About this site

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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

13 Nov 1995: Meyer, Roelf

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POM     Let me start with maybe the easiest or the long one, the most difficult question, and that is the status of the draft constitution. My recollection is that a draft should have been published in July and now there's a draft that is due to be published in November. Is that still on course or is it not, and all areas of contention, and there are large numbers as I understand it, being left aside for the moment? Are there serious problems developing with this constitution, more serious than you would have thought a couple of years ago?

RM     You're talking about July this year, 1995? What actually happened was that we were not ready with the first compilation of a working document by July this year and that meant that we had to reschedule, but I think at this moment, as we are looking at things right at this point of time, we are pretty much on schedule. In other words we have rescheduled and in terms of the new schedule we are on target in the sense that before the end of this week we will probably see the release of a working document and I think it's important to frame it correctly because it's a working document and not a first draft of the constitution. Now that will be published by the end of the week and there will be then a period for people to look at it and to comment on it and so on which will take us up to more or less February. By February we will be able to assess the situation, whether progress is sufficient, and then we will also be able to finally establish whether we can keep to the target of May next year which is the target for publishing, or at least for a final constitution. As things look now I believe that we can reach that target. I'm feeling satisfied that that is possible. The outstanding matters that we still have to resolve would mainly be in the areas of the competencies of the provinces, the national and provincial executives and the role and functioning of the Senate and its composition. I think those would be the main critical area. There are a few other areas too that would require our attention but I don't think that that will rock the boat so to speak. There are a few contentious things like, for instance, the property clause where there is still quite a big difference of opinion. But I think all in all one can say that we are on target as far as the time scales are concerned and I believe that as far as the contents are concerned we can also achieve what we would like to see in the new constitution.

POM     What about the position of KwaZulu/Natal? Can you have a final constitution which is passed by the necessary two thirds of the Constitutional Assembly but from which a considerable and significant proportion of the population have in fact withdrawn their consent?

RM     Well we have almost a replay of the situation as it was in 1993. As you will recall also then the IFP withdrew from the negotiating process by mid-1993 and they never came back to it and it was only in the last ten days before the elections in April 1994 that they got dragged back into the process not so much on account of changes then in the transitional constitution but rather on account of the fact that they realised if they would stay out of the election they would miss an opportunity. Now, it's a replay in the sense that they are not participating at all at the moment in negotiations and the question is what would bring them back into the process now, if there is anything. I don't think there is an answer to that question right now but it might well be that we are going through all the motions, that we agree on the constitution, and, by the way, I think amongst the other parties the spirit that prevails is that we would like to find general consensus on the new constitution. In other words that there would not even be, look for a vote, but rather overall general consensus. And if that is so then of course it will remain then for the IFP to decide what it's going to do. So the ball is very much in their court. It's a pity it's a great pity if they miss the fact that they are not participating in the constitution making process and we are all making calls to them from time to time to come back but the fact is that they are not there and, as I said, the ball is in their court.

POM     Do you see a hardening of Buthelezi's attitude over time in terms of principle, in terms of his insistence upon there being negotiations because they were agreed to by the National Party and the ANC in terms of his wanting more devolution of power than is allowed for in the interim constitution and as was outlined in their own draft constitutional proposals? Or do you think he is playing one more hand of political brinkmanship?

RM     Well if one looks back at our experience in 1993, and as I said it's very much a replay, then it could be a question of brinkmanship. The point, however, is that it seems to me if one tries to analyse the latest developments from that side, it seems to me that the thing that they are pushing for at the moment is actually a provincial constitution and that by seeking agreement on that in that province they are trying to put the pressure on the central constitution making process as well. In other words to put up demands from the side of the province through their provincial constitution that they would believe should form the basis of negotiations.

POM     This is what they would argue with regard to the ram-roading of their proposals through parliament when they had given an undertaking to the NP caucus that there would be no vote, that essentially they were reading the situation that it is kind of a, not a conspiracy, but there's an understanding here that central government does not want us to have our provincial constitution in place before they have published their constitution because that in a sense gives us the driving hand. Is there some merit to that?

