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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.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: Wessels, Leon
POM Leon, first, one has read a lot about your decision to retire and to many, at least in the media, it came seemingly as a surprise or they were trying to read significance into it in terms of the direction the party was moving or your role in the party and to others it was a straightforward statement of what you had said earlier that you would retire from politics if not now at least in the year 2000. I think there was a quotation of you saying to De Klerk on election night that, "I'll be around maybe until the year 2000 but probably not after that." Why now?
LW Well the moment actually also came a little bit sooner than I would have predicted simply because when I started to get involved in the constitution making process, as I have been fortunate to do right now, one became more and more exposed to the technocrats, the lawyers, the professors, the practitioners of law so to speak, and in a sense also isolated me more from the party political scene of things and I once again discovered how much I enjoyed that, being away from the hustle and bustle of party politics, the shouting contests of party politics, the big brag of party politics; I'm the smartest, I'm the greatest, I have all the answers. In this role the whole idea of mediation, arbitration, reconciliation came very forcefully to me once again and I more or less rediscovered how much I had enjoyed the previous years in this particular role and it reinforced my desire to sometime move away from party politics back to legal business where one is away from the limelight, one is away from the shouting contests of party politics and one is really focusing on the issues at hand before you.
So I guess I matured in my views in this regard to an extent where everything was clear to me, that I just had to seek the right moment and the right opportunity to resign. And when Mr de Klerk announced his new vision I, of course, was part of the planning and the decision-making processes that led up to this, but when he announced that coupled with the possible resignation of Dr Bhadra Ranchod and his appointment as Ambassador to Australia a lot of speculation started to develop. Words to this effect were used, Wessels will be in the market again, Wessels will be looking for a job, Wessels may become the Deputy Speaker, Wessels may become a Cabinet minister, this, that and the following. And I thought it's simply unfair to continue this double life in the sense that allow the press to continue with their speculation, make myself available for re-election in a number of positions that I hold in the party, that the party structures will be reorganised in the sense that I will have to stand for re-election from the local level, namely the West Rand right up to the position I hold in Gauteng as one of the deputy chairpersons, to stand for re-election for these various offices and then resign when the constitution is concluded in two, three, four months, and I discussed it with Mr de Klerk, I actually pre-empted all of this and discussed it with him and said I wish to make it clear right now so that everybody can rest, I'm not available for any positions you may have been so kind to consider me for any positions, I am not available for that. Furthermore I am not standing for re-election of any of the party offices that I hold and in that respect I cleared the decks and it's been a wonderful experience ever since.
POM Well one phase of your life is coming to a close and it's been a very momentous phase. If you had to pick maybe the two or three things that stand out for you as being the most singularly momentous events for you personally during your career in parliament, what would those moments be?
LW Well I look at them from a personal point of view. I would say the mid-eighties, the mid-eighties when we were grappling to repeal legislation such as the Mixed Marriages Act, the Immorality Act and so forth, that was a very important phase in my political career because I personally then came to the conclusion that there were no half measures as far as this specific so-called apartheid legislation was concerned. You had to go the whole hog and one felt so secure because you knew the decisions that you were taking were the right ones and one actually firmly, passionately believed in them, so one could do battle on those issues. That was a very important phase. The second phase, I would like to more or less twin them by thinking of that whole period where there was so much turmoil in our country, 1985, 1986, and in spite of all this turbulence and turmoil and strife and conflict I was being exposed to the thinking of people like Desmond Tutu, one got to know the Tutus of the world, the Tutus, the Motlanas and others, and that once again confirmed the decision one had taken a few years earlier on as far as the Mixed Marriages Act and the Immorality Act was concerned. Through that whole process was the opportunity then to do party political battle with Clive Derby-Lewis on two occasions, in the 1987 election which I won with a very narrow margin of 55 votes.
POM Over Lewis?
LW Over Clive Derby-Lewis. And then the same night that the results were announced I had to listen to him and others saying, "Wessels, we're having a re-match in 1989", and right up to this day people who follow politics still closely tell me that the fact that I did not only win the election again in 1989 but also increased the majority from 55 almost to 1000 was a major, major, major event in their thinking. And one should not forget that there was virtually nobody who predicted a win for the National Party in 1989 and very few people predicted a win in 1987. So both wins were against the tide and somebody was in this office, somebody who had spent years in parliament and years in politics, no less than two weeks ago and actually still congratulated me on the campaign which I ran in 1987 and 1989, saying we knew you were verlig, we thought you would budge on your views but you did not. Now the reason was not because I was so tough and so smart and I saw the issues so clearly, it was simply because I couldn't go back on the friendships and the understandings which had developed in the years earlier on between myself and others and Desmond Tutu, Motlana, just to mention the two of them. So that I think typifies all of that. I did say there were two or three phases but I am extending them a little bit now.
The third big phase I would say was the whole negotiating phase when one got to know people like Chris Hani and Kasrils and Joe Slovo, these grand old terrorists, and Joe Modise and actually became friends with them and tried to understand what their thinking was. People like Mac Maharaj and others, I can just keep on talking. That certainly made a tremendous impression on me and in that period I also had the privilege of meeting and getting to know Mr Mandela a little bit better. Two occasions come to mind. The one, of course, was when we were both fortunate and asked to address a meeting in Oslo, which is a long story, the Oslo meeting, which I thoroughly enjoyed and that was a wonderful occasion.
POM The Conference on Hatred?
LW That is correct. And the second one was when he and I actually spent something like twelve hours in each other's company, Cyril Ramaphosa, Mandela, Sisulu, Trevor Huddleston and myself. I was the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, this was July 1991, and we had to deal with some so-called political prisoners in the former Bophuthatswana government who were on hunger strike and I just had to convey a message to Mr Mandela which he received but refused to depart after receiving the message and he was actually staging a very diplomatic sit-in and I had to keep him company for hours and hours and hours. But that also is a long story. Those interactions, the Mandela interactions, coupled with the whole discovery process and discovering adversaries, getting to know adversaries and they were not adverse, the discussions were not of an adversarial nature any longer and we became friends. All that I would say were highlights, they were peaks.
POM In terms of President Mandela's 'sit-in', did you engage in conversation for the several hours?
