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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
06 Apr 1995: Viljoen, Constand
POM General, what has happened to the right in this country in the last couple of years? You had a situation where in 1992 it was perceived as being a big threat, then you had the whites' only referendum, then you had the decision of the Conservative Party to stay out of electoral process with you forming a new party and joining the process. Can you trace the evolution of the right in terms of how your party participates and wants to participate in a government of national unity?
CV Well, as you know, we are not part of the government of national unity. We're a small party. We're actually in opposition at the moment and we cannot be regarded as part of the government of national unity because we haven't got the required number of seats in parliament. Now when you nowadays ask the question as to what's happening to the right, I don't think that is material. What is important is what's going to happen to the Afrikaner. When I was asked by the farmers' meeting in Potchefstroom to enter politics, to give strategic guidance, I was particularly told that there is no single political party, at that stage, not a single political party that commanded enough confidence from the Afrikaner people from all over the political spectrum to deal with the strategic implications of the change as Mr de Klerk and the ANC then at that stage had planned it. So I participated and the reason why you link me with the so-called right or far right is because of the fact that we have been involved with the Conservative Party as part of the Volksfront and I was in the directorate of the Volksfront but I was never a member of the Conservative Party. My main concern is, therefore, not the right, my main concern is the Afrikaner peoples and how do we deal with them in the whole transition in order to find a constitutional, peaceful co-existence for my people after the election or in the new South Africa. So this is my concern.
POM So how would your position on a volkstaat differ from that of the Conservative Party?
CV I think what is important to realise is that the Conservative Party had accepted the idea of the volkstaat only after the referendum in 1992. Only then did they realise that they had to do something drastic in order to ensure constitutional survival. I think up to that stage they were all still hoping that the new South Africa would never come and they sort of wished away the idea of complete transition. Then from 1992 the Conservative Party worked and accepted the idea of the volkstaat. When I entered politics I was not a volkstaater, I was not a politician, I was a simple farmer and I had been a soldier, but I have had a very good background because of my military service on revolutionary war and I knew the strategy of revolutionary wars and I was asked by my people to give strategic guidance, which I did.
Strategic guidance doesn't mean violence alone, it means the whole entire issue. Because of the situation at that stage we were considering all possible directions to go and one of them was certainly to go for war and I think that, because I was a General, many people misinterpreted my instruction to give strategic guidance as to lead the Afrikaner into war. War was an option. As a matter of fact we were prepared for it and I was completely ready to switch over to the violent grabbing of a volkstaat and then defending the volkstaat. We were all ready for that and I, for certain reasons, decided that it would not be the wise thing at that stage to do. I think that is where I clashed with the Conservative Party because the Conservative Party hijacked the Volksfront organisation and they were consistently forcing me into the direction of war and many of them openly said to me that you shouldn't be involved in negotiations, you shouldn't be involved in any other strategic aspect, you are here to prepare the Afrikaner for war because that is the only way that we can survive in this situation. I differed with them and I consistently expressed the view that I was quite prepared to go for war because the issue was so big but I will certainly not go for war until such time as I have exhausted all the different other possibilities.
Now, you will recall that the Conservative Party did the negotiations in the World Trade Centre. I was then particularly perturbed because I regarded negotiations as a means of achieving something. They decided on their own, not through the Volksfront, they decided on their own that they would now leave the negotiation table. That left the Afrikaner without anybody really caring for our fate, because although the National Party does represent a number of Afrikaners, at least I would say the majority of Afrikaners, more on the Conservative side, I wouldn't call them right wing, but Afrikaners particularly concerned about the retention of their identity. They were left without a voice within the World Trade Centre. I then considered the situation and I said to Dr Hartzenberg who was then the chairperson of the Volksfront, I said to him that I regard it necessary for us to have a direct negotiation with the ANC as one of the alternative methods which I had in mind. The Conservative Party was not originally impressed with the idea of this negotiation but I was then director, or chairman of the directorate in the Volksfront of four generals and we considered negotiation necessary. So that is why originally we, the Generals, started off the negotiations as the directorate of the Volksfront with the knowledge of Hartzenberg, but not with the general knowledge of the Conservative Party.
