Part of it is economic, it is so, that does contribute towards it. But the main one I would say here is political and apartheid had something to do with it, yes, because apartheid was the issue at stake that was being fought. But whether it's right or wrong this thing is still rolling and it's going to roll for a long time still. This thing is not going to come to an end now. We were all pleasantly surprised and delighted that the election went off as peacefully as it did. I think with the eyes of the world being so focused on South Africa it contributed greatly towards that, but now that the eyes of the world are focused elsewhere with the election coming up in October we are going towards a very rocky area again.
POM Far rockier than the first election?
LB Well the first election went beautifully so there wasn't a problem, but now with the eyes of the world not being focused on here, you're going to pick up the people positioning themselves. Bearing in mind that what we are referring to is almost a sub-culture of violence, that has implications.
POM And now they're fighting over smaller pieces of territory, not a list system.
LB Yes, yes. There's going to be big fighting over territory here. Make no error. There's going to be big fighting.
POM Do you expect that more in KwaZulu/Natal?
LB No, no, all over. All over. No, no, no. Everybody focuses on KwaZulu/Natal but what is happening, let's deal with the old Eastern Cape as we've got it now. There are people within organisations that are vying for one or two posts already and therein lies the danger. I can take one example of a Community Police Forum in Bethelsdorp in the northern areas, it's a brown area, so-called Coloured area in other words, where the chairman is a SANCO man. His sub-committee people are all various people from the community, all brown, all so-called Coloured. Their perception of him is that he is too autocratic. His perception of them is that they don't want to co-operate and that whole lot has fallen apart. But what they are doing in actual fact is manoeuvring for the October election and they are all roughly of the same organisation and there is a big argument, there is a big internal dispute raging there and that's the type of thing I'm referring to. Go back to the Transkei, there you've got the clash between SANCO and the traditional chiefs with the PAC, they've got their stick in there as well. And there again that goes over the elections coming up in October. Never mind what else the politicians tell you, you must look at that very critically and this is what you're going to find.
POM You've got both the Transkei and the Ciskei where police structures that were created when they were independent homelands still exist.
LB That's right.
POM How do you (a) monitor their activities, and (b) what plan is being drawn up to incorporate them into the SAP?
LB Let's deal with the last question first. Last year in May, just after the election, in fact last year in February before the elections, the present Regional Commissioner, Major-General Smith, initiated certain meetings because the signs were then clear that amalgamation would have to come. We had meetings with the Transkei and the Ciskei at leadership, at the General's level, the senior staff, and we were starting to talk about amalgamating. It was a very vague affair but it served a purpose in that it made people aware of what could happen and they started discussing possibilities, so it got the debate going. Immediately after the election, early in May we had a big meeting in Bisho at which all the Generals, Ciskei, Transkei and Eastern Cape were invited as well as senior ancillary staff, and again General Smith was the initiator. We had a big meeting there at which it was then decided, let us get going and not wait for Pretoria because Pretoria kept on saying, "Wait, wait, there's no mandate, you can't negotiate, you can't amalgamate." But we weren't talking of amalgamating, we were talking of exchanging managerial information. And at that meeting in Bisho at the Amatola Sun in May last year we created or established first twelve and subsequently there were two more committees that we established, committees on finance, committees on logistics, committees on community policing, committees on computers, all the various sub-components in the police. Visible policing, the CID, all these committees were then established. And their mandate or their brief was, go and exchange managerial information.
I was placed in a position of being a secretary/coordinator of this whole process. Subsequently we had several meetings, many meetings in fact at committee level, then the committees would report back to what we termed a 'CODESA' meeting at which the Generals from the three agencies would be the chairman and they would report back on their progress or lack of progress in exchanging managerial information. I drafted a report for the IDC interim board of commissioners as well as Mr Gastrow of the IAT, Interim Advisory Team, in which I addressed this issue of amalgamation. When people talk in terms of amalgamation they just think it's taking two groups and putting them together. Leave the police out of it altogether and let's go, let's draw an analogy with a private company. Prior to any amalgamation of any companies you normally try and establish what is your purpose, what is your goal, the strengths and weaknesses, etc., etc., the viability, because if those two companies, if one is so weak and it drags the other one down you're going to have a lot of people without work, money is going to get lost, if there are shareholders they are going to go bankrupt, so it has wider implications. So when you do it you go and establish and you find out why is this one company so weak, should we amalgamate, then maybe you amalgamate and you do certain things to bring the other company up to strengthen the other company, to bolster them, and then amalgamate or amalgamate immediately and you have certain reservations so you can pull out if you see that your amalgamation is not obtaining certain goals. That's how it normally works and we are finding that, and in that document I stated exactly the same. We should have a good look at amalgamation, it must go ahead, but whether it is immediately or at a later stage depends on the politicians and the economic circumstances.