LW Oh of course, we never stopped talking, we never stopped talking. The story simply was the following: that I was supposed to meet him at three o'clock at the Wonderboom Airport and give him a message simply that we can't get hold of President Mangope therefore we want to assure him that the health and the well-being of the hunger strikers was also on our hearts and minds and we would do our best to ensure that a tragedy would not develop but urge him to leave the matter in the hands of Mr de Klerk and Mr Botha who would deal with it over the weekend or first thing on Monday morning. And then he said that, "I understand the message. Thank you for bringing the message to me but I am not leaving because something terrible may happen to these people over the weekend and therefore I first want to speak to Pik Botha, but I actually want to speak to FW." And then a whole drama developed because I had to get hold, from a telephone booth, of Mr Botha, then of Mr de Klerk and then from that telephone booth try to set up a telephone conversation between him and President Mangope and finally we arrived at the hospital about eleven o'clock, twelve o'clock just to discover that they wouldn't let us in and they wouldn't allow us to visit these hunger strikers. This was now myself, Cyril Ramaphosa, Walter Sisulu and the whole entourage. Of course in that period from three o'clock till eleven o'clock we had spent all the time talking, chatting, eating together. I arranged for a meal. Pik Botha told me over the telephone, at the telephone booth, this was about seven, eight o'clock at night that the best I should do, Leon Wessels, was to entertain the gentlemen, they are my guests and I should take charge of the situation. And I arranged with the restaurateur to serve us proper meals and in just a little room where we were sitting they laid the table for us. I asked my Private Secretary, who was a very junior fellow, to take a seat between Mr Mandela and Sisulu which was the experience of a lifetime for him. He is now a diplomat, career diplomat in Ottawa and he still holds the fondest memories of that day. But to return to the almost midnight encounter, once at the hospital they refused us entry and Mr Mandela simply said, "You know I am not leaving." And he parked his car right in front of the entrance and he said, "This is now for you to resolve." He was very friendly, very polite and I kept on running round and once again making phone calls. Finally I said to Mr Mandela, "Well you know you're teaching me very bad habits. You're teaching me everything about struggle politics because as long as you are here I am with you in this thing. I cannot leave you alone on your own. I'm with you in this now and we have to get to see these guys."
And a funny incident happened, my Private Secretary, Chris Botha and I managed to get right into the hospital and we were then under, shall I say the supervision of a Colonel whom they had woken up, army Colonel, to come and try and solve the difficult situation that had arisen because there was Mandela and his fellow travellers sitting in the car sleeping, there was I at the door of the hospital but not allowed to enter and all of us refusing to go. I was at one stage, this is all recorded in a small way, also I write about it in a book which I have written in Afrikaans, at gun-point where I said to the guy now, who was holding me, something like a Corporal, saying, "But don't you understand you have to leave?" I said, "Well you know I am afraid of you because you are an official of the Bophuthatswana government, you hold a rifle in your hand, but I want to tell you I am more afraid of Pik Botha because I cannot move away from you and go to Pik Botha and this whole thing unresolved. And there is Mandela sitting in his car. What are you and I going to do? We have to solve this. We have to solve this tonight." I then managed to get into the hospital.
Once in the hospital this Colonel said he was now going to phone the Commissioner of Prisons in Bophuthatswana and he, for the umpteenth time, asked me and said, "Now just explain to me who are you exactly?" And that was when my Private Secretary's patience just let go and he said, "Sir, let me tell you it works like this: in the field of foreign affairs in the South African government it's first Mr F W de Klerk, he's the State President, second to him is Mr Pik Botha, he is the Minister of Foreign Affairs and then it's Mr Leon Wessels who is the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. Now, sir, I am now showing you his diplomatic passport. You will see it's not an ordinary passport. This is a diplomatic passport." And he said OK and he reluctantly phoned the Commissioner of Prisons and he then said to me he phoned this Commissioner of Prisons and he said "Well I have this guy Wessels here, he claims to be the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of South Africa. He has Mandela outside of the gates, they want to see these hunger strikers and they claim that they have the permission of President Mangope to do just that." And this gentleman, the Commissioner, said he refused permission because Mangope had not phoned him. And then I said, "Please hand me the telephone". I took the telephone and I said, "Sir, I respect you, you're the Commissioner of Prisons. Let me tell you something, I have the instruction of Mr Pik Botha who tells me that President Mangope has given his personal assurance that we would have no difficulties, we would have free passage to these hunger strikers and that we could address them and therefore I am now in the hospital, I am not leaving, I am staying in the hospital. You have to throw me out. Outside of the gates you have Mr Mandela, Sisulu and Ramaphosa. They have told me they will stay there until they have spoken and seen the hunger strikers. So now I am not leaving unless President Mangope personally phones me at this number and tells me that I must leave, that Pik Botha has not given me the correct version of their discussion."
I gambled on that knowing full well that he was not going to phone Mangope at one o'clock at night and everybody knew that from what they had learned and seen that Mandela was not going to leave and I wasn't going to leave, so he actually then allowed us in. I then went out, I told Cyril the whole story and I said, "Now we just have to move quickly now before they change their minds on this and please let's get cracking, let's walk." I had now negotiated with them that the only people to see and address the hunger strikers would be Mandela, Sisulu and Ramaphosa, that's the only people, they will not be accompanied by anybody else. Then Mandela's security people refused that and they said there's no way that Mandela can go in on his own, they have to accompany him. I went back, I had to re-negotiate permission for them to accompany him. Then I came back and I told Mr Mandela that and he said no way, he's not going in there if I don't go with him. He wants me to accompany him. I finally went, I re-negotiated that. I returned, I said, "Cyril, please let's just move on this now." And he said, the car was then parked outside of the gates, he said, "Mr Mandela and Sisulu are not young. It's cold, they are not going to walk. They need to drive the car right to the entrance of the hospital." I had to re-negotiate that.
And then I walked with Mr Mandela and I was standing right next to him when they woke those hunger strikers, they woke them up, and it was an incredible night, it was an incredible experience just to be there, to witness that, to see that, because when they woke up these hunger strikers and they saw Mandela was in their presence their response was unbelievable. And then one of them started to speak and he said, "I want to apologise for not maybe speaking clearly, not articulating well, because as you will understand I have been on hunger strike, I've had some medication, I was sleeping, etc., but I just want you to know how much we appreciate your presence." And he spoke to Mr Mandela, he addressed him and then he also addressed me, saying to me, "We know you are the representative of De Klerk and how much we appreciate it that you accompanied Mandela on this visit and we want you to take a message back to De Klerk and just tell him that all we want is a similar process in Bophuthatswana like the one you have embarked on in South Africa, to start a process of negotiation and of democratisation. We want nothing more, nothing less."
