About this site

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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

10 Apr 1996: Terre'Blanche, Eugene

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POM     This is the sixth year now I believe that I have been coming and interviewing you. It hardly seems like that. If I were to ask you to draw a comparison between what you thought would happen in South Africa in 1990 and where you would be today and where you are actually today, how would you analyse the situation?

ET     Well I think that what I said in the past will still happen in the future. I think, I must admit that I think I was wrong, I thought that around the election the Boere people, the Afrikaner people, my people wouldn't accept the outcome of the election as easily but I know what happened. We were preparing ourselves that time to take part of this land, a small part, more or less 25%, as a people's state, as a volkstaat, but unluckily Constant Viljoen, General Viljoen arrived suddenly at the scene, at the political scene. He was in charge of the South African Defence Force in the past as head of the South African army and he came to the political arena promising the people that we are not going to accept a one man one vote election, we will never accept a unitary state, that he is also working for a volkstaat, for a people's state, and unluckily because of the fact that he was the former head of the South African Defence Force people had high expectations of him believing that he will lead us out of this unitary state. We joined the so-called Volksfront, that was a body which was launched by the different right wing political parties with the Conservative Party and Dr Hartzenberg, himself Constand Viljoen, so the AWB became part of this force from this new unity of right-wingers. The fact is they asked me to be part of the executive of the Volksfront. Hartzenberg promised that when we take part of this country that Viljoen will be the head of the new Defence Force and I will be the Minister of Law and Order or Police. So we were only twelve members on the executive there, Hartzenberg, then the leader of the Conservative Party, he will be the President of the Boere state, of the new Boere state.

     Three weeks before, more or less three weeks before the election, the General whom I shared many platforms and public meetings with, betrayed us and during the night he met Mandela and some of his executives and he registered himself as the Vryheidsfront as a political party, promising that he will take part in the election. Mandela promised Viljoen that they will talk about the volkstaat after the election. The new government will handle that matter but at that stage the whole issue must be postponed until he is in power. It was devastating to the right-wingers at that time. Because of the fact that I am a younger man than Viljoen, the fact that Viljoen really was in charge of the army, the South African Defence Force gave me that time the idea that he is a man who can handle the situation and therefore at a big public meeting in Pretoria, a great rally where there were at least 20,000 right-wingers, most of them AWB, I said at that time, that was before he registered himself as a political party, that if he is the General and he wants to fight then I am willing to be his Corporal if he is willing me to fight. The press made a hell of an issue of that statement of mine, but I accepted him as a leader in this situation. After he registered and he back-tracked he left us in the cold and alone.

     Because in the past I was very honest to you, I never lied to you, and I will do it again, six weeks before the election it was more or less, well maybe shorter time than that, it was on 26th March that year before the April election Viljoen stated categorically that after a month, the next month on 26th April we will be a free nation or we will be at war. He said it while in the company of Dr Hartzenberg, the leader of the Conservative Party, myself and a few of the Generals of my staff. He said more, he said he will be responsible for the commandos, the SADF commandos in the country, in Ventersdorp and the whole of the Orange Free State, but the AWB will be responsible for the cities because he had not the necessary support in the cities. The AWB will take the cities. It was planned that he must see Mandela and tell Mandela that part of South Africa, that is the northern parts of South Africa, western Transvaal, northern Natal, will be not part of the election, we will not recognise the outcome of that election as legal over those provinces and places.

     Well, as I said, in the end he made a deal with Mandela on his own and he left us, my people, because of the fact that we addressed them and gave them instructions a month or so before the election. They were in the cities trying to do the best, believing in Viljoen, still believing that he will come back to them and after the election we will start this certain parts of the land as a people's state. That is the reason why they were involved in these explosions and these bombs. Now the witness of the fight, of the struggle, the only witnesses of the resistance of the Boer and the white man in this land is in the jail, the members of the AWB. We weakened ourselves because of the fact that we waited for him. When it was too late and it was worked out very, very good between him and Mandela, when it was too late the elections took place. Mandela decided to be very moderate. The fact is he cannot do anything else because he is the only President ruling a country in the entire world who really does not have an army. He cannot trust the white blokes who are still there, he cannot trust the APLA members, the PAC militant wing, he cannot trust them. He cannot trust his own people, those people of uMkhonto weSizwe, they are deserting the army daily and the same is happening in the South African Police. When those four members of the AWB escaped jail a few weeks ago the next morning the officer in command of that certain jail in Diepkloof in Johannesburg admitted that more than half of the personnel who were supposed to be on duty that night did not even report for duty. I reckon it was nine out of seven who did not arrive that night and most of them, well all of them are black blokes. So he cannot trust even those people. He cannot fight to the left and the right without a good army.

