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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
18 Oct 1995: De Klerk, Willem
POM Prof. de Klerk, you were just talking about elections, sloganeering, and in the last couple of weeks there seems to have been a particular kind of campaign conducted against F W de Klerk in particular, not the National Party, against him. First of all you had Tokyo Sexwale's comments about what he would say in Cabinet and what he would do outside Cabinet, followed up by Mac Maharaj's comments, not comments, demands for his resignation from the Security Committees and then followed up by the accusations that his office had spread the rumours of his resignation so as to manipulate the financial markets. What do you think is behind the campaign?
WDK I would say in the first place one must remember that it's a fact that the relationship between FW and Nelson Mandela is not that good. That's a fact. And there are a lot of causes for this, more personal things, personal chemistry, etc., etc., but one problem is that according to my sources, Mandela wants FW to be like Thabo Mbeki, absolutely loyal as part of the government of national unity. FW's viewpoint is, when I am in Cabinet as a Cabinet minister sitting in the meeting I try my utmost best to help the whole Cabinet as a body to find solutions and compromises and new directions of policies, etc., etc., but when I'm out of the Cabinet I am still the leader of the main opposition. And it seems to me that that kind of double role of F W de Klerk is not really understood by Mandela. Understood, yes, but he doesn't accept that kind of thing. I doubt for no moment that FW is double-faced, that he will say one thing in Cabinet and another thing in public, he is too cautious for that and he is too good a politician for that. With his Cabinet Minister hat on I would say, yes, he will give some arguments and so on but without the Cabinet Minister's hat in public he will say, well the ANC must bring more houses and this and that, so it's a problem of his double role and that's one of the main factors of the tense relationship. That's kind of a background.
Then I would say, yes, this is definitely part of electioneering. That's why the ANC is so open-minded towards the Volksfront of Constand Viljoen because they know that Constand Viljoen will hurt the National Party in the municipal elections and they know that there is a very, very tense situation within the Nationalist Party, let's say 'the right wing' of the Nationalist Party is also gunning for FW, so if they can kill FW and give the appearance that they are more open-minded towards the more conservative Afrikaner sentiments then via that they will kill the Nationalist Party, they will force a kind of a, I don't say it will be successful, a kind of a schism within the Nationalist Party. That's my second answer on your question and my third one is that, and this is quite honest, that there is not really, F W de Klerk, forget my relationship with him, he is one of the very few people in the Nationalist Party with leadership in him. If you kill him there is nothing left. Roelf, yes, I like Roelf very much but there is really in the top twenty of National Party leaders not somebody outstanding in leadership, so to kill him, to throw him to the wolves of his own party and playing footsie-footsie with Constand Viljoen and the right wing of the Nationalist Party that's a political strategy.
POM Do you think part of it too is that in attacking him personally and putting him into a position of having to respond, they are reducing him to being a politician whereas Mandela can still stand above the fray, kind of it emphasises that in the end he is a statesman and in the end FW is a politician who gets into the brawls of party politics?
WDK Yes, exactly, I agree, exactly that's the situation. I know that there was a lobby with FW that he must withdraw from being drawn into party political situations and play the same role as Mandela and he, and that's out of his own mouth, he said, "Well I would like to do that but there is nobody in my party that can fight as efficiently as I can fight in the situation now." So that's definitely, there's another reason, the Nationalist Party are very, very focused on black support and for some reason, I can't understand why, for some reason the bush telegrams say that there are more and more black people who are going to support the Nationalist Party in the municipal elections. So that's from the other point of view, the Nationalist Party all of a sudden is very geared and motivated to go for the ANC in the hope that they will attract a lot of ANC support, not meaningful support, I don't think that they will gain a lot, but they seem to believe that there is a gap in the power base of the ANC that they can attract if they play the strong man and be very critical during this electioneering period.
POM Now there was this now quite famous incident of the street argument between F W de Klerk and President Mandela and I've two questions. One is, I was more than surprised I think, personally, by FW's response to what Mandela said. I would have thought it kind of self obvious that the level of crime was a legacy of apartheid and that Mandela wasn't pointing at any particular individual, he was just stating what would seem to me to be a self obvious fact. I was surprised at the degree of umbrage that FW took. That's one, why did he take it so personally?
WDK Are you sure, I can't remember now, but are you sure that Mandela didn't point a finger specifically to him and say that's F W de Klerk's - I think, I'm not sure now, all of a sudden I can't remember, but my impression is never mind that, that apart from technical things that Mandela asked to see him and he didn't go and see Mandela after that meeting and so on, I think that FW was in the wrong there. I really think that and I really think that somewhere he says he was misquoted, that was the Mac Maharaj case where he said, "Well if it was possible for me to keep on with the old regime for the next five or six years, I would simply call the army in". Well perhaps it was a little bit misquoted, out of context, but I also think that was an unlucky kind of a formulation of FW. So in this instance I think he is a little bit teasing them, yes he's very aggressive in comparison with let's say a few months ago and I think that's part of his electioneering and that's also part of his feeling that his contributions, because he assured me and people near to him that within Cabinet and within Cabinet committees and within one to one discussions with minister A or B or C or D that his contributions are really very formidable and very necessary. And he feels that he doesn't get the recognition for that and that they don't - he wants to play the role as partner and opposition. They want him to be only a partner and finish them, like Roelf Meyer, Roelf Meyer's accent is on the partnership aspect of the ANC, and they will accept that then. But if he plays the role of opposition then they find it unacceptable. Do I make myself clear?
POM Yes because I think you are getting to the heart of the matter when you say FW has to wear two hats. The one hat is as a member of the government of national unity and a member of the Cabinet and part of the decision making body for the country and on the other hand he is the leader of the major party that would be an effective opposition to the policies of the ANC.
WDK And he must fight for the survival of the National Party from his point of view because within the party there is a rejection of, not so much his person, but of his leadership, a rejection of - with words like, "You're too friendly with the ANC, you're going to bed with the ANC, you're playing a double role", that's also in his party. So he is somewhere between these two forces.
POM That's called between a rock and a hard place.
WDK Yes I think so. That's to a certain extent his problem and the election campaign is his driving force now but I am sure, and that's also according to sources, ANC sources, my sources, that, well, we must accept this, let's get the 1 November over and then things will return to kind of a normal stabilised relationship within the government of national unity.
