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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

15 May 1996: Meyer, Roelf

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POM     Mr Meyer, let me begin first by observing this has been a very dramatic couple of weeks in the history of politics in South Africa. First of all you had the wrapping up of the constitution and then you had the National Party withdrawing from the government of national unity. On the question of the constitution on the four issues that were deadlock issues, the property clause, the single language medium, the lock out clause and education, many observers feel that by and large the National Party lost out on all of the issues, that when it came to a final decision that you were faced with a choice of the ANC saying, well we would put our own version of the constitution before the people, all we have to get is 60%, we're going to get 60% so take your choice, this is the constitution it's going to be or we will just go to the people. Was it as simple as that or do you feel that the National Party's interests were significantly protected by the constitution particularly in those four areas?

RM     I think one has to look at the constitution and the negotiating process as a whole when even you judge these four issues because I think it's important to look at the whole process and the whole of the constitution to see how the process developed and how parties in the final instance reacted to that. First of all I think it remains one of the smaller miracles of the whole process right from the start up to the very last moment on 8th May that the intention remained amongst the ANC, National Party and most of the other parties too to arrive at a constitution that could be adopted through consensus and I think that was one of the most significant things of the whole process. Right at the start, at the time of the World Trade Centre negotiations, that was the driving force almost that brought us to an agreement, and over the last two years we have seen the same thing. Right from the start the parties said to each other, we are looking at agreeing on this constitution and reaching agreement through consensus rather than to fight it out in terms of voting on it or even worse going to a referendum or an election. That approach prevailed right through the process, up to the very last moment.

     And if one looks at the constitution overall it's, I think, important to note that on some of the most critical issues that we thought right at the start there would be real difficulties to find agreement on, for instance, the question of division of power between the central government and the provinces and like the question of how the second chamber would be composed and function. Those issues were thought to be some of the most difficult ones to resolve and I think if ever there was to be a deadlock we thought it would be on the issue of the competencies. The interesting thing, of course, is that we have resolved those more difficult issues well in time, six weeks more or less before the final date those were resolved whilst some of the issues that originally were thought to be of lesser importance became the final stumbling blocks or outstanding issues. Now when one takes them into account, those four, of course they had a background of particular influences from outside of politics. To put it this way, on the competencies issue it was mainly a political matter to resolve between the parties but if you compare that with, for instance, the property clause and the education clause one would see that there were outside influences playing very important roles on the parties on those issues and specifically also on the lock out clause where the ANC was under tremendous pressure from COSATU to take a particular stand. So, those issues became more difficult to resolve and there was far more strain put on the negotiators due to the outside forces rather than the political differences.

POM     Did COSATU prevail in its influence on the ANC?

RM     My impression is to a great extent, yes. In my observations from what I saw in terms of how the ANC dealt with the matter and how it handled it, it was quite clear to me that right to the end COSATU exercised tremendous pressure and that at some stages the ANC almost didn't know how to handle it. I could see it from reactions I got from my ANC counterparts. To come back to your original question, my assessment therefore is that I think right up to the end on both sides, on our side as well as on the ANC side, there was the preferred goal to get agreement on the constitution, also on those four outstanding issues and that is why we just went on up to the very last moment to succeed in doing so because I think we all knew that a referendum would not be good for the country. Whichever way it would go it would not have been good for the National Party and it certainly would not have been good for the ANC because the ANC would then have been left with a situation where they could be blamed that it's only their constitution and no doubt it was their preferred, at least it was the preferred option of their negotiators to have a constitution through consensus to which the country could subscribe as a whole, or the largest proportion of the country.