     At this stage what I said that time, the Zulus will never accept, you will remember it, Xhosa rule over them as is happening right now. It is unbelievable that more that 14,000 people were killed in the last year in two provinces, in KwaZulu/Natal and in Gauteng. 14,000 people. They killed last week more than 70 Zulus during the weekend. They stole in Gauteng and in KwaZulu more than 11,000 motor vehicles in two months time. Can you imagine it? This is the highest crime rate in the entire world. Those things I predicted years ago when I spoke to you. I said we are heading for disaster, for chaos, for the total destroying of our economy. It is happening right now. What I said that time will happen. I was wrong, I thought it will happen before that, a year or two years ago, but I am still standing where I stood that time. The movement's task is the same as that time, to restore law and order when this civil war will break out in South Africa. I wish I can find the figures of murders and killings in a state like the United Kingdom, of America, I am sure that we are a hundred times higher than that. They brought this land economically to a standstill. They did not build those houses which they promised their electorate. Millions of people are still homeless. They did not create one single job facility except where they kicked out the white man, out of the government post, and put in blacks.

     Last week I addressed a public meeting, more or less 1000 men and women, an audience of more or less 1000, in Pretoria, the paper said it was 600 but we know how the papers really are, and I said my information is that some of those black officers, I said I am sure that some of those people who were responsible for the massacres and for the killings of their own people in ANC camps are now in the South African Intelligence. I will trust you with this, somebody sent a fax to me, I'll make you a copy of it. The next morning this paper arrived on my table, so I was quite right. Those killers are now in charge of the security services in South Africa. For one instance, the following names: Azir Shalyar(?) Secretary of Security with a rank more or less the same as the Commissioner Fivaz of the South African Police; Leonard Rade, head of the SAPD, it's one of the other security branches, Cedric Rapudi, second in charge, Dan Ramabula, Senior Superintendent, Vincent ... you can go and study this thing. What they have done here is they took those terrorists and killers and put them in charge of all the security branches in South Africa, in the South African Defence Force and in the South African Police.

POM     Where does that leave the Afrikaner now. If you look at the results of the local elections last November the Conservative Party for all intents and purposes was decimated.

ET     It was a disaster.

POM     Who politically speaks on behalf of the Afrikaner, or does anybody at this point speak on behalf of the Afrikaner? And if not is there a dangerous vacuum there of non-communication between the government and the Afrikaner community?

ET     You see the ANC government wants people to believe that Constand Viljoen is speaking on behalf of the Afrikaner and that is not the truth. The Afrikaner definitely deserted Viljoen the way he did to them. Unluckily the Conservative Party went into that election while his own members were not for that election, that local government election. So he went into that election with only half of his staff, his own people deserted. It was stupid anyhow to take part in that election because what happened now is he legalised that election because of the fact that he took part in it, so he must accept the outcome of the election also. What happened is that a small town like Ventersdorp suddenly in one strike of a pen has to compete, the whites in South Africa, 2500 of them, have to compete in an election with the ANC while their support is 10,000 with all the squatter camps, so they took over the local government. The Mayor of this town is a bloke without a job at that stage; now he's the Mayor I believe they pay him, he's nearly uneducated. Right through the country the workless, the uneducated people are sitting in the local government. But what is more, and the Speaker admitted it last year, that more than 60%, 65% of the women members of parliament have a less qualification than Standard Four, that is primary school. More or less 60 or 70 of those people in parliament are people without the highest grade of primary school in South Africa. So the uneducated, the workless class and the criminals, criminals who roamed the streets in the past are now actually governing this country. We are heading for a disaster.

