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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
11 Apr 1996: De Klerk, Willem
POM Professor, let's start perhaps with a standard question. It's the index I keep as we approach the second anniversary of the government of national unity and you had to rate its continuing performance on a scale of one to ten where one is very unsatisfactory and ten very satisfactory, where would you now rate it?
WDK Yes I think 6.5 more or less, perhaps a little bit more but let's say on average 6.5. I think that everything is still on track. The main issues, RDP, democracy, economy, economic management, the whole transition is still more or less based on something of compromise, so from a macro point of view I would say everything is still more or less on track always remembering that politics is a pendulum kind of a movement, backwards, forwards, backwards, forward. Yes, I am still by and large at ease with the whole process.
POM What would you look to as the government's most successful endeavours in the last two years and its most notable failures?
WDK I would say there's not really a wonderful outstanding success or really a shocking failure. It's all here, that's why I give it a 6.5, it's all more or less in the middle but let's say that I think the RDP was not that successful but the planning of the RDP and the whole structuring of it that was successful, it was done on business principles and the whole philosophy was developed and the whole mechanics was developed but there wasn't deliverance or meaningful deliverance. I would say that's not a failure but it's a negative kind of thing. I would say the whole question of the education policy was also very, very, it wasn't handled well, it brought a lot of stress in the country especially regarding minorities, especially regarding Afrikaans and the Afrikaans people and the feeling of here's a total take over, the whole issue of partnership is gradually losing momentum. And I think apart from the president, there were statements of people like Bengu, the Minister of Education, and so on, that were really shocking regarding minority rights and that kind of thing, so I would say that the perception that the government, the ANC specifically, is busy to develop into a kind of a dictatorial majority with no real intention for accommodating minorities, that's a perception. It's not necessarily my perception but that perception, there is a pessimism and a scepticism in white society, white middle class society and business people and so on, that this is a takeover and therefore we're out of the game, we're not near the fire any more and we're going to be dropped in future in our ability to negotiate and to find compromises, etc. I would say those are two things to the negative side. To the positive side there's I think the whole integration process of the police and the security forces, even the integration situation in schools, that's a very positive thing that happened in South Africa and that goes fairly smooth I would say. There are here and there problems. So that's more or less my summary. It's not very clear I'm afraid.
POM Well it is, because you've touched on a number of points I was going to address and I'll take them in no particular order. The first is this feeling of the marginalisation of Afrikaners, particularly the language, the cutting back of the time on the SABC to less than 4%, the no mother tongue education, the fact that, I think I'm correct I may be incorrect in saying, that RAU will now have to become bilingual.
WDK Bilingual, and all the schools, all the Model C schools, yes.
POM Will have to become the same whereas in other countries the tendency has been towards the protection of particular language rights as they pertain in education. Here the movement is away from it. Do you get the sense personally that Afrikaans is being marginalised and that the ANC don't understand the importance of language as a component of identity?
WDK I'll answer you from a few points of view there. First of all I would say that Afrikaans and Afrikaans people, not that I am not talking of Afrikaners I'm talking of Afrikaans people and that includes the broad section of the coloureds and even Indians and even black people with their basic mother tongue is Afrikaans. I think it's accepted that we can't be privileged any more, that we're only one of the other eight or whatever indigenous languages and that English must become more or less the lingua franca of South Africa. I think that's accepted. That's my first answer.
My second answer is that there was this worrying thing that the statements of the President, Mandela, and his meeting with all the Afrikaanse groupings and his public statements that there will be no discrimination and language rights will be upheld and this and that and that and that, and it seems that the perception is that the rest of the ANC and especially senior people don't speak the same language as President Mandela, so there was this worrying factor that somewhere Mandela is really not in control any more regarding vital issues within his own caucus or his own inner circle.
Thirdly, I would say from my perception, yes I think that they want to play the nation building concept as the main focus and they see diversity of culture and language and even ethnicity as a threat to this nation building concept and Afrikaners like me and others, I would say the middle of the road Afrikaners and that's the majority of Afrikaans people, we say the two go together. We're South Africans, it's one nation, there's no discrimination any more, there are no ethnic politics any more. Ethnicity is ridden from any political organisation or so on. But, yes, the education it's important for a culture to survive that children must be educated because language is a carrier of culture and not only a means of communication and I don't think that there is enough understanding within the ANC circles about this. They see it as a kind of a new manoeuvre of apartheid.
POM In a sense language might prove a far more potent rallying point for Afrikaans speaking people than the idea of the volkstaat.
