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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

16 Apr 1996: Chikane, Frank

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POM     We were just talking about crime, which we won't, because a little bit of crime is the order of the day and there's nothing too significant about it, but what I would like to take you back to is almost something we talked about the last time we talked which was before the elections which was you talked about going back and getting your family land and going out there and measuring the land and your mother looking at the land and looking forward to getting the land back. Has that gone any way forward?

FC     No it was not taken much further than that because we found out that that was trust land which was communally owned and the operation of actually getting that piece of land outside the whole block of the Chikane family became a little bit more complicated. It needs work through it and with new legislation etc., putting it in place, but it's simply sheer lack of time that the whole family has not really worked on it. My mother is eager to actually get the matter settled but I have not been available. My younger brothers were scattered around and my elder brother will most probably be able to pursue that matter but it is there, at least you can get the land. That's not the question. But, of course, as I said last time, the question is, we talked about it two months ago, once you've got the land what are we going to do with it? All of us can't do farming and so it's a crisis of skills that have been lost over years because of the dispossession process and that would have to be regained again and it might be that you commission somebody else to take care of it. There are all sorts of possibilities around it.

POM     So since the last time we spoke which was before the elections, what has most significantly changed in South Africa since you resigned from the South African Council of Churches and took a sabbatical, went abroad, have come back? What to you has most significantly changed in this new South Africa?

FC     The critical thing is that the people are free. The problem with freedom is that you can't quantify it, you can't put it in terms of dollars and cents and say this is how much it is worth. But the important thing that has happened to the ordinary black person in this country is that they can walk in the streets of this country knowing they are human beings and are recognised as human beings. They can go into a shop and be treated better than they used to be treated. They can meet a policeman and be treated better than they used to be treated before. They go into a workplace and the bosses no more treat them the way in which they used to treat them in the past, so there is a qualitative difference in terms of the space within which people can live, that they can do that. There is also the psychological liberation where you know that your President is Mr Mandela and all the old things have passed and now you are dealing with new things. It's a completely different environment as well. Their intentions are good, the commitment for correcting the imbalances created by apartheid are there. So I would say the great change that's happened, it's freedom.

     Now for me, I often say anybody would say that no change has happened in this country, which others are saying, I say, well it's because you don't know. For those of us who could not come into the house without expecting to die at the gate, something has changed. There is a qualitative issue there. Those of us who couldn't walk alone in a street and now I can walk into the streets of Cape Town, walk into the streets of Soweto or Johannesburg, it's extraordinary. I can go to a conference like we did on Good Friday without necessarily having security around me. It tell you that something has changed. I can go to a supermarket. My children can now walk around without feeling we're going to die with our Dad any time, which was the feeling at that moment during those days. And so there have been lots of dramatic changes, not that the risk is not there but it is a different type of risk completely. The fact that we are sitting in Tuynhuys now, I mean it's evidence enough of the changes that have happened. But one has to recognise that the actual material condition in terms of the economic conditions of people, our people, has not changed much. The economy has grown, it's taking off, there's lots of excitement, investments are coming in but no jobs have been created. It's jobless growth. My brother is still where he was before. There is no dramatic change in his life, actually nothing has changed. He is struggling as he used to do except that he can now set up his security company which he couldn't do before. There is some change but not dramatic. My mother is still where she is and I am using her as an example of many other women at that age, 69, and some people may even die before they actually feel a qualitative change in their socio-economic conditions.

POM     Now you've put your finger on the crucial thing and I've had the, I won't say the honour but at least I have been able to interview every Minister of Finance from Barend du Plessis all the way through Derek Keys, Liebenberg, everybody, and Trevor when he was Minister for Trade, and Derek Keys I go back to every year and I say "What's changed in the economy?" And he said one thing to me, he said, "This economy can't create jobs." He said between now and the end of this century if it gets rid of unemployment by 1% we're lucky. And I go back every year and say, "Do you believe the same thing?" He says, "Yes I believe the same thing". So you said you have growth without jobs. Now how do you turn that around when you are engaging in a process of trade (and I know you're not an economist, just a general question so I can get rid of it) in trade liberalisation, getting rid of tariff protections, in fact getting rid of the things that create more unemployment rather than create employment, how do you do that? I'm not publishing anything until the year 2000.