     And to try to answer your question, that vacuum, who is speaking on behalf of the Afrikaner, this is a very interesting time when you arrived in South Africa and I think one day when you think back about this time you will remember it, you are quite right, at this stage the right-wingers in South Africa are absolutely divided. Thank God for my movement who are still standing strong, very strong, and is building up speed, momentum again. The weaker the government is becoming, it cannot provide the houses and the buildings and the jobs, etc., etc., that even black people are looking with other eyes to the AWB now. I looked at a video which some of the press made during the court case. Our black people ran to me grabbing my hands, shouting and hailing me and the bloke asking them, there's a bloke from the press, "Why are you cheering this man?" He said, "Because I love this man." He said, "Why?" He said, "Because he's standing for his point and I can accept him." Well I think that was Zulus but the fact is even they are realising now that Mr Mandela is not the god which the world tried to build him that image. He cannot provide houses or job facilities. He is in trouble, but the right-wingers are also in trouble and that is the truth. The Conservative Party I think is totally destroyed, it destroyed itself because of that election and the part which Constand Viljoen, General Viljoen, played in it, the so-called Volksfront which they thought would bring unity to the right-wingers did not work.

POM     President Mandela or the ANC rejected the recommendations of the Volkstaat Council out of hand, there wasn't even a debate about it.

ET     That's correct. At least the right-wingers realise now that Constand Viljoen was a fool to believe that Mandela will debate his demands. As you said they are not even debating it, it's out. So Viljoen's task through conversations and negotiations to find a fatherland or a homeland or a Boerestaat is out now. He made the wrong move that time. Instead of standing firm with all our people who really should support him he left us in the dark, ran to Mandela, believed his promises and so now he cannot negotiate for a people's state any more.

POM     Do you think the ANC have become more dismissive of him because they now don't fear that there is going to be any real threat of a right-wing backlash any longer that they can't handle?

ET     No I don't think that is the point. I think you must realise that the faction fighting inside his party is picking up speed right now.

POM     Inside the?

ET     Inside the ANC. There are at least three or four different factions. One, the APLA blokes, the PAC blokes which he brought into the so-called government of unity. A man like Bantu Holomisa, the former President of the Transkei, is sitting there as a Deputy Minister. He really doesn't like that, and that is for environment. God knows what he knows about environment. And then there is Winnie Mandela. I believe President Mandela is in a hell of a difficult situation with that wife. OK they are not together any more and she is a fighter and that woman is a very, very dangerous woman because she has the support of all the squatter camps, those people whom the President cannot provide with houses and electricity and water, etc. She is a woman full of energy, she can work and she is travelling through these squatter camps like a storm. She has the support of the youth, those millions of them, millions of militant youth. People like Peter Mokaba of the PAC who you will remember that was the man who said 'One settler one bullet.' They are demanding right out now they want everything, they are growing on the weakness of the ANC government right now because of the fact that he cannot supply those things which he promised his electorate. They are busy in the Transkei and believe me, my friend, they are already busy going training in training camps in the Transkei.

     I phoned the Security Police of South Africa and I said in the past years I always gave you some information which I believe is very important for the whole of South Africa, they are busy training again with the third force and I believe it's the Peter Mokabas the Winnie Mandelas and the Bantu Holomisas, that is one faction in his so-called government of unity. The next is, as you well know, the Zulus of Natal who are not accepting this thing. I think what they are trying to do now is to discredit Buthelezi at this stage, trying to get him involved in these court cases which they are putting Constand Viljoen on trial right now. I think they want to get rid of him to make his stature, to bring it to the lowest level ever known in his history before the election which will take place next month.

     If the outcome of the election will put the ANC in charge of KwaZulu/Natal we will have immediately a civil war because the Zulus will never accept it, you can be sure of that. And it's quite possible, I think that the IFP win the former election by 200,000 or so, our information is that the ANC is right now busy to transport thousands and thousands of squatters, ANC squatters, into that province to take part in the election. If the IFP are going to lose Natal we will be in a full scale war there. As I said, there are 14,000 people who were killed in Gauteng and KwaZulu. The reason why the rate is so high, the figure is so high in Gauteng is because of the fact that there are more than a half million Zulus staying in Gauteng in squatter camps and around the Rand.