I must also say this, to the credit of Mr Mandela, that he had not only insisted that I accompany him on those few last steps to the hunger strikers, but the way he introduced me was typical Mandela style, I mean the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs representing De Klerk, somebody who he knew, who had been with him to Oslo, blah, blah, blah. So when we got home at three o'clock that morning, which was now twelve hours after that, the two officials, my secretary Chris, Chris Botha and Christo Prins who had accompanied me, said, "Well now we just have to sit quietly and just actually think what had happened to the three of us in the previous twelve hours which was incredible."
That is another long, long story because that was a critical moment in the lifting of sanctions, President Bush lifting sanctions against South Africa and the anti people, those who supported the non lifting of the sanctions claimed there were still people held as political prisoners and, of course, Mr de Klerk had said he did not have any political prisoners left. And they had said, but what about Bophuthatswana? And that's how that whole Bophuthatswana thing came into play. Needless to say by Monday I was in serious trouble, accused by President Mangope who reported me to Pik Botha the way I had conducted myself at the hospital, etc., etc., and there was one huge discussion a few days later where Mr Mangope actually in the presence of Mr de Klerk accused President Mandela of the revolutionary speeches he had made in the hospital and my conduct and so forth, which was not founded at all and a lovely debate which I enjoyed just by presenting the true facts as it had happened. So that was also, the Mandela encounters were also highlights.
POM Before he came out of prison you must have had a certain image in your mind of who this man was either based on propaganda or the Rivonia trial or whatever, was there a huge difference between the man and what you had imagined the man might be?
LW I guess that also had changed over the years. In the mid-eighties the image I had of Mandela I would say prior to the eighties, the mid-eighties, was the typical image one had of him as an average South African. Mandela the accused, the terrorist, sabotage, the court case, this and that and the following, but as one got involved with black politics more and more people were telling you stories about Mandela which did not fit the image you had of him. So one began to doubt those stories and I would say by the time he was released I had had so many positive stories of him that I wasn't sure who was going to walk out of prison. I had no clear image what to predict. I met some Generals in the Department of, now Correctional Services then Prisons, who had told me what an incredible personality this was. I met some foreigners who had spoken with him, I had met some people who were closely engaged with the Eminent Persons' Group who had met with him in the mid-eighties, so one was completely confused and was still waiting for the moment to see who it was. But when I met him for the first time in 1990 I just enjoyed watching him in action because at that meeting, the Conference of Hate in Oslo there were very important people there, people like Jimmy Carter, Mitterand, Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn, and all those guys were there. I treasured the inter-action the two of us had with one another but also the inter-action he had with others because I stood right next to him, right next to him shoulder by shoulder, when he was introduced to Gregory Peck and I came back and I said to people, "You know when Gregory Peck was introduced to this guy it almost looked to me as if Peck had been at Robben Island for 27 years and Mandela had been in Hollywood for 27 years", because that was the way, you see when Mr Peck was introduced they said to Mr Mandela, "You know we want to introduce you to Gregory Peck", and then the person who was going to introduce him suddenly hesitated and said, "You know who Gregory Peck is?" Of course he was thinking of what would Mandela know about Gregory Peck and Mandela said, "Of course, I know him", and typical Mandela style reached out to Peck and hugged him and Peck was a little surprised at that, almost overtaken by that event. So I also came back and said people were expecting to see a terrorist and they met a statesman. To them its unthinkable that somebody could be in prison for 20 years and then exposed to the media, the wide world, etc. and they suddenly meet a statesman, very much to their surprise. I don't know whether you want to listen to these stories?
POM They're very important. They humanise, what I'm looking for here is that on the road to Damascus was there any moment when you got struck like St Paul, was there any defining moment?
LW I will try and come back to that if I may, but I just want to give you a link, and link Clive Derby-Lewis and Mandela in a very strange way. In 1987 Clive Derby-Lewis had challenged me to a public debate for days on end and I said, well, this Clive Derby-Lewis, who is he? I don't want to talk to the guy. Why should I speak to Clive Derby-Lewis? I'm the sitting member, he's challenging me. Why should I speak to Lewis? Where does he come from? He wasn't on the voter's roll and if I convince him to vote for me he will not be eligible to do so because he's not on the voter's roll, making a mockery out of this whole challenge. But after winning that election and he announcing that he was going to stand again in 1989 I knew that I would not be allowed to play games with him again as far as this debate was concerned, so no sooner had they announced the election date when I received a challenge again through the media, typical Clive Derby-Lewis style, saying last time you ran way from me for the whole debate and we know you were afraid, this, that and the following, and I hereby challenge you once again to a public debate and I have the following five dates which I will be available. Choose any date you wish. And I just kept quiet but I chose the last date and went quietly to the City Hall and booked the City Hall in the name of an old lady. And the first date came and went and Clive Derby-Lewis actually said, "Ja, Wessels, coward running away, shies away from public scrutiny, accountability", all this sort of thing. The second date went, the third, the fourth and when there was only the last and final date available I said, "The debate's on and I have already booked the Town Hall and you will find me in the Town Hall by seven o'clock that evening and you can come. I don't want anybody to chair this meeting." I gave a set of ground rules for the debate, nobody would chair, he would just have a timekeeper, I would have a timekeeper, we would toss a coin and see who would start, who would close, questions this way, that way. So he simply had to fall in by the rules I had dictated. He was very annoyed about it but he had nominated the date and then he tried to wriggle out of it saying that I was so slow on the draw he had already engaged in other commitments. And I said, "I don't care what you are doing but I will be in the Town Hall by seven o'clock", meet you at the old corral so to speak.
POM Gregory Peck.