POM How about the competency?
LB That all comes into it because there's Efficiency Services, they also have a component, you have to look at all those aspects. Then these committees were reporting back continually. All those reports came to me and I was analysing and then preparing for the next CODESA-type of meeting where everybody would sit round the table and we would share what they had discussed, a bit of advice and also go and have meetings again. We found that there were vast disparities. There were disparities as far as logistics are concerned, vehicles, equipment, computers, faxes, radios, firearms, all the technologies, there are vast discrepancies. As far as manpower is concerned the Eastern Cape has got just over 10,000 policemen and we've got one General. The Ciskei has got about 3,000 policemen but two Generals. The Transkei has got about 5,000 policemen with nine generals. So there's vast discrepancies there. So to amalgamate that lot with the discrepancies in salaries and rank structures in training is not going to be an easy job. We didn't say it was going to be easy and I'm looking forward to it taking place.
About two weeks ago I sent out faxes again to the committees after the Christmas recess and all the things to start getting moving again, it's a little bit more than two weeks. We will be having another big amalgamation meeting at the end of this month or early next month at which these committees will bring back their latest managerial information to see how far we can go, etc. There are two committees which had to be amalgamated by the 1st April, logistics and finance. Finance because the budget is going to be such that Ciskei and Transkei are going to come on line with our budgetary system. Logistics, the vehicles, they have to come over on to our system. So those two committees will be amalgamated immediately and we will then be taking it step by step to the amalgamation which we hope will take place before the ninth month.
POM In general do you find that there are big differences in the competencies?
LB Yes, there's no comparison. There's no comparison. We in the SAP would like to believe that we are extremely competent but we've got to be very cautious. We are battling ourselves. We aren't as competent as we like to give out that we are and therein lies the danger. Now you're amalgamating one group who is giving forth this aura of strength and might, they are not as strong as we would like to believe, and you are bringing in two other components which are vastly inferior. I'm not talking of the people, they're very nice people, I'm talking of training, equipment and money and all that and you have a potential of a disaster coupled with the politics as well. You have a potential for disaster.
POM Do you think there are still kind of counter-revolutionary elements in Transkei and Ciskei?
LB Well AZAPO said the other day on TV that their struggle hasn't come to an end yet so one would assume that there is. I'm not into the 'political' field at all so I've lost a bit of track with that, but it normally manifests itself in criminal activities and that's where I get all my people, not me personally, but our people then get involved. Yes, there are indications that there are groups of people still trying to position themselves in the Transkei for whatever purpose and it's not a normal, legal type of purpose.
POM I want to go back to the elections for a moment and really express with you what's really been a thesis of mine. I just try it out on people to see what their reactions are. Ten days before the elections Lord Carrington and Henry Kissinger packed their bags at the Carlton and said, "We're off, there's nothing to mediate here." And for about a week the country seemed to slide towards not quite anarchy but it seems that it is becoming very uncontrollable, very high levels of violence.
LB Was this now last year?
POM This was last year.
LB I'm surprised to hear this but carry on.
POM And then ten days before the election Buthelezi said he would contest the elections. Overnight the violence stops. People turn out in record numbers. I remember I was in an observation team outside Pietermaritzburg, coming round a corner at five o'clock in the morning because they were going to check out the dyes and all of that stuff at the schoolhouse and there was a queue, the sun was just coming up, and there was a line of people for two miles at five in the morning, but it was very moving. And the international community said immediately, "Free and fair, all is OK". And then they start counting and it turns out that millions of votes are missing and simply unaccountable for and the counting is stopped and then a result is produced which is like a miracle result. Everybody wins, ANC a majority but not two thirds, NP gets Western Cape, Buthelezi gets Natal, so that it being accepted by all of them gave it legitimacy and legitimacy was a more important thing to have at that point in time than things being exactly free and fair. So that's my thesis and I just wanted you to react to it.
LB All right, let's go back. Things certainly looked dark up to the stage where Buthelezi rejoined the race, it did look dark, it was ominous. The minute he announced that he would take the Inkatha into the elections, in the Natal area there was definitely a decrease in violence. Now one can argue over whether his people were causing the violence or whether the ANC were causing the violence and no matter who you talk to everybody who claims they are independent can't even spell independent. I'm sorry there's no independent person in this country, you're tagged one way or another. So whoever you talk to depending on his or her political affiliation they will try and give you a spiel as to who was responsible for what, but the politicians were responsible, period. Make no error, no matter who or what, they are, they were responsible.