POM But when he sought a meeting with President Mandela to talk about deep political differences between them, do you know what specifically he was referring to in terms of what those differences were or are?
WDK It's a little bit of guesswork here but I think it's the question of federation, that's number one. Number two I think is the way to handle Buthelezi. I think FW is more inclined to say that we can find a compromise with Buthelezi if ... and Mandela is very uncompromising on that. I think that's the second issue. A third issue is this whole question of being simultaneously opposition and a partner. I would say that's the three main issues if I guess. I don't think that there's a fundamental difference between them regarding major policy issues on specifically the economy of the country and that kind of thing. Perhaps also to a certain extent the perception that minority rights are a little bit roughly handled at this moment in time, but that's a perception, I don't think that you can prove that, but that's a perception that there's a mood within the ANC, a mood of take-over, a mood of 'let the majority rule', and 'we're fed up with this kind of coalition concept', and 'we want the final decisions', and so on. I think there is also tension building up in that regard especially also in education, education policies and so on and language issues, the issue of Afrikaans. I think that's more or less, but I don't think it's really fundamental differences between them.
And you can see his rhetoric, even in his electioneering he's hammering on crime, he's hammering on the work force, the strikes, he's hammering on the affirmative action that's created a less efficient public service. That's more or less FW's three themes. It's not really fundamental. He tried his utmost best to say well there are fundamental differences between us but in reality that's still my point of view that the ANC, what I call, it's my way of putting this, the realistic factor within the ANC, the pragmatic factor, the level headed factor, the leadership of the ANC, not only referring to Mandela but to the top leadership, that there's really no real fundamental difference between their outlook on the major issues in South Africa and the Nationalist Party's outlook, the more enlightened part of the Nationalist Party. You didn't ask me this question but I want to go on here, that's why FW is rejecting the pressure that there must be a kind of a new opposition alliance against the ANC. DP, Inkatha, National Party and whatever all these little parties, must form a kind of an alliance against the ANC and he is quoted to say, "You can't only form an alliance of being against something, you form an alliance on principles, political principles". But then he didn't want to admit within the political situation that there is a lot of, a majority of political principles within the ANC and the National Party that are intertwined.
POM You talked a little bit earlier about dissatisfaction within some elements of the Nationalist Party with FW's leadership and there being factions within the NP itself, like there was that famous, or at least I heard stories, about the famous almost shouting match between Roelf Meyer and Hernus Kriel, and Kriel seems to be taking an increasingly independent line. Yesterday I think he was quoted in The Citizen. It quotes Kriel as saying that from now on the National Party would change it's role in the government of national unity and adopt a more hard-line opposition role. He said that although the party would remain in the government of national unity it would stop assisting the ANC in governing crises. Now it would seem to me that assisting the ANC or whatever in governing crises, that's the essence of a government of national unity, where you come together.
WDK Well I would say those words that you are quoting now, that's the typical problem. There is, I won't say the majority of members of parliament within the National Party, but there is this mood within the parliamentary caucus and on grassroots level that the Nationalist Party must be seen to be more of a strong, aggressive, rejecting opposition. And against that is the mood, we must move together with the ANC assisting them, influencing them, help them in crisis management, so to say, because somewhere in future, in the next five years or so there will be a new political party dispensation in South Africa and we need each other. FW is in this second camp, but the forces of this verkrampte camp on him now and the pressure on him is very strong. So he is playing a little bit around now as a typical politician. I can't think he can afford now to be absolutely outspoken on this whole issue of opposition and partner and he plays the opposition role very strong with the eye on the election.
POM Do you think at the National Party because of this tension between trying to play these two roles and the not yet being able to find a point of equilibrium between the two, that the National Party is in danger perhaps of losing it's identity or has it lost it's identity and hasn't yet found a new political identity?
WDK That's the problem with the Nationalist Party. I really think that that's the problem of identity and, I want to refer back to a few sentences ago, in essence there are not that deep differences between ANC and Nationalist Party, so where must they find their new identity? That's a problem, that's a problem and so they are playing butter and bread politics but they are in an identity crisis definitely. I think even to a certain extent F W de Klerk too, he's in different moods as I can read him in the papers and so on, and I know him well. There is no vision within the Nationalist Party, no really impressive vision of developments in the future and that's the problem, that's the identity problem. But the problem is if they must formulate that vision it's more or less the same vision as that of the ANC. And to a certain extent that's a very good development. I'm very happy about this. I still believe that there will be a schism within the ANC somewhere in the year 2000 and then there will be a new political ... .
POM That's between the realists and the populists?
WDK Between the realists and the populists. That will be the schism and the Nationalist Party, the FW accent of the Nationalist Party, the more enlightened, the Roelf Meyers and their power bases, will be very well positioned for an alliance with this new ANC as opposed to the more populist alliance. And then there will be a third grouping of radicals, white radicals in Constand Viljoen's party and the old CP and the Hernus Kriel's perhaps. So the problem at this moment is politics within the white community. There are division lines within the white community that are very, very deep and the part of the white community is inclined, and I am also a spokesperson for that kind of intonation, is, yes you must be critical towards the ANC, it's a democracy, you must hit them and hit them very hard where it's necessary but there must be this kind of understanding that we're together, must build this new state, and it's going to take another ten years to establish it.
So I am part of that accent and I still believe that the National Party gradually will be more and more converted, the Kriel section, I'm not referring to personalities now, will become more and more relaxed about and used to the perspective that we must be partners in opposition of the ANC and not aggressive. The time for aggressive opposition, party political opposition, I think there is no time for that in South Africa. I would say that in future political opposition, the old traditional political party within parliament is not going to play a very substantial role. The new opposition forces will be institutionalised opposition. The business sector in South Africa, that's one institution of partnership in opposition but opposition towards the ANC regarding certain things of the economy and the NGOs they are going to play an opposition role and other pressure groups, let's say a pressure group for the Afrikaans language will play a decisive role as opposition regarding this and this issue.
