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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.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 Mar 1996: Hendrickse, Allan
POM You were saying that this would probably be your last year in politics. Why now? Why now rather than in 1999?
AH Well you see I had already decided to retire before the last election and then I assisted the African National Congress with the elections and then became the dissolution of the Labour Party of South Africa and then came the request for me to serve on the Senate. Originally I was on the ANC list for the National Assembly and then I asked to be removed from there because I was retiring but then at the insistence of the ANC I then accepted an appointment as Senator for the Eastern Cape, hence I served here now, this is my second year, and at the end of this year, however, I just feel that I've done my bit, I've had a fair share of the struggle, the wind is against me sometimes, other times with me, so I think the time has come for me to step out and have a peaceful rest hereafter.
POM Just when you look back, and I'll do another interview with you later on reviewing your entire career, but just looking back from sitting here today on your career are you amazed at how quickly things have moved in the last five years particularly in the last couple of years, have been moved at a rate that has been beyond your expectations or in line with your expectations?
AH Can I say that in a sense, I remember when my first visit to the United States was in 1972 and I was talking about changes that were taking place, changes in attitudes particularly from the Afrikaner community and the white section of the South African population and I said give us 25 years. Well I haven't done too badly if one talks in terms of that and we need another year to go to fulfil that 25 years, so we haven't done too badly. But it certainly, when it comes to the pace of change that is taking place, this certainly has been surprising. Although one has to look at the South African scene with all its problems still, it wasn't an overnight change, then it's going to take some time before we really have a completely new situation. You've still got the legacy of the past which haunts us to a certain extent and the government is busy trying to change that legacy but it will take some time still before we really get to where we want to be. However, I think the change that is already evident in South Africa, and one listens to people coming from overseas, my own relatives who have come back to South Africa after emigrating, and then they stand amazed at what they see.
POM Have they come back to live or to visit?
AH No just to visit and because of the length of time and being acclimatised politically and otherwise, say, to Australia or England and so on they are not coming back at this stage, but they stand amazed at what they experience now.
POM Do you think that, for example, the National Party's belief that it can attract a significant number of black voters in the next three to ten years is really wishful thinking, that they simply don't understand the effect that apartheid had on black people, how that is implanted in their memories and how the memory of that repression will last for a very, very long time?
AH I have no doubt about that. I think it's a pipe dream for the National Party whether they change their approach, change their name even for that matter. I remember one of their previous leaders, John Vorster, saying to the old United Party that one only changes your name when you know the end is nearby, you only write your will when you certainly are going to go. I think talking about a change of name even for the National Party is not going to be meaningful in the total South African population. I am amazed myself at the number of Afrikaners who are joining the African National Congress. Uitenhage itself during the elections had elected a member of the Conservative Party. Botha is the name of this person there, he is a member of the Conservative Party, now on the Freedom Front of course. But when Nelson Mandela last year on 14th September visited Uitenhage I was amazed at the Afrikaner students. One high school named Brandwag, now Brandwag we always associate Brandwag with what was then called the resistance movement of the Afrikaner, the Ossewa Brandwag, literally translated 'the wagon watchmen'. There were these Afrikaner kids lining the street and waving the South African flag and cheering Mandela. Uitenhage, this Afrikaner, conservative, almost Eugene Terre'Blanche type of Afrikaner in Uitenhage. I received a phone call in my office one day from an Afrikaner lady who I can mention by name, Mrs Meyer, who worked in a government department in Uitenhage, saying what must she do to join the ANC. I think this is symptomatic of the gradual disappearance of that fear that was inculcated into the Afrikaner by the previous regime, the swart gevaar, the black threat as you would literally translate it. Particularly now that they are experiencing this change without the violence that they expected. All right, violence is evident in South Africa today but what they were expecting was a black/white violent confrontation. One lady at the Trust Bank in Uitenhage said to me one day, she said, "You know before the elections we were just dead scared that the blacks would come here into the bank and turn everything upside down and one thing and another", and she says, "You know today we've got more black customers than we've ever had before." And I think this is evident of where we are.
POM Just going back to the question of the National Party trying to redesign itself, do you think that the fact that they could entertain the notion that significant numbers of blacks would vote for them shows almost a certain condescension towards blacks, a certain patronising attitude?
