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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

24 Oct 1995: De Villiers, Dawie

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POM     Let me begin with maybe what seems to be a calculated campaign that's been mounted by the ANC against F W de Klerk in the last couple of weeks. First of all you had the situation about - well it began with the little thing of squabbling in the street which was patched over really between Mandela and De Klerk in a kind of a way but then followed by Sexwale's accusations followed by accusations that he wanted to cling to power, that he should resign from the National Security Committee, all aimed personally at him rather than at the party. What do you think is behind that campaign, or is it a calculated strategy on the part of the ANC for the local elections?

DDV     Let me try and first of all put it in just the wider perspective and that is that the tension or the problem did not only go back to the interaction between the President and Mr de Klerk after the speech of the president in which he blamed the National Party as the responsible party for the violence in the country. I think one must remember that earlier this year that there was a big disagreement in Cabinet with Mr de Klerk as the leader of the National Party, certainly one of the main focus points, the main focus point of the ANC in expressing their unhappiness with statements he has made and all kinds of allegations as to how we operate within the government of national unity. That disagreement which had a strong personal element in it against particularly Mr de Klerk eventually led to a decision by Cabinet, an agreement between the parties that we will draw up rules, guidelines for ministers how to act within the government of national unity because it is a complex problem, how to be part of a government, part of a kind of coalition, not the normal kind of coalition, but a voluntary coalition on the one hand, but remain opposition parties and also exercise that important ingredient in a democracy of political opposition. That agreement has never really led to anything yet although a committee was appointed and the committee met once or twice and nothing materially came from that. The reality is that over the last months, more than perhaps in the beginning, that the various parties, including the National Party, became more critical against the ANC, ministers of the ANC or statements by the ANC, and vice versa, there was an attitude almost by some ANC members that since you're a member of the government or you belong to the government of national unity you should not criticise us.

     Again, after the interaction between the President and Mr de Klerk and further reactions in Cabinet it was again agreed by all that what we need now very quickly is this committee to meet so that we know when can we criticise, how should we criticise, how should we really fulfil that function and we believe it's important and an absolutely necessary function in a democratic society. So that is just the first reaction. Certainly within our political arena the ANC finds Mr de Klerk a thorn in the flesh. He is a capable leader, he expresses himself very strongly, he has the ability to focus on issues that are very much in the public's eye and mind and for that reason his criticism hit hard at the ANC and it's not only that he articulated it; I think he articulated points that were really areas of criticism also by other players, but he articulated it in a way and the reaction came why someone like Mr de Klerk should act against us in such a way.

     Then there is certainly a stronger, almost animosity by some members of the ANC against Mr de Klerk. I think this was again proved in parliament when Mac Maharaj got up and on really very flimsy arguments that Mr de Klerk indicated he can still call in the army to become President, which is absolute nonsense, no-one knowing him and Mac Maharaj for one, can never think that there is any validity in such an argument. But nevertheless it points to the fact that they are aggravated by him, they feel him as a thorn in the flesh and perhaps some may believe that if they can discredit him and destroy him they will really cause a major blow to their main opposition party.

POM     Is there any sense of, like part of the ANC strategy being that President Mandela appeared, he's kind of above the normal political fray and doesn't get involved so to speak, and that the task of ANC members of Cabinet or whatever is to pull Mr de Klerk into the political mud slide, get him involved in just what people expect politicians to do, slur each other and insult each other and throw charges at each other, and in that way that his stature is reduced?

DDV     Well if it amounts to a system where the President and the Deputy Presidents, or the leaders of the parties in parliament act slightly different than, say, their ordinary members then one can discuss such rules. I can't see how a political leader, either Mr de Klerk or Buthelezi could stay out of the political hurly-burly and the cut and thrust of politics, but let me also say what really triggered the last reaction of Mr de Klerk was really statements by the President at Queenstown where he at state functions started to criticise the National Party. So in politics if you take on one party you are bound to get it back and they shouldn't be that sensitive then to Mr de Klerk's attacks on the ANC. I think we all agree now that we will have to sit down and try and see if we can find rules of how the government of national unity should function. For example, if we discuss, as we do, matters concerning security and criminality and problems of that nature in Cabinet and we try and find solutions, to what extent can members of the Cabinet then go out and still criticise the government of national unity. I think that is the kind of argument we need to have with one another. Certainly if we agree on, say, something like the budget no party can go out who have been part of the Cabinet and say, well it's a bad budget, I don't agree with it, more should have been spent on education and less on this or that. We need to then agree that this is our budget collectively and collectively we should defend it. But that does not mean to say that in terms of many other things parties differ and those disagreements must be articulated otherwise we have a one-party state which we don't want to have. No party is really aspiring to that.

