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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

30 Mar 1995: Camerer, Sheila

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POM     First, Sheila, your observations on the difference in the way parliament is run today and the way it used to be run under the National Party?

SC     Well it's very disorganised at the moment. Previously we had a Chief Whip of parliament whose sole job was to order the proceedings so that the committees didn't clash and that the whole thing ran smoothly and such a post doesn't exist any more, basically because the Speaker decided that she didn't need somebody to be appointed in a job like that, that her office would do it. In fact her office wasn't able to cope and they've just appointed a little sub-committee now of parliament to try and bring some order to the work because it's a complete shambles. On any one morning I should be attending at least three meetings at the same time. I mean every morning this week, for instance, that's been the case and the week before and the week before and I'm not an exception to the rule, everybody's like that. So it's very difficult to do constructive work when that sort of disorganisation is going on. They don't even try and group the committees in terms of the social services orientated committees vis-à-vis the justice. I mean the point is people who are on justice and constitutional affairs and international affairs are usually the same type of people but those meetings always seem to clash and the people on welfare and environment and those sort of things also seem to clash all the time although they are usually similar type of people there. It's really a mess. Hopefully it will be cleared up soon.

POM     Now you sit on the Justice Committee which is considering this Truth & Reconciliation bill which is arousing a lot of controversy. What is the National Party's position on the bill, how is it different from the ANC's?

SC     Well we differ fairly fundamentally. We say, yes, if we must have a Truth Commission bill let's at least do it in a way where we have damage control because we feel that there is a danger, for all the high flown process that is attached to it that it might have a very destructive effect on the spirit, the goodwill and the good spirit that actually underwrites the government of national unity at the moment. So we've agreed to have it in principle but we have said at least there should be certain hearings held in camera and initially the bill was drafted as a result of a compromise at Cabinet level that the amnesty proceedings should be held in camera. There was loud protest from the ANC caucus although not from the normal media that normally support the ANC. In fact they were prepared to live with that but, again, I think it's people who haven't been in parliament before wanting to make their mark who protested against that. Also the ANC caucus has shown a great deal of independence from decisions of the executive members. That seems to be a new trend in parliament which we actually welcome as the National Party.

     Anyway, for one reason or another the ANC caucus has actually told the Minister of Justice, or the Cabinet at any rate, that they don't like the deal that was reached to have in camera hearings of the Amnesty Committee. So we have made alternative suggestions to obviate the position where you would have vexatious or frivolous allegations made within the glare of publicity which might be very damaging to people and that one has tried to build in a sort of pre-trial, pre-hearing phase where only the real complaints, allegations could go ahead under the proceedings of the human rights violations committee. So we have no idea whether that procedure will be agreed to. The whole thing is in limbo as far as in camera hearings are concerned. The indication we get from the members on the committee is that they're in favour of open hearings all the time except for a discretion for the commission to perhaps, under certain circumstances, hear matters in camera. So I don't know what the outcome there will be.

     The other major point, or one of the other major points is the question of even-handedness. Our position is that prior to the Truth Commission sitting thousands and thousands of people received amnesty and indemnity. The whole indemnity procedure was initiated at the request of the ANC to enable the negotiations to start because they argued, correctly perhaps, that they wouldn't participate in negotiations, they couldn't come back to the country unless they could be assured that they would not be thrown into jail and in view of the fact that the struggle was armed and that there had been a lot of incidents of what the previous government called terrorism, that there might be that danger. So that had to be got out of the way before negotiations could start so the first Indemnity Bill was passed in 1990 with the caveat that if people had committed such gross and excessive abuses in relation to their goals or political objectives and deeds they could nevertheless be prosecuted. So those rules applied to quite a number, but not a very large number, of indemnities that were granted. Then, because after the hold up in the negotiations at CODESA, in terms of the Record of Understanding those rules were revised so that a further number of ANC operatives could be made available and freed to indulge in political activities.