     So whatever might have been said by whomever it's my firm conviction that the ANC also fought hard to get a constitution through consensus. I think if one analyses the clauses one by one you would see that on the language clause we have reached the compromise fairly early during the last two weeks. There it was not too difficult to find a basis for common ground. On the property clause there was a give and take situation right up to the very end and the ANC I think in some respects gave quite a lot at the end when it was prepared to change sub-clause 8 of the property clause to the extent that it was changed. On the education clause it was also a question of give and take, but there on both sides. The pressure on the National Party insisted that we should have single medium education as a fundamental right written into the clause. The ANC on the other side was under pressure not to allow this clause to become of such an entrenching nature that it would allow for a return to racially segregated schools. I think the compromise that we have reached was to write single medium institutions into the clause but in such a way that it doesn't provide an obligation on a state to provide it but that it should be considered as an option.

     So both sides gave in to some extent on that but we could come out of it with something at least on both sides. On the lock out clause, there the National Party was not happy with the way in which it came out although recognition has been given to the Labour Relations Act, the fact of the matter is that there is no constitutional real protection for lock out in the sense that it is formulated and we have made it clear to the ANC that we can't accept the wording of the clause but that we will not prevent them to let it go into the text obviously with a view not to let that become the stumbling block in a way to us thereby voting against the constitution and forcing a referendum.

POM     I sensed sitting in the gallery and listening to the speeches and to the vote tally when Leon Wessels finally announced the result that there was almost a palpable lack of enthusiasm among members of the National Party and the Freedom Front, you could say among whites, other than the ANC who were ecstatic, that there was slight, mild applause but no great celebration. I remember the moment when the ANC began to sing and dance and all whites kind of sat there rigidly in their seats as though ...

RM     I think there are two explanations for that. Your observation is probably correct but I think there are two explanations for that. The whites don't dance mainly probably because of their Germanic background. They are far more rigid and reserved in their approach. I can't imagine I have ever seen any kind of behaviour of that kind even at political meetings amongst the white community. Let me take another example which is totally unrelated, last night I was in a coloured township addressing a political rally here in the Western Cape elections and the crowd consisted only of coloured audience and they were ecstatic about everything I said, while the same speech in a white audience would not have invited any reaction because it was not meant to be. That is the typical difference. The white community is far more reserved in its reactions and so forth. The other thing is for the ANC one must understand this constitution and the adoption of the constitution was probably really the final moment of liberation. That is the thing that all black people in this country strove for, for decades, almost for centuries, and I have a complete understanding it is the final moment of freedom, or it was. So one must understand it against that background. I feel equally free and liberated through the constitution but my sense of emotional reaction to it is, of course, different because our experiences are different in terms of the struggle that we have gone through and so forth. Maybe our forefathers on the white side were equally ecstatic at the time when the Boer Republics were declaring their independence in the previous century, I don't know. But I think it's the kind of way in which one would relate to the subject.

POM     They wouldn't have danced either.

RM     But I think what was to my mind important is that there was unanimous voting also on the side of the National Party for the constitution. Even people, and I know names that I can think of, that were not here the previous day or the day before and who registered their objection against the constitution on specific matters that they felt very strongly about, came specially to the Assembly that day, to the Constitutional Assembly to come and vote and vote yes for the constitution. And I felt good about it because I personally felt very strongly about this constitution. Three quarters of my life went into it over the last six years and I feel personally so emotionally committed and involved in it that I almost can say it's my constitution and for that reason it was very important for me to ensure that at least my party would also unanimously vote for it.

POM     One of your senior negotiators, whom I shall leave nameless, said that the day before, Tuesday, was probably the most difficult day in his/her political life, that it was a very tough debate going on within the National Party over whether or not to press forward, go the route of voting against it or to vote for it. Was there that kind of intense, hard debate? Did the party almost come to the point of division?

RM     It was tough but it wasn't that tough. It was in the end I think pretty easy, easier than what I expected when it came to the push, but there are particular reasons for that and I would not like to comment on it now. There were particular sequences of events that actually transpired over a period of a few days leading up to Tuesday which were quite important in that process, but I think we are still too close to it now to really reveal what they were.

POM     I'm not publishing till the year 2001 at this point.