LW Absolutely. Then a lady came to me who is a friend of ours and she said to me, she gave me a few lessons, she said, "You must stamp your authority on this meeting right from the outset." I said, "But how do I do that?" She said, "You mustn't be on time. You should hang back a little bit and allow Clive Derby-Lewis to take his seat and then you arrive late and having arrived late you walk up to him and you offer him your hand and you force him to stand up to you. I tell you something, he will not like it. He will be irritated and he will be irritated for the whole night but that's how you need to start that debate." Now I'm jumping, she told me many other stories as well and the plot thickens about that debate, but I am now taking you to Oslo. When I sat in that audience in Oslo I was simply overtaken by everything. The reason why I was there was because the De Klerk government had thought Mr Mandela wouldn't go, that the ANC would send somebody junior and that's why they sent me. I was just a junior minister. Had they realised Mandela would have gone himself they maybe would have sent somebody more senior. But I was not really daunted by the fact that I was going to make a speech, but the whole setting was daunting in the sense as I sat there sharing the podium with Eli Weisel sitting between the two of us there were something like thirty, forty, if not more journalists taking pictures of Mr Mandela, his first visit to that part of the world, and there was not a single journalist asking, "Wessels who are you? Where do you come from? Who are you? What are you going to tell the people today?" None of that. And I realised I just had to take this debate by the scruff of the neck otherwise I'm simply going to be blown out of the water, and I waited till Eli Weisel called the meeting to order and asked the photographers and the journalists to take their seat and as they settled down I pulled the old Clive Derby-Lewis trick from Krugersdorp and I stood up and I walked across to Mr Mandela and I offered him my hand. Of course he was polite enough to take that in his stride but I didn't know that. But nonetheless he stood up and we shook hands and then when I made my speech there were only three people applauding when they introduced me and this is the way I was introduced. Of course Mandela spoke for twenty minutes, we were all only allowed ten minutes but Mandela twenty minutes, what does that matter? And when I was introduced they said, "We now ask Leon Wessels the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs to present the argument for the other side." That was more or less the way I was introduced. I had quite a well prepared speech, I knew what I was going to say and I felt confident about what I had to do in those ten minutes and the one thing I was going to do was stick within the time limit, but I was a little bit unsettled when only three people, who were my wife, the Consul General and my Private Secretary, applauded me. Of course I was thinking, this is now already October 1990, it's not 1949, 1959, 1969 or 1979 any more, a lot of things have already happened in this country, but nonetheless after I had made that speech, saying amongst other things that apartheid was a terrible mistake that had blighted our land, Mr Mandela returned the Clive Derby-Lewis trick so to speak. He stood up and he shook my hand and that actually broke the ice because when he took that lead in actually responding in that way that was a very wonderful moment because he kept on telling me how uncertain the people felt about the speech and how pleased he was about the speech because he said it would help him in his own ranks.
Those Oslo encounters, as you can hear, did make a tremendous impression on my mind and if you want to I can tell you one or two just tiny little incidents about it. When this conference started I had not met Mr Mandela before and I then realised that I had to do something to meet him or to speak to him. It was not going to be good for South Africa or for him, but in particular for me if we were only to meet the day we were going to address this conference, and there were protesters outside. This was still in the days of people picketing and having the protest marches and so on. They were protesting outside of the hotel and this was a very, very hostile environment to be in. They had a light buffet dinner the evening before and as I was walking up to Mr Mandela, but I in particular sensed that everybody was watching, everybody was focusing on what was now going to happen between Mandela and myself, this black hope and this white demon so to speak, what were they going to do when they were now going to meet head on and everybody was opening space for us to meet in the open. My wife was standing next to me, my wife is small, she is five foot two, and Mandela straight away confronted me by saying, "Why did you not fly with SAA to Oslo?" And I said I did but I came another route than you did, you came via Frankfurt and I came via London, so the score was then one zero in my favour, but none of that sort of contest that people were predicting. I then wanted to introduce my wife to him and he in a way was not going to allow that, he was going to introduce himself to her and he just walked up to her and he stood right next to her and he put his arm around her shoulder and he said to me, "Oh now I see why you are so confident, it's because you have this lovely lady to support you." And then the score was one all. My wife then said to me, "You know", she said this respectfully, "This man just treats you as if you are a little boy and you almost live up to that role of being a little boy in his company." And I said, "Well it's simply because he is that much older than what I am and I have no difficulty respecting his status and age for that matter", and it doesn't enter my mind that this man was somebody who has just been released after 27 years in prison. So that drill was unexpected to actually see and play that kind of role. And the final night after our speeches, after everything, there was a function in one of the palaces hosted by the Royals of Norway in which he actually shouted to me. Mandela was sitting at the head table and I was just sitting amongst the guests and he actually shouted to me and he actually gossiped a little bit in Afrikaans with me by saying to me, "I think both of us did very well for South Africa today and please give my kindest regards to your wife." When I came back and I told people this is how Mandela had acted and what he had said to me and how he responded in Afrikaans, this was just unheard of, unthinkable so to speak. So I have wonderful memories of all of that.
POM Now how does all of this fit into your career in the National Party? You said something very interesting at the beginning, you said when you got into the Population Act and the Mixed Marriages Act that you realised that you just couldn't tamper with a piece of legislation here and a piece of legislation there, that the whole thing had to go. It's like that you can't reform what you must abolish, it just doesn't work. But now you have a political party which for forty years has taken its identity out of the creation and implementation of this ideology of apartheid and the party then engages in attempting to reform it which doesn't work and then ends up having to abolish it, but with that goes the identity of the party, so you've a party that has no identity. My question would be, has the National Party any role as the National Party, who does it represent, how does it carve out a new identity or does it just go the way of apartheid and become irrelevant?
LW It's difficult to answer that from my perspective because I have been part of the National Party for donkey's years, in other words I am not running away from the fact when I came into politics in 1974 I was still believing strongly in the cornerstones of apartheid and believing that one could simply tamper with the rough edges of apartheid and then it dawned on me that the policy was unworkable. That was the first thing. Then it dawned on me that not only was it unworkable there was no moral foundation once we had discovered that and the one thing led to the other up to that stage when one could say so many years later apartheid was a terrible mistake or apologise for apartheid, whatever, one gradually matured and in a sense that was the maturing in one's thinking and also a response to your initial question: was there a Damascus Road event? I would say there were a number of Damascus Road incidents and events but they didn't come one at a time, they did come one at a time but there were a number of them and, unless you want me to, do you want me to maybe just ...?
Well, let's stick to the Immorality Act and the Mixed Marriages Act. Sitting in a committee talking to people like Allan Hendrickse, the hardship that legislation had caused to his family and other people and listening to the evidence, those were heartbreaking stories that made you feel uncomfortable, that made you feel emotional, that made you think very deeply about it all and made you question the root and the roots of it all. Reading books such as the book Elsa Joubert had written about Poppie Nongena, the influx control legislation, the hardship caused to a person such as Poppie Nongena and later on meeting Elsa Joubert herself, that made you actually bleed with the incidents and with the personalities involved, discovering some of the hardships inflicted on people through security legislation and finally, there is no final one, but finally for the purposes of this argument, sitting around a table and actually discovering but for the first time not only theoretically but in real life there are black Christians in this country that in spite of everything that had happened are still filled with love and still firmly believe in fellow human beings and also believe that there can be a peaceful solution and there should be a peaceful solution.