POM Do you think the labour movement is going through a similar crisis of identity as to what precisely it's role is? You had this extraordinary case in Gauteng of the ANC calling in COSATU saying some of your members are behind these municipal strikes and you are undermining us in the local elections and you must cut it out. You've got the whole question of wage restraint. Every report that talks about the uncompetitiveness of the South African economy talks about the need for wage restraint and that the unit cost is higher than other countries at a similar level of development and you've got to either increase your rate of productivity very quickly or else you've got to bring in ...
WDK Well I think that whole debate is also going on within the labour movement at this moment in time and there are also two factions there. One faction, let's call it again for lack of a better word, a more realistic faction with the argument that we must be part of building the economy of this country and we must be part of the solution, we must help the ANC in major objectives of policy making and of vision, and there's the other grouping that's more radical and still busy with the struggle mentality. So there's also a strong argument within their ranks. I see this schism not as labour movement/ANC, I see that it will run right through the ANC and right through the labour movement to form a new kind of a radical grouping with more focus on typical centralised, African style of government and the more realistic grouping that there will also be some of the labour union movements there in a more kind of a social democracy. I don't think that we will develop, gradually perhaps, in the true sense of the word, in a liberal democracy. I think it will be something of a social democracy and I don't think that it will be a federal democracy, a decentralised democracy, but I don't think that the argument for the classical federation will be settled before 1999. It may be a further development in South Africa that the concepts of classical federation may develop gradually during the next ten years, but the final constitution will still be in the category of federalism but really a very weak kind of federalism.
POM To backtrack one bit regarding the reports of the rumours that supposedly emanated from FW's office that he was going to resign from the government and the ANC saying that this was done in order to destabilise the financial markets, and indeed the long term bonds did fall and there were jitters in the market. It seemed to me that if the ANC had been clever they would have kept their mouth shut, because the very fact that they said these things happen when the rumour came out proved the point that if FW were to resign from the government that indeed it would have a repercussion in the financial markets and on foreign investment and that indeed they are needed. When Mandela says "We do need each other", that's precisely the sense in which he ...
WDK Yes, that was Mandela's response on Maharaj's attack. It was in the papers, you have seen that. He immediately said that the government of national unity is working very well and everything goes well and we mustn't upset the whole thing. It was more or less in that kind of framework, his comments. Anything is possible in politics but knowing FW I don't think that's his style to pull this kind of trick. I don't believe that and, as you say, the ANC's comment, it's trying to politicise the whole issue. And that's another thing, FW's image in the world markets is really, I think, very strong. There are individuals within the ANC who don't like this, so if they can break him down here, as you've said, as a mere politician, as an opportunist, as playing around with things, they hope that that will also have an influence on his image abroad because it's an irritating factor for them that they - I can understand that they haven't built enough confidence yet in international markets, that the international world more or less says, "We trust all the developments in South Africa but then in a kind of coalition situation, we want the business sector and we want the FW's and so on to be involved in the developments", and they say this openly some of them. I think it's irritating the ANC to a certain extent.
POM The Business Day ran a funny kind of editorial on the 16th, that was Monday, they called it 'The FW Factor', and part of it said, "True the NP is in a bind. If De Klerk wishes to head a Security Cabinet Committee it is invidious of him to make government's failure to deal effectively with crime a central part of the NP's election campaign." That's one. Two, "But ultimately the NP needs or wants the coalition more than the ANC does. Were the NP to withdraw in pique there would be some shock waves but these would settle and life would go on. The difference would be that the NP would be out of government and those enjoying the perks of high office would lose them". And its third point is that, "Our democracy is not nearly as fragile as it was in the early days. Solutions to its not insubstantial problems depend on factors far more profound than the continued existence of the government of national unity."
WDK Yes. Well to a certain extent I agree with this, that was more or less my argument during our interview, that the NP also needs this coalition concept, not the perks in high office, I don't think that's really an argument, but because to be out of government will be in the South African situation out in the wilderness without any impact any more because it's so small a minority representing 18% - 20% of the total vote. OK it's a very influential 20% more or less, 10% of the 20%. I think the representation of the National Party over the country in the municipal elections they will fall, that's guesswork, from a 20% representation to more or less 13% representation, so they also need the coalition concept to have influence and with the eye on future developments, this new kind of alliance formation in the year 2000. To that extent I agree with that but I also agree to the fact that, yes, if they withdraw from the government of national unity things will stabilise again because there is a growing kind of acceptance of the fact that the ANC leadership is capable of running the country and that FW and his squad is not really that important. This perception is growing also abroad. So I would say, yes, I think that it's absolutely of the essence that they must hold on to being part of the government of national unity.
POM Let me turn to something else and this is the Truth Commission and what lies ahead in that regard. Now one of the people that I have been interviewing since 1990, in fact two of them, one is Colonel Louis Botha and the other is Themba Khoza, and Colonel Botha was, you remember, the middle man in Inkathagate, he was the person who passed on the money to the IFP and at one of our interviews he said to me, "Off the record, I can't talk about Inkathagate", he said "I can't talk about that but", he said, "I can tell you one thing. I have never ever done a single thing in my professional life without the complete approval of my superiors, that's all I'll say about it." Then he gets transferred to Port Elizabeth and we used to have conversations and he still thought the ANC were up to their old subversive tricks and then they become the government and he says, "Now I serve a new government". And he got into community policing and in Port Elizabeth became known to ANC activists as one of the best policemen to deal with in terms of developing structures for community policing. And then he's arrested and charged with participation in murders in KwaZulu/Natal in 1988. I spoke to him and am going to see him in a couple of weeks and he says, "I'll talk about the case. I've nothing to hide. I'm innocent, but I will name names." He says, "I have no intention of being a scapegoat. I have never done anything without approval from above and I will name the people who gave me orders and when I carried them out." This goes back to when Johan van der Merwe was the Police Commissioner, he hinted at the same thing, that policemen are not going to take the rap for the politicians, they are going to name names. What kind of a political predicament does this pose, one, for the National Party and two, for the stability of the emerging democracy itself?