POM     Tell me, if General Malan and the other Generals, who include some of the leading figures in the Freedom Front, one of the co-founders of the party if I am not mistaken, if they are found guilty what position does that put Constand Viljoen in?

ET     I think Constand Viljoen's time is running out now because of the fact, as we discussed, that he accepted Mandela's word that they will debate and they will discuss the people's state. I think he is still sitting there because of the money which they paid him and his people, R17,000 per month, etc. They cannot do anything any more. I don't think they really do have any power behind them to support them. They will let Malan go to jail. Nobody will help them you see because of the fact that right-wingers, remember that Malan was and still is a member of the National Party, the party who sold us out to Mandela, so the people, the Afrikaner people on grassroots they really do not have much sympathy for Malan. But I think it's very, very dangerous, I think anyhow that Mandela is playing a very, very dangerous game now. You cannot charge your political opponents of two years ago with charges like this and jail them while you let your own people free on amnesty as he did. It's unbelievable but before, just weeks before the election the Commissioner of the South African Police, at that time General van der Merwe, stated that they found agreement at that time, he and Mandela, that more than 2000 cases, some of those cases were of people who necklaced people, murderers, they decided not too prosecute in more than 2000 of those cases. And you know what? De Klerk, he was so stupid that when they decided they will not prosecute these ANCs he did not even demand, said OK after the election you will not prosecute my people. If I was in that position well I will argue that you must even put it in the constitution, that when we start a new government, when you take over or if we take over we will leave the past, let sleeping dogs lie as it is because of the fact that I am not going to prosecute more than 2000 of your people. But he did not even ask amnesty for his own bloody people. Now they are going, the point which they try to make is, I think in the 20th century while you are the so-called peace maker and the world is giving you out as a peace maker, if you even say that I am willing to interfere with China and Taiwan and try to help solve your problems and I will even do it in the Middle East, but at the same time he is jailing his political opponents.

     The position with the AWB is exactly the same. They are sitting in jail now because of political crimes which they did in the time of De Klerk, not of Mandela, they did not do things during his government. I went to parliament and I addressed the parliament a year ago and I said, let me change that date for amnesty to the day when he became State President, the 11th May I think it was, and he said yes, he will think about it, he has got nothing against it but the violence must stop in South Africa. So in the AWB we gave instructions, no violence from the right-wingers because this is the definition on which President Mandela will release our people in jail who are more or less 100 of them or so. So we did nothing. After two years now he cannot solve his problem with the Zulus in Natal but from the right-wing side not even a stone was being thrown through a window, but he is still jailing his people, not one single white right-winger was granted amnesty in the time of his rule in the last two years. And he's going on with this bloody nonsense.

     His people who did the same thing, people like Robert McBride, you will remember he was if you can say the old cowboys were gunslingers he was a bomb-slinger, he went into that tavern where the women sat and he threw in that bloody bomb, he is on the list to be an Ambassador, he's on the pay list of this government, they are paying him a hell of a pay, he is in a senior position in the new government awaiting his post as an Ambassador. People like that, well a lot of them, Mac Maharaj, even Sexwale, he threw in a hand grenade in a police car, they are sitting there. Now they are ministers. The other blokes, as I said when I gave you that paper, they are head of Intelligence. I am afraid that people of the stature as those people on that list, if you give them the power and the different intelligence services to get rid of your opposition, we are heading to a situation where civil war will definitely start.

POM     But do you think they are mistaking your kind of silence as weakness?

ET     I think so, yes. I think that is a possibility. That is the reason why they came at me like a thunderstorm after our success in Pretoria the other evening, the day of the court case when the verdict was made. Within 12 to 24 hours time I gathered more or less 1000 people in the City Hall and that must be a red light for them because the liberal papers they cried out, they tried immediately to attack me for what I said. And I said there that I think the government finds at least the recipe for bankruptcy and for civil war and even the recipe to drive the AWB underground. They nearly died when I said that but I am realistic about it. My people broke jail, they escaped, because they realised that this amnesty law is not being handled even-handed, they are still sitting there. Dr Loot van Schalkwyk died in jail although he was a very, very sick man with two operations on his heart and he qualified for amnesty years ago but they did not release him because of the fact that he is a right-winger. My people are under the impression right now that they will never release them and their families think so and I accept when there will be a backlash from the AWB.