     So the Norgarb principles were scrapped so that people who might well have been found guilty of the most heinous crimes were in fact indemnified, people, for instance, such as McBride, the Magoo Bar bomber who killed several civilians, and even old Barend Strydom who shot eight black people, I think it was, in Church Square in Pretoria, indiscriminately. So those sort of people, there was no question of Norgarb principles for them. Now the ANC drafted this bill, or the Justice Department, but it's the ANC's position, has reinstated the Norgarb principles and we are saying that that is very unfair.

     There are two other points I want to mention. We've actually made common cause with the Freedom Front on their request that in fact the deadline for deeds be extended to 10th May but the date in the bill is 6th December 1993 and we are saying that the new South Africa started really on 10th May and that date should therefore be extended to cover all deeds before that date. We hear that the ANC members of the Cabinet may be flexible on that point but it is not yet clear.

     Then the fourth point is that the constitution, the postscript, post-amble really to the constitution, says that indemnity or amnesty 'shall be granted in terms of a law which shall be passed', and people may apply at any time after the law has been passed. Now the Truth Commission law as it is structured does not fit that bill at all because it's envisaged that it would only sit for a year, maybe a year and a half, to do its work and then after that any opportunity to apply for amnesty would end. Now that is clearly unconstitutional and the ANC wouldn't be able to amend the constitution without our assistance on that score to change that provision. So we're asking that a mechanism be built into the bill that people could apply after the Truth Commission has reported and still be able to get indemnity because we feel that that was what was envisaged by the constitution. The main problem is that it was never, at the time, I mean that post-amble was negotiated on the basis that people would be able to get indemnity, not that it would be linked to a Truth Commission process. The linking of that was an idea that struck the ANC subsequently or that they didn't let on about and we don't find it very satisfactory where it's dealing with the amnesty issue.

     Our preferred way would have been, and we've argued for that strongly, that we deal with it in the way the Chileans have because basically all the evidence indicates that the Chilean Truth Commission was the only one that was more or less successful, I don't think you could say any of the Truth Commissions have been a resounding success where they gave a blanket amnesty to all those involved so that we, as we say in South Africa, wouldn't dig up old cows unnecessarily and then the commission would nevertheless sit down and find out what really happened. Of course it was a major issue in South America, Chile particularly, with people who disappeared whereas this wasn't the problem here, very few people disappeared but a lot of nasty things have happened for sure. The Chileans held their hearings behind closed doors but they published the report so you wouldn't have had all the media hype going on throughout the time of the sitting of the commission, you would have just got the results and the idea was that they appointed people that the community trusted to deliver the truth as far as it could be discovered. We would have favoured that approach I think but anyway we haven't achieved that. Sorry, it's a long story.

POM     So it's a long reply.

SC     I'm sorry it's a very long reply.

POM     You've covered all the points. The Constitutional Assembly, when I talk to people in the National Party, to the ministers, they see the process as being one where the existing interim constitution will be refined and re-honed in areas where that is needed, by and large that is the process, whereas the ANC see it as starting from scratch, they're constructing a new constitution. There seem to be two very different approaches.

SC     That's for sure. Well that is correct, I mean that is our official approach. We're fairly realistic about what the ANC is after so we are operating according to the rules that they've insisted upon. We constantly put in documentation saying that we support the present terms of the constitution. In fact we feel that we are perfectly happy with it as it is. There are a few areas where it could be refined perhaps but on the whole we are supporting the present model but we are very aware that the ANC has a totally different approach and one can understand it. I mean a lot of our people here, especially the people on the Constitutional Committee, were players at the World Trade Centre where a lot of theirs weren't, a whole new brood has arrived here and wants to make their mark and so on and that's what they're trying to do.

POM     So it's not the same discipline as could be exercised at Kempton Park?