WDK Yes, that's a worrying factor, the whole Truth Commission. My intuition tells me that there will be a lot of high profile names on the table, politicians, but I don't think, I'm sure about that, but I don't think FW will be on the table because I don't think that he was part and parcel of the dirty tricks regime. It will be the old Security Council, it will be Malan and Vlok and other ex-ministers. Yes, I think that's inevitable that this will happen and the impact on the stability of the country and the new democracy, I don't think that it will disturb it to a worrying degree. There will be turbulences within the white community and the Volksfront community and the verkrampte National Party, the Kriels and so on, but that's the exercise that we must go through. So, yes, there will be people involved but I think that this won't cause a major eruption in the country, a little bit of turbulence. But if there's proof that Vlok you gave this and this and this order and Malan and so on and this Chief General and that and that and that, we must go through that.
POM But you don't think there would be a strong temptation on their part to say, "Well if I'm going down the drain I'm going to take others with me"?
WDK You mean the Vloks and the Malans?
POM Yes, so they would say let's just point a finger at FW too, let's just smear him, damn it, he dropped us when he found it convenient to do so, so let's damn him back?
WDK Again, everything is possible in politics. So, yes, that's possible, that can be a very uncomfortable phase in our development but I believe that the rationality of the ANC leadership, the international pressures, the acceptance of the fact that our future depends on co-operation, that this will win the argument at the end of the day, also in the Truth Commission, but that this must be exposed, I think that's essential.
POM Before there can be true reconciliation you have to go through this exercise painful as it is, it's necessary.
WDK Yes it's necessary. But that's also a little bit of - on the other hand as you say of this Colonel Botha, there are a lot of policemen trying to turn pressure on with these kind of wild statements that we've got proof that it was people in higher positions who were responsible for what we did. And I don't think it will be very easy for them to prove, it's not always that easy. Knowing politicians, Malan would never say 'Kill A, B, C.' He would say, "Well you are responsible people, you know what's the best for the country." He wouldn't be pin-pointed to say, "Well there's your signature to kill this and this and do this and this". So politicians are very cautious to put something on paper, so that's not going to be easy to prove.
POM Somebody gave me a very good example of that and it was the example of Henry VII saying about Thomas More, "Who will rid me of this tiresome man?" Well, who interpreted that and in what way did they interpret it?
WDK You see exactly that, exactly that kind of ...
POM He didn't say, "Go out and get him", he just said, "What do you mean by who will rid me of him?"
WDK Well l would say that illustrates exactly my point. I think the Truth Commission will concentrate on real issues that they can take to court, this kind of de Kock thing and third force activities and that kind of thing. I think that will be the focus of the Truth Commission. They will try to identify some of the real violent things that happened and if they identify them they will be tried in court. That's the one part and I think that will be their focus. The other will be just to expose certain politicians and certain structures in the era of apartheid, but then to say OK we've exposed you, let's forget it. I think that's not the atmosphere of the grassroots. You see that's another problem, what's the influence of the leadership on the grassroots, who's going to influence who? That the whole tension situation - there is also an atmosphere at grassroots level for revenge. That's true, and Mandela and company, Mbeki, even Ramaphosa, etc., are trying to calm down the people. But I am fairly realistic/optimistic about the whole Truth Commission. I'm not worried that it will develop into a real witch hunt, but I think we must expect shocking evidence that will be exposed by the Truth Commission.
POM Involving prominent politicians.
WDK Involving prominent politicians.
POM If they are in public life at the time those disclosures are made, should they at least be required to stand down from their positions?
WDK I think so, I think so.
POM Even if they are not prosecuted?
WDK Yes I think so. I think that will be the best way to do it, and I think the Truth Commission will enforce this, that you can't be in a public position any more with this record exposed here. I'm a little bit worried about the people who are going to be the members of the Truth Commission. I've read all the names and I don't know three quarters of the names, it's only names for me. But I know Minister Kader Asmal once me that it must be like a jury, the common man must be there. I would like that people of real human rights background and legal background must be members of that commission and it seems to me that it's here and there high profile people but not really well-equipped to function as a kind of a court. So I'm worried about who is going to be on this commission.
POM Of course, that will determine whether it will be drawn up impartially or whether it will have built-in biases from the beginning.
WDK Yes, that's the worrying factor. I have even been asked to be a candidate for the Truth Commission. I said no. Perhaps FW is somewhere on the table and I don't want to be involved in that. On the other hand I feel I'm not equipped to do that. I think people on that commission must be really people with a very strong law background and very professional and very well educated in human rights and that whole world. So I don't want to see it as a kind of a jury system of a few people chosen more or less at random, then they will be objective hearing it with new ears and seeing it with new eyes. I know that there's an argument going and there's pressure on Mandela to really see to it that this commission will be an influential kind of a judicial commission more than a commission of prominent personalities.
POM All in all after 18 months do you think the country is moving in the right direction? Are you optimistic about the way things are going?
WDK Yes. I am very optimistic. I think in major policies, in major developments, in the Constitutional Assembly where the new constitution is in the making, everything is, in my opinion, still very, very positive. We are still working with values of democracy, of transparency to a certain extent. Of course nothing can always be transparent to the full. There is still a culture of tolerance and nation building and negotiation to find solutions via compromises. That's still the atmosphere of our politics. I think there was a dip during 1995. There was a little bit of a perception of chaos with all the affirmative action things and hiring and firing policies and certain statements of ministers and kite flying and so on, so there was a little bit of shakiness within the system for 1995 but I am sure that after the election everything will stabilise and that we will find a new period of growth in 1996 to 1997. I think they are going to be two very wonderful years from the economic point of view and the political process point of view, 1996 and 1997.
POM You had, I don't know whether you know him, Prof. Fanie Cloete, he's at Stellenbosch?
WDK Fanie Cloete, oh yes, he's a very capable man yes.
POM Well he talks here about the virtue of collapse, this was in October, of the public sector. He says, "South Africa's public service was experiencing the gravest crisis in its existence and a compromise would have to be struck between demands for accelerated change and government's incapacity to effect those changes." Then he goes on, "In some cases as many as 50% or more of approved posts in various departments, including key decision making positions, have been vacant for months with the prospect of recruiting experienced bureaucrats extremely thin." He said, "A highly skilled professional staff in particular, or for various other reasons, are thinking of leaving the proverbial sinking ship. These reasons include low morale, more competitive service conditions and a belief that positions could be insecure as a result of affirmative action. The process of replacing lost expertise was mired in red tape with a preference for centralised control of governance transformation causing bottlenecks. For example, many of the 11,000 positions advertised about a year ago were still vacant."