A miracle took place, the election ran and it went beautifully. I hear what you say, I was deeply involved in the election as were all the policemen or the majority of the policemen. I was deeply involved from the communications, Division of Community of Relations and the communications. Here at my offices the various IEC teams sat and we had many arguments and many discussions on how to make it safe and transporting of everything. There were major problems. One cannot expect anything else in the circumstances. We had an old man here from England who had done elections all his life, Forbes-Watson, very nice man, very withdrawn because he wants everything to run according to the British standards and everybody, again what I said in the beginning, we tend to forget that we are in Africa and you can't have it running to those clinically clear standards. You have 3000 people registered, you have 3000 votes, he's happy. Here you most probably get 5000 votes. Do you understand what I'm trying to say? So there are no clear cut answers. The miracle was that there was a result. I think everybody realised that we had to make this work.
I was horrified at one stage when there were suggestions that half way through the election that we stop and redo it, I was horrified because of the implications financially, economically, physically, psychologically and I think everybody realised this as well because the Thursday night I was called just before closing time, I was called urgently, I had just moved away from the one booth, I was called back urgently, "Come to this booth there's a problem". When I walked in there, there was a guy with a TV camera, a smile from one ear to the other and he wanted to hand me a video tape and he said to me, "I've just bust this system wide open". I said to him, "What do you mean?" because immediately the camera was on me now. He said he can prove that you can beat this system of the ink, etc. and wants to give me the tape. So I said, "No, just hang on, explain to me what did you do", and he walked back into the line. He said, "What I did was when I voted this morning I had two ID books, the old identity book and the new identity book. I voted this morning with the old identity book, then I came here this afternoon now with my new identity book. I didn't admit that I had voted this morning. I washed my hands with a certain chemical. I then went to them and said I wanted to vote and they looked at my new book. Of course it didn't have a stamp on and then they looked at my hands and I had washed my hands with this chemical and it had cleared the dye off and then I went through and before I actually put the X I turned round and said I just want to prove that I could beat this system. I voted this morning, here's my book." He said, "Now I want to give you the tape", and I said to him, "No, I won't take that tape. That responsibility is yours. If you just sit down and think what you've done, if what you say is correct, you are one of the most irresponsible people I've ever come across in my life. Imagine now, Friday is still a voting day, if everybody hears about this chemical and this gets out and everybody starts washing their hands and flying in again and the United Nations and everybody says, right this is a fraud we're pulling out, are you going to be happy with that result? I'm not taking your tape. Let's see how responsible you are for the first time in your life." He nearly had a heart attack because he thought I would take the tape and I wasn't going to impose censorship. The rules have changed and that was his responsibility.
They kept that story on ice till the Friday evening because if you cast your mind back certain areas in the Transkei and certain areas in Natal still had to vote that last day, that Friday. You had that type of thing taking place. People realised we had to make it work. I mean that guy could have sold that story most probably for a fortune at that stage but he suddenly realised on what he was sitting because he would have been blamed for ever and ever and you can imagine the economic disaster. And I think everybody realised that we had to make it work. So, yes, it worked. How effective it's going to be, I think it's fairly effective. We're quite happy with the results.
POM If you had to rate the general performance of the government on a scale of one to ten where one is very unsatisfactory and ten is very satisfactory?
LB Well it's still under five, but that is understandable. You get a change of government in any place in the world there is usually a ninety day or first hundred days where you have the so-called honeymoon, and only after then do you start seeing the results. Now the ANC had to walk into this government and start ruling because they are the stronger party and we have to refer to them by name. First of all they had no experience of it, everybody laughed at them, which was damn stupid, instead of putting their shoulders to the wheel and helping, everybody wanted to see them come on their backsides, which is also stupid because it showed you that there were people although happy that the election had taken place were too stupid to realise what would happen if the ANC came on their backsides, that it had the potential of pulling the whole country into the ground, that was stupidity. There are still people today who are sitting back and laughing at this and I am still saying today that is stupid, come put your shoulder to the wheel and help roll that wheel out of the mud. If you don't you're going to go down with it. We're in Africa, we're not in Europe where there's a supporting system.