RM     That might be their argument but I don't think there's much merit in that argument in the sense that even under the current circumstances that provincial constitution has to adhere to the provisions of the transitional constitution, so if they would try to put a provincial constitution now on the law book it will in any case have to meet the approval of the Constitutional Court on the basis of the provisions of the transitional constitution. So there is no way that they can draft and adopt their own constitution without any relevance as to the central constitution, whether it's the transitional one or the new one.

POM     Do you think the central government is paying sufficient attention to the seriousness of the situation in KwaZulu/Natal?

RM     I think there are two sides to this. The one is the political and general governmental aspect and the other one is the constitution making aspect. If you would ask me about the constitutional aspect I would say I think the IFP didn't have good reason enough to leave the constitution making process. Remember, there it is not a question of governments participating, it's parties participating. In other words all of us are participating in a Constitutional Assembly on a basis of our party positions and party affiliation. There it was simply a case where the IFP walked out and I am saying without good reason.

     When it comes to the question of the inter-governmental relationships between the central government and that province, there are a number of problems at the moment that clearly give rise to concern, to my mind, and we have seen it from time to time in the uprise of violence and conflict in that province, we're seeing it in the area of government departments not being able to interact with their counterparts in that province. So them not participating in the intergovernmental forum or the various Minmec meetings or things like that, that certainly creates big problems. The question is, how do we address this all? I believe central government has a responsibility to try and ensure that the province be part of the total governmental process, that they seek the same national goals as the others in the other provinces should do and probably are doing, and for that reason probably both sides will have to make a move to ensure that that is happening. I am not, therefore, saying that central government is at fault but I think it can do something more to try and bring back, or to ensure that it is on the high ground.

RM     That is difficult to say. It is sometimes very hard for an outsider to understand exactly how politics within the IFP, and for that matter within that province, really operate. My impression though is that, and I am also led to believe from talks with some IFP members, is that the situation within the province is very often being dictated from the centre by Buthelezi and others who are assisting him at the central level and that even in a case of KwaZulu/Natal the people there from the IFP they would often allegedly take a more moderate approach even on the issue of their provincial constitution but they are sort of being prescribed. That is what I hear from the centre and this causes, of course, divisions and splits in their own ranks but it seems to me the fact of the matter is that when Buthelezi has spoken the rest toe the line.

POM     If you took away Buthelezi, would you have an IFP in its present form?

RM     Again it's difficult to judge it from the outside but the natural answer to that question probably lies in the fact that there is no obvious successor for him. One doesn't see any successor for him as leader of the party and that brings the question, of course, whether there are others who can succeed and will follow that line at all.

POM     Let me switch to two or three things I would like to cover. One is the arrest of General Malan and the other generals, and two is your analysis of the results of the local elections and the third is, whither the National Party, is it at a crossroads? But let's leave that till last and deal first with the arrest of General Malan and the ten other generals and colonels. Now, when I saw Pik Botha this morning, Pik Botha and F W de Klerk went to Mandela, now let me give you my reading and then you react against it. First of all there have been all kinds of accusations that this is a witch-hunt by the ANC, whereas the indictments were brought by Tim McNally who could hardly be called a close ally of the ANC or somebody who had to get even with them in any way, in fact a man regarded as being very cautious by his colleagues and he doesn't move before he has all his ducks in place, so to speak.

     Second, that this should be a matter for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and not for the courts, whereas at least my initial understanding would be that the TRC is for people who have something to admit to, who want to say, I was involved in this that or the other, whereas the generals are staunchly saying to a person, particularly General Malan, we have nothing to hide, we are innocent, we are prepared to go before a court of law and the TRC is not for people who say they are innocent because they have nothing to confess to there so there's nothing to give them indemnity for.

     The third thing would be that my understanding was that at the time the ANC were granted indemnity, that they were indemnified against particular acts and that unless they listed those acts on their indemnification forms and if they left some acts out they could still be prosecuted when they returned to the country for the items they had left out and that a similar situation should apply here, that if people want indemnity they must prepared to say what they want to be indemnified against rather than looking for some blanket indemnity which would inhibit the emergence of the truth in most of these regards. Yet your spokesman for your party said there were shock waves running through the party at the way these generals were being treated by the ANC. Viljoen made statements about how it might push the far right and maybe elements in the security forces into taking action. Yet if one looks at the election results it certainly didn't appear to count as a factor, certainly not on the far right side where right here in Pretoria between the FF and the CP they didn't win a single seat between them. So what's your analysis of the various levels, legal and political, that are involved?