RM     I think it's fair to say, just to give a hint, I think it's fair to say that various pressures were exercised. There were people who were not close to the constitution who exercised pressure and maybe felt that the National Party should take a political stand against it, who didn't have insight as to the contents of the constitution really and what went into it and what we have achieved also from the point of view of the National Party. Of course they exercised pressure also on the leadership of the party and it was therefore important for a person like myself to ensure that we get across the message that this constitution is not only worth voting for but it's actually a must that we have a responsibility to do so. In various ways I think the original pressure was counterbalanced in the process of further discussions and debates and so forth. I can say to you, and I would suggest that this should be kept very confidential for the time being, that I personally went to the leader on a one-to-one basis to tell him that I believed that the party has to vote for the constitution and that I am certainly going to do it myself at a fairly early stage of the whole process to ensure that there could be no uncertainty about my own view of the matter. I think that in itself contributed to ensure that there is a balanced view and in the end it was a very few of the executive who had to make the decision who were against the constitution and who objected against us voting for the constitution, but they also immediately declared their preparedness to abide with the majority decision and those who said so and are or were members of the Constitutional Assembly did in fact also come to vote and did so. I think the whole thing was resolved in a good way. There was tension in the air, there's no doubt about that, but one must see it in the whole sequence of events, not only of the last number of days thinking back on it. Some it comes from Kempton Park, some individuals are still not with their minds at rest about what happened at Kempton Park, so it goes back that far.

POM     Where does this leave KwaZulu/Natal?

RM     Can I just on the previous point make this last remark which I forgot and that is, it's interesting to note that this phenomenon that we're talking about that we have experienced in the National Party was also present on the ANC side. There were people also on the ANC side in the last few days who really became reluctant to participate constructively in finding solutions, even amongst some of their top negotiators. There was one of their top negotiators who completely just sat out of any proceedings and participation during the last 24 hours. I don't know whether that has come to your attention but it's just an interesting observation that the same phenomenon, but from a totally opposite angle of course, also unfolded because when I complained at one stage about how difficult it is to keep all the parts together this particular example was pointed out to me and suddenly I realised that I was missing that person during very crucial meetings and the person was just not there on their side.

POM     I'll have to trace that down.

RM     And I had the same problem on my side. One of our key persons just left the scene during the last few days. And it was critical, it was not easy to handle. I am prepared to mention to you who it was in the same spirit of confidentiality, it was Mr Piet Marais who is one of my very close friends and I person who I relied on very heavily during the whole negotiating period because he was a tremendous strength in the process on various issues. He was in a certain way my number two in our negotiating team. Whenever I couldn't be available he stood in for me and during the last few days he just withdrew, silently, because he felt himself so much under pressure on the education clause that he felt that he couldn't succeed in what he was expected to do, that he quietly withdrew. That in itself was something difficult to handle. It becomes really something quite emotional then for many people, if other people realise that one of your key people has almost disappeared, he's not prepared to proceed, and people are starting asking questions, but why is he not here? Why is he taking this position? And then to keep all the parts together is not easy. But what was wonderful and what I have great appreciation for is that he specially came in thereafter to come and vote.

POM     That's wonderful.

RM     But that's why I am saying I know there was at least one person on the ANC side.

POM     I'll leave KwaZulu/Natal aside for the moment. Was one of the sub-texts of debate within your own party, even at that time, the question of whether you should continue in the government of national unity or stake out your position as the official opposition?

RM     The question was on the table. Incidentally, what happened was that the Executive Council meeting of the party that was planned for the morning of the 6th May was originally intended, and I can say this also now confidentially, it was originally intended to be on the question of the National Party's continued participation in the government of national unity but that was arranged two weeks earlier on the assumption that by the 6th the whole constitution would have been in place, we would have concluded our negotiations and we would have the full picture of the constitution and everybody would be able to see what is in it and then we would be able to make a decision on the results of the constitution as far as our future participation in the government of national unity is concerned. That was the whole idea about that meeting. In other words when it was planned it was sort of accepted that we are going to get the constitution through consensus, that there would not be a vote on the constitution and that we would not have to consider whether we are going to have to vote for the constitution or not.