POM     Just on that one criticism that I had heard was that Mr de Klerk as Chairman of the Security Committee had been charged with drawing up a plan to combat crime and that such a plan was in fact agreed upon by the committee under his chairmanship and submitted to the Cabinet, debated by the Cabinet and as far as I know accepted by the Cabinet, and then that for the National Party to turn around and start blaming the ANC for the level of crime is like saying, you just drew up a plan which we all accepted.

DDV     First of all the chairman of the committee has got no other function than to see that that committee does its debating in an orderly manner. A chairman is not a dictator in a committee. The chairmanship of any committee as of Cabinet by Mr de Klerk is really to get the agreement and consensus of all matters on the issues that we discuss and he does that in a very exceptional way. So he gives guidance, he gives people opportunities to speak and try and encapsulate or summarise the trend of discussion so that we can take decisions. Mr de Klerk, nor any member of the National Party has criticised any action on which the Cabinet has agreed. We have agreed on a community safety plan, we have never criticised that. As a matter of fact all members go out and say that has been a good step forward. We have appointed another committee. Our criticism is that committee has not really produced anything yet. We say we work hand in hand with all parties to combat crime but we believe we should do it with greater determination. The point is, although we can take decisions in Cabinet we don't run the ministries responsible for executing those policies. We don't run the Police Department or the police portfolio and if we take decisions in Cabinet it is still up to different ministries to implement those policies and if members of the Cabinet then fail to respond adequately certainly it should be open to political parties to criticise them.

POM     How does the NP in its own debates distinguish between the role it plays as a key part of the government of national unity and on the other hand trying to be the effective, strong opposition party. Between the two you can end up losing your sense of identity.

DDV     I think you're right in that it is a very difficult position that we find ourselves in. We only agreed, actually it was our proposal that there should be a government of national unity in the first number of years of the life of the new democracy, because the very things that we face are so complex. If we have, for example, in the difficult financial times in which we live, a budget that is only supported by the majority party and all the opposition, the main opposition parties start to take that apart and tell the electorate how the government is not spending the money correctly and they should have done all the nice things that people want to do and they shouldn't have done the difficult things, it would be terrible. We need really to put South Africa first in terms of many of these issues and one is the security position and law and order and we say we agree with everything, we stand by everything that has been agreed in Cabinet, but we say more should be done. We say we are serious, we go round day in and day out and ask people to co-operate. We say there should be more road blocks. We have just yesterday released proposals that we will also feed into the Cabinet Committee on law and order.

     So we say we must co-operate, we must really take hands on the question of policing. But are the other parties taking it seriously enough? And that is the debate. So I think the difference really should be that things that we agree on in Cabinet, policy measures agreed on should be our collective policies and that we must defend, but obviously there are many areas where we disagree. We believe in many policy measures different to the ANC. We believe in smaller government, more deregulation and a greater role for the private sector. We're against abortion on demand. We have different educational policies. We believe in this society of ours with great diversity there should be more choices and not everyone should be pushed into an average as policy in education tends to do. So we have areas where we have different positions from which we argue and when those things come to a clash in the Cabinet we would take up different positions and if we disagree on, for example, the white paper on education we go out and we say we support the following but we disagree with paragraphs a, b, c, and on those issues we continue our opposition.

POM     Yet you have a situation where the government of national unity essentially inherited a bankrupt state. There was no money in the coffers or very little money left in the coffers and the need to cut expenditure was one of the first things that became apparent, the need to trim and to be much more lean. For the police they have been told there is no money available to pay you even though everyone agrees that what you are being paid is ridiculously low and contributes to low morale. You have a situation where there still continues to be about 80% of the police deployed on what would be called primarily white areas. What would the National Party do just in terms of that issue alone that the ANC, being the dominant party in government, is not doing?

DDV     Can I just first of all say, just your statement that a bankrupt state, that the government of national unity inherited a bankrupt state, is of course out of context because the previous government under difficult circumstances did manage the budget in a way that we have kept within broad parameters. Minister Keys who was finance minister for two or three years actually prior to the present minister achieved remarkably in curbing expenditure and bringing the budget down to an acceptable deficit before borrowing. The problem of the present government is that the demand on social spending is so high, on education, on health and all those social areas, housing, etc., and the resources are limited, the economy is not performing as well as it must. It is growing at 3% which is remarkable for the situation but we still have a totally distorted distribution of manpower, far too many in the state not productive at all. I think there are at least 100,000, if not more people, that can be taken out of the civil service overnight and you won't even notice a dent. So those are expenditure items which makes it very, very difficult to deal with the demands of salaries.