WDK That's part of what I call the 1995 syndrome of chaos and collapse, but I am sure that this will be rectified during the developments after the municipal elections during 1996, 1997. But I think that the affirmative action project regarding the public service was a little bit too, the ANC wasn't cautious enough, it was too much of a hire and fire thing to show something. They must also show to their people in the municipal elections, can you see what we achieved? And they haven't achieved really on grassroots level, housing, electricity, etc., etc., that much, so one of their propaganda slogans will be that we've absolutely transformed the public service and we've transformed the SABC. That's going to be two of their showpieces and the driving forces behind this takeover mentality. That's a worrying factor but I think it will balance itself out because they will see that they need a more efficient civil service and they will stabilise the civil service and via education programmes and things like you're going to do I think that gradually the civil service will pick up again to a body of really high capabilities and functions.
POM Do you not think, this struck me as a kind of anomaly, that it is generally conceded that local government when it comes into being will be the weakest tier of government, that the cream of the talent went into the central government and the residual into provincial government and that many of the candidates for local councils are really not that well equipped in terms of governance skills, that a lot of the local administrators are leaving for one reason or another and that there will be an absence of skill and it will take some time to get these structures moving. Yet at the same time the government has said that local government is going to be the primary vehicle for the delivery of the RDP. Isn't it a kind of a paradox that you're saying the most important thing in our national agenda is the implementation of the RDP and we're going to entrust it's implementation to the weakest branch of government?
WDK Yes, I think that they will sort that out because I really expect that we're going to have very weak local governments from the administrative point of view because there will be a majority of inexperienced people, that's true. But they need the culture of indaba, the culture of getting to the grassroots and consult with the people on the ground. They need that specifically for the RDP's community projects and they will use these local governments as vehicles not to be vehicles to consult but not to administer the implementation of a specific RDP project in a specific town or region. They will use specialists for that. I am also very optimistic about our RDP. I think things are going gradually in the right direction. The first year was a year of planning and there were a lot of problems there but I think that we will create the money.
POM Sorry, Professor, you were saying?
WDK I just want to read this. Here I say, "Everyone in the country regards the RDP as the highest priority. The RDP's dilemma is inexperienced public servants, programmes that are not tried and tested, provincial and local authorities which are not yet established, the economy cannot support the RDP adequately and the high expectations and demands of local communities. According to Naidoo the government says that the RDP will be judged on where we take South Africa 25 years from now. However, he adds that the fact that the RDP is designed as an integrated long term development programme rather than a rapid delivery programme is a double edged sword. To be sustainable RDP projects must include community involvement, job creation, provision of education and training and it has recently been announced that 614 RDP projects amounting to R752 million and which will improve the lives of 3,6 million people are currently taking effect for the next year." So I think it's slow movement and my feeling is that even if they can deliver year by year 5% to 10% of RDP projects that it will be accepted by the masses that this is a process of decades.
POM But do you find it slightly ironic that Naidoo talks about the RDP in terms of it being a long term plan yet as I read, I think, in the newspapers about the 614 projects that were targeted for 3.6 million people, these were kind of quick fix. Is this a little bit of electioneering here too?
WDK I think that's also part of electioneering, yes. But the RDP is two-pronged, it has two legs, the one is a long term project and the other is to deliver on essentials, water, electrification, upgrading of certain areas, squatter areas and that kind of thing. The RDP will focus on that to a lesser extent, I think, and on building out of small business projects and that kind of thing, that will be the major accent. So I think the people that will really gain from the RDP in the long run will not be the poorest of the poor, they will gain, yes, a little bit better housing and electricity and better roads and so on but the lower middle class black person will gain from the RDP more than the poorest of the poor in the long run.
POM Is it still mired in a lot of administrative red tape? You had Jacob Zuma last week, I think in the KwaZulu Legislature, explaining why they hadn't spent their allocation of RDP funds and he was making the point that for many projects the line department has to submit a business plan but then the line department for all other provinces have also got to submit business plans and then those nine plans are integrated into one overall business plan but if the ninth province doesn't deliver its business plan everything gets held up.
WDK It's a question of administrative incompetence I think to a great extent. There are problems, yes, I don't want to ignore the problems and there's a lot of red tape but I think more and more - there was somewhere an opinion poll that the ordinary man in the street accepts the fact that the RDP will be a long term development plan and not a quick delivery and people saying that there's something of a revolution within the masses on ground level and on grassroots level, that they see nothing of the RDP, that polls show, and it was by Markinor I think, that the majority of black urban and rural people accept the fact that the RDP is a long term project. I'm very optimistic about the RDP.
POM On two fronts that were the major fronts, if you like, in terms of the economy and in terms of promises, housing and employment, after 18 months there has been virtually, certainly on employment, nothing and on housing it has again got mired down in red tape that it looks as though it's more difficult to get off the ground now than it was a year ago.
WDK Again I think administrative incompetence, I think that's the reason. The planning phase takes too long and the deliverance, that's the reason why they can't deliver there and that's the indaba culture and I really think that there is an awareness within the ANC that this going back to the people and reporting back and your people must have an input in decision making, there is also a tendency within ANC leadership on provincial and national level that they can't go via that route that takes too long, this kind of democracy, concept of democracy that you must always go back to the people on the grassroots level, they must approve everything. They must find another way, you can't do it like that.
POM If you were advising the ANC as the dominant partner in government, what should it be doing differently than it's doing now?
WDK Well I don't want to prioritise things but I would say, that's definitely not the most important one first, they must be very careful not to give the impression that they don't function within the constitution. There is also this kind of impression that the constitution is not really that important for them and that the majority principle to overrule things, even the constitution, that's one red light I see. There's a growing fear and a scepticism in South Africa in certain circles that the ANC won't honour even the Constitutional Court. They will hire and fire judges in future. I'm talking now of medium term and not short term. That's one thing, their sympathy for the problems and fears of minorities. Mandela is very sympathetic and understanding but there is certain rhetoric within the ANC that is very frightening for minorities and I'm not talking of white minorities now only but also of black minorities. That's the second thing.