WDK Yes I would say so. I would say the whole idea of a volkstaat is already out, it's only a theoretical now, Constand Viljoen and the two Mulder brothers they just use this as, well we can't get a volkstaat now but we will still work towards that goal and perhaps the next generation there will be this new kind of an insight that that's the only solution for South Africa. So it's absolutely not on the table any more even within their circles. But Afrikaans language it becomes a rallying factor even between the right wing and the left wing, yes, that's very true. The problem is now that some are more militant about it and others are more relaxed about it. I don't want to be part and parcel of the Afrikaans people who say they are not going to pay TV licences and that kind of thing. No. I think we must still negotiate this thing from the point of view that, yes we've lost a lot of influence as Afrikaans language but we must find a new accommodation for it. And I just read in the paper this morning that after the bosperade of the ANC negotiators and the National Party negotiators that there is a very, very positive optimism, according to the newspaper, that in the final constitution there will be a language clause that will absolutely defend the right of own language and mother tongue in education, etc.
But from another point of view, sorry I'm a relativist not an absolutist, from another point of view I can see that the blacks and the ANC education is really a very, very sensitive point for them. They believe that the ordinary plain, grassroots level, they believe that education is the solution for everything and they want to send their children to school and there is this problem, especially in the urban areas, that there are a lot of black children and they want to send them to the nearest school. So my belief is that you will have different kinds of public schools, I'm not referring to private schools now, you will have just an Afrikaans medium public school, primary and secondary, and then you will have a mixed one, a kind of a double medium school, and that's not a bad development at all and there are a lot of schools that are willing to do that and are already doing that. I can refer you to this C R Swart High School in Pretoria in a working area, lower middle class area of Pretoria, and they have switched to a double medium school and there is more or less 50% non white and 50% white people at that school and for certain subjects the language is Afrikaans and others English. So that's a development that's also from my point of view not a bad development. It will further the old bilingual, especially Afrikaans people, English will become more and more important. In my days it wasn't necessary to speak English very fluently when I was a child and a young man. Even today I can't speak English fluently.
POM I wouldn't say that.
WDK But for the younger generation it's of the absolute essence that English will be the public language of South Africa. So this parallel medium or double medium or whatever you want to call it is also a good development but it wasn't implemented via negotiations, it was a little bit implemented as we the people, we the majority, take it or leave it, shush, that's it. I think the thing is turning around a bit now. There were high level negotiations with Cabinet ministers, with ANC committees of Afrikaans people and I think it's coming more and more, it will be a little bit more balanced, the whole handling of the ANC of the language situation but it's there.
POM The related point is this increasing acrimony between what are called white liberals and the ANC which has degenerated on occasion now into a sheer mud-slinging battle and in a certain sense I regard the moment that Barney Pityana called Dennis Davies a racist on television as being the end of an era. It goes back to your first point of, we're taking over and if you think differently ultimately, subconsciously or for whatever reason it's for a racist reason, you're not thinking in terms of the damage done to us in the past or the necessity to build a strong nation state. What is the basis of this increasing acrimony and is it inhibiting debate about subjects that need to be publicly debated about more seriously? In other words do people say, why should I get into a situation where I'll just be called a racist? I'd rather just shut up and keep my thoughts to myself.
WDK It's a very dangerous situation that's developing. I think there are different backgrounds for this. Number one, there was never a very close relationship between the struggle and a certain kind of liberal. I'm not referring to the Helen Suzman's now, I'm referring to the kind of stiff upper lip business person where there was a lot of lip service to the cause of the struggle, there was talking down to the blacks in the struggle. It is a well known fact that the black people in South Africa say that they understand their relationship with the Afrikaner as man to man or as a group is more relaxed than with English speakers, and I know it's now a generality but you understand what I mean. I think that's a psychological background but not the main background. The second thing is that it's this takeover mentality, the majority rule mentality, that doesn't want to accept any point of view that's critical towards them. It's typical of the development model in Africa. All must be one for the cause and you mustn't be too critical because then you're kind of stabbing the cause in the back. And that's a mentality, the perception, but that's the feeling that they are absolutely intolerant and typical of the liberalism, they are also to a certain extent also intolerant in their liberalism, they speak out frankly and they are very quick and good so that's a difficulty. I think it's very dangerous. But to a certain extent the debate won't die. I think that liberals are fighting back, putting their point and the basic concepts of liberalism are still the binding factor of this whole transition process. But that was really a very sad thing that happened on television. Did you see the television programme with Dennis Davies and Pityana?
POM I didn't see it but I've read much about it.
WDK So there's an historical reason for this, old problems between the English speaking community, especially the business community, and the blacks, and there is this intolerance about any criticism. I would say that's the background but I don't think one must read too much in it that it's a rejection of liberal principles within the ANC ruling class. I won't say that, I think the basic principles of democracy, liberal democracy are really intact also in ANC policies.
POM That was a related question, and that is do you think the ANC fully understands the principles and concepts of representative democracy? By that I will maybe give two examples: one, that majority rule is democratic rule only when there is a reasonable alternative of a different majority emerging but when there is not a reason to believe that that is going to emerge then majority rule is no longer democratic rule; and two, that you must have this division between the executive and the legislative body particularly where one party exercises a huge majority that you become in fact a de facto one party state where you might say, well the people voted us in but in reality it's a de facto one party state. Do you think they understand the gradations?