     We accept, not only the National Party, but the ANC itself accepts the fact that police are underpaid, teachers are underpaid. What is happening now is that in the past private sector employees through various labour strikes and other labour actions improved their relative salary position whilst the employees of the state, police, teachers, nurses did not. Now in a new situation where they can also strike the imbalances are more obvious. So in the new budget certainly for next year, the question of those salaries are foremost in our minds. But given the restrictive position we will have to consider the total totality of the civil service. You can't just improve the conditions of one, you will have to look at all of them which carried enormous implications because we want to get the deficit before borrowing down. It's over 6%. We need to go down to 5% and then 4%. Most countries will regard 3% as a good sound basis. We're still a long way from there and as long as that is the case interest rates will remain high and we won't get money, international money even, at reasonable rates because the risks are too high. We need to avoid that. So we're in a straight-jacket. No-one denies that some of these categories and policemen are one category who are not sufficiently paid and that is a problem that we address now but like in any ordinary society you can't just overnight say to the police, now we're increasing your salaries, what about the others? It must be done holistically, it must be done now through a bargaining chamber which has been created in which the civil servants are all represented and it will be correct.

     But it's not only salaries. One must also look at the amount spent on the police, whether it's productively used. I get the impression that a lot of money can be better spent and we must look in our total state operation at the more productive spending of money. On what the National Party would propose, and we are going to feed this into the system, there are numerous actions which really are encapsulated in a document that I can hand to you, and I don't want to really waste your time, various practical proposals. We say we're on the right road with community policing, you have to involve the police. We have to have a higher visibility of police. That is one aspect that we believe. For example, road blocks, the police may argue, look it's a lot of nonsense and this and that, if we don't get all the reactions we argue the more the visible the policing can be the better effect it will have both on potential criminals as well as on the public who will feel safer. On the security of people I can tell you I have worked hand in glove with the police and with the Minister of Police over a long time now as far as the security of tourists are concerned, which after many meetings is culminating now in a high level conference on 6 November.

     So I am a National Party minister. I have worked with the ANC minister hand in glove, with the police, not in a political manner. We have dealt with the issue. In the meantime we have introduced quite a number of practical steps like in the big cities we have Police Tourist Units only looking after the areas frequented by tourists. They link up with the security offices at the big hotels to throw out a network, they exchange information. So we work as a government of national unity as a team but it is also right if I go around and I am on a political platform to say we need to put law and order at the top of our agenda. We will lose our tourists and we will lose growth in this country unless we can deal with the high levels of criminality.

POM     Yet some of the most high level crimes are the ones that still garnish the most attention, occur in, for use of that word, white areas whether it's residential or business or for whatever, just like the chairman of the Premier Group's car being hijacked over the weekend receives a lot of prominence in the paper when he was saying we are living in the wild west. Yet you've 80% of your police deployed in what are still predominantly white areas. No matter how you come to redeployment you have to take police out of white areas and put them into squatter camps, informal settlements, into townships, where many people haven't seen a policeman for years.

DDV     I'm not the Minister of Police, I don't know whether your figures are right. I doubt it. But I would argue, and I think this is the way the Minister of Police argues, that this is the essence of the safety and security plan that deployment should be where the need is. The need often involves remote areas. I think the most strongly highlighted issue recently has been the attack and rape of foreign tourists. That is front page news. This week I can think of two, three front page items concerning tourists. That is the thing we must curb. If South Africa gets the perception that it's not a safe place, you can't walk down Adderley Street or St. George's Street in Cape Town then the tourists won't come. I think high profile people, the chairman of a company, is certainly in all countries bigger news than just John Citizen, but I think people are worried in all communities, black and white by the high level of not petty crime but violent crime. An ordinary housebreak now becomes an exercise or dangerous because people carry guns and just shoot. Innocent people being stopped and killed in their cars and then pulled out and the car being stolen. That is bad, that is bad in any society and whether it's a black or a white person and whether it takes place in Sandton or downtown Johannesburg, and I think the downtown areas are really the dangerous areas. Downtown Johannesburg is as much black as it is white so I don't think colour is really a main issue here.