FC     Let me say that the debate within government, I can only tell you about the debate within government because it's a democratic process, people have different views and understanding and visions, but we have one vision but different ways in which that vision is pursued. If you look at the national strategic initiative on growth and development what the debate in government is about, it's engaging in activities which will create jobs. Those jobs may not be sustainable jobs but they close the gap between the time when the substantial activity of the economy would then take off and begin to create jobs and so you go through the route of public works activity, you go through the route of infrastructure development which is necessary for long term economic interests. You go through the route of provision of housing which creates jobs and I am saying they are temporary jobs because you don't build the infrastructure for the next twenty years. You establish the infrastructure at a particular moment and it may not be sustainable on a day-to-day basis because you need that infrastructure now and so you do it massively, not in parts. The housing gets critical because it creates jobs for producing, rather building up houses, but they are not sustainable because once you finish that operation then people are unemployed again. So what you need is those temporary immediate jobs you create during the time when the economy begins to take off and when it takes off it will create - the building industry would be a natural type of development so that the jobs become even relatively more permanent in that sense.

     The issue about tariffs and subsidies, etc., it's quite complicated because what happens is if you put up subsidies or tariffs, etc., basically the people who benefit are either government depending on whether it's tariffs or subsidies, or it is their producer. It is never the consumer. The consumer is always at a loss so if you want to protect the consumer you remove those protective measures so that the market can be open, the consumer can then have choices, the prices can be relatively lower because of competition, but the producer loses. That's why we are beginning to have business which was against Trevor Manuel as Minister of Trade & Industry because he was removing those protective measures and they were getting exposed and threatened. But there are workers also within those particular business concerns who also get affected negatively and jobs get lost so at an initial stage when you remove those protective measures you are bound to have negative results which in terms of classical, economic theories would then be compensated by the long term interests that you put up in it. It's all debatable at different levels.

     The key issue for us is if we don't do that, if we don't restructure the economy we then continue running a siege apartheid economy. That's why for us restructuring the economy, restructuring state assets is a fundamental issue because otherwise you leave them in the old, the old wasn't good for us.

POM     That's one of the questions I would ask you if you were an economist, which I know you're not, but I was going to say one of the things that hasn't changed is that five years after the release of Mandela, two years into the government of national unity, 80% of the stocks on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange are still owned by the same old five companies who own just as much as they ever owned before and you hear them saying competition is a good thing but not too much competition.

FC     No, they don't want it now. They used to say command economy no good, we want capitalism, open economy, and now when the open economy comes they say, no, the ANC is messing up with the economy, we want conglomerates, we want monopolies, we want to control the economy, which is a very strange issue. None of us expected that the Stock Exchange would change overnight. Even if you tried to redistribute resources in this country it wouldn't happen overnight. There are constraints within the budget.

POM     When you see Europe where if you're over fifty you're never going to have a job in your life, if you're unemployed at fifty you're never going to get a new job. If you look at the United States, if you look at the condition of a black person in the United States the unemployment rate is still horrendous, it doesn't change. You're in a technological economy where you create profit but it's profit that creates technology not jobs. What do you do to create the kind of - if those countries can't create jobs what chance does this country have of creating jobs that last?

FC     If you look at the world you can almost lose hope completely that anything else would ever change in the world, but if you look at our commitment to justice that's a different issue. The difference between us and say the United States is that, and I always tell black Afro-Americans there, that the difference is that here we have got a government that's committed to change exactly that condition. In the United States you have a society that sees that as a side issue rather than the central issue. Here the central issue is the issue of how we change the conditions of life of our people, the standards of living. That's why economists, neo-classical economists think that this new government is not good government. For them it means this intention of this government is no good for them because it's not good for business. Once you want to help the masses of the people as your target then you are deviating from the theory in terms of how it operates. I am not expecting that South Africa would be too different from the world but what we are expecting is for the world to help us in the way in which it helped Europe. When you come from a war situation where people were deliberately denied facilities and possibilities and opportunities in life ...

POM     The Marshall Plan.

FC     Yes, yes, you have to do something. Then once you have levelled the playing fields then we can debate about these issues which are completely different at that particular moment.