WDK I think some of them but I think it's a little bit of lip service, the broad concept of democracy and representation and the division of powers and that kind of thing. I think they understand that but the nuances of liberalism and the liberal concepts, I don't think that there's enough understanding of that in ANC circles but I think that it's going to be a learning process. I want to disagree with you that there is a tendency that the executive and the legislative structures are more or less not opposed to each other. I think the executive is getting a lot of trouble from its own caucus and the status of the ordinary MP and the parliamentary committees are today very, very higher and they work more effectively than in the old National Party days. So there is not a kind of dictatorial reign of the executive over the rest. I would say that there is an awareness within the legislative chamber and the provinces, etc., that we must watch the executive, we must keep them responsible, we must be open and transparent also in our criticism. Yes, there is a takeover mentality, a majoritarian mentality growing and growing and growing and there is not going to be meaningful opposition until perhaps in the middle of the next century, so that is a worrying trend but there are also counter-forces working within the ANC to balance this thing, to give enough standing for minorities, to further the cause of not being a one party state and to further really the cause of the basic principles of democracy, but there is this kind of, not criticism, dualism within the ANC. I think it will be a learning process for them.
POM Could I just relate what you said about meaningful opposition perhaps not emerging until the middle of the next century ...
WDK I mean 2005, 2006, within the next ten years.
POM In that sense do you believe that the National Party can in fact restructure itself or that it's identity was so closely tied to apartheid that with the abolition of apartheid you abolish the reason for the existence of the party. In all honesty when I hear FW saying that he can see in the next ten years the NP attracting sufficient black votes to be a viable alternative to the ANC I laugh.
WDK That's propaganda, that's nonsense. I would say one must see also - I was very closely involved in talks with FW specifically on a personal level about this, I would say it is a very good move for the NP to say we must become really multi-racial and that implies that their logos, their leadership, their structures, their name, everything must be changed within the next two to three years. They already have a very strong support base in the coloured community and Indian community, but it's the blacks and I think that gradually, and the NP must change its whole style, it must move alongside the ANC because all two groupings are middle of the road groupings but the NP must become more involved in grassroots and butter and bread issues and hopefully there will be a little bit more black support for this new party, let's call it an ABC Party, and they are head-hunting at this moment. It's very hard to find high profile people to be in the top leadership of this new party, the ABC Party. Hopefully there will be a little bit more, let's say a million or even less than a million blacks supporting, I'm referring specifically to Africans now, blacks, the new party, and then that's my old story, somewhere this whole alliance of the ANC will grow stronger up to the 1999 election, but somewhere there must be a schism within the ANC because there are really two main groupings within the ANC. I call them the radicals and the realists. If there is a schism somewhere, 2003, 2004, and there's rejection of the radicals of the ANC principles and the ANC middle of the road leadership that this realistic middle class ANC member and this little bit stronger National Party within the non white communities, maybe with the DP and the rest, may form a kind of an alliance that can oppose the radical alliance in South Africa. So I only see a role for the National Party as a partner within ten years or so of a black grouping that's opposing a radical black grouping. That's how I see the developments.
POM So in an odd sense it's future is more in the hands of the ANC than in its own hands?
WDK To a certain extent yes really.
POM Events about its viability in the future that are outside its own control?
WDK I think so. What they are trying to do now they are trying their utmost best to get the structures in place. I know, for instance, that they want to establish what they want to call an Academy for Political Training and they want to ask people like Van Zyl Slabbert and that kind of personality to be part-time lecturers in this academy. But the sole motive is to identify potential black politicians and to equip them for a political career. My advice to them is please don't say we're trying to educate National Party politicians, you must say this academy is open and you're only one of the sponsors and you must try to find sponsors also from credible other sources. So that's a good thing. They gear themselves to accommodate black support and I know that they are head-hunting really for somewhere a black leader of this new ABC Party after 1999.
POM This begs the question that in their attempt to do this can they sufficiently take into account the injury they did black people and to believe that large numbers, or even the numbers you're talking about, of black people in such a short period of time would forget the historical past, the collective memory of the injury done to their community and say, no we've no problem voting for a rejuvenated new National Party, is kind of condescending.
WDK Yes, well that's a valid point. That's why I'm referring to the year 2005 and beyond that, 2010, 2015. It's a process. I see the macro process and all the current leadership, FW, the Hernus Kriels etc., even the Roelf Meyers must disappear and there must be a new generation of people growing up in this new culture of this ABC Party, a new generation of whites, a new generation of coloureds. The old coloureds are Abe Williams, Jac Rabies and so on, they must be all out of the system. This new grouping must be more Africanised and I hope that also the typical yuppie, the typical up and coming white businessman and professional will also be part of that new grouping. But it's not possible to do, this change can't happen within one generation and that's the same going for the ANC. I laugh when people say there's going to be a schism in the ANC between labour and the rest within the next two or three years. Yes, somewhere the radicals and the realists will divide but I would say the current generation of the struggle people must also be away, the Mbekis, etc., etc., and that a whole a new generation of ANC must emerge. So I see it as a 12, 15, 20 year process.