POM     Let me turn to the National Party. You seem to have some divisions that are there. You had, for example, the controversy involving Minister Meyer and Premier Kriel where they were both on very opposite sides of the one question. You have those like Meyer who say the only future of the party is to bring in black support, that's the only way we will become a multi-racial party no longer representative of whites. You have other kind of, I won't say old timers, but who say what are you doing for us? You're doing too much, paying too much attention to blacks and not enough to whites. What kind of divisions do exist in terms of the power distribution of the party?

DDV     Well I don't think that the brief picture you've tried to give of the party is correct. It's not an individual saying, our leader and our congress and our management committee has not only from this year on but long before the election have said if the National Party is to become a major force in South Africa it will have to get far more black support. Our whole programme is geared at really getting more black support and we are at the moment growing fairly rapidly. The National Party enjoys the support of the majority of whites and the majority of Coloureds and the majority of Asians. But I think as the political situation becomes more fluid in this country more blacks will also join the party. It is a multi-racial party. In the Cape, where I am leader, the majority of our card carrying members now are not white any more. We're already there a party with a majority Coloured and black members. In the Cape Executive the Cape Parliament where we govern three out of the six ministers are not white ministers. So it is not a view of one person. We all really are engaged in various activities, in breaking down resistance to our party in the black community and I think there is a growing support base as much, and why? Because we differ from other parties, we have different values. We place a value on an orderly society. We want respect for people, for people's belongings. We differ from other parties. And I think, I don't want to go into that, I can talk about our principles but that brings people closer to the National Party because they like our policies and they like the principles that we pronounce. Many of the so-called differences between members in the party I think is more fictitious.

     In the case of the Western Cape and Mr Meyer, I am the leader of the Western Cape, I have sat numerous times with Mr de Klerk, without Mr de Klerk, discussing the issue of the delimitation in the Cape and how it is seen by the Western Cape and we have collectively taken the decision to go to the Constitutional Court. We have collectively again now, with my involvement and under my leadership, taken the decision to take the route to the Election Court. On all these occasions I informed Mr Meyer but as the minister of the government of national unity he had to file the papers under his name. He is the minister in the court case against the Western Cape and this created the perception by many that they are in totally different camps. They're not. Certainly in any party, and the National Party is no exception, you will find different shades of opinion. You will find people who, for example, believe more in that we should move closer to Inkatha because they may form a natural ally of the party. There are others who resist that, as I do, to say we're not seeking alliances with any party, we have our own turf to defend and to increase. You will find people who are more attuned to say shouldn't we look more to the Freedom Front, they are also potential partners. Again, my view, and I think by the majority of the party accepted by our congress is we don't do any deals with the Freedom Front. They are still a party with a racist connotation. They are still having the policy of a homeland for Afrikaners. As long as you have that you have really a racial definition in your policy. We don't find them acceptable.

     Others put the emphasis on opposition, opposition to the ANC particularly, at the top of their agenda. There are many who say our main task is to oppose the ANC. Again there we explain and say, yes we are the main opposition for the ANC but we also have to work with them for the well-being of our country. We serve in the government of national unity not only centrally but in seven out of the nine provinces. We either govern the province, in the Cape, or share in provincial government in seven of the others. So we have a dual role which is difficult and in adapting to a new South Africa I am sure that you will find different people putting different emphasis to policy measures.

     But Mr de Klerk is still very much in control. The party is as unified as - far more unified than the ANC which is really a coalition of parties. I mean they have got the South African Communist Party, they've got COSATU, both having their own agendas. COSATU even on a number of occasions considered the matter whether they should still go along in the coalition. You have SANCO, civic organisations like that also being part of the ANC. The National Party is a far more homogeneous party although it is a multi-racial party.

POM     So Mr Kriel said just a week ago, he is quoted in The Citizen as saying, "That from now on the NP would change its role in the government of national unity and adopt a more hard-line opposition role, that although the party would remain in the government of national unity it would stop assisting the ANC in governing crises." Was he speaking for himself?

DDV     The Federal Council on which Mr Kriel is a member, and all the other senior members, met about a fortnight ago again endorsing the policy that we are both opposition and participating in government and neither role should have precedence over the other. So we have this dual role, it is government policy and anyone just emphasising one role is not really explaining policy of the party.

POM     Given this dual role, given the fact that there's the understanding that if the party is to grow and expand it must increase it's multi-racialism and draw in more blacks because that's where the voters are, does this pose what I would say is a crisis of identity for the National Party itself in terms of where it has come from and where it is going to?