POM     It's a very tough world. Already South Africa is not getting any kind of a deal. The European Union is putting all kinds of barriers with regard to trade agreements. The honeymoon is over.

FC     But you can see that the Marshall Plan was a political issue much more than just a moral issue. They were not necessarily acting morally. It was a political issue and so they are not going to act the way we expected them to act. But we are going to have to find our way out of this situation. We're not going to say because the world is not helping us as much as we would have expected them to do we'll just give in.

POM     Are you disappointed in the way the world has reacted, basically?

FC     I'm not disappointed because I expected it. I never thought they were operating at a moral level. Remember that the major countries in this world never supported us, even in the struggle against apartheid. We have to start from that. The fact that they feel nice now they are claiming our liberation, etc., it's not like they were with us. There were not with us. In fact my son who is fifteen years old who missed that history always gets surprised when I say the United States was against us. And he says, "I can't believe that. Do you mean they supported the apartheid system?" I say "Yes". He can't believe it because today we relate like it never happened before. In fact those who helped us are even more in the background than those who didn't. So for me it wasn't a surprise. The key issue is that freedom, liberation, change of economic conditions of our people, it's a struggle.

POM     Let me pick up the issues that I really wanted to talk to you about, that you mentioned, justice, morality. Let's begin with morality. Dullah Omar made the statement that there was no moral equivalence between the violence committed by ...

FC     Yes in the Truth Commission question.

POM     That's one. Two, you yourself were imprisoned and underwent torture. Three, how does one draw the line between what the family of Steve Biko says, that we want justice, that is the unjust must be brought before a court of law and tried before the court of law? How do you balance all of these things in a moral sense that allows morality to triumph over the expedient of reconciliation, of getting along together, of even a superficial kind of healing. I find among, no white person, I've been coming here for seven years, I find among no white people any great sense of guilt at all.

FC     Well that's why I would never stop the Biko family demanding that justice must be done. Whether you have a Truth & Reconciliation Commission or not if they argue that they want justice, if Mxenge's family, I knew both the husband and the wife, I met the husband in Johannesburg in a meeting which was during those days underground and the next he was dead, and the wife was one of the lawyers who defended us in our treason trial in 1985 and the next thing she was dead. Now there is no way you can go to that family and say just forgive these people and reconcile with them, etc. I don't think it's a realistic, reasonable, it is not a reasonable demand from them. I think justice needs to be done. It's a reality and I don't associate the political settlement, which is the mistake of the world, in South Africa with reconciliation. It's a step towards but it is not. I don't take handshaking as the ultimate of reconciliation. It is a beginning that leads to reconciliation. I don't take the Truth Commission as Truth Commission as the ultimate in reconciliation. That would be cheap reconciliation.

POM     It lets white people off the hook.

FC     Yes. Well the question of letting people off the hook it's really the amnesty question, but that's a constitutional issue. That agreement was reached.

POM     It's moral. When you say the difference between the way we would approach our economy and the world would be because we are going to do it on a moral basis as distinct from - in other words these issues are ones that we care particularly about, it distinguishes you from other countries that give lip service to the idea.

FC     No we don't believe that.

POM     How do you turn that around to where vast injuries have been done to you, vast injuries have been done by people, comparable to Nazi war crimes, who can now say we were doing it for ...?

FC     You are dealing with pragmatism here and morality. If you are in a war situation and you can save some lives you make compromises to stop the war. It has to be with the continuing pain, but stopping the war might mean that you negate the course of justice because now you are not going to be able to justice, if you do a settlement. If there was of course a military overthrow of apartheid that would be an easy thing like in Nazi Germany where the whole system was overthrown, you can drag people to court, it wouldn't cause you more pain. But in our particular case once you have a political settlement, a political settlement in its nature means compromises and those compromises mean that some people are going to get away with what they have done.

POM     But you're a man of God.

FC     Yes I am a man of God.

POM     Can you compromise inherent, innate ...?