SC     Well it's becoming extremely cumbersome the whole thing. I'm sure the whole thing's going to founder and we're going to have to then streamline the process because it's not working. I don't think we've reached a single major substantive decision yet. There's a vast amount of paper that's been generated and huge numbers of submissions have arrived, as they did at CODESA, and they will probably never really be addressed under the present system because it's not going to work. I mean you have a situation where you have 16 committees.

POM     You were talking about the constitution.

SC     Yes, well I mean the process isn't working. We've got 16 committees, I'm on one of them, human rights, and I'm on the constitutional committee. Now the theme committees are not meant to negotiate, they're meant to sit and then send reports up to the constitutional committee. The constitutional committee is then the negotiating body. We have 50 people, it's a group of 50-odd people and it's too large and it has representatives from all the different theme committees and what you usually find is when an item comes on the agenda from theme committee one, theme committee four people will have a lot to say about it but they have no background and no real knowledge and talk like lay people so they hold up the works for hours raising serious things. So in the end we've got vast numbers of reports but we couldn't really point to anything and say that has been agreed. I think we're going to find that sooner or later we're going to have to streamline that process.

POM     So you're saying both parliament and the Constitutional Assembly need streamlining?

SC     No, no, well yes I suppose I am. Yes, the decision making process in the Constitutional Assembly is really going to have to get urgent attention but I agree with you as I explained in the beginning. But there's a great deal of cheerfulness around as far as parliament's workings and the Constitutional Assembly is concerned but the trouble with the Constitutional Assembly is that we're operating against a deadline which is May 1996 and I don't think there's a hope in Hades of getting there if we carry on with the process as it is.

POM     How about, as we talked about at lunch, the problem of or the situation of the National Party being the junior partner in the government of national unity and at the same time it operates as an opposition party? How can the two be reconciled?

SC     Well we break our heads over that question repeatedly at think tanks, internal party caucuses and discussions. I don't think we've got the final answer yet but we have reached a sort of interim conclusion. That is that we have an important role to play in the GNU, it's in the interests of the country apart from anything else, but we feel that we can become indispensable in the GNU and we think that would be good for the country too, that one should have a longer period of joint decision making in the subsequent five years. We should look at ten rather, at this stage at any rate, rather than a five year period. But at the same time we have to play a much more proactive role in fulfilling our role as an opposition party and being critical where we can, particularly constructive criticism we feel will go down well both in parliament and outside and we're thinking of ways in which we can raise our profile in the media. We do realise that we get overlooked a lot of the time as not being the main interest so it's not that we're not aware of the problem and we are thinking of ways to, trying to adopt also ways to overcome the problem.

POM     What would happen if the NP were to, I mean Mr de Klerk said at the annual conference that the party would be forced to resign from government if the ANC did not remedy the sharp and insulting attacks. What sharp and insulting attacks were these?

SC     That was a real crisis. Mandela questioned his integrity on certain issues relating to the indemnity process and I saw Mr de Klerk immediately after that Cabinet meeting, in fact it was a very serious thing, it could really have led, I think, if fences hadn't been mended to a break up of the GNU. At the same time I think we would like to maintain our role in it. We've laid down three basic stages of disagreement to the ANC. You've probably been told about them. Minor issues, Cabinet members go along with it, our Rottweilers in parliament go to the ANC but the Cabinet people don't knock the decision or distance themselves from the decision in the Cabinet, Cabinet decisions on more minor issues. More serious ones are Cabinet ministers will note their disagreement but they won't walk out, and the very serious ones that we're talking about that we would walk out of the GNU, but that hasn't happened.

POM     What happened to Mr de Klerk. I remember four years ago in 1990 at the unbanning of the ANC and the release of Mandela, you could go to a township and they would speak very highly of De Klerk, call him Comrade de Klerk. Three years later that was all gone.

SC     Yes because at that stage he was the man who had opened the door to negotiations and opened the door for Mandela to walk through it and so he was seen as promoting reconciliation, which was true, but at that point we weren't fighting the ANC in an election situation. That was the change, obviously, and then we campaigned against each other for a year, so obviously that was very different.