RM     It's difficult to say right now where we stand with this subject. Can I first take a more broader and philosophical view on this? It might well be that in a year from now things have come to a complete end as far as this book on the past is concerned. I sincerely hope that it would be possible to attain that through the TRC and then most of what is happening now also in relation to the generals would have been forgotten. That is the one scenario. The other scenario is that we could enter a new phase of conflict and tension. If you would ask me what would be the scenario that I would put up at this point of time I would tend to think in the direction of the first scenario. One of the reasons, inter alia, why I am saying that is that I believe this court case, this charge that has been brought against Magnus Malan and the generals, might not have been well thought through.

POM     Well thought through by whom?

RM     Well, let's leave it open, maybe nobody really gave attention to that.

POM     But you've an independent Attorney General who is charged to look at the evidence before and with regard to a particular case and to make a decision as to whether or not there is a prima facie case?

RM     But there's no indictment yet.

POM     1 December presumably.

RM     Well he brought them to court without an indictment and that in itself I would say raises some questions. But nevertheless, if I were in Magnus Malan's position I would have thought the same say, namely to say, well take me to court so that I can prove my innocence as quickly as possible. And that might expedite things in the right direction, so to speak, to bring the situation earlier to an end because what I am saying is as long as there is speculation in the air and all sorts of allegations flying around but nobody can prove it or deny it, then probably the only way to actually bring it to clarity is to take it the route that it is going now. For many, many years this allegation about involvement from the state in regard to the killing of people in that province has been going on and maybe this is a way to get clarity on it for everybody's sake.

POM     This used to be one of the questions I used to ask Judge Richard Goldstone, did he believe that a third force existed. And it was consistently his opinion that it did not, that there might have been a rogue soldier there and a rogue there but there was no kind of organised third force activity going on and yet in the end he was driven to believe by two of the reports that his commission published that in fact there was an organised third force at some level. How far it reached he didn't specify, but in fact here was a person who was quite unprepared to believe something who found in the end that the evidence of his own investigators led him to believe something else. Do you believe there were organised hit squads?

RM     Like you, I find myself in the same difficulty, how to judge what has come forward so far. I have always taken the same position as you refer to as far as Goldstone is concerned, namely that the chances for rogue elements existed all the time I have no doubt, but that I am firmly of the belief that there was no organised force of its own, if you can call it a force. Largely I would still hold that view even in spite of the later reports of Goldstone because even if you analyse those reports I would suggest no clear or final proof has been provided.

POM     It hasn't been tested in a court of law.

RM     It hasn't been tested in court. But that is why I am saying maybe this court case that will come up through the generals might assist us to bring clarity on this in the final instance. The fact of the matter is there was killing of innocent people in that particular case, in January of 1987 I think. The question is, who was responsible and who was not responsible for that. And if this case can bring clarity on that I think it would actually make a huge contribution towards resolving this whole thing and that is why I am saying in the end whatever the perceptions are now about this, this might make a huge contribution to finally, and hopefully, bring reconciliation also as far as this issue is concerned.

POM     The National Party, the leadership of the National Party went to Mandela, what was the essence of the case they were making to him? Was it to step in?

RM     You mean that particular evening about three weeks ago? It was certainly not to intervene because it was stated quite clearly right from the start in those discussions that it would be nobody's purpose, not on our side and we believe it should not be anybody else's purpose to interfere with the legal processes and the court proceedings, not at all. It was merely to state two things. One, the concern about what the result of this could be in terms of the general spirit in the country which we had to put up as an alarm, and that to my mind is still the biggest concern from the angle, and I've pointed this out also in my discussions with Thabo and others, from the point of view that this could result in a whole series of actions and reactions.

     In other words people might think it would now be the correct time also to start with allegations about the other side, so to speak, and that of course in itself will lead to other reactions and so you can have a vicious circle of allegations and accusations and court cases, it may be, whilst I think there is a responsibility on all of us to try and handle this and manage it in such a way that we work towards reconciliation because after all that is what the aim of the Truth Commission is also about. The other point that was raised in that conversation was to ensure that the President be urged to ensure that there is equal treatment, even-handedness on this whole subject of immunity or indemnity, whatever the case may be, and that irrespective of the cases now before the court in terms of the generals, the general approach and the perception that should prevail must be one of even-handedness, and those were the two main points that were carried across.