FC     No it's not a compromise on the question of justice, it's a compromise on a political settlement that enables you to save lives. It's a different level of operation. You might sacrifice some of your rights to save another life in the process. You couldn't have had the settlement and peace by 1994 unless you gave these guarantees that were given to the generals. If you didn't you would still be in war, there would have been much more thousands of people who would have been hurt as much as the thousands and millions who have been hurt already. So you have at one stage to stop and say pragmatically what is the best way of doing this. If I can't do justice by letting the war go on at least I can pragmatically save lives by stopping the war. Because if, say, you demanded, if you say I don't want to fight with AZAPO basically, positions, if you took their position of non-negotiation, non-participation in the elections, etc., and I always ask because I get asked in public meetings are addressed by members, even if I'm in the United States a South African who belongs to the Black Consciousness will stand up and say, "But this is a sell-out deal, why do you do this?" And I would say, "Well tell me how you would have done it? What is the alternative route?" There is no alternative route. They would not have amassed enough military power and resources to overthrow this system because for you to take those generals to court you would have to have done that and that wasn't possible, that's why the settlement. And so it's a question of pragmatism.

POM     What do you tell your son? What do you tell your fifteen year old son?

FC     I have said to my fifteen year old son I am prepared to forgive, I am not demanding that others do it. I am prepared to close this chapter because any attempt to go and drag in all those guys who tortured me would cost so much money I will not prove it in court.

POM     But must there not be a differentiation made between, I've read President Mandela's autobiography now about six times, I've underlined every other sentence, and the bit I go through and this is what we talked about when we talked about Northern Ireland, is about the use of violence and the morality of the use of violence, whether it's morally justified and morally not justified and that he goes through the argument that the ANC went through before they concluded that there was no way forward except through the use of violence and then through stage one it will be what one called hard targets but if you had to go to soft targets like some of the minutes from Fort Hare, from one of the minutes of the meeting I think in 1985 said the resolution was passed by the ANC that uMkhonto could start hitting soft targets such as white supermarkets, whatever. I've a real problem. Now I've no problem with that if that's your last recourse, therefore to me it's morally justified. But when you come back and when the state in some way, going back to Omar's point, that there's no moral difference between the violence on the one and the violence on the other whereas to me there's a tremendous moral difference.

FC     There is, there is. I actually agree with Omar, he's right. You can't compare me with an apartheid operative. Let me put it this way, maybe in this war thing I have not explained it clearly. I have often said I am not a pacifist but I am non-violent and I don't want to claim to be a pacifist because then I get pocketed into a situation I can't handle. The point is that if somebody came in here and began to shoot people around, if I have a way of stopping that person I will and in the process of doing that I might hurt that person, like you fought, people tried to do whatever, you could have easily hurt somebody in the process of trying to keep to whatever you are having at that point which you were saving. But I'm talking about life. It's almost like the Machiavellian type of dilemmas. You might actually end up taking another life in saving other lives in the process. And for me that is a reality we faced in South Africa. If you had to protect the children in Soweto you may have had to do things that you would not normally do under normal circumstances. If an army set on armless people then you find ways in which you deal with that army. It's a condition that you are put into. But what I am arguing is that continuing that was for the sake of acquiring ascendancy until you can achieve the absolute justice you want might actually negate that very goal because you may not achieve it, you may cause more pain rather than in fact relieve the pain. But if I can be able to stop a person without resorting to violence then that's it because violence is not part of me and for me you can't make the comparison between a mad guy who comes and shoots people here and Frank Chikane who stops that person maybe by shooting him. There's a vast difference morally.

POM     OK, now let me take that to, say, Shell House. A big, big issue with the IFP. Now here you have President Mandela who in parliament gets up and says, "I ordered, I take responsibility for the orders to shoot to protect Shell House and I ordered that the police not be allowed in afterwards." Now under the ambit of the TRC, President Mandela should go before the TRC to say, "You know what? I ordered the murder of people if it was necessary and I look for amnesty. There's no difference between me and...", or is there?

FC     It's a current issue, I don't know how it's going to be resolved.

POM     I'm publishing nothing until the year 2000 OK, so nothing of our conversation escapes here until the year 2000.