It's difficult to wrap it all up. I must grapple with all of this, 165 pages, I grappled with it in this, unfortunately Afrikaans, book I wrote "The End of an Era - Liberation of an Afrikaner", and I could not write that in English, it had to be written in Afrikaans and I relate all the little stories, forced removals, the Mandela encounters, the Joe Slovo encounters in the swimming pool, the first meetings with Chris Hani and others. I think they were more or less the Damascus Road experiences and once that had happened you could never go back. That friendship behind closed doors, be that the friendship I had with Jay Naidoo when he was Secretary/General of COSATU and I was Minister of Manpower, what we had discussed in private I could not denounce that whenever I was confronted in public or in private circles, or for that matter people that were in detention, Godfrey Mogorotse(?) and others, what I had felt and experienced whilst they were on hunger strike I could not now go back in public and hold a different view to the one I had held when we were talking and discussing these matters.
Now that is still the problem with and for the National Party right now. The National Party has to find its role in this new South Africa, it has to embrace a set of values that can take it into the new century but it carries the baggage with it and unless they find a suitable moment to dump that baggage it will keep on haunting them. And there were moments in the past, I believe there were opportunities missed, but they will come again, they will come again most likely during the next two years when the Truth & Reconciliation Commission sits. They may come again where an opportunity may arise to form a new party with a new name but it must not be a cosmetic event, it must be the real thing because if you are not sincere people will simply dump the National Party with its old baggage and with its insincerity if they do not successfully harness the future with their set of values.
POM If you were an African, and I say African as distinct from a coloured, could you define for me any set of circumstances under which you would vote for the National Party?
LW I could certainly vote for, I believe you would be able to vote for the people, the core leadership of the National Party as you have it today as well as a set of values, but to vote for the National Party with its old baggage must almost be an impossibility. So if the baggage is dumped successfully, which will be a very, very difficult act to put on stage, I don't believe you will have ...
POM F W said at Hermanus, I'll just quote from where he said, "I believe that we can be the majority again." Essentially he said a redefinition of ourselves can work and we can cobble together a majority, get enough blacks to vote for us.
LW That can only happen if you have credible black leaders to take over the leadership and you will only get those leaders if you have a formidable reorientation of politics in this country coupled with a completely new identity.
POM The Citizen said in response, "Whatever the future one thing is certain, the NP will neither return to power as leader F W de Klerk claims nor will it be a strong enough party to challenge the ANC." When Mr de Klerk talks about attracting black votes, Christians, I don't know whether he thinks ANC supporters are non-Christians, but isn't it at this point almost condescending to think that a black person after being under the thumb of apartheid for forty years would then turn around and so easily vote for the oppressor because a job hadn't been delivered or a house wasn't on schedule?
LW I think it's pretty complex and I think it's a long term thing and given the qualifications I spelt out, namely leadership, adherence to a set of values as well as the successful funeral of apartheid coupled with a new identity, I don't think it's on. I walk around with Mr Mandela, I walked around with him, I sat with him for twelve hours at that airport, I saw people coming in saying hello to him. I attended a cricket match with him when Pakistan played against West Indies at Ellis Park. I walk with Cyril in the streets, I walk with Cyril at the airports, I go to hotels with Jay Naidoo, and I also know the respect Mr de Klerk has but you should never translate respect with support. I know Mr de Klerk does deserve the respect but that cannot be translated into support.
POM He said he has respect among black people.
POM But that will not translate, almost cannot translate into support.
LW Absolutely, especially if you in a very tongue in cheek manner deal with the past of apartheid.
POM What role in that regard do you see the Truth & Reconciliation Commission playing like, again, The Citizen I know in one editorial which I made an extract of, it said that the National Party knows that the Truth & Reconciliation Commission is a tool of the ANC to get back at the National Party and its leaders particularly those who were involved in security and that a lot of ugly things are going to come out and whatever black support it was thinking it might muster in 1999 by the time the Truth & Reconciliation Commission is finished with the party that would simply have disappeared. Is there a widespread belief in the party that this is, deep down people feel it's a witch-hunt?
LW Yes there are people that believe that. I, of course, do not hold that view.
POM I know, but in the party?
LW I wouldn't say a majority but definitely in the party there is a group that does hold that view. Personally I think that the National Party caucus is well prepared psychologically to learn more and discover some of the atrocities committed by the ANC. I am not so sure they are prepared to learn more and discover some of the horrible things committed in the name of the state, I will not say by the National Party but under the guardianship of a National Party government and also some of the, I don't have facts to prove this, but also some of the violence perpetrated in the name of the IFP so to speak. I believe this is going to be a very difficult time but I think the way Desmond Tutu is handling himself and conducting himself in public, any objective observer must in a way conclude that he wants to be fair and he wants to be even-handed in all of this.
POM I was saying that I find the framework that if an action was committed and it fell within the parameters of the political objective of whatever side it would be eligible to be considered for amnesty is in a sense like saying that if that standard had been applied at Nuremberg, or that Eichmann could have argued that the political policy of his party was to eliminate Jews and he was just carrying out actions that were in accord with the political objective. It makes no moral differentiation between actions.
LW I think the even-handedness as far as I am concerned and the even-handedness that I am referring to would be the even-handedness insofar as one would be listening to both sides of the argument and to what extent one could suppress the facts and the evidence from one side or the other and I do not believe that that is what Tutu and others will allow to happen. They will give all sides an opportunity to explain what motivated them and what triggered them and why did they do what they did. Of course then many things will happen, namely, will a person be granted amnesty, will he not be granted amnesty, will he be tried, etc., etc. I am not referring to the even-handedness in that respect, I am referring to the even-handedness, the way facts that are unknown to the South African society will be disclosed and opened up. I believe that could happen.
POM And that people will say, I did not know this was being done?
POM But is that not a cop-out? That's like the Germans essentially saying we never knew about the Jews, not that they chose not to know?
LW What you knew and what you did not know that is going to be a long and very interesting discussion. I think one should divorce two sets of people here. The first is John Citizen. What did John Citizen living in downtown Krugersdorp, what did he know or what did he or she not know? And I think they will be confronted with events and facts that will confuse them and they will have a difficulty to really and truly grapple with it. Now I did or did not know in the sense of political leadership or officialdom is as far as I am concerned an issue that has not been resolved, at least publicly as far as I know, to my satisfaction because I do believe in some respects people did not know because they did not want to know and I am not sure to what extent you actually hold them accountable for that. That is a complete new debate that has not been concluded.
POM It's plausible to deny.
LW It has definitely not been concluded in the public's eye as far as I am concerned.