The third thing I think they must focus more on is efficient administration, absolute efficient administration. They must reshuffle the Cabinet I think, that was the first try and already you can identify the successful ministers and the ministers that are absolutely a failure from A to Z, so they must reshuffle the Cabinet. There are people out there in ANC circles that are very competent and they must be drawn into higher positions of decision making and higher positions of administrative leadership. That's four things more or less that I would say. Be careful not to frighten the country that they don't honour the constitution and their concept of democracy, see to it that the whole administration efficiency will be upgraded, reshuffle Cabinet and be cautious that they don't give the impression that it's a total takeover of power and that they are not really that sensitive towards the diversity of South Africa, the cultures, the ethnic and cultural diversities.
POM Do you think part of that attitude emanates from their own, I won't say belief, but their - let's just say belief although it's not the right word, for want of a better word, that they won as distinct from no they didn't win, what emerged was the process of negotiated settlement between all sides? It's not as though they won a revolutionary victory and overthrew the government and imposed, were in a position to have their own way.
WDK Well that's the majority principle, that's part of democracy the majority principle and the minority principle. Democracy is built on the two pillars. But the majority emotions, we are the people, we are in power, we want it our way, and the revolution is not completed and we're still in the struggle and in Kempton Park with the negotiations for the interim constitution we made compromises that were not necessary and we're not in a compromising mood any more. That's an accent within the ANC's lower echelons and here and there individuals in high places. But I would say that the majority of the leadership corps will not argue like that, but there is pressure from their grassroots for a total takeover, of a typical African style after revolution government. There is this pressure and it all depends whether the ANC will handle these issues with their own power base and I believe, but this is only a belief, a hope that they will handle this. I believe that Thabo and Cyril and the Kader Asmal's and other personalities also on provincial level, are well balanced enough to know that this can be a serious problem for the next growing phase of our democracy if this kind of mentality of a total takeover and to hell with the rest, if this is going to be the perception also internationally and in South Africa.
POM I always forget to ask this question of people, so it's popped into my head and I will ask it now. It seems to me that one of the great resources of the country in terms of expertise, skill, administrative capacity and professionalism is the army, yet you've an expensive army sitting out there engaging in nothing but war games there being no enemy on the horizon, when its skills could be used in health care, which they were during the nurses' strike, but they could be used for engineering projects, they could be used in construction, they could be used in many multi-faceted ways and they are just an idle resource sitting there in their barracks costing the state a lot of money and really contributing nothing back. Why are they not used in this kind of way?
WDK I can't answer you on that, I'm not informed on that but it's a very, very good point you have. The army is a very well organised institution and even this General Meiring now there is a very positive attitude of all the ANC people, from grassroots level to the leaders regarding Meiring. So I believe that we've got a resource there but why we don't use that, I haven't thought of that, that's a new one that you're giving me, a new question. Perhaps it can be a next theme for me to exploit.
POM Thank you for all the time by the way, your volume is going to be a long volume. On his 500th day in office President Mandela gave an interview to The Star and I'll quote. It says here, "He blames the media for the impression that most of his attention was given to whites, saying white editors and owners glossed over his work for the majority and focused on gestures towards conservative whites." Do you think that's a fair criticism on his part?
WDK Just read that quote again.
POM "That he blamed the media for the impression that most of his attention was given to whites, saying white editors and owners glossed over his work for the majority and focused only on gestures towards conservative whites."
WDK I think that response was, if I understand that quote right, that there is still criticism in the ANC that Mandela is too accommodating towards the white population. There is that criticism definitely and I believe that it's a very honest thing. He is also a politician, he's not a god and a holy person. But I think it's a very honest motivation of Mandela. He knows that the success will be that white and black must be part of the solution and that he must keep them with each other in a positive way, if I understand that quote correctly. Secondly, there is mention of the media. The media is very worried about ANC policies in the future regarding the media. Thabo Mbeki, as you know, is on record criticising the media. There is this new committee that will be constituted within the next few weeks to formulate a communications policy for the government and that will be put to Cabinet and they will work on it as kind of a white paper. There's a lot of pressure that the white interests within the communications world and the media world that black empowerment must also be there, must also be seen in the media world and there's resistance from the media groups on this. So that's going to be a very tough discussion in future.
POM He goes on to say, this is Mandela, he says, "One must take into account that the media is controlled by whites and the element of racism is still there."
WDK That's a mood within the ANC. I don't know whether it's Mandela's real opinion.
POM These are his own words whether he believes it or not.
WDK I don't know whether he believes it or not but, yes, that's a mood, I want to call it a mood and a pressure group within the ANC that they are not satisfied with the white controlled media regarding comments and news reporting on ANC events, ANC policies, that there's too much, a kind of a critical attitude of white owned press in South Africa and they want to be, that's part of the black empowerment and affirmative action, that they want the break up of this kind of monopoly in the press. Well there's nothing wrong with it in principle but it's a kind of a hand-out attitude in this pressure group that Nasionale Pers that owns City Press, the black paper, must give the black paper to the black people and so on. So it's also a kind of a rigid affirmative action drive. They want ownership and majority say in the media world and in my opinion there is not really a democratic perspective of the ANC on the role of the media.
POM Do you think part of their complaint is that, as you said, the media are critical in many respects of the ANC policy and the like?
WDK Not so much policy but the administration of the policies.
POM Gravy trains and ...
WDK All those kinds of things, yes.
POM Are they suggesting in some way that the white controlled media are trying to say, there you are, blacks thought they could do it, they can't, we told you so beforehand, they are really just as inefficient as other African countries when it comes down to it and without us whites they would be lost.
WDK Well that's the suspicion within the ANC circles but I don't believe that there's any conspiracy in the media against the ANC, definitely not. I would say there are individual editors, Ken Owen for instance of the Sunday Times who is very, very outspoken. But take a paper like Beeld, the Afrikaans newspaper in Gauteng, I would say it's very sympathetic and very well balanced in its reporting regarding ANC matters. So that's a fight, that's something of the future. We've got, we, referring to me then, a more western orientated democratic point of view on the role of the media and they are typical of the so-called development model that the media is part of government to a certain extent to promote government for the reconstruction and development of the country, and that's a different concept of the role of the media. That's going to be a tough fight that lies ahead.