FC     The point is that there is a difference. If I were the President of the ANC on that day I would most probably have given the orders. You see you had a situation where there was a government power and there was no political settlement, the police force, the army were all against the people. During those days I used to walk with security. Those are the days when I needed security against the state. It wasn't security against mad people in the street. When I went home what I feared was the state agents eliminating me. That was the key issue. And during those days evidence is coming out now in court, today, during those days it was denied, there were third force groups which worked with the Inkatha Freedom Party and therefore that march would have been used as a basis to actually go and stop the ANC and attack their headquarters, etc. I was in Soweto that day and I felt exactly the same, I wondered what the ANC, what arrangements the ANC had done to actually protect themselves. I would have also stopped the police coming in if I were Mandela because those are the same guys who are with the hit squads and network on the ground, so they were not there to come and do justice.

POM     I know but under the TRC where it's all pragmatic and not about justice, it's about pragmatism, the President ...

FC     If anybody can charge the President, he should.

POM     Not charge but he would say that, "I ordered murder."

FC     But he has already said it. He doesn't need to go to the TRC.

POM     But why should he not go? Set an example to the entire nation by being the first person to go there and say, "I shall be the first to confess, I shall be the first to ask forgiveness for the taking of other lives."

FC     Yes, but he has already said it.

POM     But then the generals can say the same thing.

FC     It's not the same. They haven't said that. The generals we are talking about, Magnus Malan is not prepared to say, "I did it."

POM     Why wouldn't you advise the President to set the moral example for the whole world by going before the TRC and saying, "I apply like everybody else as a human being, I apply for forgiveness, I apply that from the people who were shot that day on the ground outside, those families, those people, whoever they were, to all of those families I say, I ask your forgiveness"?

FC     I shouldn't start speaking on behalf of the President. I can speak on behalf of myself, that's why I've tried to remove it from the President.

POM     I know. You're doing a good job. I'm never going to quote you as saying ...

FC     I have nothing to confess because I hid nothing, anything I did which would have hurt anybody. I have called for stayaways myself where people got hurt by people you never gave orders, I still felt guilty. I felt maybe if I didn't call for the stayaway the twenty people who are dead wouldn't be dead. It's a responsibility of a leader in a war situation that lives are affected. I would say that I am sorry to the family that has been attacked, innocent people become victims in those types of situations and I am sorry about it but I can't say that I am making a confession because everybody knows that.

     What the TRC is all about is for those people who did hideous deeds who have not come up to say we did it, and the families just want to know who did it. Now in Shell House you know, Shell House the ANC did it. That's straightforward. It's like the massacre in Uitenhage. We all know. No-one is saying bring those people who come and confess they killed people in Uitenhage. There is a difference between that killing and the Goniwe killing and for me the Truth Commission is about the Goniwe killing, not about the Uitenhage. Uitenhage we know, that's why I'm not going to the TRC because everybody knows I was poisoned. Erasmus has confessed. I am just waiting for the real guy who did the actual poisoning, who I am told is in the hands of the Justice Department and so I am expecting that in the course of events during the Truth Commission and other trials that man will at an opportune moment stand up and say, "I did that to Frank Chikane." But I am eagerly waiting to know that. But the guy who tortured me in John Vorster, I know him, he is still there, he is a Lieutenant General now. He was a Warrant Officer when he tortured me.

POM     He now works for you?

FC     He works for the government, yes, that's it. I feel it's immoral. I expect him to come and say to me, "I'm sorry about it." He has not done so but there are those who have done so, even a minister has come from the old order and said, "I'm sorry." I can handle that, but I can't handle the guy who can't come and say sorry, but I know him. He doesn't have to go to the TRC, he just has to come to me and say, "I'm sorry", because I know him. But the guy I don't know, that's the person who belongs to the TRC. I make a difference qualitatively, that's why I don't believe the TRC is there to solve all the problems of the past because it can't in 18 months. It's a symbolic act.