DDV     No it does not. I think the natural reaction from voters is that they are either for or against. The situation at the moment is that according to surveys that we have information on there are large percentages, substantial percentages of people who voted for the ANC in the last election who now say they are disappointed, they are not going to vote for them in this coming election on 1st November. Many even say in their surveys that they will never vote for them again. I don't say that they are indicating that they will vote for the National Party. Many of them consider voting for the PAC, voting for a variety of other parties. We therefore believe there is a great potential of growth for the National Party and perhaps other parties as the political scene changes. I think I have said in interviews previously with you that the power of the ANC prior to the election and up to the election was that they were really regarded as the freedom fighters. They brought freedom. That was the experience of many people why they found such an appeal within the ANC. With the National Party still being identified with the past and the past of apartheid that is beginning to change. It will take time, it's only 18 months after the election. Already the political situation is becoming much more fluid and again I think I've said to you previously that the political landscape will change. At the next election present parties may not be there. The whole political profile of parties may look completely different.

     And so I say that as people's disillusionment in the ANC grows they will look for new homes, not only in terms of existing structures but new structures that can evolve. In this election, 18 months after the previous one, already we are convinced we will do far better in black communities. Take Pretoria, Mamelodi, we have a candidate in every ward. I don't say the National Party are going to win wards but this was almost inconceivable 18 months ago. We're on the party list. Last year we got 1% of the Mamelodi vote, this time a candidate can only make himself available if he has the consent in writing of at least 2% of the voters in his ward. I saw we have candidates in every ward. That is a small growth but a magnificent change in attitude already. So things will continue to change. I don't say just in the interest of the National Party but the political landscape is going to alter over the next years.

POM     Do you think the local elections will turn out to be a shambles or so many problems that have arisen both in terms of the location - I even talked the other day to Willem de Klerk and he said, "I must tell you I have no idea what ward I belong to or what candidates are in my ward." And if you take a man of his sophistication and you go out again into the townships where voter lists were not available when people were becoming candidates so they were getting the list of 200 people but they didn't know if they were registered or not registered, there have been squads of ANC members who have been disqualified in the Eastern Cape for not meeting regulations either regarding signatures or one thing or another, the question mark that hangs over them, will the results be accepted as being legitimate?

DDV     I think yes. I think that right across the world it's a normal occurrence that local elections do not generate the kind of enthusiasm that you have at national level, high profile elections. Secondly, the success might be varied because the local elections are really organised in local wards, in little towns and big cities all over South Africa. It's therefore difficult to really come to grips with what is taking place where. There will be thousands of voting booths right across the country, individual candidates will participate and there is no clear profile of candidates and people. This is what local elections are about so I don't find that unusual and I don't think the organisation is less ready for the election than last year with the general election. As a matter of fact we have made much progress. This time we have already voters' lists. That is 100% improvement on the election last year. The enthusiasm may not be that high. People are not quite sure perhaps as to where they want to vote but at least in the Western Cape every voter has got a personal letter, received a personal letter to indicate exactly in Clanwilliam, in Citrusdal, which voting booth you have got to visit on 1st November. And because it's smaller wards, again I talk for the Western Cape, my party's organisation is such that in most areas they will see to it that people who haven't been to the polling booth by 12 o'clock we'll knock on their doors because it's smaller numbers that you really talk about and therefore I do not foresee the kind of massive confusion. The urban areas may be more difficult but we're moving now deeper into a democratic society so if people are not properly registered they can't vote and also voters must take cognisance of where they have to vote and how to exercise their democratic responsibility. I am sure Mr de Klerk by now would have received a letter to indicate where he should vote but just a few enquiries would have made it possible for him to establish where to vote.

POM     I'm sure he will know by election day.

DDV     I am sure he will know by election day. And I think that is the kind of society you need to develop where people also take responsibility to say, well I must find out, it's a local election. You will find the candidates on posters, meetings held. I think by the end of this week people will more or less know and my prediction is, yes certainly areas there where you will have confusion. You had massive confusion in the last election. I get shiverings if I think of that. Far less to come, I'm quite sure of that.

POM     Let me relate that to the RDP. It's generally conceded, I think, with everybody I talked to, that the local government will be the weakest form of government initially and perhaps for some time. Lack of skill, lack of talent, lack of knowledge of what local government is about, inexperience, there's a huge learning curve to be overcome before they can become effective administrative bodies, yet they are being charged with the implementation of the RDP. The mantra for the last year has been that when local government is in operation then the RDP will be implemented through the local structures and reach into every community. So that in one sense it seems to me it's a kind of a conundrum that the most important part of development is being put in the hands of the weakest part of government in terms of effecting its delivery.