     But then on the 6th when that meeting took place we were still in the middle of the last difficult hours of getting agreement on the outstanding issues because, as you know, by the 6th, at least that morning we were still in very hard negotiations with the ANC and it went on for another 36 hours thereafter. So when that meeting took place, therefore, our attention was then focused on the outstanding issues instead of on the question of our continued participation in the government of national unity. And although the argument came forward during that meeting of the Executive Council on the morning of the 6th about the question of the government of national unity we then decided to put it aside, that question, and not to let it interfere, so to speak, with our then main question and that is our approach towards the constitution.

     It was then decided actually that we should have a separate meeting on the question of the government of national unity which was then planned for the morning of the 14th, that was yesterday, which was a Federal Council meeting, in other words a broader full meeting of provincial representatives as well. So there was a clear distinction being made at that point that the matter was set aside and we focused during the last 24 hours or so between Monday 6th and Tuesday 7th, we focused on our position on the constitution.

POM     One or two things have struck me over the last month, especially since your appointment as the Secretary General of the National Party, is that in a sense you are a party in search of an identity, that you were so closely associated with apartheid, that was the glue that held the party together and with the ending of apartheid in one way your raison d'etre went out the door with apartheid and that you are still searching. For example, I would particularly refer to some remarks Mr de Klerk made at, I think, Hermanus that the party would build itself in a way where it could attract a large number of black voters and that he could foresee the day when it would be the majority party. Now it would seem to me, it's just my opinion, that to hold the belief that you are even in the short to medium run going to attract large numbers of black votes is fantasy, that it's almost like saying the past didn't exist or the people will forget the past, forget that they saw you as the oppressor and suddenly turn around and vote for you. Now I can understand why coloureds or Indians would vote for the National Party but I can't see why or how Africans could do so in any kind of short space of time, and I'm talking ten, fifteen, twenty years. Wounds don't heal that easily and to think that that could happen is almost condescending. It's like saying you have no memory of the past, we ended apartheid and now we're the good guys. What's the thinking as to why large numbers of African voters in particular should, or could, vote for even a reconstructed National Party?

RM     I like this question because I think it opens up the whole scenario that one can look at as far as the future is concerned and I don't know whether you would like us now to proceed in discussing that because I would very much like to do so but it might take up the rest of our time.

POM     Fire away.

RM     OK. Let me first of all say it is true that the National Party, I think, over the last two years in particular struggled to find its identity. I didn't have a problem myself, let me declare it immediately, but I think the party as a whole had a problem because there was this dualistic role we had to fulfil being partner in government, being partner in negotiations, having been partner in negotiations for the preceding four years and on the other side having the function of being the opposition and of course busy disagreeing with the ANC on very fundamental political issues. I think that in itself provided more of a backdrop to the whole question of the dualism or the uncertainly about an own identity.

POM     When you talk about disagreement on fundamental political issues, what do you mean?

RM     The whole background of the ANC's political philosophy and that of the National Party is different. The ANC basically comes from, let's call it for the sake of explanation, from a strong socialistic type of economic background whilst the National Party would come from a more free enterprise orientated background.

POM     But the ANC adopted free market economics with a vengeance.

RM     They have adopted it to a great extent but every time when it comes to the push there is still a lean back to some of the old rhetoric and philosophies. That one can understand, but we don't have to go into that argument. All that I'm trying to explain is that this dualism existed. I think that was more of a problem for the National Party than the question of getting rid of apartheid. Yes, in the minds of a few of the National Party supporters and even representatives it might still be something to get rid of, I mean the whole question of being given preference to white interests for instance is in the minds of some people still a difficulty to overcome, I would agree. But overall the party has, through the early parts of the 1990s it has succeeded I think to get rid of previous discriminatory intentions and approaches. I think the party in essence has also relieved itself of those kind of preferences. I am talking in general. But what is now important against the background of your question, you are absolutely right, the National Party as such, as it is composed today, hasn't got the chance to attract in itself as a party big support from the black community in general for the very obvious reasons that you have mentioned and that is something that unfortunately will prevail if nothing changes for the next number of years, it's difficult to say for how long but that is going to be the case.