AH More patronising rather than condescending. I think patronising in the sense of giving people positions within the National Party. If you look at their appointments the latest appointment to the Cabinet by the National Party is indicative of the fact that they are taking people who are not acceptable to the black community, who have no local standing, and it's a question of taking black for black's sake. In the case even of the coloured community where they have appointed after this episode with their previous Minister of Welfare, Abe Williams, they have appointed Patrick McKenzie and there is a lot of rumbling even within the National Party because of that. Now Patrick McKenzie certainly hasn't got the standing in the total coloured community that the National Party think that he has, and doing appointments like that is more patronisation than anything else. And I don't think, as you said before, you see what they fail to realise is that it's not only the apartheid era but it's the whole period of colonial rule in South Africa, black denial for 300 years and more and to think that blacks would now stream into the National Party with a change of name or a change of policy I think is a pipe dream.
POM But it shows a misunderstanding of history and the impact of - it shows a misunderstanding of what they did to black people.
AH Absolutely. They have no idea, conception of what they did. The one thing that is true, of course, is that it's impossible for them to identify, that is impossible, but in terms of what they did I remember at one time, and probably I have mentioned this before, when I made a speech in the old parliament on the Group Areas Act I had a note from Pik Botha who said, "We didn't know this was happening." And this is still the position today that they can't understand. I mean for De Klerk to get up and defend past policies and past leaders and say that they did that believing that they were doing the right thing, I think is also a reflection still of leadership within the National Party. They think that they can do these things. It's still the old question, and I have previously mentioned about we know what's good for you and we can think for you and we can decide for you so you will follow us when we give the lead.
POM When Pik Botha passed you that note saying he didn't know, what did he mean?
AH I spoke about the harm that was being done to the total coloured community, the black community, our homes that were destroyed, our families were destroyed, the depth of hurt, and as far as he was concerned they didn't know that this was the effect.
POM But doesn't that show kind of a naiveté beyond reason for an intelligent person?
AH Absolutely. This is true of the past history of the National Party that they had the most 'intelligent', the most academically qualified people in a leadership position but they were never able to sense the feeling of the people over whom they were making decisions and for whom they were making decisions. They were never able to do that.
POM So do you see as you look at the National Party, do you see it really remaining as the party of the white rump, not really being able to expand very much beyond that?
AH I doubt whether they are going to do better in the next election than the 21% that they got in the previous election.
POM So they won't do much better than they have done?
AH The one thing that is true is that the National Party has lost white support and their emphasis now is on trying ...
POM It's gone to?
AH It's gone two ways, Freedom Front, that's the Afrikaner one, and the other one is the neutral position. I don't think that the Democratic Party, which is primarily English speaking, is going to get anywhere in this situation. Those are neutral and others of course are supporting the ANC, more and more.
POM So the initial, or what was conceived as strategy a couple of years ago where they thought they could make big inroads into the coloured community and into the Indian community, is that a strategy that's now ...?
AH I think perhaps it was a strategy for them as reflected in the fact that they have the majority in the Western Cape. But again there also the heritage of the past in terms of fear of black people, coloured people in the Western Cape never had the experience of African people because of influx control and things like that and job reservation. I mean jobs were reserved from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town for coloured people and to employ an African you had to get a permit to do that. So that their contact with African people was very limited and the coloured people in the Cape Peninsula particularly, and more so in the Western Cape also saw themselves as ...[... has got to do better in local council elections. It was evident in the outlying areas of Cape Town whereas during the election you had very much support for ...]
POM That's the election in 1994?
AH Yes, for the National Party which gave them a 20% somewhat. If you look at the local council elections, Worcester, Paarl, Robertson, almost through the Western Cape, the ANC is staying in control of City Councils which is indicative I think of the better understanding of the situation, and again also of course numbers.
POM Is that a question of the coloured people being dissatisfied with what the white provincial government, or white dominated provincial government has been doing for them, or is it an indication of their losing their fear of Africans?
AH Finally losing their fear. Of course there was this hope also within the Western Cape that they would get far more than what they have already got. There is a sense of disillusionment but I think basically it's the disappearance of this fear of being overrun by an African majority.
POM The sense of disillusionment, what would you be referring to in particular?
AH During the elections there were all kinds of promises made by the National Party. First of all in terms of creating this fear of black people.
POM That's fear of Africans?