POM Is there a moral difference between, let's say, the actions of a Robert McBride and the actions of a Dirk Coetzee, both of whom now work for the state? McBride was involved in the Magoo bombing in Durban in 1986, three women were killed and scores injured. Coetzee has confessed to 27 crimes including six murders, that three children were involved. He is now employed by the Minister of Justice. Is a crime committed in the name of trying to abolish a crime against humanity the same as a crime committed in the name of trying to uphold what has been designated as a crime against humanity?
LW I believe that as far as both of them are concerned that one should not approach this in a vindictive manner because if you do it will almost be impossible to strike a balance and one should approach this in a manner to disclose what had happened in a way to allow this country to know its history and not to persecute the one or the other side or to emotionally bully the one or the other side. And that is going to be very, very difficult to do just that. I think that to actually sit in judgement on Coetzee or Robert McBride for that matter and to really hold them morally and politically accountable one also needs to look at the bureaucratic and political leadership that gave those men their instructions. To simply push it off as far down as you possibly can and say well De Kock and Coetzee and who now are the guilty parties and McBride are the guilty parties, you will have to elevate this debate to a higher echelon of leadership if you really want a political and moral cleansing that you try to seek in this whole operation.
POM What if I put the question this way, that if you were a black person say of Mandela's era and you had tried every possible way to have your case heard and your grievances addressed and they were simply met with increasing levels of repression, do you think in a situation like that, the decision to resort to violence as the remedy, so to speak, of last resort is a moral decision?
LW That is true but I don't believe that somebody who acted, I don't want to mention a particular name, but somebody who was then responding to the violent onslaught on government structures simply because he was then trying to defend what he perceived to be a de jure government should now be held accountable in terms of how this whole conflict originated and started. The question now would be, did he act within the ambit of the law, did he act within the ambit of his instructions? And that would be the critical test I believe. But I have no difficulty with the fact that black people were motivated by what they perceived to be, and which they found, an immovable government at that time. I think the Truth Commission as I see the personalities working there are people who are not being driven by vengeance or a spirit of persecution, but as the name of the commission says it's the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and it wants to deal with this conflict by developing an understanding of what had happened in this country and most likely people will fall short of the amnesty requirements and so forth and that is a different matter altogether where the law has to take its course.
POM I suppose what I'm getting at is that in the years, I was here first in 1985, then 1987 and then every year since 1989, I have been almost half living here with Patricia since 1992 or 1993, and I have not seen any real significant change in the attitudes of whites in the sense of they are saying apartheid is over, it's gone, let the past be the past, the blacks now have the country, let them run it, some things might go right, some things might go wrong, but blame them for inefficiency or blame them for corruption or blame them for this or blame them for that, say we're going the way of the rest of Africa, all the time and they have blinded themselves to the past, they have closed down, they are in denial about it, they feel they have done their job, they have given up more than their share of power and don't see any moral factor having been involved or that in fact the government that represented them was an immoral government carrying out immoral policies condemned by the rest of the world as being in fact a crime against humanity. One gets no sense of the guilt at all about the past. I could be wrong but is that the feeling you get? It's more like, Jesus, these blacks still want more, we give them this amount and now they want affirmative action and they want this and they want that and they want to take everything away from us.
LW I think the South African debates are not concluded, they are only beginning, this is only the start of it all. This is now 1996. I still find people, my generation, who knew nothing about the Anglo-Boer War, who still now and again make hostile remarks about the British and about the Anglo-Boer War. Now in that respect I find the attitude of at least the black South Africans that I encounter and identify with and talk with and discuss with have none of those kind of hostilities. I mean be that Mandela in Oslo or be that Ramaphosa or be that Chris Hani or whoever, I could keep on listing the names, I find none of those kind of hostilities.
POM We're talking about white people.
LW I know, I'm contradicting, I'm comparing white attitudes and black attitudes and I think the remarks you are making of course are true as far as many white people are concerned. It's however not true of all whites and I wouldn't generalise when I make that statement and I simply would like to say that the debates have just begun, the debates simply have just begun. People have not sat in, like we were compelled to sit in, going back to the Mixed Marriages Act and listening to what had happened, they just sat in front of the television screens and they watched Mandela walk out with a Number Six rugby jersey and they saw us winning the World Cup, and Mandela doesn't talk about it. In that sense he plays a fantastic role but he is not stimulating that kind of debate and maybe it's good he doesn't take it upon his shoulders. But I still believe the Truth & Reconciliation Commission will stimulate that kind of debate.
I don't want to wrap up the discussion but I am jumping backwards and forwards and I just want to make one or two remarks. The one remark simply is that a long, long time ago, which is a long time ago, two years, three years, it's 1993 World Trade Centre, I said to people that I am looking forward to the new South Africa but without the baggage and part of what I believed was the baggage was still this whole process of arguing, fighting with your own people. I have had my share of that and we still have a long way to go of talking to one another, educating, understanding not only what happened but what was wrong in those days. It's a very difficult phase that still lies ahead. The process of reconciliation was not a one-off event, it's not winning the rugby World Cup or it's not winning the Bafana Bafana or Mandela walking here in parliament. It's a big event, it's an ongoing event and you must have a desire to reconcile and understand it.
POM But isn't this the kind of debate that must take place in the National Party if it is to emerge? It may be that it will self-destruct in the process.
POM That's one possibility. But unless it goes through that process there is no future for it anyway.
LW Well it has to go through the whole society, the whole National Party kind of establishment. It will be a bumpy road as well to put it mildly. It's not going to be easy.
POM If you look at the United States when you look at voting patterns you see essentially that people vote strictly along racial lines, the degree of change in how people vote racially over the years has really been infinitesimal, it doesn't happen. Is there a real possibility because of unknown psychological reasons that politics in this country will just get stuck in racial patters that you would have a black party which is the ANC with little or no opposition to it, and you will have a white party representing what's left of a diminishing white population and maybe a one-party state or a one-party democracy, or one party rules, wins the election but tries to build democratic structures, but there's no fundamental shift in the race alignment.
LW No, I don't believe that. I believe that one should not underestimate civil society in this country, the strong structures that one has in place, the press, the trade unions, the churches, the academics, the universities, this way or the other. It's not going to happen overnight but it certainly will break out of the present context, but it's not something that's going to happen before 1999 or it may not even happen in 2004, but it will happen the minute, the qualifications I reiterated earlier on. If Sam Shilowa were to break away from the ANC tomorrow it's a new ball game. And I should maybe suffice with that example. Personalities and issues could change the whole political environment.