     And therefore we have gone out on 2nd February this year with a view to say we need to restructure and redefine the party political scene in South Africa because if things stay as they are we will remain the formations of the past. The ANC will essentially be a black party and the National Party will essentially remain a white party with support from the coloureds and the Indians and that's that. So we will keep on voting along ethnic lines and we will still have racially based party formations and structures. We have said that that is not something that we can tolerate in South Africa. We should now allow that situation to continue. It's going to be bad for the country in the long term, it will start new tensions again, people will start to compete and start new conflicts again.

POM     Everything will be seen through the prism of race.

RM     Yes. And it's for that reason that we have said that we need to start doing things a different way and go out and find a new basis. And why I've picked this up is that I've read through it yesterday again just to make sure that I can use this in arguments also, well across the spectrum, I was not planning it on the basis of your question, but if one looks at this it says in terms of the vision for the party it says, "The National Party will play a leading role in redefining South African politics by bringing together a majority of all South Africans in a dynamic political movement." How is that further defined? We are saying here under the mission, "At the same time the National Party will take the lead in creating a climate for breaking out of the present outmoded pattern of party politics. If in this process it becomes clear that the National Party can best achieve its vision by further transforming itself or even by becoming part of a new political party or movement, the National Party will not hesitate to do so." And what we are essentially saying is we have to restructure the party political scene. Quite rightly we might not be able to within the composition as it is, be able to do so, but then we need co-operation along other lines.

POM     But does not a logical implication of this restructuring of politics mean that the National Party to succeed will have to become a black party, like leadership?

RM     Yes, yes.

POM     With whites playing within the National Party itself a secondary role. In a way you would become a different version of the ANC, I mean standing for, representing a different section of the black community which has values in common with whites but that you are a black run party.

RM     Quite so.

POM     And is that accepted in the party?

RM     Yes. This consequence is totally accepted. I mean there is no other way. Even if the National Party as a party - let's for a moment argue that the party itself wanted to become a strong opposition or a majority party in the future there's only one way to succeed in doing so and that is to get more and more black support and of necessity that would mean there will be more black supporters than white supporters. I have said it publicly after my appointment as Secretary General of the party that it should be clear for everybody that the black person can become the next leader of the National Party and I have said it publicly more than once. And interestingly if you now already look at some structures of the party, especially in certain provinces, the majority of people serving in the structures of the party are black. I was in the Northern Province recently at a party meeting in Pietersburg of the Head Council of the party there, and about 80% of the people who attended the meeting, which is composed of the structures of the party in that province, about 80% of them are black and that is the reality that we're dealing with already and that will of course become the reality all round. So it would be totally wrong to assume that the National Party is a party that would look at how white leadership could be entrenched or should be entrenched. The time has gone for that in any case already.

POM     In this case who speaks for the Afrikaner?

RM     Well we have a long time ago already taken the view that the National Party is not a party which can speak for any particular group any longer and I would say over the last number of years we have accepted that fact already. We have still by far the majority of Afrikaans speaking people supporting the National Party, far more than the Freedom Front or any other group of Afrikaans speaking people, of Afrikaners as such who are supporters of the National Party. But that could not mean that the National Party is acting on behalf of the Afrikaner because that would mean that we will neglect the interests of other particular groups in the society. In terms of our vision here, which is described in this document, the natural implication and consequence is that we want to break out of the existing ethnic preferences that unfortunately still are very much part of the existing party political formations of the country. Yes, it would mean that the face of the National Party is going to change completely.