     Listen, mark my words, I am not saying that is what the AWB are going to do because they don't want to go to jail anyhow, but I say that is a possibility that they are going too far now. If you put the Boer, at this stage Mandela handles the situation very, very good, trying to calm the people, but now for the first time people like Minister Hanekom is demanding our land, going to confiscate farms, etc., because he is a bloody communist, that is what he is, with these communist kind of ideas taking land and property from the white man and to give it to the blacks who do not have land, etc., the unsafety of South Africa, the crime rate, the weak rand which is going down the drain each day, I think that in the end, say in two months time, it will go down to five rand per dollar. At this stage I think it's four rand eleven cents or so, but it is going down because no businessman in his right mind can bring money to this country if they are stealing 11,000 vehicles in two months time, and killing two to three thousand people per month. And with the weakness of Mandela and the situation, as I'm trying to describe to you, the situation with his defence force and his police, criminals, former criminals are officers in the South African Police, people who in cold blood shot those wounded AWBs who left the convoy, putting in some fuel, away from the convoy where nobody of us knew about them, killed them in cold blood, that man is still in the South African Police.

POM     I thought he had been arrested, no?

ET     No. He's a member of the police. The SABC asked me to debate with Popo Molefe the Prime Minister of North West, this part in which I am now, and the first thing I asked him that evening, nine months or so ago, "Is that the truth Mr Prime Minister that Sergeant Naray(?) the man whom we saw on television killing those people, those unarmed, wounded people, is it the truth that he is still in the police? Because if that is the case I will not even discuss anything with you." He said, "Listen, I am not here to argue useless issues." So I took the microphone and I threw it on the table and I walked out and I said I will not be part any more of this programme, so I walked out. And last week or so one of the English speaking papers, I think it was The Citizen, announced that they are going to call a commission to look into what happened in that matter, but Naray is still in the police and they are not going to charge him right now after this commission will hand in its findings.

POM     Will members of the AWB go before the Truth & Reconciliation Commission or are you advising them not to?

ET     I am not advising them anything.

POM     They can do what they want?

ET     If it will help for amnesty well they can go if they want, but me, Mr O'Malley, I go only down before my God. I am not going, I will never go to the Truth Commission. I really do not have anything to say to them. What I am saying and I am predicting I will do that in public and I don't think that they are capable to decide what is wrong or right because some of them themselves were in the wrong in the past if we are wrong now.

POM     Even if you could use your appearance to make a plea for amnesty for AWB members who have been recently jailed, who are still in jail?

ET     You see that is a matter to discuss with my general staff but immediately my reaction on a question like that is to say, no, I will not go. But I will do anything to try to support my people and to get amnesty for them.

POM     When you look back and think of the early nineties and the strength of the Conservative Party, it was a sizeable block in parliament, the AWB was a strong movement, you had many parades, processions, large public gatherings, intimations of support all over the place, when you look back one sees that all this somehow petered out. What happened? What took the fire out of the belly besides the factor of Constand Viljoen's betrayal? What else happened where when it came to fight or don't fight, collectively somehow the decision was not to fight?

ET     There's only one reason for that and that is the fact that Viljoen was a man with the right stature, as a former commander of the South African Defence Force. His promises, a year or six months before the election he even instructed during public meetings the conservative people to become members of the South African Defence Force Commando systems so that they can have an R1, a good automatic gun. He said it in public so the people really believed in him and when he cracked, when he went down there was nothing except the AWB. When he cracked the leader of the Conservative Party, Dr Hartzenberg came to me in my house here one Sunday morning and said, "Please, please, it's over now, it's down, my people will not fight, my people will not stand up. Constand Viljoen he broke our backs. It's the end." It was devastating and the only people who really retaliated at that stage were the AWBs but it cost me a hell of a lot of energy to stop the people because I realised then we are standing alone now. Let things develop, this is not the time which I foresaw that time, the time when the government would totally collapse and capitulate. He did it in a different way than I thought. Well maybe he did it in the same way but the fact is three quarter of our ideas were destroyed by Constand Viljoen.