LB Yes, so many things the ANC have not been able to deliver and it's going to take a long time before they can deliver, make no error. Again, they've got no history of governing. If you take, in England if you suddenly put a group of people in there that have never governed before, that for some rhyme or reason there's a general uprising, 'peaceful' people stream to the polls, there's a new party that has never come on the scene before and suddenly they're voted into power, I'll take a bet that they'll take a year before they settle down and the same is going to happen here. And the additional problem here is loyalties, the people are extremely loyal to each other so where you have your own ministers, your own members committing fraud and stealing on a big scale you will try and protect and cover it up. It's ironical, which the Nationalist Party was accused of and it's happening now. But you will find that instead of removing it immediately because the longer you leave the apple in the barrel the greater the problems become, the more it becomes infected, more apples become spoilt. So the sooner you take the apple out, so you have that problem. But I have no doubt in my mind that given the time that they are going to improve and improve vastly.
POM When I came back this time I found, I won't say an air of instability, but elements that were making things unstable. You had all the allegations of fraud from Allan Boesak through to Winnie Mandela and various agencies where money had been pilfered by the National Party before they left. In fact there was no money in the till. I think that's what the ANC discovered, that it had all gone. You had these allegations of wild parties at the President's residences when he was out of town. You had unions holding people hostage. You had mutiny in the MK in its integration with ... in the Transkei. And suddenly you say, who's in control here?
LB All right, I can answer that very quickly. You see part of what I was saying just now about the loyalty, the ANC was very loyal to its own people and they hadn't got quite accustomed to, there's a big difference in promising and sitting in the chair. Once you sit in the chair you've got the responsibility and that responsibility is now filtering through. This is why I say up to now their actions haven't been as good as they should have been, so on your scale of one to ten it's still way under five, could be a three even, but as their sense of responsibility, because they can see now that giving in to these people the whole time, all you do is you aggravate the situation. So at some stage you'll have to say, whoa this is it, stop it now. You voted for us but that doesn't mean to say that you're going to ride us because if you're in a democracy, if you're a true democracy and you voted for your leadership, till the next election they crack the whip and this is what they are now starting to realise, they are going to have to start cracking the whip.
Hence the State President's instruction to stop the police in the Transkei. That has sent out a very powerful message. Now we are starting from, let's say the scale from one to ten was a three, now you've got a scale going on to four. So up to now you've had that thing where you will be loyal to your people for various reasons, for political reasons, for voting reasons, you will have let the people ride. The ANC is caught in this that there is an election coming off in October as well so they can't be too strong at the moment either and that compounds the problem, because if they start cracking the whip now they're going to lose the municipal elections in October which would give them a problem at the next election. They are caught in a trap, that is seen broadly but nevertheless they are starting to make, for the first time, the correct moves. The hostage drama at the jail, that was broken and that was broken by instruction from the MEC, from the Premier rather than the MEC. The police problems in the Transkei, the State President gave direct instructions. So what I'm saying is we are now starting to see a move away from 'I'm the good guy, you voted for me, thank you', to a situation where 'I'm the ruler, democratically elected to that, and I've now picked up this thorny branch, whatever you want to call it, and I'm now going to govern'.
POM Just in your relations with other policemen in all your capacities, here you had Nelson Mandela who was demonised for decades, he was supposed to be the great red threat, he was supposed to be all of the things that would destroy the fabric and Christianity of the society. Then he came out of jail, four years out and now he's State President. Have you found the attitude of the average policeman towards him has changed or that they are still at the residual of seeing him as a threat?
LB OK, let's put it this way. What was the question again?
POM The question was about whether ...
LB Oh, the demonising.
POM And whether their attitude towards him has changed.
LB Let's put it this way, on a personal level, you and I have discussed, we've had discussions for many years and it's not just 1990 it goes a bit further back. In 1987 I was on a course in Pretoria, a three week course, and during that course we were asked the very same question, "What should the government's policy be vis-à-vis Nelson Mandela?" And at that stage I was already saying he should have been released. It's not a thing that's just come about now. That's out of a personal level. Let us then go to the policemen as a whole. There are some policemen that see him, we're talking now without race, there are policemen who see him as a saviour, that's obviously the blacks. There are policemen amongst the whites that accept him as such as well. There are policemen amongst the whites that see him as a threat. Now one of the reasons they see him as a threat is because of the changes that are taking place within the police, they perceive him to be the cause of these changes and in the changes there's not enough information going out and a person only really feels threatened if there is no information of exactly where and what is going to happen. That is part of the problem. I'm sitting on the change team on the provincial level and these things are discussed there and it's clear that the people on the ground, I mean as recent as last week there was still great uncertainty of how these things are going to affect all of us and in there you have a problem. Wherever there is uncertainty you have rumours, you have people taking sticks, head in the sand, ostrich type of defence mechanism, so there are groups of policemen, to answer your question, there are groups of policemen who see him as a threat but I think more out of they're not sure what's going to happen with their futures.