POM     Now just through circumstance I happened to start interviewing in 1989 then Major Louis Botha, now Colonel Louis Botha, who came to public attention first during Inkathagate and is now one of the people who was indicted in connection with these murders. After Inkathagate he said, "Padraig, I can't talk about it but I will tell you something, I have never in my professional career ever done anything without complete and absolute clearance from my superiors." He has invited me down to Port Elizabeth to talk, he said, "I will tell you everything." I might know more than anybody next week. But the implication is that he would never have acted on his own and that he will not take the rap because in Port Elizabeth he became the ideal community policeman. New government, he is given a new duty that was to be a good community policeman and the community and the ANC in Port Elizabeth thought he was doing a wonderful job and was shocked when he was arrested. But he is somebody who serves the government of the day. So how do you can get past this kind of thing, or can you get past it, where the foot soldiers will not take the rap for, essentially, what were the orders of their superiors?

RM     Well that is the kind of thing, as I said, that might become clear in a court case like this. Nobody knows what kind of evidence is available because we don't have an indictment yet. Allegedly there are 27 witnesses in this thing, so I don't know what it is about and what were the instructions and from whom. It's impossible to even speculate as far as that is concerned.

POM     Do you think like in Latin America where the military are very protective of each other and in situations where there has been - Argentina or probably most recently Chile - where the military even though they have given the country back to democratic forces as such still made it quite clear that their men are off limits when it comes to prosecution. I think in Chile there has only been one successful prosecution despite all their commissions and that the colonel in question was whisked by the military off to a military hospital where he has been for the last 14 months and they simply won't give him up. Do you think that if there were more arrests that that possibility exists of structures in the military saying it is up to us to protect our own people and that a different relationship develops between the military and the state as a result?

RM     It's again impossible to say now what could develop and what possibilities would exist as far as that is concerned. I am still concerned about this thing that I have mentioned earlier, that this could lead to other results which would be damaging to the whole process of reconciliation and whether that would be in the field of the kind of thing that you have just talked about, namely that there will be strains as far as the relationship between the government and the military is concerned, is a possibility. I can imagine that that is something that prevails everywhere and certainly also on the ANC side. I can imagine that the very close relationship that existed, for instance, between the late Chris Hani and some of the MK people would have been of exactly the same nature as what you would experience on the side of the previous South African Defence Force. That's a natural thing that you would find in all security forces probably. The question is, how do we manage this, how do we deal with the situation in order to ensure that there is, at the end of the day, even-handedness, reconciliation and a general experience of that. To my mind this puts a tremendous responsibility in the hands of the government to do that because the government in itself will have to give directions as far as this concerned.

POM     Would you make a distinction, and I may have asked you this question before, between a crime, a murder of an individual ordered by the state saying go terminate person X, they are a threat to society, or whatever, and a crime committed by 'a liberation movement' which believes it is fighting against an oppressive, brutal, perhaps evil regime which shares the support of most of the world in that impression of the regime, who believe they have no way to assert their political rights except through the use of force and that force often leads to innocent people being killed but innocent people are not the primary targets, they don't target Mr X down the street who belongs to a particular organisation, they would prefer to assassinate members of the security forces or something like that? Do you understand what I'm getting at? A politically motivated crime in the sense of it's part of a struggle against oppression and the oppressor ordering the murder of people, like the execution of the poet in Nigeria. He may or may not have been involved in those murders. He was found guilty, he was convicted and they executed him. Is that not one form of the law taking it's course?

RM     I don't think you can make a distinction between murdering innocent people in a situation like you refer to as far as our own past is concerned. The killing of innocent people through the street bomb in Pretoria, and other incidents of that same nature, to my mind would be equal to the killing of innocent people at the hands of the security forces. If it was done intentionally and on purpose then both should be handled in the same way, to my mind.

POM     So the question of intent doesn't enter it? Whereas one is done with the intent of freeing people, the other is done with the intent of continuing to oppress them. Is that a factor? Is there a moral factor?