AH Africans, the black community. Emphasis on the whole question of the African National Congress being communist, you're going to lose your homes and all kinds of things. Now this is not happening. They are finding that the African National Congress are far more reasonable, there's far more contact, they haven't lost anything but they haven't gained that which the National Party have promised them in terms of housing, more houses and all kinds of things that were happening, and then the question of the growth of violence particularly in the Cape Peninsula is a big factor also. By experience of the past two, three years there is a new sense of appreciation with reflection on what has happened in the past and the whole question of the ANC is not a ghost or spook that had been created in their minds, so that's their disillusion on the one hand, they haven't got what they thought they were going to get.
Two, there's this loss of fear of the African section of the black community, this has disappeared. So you find if I start right from Oudtshoorn, that's where the Cango caves are which are an attraction of South Africa, ostrich farming and so on, the majority of people there are coloured, a minority are African, the second largest number are the Afrikaners. All the years Oudtshoorn has been an Afrikaner-dominated town, City Council completely controlled. Now we've got an African Mayor, you've got a coloured Deputy Mayor and you've got a City Council which is controlled by the ANC. George, the same thing has happened. George was the headquarters of the ex-State President, PW Botha, that was the constituency he represented for years, and now they've got a black Mayor. Mossel Bay where you've got Mossgas, you have probably heard about the Mossgas story and the expenditure, we tried to beat the oil boycott by developing Mossgas and so on, that has got an African Mayor, ANC. So that in the Western Cape almost every town and city is being controlled, Paarl, just twenty miles away from where you are at the moment, where the ex-Administrator of the Cape Province, Meiring, ex-Mayor also, you now have an African Mayor of Paarl. Worcester the same thing.
So there is a change in picture as a result of the local elections and, of course, what has hurt the National Party here in the Cape Peninsula particularly was the Abie Williams debacle. That has hit them very hard because it has had an effect, a growing effect with things happening, things happening and appointments and so on. And even here people are saying that in their appointments, in F W de Klerk's appointments now he is scraping the barrel in terms of the coloured people, in terms of the African people.
POM Like this Mabuso?
AH Yes, John.
POM He's been in every party. He's crossed from the ANC.
AH That's right. He was ANC, he came back and then he participated in the local council elections which was boycotted by the African majority and then he was appointed to the Transvaal Provincial government, given a post there and now he's been brought - now the fact that it's one man being changed up shows that there is not really much support for him from the African community.
POM There was a survey recently released by IDASA which purported to show that a majority of people thought that the present government was more corrupt than the previous government.
AH Can I say, these days I am not the only one that is questioning the credibility of IDASA. One, IDASA seems to want to control parliament they way they want to control parliament. They issued a circular, questionnaire to all of us as parliamentarians which the majority of us refused to fill in and sign because they see themselves almost, as I said, the controlling force over parliament. But I think any survey becomes difficult in the present circumstances when you still have majority Afrikaner control in administration. Now you can't say the present government is guilty of the sins of the past in terms of the so-called homelands. You mustn't count that. Again in terms of at the present moment every department is still controlled by white Afrikaner administrators. So I think it's wrong for IDASA to say in terms of their survey that there is now more corruption than there has ever been before. Perhaps it was less visible than it's now become, and of course from within structures within government there are so many leakages now because of African majority or non-white in that sense control of government that there are leakages, there are exposures, whereas we have had the corruption all the years and even bigger than what it is at the moment but it was never exposed.
The fact that the ex-Minister of Labour, Pietie du Plessis, was jailed for corruption, he was sentenced to nine years but he only served two, he has just been released on the grounds of ill-health, but that was one time when it was discovered but it's been there and there have been millions and millions that have gone in all kinds of ways. I think the Abie Williams story is but a repetition of what's been happening in the past which we've never known of and will still be exposed after the revelations within the Truth Commission, a lot is going to come out.
Let me give you one instance, let's take the Eastern Cape government where you've got a Minister of the National Party who is ultra, ultra-right wing in the National Party, ultra-conservative, Tertius Delport. He was Minister of Land Affairs and so on. Now he's moved to the Department of Transport and he's unhappy about Transport so immediately he starts digging into certain contracts that have been given. Now contracts given to certain people, you take Jowells in Namaqualand, he had complete control of transport in Namaqualand. Namaqualand, that's the Western Cape going up the west coast up to Namibia. At one time he was the chairman of the Commission of Transport. Now this becomes questionable in terms of their own history. Now Delport comes and he says he's unhappy, and he's been demoted from a good Cabinet position in Eastern Cape and he's now got Transport, to do with roads and so on. So he suddenly discovers that one man has got the contract and there has been some corruption with regard to the administration of the contract. Maybe it's a phase that we're going through but I don't think that it's fair to come to the conclusion that says there's more corruption now than we have had in the past. It may be an attempt from some liberals perhaps who are not happy about the African National Congress controlling the South African Government.