POM What about the whole question about affirmative action?
LB I'm sorry that I left my other diary at home. Affirmative action, you see affirmative action means different things to different people. If one is going to maintain standards I've got no problem with affirmative action. I repeat, if one is going to maintain standards. If one is going to drop standards then we've got a problem. And I'm saying that in the police force our standards are fairly high but not as high as they should be and unfortunately our standards are going to drop and if our standards drop it's going to impact negatively on policing which is going to impact negatively on the crime which is going to have further ramifications for economic recovery or economic people wanting to invest. That's where it's going to manifest itself. So one has to be very cautious here and by doing that it doesn't mean to say that I'm against affirmative action.
Please, don't misunderstand me. Years ago when I was a junior policeman, a Constable and later Sergeant, you had the absolutely ridiculous situation where a black couldn't become an officer and they gave him half a dozen different tags. He was a Sergeant, then a Senior Sergeant, then a Chief Sergeant, then a Head Chief Sergeant or something just to try and keep him out of the ranks. That was ridiculous and that was stupid. But to get back to policing, if one looks at what happened to the police in the Transkei, that's what I'm scared of with affirmative action.
I was alluding to my diary and in my diary there is an article written about policing in Washington, about how the standards have dropped there, how because people - you first had to come out of public school, then you needn't come out of public school, then you had to pass at the Academy, you had to pass all the exams and then at one stage you were allowed to fail two and at a certain stage you were allowed to fail four and then after something like 60% of the people still failed their exams they did away with, you didn't have to pass the Academy test at all. That's not my quote, it's an article about the policemen in Washington. And now the situation has actually arisen where according to the report at certain stages it had been considered to call the military in to come and help because you have a functionally illiterate policeman on the beat, and that's what I'm scared of in this country.
Because if one goes back, let's stop just here for a second and look at what affirmative action, a different type of affirmative action, how it took place in the Transkei and the Ciskei. There are very recent reports on schemes where there were Austrian people involved, an Austrian doctor, Bauer or something, was involved in an irrigation scheme in the Transkei and millions of rands were pumped into this, but for this particular scheme they only needed thirteen guards. When it was taken over by the Transkei they suddenly employed 126 guards. Now from where the people were actually making a big fat profit and trying to turn it round it just slipped straight into debt. So affirmative action just meant getting more people aboard and that's what worries me.
POM Is there a sense among white officers that this is going to have an impact on their careers and that things won't be done according to merit and that their career possibilities are severely curtailed?
LB That is a perception and the reality is that, no matter what the national office says, the reality is I think it is going to affect us negatively. As much as we would like it not to affect us negatively I think it is going to affect us negatively. But some of them will have to be - what came first, the chicken or the egg? We're back to that situation in this sense that training is going to take a long time so you're going to have to make certain appointments but they are not necessarily going to be competent appointments. And what you will do is you're going to find that the white officer underneath, if he is a white officer or another black officer that's underneath, is going to say, why the hell must I do the work, here's the Commanding Officer, he must show me the way and if he can't show the way this is what's going to happen. This is where the collapse is going to come and this is the type of thing that occurred in the Transkei where according to the minister of the day of public security and safety at East London he said nepotism, family, etc., played a great role in the Transkei and in the Ciskei and this is where the danger lies. Maybe not a true form of that but the watered down form. In other words just because he's black he's now going to get promoted, so he's in that family and therein lies danger because the policing in the Transkei fell apart because of that, completely.
POM Now have you taken any - when a company goes bankrupt it is put into receivership, an outside administration takes over, straightens out the affairs, are you now in a similar position that the South African Police have taken effective control of the police management?
LB In the Transkei. They are still retaining their own management but in many areas the policing is done by the SAP. If you go to the public, and I invite you to do that, go to the public, walk in the street, pity you can't speak the language, and you can go and speak to the people in Umtata, in Butterworth, in Tsolo, in lots of the areas, Adutra, and you're going to find the public want the SAP there and not the Transkeian Police. But now in there lies a sting, the majority of the policemen that are now being screamed for are white so you're going to have a black/white confrontation, and that's where the problem lies. How we're going to address that I don't know. It's all very well saying, yes but you should have had more blacks within the force. Approximately half of our police I think are black, but it's still not sufficient and you're going to have screams for white policemen, you have it the whole time. At one of the police stations in the north, the community have demanded that white officers go there. They have demanded it, they have come to see the Regional Commissioner, it's recorded, it's on tape. That's not the only station. With the Regional Commissioner after the shooting at Orlando up in the Transvaal, a very tragic case where the black policemen was shot.