RM     Just look at it, put yourself in their shoes. The killing through the necklace method was certainly the most brutal that we have experienced through the late 1980s and in many instances also innocent people were in that process no doubt killed. Could that be described as killing people to free others? I doubt very much whether that would be a valid assessment of the situation.

POM     Some people might call that a case of - the legacy of the oppressor is that it brutalises the oppressed, their humanity becomes so degraded, so brutalised that they engage in these acts against each other, but that it's a product of the brutalisation they have experienced at the hands of the regime which is oppressing them.

RM     It takes it back to the whole ...

POM     We're getting too philosophical, are we?

RM     I think it takes it back to the start of the whole conflict in South Africa, where it originated from. It makes it a very difficult debating point, but the point is one wrong doesn't make another one correct and I think that is the way in which I would believe these situations should be assessed in the South African circumstances. But it brings us back to the seriousness of the whole attempt behind the Truth Commission. To my mind the Truth Commission can make the main contribution towards resolving the disputes and the conflict of the past and the origin of it and the basis of it to the extent that we can finally say, well it is over and done and it's gone.

POM     To switch to something that might be more difficult to deal with, the National Party. First of all one hears of schisms within the party particularly between what might be called the Hernus Kriel faction and the Roelf Meyer faction, between those who want to take a more hard-line attitude in the government of national unity and those who want to play a more, again, pro-active role in it, not to act more as an opposition but to act more as part of a government. In terms of philosophy, on the one hand you recently, you have said it on many occasions but even recently, said that if the National Party had a future it had to become a multi-racial party. Yet if one looks at the results in the Western Cape, they may be being mis-analysed by all observers, but the comment in all the media across the board was that the ANC had made big inroads into the coloured vote in the Cape. If that is true, you balance that against the support you received to compensate for that came from the right. Here in Pretoria in particular it came from people who had previously voted for the CP returning to the fold of the NP, so that in a funny kind of a way after all these efforts at becoming a more diverse party over 18 months you may in fact have become a less diverse party in terms of your electoral support base.

RM     You can also put that question in a nutshell and ask whether these elections were on racial lines. It's difficult to analyse it in a simplified way, but let me repeat what I have said often in the past, maybe in our earlier discussions, but also more recently publicly, and that is that I am afraid that the South African political scene is still very much dictated by the formations of the apartheid era. In other words the ANC is still very much like it was before the reform started, the National Party basically the same, and so across the political spectrum. Therefore, one thing comes to mind and that unfortunately we haven't had yet a reform of the party political scene as we had it in the constitutional terrain and that means that that still has to come. I think it's unavoidable and it should come, that there must be a restructuring of the party political scene in South Africa. The question is when it will come and what will contribute to that.

     But in the end for South Africa to really successfully, to succeed in all its endeavours I believe we have to find a way for non-racial co-operation which is probably the biggest challenge for us ahead politically speaking. What I mean, therefore, is that if you don't have a mechanism, let me be very frank about this, if you don't have a mechanism like the government of national unity which essentially is making a contribution by bringing black and white, so to speak, together in governing the country, if you don't have that mechanism any longer then you will either see a polarisation between black and white or you will have to find another mechanism to successfully bridge that gap between black and white and that means that the other mechanism has to be full non-racial party political co-operation. So that is the thing that one has to work for, not only from a pure party point of view, not only to ensure that the National Party succeeds, but also to ensure that the country succeeds. I'm not saying, therefore, the National Party must stay like it is and try to expand it's support base in the black community, it might also in the process have to restructure itself like other parties in the process will have to restructure themselves and thereby new party political formations will come into being in South Africa. I think that is the kind of thing that one can expect to happen. The only question is, when is that going to start happening and what are the factors that will contribute to that.

POM     Just as an aside on that, when one reads all the studies done on the economy by any international bodies which stress again and again and again the uncompetitiveness of the economy, not just vis-à-vis the rest of the world but it's vis-à-vis people or a country at this level of development, and particularly pointed to the high wage structure in the economy and say that if the economy is to have a chance in a global market there must be restraint on wage demands, to which the unions say, "Over our dead bodies." Is this where the schism starts within the ANC? Is this coming to be a problem of serious magnitude for the government to put in a context given the tripartite alliance nature of the ANC?