POM     Where do you see the IFP in relation to this? Do you see yourselves as ultimately competing for the same kind of mixture of members? This is a party where already there are white people in positions of leadership but accepting the leadership of Dr Buthelezi and other senior people in the IFP, like Koos van der Merwe is the Whip just to take one example. Are there not better positions to attract black and white votes in an odd way?

RM     Your example, the examples that you have mentioned are relevant as far as the IFP is concerned but the truth is, the truth is that the IFP is essentially an ethnic party, it's a Zulu party with a few additions, individuals and so forth and I think that in itself prevents us from really seeking an alliance with the IFP. The reality is that there is no chance to my mind for an alliance with them. There might be cooperation between us and them on certain issues. I think in general we might agree with them on basic policies regarding, for instance, economics and subjects like federalism but I don't see any chance for us finding an alliance with them as such, on a party to party basis.

POM     What you said in the vision of the future, is there anything in that if I were a member of the DP that I wouldn't say, well that's our vision too, they are simply stealing our vision, they are becoming us? What does it do to their relevancy?

RM     Well the question that the DP I think has to ask itself is what is their relevance to stay on as a separate party consisting of 1.7% vote compared to us with a 20% vote. If they would find themselves comfortable with this vision then I think there is only one way they should go.

POM     Have there been any informal talks? That this is a natural alliance, there is essentially no difference between the two?

RM     I am not aware of specific talks, even on an informal basis, on that question as you have put it but there are exchanges of views and even during the recent negotiations we have seen that there were very regular contacts between us and them on issues that it was possible to find agreement on. But I would think that it's not soon on the cards that they might disband and collapse into us. I think Mr Tony Leon would prefer to stay on for his own personal reasons for some time and let that be so. I don't think we are going to pressurise them now into a certain direction, it's for them essentially to decide themselves. We would like to see, however, that a situation should not develop where we and them are in a constant situation of conflict. It would serve no purpose and we are not far off from each other so it would simply not make any sense to continue on a conflicting basis.

POM     Let me just turn for a minute to the rand. It seems to me that the ANC, even if you still call them socialistic tendencies or whatever, are really constrained by the fact that South Africa belongs to a global economy and that no country has economic sovereignty as such any longer and that as you're going to compete in the global market place then you have to abide by the rules of the global market place which right now mandate liberalisation of trade and free movement of labour and capital. Economic policy has been reached by consensus. Mr Liebenberg's budget was very well received and suddenly the rand starts just taking a tumble. What factors do you think, what economic factors prevailing in the country, economic policies prevailing in the country, do you think led to that free fall or was it inherently a matter of speculation? I mean speculators brought down one currency after another in Europe last year beginning with I think the lira and then moving on to the franc and then moving on to the pound and George Soros made billions overnight and even when the German Federal Reserve Bank stepped in to help the franc it couldn't deliver. What factors here do you have, what's under your control and what's not under your control?

RM     As far as the question of market reactions are concerned I don't think one can control that on a daily basis. Let me put it this way, I think there were three reasons if I analyse it that were probably mainly contributing to the rand's current situation since January. The one is it was probably over-valued at that point in time because of the fact that the inflation rate in other countries is lower than here and a natural adjustment had to come at some or other stage. Secondly, there were uncertainties in the minds of maybe speculators as to how things in the short term might develop in South Africa and they were almost looking for indications and finding reasons to start to speculate on the currency value, like the rumours about Mr Mandela's health and things like that. They were seeking for reasons to speculate. But thirdly, and probably the factor of most concern, is that I believe deep down in the minds of investors there remains an uncertainty about what the future is for this country, whether we are going to follow the route, in their minds as they perceive it from abroad, of what will happen to this country in the long term. Are we going to follow the route of the rest of Africa or are we going to turn out for the better? And that factor remains right at this moment unfortunately, to my mind, the most serious concern because I believe the serious investors have not been convinced yet that we are on the right track necessarily.