POM Is this the one where Winnie gave the oration?
LB Yes that's right. Now here POPCRU objected to the presence of three particular Station Commanders who happened to be white. I accompanied the Regional Commission down to New Brighton where a memorandum was handed over by POPCRU to the Regional Commissioner demanding the immediate withdrawal of these three white Station Commanders from the black police stations. We did that immediately. Now that wasn't a very democratic decision but for various reasons, for reasons of safety, for reasons of community, ensuring that at least the community would get served, we decided to withdraw the men. The Regional Commissioner said to me, "Well, what do we do now?" I then sat down and wrote a fax, which he then signed, to POPCRU and asked them for nominations and interestingly enough they nominated two whites for consideration for those Station Commanders' posts, not blacks, which to myself was indicative of two things; that they realised they did not have the necessary skill and that they weren't racist as everybody thought they were, because the people that they nominated - in the fax I made it very clear to them that the Regional Commissioner retains the right to agree or disagree, this was part of the consultation, submit your names and we will consider, which is the process which is being done at the moment. Does that answer your question, that we are going to have a problem with this one but it's one that's going to have to be attended to very carefully?
POM There's a security problem still in the United States. It's one of those emotive - you're either on one side or you're on the other and there's no room in between to look for common ground.
LB Correct. I had a very interesting conversation in the recent past with several people in America and it went over, the move in California to do away with affirmative action in total. So what's happening there is, what I'm saying is we're going to have to be damn cautious that we don't go through that same experience, but whether the Californian move is right or wrong I'm not going to debate that, but we must be careful that we don't go through, if they are right, let's assume that they are right for argument's sake, that we don't go through the same learning curve but there's going to be no stepping back on our tracks in this country because we're in Africa. There's not that support system that you have in America, if you know what I'm trying to get out. And that's my difficulty. Who's going to call a halt to this affirmative action process because it's self-perpetuating after a while, it starts rolling and it just gathers speed.
POM Let me turn to the RDP for a moment. I've gone around the country for seven weeks now and I've asked people ranging from premiers to people who are heads of departments to ordinary people, what the RDP is, what is it supposed to do and who is going to pay for it. By and large no-one knows what it is. Mac Maharaj told a good story about going into a rural area and as they were talking about the RDP he would convince them that the RDP was a new political party. An old man comes up to him and says, "What do you want us to do now? Do you want us to vote Mandela out of power?" What role does the SAP play in trying to make people aware, in terms of its community relations programme, trying to make people aware of what the RDP is and where you as a police force fit into it or is it all just really woolly thinking existing in many levels of ...?
LB When you started talking to you I said I wear many different hats. I sit on the RDP Committee as well. I was in Pretoria on Friday and I had a big argument about this very same issue. There is woolly thinking as far as the RDP is concerned. My argument with what we are trying to do within the police, and I'm busy preparing a report which I'll submit on Thursday, is that they want the police to get involved and we should get involved. We have resources which the community can use, make no error, we can contribute towards RDP, yes.
But now Pretoria, because Pretoria thinks they are very wise, are woolly in their thinking, they want all policemen to accept that as part of your line function. Now we have difficulty here because the policemen are under-staffed, we are going under, as you pointed out earlier, the murder capital of the world South Africa, there is a terrific crime wave, so whilst we are busy fighting the crime now the whole police force is expected to also do an RDP programme. We are not going to hook the RDP on to one person, make it responsible for one person, and I warned them on Friday in Pretoria and I said, "Guys you're making a big mistake. I'm going to put this in black and white because it's like a fleet car. If everybody drives that car, that car is going to get ruined pretty soon." We found this in our own experience. If you give a car and you allocate it to one person it's going to attain a greater mileage, it's going to look far better at the end of the period. Do you understand what I'm saying?
And this is what I am saying as far as this is concerned. To kick-start it within the police you're going to have to give it to specific people and say to them, "You're responsible because there's a whole form that you've got to complete. You've got to identify projects, you've got to register the projects, you've got to apply for finance in a specific way." There's a whole form that you've got to complete and it's a comprehensive form, at least 10 - 12 pages long. I've got a form if you'd like to see it, in which you've got to apply for these funds. Then you've got to see that it is effectively carried out and you've got to report back how the money is being spent.