When it became known that the Generals were busy negotiating it was not very well received within the Conservative Party. Some agreed and some disagreed and that was generally a chaotic situation in the Conservative Party. Many of them, held the idea that you can never negotiate with this communist lot and you will get nowhere on this, the only way to really succeed is through the resistance way. Well to cut a long story short some of the Conservative Party politicians, those that you can regard as more flexible of mind, I'm referring to the Mulders and so on, they participated, they started participating with us with the negotiations so it was a more representative team. We were all striving to have the whole idea of self-determination for the Afrikaner and the volkstaat dealt with before 27 April so that we could go through the election giving our people the surety that they hadn't lost everything, that they still would have their volkstaat and that would mean a way of retaining the possibility or the ability to determine our own destiny, which is actually the definition of self-determination, to determine your own destiny.
Part of the success that we had with the negotiation was the fact that entered into the interim constitution was principle number 34 which is that of self-determination for an Afrikaner people. Have you read that principle? That principle, however, has a stipulation that such a community as we are in the Afrikaners will have to give proven support, substantial proven support. We then approached De Klerk who was the President at that stage for such an Afrikaner referendum to prove this support, which he refused for party political reasons partly and for other reasons too. That caused a direct confrontation within our own ranks because the Conservative Party and also some other members such as the AWB of the Volksfront attacked me saying, "You see, this is now what has happened, there is no hope, there is only one way out and that is the violent way."
I then negotiated in the negotiations with Mr Thabo Mbeki in this regard and we came to the conclusion that maybe if we could have a body established after the election, the Volkstaat Council, then the uncompleted negotiation on the position of the Afrikaner in the new South Africa could be dealt with in a more formalised way and that the negotiations would be carried further after the election. To me that was an alternative. I tried to sell this strategic alternative to the Conservative Party, they shouted me down and that caused the rift between us and the party and eventually the final decision was taken when we had the AWB insurrection in Bophuthatswana. They were not supposed to go to Bophuthatswana, they were prohibited by Dr Hartzenberg and myself to go there, nonetheless they went and they caused total collapse of the effort that we undertook to supply some assistance from the Boer farmers to Mr Mangope. I then realised that with the AWB around any form of military action is doomed because they would always follow their own direction, they would not listen to orders, they would not obey the orders and it would be to me a very, very risky operation to even try to grab a volkstaat in a military way because of the uncontrollability of the AWB as an organisation.
In any case I then still had the alternative and I believed the alternative, now can I come to the negotiation? I would like to say that I think the ANC acted very wisely by appointing in that negotiation team with us a very sensible and balanced team. I am referring to people such as Mr Thabo Mbeki, Jacob Zuma, Thozamile Botha, Pennuel Maduna, people who we as Afrikaners found to be reasonable people and we could negotiate with them. From our side too, I think the leadership level from both sides were quite prepared to co-operate and in such a way; in the negotiations there developed a good sound basis of mutual trust and it was then possible for me to accept the strategic alternative that we negotiate with Mr Mbeki. We had the Volkstaat Council and the idea of completing the negotiation after the election. The Conservative Party broke away because they said it will not work out, the ANC would not hold their promises and eventually we will have nothing. Now that remains, we still have to wait and see as to whether we have really achieved anything in the way we have gone to.
So that is the position up to the 27 April. Subsequent to that period we have done a few things. the Volkstaat Council was established and has done some good work for about nine to ten months.
POM Now who sits on that?
CV The Volkstaat Council is a number of people selected from the Afrikaner communities and we have even included some Conservative Party members, those that were prepared to serve on the Volkstaat Council and who favoured the idea of self-determination in a volkstaat. So that is the first thing we have achieved. That was established four days after the opening of parliament and they could carry on with their work. That was the first job.