POM     How are you for time?

SC     I'm stuck now. I'm going to have to go. One just doesn't know. I mean I've got to go and find out what's happening but I can just imagine I'll get there and they'll decide that they're going to meet in an hour's time or something. Anyway I can't help that.

POM     Why don't I call your office tomorrow?

SC     OK.

SC     The transcripts of what I said, I can't remember if I had time to amend the last one or whether I did.

POM     I'll give you a chance to review them all. I just want to ask you about the constitutional proposals adopted by the ANC on the weekend.

SC     Adopted?

POM     Yes. From the move towards centralisation, an element of gloating in Cyril Ramaphosa when he said, Eat your heart out National Party but minority will be over in 1999 and that's the way it's going to be, which is a very different construction of the kind of arrangement that the National Party would like to see in operation after 1999.

SC     Yes, too true. I mean I would say that there's a lot of electioneering going on in that Constitutional Committee. I think Cyril thought it was a good idea, I don't think the leadership struggle is over altogether, and certainly there were some key constituents sitting at that meeting and I think that at this point in time no prominent ANC potential leader can be seen to be pussy-footing around the National Party and its proposals. I hear what they say but I'm trying to add a pinch of salt to some of it. Clearly we have to take the situation as well, our own planning was if there will be no GNU we have to have a reserve position. But I am still inclined to think that the ANC might come around to accepting in some form or other joint decision making at Cabinet level. I think that South Africa's - if you like, the G7 countries, the countries that have an influence over us in terms of their influence through the World Bank or the IMF or direct investment, if they pulled out their investments and so on, they seem to like the idea of a GNU coalition government of some kind or another in South Africa for the foreseeable future. I've spoken to people in very high up positions in both England and Germany, for instance, and France, in positions to influence the way things go and there's no doubt about it, they like the GNU. So I don't know, I mean we would certainly cater for a cessation in our planning where we would have to have a fall-back position.

POM     Right now what difference would it make if the National Party were to withdraw from the GNU?

SC     In terms of our own on the one hand I think that we could certainly raise our profile as an opposition party and it could be a good election situation. On the other hand I don't think it's in the interests of the country and I also think that perhaps we are in a better position to influence decisions by participating in the GNU, decisions that will be in the end of benefit to us although not quite so apparent at the moment, and also of benefit to our constituents. I also think that while we are making the final constitution it's important to hang in there in the GNU.

POM     Will it have an effect on international perceptions of the road South Africa might be heading to?

SC     Well certainly, that's what I said in response immediately to your first question, yes.

POM     You mentioned the last time that there were differences with the ANC and the National Party with regard to certain provisions of the constitution. What areas of the constitution do you think are most in need of redrafting or refinement?

SC     There are parts of the constitution that I know better than others. As far as the bill of rights is concerned I think it's more or less satisfactory. I think we could refine it a little bit, that's the part I know best because it's the part I negotiated. It seems to me that there's a general feeling that the structure of government as between the provinces and the central government needs to be brushed up a bit, for instance the functioning of the Provincial Commission and the Financial Commission, the provinces, for all that people like Tokyo Sexwale have been told to shut up by higher authority, or certainly not to play it up now, have not been happy with the way the powers have been drawn down. I mean there's been a real hiccup as far as being able to exercise the provincial powers that are provided for in the schedule. They are there in theory a lot of the time.

     Take law and order, for example, we have a real crime problem and there's a perception I mean everybody knows we need really to streamline the law and order situation, the security situation, and that we need provincial and local policing. Now as of this moment in the Western Cape, for instance, hasn't been able to draw down its powers to have a police force, to run the police force because there's no money been allocated to it. It's all sitting up at central government level and this comes as a surprise even to the President. I was chatting to Hernus Kriel the other day and apparently Mandela was on the phone to Kriel saying, Can't you keep your people in order in the Cape? Where are your policemen? Why are these riots on campus? So Hernus was able to retort that if he'd been given the money to organise his police force he'd be able to do so. At the moment the responsibility rests solely with Mufamadi because he's the only one controlling the budget. So you do have that situation still and that is unsatisfactory.