POM What do you think is the problem between the 'liberals' and the ANC, the root of the difference between them?
AH I don't know. It's difficult to say but I think it's a question of the intelligentsia within the liberal movement wanting to have a greater say in control and of course the whole liberal philosophy and the communist philosophy have always been at loggerheads with each other. Of course we've got many members within the ANC who are members of the Communist Party and even those in some of the Cabinet positions and I think this is the liberal, white and unfortunately also heritage of the past again, English opposition and criticism that's coming. The English have never been easy people to work that.
POM Do the Irish know that or do they now?
AH They've had the experience of it.
POM We're still having it. Just going back to what you said about the ANC having been aligned with the South African Communist Party, there's not much of a Communist Party left is there?
AH No. They have grown in terms of numbers particularly amongst the younger people, they certainly have shown growth but they don't have the financial resources to do what the African National Congress is doing and then of course it's a question of philosophy, philosophy and reality, it's still the reality of the situation that's more important to people than the philosophy that can promise them all kinds of things and not get there. I think the change towards moderation after coming back to South Africa, what became a good symbol, the late Joe Slovo. Joe Slovo was public enemy number one in the South African scene. I remember when we were serving in the old parliamentary system how we were flown up to Pretoria, very secretly shown a film that was secretly made in London of Joe Slovo making his speech at the anniversary of the Communist Party and so on. He was public enemy number one. And here comes public enemy number one, communist number one, and he guides and assists more than anybody else in finding a formula for cooperation in the South African scene and there was tremendous support for Joe and a lot of sympathy also with the African National Congress with Joe Slovo's death. But that became a symbol of these are the communists that we were told to fear and here is a communist that's giving us the solution.
POM And he also had a sense of humour.
AH And comes the man with the sunset clause. Who would think this of Joe Slovo? That made a big difference and of course the publicity he got on television and all people had a greater understanding of who the man was and what he was believing in. I don't think that fear of communism is as real as people thought it was going to be.
POM Did you personally ever think you would see the day when the ANC, the party of the Freedom Charter, the party that says that the wealth of the people ...?
AH I didn't think I would see it but I was always hoping that I would see it.
POM But that party, the party of nationalisation of the mines and industry, whatever, would be the party that would introduce legislation to privatise?
AH I think this is what happens, as I said just now, between theory and practice. Even the Labour Party had stood for the nationalisation of mines at one time and we certainly weren't loved by the mining people. They came to see me about it and all the rest and then I said, well fine I could change in terms of nationalisation to the question of greater taxation. I think the question of how the government is emphasising private enterprise at this time certainly shows the pragmatism moving from theory towards what the country needs. If they were to continue with nationalisation we certainly are not going to get the investments that we need so sorely in this country. So it's the need that determines the policy.
POM To turn for a moment to the Truth Commission, is there a widespread belief among the National Party that this is really being set up as a witch-hunt to get their former leaders or current leaders?
AH I think so, amongst Afrikaners this is very strong. They see this as an attempt to expose people in order to get retribution for what has been done in the past and, of course, the old government particularly, and those who were members of the government have so much to hide and I think this is the value of the Truth Commission.
AH ( The allowance) which we get as members of parliament. We don't get it, but the constituency gets it and so you can run an office, it's very little but you can still manage to run an office. One member from Bisho gets R3000-00, I get R3000-00, so we've got R6000-00 a month to run the office. Now the rental of the place is R3000-00 and we've got to employ people to work there and so on.
POM All for R3000-00 a month?
AH Yes. It's very little. But you find people who are prepared because it's the ANC to do it, and especially with unemployment also. Half a loaf is better than none as they say.
POM You were talking about the Truth Commission, the value of the Truth Commission.