DDV     It is not quite correct because the RDP is being implemented through the active participation where applicable of central government and central government departments, provincial governments and provincial government departments and of course local communities. So it is not putting the RDP in the hands of local authorities. They will have an important input to make but equally the community on the ground, if there is a clinic to be built in an area the community should be consulted and that kind of consultation is taking place. I think it is also true to say that implementation of the RDP took much longer than was envisaged because exactly the kind of capacity had to be created right down to lower levels, the process had to be transparent, consultations took time, the whole process of controlling the flow of funds to see that everything is done according to strict discipline took time to implement. The flow will be much quicker now. Large numbers of funds have already been allocated to projects too many to quote, smaller projects, larger projects, the role of the local community now would just be to further endorse what is already taking place, to perhaps accelerate it to a large extent and, of course, there are always new projects coming in. They will be one link, an important link but one link in the chain and they are not the prime role player.

     The second point is although a lack of capacity will be there I think one must also see in local communities much more of a combined effort than you will see in any form of government because you will have really members of different political parties, some with experience, some without experience in local communities. Secondly, government close to the people is really the area where the people can exercise more influence also in correcting things that are not taking place so the role of civil society there and just the community themselves, and keeping their councillors on their toes will also be far more direct and visible than say at provincial level or other levels. Your point is taken and I think you are quite right and it is a worrying aspect that many of the Councils will be without expertise to a large extent and without experience but I think they will all be sprinkled with people who have some experience and given the fact that, apart from the metropoles, basically running towns are smaller entities, issues closer to the people. I'm not desperately worried about it. I'm concerned but I think it in most cases can work.

POM     Do you have faith in the RDP or is it more, I won't say sleight of hand, but kind of an illusion?

DDV     No, if you understand the RDP correctly I have great faith in it. Very many people have different views, they believe the RDP is almost the magic wand. The RDP is a mechanism to quickly try and assist in the rearranging of priorities. If the scaling down of old priorities and the upgrading of other priorities in reprioritising government spending would have been done in the old traditional way, every year in the budget one department gets more and another department gets less, the old traditional way, it would have taken a much longer time. So very simply put what the RDP is doing is to take money away from all departments and say now you reprioritise in terms of a smaller amount and I am going to give the others back to you but I'm going to give it back enhancing the priorities of the new government. So it is really a mechanism of changing spending priorities and reaching out to the areas that have been identified as in greater need and areas where the government would really like to spend more.

POM     Has affirmative action affected the quality of public service? There was a Professor Cloete from Stellenbosch ...

DDV     Yes, I would say yes, I will endorse that. I think it is to a certain extent inevitable, also not only given affirmative action but steps taken to provide opportunities in the public service by, for example, offering long serving civil servants an opportunity to leave which of course many of the better experienced, well qualified people did. You will find taking early retirement and leaving is something more appealing to a person who knows that out there in the private sector he will quickly again find space for himself and generate income and on top of that he's got his pension now. So, yes, I think that has happened. What has also contributed to a lack of efficiency in government and productivity is the fact that the rationalisation of numerous civil servants and the appointment of new and the creation of nine new provincial governments has I believe led to an enormous amount of people being absorbed in government services in very many capacities that are really not necessary. We're over, we have certainly a vast number of civil servants that should not be, we're almost a welfare state in some areas of the country.

POM     In this sense is there a gravy train?

DDV     I try and steer away from popular slogans. What's gravy train? We have too many civil servants. In some areas far more than what we can afford and that leads to inefficiencies, that leads to a lack of productivity and we spend more money eventually on salaries of civil servants than on the productive means that we should nourish and also on the essential services that we have to render.

POM     Have you seen the discussion document of the ANC, 'One Year of Government of National Unity'?

DDV     I haven't seen that particular one that you're referring to. No I haven't seen that.

POM     Just read a couple of paragraphs, the paragraphs I've marked.

DDV     I've seen something in the newspapers about this but I haven't had an opportunity to look at it. State machinery:

     "Control over state machinery is one crucial determinant of advance. This refers not to party control but to a variety of factors such as loyalty ... they pursue and their culture. The areas of army, police, intelligence services in general are ones where the sunset clauses were most meaningful. From the beachhead there has been some headway." (Whatever that means). "However signs of rearguard resistance are starting to show. In any case if the NP and IFP in particular were to claim any clout beyond their numbers in elected bodies it should be expected that they will seek to mobilise these institutions behind them. In addition to this there is the reality of the legacy we have inherited, that the NP concentrated its security forces on suppressing the liberation movement and neglected ordinary crime and the security forces were scandalously exploited and lacked motivation, working long hours under dangerous conditions and poorly paid. Beside deployment for crime prevention was skewed in favour of areas ... Given all these factors to what extent can we claim the loyalty of these forces? The SAPU strike, difficulties in obtaining required information from intelligence structures, mindset problems of the South African National Defence Force, all these raise some doubts."