Now tell an ordinary policeman he's got to do that as well, I'm going to tell you that it won't work. And this is my frustration. My frustration is that here's something fantastic which can be made to work but is not being hooked on to somebody to make somebody responsible. If somebody knows, X knows he's got to deliver and if he doesn't deliver he's going to get his backside kicked he's going to work on it, but if you give it to everybody, everybody is going to have a group shrug and say, well no I was too busy with fighting this crime. That's my problem and I'm going to point that out very clearly. If they don't understand this I'm going to write this directly to the State President. I'm going to go straight over everybody's head because it's going to be contaminated, an excellent thing is going to be contaminated by woolly thinking and who's going to get blamed? The SAP. And that's my frustration. Did I express myself clearly and directly?
POM The analogy was very good with the car.
LB No it is, it is. I was horrified on Friday, I was horrified, and it is clear to me too that some of the people involved with the RDP programme don't understand community policing and if you don't understand community policing you're not going to effectively be able to carry out RDP. Forget it, it won't work, and I'm going to put that down in black and white as well.
POM How is that working, community policing?
LB Let's talk about the Eastern Cape because I'm living in the Eastern Cape, the Eastern Cape excluding Transkei and Ciskei for the moment. It's working fairly well. In certain areas it's working better and other areas it's not working so well. There are various reasons for this. Attitude amongst policemen, attitude amongst the community, because the minute the community want an issue that will unite them they use the police and I object to that. As recently as yesterday ...
POM They use the police as a demon?
LB They use the police as a demon to try and unify when the demon doesn't exist. So this is the type of problem that we are facing. I referred earlier on to Bethelsdorp, a beautiful example of this and if one goes, and I invite you to go to a place like Pretoria and speak to General Pruis or General Chetty, General Chetty is one of the four Deputies, or General Pruis who is the head of - Chetty is Lt.Gen. Chetty, Morgan Chetty, and General A C Pruis, Lt.Gen., General Pruis is the head of National Standards and Management Services. General Chetty is one of the four deputies appointed by the State President and the minister. And if you go to either of those two gentlemen they will confirm that the Eastern Cape was the frontrunner, we were the innovators as far as community policing was concerned. We were way ahead of all the regions.
In fact as recently as earlier this year I attended a project of the ODA, Overseas Development Agency, to the Cape Town British Consul, to Leslie Buchanan, a budget of 15 million rand for community policing projects in the next three to four year period. I differed from what IDASA put on the ground. IDASA put a one year project on the ground and I always said it would never work. You have to have a sustained programme and this is the only way to go and it's a beautiful programme and it's worked out, not by me alone, it's worked out by a group of academics with input and yesterday we had another meeting, we've had several meetings at which we're going to have eight smaller regional workshops involving community and police, fairly intensive which are going to culminate in a large provincial one which involve the Ciskei and the Transkei, just after the Easter weekend in East London at which the MEC and the political parties are also going to buy in and we are going to bring up one document at the end of that - What is community policing? Because going, and this is part of why community policing is having a problem, it varies perceptions, interpretations of the philosophy vary from area to area and what we are trying to do now is going down and saying, this is community policing, all the political parties, all the people on the ground, all the stakeholders have put their bit in for what it's worth and this is the one document. And then the service providers like IDASA, IMSA, UPE, Rhodes, can then come in and we can run that workshop throughout the Eastern Cape, which is over 300 Police Stations, and with the policemen, with the community, with both together, an ongoing process. Because at the end of the day that's going to work because I have proved that on smaller scales here. So we've set the foundation for this and it is going to work. But our big problem is Ciskei and Transkei in which there are no structures. But it's built in to this to overcome that because we want to stabilise this region chop-chop and that's the only way to go. But it's a three to four year programme and we have to sustain it. Anybody who thinks that with the election coming up in October, that you're going to do this and it's going to come right is living in a fool's paradise.
POM You're apprehensive about the elections in October?
LB I'm apprehensive, yes, in this sense, I'm not scared of them, I'm apprehensive because of various issues. You're going to get an upsurge in violence, we are experiencing it already. The politicking that's going on amongst the members in the community and whenever they do that, what they do is demonise the police and try and draw us, and I think that's grossly unfair because at the end of the day all we are really interested in is establishing law and order and we need the community's input for that. And I know already that there's going to be a distancing of certain members of the community for various reasons and they are going to dig back to the past and this is where the Truth and Reconciliation Committee is going to get out of hand because you're going to have to go wildly vocal to try and ensure your place in the coming election. So you're going to use that for politicking as well, sure as day follows night. So, as I said to you earlier on, one must look at what's going on behind it and this is where the process is going to get out of hand.
POM Let's say that in fact the Bill is pushed through and ratified and say a senior police officer is hauled in front of it, certain specific incidents are attributed to him. Should he be in a position to say, if it's true, "Well I did this on the orders of my superior or my minister?"