POM     Did you not get an opportunity to confront him face to face and say, why General did you betray us?

ET     What will it help? He is part and parcel of the new system. You think he will come back? Nobody will ever trust him so why must I confront him? What will I do then with him? So I gave him the opportunity at one stage and that was before the local elections. I said it's time for you to come back to your people, don't take part in these elections, walk out there, Mandela lied to you, he will never give you your people's state, he will not even debate it, he said you cannot have a state so he definitely is breaking his word now so walk out, and I wrote a letter to him in an open letter to the press. Then he answered me by saying, no he must be in the political arena and he will stay there and he will try his best, etc. So when I finished with him ...

POM     Just to finish that point, do you think in the end it was a lack of nerve on his behalf or a lack of calculation that he couldn't win or that he was merely suckered by the ANC with false promises of what he could get if he came into the process?

ET     General Viljoen, I believe, is a good General in times of war but he is really not the brightest politician I have met in my life. I think he was suckered by the ANC because during our conversations and meetings in the executive of the Volksfront he many times told us how good these ANC blokes are treating him and how good Mandela is treating him and he is so surprised and he said how it was unbelievable the meeting we have had today, etc. That is why Cyril Ramaphosa at one stage during a television debate joked with De Klerk and Roelf Meyer and all those people and he told the entire world how he suckered them, telling them in their face that they were suckers. And I think you used the right word, he 'suckered' the poor General during that time, he thought he can believe them. But you can never trust a communist but that he did not know.

POM     How are things, I know you're very busy and thank you for the time that you're giving me but it's like a yearly ritual now, how are things in Ventersdorp, how is the City Council working with members of the ANC, CP and the NP and the Freedom Front? Is it working in any kind of cohesive way as a unit to get things done or is it just split along racial lines?

ET     I think at this stage the people of the ANC are realising the fact that they really do not have the knowledge to demand things, so at this stage things are going on more or less the same as in the past. When they hold a big meeting they invite the Deputy Mayor to address the public because the poor man, Mr Meshack, is sitting there in a squatter camp without really being an educated man and I think he knows that he must leave at this stage the decisions for the Deputy Mayor and the few people who do have experience in local government, but the demands of his own people in Ventersdorp or any other place in South Africa are becoming stronger and stronger and if they cannot handle the goodies we are heading for that civil war which I am talking about. I am absolutely sure of that. People are hungry in South Africa. They are without jobs. You must take your car and look at the squatter camps. There are thousands of them and God knows alone where the money comes from. I believe most of the time they do not have food to eat and I can understand it and I really have sympathy for them because the situation changed in such a way after all the wonderful promises that they left their jobs on farms and they flocked in their millions to towns and cities where there will be new jobs and new houses and now the winter is coming and they are sitting there in those shacks without food, without electricity, without water, without even wood to make a fire. God knows what will happen. I know it's a dangerous situation. This is the most dangerous because if I'm a hungry man and my child is starving and my government cannot give me or provide work facilities or jobs then in the end I have to steal, I have to burn, I have to take over and that is what is happening.

POM     Has there been a big increase in the number of squatter camps in the Ventersdorp area?

ET     Right through the country.

POM     Just in your Council district?

ET     Unbelievable. In the country places like Ventersdorp, Lichtenburg, Klerksdorp , they came in their thousands and thousands, sitting there doing nothing, waiting for Mandela to build houses. If there is one man in trouble in politics in the entire world then that is Mr Mandela and his government. Now they are still trying to give apartheid as the reason for what is happening now but the black people are realising you can't go on and say it's because of apartheid of years ago. Now there's no apartheid but there are less jobs than in the past because, because of the promises as I said, those people who worked on the farms left their jobs so the jobless people are increasing daily and the Americans and people from Japan, the businessmen are not, those millions of dollars and yens and roubles are not coming into South Africa because they are not stupid. The strikes are one of the reasons for the collapsing of the economy and the rand and they strike for any bloody nonsense, more than in the days of apartheid.

POM     How about Afrikaans, the issue of language particularly the whole issue of a mother tongue education? Is that becoming an issue around which Afrikaners are increasingly mobilising, I mean Afrikaners of different stripes? Is it becoming a common symbol of their grievances?