     Well, you know, I think one cannot, if you're the majority party in government, run always back to find excuses in the past for why your things are not going well. Both the Minister for Police and the Minister for the Defence Force came out recently very strongly.

POM     Following this statement?

DDV     Yes, in defence of the services and I tend to agree with them. I think if both the police or the defence force wanted to make problems in this country they could have. I think they are loyal to the government of national unity and you will find many of those who are still in the service now in rank want to make a success of the service. Who wants to serve in a police force that is criticised all the time of not functioning well? That is no pleasure.

POM     This document essentially views the National Party as a potential subversive organisation.

DDV     Of course it's nonsense. We're a political party. We have taken the initiatives to bring about a change and to bring about a democratic South Africa and we will fight to the end to keep democracy going, so why would we be a subversive force if really what we have initiated was what we have today. We want to be a force but a progressive force strengthening democracy. We want to see this country succeed and therefore we need efficiency, we need an efficient police force which they are not at the moment, we need an efficient civil service which we don't have and there are cracks in the service. We have lost many good people, there is no confidence amongst many of the present incumbents to say is there a future for us in the service? I can't say to parents let your youngsters join the civil service if they are white. We are concerned there must be and we are supporting affirmative action to rectify the imbalances of the past. We support that and we work towards those goals, but if we're going to sacrifice efficiency and productivity and confidence then we are not going to achieve much. We are really going to make it more difficult for the state to be successful.

POM     In 18 months of working with the ANC in government has your opinion of them, of their capacity to perform changed in any way?

DDV     No, I think they also want this country to make progress. They want economic growth as much as we do. I am sure they want a stable country, they want the confidence of all the people. We don't believe all the policies that they pursue will create that, will contribute to that. We are wary of some of their policies. We are therefore concerned about how things will develop in time to come. But by and large I must be frank to say whatever criticism from whatever quarter was directed at the government of national unity it went remarkably well. We have succeeded in many respects in 18 months to do wonderful things together, different parties. It has contributed to the stability in this country, to more confidence in the country, to economic growth, to investment, to tourists visiting this country, so I remain basically optimistic about the future. I think there are a number of areas that we need to deal with very expeditiously, crime being one, but for the rest it has been, I believe, a good experience for all of us, National Party, ANC, IFP to come together in this way in the government of national unity. I think it has sent good signals to the people.

     I am still a believer that the government of national unity should continue and that we should try and overcome the difficulties that parties have with one another because I still believe it is necessary that the people of this country should see our leaders, Mandela, De Klerk, Buthelezi, working together even if they have their differences because that will encourage all of us to work together. We can't allow a polarisation in this country at this critical stage where we really build up new fences between us and fight one another. Yes we need to criticise, democracy demands that and we need to have a vigorous opposition and a free and critical press, all those things we need. But we also need to realise that we've been down in a deep hole and to get out of this hole and to really become a successful country is going to take more from all of us. We can't afford the luxuries that highly developed first world countries can have in terms of political - well expressing their political party politics. We need a different style and that style I think finds expression with all its weaknesses in the government of national unity, where we do work together, where the leaders are seen together, where we can take hands while at the same time also remain different entities with different party policies.

POM     After the Skweyiya report on Lucas Mangope, the National Party called specifically for an investigation into the affairs of the Transkei, singling out your Deputy Minister whom I saw yesterday, General Bantu Holomisa, and Mandela in a way responded by saying that he would establish a commission that would look at corruption not just in the homelands or in the former independent states but in the whole of South Africa over the last ten years. Do you think that's a good way forward?

DDV     We welcome that, we have never been ad hominem, I don't think, not the National Party per se asked for an enquiry into a particular person. We said what is good for the goose is good for the gander. We need similar investigations in all governments and the announcement by the President was welcomed by us. We think this should be done in an expeditious way. We need to cure our country from the evil and the disease of corruption and if this is a way of doing it, showing that the government is not going to spare anyone whoever he is who participated in any of these wrong doings then we will support it wholeheartedly.