POM Just to turn from the Truth Commission to the Magnus Malan trial, and this is a funny question to ask, but what if he's found innocent? What if they are all found innocent? What kind of message do you think, how would that be received in the black community?
LW Well it could question, it certainly could question the whole legal system in some quarters in the black community at least, I don't want to simplify the matter but it could be an O J Simpson kind of trial where people would be saying we don't have confidence in the legal system in this country and therefore it is pretty important that people understand the process as it evolves and plays itself out in the eyes of all of us here, in front of us because there are many emotions running pretty high from all kinds of quarters. You hear IFP supporters demonstrating in front the court asking why the people are charged and you hear other people making statements already condemning the accused and so forth. So the way that trial is conducted is important.
POM You still have the National Party standing behind the Generals.
LW Sure, of course. But I was now only referring to black observers and the political guidance and leadership they will get in this regard will be very, very important as this whole case plays itself out in the next months to come.
POM I ask it because I've asked a number of people that question, mostly white people, liberals, and their stance has been to a person, but they can't be found innocent. There is a presumption not only of guilt but this was something that they've been waiting to happen and this has been the basis of the corruption of the state and it's emerging and that a verdict of innocence is inconceivable.
LW I believe the whole debate around the legal process will have to be one that of course not only is conducted in public but ought to be a well structured debate in the sense that people have to understand what is happening at that court case, that verdict of innocence is possible. It's even possible that Malan and others may be discharged, theoretically after the state has closed it's case. I'm not there, I do not know the facts, but it may be possible that the judge may decide there's no evidence they have to answer for. But the political leadership that people will receive will also be very important. How does the ANC leadership respond to a verdict of not guilty? And I simply believe, I have a lot of confidence in many leaders across the board and I believe they will steer and guide that kind of debate.
POM But that debate is not occurring yet, the case is just beginning but the debate is not occurring because in a sense it could be (I'm not a lawyer and you are so you tell me), but two things strike me, that the state may be trying the wrong case, that to convict somebody of murder requires a degree of specificity, foreknowledge and to do it beyond a reasonable doubt is different than saying being able to prove that somebody set up illegal structures.
LW One has a number of safety nets available right now and one of the safety nets of course is the political leadership as I have just mentioned, the second one is the public debate to accompany and follow through as this case evolves, and thirdly I believe the Truth & Reconciliation Commission is also a safety net in respect that that case may most likely be concluded before the Truth & Reconciliation has concluded their work, and there will be many similar kinds of incidents to be investigated, to be talked about, to be spoken about, to be explained in the next two years. So it's not as if the Magnus Malan case is a one-off thing and people will try the judicial system in this court case and find it to be lacking. It's a long, long process.
POM Do you think there might be a propensity if he were found innocent for other prosecutions not just simply to happen?
LW I'm not sure that I understand the question.
POM That if he were to be found innocent would there be a propensity for prosecutors to go slow in taking similar actions against others?
LW I think they are already going slow and they are already going slow in the sense that if you have that high profile kind of case prosecutors are like ballerinas, they are like politicians, they do not like to make fools of themselves in public, and if they try a case simply because they have nothing better to do and the accused are discharged without having to put up a proper fight, they do make fools of themselves so the public accountability is out and McNally is certainly on trial just as much as Malan is on trial. Can he prove his case? Has he got the evidence to prove it? That is now for the legal connoisseur and his fellow prosecutors are simply saying, well let's have a look and see whether he can pull this off, how good was the investigation? This is not what I'm saying, this is what I have heard other prosecutors to be saying.
POM But going back, you were talking about the renewal of the National Party, at least the public perception is that it has aligned itself in defence of the Generals which hardly is the basis on which one can start constructing a renewal.
LW Well I believe the National Party ought to do the following, and I will very soon be speaking with the benefit of hindsight. The National Party ought to say, well we will defend everything that happened within the ambit of the law. The Security Council was constructed by law, the decisions were taken in terms of the law and through the Security Council all actions had to comply with the emergency regulations, the Public Security Act, this, that or the following, and anything conducted outside of the ambit of the law will have to be explained properly either to the Truth Commission or to the courts but that is what we will be defending and we do not shy away from people who believed they were acting according to our instructions or our policy, we are not condemning them but we are certainly not condoning their actions. For condemnation we put up a fight on their behalf in front of the Truth & Reconciliation Amnesty Committee, we will ensure that they have open and public trials and proper defence but that's not part of the baggage that we're taking responsibility for. Whether it will go that way I wouldn't like to predict.
POM Just two or three more questions, I know you must be really pressed for time and I appreciate the extra time. I have asked you this before and if I have just say we covered that, and the question is that if the National Party believes that like now or in 1999 that there were circumstances in which a large number of blacks would vote for it, it's patronising or condescending towards blacks, believes they have no memory.
LW Well you see the black South Africans that have joined the National Party tell me they joined us because they believe we've changed. They believe we are a different generation and we represent different views, different policies than the National Party they got to know and to hate and they really take us seriously.
POM Yet the press says that what you suffer from is a lack of credible black leaders. They portray them more as opportunists who said let's hop on board a party that needs some black faces because our chances of getting a prominent place are better.
LW No, you don't need an affirmative action kind of thing in the sense that you need a black face. You need a credible black face which means somebody who believes that we have changed and who furthermore believes in the values that we hold dear and will simply be respected for the views that he or she holds. And in that respect they, I believe, must have the access to the black communities which the white leadership does not have. I am not sure that I am really responding well to your question but I know people in the ANC, very important people, who have come into this office and have seen that picture, a terrible mistake, and have told me the most wonderful stories about that picture that you have heard. Mac Maharaj tells me that he was in prison when he read that paper. Ronnie Kasrils tells me that he was in the underground and that he took us seriously and that he then got a lot of hope. And I believe those stories can still happen. I meet with many black people who do not support the National Party who actually tell me that they took us seriously when all of that happened and maybe they are not at home in ANC circles because of the politics. And I believe one must move, if you really want to break the party political logjam in this country you have to move beyond the past and the way to go beyond the past is either to dump the past or to let your integrity come through about the past.
POM So there is in a way no future until the stage of going through the Truth & Reconciliation phase is over?
POM In a sense everything is on hold until that phase is done with and dealt with.
LW Yes I think so. I think the TRC is also an opportunity. It's a very dangerous opportunity but it is an opportunity for the National Party to come clean on its past.
POM Just a few questions on the constitution. Some of them are things I don't understand. Why did the NP withdraw it's proposal that there should be a continuation of the government of national unity after 1999?