     You say why can't Mr Mandela do that? Mr Mandela doesn't believe that he did anything wrong. The problem is that people died, that's the only problem about it and you can say I'm sorry about it but I had to give the order. You see it's not like giving an order to go and kill innocent people in KwaMakutha while children are sleeping or they are at a church service and you give an order to kill those people. Then you must stand up in public and say I'm sorry about it. But that's different from the Shell House issue. When I was under house arrest and my name appeared in the hit list in 1985 for the first time non-violent as I was, for the first time I said to my family, "Please leave the house", because I couldn't leave it, I had to be there between nine and six in the morning. If I leave it they charge me tomorrow. If I remain I'm dead, so we had to make a choice between the two. Then the community said, "No we will be here to come a protect you. We won't sleep, we will sit around here. If they come they must kill us first." Then I said, "No, my family must go." They said no they are not going and leaving me. My wife said, "I will die with you here." For the first time I felt if I had a machine gun I would sit in this house and wait for these guys to come and they will kill me after I had killed one of them. You know you do feel, when you are in that siege, in that situation, that's when you begin to think about things you would never think of and that's how I think of the Shell House experience. You can imagine Mr Mandela being in Shell House and there is a risk that this place is going to be invaded and the people come out, then you react the way you react to it. But there is no way of justifying war you know. War is war and war whether you had the right to wage it or not, but war it's terrible, it costs lives, etc.

POM     Could you help me to put something in a context, and this is why I love speaking to you even though you get bored sometimes.

FC     Yes, it's that time that I have to be doing the work.

POM     These are important issues, don't you think?

FC     Oh they are important issues.

POM     You've got to solve the RDP in two days. What's the essence of the acrimony between what are called white liberals and the black community, what's going on?

FC     This is a new issue in our community. I was talking to somebody else yesterday actually, it's not long ago, and I said the one thing we did after listening to that Barney Pityana and Davies debate and after sitting in the council, I have been a council member of Wits for a number of years, I am no longer a member now, but after listening to some of the people there, because that's a classical liberal institution, after being a lecturer, joining the teaching staff at UCT as a research officer and being in the Arts Department and meeting with people who are confessed liberals, they belong to the tradition, it's like a religion, I am convinced that twenty, thirty years ago we made a fundamental mistake. During the early years of the Black Consciousness Movement I was part of the second generation of the BCM after Biko and others, we classified liberals as irritants who were pretending to be with you when they were not with you, you would rather deal with the Afrikaner rather than the English liberal. That was the attitude of the BCM. No relationship with the liberals because they are delaying our struggle, they want us to have tea and coffee with them and sit around the table.

POM     They are with you when it costs nothing.

FC     Yes. So forget about them, so we wrote them off, but we missed a fundamental issue about the ideology, because I call it an ideology, it's like a religion. It's that a classical liberal believes in that philosophy and it goes beyond just racism.

POM     Believes in what philosophy?

FC     It's a liberal tradition, philosophical framework of thinking, to an extent that it's like a religion. That's why a liberal would choose to live with apartheid rather than have an ANC take over because they fear the ANC might challenge their liberal base. There is some racism in it as well because most people who belong to the liberal tradition come originally from Europe and mainly English-speaking, that's where the tradition comes from, but we missed the point, we didn't analyse this thing a little bit deeper and the more I listen to classical liberals today whether it's within the race relations of Wits or UCT or University of Natal, because that's where really the bastion of liberal tradition is, then you realise it is a matter of faith for them. They can sacrifice everything including human beings for the sake of a particular liberal disposition. And I am saying it's more than racism. We thought there was a hidden racism, it's not just hidden racism it's an ideology, it's a religion. They believe in it. Once you are religious about it you can die for it, you can be irrational and they become totally irrational. I mean they have moved from the ANC will be against democracy, freedom, individual freedoms, you remember, free market, etc., etc. The ANC now does that, gives you individual freedoms even in their property clauses being debated and they allow the debate to happen, they are opening the markets and they say, "No, no, now this ANC is becoming too big and dangerous." They are now saying even the freedom to choose who becomes the leader in the country is becoming a danger to the liberal tradition. It's a very funny conception. They are saying you need the ANC to split so that you can maintain the tradition.

     Now their tradition it's having parties which create balances like in Britain or the USA where their values of liberalism get protected whatever you do, you can do your party thing as long as our values are protected in that sense, but they can't accept any other thing other than that. I have never understood the race relations arguments in the last five years, it has been so strange. I have tried my best. I have now decided they have the choice to think like that and let them do so, it's a democratic country, there is freedom of expression and it's lovely to have liberals in our midst. That's how I think about it.

POM     I'm Irish, I'm not liberal. But do you think it helps to throw out the word 'racism' all the time for any argument, that rather than helping us to explore our differences, if you're a 'well-meaning white person' you don't want to be called a racist if you don't think you are.