My optimism is based on the fact that the growing black middle class, let's say number one that the ANC majority government, the leadership there on the first level, the second level, the third level is really still very, very much on the track of democracy. They are anti-radical. There is a large grouping of anti-radical people in the black community and the more the middle class will emerge, there are predictions according to my friends working with this that within, let's say, the year 2001 more or less 35% of the black population, not coloureds and Indians now, will be regarded as middle class people. That will be the result of affirmative action and new education, etc., etc., etc. So that grouping with the white middle class can form not necessarily the majority grouping of South African politics but there can emerge a very, very strong grouping of free marketeers, democrats and all the values of democracy as opposed to the radical grouping.
POM In a sense is this tied, I think as you are suggesting, to economic development, that you are going to have the emergence of a black middle class that at some point will reach a certain critical mass where as a voting block it makes a difference if it aligns itself with the radical grouping or the realist grouping or with the new ABC Party?
POM And on the other hand you are going to have a large part of the African community that is going to live in deprivation for a long time to come.
WDK I firmly believe that.
POM One party can't serve the interests of two constituencies with such diametrically opposing economic and social interests.
WDK That's what I am implying. You see really I think that the RDP, and that's the tragedy of South Africa, poverty is so high in this country and we are not that rich a country, we're really very mediocre from that point of view and the RDP will - this woman that brought us the coffee, she will only gain from the RDP to get a better pension, water, electricity and a few things that will higher her quality of life for four or five or six or ten percent. But the education, even the youngsters now will not gain from that. The whole question of unemployment, I think we will remain with a large mass of very poor semi-educated people in this country and we must accept that and that's going to be the radicalism that will mobilise those people also in future. Not necessarily the unions, I think the unions will also become part of the middle class but they will use, perhaps the union leaders and so on, perhaps will use this mass of dissatisfied people, rejecting, say well we've got nothing out of this, rejecting the ANC, and they will mobilise them in a kind of political grouping. But then on the other hand there's the question will the ANC then, that's also a worrying factor, if they see, that's typical of any politician, if they see we're going to lose our power base so we must switch a little bit more to radicalism that's also of course also a possibility that the ANC will become more and more, let's call it radical just to give it a name, more and more radical to keep their power base intact. You can't rule that out.
POM Is that more difficult in a global economy where the country becomes part of an international financial and trading market so that policy decisions are no longer solely sovereign?
WDK That's my answer on that when I say that's a possibility and when I chat about this with my people I say well it's unlikely because we're globalised now and the real opposition for government in South Africa is the international financial institutions and powers and the market and the economy. There won't be any chance for a future ANC government to switch to radicalism because they will know then there's total rejection, we're back in old boycott days of apartheid and then there will be kind of a new revolution within South Africa. So I am not really worried that this will happen but theoretically there is the possibility. But even we've seen that all the, you know it's an irony, Alec Erwin, a communist, is today the champion for free market principles and the whole market fell when he wasn't appointed as minister. And there are a lot of old radicals within the Cabinet now, old struggle radicals that are becoming more and more middle of the roaders out of common sense and out of survival instinct. If you're in government you survive, it's a power game and power means not listening to the radical rhetoric of the masses but to keep a cool head and keep the world and world economy and keep the markets open. So I am not really worried about that.
POM This is an aside because it just popped into my head when you mentioned Alec Erwin, is the Cabinet reshuffle. Were you surprised by the removal of Pallo?
WDK To a certain extent yes but also not. I am not very well informed on - I don't know Pallo Jordan very well but one of my friends told me that he was always, and this man that I am referring to is very well connected with certain persons in the ANC, that Pallo Jordan was always a little bit a square peg in a round hole for the last twenty years. They don't like him. He's too much of an individual and an intellectual and he's not a team man at all. And it seems to me there are also stories going around that he's a little bit lazy, he's not really on the ball in his handling of the portfolio. I personally think that he's a very able man but it seems to me that as a politician inside the team he's not that successful. But if the reason for his dismissal has got more to do with the fact that he is a thorn in the side of his own team rather than his performance that's kind of setting a dangerous precedent for the future.
That's the way politicians work. I don't think they removed him basically for that. Actually the choice was, I know that the NP said this post, never mind it needn't be the Minister of Finance, but Derek Keys was a Nationalist representative and then we get Liebenberg who is absolutely neutral and now Liebenberg is gone so you owe us a seat in the Cabinet according to the percentages. Then Mandela made the move and said, "No I'm not going to give you a seat in Cabinet I'm going to trim the Cabinet and I'm going to fire one man and then it's not necessary for an NP candidate to come in." That was one of the motivations because if he didn't remove an ANC person the NP could say you owe us now a minister. You can shuffle it yes, you can take the minister and make him a minister without portfolio or something like that but you owe us a minister. So that's the story going around. Then Jay Naidoo is, according to stories, really very close to President Mandela and he wants to groom him. Within ANC circles they say that Jay Naidoo is a man with high potential for the future. I don't know him personally, I've never met him so I can't comment on that, but there was this choice so they dropped Pallo Jordan.