RM     I think that is the one area or the one factor that can make a contribution to this whole restructuring idea. I think there are probably three factors. Let us point them out. One is the relationship, particularly at the local community level, between the ANC and the Civics and I think we have seen already during these local government elections that there are tendencies in that regard, a few cracks here and there, and although it might not be translated yet in terms of actual voting I think one could see some disillusionment in terms of reactions of individuals and civic structures here and there. The other one is the question of the unions, more particularly COSATU. I think COSATU will have to follow the normal route that unions elsewhere did when it comes to the question of what is their main interest. Their main agenda no doubt would be to try and satisfy their members which would be a different agenda from that of the ANC under normal circumstances. It's quite clear why that agenda was the same in the past but as we move faster and further into a democratic South Africa that factor will become more and more important I believe. Then of course the third factor is the question, what will happen if Mr Mandela is not there within the ANC? I don't think it will cause immediate strains as far as the organisation is concerned but in the medium and longer term I have no doubt it will have an impact if that would happen.

POM     The local government elections were really fought on not local issues but, in a sense, national issues and yet for all the talk of disillusionment at the grassroots with the ANC, the lack of delivery on promises, the disgruntlement that too much attention was being paid to ameliorate the fears of whites rather than deal with the concerns of blacks, continuing high unemployment, the virtual collapse of the housing programme, there's not been a housing programme of any real description at all, 10,000 houses built in twelve months, rampaging levels of crime, in the end none of these things counted against the ANC, like nothing counted. They came home with what would appear at the moment to be a larger proportion of the vote than they had in 1994 even though I'm qualifying that by taking into account KwaZulu/Natal and the metropolitan Cape. Why did none of these things count?

RM     I think the election results are being read a little bit in a simplistic way. I don't think all the factors have been taken into account. For instance, and I haven't made a final analysis myself, the fact of the matter is we are now standing at round about 55% turnout of a 75% registration figure in those areas where the elections took place. That would mean that probably less than half of those that voted last year did participate this time. That in itself must tell something, that must tell something.

POM     But that is true of local elections all over the world. There's a huge difference between elections at the national level and at the local level.

RM     It could well be, but it could also be an indication of people's apathy towards politics or towards a political party. If they felt so strongly and convinced of their support they would have in any case come to vote like others did.

POM     Is there any way of data being able to show at this point whether there was a higher turnout in the white community, coloured community, Indian community or black community, or whether the turnout factor varied from one race group to another?

RM     The only factor that one can at the moment judge on is that there was a higher turnout in the urban areas than in the rural areas. I think it would also be true to say that the turnout in the white community was higher than in any previous local government election, but I would refrain from making judgment on the other comparisons or similarities. But the point is, to come back to your argument, the fact is, yes, we didn't see any of the possible disillusionment or possible support for other parties being translated into the voting pattern yet. It's my experience that, for instance, and in my going around in Soweto and in other townships prior to these elections, there was far more goodwill and openness openly shown by the community. In fact I didn't experience, and Izak was with me all the time, I didn't experience any hostility in our going around. In many case we went around in Soweto unannounced without pre-selecting areas or arranging people to get together and so forth. So I think one can say that that's a good sign, that there's far more political tolerance today than there was, for instance, prior to the April 1994 elections. I think in general that is a very good indication. But the fact that people were more friendly and less hostile maybe didn't mean that they were necessarily going to vote otherwise yet. That might be a next step.

POM     A necessary step, but then a sufficient one.

RM     Correct. But the question is, could one have expected differently? We are only 18 months into the transition, 18 months into the free South Africa and the history is still quite close to us. People's experiences are still very much linked to the past, but in years to come of course that will change, and the new generation will come out of this in the years to come that will have different experiences. They will be exposed to different situations and so forth.

POM     I suppose that would be the obvious question, why would you think that after 18 months that people that had been so systematically repressed at every level should turn around and vote for the people who had repressed them?

RM     I think that is the obvious situation.

POM     Would you concede the point on the coloured vote, that there are areas of the Cape that are measurable at this point, that the ANC did in fact make gains like in Stellenbosch and Paarl and Mossel Bay and Worcester and towns like that, where the coloured was the swing vote, it's decision to move away from the NP?