POM Just a couple of other things, I don't want to take up your whole day. About the strikes in the public sector, the unions that are emerging are not even the established unions, they are more ad hoc groups whether it's nurses, teachers or whatever and even today the taxi cabs blockade of the airport again, over the last year you have had a spate of hostage taking which suggests a lack of social cohesion. Is this just part of the normal process of transition or does it pose real questions about the attitudes people have been imbued with in the past, i.e. the struggle attitude, the resistance attitude, the don't pay attitude, the entitlement attitude, which cannot easily be gotten rid of and which may pose a serious longer term problem?
WDK Yes, but I think that's part of the transition. They are still in the framework of the typical methods that they used to break down apartheid and if they don't agree with anything it's to toyi-toyi and it's all the strikes and things and the not paying culture and that kind of thing. I think this will gradually change within the next two to three years. The new labour legislation, I'm not a guru on labour legislation but according to newspaper reports and labour analysts, is a very good piece of resolving problems in the workplace, it's a very good piece of legislation. It's still very union friendly to a certain extent but the government will be forced either with more legislation or via accords with the labour movement and negotiations, but they will be forced, this is their main problem, so I think that they are also very worried about this and to a certain extent the last six months the whole labour world erupted in disagreement. I think that was orchestrated to a certain extent as a kind of demonstration of the power of the people and we want it now and we want more pay now and we want RDP now to be implemented when there are no changes to be seen. That was, I think, orchestrated to a certain extent by certain individuals within the labour movement. But the official labour unions, I think there is a more mature and more holistic perspective in the labour movement that to benefit their members the economy must grow and for the economy to grow there must be in South Africa stability before the international world will come with capital inflow and long term and medium term capital inflow in South Africa, not only short term capital inflow. I think that development in the thinking of the labour unions is on its way. That's from their part. From the government's part I think there will be even stronger legislation regarding these kind of things and a more aggressive approach, let's say as from next year, to strikes and labour unrest.
POM There is also a certain irony that the sectors that have gone on strike now are the very sectors that were the quietest and most quiescent under the apartheid government and never went out on strike or made any demands at all, so in a way they were not part of the struggle.
WDK Yes they want to show their discontent now, yes. But there is something going on, I've got an article from the newspaper somewhere there that there's an initiative to try via NEDLAC to formulate accord between labour movements, government and business, a code of ethics, etc., etc., etc., and there is high powered negotiation of all the players in this field regarding that now. So, again, that's typical of the South African political process luckily, and that's the positive thing, things erupt and things look like chaos and then we muddle through for a while and then we find solutions via compromises. That's our style.
POM Apply that to KwaZulu/Natal.
WDK That's the Achilles heel of the whole situation. What's going on there, as you know, you're better informed than I am on that, it's Zulu ethnicity and nationalism, it's a power struggle of the ANC and Inkatha, it's wild threats under the disguise of fighting for federalism but moving in the direction of secession and that is our major problem in the political process I would say. I would say that's problem number one and, I've referred to that earlier, there are these two attitudes, there's an attitude in circles of the ANC too that you can still find a solution with a great extent of compromise and negotiation, but there is another attitude that - to hell with them, we're going to fight them to the end. And unfortunately, according to my information, Mandela is of the attitude that I'm not going to compromise with them, I will break them.
POM That's un-Mandelalike.
WDK That's un-Mandelalike yes, but that's, according to my information, that Mbeki and De Klerk had a plan on the table, tested it out with Buthelezi to a certain extent and Mandela was just saying, "I'm not interested in that kind of thing". So there's also infighting behind closed doors in the ANC how to handle the Inkatha question. Now you've seen there are also problems within Inkatha, Buthelezi has handled it very quickly, but there's also a more moderate attitude growing within the Inkatha circles and I think that Frank Mdlalose is not strong enough a leader to handle this whole problem there, and the same goes for Jacob Zuma. I know Jacob Zuma and I know Mdlalose to a certain extent, they are find gentlemen, nice friends, but I don't think the quality of their leadership and their vision and their handling of the affairs there is very competent.
POM Now the IFP can stay out of the Constituent Assembly and you can have a draft constitution, you can have a constitution adopted by the Constituent Assembly with a two thirds majority, but if a significant number of people in a particular area of the country do not give allegiance to that constitution despite the fact that it has a two thirds majority, the whole process becomes flawed. You can't impose a constitution on people who are unwilling to accept it or give credence to it.
WDK That's the argument of this grouping that says we must find a compromise, we must negotiate further. But there is another interesting thing here that, according to my information, Buthelezi and Mandela if they meet they are really not sitting down and talking things out, it's kind of cosmetic meetings and it's from Mandela's side "And you're my friend", and from his side, "Madiba, Madiba" and so on but they are not really, the ANC leadership is not taking the KwaZulu/Natal problems seriously enough. They think they can overcome it via demonstration of power. So hopefully the lobby for let's negotiate and let's even call in some international people to help us, facilitators and so on, that that lobby will win the argument.
POM Now the National Party, or FW, was party to that agreement that there would be international mediation on outstanding issues and yet they have changed their mind.
WDK Yes on technical points and I think they have. Yes, it's a lot of technical points in general, this and that, I can't even understand those technical points. But I think, to be honest, I'm not sympathetic towards Inkatha or Buthelezi, but I think that they are in the wrong there, I think it was an unwise thing, an unwise decision not to call in the international mediators.
POM The international mediators could come in, sit down, put everyone around the table and after three hours or three days say, "There's nothing to mediate", and the other parties could say, "We have discharged our obligation, we brought in the mediators and they said there was nothing to mediate".
WDK I think that was a very bad decision and that was, according to my information, specifically Mandela's decision.
POM That's very interesting.
WDK Yes. Perhaps my information is wrong but that's my information.