ET     I think that is one of the most stupid things Mr Mandela is doing, to attack Afrikaans because moderate people, he is drawing moderate Afrikaners into the arena right now, trying to attack our language and to totally destroy, take it off from the South African TV and Broadcasting Corporation. The dying nationalism of the past is coming back to these people because now they are busy drawing our children into his political schemes. People who were satisfied in the past suddenly are being shocked by the idea that in one month's time you do not see on your own television system which your people helped to build.

POM     Whether or not the Afrikaans language might in the long run prove to be a stronger rallying point for Afrikaners even than the idea of a volkstaat? That language is an integral part of identity and if you feel your identity is really under threat that's when you really start to mobilise in the sense of that identity.

ET     I am absolutely sure of it. Language is the first words which any man or woman can remember out of the mouth of his own mother. That is something which I don't think any man must try to threaten if he wants peace in that country. That is why I say I believe they really have found the recipe to bugger up the whole country. Somebody is not wise enough, or I think the communists, the more left-wing part of Mr Mandela's support, are the people who are demanding now that he must take a stronger stand against the former white people who suppressed them or would try to enslave them.

POM     Here in Ventersdorp how does the school system work now?

ET     Because of the fact that there are far less children than the black people the people who were in charge of the schools, the committees, decided to give the primary school to the blacks so they took over the primary school, it's totally black now in Ventersdorp, except the schools which they have in the townships. So they took over the school and I think there are ten to fourteen or so black pupils in the high school among say 400 whites.

POM     So young Afrikaans speaking ...?

ET     They are Afrikaans speaking coloured people, more of them are coloured people. I don't know, I cannot understand if their parents do not realise what they are doing to their people, to the coloured people and the few black people, throwing them amongst a totally different culture with Afrikaans as a language to be taught in. I think they are destroying their own children. They are very weak academically, their examination marks are so poor, they cannot cope with the situation. I think it's a political move by the ANC using the children. You must realise that through the centuries in South Africa we never, ever discriminated against English as a language being used in schools. We allowed, the former government allowed the English speaking people to have their own schools. For that reason there was Girls' High and Boys' High and Grey College and even the English people, parents, want their children to be in an English medium school where the British culture and history are part of the school, of the soul of the school. And for that reason we have had Afrikaans schools, Afrikaans High and Afrikaans Girls' High, you see. Now for the government to interfere and try to throw people together and do not allow them their democratic right to be part of a school where the culture and, as I said, the soul of their history is the highest priority there, it's unbelievable.

POM     So in the primary school what's the medium of instruction?

ET     Well the primary school is black now and our primary school became part of the High School or the secondary school now. A few of the classrooms are primary school. There is one school now, one white school except for I think ten or twelve blacks are there.

POM     But in the white school is Afrikaans the medium of instruction?

ET     Afrikaans is the medium.

POM     In the primary school what's the medium?

ET     I don't know what language they are using. I believe they are using more or less the Tswana language and the Sotho language.

POM     But when they leave that primary school to go to the secondary school they will have to have Afrikaans, will they?

ET     Well yes, definitely yes. Then they must learn Afrikaans if they want to be in Ventersdorp secondary school then they will be taught in Afrikaans because 99% of the pupils there are Afrikaans speaking people. That is their choice.

POM     So before I see you next year have you a word, will things be on a steadier course, a more conciliatory course?

ET     Let's hope that I am wrong. Let's hope that Mr Mandela and his communist allies will realise that peace comes from a government which is capable in making people happy. Let them feel secure, give them the opportunity to use their talents and their knowledge for prosperity for all of us, but give them that opportunity at least. Give them the opportunity to feel free and independent to use their language even defend the different language groups. Let the Zulu be a Zulu and let him be proud. Let the Xhosa be Xhosa and the Venda and the Swazi and the Tswana and the Boer and the English speaking blokes. Never let them feel that they are slaves in their own country now and being realistic that the modern idea to solve a problem in the entire world is to recognise the different nationalities. Let him keep in mind what is happening right now in Eastern Europe, the bitter civil wars in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

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