Then we as the Freedom Front we decided how would we tackle this thing and we came to the conclusion that our real task is to find a peaceful negotiated settlement for co-existence in this country and we then came to the conclusion that confrontational politics would bring us nowhere. We were only nine people out of four hundred and we decided that as a political party we will be critical, because we are in opposition, and we will criticise the ANC but we will also be constructive and we realised the difficult situation of the ANC in this transitional period. We were quite prepared to give advice where necessary and to cooperate where necessary in preventing this country to go down, which we did. I think we received a very good reaction from the ANC in this regard and slowly but certainly we built up a position, I would say, of moral high ground on the issue of Afrikaner self-determination.
Previously, and that I think is the main difference between the Conservative Party and us, the idea of the volkstaat was seen to be an area where the Afrikaner would retire to, divorce themselves from the new South Africa, reject the new South Africa as totally unacceptable and withdraw to the volkstaat where we would then govern ourselves and start building up a complete new country as pure as possible regarding Afrikaner nationalists. That was the original idea.
Subsequent to that we have had a good look at the Afrikaner and the future of the Afrikaner in the new South Africa and we came to the conclusion that the Afrikaner is a very valuable group in the new South Africa, a group that will now have to surrender their positions within the public service, within the defence force, within the police, within public organisations such as ISCOR, such as railways, etc., and we had to look for a new direction and we found that new direction to be that of the entrepreneurial role in South Africa. In other words we said instead of the Afrikaner retiring into a volkstaat as a laager, we would rather ask the Afrikaner to move out and be the entrepreneur in Southern Africa because in many African countries we have witnessed how the countries went completely down because of the disappearance or the forceful removal or the exodus of the so-called entrepreneurial group. Go and have a look at Mozambique, go to Namibia, you can go to Angola. Wherever the entrepreneurial group disappeared there was a total collapse of the country, economy-wise, even political instability. So we then said that we as Afrikaners can play a vital role in the new South Africa in order to make sure that the country will, notwithstanding the fact that we have lost political control, remain a worthwhile country and in that way we would also establish for the Afrikaner a very valuable role and an indispensability which we hope would mark the future of the Afrikaner.
So, we then decided to go for two types of self-determination. Firstly, cultural self-determination because the fact that we were prepared - sorry, can I just come back to the role of the Afrikaner? That was inside South Africa. So we also then said with the Afrikaner having to give up such a lot of posts, etc. to affirmative action in the new South Africa, we will have thousands of Afrikaners surplus and we said then why not take the Afrikaners and make them available in Southern Africa where there is such a great need for entrepreneurial role. And then we started with the idea of making available farmers from South Africa to Mozambique, Zaire and so on, with the idea of also being there in the entrepreneurial role. These people could establish good value systems such as private enterprise, productivity, etc. It should also be possible to make the countries self-supporting as far as food and so on is concerned, and through agriculture, then trigger off the general economic growth in Southern Africa. This we sold to Mr Mandela as part of our constructive approach in the new politics of South Africa. It was accepted by Mr Mandela. We had, as you know, the subsequent developments in Mozambique and we have been to Zaire and this scheme is running.
Previously the volkstaat was an area in which we would be exclusive.
POM A laager.
CV That's right. The new idea is that the Afrikaner would not divorce itself from the new South Africa but will remain part of it, but we are still as strong about retaining our identity as before. In order to do that we are going to suggest to the ANC that we introduce the same kind of self-determination that you find in Belgium. In other words the Afrikaner community, where they wish to do so, will be allowed on the third tier level government to establish Afrikaner Councils where they will, as they have the Councils in Belgium, have the right to control those third tier governmental functions that will affect their identity. There are common functions too that affect other communities. Those can be dealt with on a joint basis between different communities living in each district all over the country. But this is the idea - that we will ask for this cultural type of self-determination all over the new South Africa. This is part of our strategy that will be followed.