POM When you talked about the composition of the Cabinet as required by the interim constitution, why in the end does it appear that the NP gave in on one of their key demands that is entrenched power sharing would exist in some form in the final constitution? In the end it appears they just threw their hand in.
WDK I think two reasons. The first is that they realised that this will be absolutely unacceptable for the majority if they take it back. According to their information, I always laughed about that information, but two days before the election, the 1994 election, FW said, "Well between you and me I'm expecting support of 35% for the Nationalist Party", and it was 20%. So if they could get that support of 35% then they could say, "Well we also represent 35% of the population and therefore there must be compulsory power sharing." So with a 20% their argument is gone. That's the one reason. The second reason is in their experience of a few years they find it very impractical with two hats on, to be opposition and partner simultaneously. So I think it's an unworkable kind of thing in politics. Of course there are these coalitions in Europe, etc., etc., but then its coalitions that are built on a certain extent of power. As you know better than I that the third party is really the little party that swings the lot. That's not the position with a majority party of it's going to be 80% in 1999, then there's no question of power sharing. It's unworkable and it's unacceptable.
But now they are trying their utmost best, that's according to my information, and that's out of Roelf Meyer's office, that there is a realisation within the ANC that we must keep something of, don't call it power sharing, something of partnership in decision making, we must devise some structures and some procedures so that the international world and the non-ANC people in South Africa must have the feeling that we are still part of decision making and that's why this Cultural Board of FW, of the National Party, it seems to me that will be to a certain extent acceptable for the ANC and there is one, they are negotiating it that in the parliamentary committees that there will be substantial non-ANC members in committees too and the committees are a very important decision phase in the whole process. So there will be something not like the government of national unity but there will still be in the new constitution, perhaps not in the new constitution, but in the next five years after 1999 some structures for co-operation in decision making.
POM So you would see these as understandings reached among the parties now as part of their negotiations but there are understandings that ultimately depend upon a gentleman's agreement that won't be written into the constitution or legislated per se?
WDK Yes. Well there is the principle in the constitution more or less but I don't think it will be written into the constitution, perhaps very vaguely perhaps in the pre-amble or something like that. But they are working now on the basis to get certain conventions, parliamentary conventions (is that the right word?) to be established and certain procedure rulings within parliament that there will be negotiations and compromise mechanisms, etc., etc., because I really think that the ANC rulers on every level, the ANC intelligentsia and politicians and business people they are really honest when they say that we can't do it alone, we don't like to admit that, we won't say that from the platforms but in our inner circles we want something of a partnership between non-ANC or non-black institutions, the business community, the cultural white groupings, the Afrikaans people and the churches and the political parties who represent more or less the non-black part of the country.
POM You mentioned, it may have been a slip of the tongue or it may not have been, in 1999 the possibility of the ANC getting 80% of the vote?
WDK I think so. Well I think the NP with their 20% will fall in the 1999 election to more or less 13%, 14% and I think the ANC is campaigning very, very tough and thoroughly within Zulu divisions to get more and more Zulu followers for the ANC and I am not an historian, you're more of an historian, but I think the experience in Africa is that the second election after the take over, the ruling parties always is then really the dominant party. So I think the ANC will gain let's say then between 70% and 80% of support.
POM So that again in an ironic sense that after all this constitution making at the time when the new constitution is to take over one party will be in a position to change it at will if it so wished?
WDK Yes, yes. I think formally yes but I think on the other hand that there is during that five years from 1999 up to 2004, there will be this whole Chamber of Provinces, there will be enough opposition not in numbers but in status and influence for the ANC not to change the constitution randomly. Also the international world. So I am not worried that the constitution will be tampered with after 1999. I think we will go with this new constitution for at least another ten years or so. I am not worried about that. That's why, perhaps it's an aside I'm taking, but that's why I believe that political opposition, parliamentary opposition is not that important any more. It must be there, it's part of democracy. I believe that institutions, except from the international institutions, that institutions, the organised agricultural institutions, the organised education institutions, they will be the negotiators of the future and the government will say, we must negotiate with the agricultural unions on this and this legislation that we prepare and they will have a high degree of influence by lobbying, etc. So I think that will be the opposition in future.
POM So you would see NGOs and the like as fulfilling a very important role?
WDK A very important role.
POM A role that opposition parliamentarians can't fill.
WDK I believe that, really I believe that already today there is the inclination that the ANC will be the ear and the accommodation for let's say the agricultural unions in South Africa, never mind what the NP politicians say in parliament. Institutions will be the main fronts of opposition and then NGOs, not only on local level but I foresee that interest groups will organise themselves on a national level. An example: the business community is now, SABEC, that's the English speaking business people, and the Afrikaanse Handels Instituut, that's the Afrikaans organisation, and they merged to a certain extent in what they call now the South African Foundation, they changed the whole Foundation's mission and that's one voice of business, black business, white business, in South Africa. The structure is there so that's going to be a main opposition front for government in future.