     Also I think the whole question of asymmetry that some provinces should be in a position to draw down more powers than others in relation to their financial independence, their ability to pay for the services they want to provide and the powers they want to exercise, should also get more attention.

POM     Do you also see local government structures - do they get funds from the provincial government?

SC     Yes I think that would probably be the case because I don't think we would actually I think the whole question of local government needs to be tidied up in the constitution because a lot of it is dependent upon the Local Government Transition Act which is an extremely untidy structure at the moment. I think more attention needs to be paid to local government, and it is in fact in the CA. A lot of the emphasis in the committee dealing with that is on local government and it's relationship is not really to central government but to provincial.

POM     On the question of international mediation with Buthelezi: now my recollection of the time the agreement was signed between those parties was that there would be international mediation on outstanding issues which would take place before the elections on the question of boundaries, of what exactly would comprise KwaZulu-Natal and on the question of the regions.

SC     Local government. And local government in relation to the traditional leaders.

POM     And that was signed. That was one of the reasons why he came into the election and now he's saying, not unreasonably, make good on your promise.

SC     Well that was the reason why. But if you read that document it's not that clear what issues in relation to those topics had to be mediated on, what are the specific issues where we haven't reached agreement. Our position has always been that they must clarify the terms of reference of the mediation and they must be specific. You can't just have mediators arriving to look at the position of the king without saying what the problems are about him. The IFP is extremely reluctant to do that. In fact some of their advisors have said to us that we need to get the mediators in to define the terms of reference, which we could perhaps do in the end, I don't think we'd have any principled objection to that but it seems an odd way of going about it and a very longwinded way. After all we feel the IFP ought to know what it wants mediated and what it's happy with and what it feels it can negotiate on its own. In any case we are saying that these issues arise out of the 1993 constitution. The ANC is taking a very peculiar sort of approach saying that let's see if there's anything left over when we've negotiated the 1995 constitution and then see what we do about it. I mean the fact is that they're pussy-footing around on the issue because they seem to be very reluctant to honour their undertaking.

POM     Why do you think there's that reluctance there given the consequences?

SC     Well I think they're shying away from it.

POM     It's out of proportion, the consequences could be bigger than the actual mediation itself. You could bring an international mediator in, sit the two parties around the table, give each half an hour and they say, There's nothing to mediate, and they make observations and say, There you are!

SC     Perhaps the ANC says that there is quite a lot to mediate.

POM     Is he talking about walking out of parliament again?

SC     Yes.

POM     Any relationship to ...?

SC     ...

POM     Released proposals of the ANC for the constitution.

SC     Well I mean the IFP is saying that it would do this sort of thing. It has demonstrated that sort of recklessness before and if you are in that sort of position, if you're prepared to go all the way you can hold the other party to ransom. They've done that once with some success, and who knows, they could try it again. I think they'd be reluctant to now because they've got fairly entrenched positions here with all their members having committed themselves to serve, get salaries, they've got payments presumably like everybody else. They've given out other jobs and they have a commitment to their own membership. So I think it will be more difficult for Buthelezi to actually walk out than it might have been to stay out of the elections. There are practical considerations which I think ...

POM     Involving their many positions.

SC     Well the usual and as far as the participation here is concerned. So I don't know that they've managed to resolve that in their own ranks. I think we will just have to wait and see if they're prepared to go the whole hog. I don't know that they are. I'd be quite surprised.

POM     Kobie Coetsee ... (unintelligible) ... reforms in the National Party or reforms at the national level would not have taken place unless there had been drastic reform within the National Party itself and these reforms have to be ...

SC     Well the National Party has to totally overhaul itself and change its nature. At the time we democratised and within a year we had opened our ranks to all.

POM     You would have been of the Class of 87?