Then regarding the volkstaat, if you fan out to Southern Africa and fan out to the whole of South Africa, the problem of keeping your identity or retaining your identity will become more difficult. Yet we firmly believe that this is the road to go for the Afrikaner. So we then decided that if we get a volkstaat and we regard it not as a place of retirement, not as an exclusive place, but as a place where there will be a majority of Afrikaners and that will fully participate in the economy of the new South Africa and that will form the cultural base from where we fan out to Africa so that the farmers living in Zaire or elsewhere will have a place, an area that it will bean Afrikaans area in South Africa, an Afrikaans University, Afrikaans Technical College, maybe our own SABC, etc., all the cultural activities in that specific area. So the idea of the volkstaat has therefore to an extent changed. We still want an area. We still want the Afrikaner to have self-determination in an area, in other words to be in a position to determine its own destiny in that area. We will also establish a majority Afrikaner settlement in that area over a period of ten to twenty years if necessary.
POM Would you see the volkstaat in that sense as kind of an autonomous region within the new South Africa?
POM So it would have relations with the rest of South Africa, formal ones?
CV Yes, you cannot do otherwise because if the Afrikaner is to play the entrepreneurial role in South Africa and in Southern Africa it must accept the importance of the Mandela government inside South Africa and in Southern Africa and, therefore, although we would have such an area we would have complete self-determination and ability to remain ourselves and to have one little bit of Afrikaner area in South Africa where we will not be threatened by the numbers, because this is the problem we are having. In virtually every area we will be disempowered through sheer numbers and that will certainly affect our ability to retain our identity which will lead to conflict no doubt. So that is what we would like to have. This is a conflict-solving mechanism, the volkstaat, as we do not wish to create conflicts. I am afraid that the original idea of the volkstaat, exclusivity and retirement to the volkstaat and divorcing us from the rest of South Africa, I think that is an area of potential conflict.
POM The question is always raised, where does that territory exist?
CV The Volkstaat Council is determining that at the moment. There is an area in South Africa that has already been determined where there are a majority of Afrikaans speaking people if you look at the language distribution chart. We have to have such an area included, that's the core area of the volkstaat, where there are a lot of Afrikaners, where you are already functioning as a community. Then there are some vast open spaces. I am referring to the Northern Cape and I'm referring to parts of the Eastern Transvaal. Here you can take a rather uninhabited area where you have a favourable situation of Afrikaner numbers at the moment and then designate those areas as Afrikaner resettlement areas with the purpose of being part of the volkstaat and then have such a number of areas all over the country, accessible areas for Afrikaners who would like to move there. But the main purpose is not for Afrikaners to move to that area and to form their own economy, the idea is to have an Afrikaner dominated area for cultural preservation and also to act as a basis, a psychological homeland, psychological Israel if I can put it to you this way. If we then become the Jews of Africa working wherever we can be of value in Africa, but we have that psychological home as the Israelis have with the state of Israel.
POM Now you would, I presume, give non-Afrikaners all the rights and protections and rights?
CV Yes. What we ask for our people in the new South Africa we must be prepared to grant these non-Afrikaners.
POM Do you think that the present Bill of Rights and the interim constitution as not giving you sufficient guarantees?
CV No not at all, not at all. It is completely lacking in this regard. Completely. I mean you have it already. In the SABC we have no control. Look at the programme that they had a couple of days ago on the Afrikaans language monument. It was a vilifying programme, vilifying the Afrikaner people, vilifying our language. And if you look at the developments, Afrikaans is an official language, Afrikaans is a spoken language in South Africa, I would say one of the strongest languages in the whole area but it is being pushed out everywhere. You can take our people in the affirmative action situation, unless we have a way to deal with the many thousands of young Afrikaners who are not able to find work and being pushed out of work in order to make place for affirmative action, this is going to be a cause of conflict. This is what we hope to prevent.
POM Do you find then that the ANC has not been acting in good faith with you?
CV No I'm not saying that. No I'm not saying that. I'm saying the ANC is acting on behalf of their own people and in that way they are not really caring for our people at the moment because of the affirmative action approach. What I am saying is that we jointly have to look at what are the interests of this country in future. The interests are certainly not the blacks on their side and the Afrikaners on their side. The interest is, let the Afrikaner be the entrepreneurial group and let us teach the black people of South Africa and of Southern Africa to start farming. You know the old story of don't give a man a fish, teach him how to fish, and this is the role we can play. So we are in demand in Africa, the people would like us to come because when we go there we will not only farm for our own pocket we will also be part of an upliftment programme, guiding and training African farmers for their specific agricultural economy.