AH If the Afrikaners, the Afrikaners are Calvinists and one of the things that Calvinists believe firmly in, as I do also, is the whole question as St. Paul writes that in order to forgive you must first of all admit, confess is the word, if you confess your sins then certainly God is willing to forgive but he can only forgive that which you have confessed. I think that is the Christian element I see in the Truth Commission. The only time when you can have complete reconciliation is when you know what you have done to me and I know what you have done and there's a complete admission of guilt in a sense, I can only forgive you. Now what the Afrikaners expected was complete forgiveness without making an admission so I think that is why one appreciates the fact that Archbishop Tutu is chairman of that commission because I believe that's his approach, not for a question of retribution but the question of complete forgiveness. You can only forgive that which has already been confessed. We haven't had that confession from the Afrikaners and from the previous government so I think all that must be brought out, all the dirty linen must be brought out in order to be washed before it can be made clean. So I think it's going to serve a good purpose because ordinary people are still angry and when little revelations come out of what did happen in the past they are even more angry, but if these revelations were coming out and there is a sense of forgiveness then I think there will be a greater satisfaction.
POM Do you think that if in the course of the investigations and confessions to the Truth Commission that F W de Klerk is implicated in one way or another or accusations are made against him and that he in fact has got to make his own admissions of the knowledge of activities that were either criminal or illegal or whatever, that he should be required to step down as Deputy President?
AH I think besides being required, I think in all sense of honesty if he were to be the man that some people believe him to be, and there are revelations like these, then it would be expected that the man would step down. Take the position of Abie Williams, after the revelation he was asked to step down by his leader and I believe that this should be true also of F W de Klerk if after revelations which many of us believe he was involved in. We can't see a head of state not knowing what's happening within these various departments.
POM Well even before that he had sat in the National Security Council.
AH Even in the Cabinet, as I think I mentioned before, within the South African Cabinet, we who served there for the time that we were there were always excluded when it came to matters of security and I don't believe that any person serving on the Security Council can say I didn't know that such and such a thing was happening, and admissions are going to absolutely necessary.
POM Will that create more divisiveness between black and white?
AH No I think, really I do believe it's going to be an element that will contribute towards reconciliation because then if these things are revealed and certain people like De Klerk are forced, morally forced to step down, then I think it's going to bring about a certain amount of healing rather than the continued festering, festering as a result of the unknown.
POM How about the Magnus Malan trial? Just a couple of things. One, what if he is found innocent? What would be the repercussions of that, if all the generals are found innocent, what would be the repercussions of that in the black community?
AH I think it's going to be difficult for them to accept although there has been, in spite of the hardship and suffering and endurance of people in the past, there has been I suppose a willingness to accept that the cause of justice has been done. Can I illustrate this out of my own experience within my church? A young girl, Standard 8, has an affair with a young farmer who is married and has two children. Then she becomes pregnant from the farmer. The farmer takes her to various doctors for abortions, they refuse to do it and in the end she refuses to have an abortion. Then she is found hanged and all circumstances, I wrote a letter to the Minister of Justice about it, all circumstances point to his guilt, but when it eventually came after more than a year, the farmer first of all was let out free of bail and they said, "But if this was a black man they would put the bail so high that he would have stayed in jail." All right, fine. Then when in the end the Attorney General withdraws the charge then people are angry and they say, "But look you've got a white investigator, you've got a white person being charged, you've got a white Attorney General, you've got a white magistrate or judge, all Afrikaners, the man is free." Now there's a sense of anger but within us as a religious community we say, "Fine, let's accept that which has happened and may God forgive him, God will do his will." And I think this amongst the black community will happen. If they are found not guilty then they as black people are predominantly religious, will say, "Fine we leave that in the hands of God who will make his will shown in some way or other."
POM Now I have to run unfortunately, but maybe before I go back in May we can have another session. If evidence points in the direction of Buthelezi being implicated should he be indicted even if that were to provoke what would amount to civil war?
AH That's a most difficult question at this stage because whether we like it or not he has support and Buthelezi himself has a wonderful way of saying things to people which they can interpret and understand in a way that he wants them to understand without him saying it. And I believe if he would be indicted we are going to have serious trouble amongst the Zulu community in Natal.
POM Would considerations of the need for stability outweigh the indictment?
AH Indictment? It certainly would I think it certainly would. Somehow or other one will have to find a way in which he could be excused or exonerated but I think indictment is certainly going to have serious consequences.
POM Do you ever see him going before the Truth Commission?
AH I doubt it.
POM OK, I will leave it there for today.