LW They withdrew the proposal that the executive, as we know it now, should not be continued because that support was simply not swimming. It's as simple as that.
POM The ANC wouldn't have it?
LW Absolutely. And that's why it's back to the drawing board for the NP to see if they can find another way of having an inclusive or some form of inclusivity with regard to the executive on important matters as has been stated in public, declaration of war, state of emergency, elements of the budget, aspects of development and so forth.
POM The second is the media reported that there was agreement between the NP and the ANC on cooperative governance. What the hell does that mean?
LW I think it simply means that at the legislative level one should have the involvement also of the nine provinces and that one should not only have a conflict of interest between the central and the provinces but that you should have them rather cooperate in important matters that also affect their interests.
POM So it does not refer to the operation of the executive?
LW No, no.
POM The third is on the question of property. Initially one read a couple of weeks ago that the ANC had come around with the DP to accepting a property clause in the constitution, a fairly strong property clause that would have included the expropriation of land at market value and then they backtracked on it because there was a lot of lobbying from their constituencies and have moved away from that position to saying that compensation, substituting something where it says that compensation would be paid for at a rate that the government could afford, which is something quite different. Have they backed away from their agreement to what would be called more or less the NP position?
LW That matter is still unresolved and it's still unresolved as we talk right now because there was a bilateral also this morning between the ANC and NP and they are still arguing and debating. I guess the big issues have to do with land development on the one hand and on the other hand dealing with the expropriation at a price. So it's still an unsettled matter.
POM I didn't meet the man or I don't know if he's an ANC negotiator, Dirk du Toit said that, "The NP has no big constitutional vision left and it is too late for it to develop another, it has nothing left to trade." So that by and large the party is slowing caving in to the inevitable and that is that the ANC is going to get it's way, that if it doesn't get it's way it will go to the country, that it would command 60% of the vote in a referendum.
LW No that is certainly not the mood of the ANC leadership. The ANC, of course, has to write a constitution which meets the expectations of their constituency but the other parties also have to live with the decisions they take in the constitution making process and therefore I think there is a spirit of accommodation, a much stronger spirit of accommodation and what Dirk du Toit is stating there, it's clear when you look at the way the ANC conducts their business that they don't include Dirk du Toit in all their very important excursions or bilaterals. Dirk du Toit, for example, was not accompanying the ANC delegation to Germany, nor to India, nor to any of the other visits that I have been a party to and I don't think he reflects the spirit of inclusivity which President Mandela as well as Cyril Ramaphosa have announced in public. And of course one must understand the ANC carries 60% support with it and it has to be reflected in the constitution, but 60% does not mean 100% and therefore they are still sensitive to suggestions and proposals from other parties, also from the NP.
POM Are Afrikaners being slowly marginalised? Mandela set up the Volkstaat Council which came up with some proposals for a volkstaat and it was rejected out of hand by the ANC but it bought two years and diminished the threat of violence on the right. Their time on television has been cut back to two hours, it's been cut back in other areas as well. Do you think there's an insensitivity on the part of the ANC to the importance of language in identity?
LW I think they are all sensitive and issues that deserve long explanations. Now clearly the way Afrikaners will be marginalised also depends on themselves. You go to events such as the Bafana Bafana soccer match in Soccer City, like I was there in the grandstand, not in the boxes, and you suddenly discover that somebody like Sean Tovey is carried aloft by the supporters not because he is white or this or that but simply because he's Sean Tovey and he happens to be a good soccer player, and you speak to the ANC people and they tell you that their children never looked at Joe Slovo and never thought of him as a white man. I think the way Afrikaners will survive will depend on how indispensable they make themselves. But if you adhere to old volkstaat policies, those policies were never workable, we could have told the ANC that a long time ago. We did tell Viljoen and others they were being played around with. The policy is simply not a viable policy. But I don't believe that there's not a respect for Afrikaners. The more you try to speak Tswana to somebody like Cyril Ramaphosa the more he speaks in Afrikaans to you. The more you rub shoulders with Mandela the more Afrikaans he speaks to you. And that goes across the board, and that is the future that Afrikaners can determine for themselves. I do believe to try and isolate yourself, that approach has no future whatsoever and is to the detriment of Afrikaners. As we sit around dinner tables with ANC negotiators they express a deep concern about Afrikaans which makes at least me take them seriously on that matter. I played golf, I told somebody the other day, I had a golf game with two members of the ANC, a member of the IFP and myself and after we had completed our round of golf I suddenly discovered that the lingua franca during that game was Afrikaans. Now who was the winner? Was I the loser because I played golf with ANC blokes? One of them had been in prison for 27 years with Mandela and he went to extremes to speak Afrikaans with me. Why I simply believe he did so is because he enjoyed the company, he enjoyed the golf and it's his way also of burying the hatchet. That's why I understand Mandela when he says, "I'll side with the Afrikaners but you have to just let me understand that you are sincere with the new South Africa." And that's what will happen. But the Afrikaners are divided. They have been divided over the past century and therefore they are not a homogeneous group and Afrikaners will still do battle with one another politically.
POM The final question is as South Africa enters the 21st century and you leave politics and a new election is coming up and the Mandela era is over, what do you think will be the single most important determinant of whether or not a successful democratic society will emerge and develop?
LW That will depend on the way we manage the development of this country. If there is a growth path, an economic growth path, people keep having faith in the way the economy is managed, that all the houses are not built overnight but there is a plan in action and of course development has many, many features, it has to do with the way you deal with financial management, it has to do with the way you communicate with the population at large, it has to do with the way in which you deal with corruption, people that exploit you, the profit margins, the work ethic, etc., etc. If you manage that well you will sustain a democracy, but if people do not believe that their problems will be solved at the ballot box they will rather go for the option of the bullet by grabbing power believing that that is the way to solving. But if you manage the development side of our economy and of our society well, people will be susceptible to explanations, to discussions, to debates, to the constitutional state, to court cases, to press freedom, this and the following.
POM Will you miss politics?
LW Well I have had a wonderful political career and I have a friend who tells me that it will take a long time to get politics out of my veins and he expresses the wish that I will have the courage to bite on my tongue every time I want to make a political statement, but I have an intention and determination to make a success of my law career and I believe this is the moment and therefore I will not miss politics. The law is a jealous mistress and I like to devote and give it some of my attention right now.
POM Will the NP make the transition? What are the odds?
LW The NP has not grappled enough with the past and that's why they do not understand the future yet and if they do not do that successfully they will not make the transition.
POM OK Leon, thanks ever so much.
LW Thanks a lot to you too.