POM When you look at the government of national unity, if you had to rate it on a scale of one to ten, where one would be unsatisfactory and ten would be very satisfactory?
POM Where do you find it strongest and weakest?
CV The big problem is that the ANC has taken a certain line and that line is mainly on the RDP, that is the line of redistribution of wealth at the moment. But the ANC is battling at the moment to create enough jobs and in a way the present situation in the government of national unity is that they are robbing Peter to pay Paul. In other words they are redistributing wealth by taking away from the haves to pass it on to the have nots. This is not the way to go about this. The better way would be to first effect growth and that you can only effect through stability. We must first get our stability and then growth will come. Then you have a bigger cake and then you can start dividing the cake. The point I'm making is that if you kill the goose that lays the golden egg then you are going to have problems in future. And this is what happens and the government of national unity is not capable of dealing with that because the ANC is too strong within the government of national unity.
Second point, the government of national unity is failing on security, on law and order. This is a real big problem.
Third point, we have the issues such as the reconciliation, this idea of a Truth Commission, the inability of the government of national unity to, in my view, to decide on a policy regarding the so-called dealing with the past in a way that will further reconciliation, that is a worrying factor.
So that is the reason why I rate it down to six. I think the failure of economic growth is one of the main points that I have to complain about.
POM I talked to Mr Keys when he was Minister for Finance and asked him about the employment situation and he said quite bluntly that the most this country could expect from now to the end of this century was a 1% increase in employment per year. I went back to him the following year when he wasn't minister and said, "Well have you reassessed your evaluation of the situation?" He said, "No, 1%."
CV Well, he's very close to being right at the moment because what are we running at the moment? 2% economic growth?
POM And population outstrips that.
CV Population outstrips the growth. You see this is the real problem and the point I'm making is the whole issue of the redistribution of wealth, of the affirmative action programme that is very one sided at the moment. So that is why I rate the government of national unity at six at the moment, certainly not higher. In fact I'm not a believer in a government of national unity. It might have been indispensable for the transition but it's not going to work because the ANC is too strong. The position of the National Party is impossible. I don't think they have a policy in any case.
POM They have lost their identity.
CV They have lost their identity completely. And what is more they are neither fish nor flesh. They are not in government and they are not in opposition. This serves no purpose.
POM Just two things. One is the stability factory. When I came back here after a month in the States, I came back in the middle of January, and day after day it was strikes and sit-ins, taxis, people being taken hostage, a whole stream of things one after the other, that suggested that no-one was really in control. Do you think the country has attained a level of political stability?
CV I think we're going down to mob rule. This is what happens. We are approaching the stage of mob rule, we are approaching the stage which you can call anarchy and there is no doubt about it. You see the problem is, I think what is happening at the moment, this is a personal opinion, is in a way the revolution is still in momentum, has not been stopped, so the revolution carries on. We arrived at the stage of transition, of changeover and the revolution is carrying on. And I am very worried and perturbed at the SACP what they have in mind because they are speaking openly about the ongoing national revolution and I am particularly concerned that the SACP, as was said recently by John McLennan in his article in the Weekend Argus, have you seen that article? He had an article in the last Weekend Argus which he titles: "Who says communism has failed?" In that article he says the fact is the ANC's thinking is done by the SACP. Another fact is the SACP still believes in communism as an ideology. They are prepared to achieve it over a very long period and they seem to be steering the country slowly on that course of, first, economic socialism and they hope in the long run to go over to communism. That is the idea.
What worries us is the fact that the ANC is hooked on to the this thinking of the SACP. We have seen the disaster in Mozambique after the Machel government took over and Mozambique at the moment is dependent for 75% of its budget on donor country support. This is the result of experimenting with socialism. This worries me about the government of national unity. Where are we going with the economic situation in this country? They are slowly moving in the direction of centralisation because they say that the RDP programme is firstly to transform the public service and then to transform society. The way the public service is transformed at the moment, to me creates an impression that they are creating a large over-centralised bureaucracy through which all the centralised control will be carried out. Maybe that is why federalism is opposed.