LB All right. I see that in Sunday's paper there were words attributed by a Col. Johan Putter to Adriaan Vlok. I know the gentleman Putter, I know him quite well. I cannot, and I certainly never attended, and this is not a defensive mechanism, I certainly never defended a lecture like that and I cannot for the life of me understand that a lecture like that would have gone through. Maybe the man was trying to boost his own image, I don't know. But I cannot see that a minister would do that. I'm sorry, that is political suicide and the height of stupidity if it is so.
POM That's what he said, that's who it's attributed to.
LB No, it's political suicide. That's stupidity. No, I think it's just not on. I'm sorry. I just laughed aloud when I saw that. So as far as that's concerned that's bull-dust. I can't see that. If you are going to drag, and I know that there are policemen that are apprehensive for various reasons, you're going to get a lot of false accusations. People's careers are going to get destroyed here and when a person's career is going to get destroyed you're going to find people taking time out to go and level scores. This is the potential this thing has. If one stops just here and goes to Durban, over a year ago at Musgrave Road, up that side there was a robbery going on and there were people who came forth and said that the police on the scene executed the people, dead, the robbers, executed them. The case has now come to court and that's been proved beyond all doubt that that was a lot of bullshit and they admitted in court that they were lying. So now we're getting to the situation where this type of thing is going to happen. People's careers are going to get destroyed and you're going to get revenge and that's a pity. No matter what our emotional and our empathy says to us, I am saying that this is a potential of a horror story.
Go back to America, it was a beautiful example, McCarthyism. What did McCarthyism involve? And you're going to get an answer there. If through the allegations a person's career is destroyed and a year later it's found that that was never so, it's too late. This is not a court of law and even if there is just a sniff of it, McCarthyism, if you go back to McCarthyism people in the film industry, people in business lost their jobs because they were tainted. This is going to happen here. No matter what is being said by the politicians this is going to happen here and that's where the problem lies. So you're talking of a destabilising effect. This thing's got a horror story and it's got the effect of destabilising.
POM Last. Do you send groups of policemen for training courses in how to unlearn the behaviour that you had before, before you were told there was a revolution, they would go a crack skulls, arrest perpetrators, pull them out?
LB My department as well as some of the senior officers are involved continuously in addressing groups of policemen to get their attitudinal change. We have workshops, attitudinal change. Rob Midgely from Rhodes University is one of the forerunners in this. We have had literally hundreds of workshops in the old Eastern Cape, excluding Ciskei and Transkei, in getting the policemen's mindset changed. So it's an ongoing programme. Part of this big 15 million rand budget which we've presented to the ODA goes over this very same thing because everybody concentrates on the SAP but what about the community? The community has got a hell of an attitudinal problem as well. So it serves no purpose to change the policemen's attitude whilst the community's attitude isn't right. So the workshops are designed to change both at the same time and then to sustain it with two, three, four workshops after that. The idea being that you go workshop with the police station, make sure that they change their attitudes, have a workshop with the community separately, put them together at a third workshop and then have maybe a fourth and a fifth one and in six months time have another one. You may find after specific incidents you may have to have two within a month and then it may not be necessary for a year again. That is the idea behind that. There has to be a sustainability and again it serves no purpose if you just change the attitudes of the policemen and not the community and there are some massive changes you have to bring about out there, for various reasons, political reasons, historical reasons, that's all there.
POM They won't pay for anything. Well I find it ironic that for many black people the end of apartheid and the election of their own government means you've got to pay for your services.
LB Yes, you see way back in 1983 when the ANC, after their visit to Vietnam, they came back in 1979 after the studies, also after the break up in London in 1979, they called upon the people in Natal, and that's where it started, to stop paying your lights and water, stop paying your rent, attack the buses, that type of thing, so it's become a sub-culture. Now, again, the same as the violence, because you can go back, the violence started there as well, there was violence before 1976 but that's when the present violence really started. A sub-culture developed and nowhere anywhere in the world if you have a twenty or fifteen year period of no payment and then expect people to suddenly start paying, no matter what the skin colour is, you're going to have a problem and this is the problem that we're facing here now, but that's a political problem because the politicians are going to have to make some hard decisions. The decisions they are going to have to make are, what are you going to do if X stays in a house and doesn't want to pay? You're going to have to throw him out because this is what happens everywhere else in the world. Or are you going to let them stay there and if you let them stay there, his next door neighbour is going to say, why must I pay? And that impacts negatively because the cake has suddenly got small, but everybody wants a slice of it.
POM OK thanks. You're terrific. Great interview. A pleasure talking to you.