RM     I'm not sure, Padraig, whether that is a final view that one can take. I tend to think, yes, there was in a few instances a lack of support for the National Party, put it that way. But I think it would be better to wait for the outcome of the metropolitan election next year before one can make a real assessment of that situation. In our situation in Gauteng we didn't experience necessarily a flow away on the side of the Coloured community and I think one must be careful not to make assessments before you have the full picture and you have counted all the votes.

POM     A lot of assessments are being made already though, to the point where perceptions are being formed.

RM     That is unfortunately so but it doesn't mean that they are correct. But that is true, perceptions are often indicators.

POM     Perceptions are what people use.

RM     But if you look at the figure for the Western Cape, of course, the percentage of the outcome of the vote there still gives the National Party quite a big margin.

POM     Just a couple of last questions. How would you interpret the results? As the National Party sits down now and looks at the data in front of it and it's not next March or next April or whenever the other elections are going to take place, it's now, how do you interpret it and how do you interpret it vis-à-vis your position in the government of national unity and in terms of trying to carve out a new identity for the party where on the one hand it's a member of government and on the other hand it's the opposition, which is kind of a schizophrenic way to be?

RM     Let me first take the elections and then say something about the way forward. As far as the elections are concerned I think one thing has been proved and that is that the National Party is the second biggest or important party in the country. The right wing has effectively been dealt with, the DP is an island party with limited support based in parts of Johannesburg and that's all, and for the rest it remains the ANC and the National Party. Now the question is, how do we position ourselves on the way forward? My own view would be, and since this is only going to be published after the next election in terms of your latest letter, one can now start to speculate. I am personally of the view that we should take a view now of where we want to be in three and a half years from now. In other words take a strategic view on that and plan accordingly. That would be my assessment of the situation, and as I said publicly, to my mind we have to position ourselves in such a way that it is quite clear that we are a non-racial party ourselves and that we are working towards improving the quality of life of all South Africans through all our political endeavours. I think that is absolutely fundamentally important and if the National Party is not going to do that then to my mind it's not going to succeed whatsoever.

POM     In that regard it's often said that intra-party change must precede extra-party change, that unless there is a change in the composition, the senior level composition of the National Party it's only a multi-racial party by word of mouth, not by its structures.

RM     That is one of the strategic considerations that I have to put on the table. That's for sure. I'm personally of the belief that one of the impeding factors which remains at the moment is the fact that we have a pure white face and although that might not be in our hearts that is unfortunately the perception and the image that is being projected. I believe that that will have to be changed in the very short term.

POM     So in that sense the party is at a crossroads?

RM     I don't think it's at a crossroads necessarily. The question is, what are those going to do that don't agree with this?

POM     It lacks a well-defined sense of identity of where it actually fits in the new scheme of things.

RM     But the more important question right now is the one that you have put, namely, how do we deal with this dual role situation, this schizophrenic position that we are in. I believe we have to deal with it in the way it was intended to deal with. We planned together with the ANC for a government of national unity. The whole idea of power sharing was after all ours and now we have to exercise that role and not run away from it. That role said, as we defined it right from the start, we want power sharing so that we can join forces so that we can co-operate so that we can see the highest level of comparative advantage in the interests of the nation.

POM     Last question. You have this continual souring of the relationship between President Mandela and Mr de Klerk. On the other hand you had until the last week or so what appeared to be a flowering relationship between Mr Mandela and General Viljoen and even as he was putting General Viljoen down the other day he went out of his way to say he was an honest man. Over the weekend I think he called Mr de Klerk a liar with regard to the movement of the parliament from Cape Town or whatever. What accounts for the continuing deterioration of that relationship on the other side with a man without whom, even though he said, "We both need each other", who must share in the credit for the transformation, vis-à-vis a person with whom he has much less in common and who could prove in the long run to be a far bigger obstacle to the promotion of peace and harmony in the state? Is there a chemistry among one pair and no chemistry among the other?

RM     I think the chemistry lacks at the moment between Mr Mandela and Mr de Klerk. It was there originally but it started, unfortunately, to fade after CODESA 1, you will recall that incident, and it was actually never restored thereafter. That was December 1991. In the case of Viljoen it's not a question of chemistry I think, it's simply ...

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.