SC     Yes. But we were reformists then. We were all elected at the time. I've told you this before I think and we did arrive in parliament as reformists ready to meet the call and help the changes. In fact nothing happened until De Klerk arrived and he was perceived as being part of the problem rather than part of the solution at the time really not because of what he said so much but he was associated with the old guard in the sense that he was the Leader of the House, right up there in front with PW and one never supposed that he would be leading us to change. But of course that was made clear within a week or two of his election.

POM     I want to elaborate a little bit on this question of exactly what does the National Party stand for? On the one hand one could say that apartheid was the glue that kept it together and once apartheid is gone the political rationale almost ceases.

SC     I disagree with you there because apartheid as a concept was given up already in 1977 within the party. It was acknowledged then at a federal congress that this was not the way to go, we'd have to change. It was done specifically for the Coloured people because the Western Cape ... and they realised that we couldn't go on with all these brown Afrikaners clamouring to be part of the scene. That was the argument that one had. [That process started with the returns of the Conservative Party element at the beginning of 1989 and then the referendum in 1983 and in 1978 we had the Constitutional Committee, Dennis Worrall, sitting looking at how the new constitution would fit these structures.] I can't quite remember the dates, a couple of years, and then they delivered their report. The Committee Chairman said at that time that blacks should come into the system along with Coloureds and Indians but he was overruled by the Minister of Constitutional Development at the time, Chris Heunis, and sent off to be Ambassador in Australia. But certainly his attitude was that that should happen.

     The point is that the change started then and it's been by fits and starts I suppose. I mean we had PW being elected leader and then that died out. The very first speech that PW made when we opened the three chamber parliament was about the need to now bring in the blacks. So he knew that in the wings, it was an issue and there were endless party documents churned out. In fact there was a party document which said what about the black people? That was in a document by Stoffel van der Merwe. Remember Stoffel van der Merwe? He was the author of it and that's why he became a minister but that was the whole debate in the party to include black people and the PW era in co-option but in fact then it was realised that that wouldn't work and so we wound up where we are today.

POM     But PW has never endorsed the process?

SC     He didn't see it that way. He saw a National Council with black people sitting on it like tribal chiefs and all leaders. He didn't see it as a full democratic process but I think if he thought about it long and hard enough he would have realised that there was no other way to go, it's what the National Party concluded. I think the great role we played was managing the change in an orderly way - I mean our leaders being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for it, that's really an achievement and it's recognised throughout the world that it is a marvellously managed transition. I think it was. I think people just give us credit for that too.

POM     Do you think you get sufficient credit?

SC     I think we do, from our traditional constituencies certainly and also from the Coloured and Indian communities. I think now we are perceived as upholders of certain values, orderly government, law and order, crime prevention, market policies, that sort of thing. We don't have the apartheid view but that hasn't been around for a long time, nearly 20 years in fact.

POM     It's hard to distinguish between where the ANC stands on a particular issue and where the NP stands on it. The ANC has made one of the biggest 180 degree turnarounds.

SC     On some issues.

POM     On a number of issues but very key issues like market forces, privatisation.

SC     Yes, you see that's true in a sense. There are people in the ANC who are fully behind market forces but there are others who are not and in a sense it's a wide choice as they acknowledge themselves. There are definitely people, socialists in the ANC who certainly are not keen on market forces and certainly don't want private ownership of land and security of tenure for property owners or anything else of that ilk. So they also sit in the ANC in parliament and I think we have to encourage those who think like we do and I suppose that's part of our role. I don't think that we can hope that they're going to break up all that quickly but if they did, you see, there'd be very clear room for an alliance of people who are like minded. Things inside politics are fairly even when it comes to democratisation, it took years.

POM     Do you think there is what one might call 'the Winnie Mandela factor'? I'm really surprised at the amount of space the media gave to her.

SC     Well the media gives a lot of space to ET (Eugene Terre'Blanche), the AWB and ET.

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.