The labour unions are another front, COSATU, never mind what are the contents of their policies, but that's a front for the new government. The agricultural unions also there's a tendency now to say we're not going to have the old typical Afrikaans agricultural unions or white agricultural unions, we are going to form new inter-racial agricultural unions and that will emerge during the next few years. The integration, there are no problems with integrating on the level of own interest, integrating black and white. So that's the third new opposition front that's emerging and I foresee that in education and other interest groups will organise themselves nationally and that will be the players, the opposition players, not the political party. It's going to be more a formal thing, there must be an opposition in parliament and there must be parliamentary debates and so on and votes and so on but that's not going to be the real opposition.
POM Turning to a couple of other things, the Truth Commission. Dullah Omar made a statement that has been a much debated statement when he said that:-
"There is no moral equivalent between the actions of the apartheid security forces and those of the ANC guerrillas. Apartheid has been a crime against humanity in the same way Nazi crimes were crimes against humanity. People who fought for freedom in our country, who fought for democracy, were participating in a noble struggle."
WDK He made that statement on several occasions but I was present when he made that statement about eight weeks ago. It's very controversial. Tutu rejected that. Tutu officially said that the Truth Commission will be non-discriminatory. I don't think that Omar's point of view is very honest. I think it's part of propaganda strategy. I think the mood, not the mood but the definite work agenda of the Truth Commission will be that there will be no discrimination in favour for the struggle people against the system people. I don't expect that. I am very hopeful about the Truth Commission. I think they are going to have growing pains. As you've seen they've taken it to court and the court rejected it, but I really think that it won't be, I know there is a fear, but in reality I think we will see within the next year that there will be no discrimination between struggle and system people who have committed crimes with political motives. I think they will be handled on the basis of equity and equality.
POM In that regard I will ask you, because it would be a controversial question anyway, it seems to me that what the law says is that if an action, a violent action or a terrorist action or whatever was committed where it can be demonstrated that the object or the intent was political then it falls within the ambit of it being able to be considered by the Truth Commission for amnesty, but where that doesn't exist then it doesn't. In that regard let's take Shell House. You had President Mandela in parliament over a year ago, to the best of my recollection and no-one has said otherwise, saying, "I take responsibility for Shell House. I ordered to shoot, it was necessary to defend the building. I ordered that the police not be allowed on the premises in the aftermath of the shooting." Eight people were killed, 53 were injured and not allowing the police on the premises was an obstruction of justice. Both certainly fall under the ambit of a political murder, whatever you want to call it, and that as such he should have to apply to the Truth Commission along with everybody else.
WDK Yes theoretically I think that's one of the unsolved things, the whole Shell House thing, and I think the ANC is in a corner with that one. It's very difficult for them, they are trying to hush, hush, hush it, but that will be somewhere on the table definitely. I agree that the Truth Commission must look into the Shell House incident even if Mandela must tell the Truth Commission he's responsible for that and asks forgiveness of whatever.
POM It would set an enormous moral example.
WDK Yes but that's an extreme example. But as things go I don't think they will look into it but they will hush, hush it, they will hush, hush other things to a certain extent. Proof is very difficult to define in its absolute essence so there will be sensitive areas, even for the old system people. They must then get PW also at the Truth Commission and he says, "Well I'm not going to the Truth Commission." I think there are lots of things that can be tracked down that it was PW's decision, this and this and that and that. But I think high profile people, that's why this Malan court case is a kind of a test, I really don't think that they will find the generals guilty in court and they will go to the Truth Commission in the long run. High profile political people of the struggle and the system will be given amnesty and it won't be that transparent. I'm sure about that.
POM It will be done behind closed doors?
WDK Yes a little bit.
POM It's interesting that you say that you believe the generals won't be found guilty.
WDK That's the intuition, I have no grounds for that.
POM I have been telling Patricia and other people too that just before I left Boston I had dinner with a friend who had tried a high profile case in Boston and had won and at dinner he said, "I shouldn't have won the case", and I said "What do you mean?" and he said, "Well I only won because the opposition tried the wrong case. They didn't try the case on the facts they tried it as a cause, on an ideological basis and in the end I was able to drive it home to the jury that you've got to connect A to B to C in a very systematic way and the jury went for fact." But if, and here I think there is a slight tendency that it's going to be like the showcase trial, it's going to be the trial of all apartheid crimes or whatever and therefore not that the men are charged with a specific crime on a specific date involving specific people. If they are found innocent what will be the impact in the black community do you think?
WDK That's a very dangerous thing because there is in the black community a feeling that these people, the Malans and so on, that they must be brought before court and they are the main culprits. There is feeling. But I am sure that with political rhetoric, etc., let me put it another way, I don't say that the Truth Commission will only be a kind of a symbolic thing. No, I think they will identify certain persons and situations that were criminal to such an extent that they will refer that to the courts. That's what the law says too. So there will be a lot of court cases coming out of the investigation of the Truth Commission. That's the De Kocks, the real murderers, the real sadistic kind of people. But the political bosses will be seen as - I don't think it will ever be possible to prove that the final order came from General X or Minister X, and I don't think it happened, really, to be quite honest with you. Not that they were innocent but a politician will never say go and murder the man, he will say it's in your hands you must make a plan.