POM I was talking to Joe Matthews yesterday and I was trying to draw a rough analogy saying that the ANC was getting a little bit more heavy handed in the government of national unity and was saying, we're going to push what we want through regardless of whether there is total consensus there or not, we're just going to get our agenda through, and that in KwaZulu/Natal the IFP were behaving more or less in the same way saying we're going to do things our way and we don't care what the opposition is, so that they were kind of mirror images in a certain way of each other. One, would you just comment on that. And then secondly he said in KwaZulu/Natal the only thing where the IFP have been railroading things through is on the constitution and that's because the law provides that they should have a provincial constitution in place by the end of the year, it's now nearly the end of October, that's simply not going to happen by the end of the year and that there's a game going on here and the game, he says or would say, is that the ANC are deliberately obstructing the passage of the provincial constitution because they don't want any province to have a provincial constitution, number one. There has been no movement in the provinces under their control to draw up constitutions. And number two, that they want to ensure that the draft of the final constitution is out before a provincial constitution is in place because once a provincial constitution is in place it would be very difficult for the final constitution then to override it in some way. So their tactic is obstruct and delay and let's get the final constitution.
WDK I'm not informed on this but that's my impression too. I really think that the ANC is playing politics of obstruction in Natal, definitely. But that's again a lack of provincial leadership. They are not clearing things out. Mdlalose is just, what Buthelezi says is OK, he doesn't even argue with him and the same goes to Jacob Zuma. So, yes, I would say there is obstruction but they have published their constitution now. Have you seen that?
POM I haven't seen it yet.
WDK It was in this morning's Afrikaans newspaper. I only read the Afrikaans newspaper this morning.
POM That's interesting.
WDK Just have a look at The Star perhaps this afternoon. Well it was a small report in the Beeld but again the accent is on own army, total control over their water resources, a Zulu kingdom, the premier of the province will be appointed by the Zulu King. So it's very secessionist.
POM Does it include the power of taxation?
WDK Power of taxation yes. So I think from Buthelezi's point of view that's also his style. He is asking for everything hoping that they will get then 70% of what he asked. He is also not an easy man to negotiate with. He's also not a man - he's changing attitudes frequently like this. So it's also a personality clash. It's a very complicated thing but the only solution is that from central government side with international facilitators, if you don't want to call it mediators, and with high ranking leaders of KwaZulu/Natal, ANC and Inkatha, must come together in a kind of a Kempton Park exercise for the next three to four weeks with a technical committee with them to help them with the technical aspects. So a kind of a mini negotiation process from the start. That's the argument of the people, the lobby that wants to further the cause of negotiation. So things are not sorted out there.
POM That you would see as the number one - I would not see there being long term investment in the country until the problem of KwaZulu/Natal becomes more ...
WDK That's my impression too. I was in New York a week ago, I arrived back on Sunday, I was there on a board meeting to present a few things on our politics, and my impression was, and it's high profile business people, that KwaZulu/Natal is number one in their mind as an obstacle and a fear that things will ...
WDK Yes unravel in South Africa, we won't be able to settle this whole thing and I think that hopefully, the ANC, will more, because they have got the power, not in KwaZulu/Natal but in the country, that they will be more and more inclined to make certain compromises and to give KwaZulu/Natal some federal powers that will be acceptable for Buthelezi and company.
POM Two last questions. One is on corruption. We hear a lot about the gravy train and the level of corruption. Is this some kind of bogey issue in the sense that given the extremely high level of corruption that existed in the National Party for forty years, is it not like a bit being holier than thou to start throwing stones at the ANC for being on a gravy train?
WDK Something of that, yes, something of that. Ha-ha you see, that's something of that, but corruption is a worrying factor, not within the ANC necessarily, but people in high offices be it white or black corruption is a problem in South Africa and that's of course a problem of Africa too. But the hopeful thing is that I think that the ANC is focused on the fact that they must absolutely fight corruption to the end, they must clean up everything, they are not lenient, they are doing their utmost best to expose corruption and hopefully during the process they will have success. But corruption is a worrying factor yes.
POM Is there a question that I haven't asked you that I should in this session? Can you think of anything?
WDK No, I think you've gone over a lot of things. But you say you've got a last question?
POM I thought I did. I have.
WDK I hope I was a little bit helpful.
POM You are always. You're a great interview. I told you I found that interviews fall into two categories. You ask somebody a question and they are immediately looking for "What's he trying to get out of me? What's he trying to trap me into saying?" Buthelezi is the classic example of somebody who is almost incredibly difficult to interview. He just does not answer a question and anything that deals - he will say, "I do not answer questions that deal with perceptions", but since life is all about perceptions how can you answer any question? And then there's the other, people who will take a question and go with it and they are the interesting people.
WDK Oh well, I hope everything will be OK. You can take this with you.
POM It's on the local elections. These are going to be some of the most complicated electoral procedures in any election held any place in the world. Do you think that the average man in the street understands how the voting system works?
WDK For this election?
POM For this election. Does he understand what local government is and what he or she should expect from it?
WDK I think they have tried their utmost best, the government, official government, to advertise and do election education on this but I don't think it was successful. I think there are a lot of misunderstandings and lack of knowledge of what local government is about. There are organisational problems, for instance, I'm an informed man, I don't know where to vote, I don't know who is the candidate in my ward, I don't know in what ward I am. It's really, it's going to be a chaotic election. I think the percentage of people who will vote will be very, very low and I expect that the National Party will do badly, the DP will do a little bit better especially in metropolitan areas, the Sandtons and the Houghtons of this world. In the platteland, the rural areas, I think there it will be more successful than in the metropolitan areas because it's little towns and there are six or seven wards in the towns and so on, but in metropolitan areas I think it's going to be chaos. But we must have this even if it's symbolic because the so-called transitional structures for the local government are unacceptable. The ANC people see it as a continuation of the old apartheid regime on a local level. So even if it's symbolic, let's get new councillors even if there was a 12% or 20% vote in total for, say, Johannesburg in certain wards.
POM Do you think they will be free and fair in the classical use of that?
WDK Well free and fair ...
POM Or is that a concept that's really no longer useful?
WDK If we look back the elections were to a certain extent free and fair but there was lot of the past elections, the 1994 elections, I would say let's give it a percentage, it was a 60% free and fair election with 40% of fraud and things going on. So I expect the same here this time. But I think there is a mood in the country even within the business sector and the National Party, ANC, DP, let's sweat this out, let's get this behind us so that we can go on with our political process so that there are structures in place never mind how they were elected, let's keep a blind eye to that, let there be structures in place, even inexperienced structures so that we can start fresh with 'legitimate structures' to carry through the job of governing the country.
POM OK. Thank you. I'll be back again in six months or so.