FC     Oh a liberal doesn't want that because they are not, they feel they are OK. You see a liberal starts from the point that I'm OK, everybody else is wrong.

POM     So how do you deal with that kind of developing a whole new educative process that takes the well-meaning, the wanting-to-be-right-meaning liberal along with you on a new path? In a way you said it's far more difficult than the Afrikaner.

FC     I have been quite open I must say. I am a very open person so I am a friend of all these liberals so it's not like the doors are closed. I am making an academic statement about trying to understand liberals. That's all that I am saying. But in South Africa you mustn't forget that any white person would have been brought up in a white protected environment with no understanding of what hurts to blacks and doesn't. They come from a racist tradition. Even if it's a liberal person that person would still think in a very strange a crude way. I was sitting with a classical liberal two months ago going to Johannesburg from Cape Town, he's a lovely business person who was talking the right politics. I was happy to have a person like that sitting next to me, South African classical, staying somewhere in the Cape here, farmer, but the language he used just switches you off because he doesn't understand. He says, how do you solve the problem of Natal? I say we can solve that problem, etc. He says, "No I mean how do you" - he expressed, he described, he was protecting Inkatha, Zulu people but he was describing them in terms that made me feel hurt for them. You know what I am talking about? It's a condescending, like they are so backward that they cannot be part of the new democratic tradition so in fact you are fighting against the odds but he was describing them like they are less than human. You know what I am talking about? And he thought he is just doing a good thing by protecting Inkatha and I was getting angry. It's just like a person who would say in Britain when I was there during those struggles, "The Afrikaner, you know, doesn't understand this". They described the Afrikaner like less than the super-human white Europeans. They are of another class and I would feel angry about that because that's racism. There are some racist classifications of a particular - although they are white but there is a racist turn, so I would stand and say, "No, I am protecting the Afrikaner because I can see there is racism." And these people are trying to tell me they are supporting me by so doing. So I think there is that level of racism, of liberal tradition which says we have developed to the highest state of human endeavour and therefore anything that's not like our thinking is less than what it should be. It's very strange and I might be misrepresenting that tradition. I must go.

POM     Last question. How do you start getting on top of that? How do you re-create the debate, how do you begin the process of illumination so white liberals can begin to see that they are contaminated by the chains?

FC     The problem is that there is no time for that for some of us. That was the problem we had thirty years ago with the BCM, we had no time for that. There is no time for that because a classical white liberal who has got resources and investments and assets who sits in a university, even if the salary is low it doesn't really matter because he's OK. When I go there and I get that salary I can't survive because I have no assets, I have no inheritance, I have nothing so the salary becomes the only thing. They have the time to do that. They are not engaged in the struggle of changing the quality of life of that woman in the Transkei and that's what concerns me rather than the academic debate. We can have it when we have time around a fire but that's not the priority and those people who belong to the English liberal tradition in South Africa are such a minute number compared to the numbers of crises and disasters we are dealing with, they are comfortable and OK. The problem is when they come in into this activity, when you try to help the woman in the Transkei and bring a fury that tries to negate even the little that you are trying to do, then it becomes an issue at that level. But otherwise I have no problem. I just don't think that Davies/Pityana debate should have happened at all. It wasn't helpful. I am not sure why it was set up in the first place. I don't think Davies expected that type of encounter at all because he lives in another world and he thought he would just go there and go away with it and he meets Barney Pityana who became a different human being that day, because I don't know him being like that. But that tells you how much anger there was about that particular issue. So there is freedom of interaction and debate.

POM     Do you think the Truth Commission will get the anger out?

FC     No, no.

POM     How does the anger get out?

FC     The anger will depend on whites in this country coming out and saving the nation by doing what you said you are not hearing them doing. The TRC, if there are a few people who go in there and say we were wrong, if say Mr de Klerk went there and said, "I am speaking on behalf of this whole Afrikaner community", that might help. But anyway our people are angry but they can go away with it. It's not like anger where you are still oppressed and suppressed. It's anger about the past but you can move into the future. If anger was a determining factor we wouldn't be here because there would be too many angry people around. There's too much hurt that has been caused but people are going on with life as if nothing happened before.

POM     OK. Thank you.

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.