POM Yesterday we were listening to the tape of Mandela's autobiography and he talked about when the police burst in on the farm in Rivonia, that sitting on the table being discussed at that very moment was the six-page document laying out the entire plan of insurrection. The evidence was complete and total in itself on the table. It involved naval assaults on different ports and whatever but it was a classic example of they had put everything on paper where you should have put nothing on paper.
WDK But are you worried about the Truth Commission?
POM Yes because what you say at one level disturbs me, I would prefer to say people did wrong on both sides and let that rest. On the other hand I think that there has to be a mechanism that particularly allows white people to understand the gravity of the injury they did to black people.
WDK I don't oppose that, I just say that high profile people if they can find specific evidence they must go to court even if it's PW Botha, but I think it's going to be difficult to find specific evidence and if those people, and I am sure that the Malan's of the world will testify in the Truth Commission, yes we're sorry, we were ideologically motivated, we were brought up this way, we thought it was a solution, we fought communism but from hindsight it was really brutal and it was racism and it was to keep power and we're sorry about that and it's going to be publicised. A crying Malan with a bible in his hand and saying please forgive me, just to put it in an extreme form, and hopefully the majority of people will say, OK that's fine. So I think they will identify individuals that will be prosecuted in criminal courts.
POM I give the parallel, it's not a parallel it's just an example, of the Rodney King case or even the O J Simpson case in the United States where after the Rodney King case, you may recall he was the black man where there was a video tape of him being viciously beaten up by a white policeman and the jury found the police innocent, and the black community burned half of Los Angeles down. The anger was so great. It was perceived as an obvious miscarriage of justice. You don't see any reaction like that happening in the black community in urban areas of South Africa if Malan and the generals were to walk?
WDK I'm very ambivalent on this. I'm deep in my heart worried that the Truth Commission can upset the whole reconciliation. I'm worried about that. If the generals are found guilty there will also be a kind of an uprising within the old security force community and even a lot of white people will feel that what about Mbeki and what about this and this and that one. So I think the Truth Commission, it's able people there, and according to my law friends the law is quite well balanced, that they will sort out a kind of a procedure or formula to let justice be done but that the ultimate motive must be reconciliation. They will find their own formula and I think the mood in the country apart from specifically the victims, the specific family, the specific grouping, but that the mood generally speaking is that please God let's have reconciliation and not again confrontation on this. Mandela, that's his rhetoric too and I think there was a little bit of reaction and therefore Dullah Omar is busy to pacify with this kind of rhetoric, say well I believe this and this and that must happen but it's in the hands of the Truth Commission. He said that also and it's an independent commission and this commission will handle everything. I think they will find a formula. That's my opinion.
POM In the Malan case though you hope that there won't be the kind of reaction there was to the Rodney King case in the United States?
WDK It all depends what the - well there's no information, I haven't got any information, it's an absolutely objective case but I don't think that the state will be in a position to prove and I think it will be a technically, they will find them not guilty or however the judge will formulate the thing, but on technical points and then if the judge says, well to a certain extent I can't find you guilty on technical points but I refer you to the Truth Commission, to go deeper into your basic attitudes, if the verdict of the court is well balanced and not just say 'not guilty'.
POM Just one or two last things.
WDK I'm very vague on this because I'm vague in my own heart about this trial. It's more hopes than facts.
POM What struck me was that one of the - well two IDASA polls, one was on the performance of parliament and it showed that overall the majority of people thought parliament was doing a reasonably good job, but when you broke it down on racial lines it turned out that just 24% of whites approved of the job that parliament was doing and 62% of blacks approved of the job parliament was doing. So obviously both race groups were looking at parliament through entirely different prisms.
WDK You mean the general performance of parliament?
WDK I haven't got that statistic. Perhaps it was during my hospitalisation that this was part of the news.
POM I'll get the quote, I have it some place here.
WDK Was there some evaluation done by an outside company or something?
POM IDASA did the poll.
WDK Yes IDASA, and so the outcome was?
POM That overall a majority of the people approved of the job parliament was doing but when you broke it down on racial lines just 24% of whites approved of the job but 62% of blacks did.
WDK I would say that there is a lot of frustration, that's the problem of the opposition of the NP and the DP members of parliament. There's a lot of personal frustration. All of a sudden they are not representing a specific constituency, Boksburg, Benoni, Johannesburg, whatever, they have no contact with grassroots levels, they are pushed into sidelines, they haven't got enough work to do, there is a scepticism of the African methods of doing things, all the indabas and all the meetings and all the working groups and so on. So that's part of their personal frustration. I don't think that's a significant pointer that there is a racial attitude about politics in future. I don't think really, I don't think that the NP as a party and the DP and ordinary grassroots white people, gradually there's an evolution away from a race attitude. That's one of the wonderful things happening in South Africa. It's only minorities who are still busy with racial attitudes in politics. I think that politics is growing out of its racial compartments of the past.