POM Do you think this is going to loom as a major issue in the constitution?
CV I have no doubt. I have no doubt we are about to start, I would say within a month, we have to really tackle the idea of centralisation or decentralisation, unitary, federalism, whatever the case may be.
POM Do you think the situation in KwaZulu/Natal will degenerate into one of violence all over again?
CV Yes. I'm very worried about that conflict. It's not been solved at the moment and it doesn't seem as if they are making progress in solving this. The Freedom Front has often said we are for solving problems internally but I am a firm believer that if we can't solve it internally, before we go to war or conflict or violent conflict, let us rather go to international mediation. We have seen the success that took place in Israel between Israel and the Palestinians. That was done through mediation by the late Foreign Minister of Norway.
POM One last thing. Going back to the Truth Commission, do you think if I had a son who had disappeared, walked out of the house one night and simply disappeared and I never saw him again, that I have the right to know what happened to him?
CV Yes, yes, part of my recommendation is that the victims part of the Truth Commission, let them carry on and let the victim apply. If you have such a problem then you submit an application. Then your question is heard and the investigation is carried out in order to try to satisfy your need. I believe that is necessary. Also as far as victims are concerned, the people that have suffered losses and so on, let them apply for reparation and assistance. I'm happy with that. What I am against is to couple amnesty to the idea of confessions and I don't think it is practical to go through each and every possible case of amnesty application to decide whether it's a real offence with a political intent or whether it's a criminal act and so on. I think there will be thousands and the time and the cost will be too high.
POM How about the specific case of a government minister who ordered the murder of say political activists? Should that fall under the commission?
CV My suggestion is that we accept the constitution as it stands at the moment, which says that acts with political intent will be granted amnesty. Because we must remember, the whole issue of amnesty is part of the negotiated settlement in order to get us to peace and not to war. So we have to accept that's why amnesty is prescribed - but I think amnesty itself will have to be dealt with on the higher level of parliament. My suggestion is that we give general amnesty but we state clearly that cases of doubt will have to be referred to the courts. Then let us say you come with the problem of your son that disappeared and there appears to be a legal case of somebody that committed an offence without political intent, it's a murder, it's criminal, then that goes before the court and the court has to decide whether it's a criminal case or whether it's a political case. And this way the court then decides on amnesty. If it decides that there is no political connection to this act, then it becomes a criminal case and justice takes its course.
POM Finally, and thank you for the time, have you found the ANC in government a more practical, pragmatic organisation than it was when it was unbanned in 1990?
CV I think the ANC is suffering from over-indulgence in ideology. The RDP is a good example of this. I made some very good suggestions in order to get things done on the ground within an RDP programme. What is important is for the people on the ground to see that something is happening and they have not implemented my ideas. They have come to the conclusion that they first want to transform the public service, they first want to transform society and then they will come to the real issues. They want to transform the public service so that the public service bureaucracy that I talked about will be able to deal with the idea of development and reconstruction at the lower levels.
I have made some very practical suggestions and it was not accepted. For example, I said to them, why not use the defence force? The defence force is available, they have communications, they are distributed all over the country. Use the defence force to alleviate the problems such as medical clinics, they have a medical service. Also assistance with agriculture, even adult education, water provision could be done by the defence force. There are such a lot of things that you can immediately implement by making use of the defence force which at the moment is not generally regarded to be necessary. Do we need a defence force? There is nobody going to attack us at the moment so what the defence force will have to do at the moment is to be able to deal with internal problems but we can also productively use the defence force in the RDP role.
POM Why do you think the ANC is so blind to the need that in their self-interest they have to show by 1999 that they have delivered something, there have to be houses, there will have to be electricity?
CV Not only them, I think they will always do that because the degree to which we satisfy the hopes of the people on the lower level, that will bring stability to the country. If you don't produce that it's going to bring instability, nobody can afford it. This has been the disappointing feature of all liberations in Africa.
POM OK. Thank you ever so much.