POM     Just two or three very quick last questions and, as always, thanks for the time, I know you've lots of other things to do. One is on the Truth & Reconciliation Commission. This, unless handled extraordinary carefully can create all kinds of avenues of lack of reconciliation rather than conciliation. I will give you an example.

DDV     You don't need to give an example, I agree 100% with that point of view and that is why the appointment of the commissioners is so important, and the whole approach of the commissioners. If it really becomes a commission to unravel the truth and work towards reconciliation and closing the book of the past then I think it can make a contribution, but if it becomes a witch hunt, if it really is an effort to get at some people and ignore the wrongdoings of others, in other words if it's not even handed, then you're quite right it can lead to all kinds of problems. So it's a big subject but I would say it very, very much depends on the commissioners and the way they will go about it. And I would just again reiterate two issues; it should be even handed, it should be aimed at unravelling the truth and really working towards reconciliation, closing the book of the past, really to get us to go with the future, what this country is about, and thirdly it must finish it's work within a reasonable time. If four years, five years, six years from here we still have this thing around our neck it could really affect our country to a great extent.

POM     I'll just take that one point further and then that will be the end of it. The former Commissioner of Police, Johan van der Merwe, has gone on record as saying the police are not going to take the rap for their superiors lying down, a semi-warning of sorts. I had a policeman who I have interviewed since 1990, Colonel Louis Botha, he was the intermediary during Inkathagate between the IFP and the government in the delivery of money, and I continue to interview him every year and he couldn't talk about that, he said. But he said, "I want to tell you something, in my professional life I have never done anything without the complete and total authority of my superiors." And then about four months ago he was arrested on allegations of murder in KwaZulu/Natal in 1988 and I talked to him on the phone and said, "Are you still able to talk?" He said "Sure I'll talk, I'm not guilty of anything. I will tell you if I get prosecuted I will name names."

DDV     Sure. I think that the test has been for all of us, and I have a very clean conscience, what was done within the parameters of the law. If you go outside the law, well then there is a law even of war and if there was a struggle and a conflict then one should look at what was permissible and what was not permissible. Obviously those things will have to be cleared and I have sat in the Cabinet all along, there's not one single decision of the Cabinet that I cannot defend in an open hearing, court, whatever. So, yes.

POM     You sat in the Cabinet of?

DDV     From 1980, I was appointed in 1980. Well that was now the last years, I don't know what happened before that. So, sure, I think that is fair comment. No-one must try and blame others. Everyone must take responsibility for his or her actions and similarly there are leaders of the ANC in the Cabinet now who must take responsibility for their actions and decisions. I think many of these things are recorded. There are documents on both sides. So that's why I say if it's going to become a witch hunt one way or another it can really take us down into conflicts which will really destroy our ability to deal with the future. Let us get those things out, let us, insofar as it is necessary, complete the story, get the truth out, close the book and get on with the future.

POM     You can answer this question in terms of yes or no. Generally speaking do you think the country is moving in the right direction? After 18 months if someone had said to you, you will be this far down the road in terms of the government of national unity itself, in terms of having local elections coming up, in terms of there being ...

DDV     I think we're making good progress. I think, as I have said earlier on, the government of national unity and the country as a whole have done well in the 18 months. That does not mean it's full marks, just a yes or a no. Equally there are many, many things concerning us deeply. This is a complex country, it is a country with many grave problems. We haven't even touched on the issues in KwaZulu/Natal, the conflict there is worrying me very much, it can flare up, it can inflame the whole of the country.

POM     Is that being taken seriously enough by the ANC?

DDV     I think the leaders need to do much more to deal with that issue now when it's still possible I believe to resolve it. The lack of dedication in many fields where we can't get people to take responsibility for their lives, to pay for their services, many of these things are worrying. But on balance, yes I think we have done well. It is encouraging. It is still a long uphill struggle to get our country to the levels where we can really say now we have achieved a great deal, now the quality of life for our people has improved, we are becoming more and more a successful nation. That is still a long road but we have made good progress. 18 months is a short period.

POM     Do you think that South Africa winning the World Cup in rugby was something that unified the country in a way that nothing else has?

DDV     Oh yes absolutely. I think after the elections, which had a similar effect on the country, the World Cup and winning was a wonderful happening. It really unified people and it made us feel a nation in the world. We need more of those happenings to solidify our nationhood and really get us over the notion that we are still different groups and too much of a diversity of people. We are one nation.

POM     Thank you, as always.

DDV     You're welcome.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.