POM Let me ask you then one last question relating to race and that would be the Makgoba incident at Wits and what it says about the state of race relations.
WDK That's again the argument against the liberals.
POM My specific question would be that if he had in fact made serious misrepresentations on his CV, in that case was he not honour bound to step down? He certainly would in any other 'normal democratic culture', or are we imposing western norms on the importance of a CV where he could argue, "Listen, if you know the odds that were against me to make it in the world the fact that I embellished my CV here and there is really irrelevant in the larger context of things."
WDK Well my overall answer on that will be that, yes, we will develop a democracy in South Africa but not a classic western democracy. It will be a democracy that's an African democracy, not referring now to the so-called democracies in Africa. It is more or less modelled on the western concept of democracy but I think the rules of the game will be more Africanised to a certain extent and will be more, from the point of view of our past, there will be more tolerance in the democracy from white people regarding black people in fear that it can develop in a racist thing, and that's the Makgoba case. I've met him once, he's quite a nice man, but really I think Wits accommodated him. If one fiddles with your CV and if you're absolutely not competent for your work and Wits didn't even expand on that, that he was at a total loss from the administrative point of view, and that's why he willingly now accepted a new research job behind closed doors. So I think Wits accommodated him. I won't say this easily in public, Dennis Davies will do that, he's a more honest liberal than I am. I won't do that because I will say, no, no, we mustn't stir the pot now, it's going to be interpreted as a racial onslaught and we must try to accommodate the thing.
Perhaps we liberal Afrikaners are more pragmatic about the application of liberal principles. Yes, I think that there will be accommodation and that's happening in parliament and in Cabinet already, accommodation of the way black people think and work, their methods, their indaba method, going back to the masses, their concept of democracy as not representative democracy but a democracy that the grassroots are part and parcel of formulating policies and they are always referring things back.
I am now on this committee of Thabo Mbeki called the Task Group to advise the government on government communications and I can see now the method and I am accommodating it. We're a lot of experts there, not that expertise, but more or less ten people. But they are pushing that we must go into the deepest areas in the bush to hear what the people say about government communication. That's a method that's - what can the majority of people that have no expertise in communication concepts, what can they give us? Nothing, but there is an extended programme of two and two, they have divided us in groupings of two, the ten people, and we must go into Pietersburg, in the deep, deep platteland and we must have hearings about government communication. Now that's their kind of operational method. That's typical of the African culture according to my sources and we must accommodate that kind of thing and that happens in parliament too. I think it's still very problematic for the white groupings to accommodate the methods of decision making, etc., etc., but I think the attitude is we must accommodate, if they are the majority we must work according to their kind of methods and we are the minority.
POM The final analysis is you have no other option.
WDK We have no other option. So, yes, you join them. I want to say this, I still firmly believe that the opposition groupings must move very close to the ANC. The ANC must have the feeling that there is acceptance of their abilities, that there is a willingness to co-operate and there must be an open, communicative relationship between opposition and government, not only the political but every one. I'm not an ANC member but I'm walking very close with them because that's the only way that I can influence them. Not that I've got all the knowledge. We must try to find our niche to influence people, we democrats, we liberals, and to move too far apart from the ANC is very dangerous.
POM Last question is one that deals with the question of finance and the devaluation, the continuing slide of the rand. It would seem to be looking back on what happened in Europe a couple of years ago when there was first of all immense speculation against the lira and then the peso and then sterling and one currency after another said we will defend ourselves and in fact international speculators won hands down on every occasion, that the Reserve Bank here has taken a decision that it's pointless using scarce foreign reserves to prop up the currency and let the market take its toll and at some point the speculation will stop, the currency will reach a point of equilibrium and then in time it will start to go back up again.
WDK I think there's a lot of pressure on the Reserve Bank to switch its policies in this regard and also, according to a news item this morning in the newspaper, there was a plan on the table before the budget, was on the table for Liebenberg's attention about this whole currency thing, what do you call it?
POM Exchange control?
WDK Exchange control, etc. Then it was referred to Cabinet and they decided they are not going to do that. I personally think the sooner the better that we're not part of the global world and we will take a hell of a dip and the speculators will win hands down that's true, but it will find it's equilibrium.
POM Even the German bankers couldn't save the franc at the time the franc was under pressure two years ago and the German Federal Reserve Board stepped in to help them.
WDK And they couldn't do that.
POM International speculation had more funds at their disposal.
WDK This is not my field but I've got the feeling as I read the newspapers and talk to business people that there is a feeling that we must go through this process and then the thing will again get a kind of equilibrium.
POM So are you advising me to take my dollars and speculate against the rand?
WDK Well I think that's going to happen.
POM Thank you ever so much for the time.
WDK It was nice to talk to you again.
POM You see, you thought you had nothing to say.