POM     In that context, again looking at the short run or even the medium run, this is to all intents and purposes a one party democracy. One party would be in power, like the Congress Party in India and as happened in Mexico for a very long time, unless there are fundamental seismic shifts in the whole structure of politics. Are you convinced after your years in negotiations with the ANC that they understand what democracy is or that they understand what power is?

RM     I'm convinced that the people with whom I negotiated, Cyril and the team on their side, mostly the team, Cyril himself definitely but also other people on their side, are fully aware of what democracy means and would in their hearts also actually like to see a situation develop where we are a full, normal democracy where parties oppose each other, where anyone could win the next election and that kind of thing. I am not necessarily convinced that that is the view of the rank and file so to speak of back-benchers and so forth which is a natural inclination. Under the previous situation, under the old order, we also just went on and wanted to wipe out the opposition, so it's basically the same thing that we are seeing. But the point is, it's not really that, the point is whether we will be able to readdress the political scene in South Africa to the extent that it will enable us to get voters to start thinking differently. Or, and that is the other alternative, whether it would be possible to get leaders, influential people, both within or outside of politics to start thinking anew and I think that is the more important question. I think that is possible.

POM     Last, I know you are running out of time as always, where does KwaZulu/Natal fit in to this whole equation? It seems to me that the seriousness of the situation there is not really appreciated, that in fact there is kind of a war going on, that there is the possibility of it, I won't say seceding, but certainly trying to move in its own direction and follow it's own path. There are serious divisions regarding the question of the monarchy that didn't surface a couple of years ago but are now very much to the front of politics there. Things just seem to go on without any change, fundamental change happening. Why is it so difficult to bring the violence there to an end, the political violence to an end?

RM     I don't have that explanation yet or that answer. One is seeking for that for many, many years and quite frankly I don't see the answer yet. I don't see how we get out of this particular frame of mind. It seems to me that the conflict that existed before at the tribal level has gone over into a political conflict and something that prevailed for centuries almost in that part of the country is now part and parcel of the party political conflict. So it's a tendency that existed at the pure tribal level that has now been transferred into the political level. The question is what do we do about it, how do we get out of that? I don't have an answer to that, I'm quite frank with you. The only reason why it has probably not, up to this point, caught the involvement of the rest of the country is because it is so isolated, it all takes place within the boundaries of that province and then also only in particular parts of that province. You would be able to drive through to Durban from Johannesburg and you would not see problems but when you go out in the countryside of course it's a different picture. I don't have an answer to that but for the meantime I think as far as the constitutional situation is concerned the best would be to go for a situation where at the central level we have the new constitution and they would live under it. I'm talking about the KwaZulu/Natal government. They would be prepared to live under it and on the provincial side ...

POM     But they don't accept it. They are saying we've lived under other constitutions that we didn't like.

RM     Yes but they don't accept it but they live under it. In other words if they would participate in a vote they would have voted against it but they accept the outcome of it and they accept the majority decision. That on the one side and on the other side their provincial constitution, which I think we must help them to get into place and that it be formally adopted and certified by the Constitutional Court so it can also operate there as a constitution in terms of their own structures and things like that and that this should carry the balance. So at the constitutional level I think that is the only way to move forward and find a basis.

POM     Do you feel relieved that this phase of history is over, that the National Party is striking out on its own, that it's not constricted by having to play this dual role of being both part of government and provide opposition?

RM     I feel relieved about the fact that we have succeeded in completing the negotiating process and the constitution making process successfully. I feel good about it, I feel not only relieved but actually very happy about the outcome. As far as the end of co-operation at the government level is concerned, it had to come at some or other point. It was something that could not stay for ever.

POM     One report, I'm interrupting because time is running quickly out, one report that I read said that when it came to a vote that those who were ministers and deputy ministers voted to remain part of the government of national unity and those who were not voted the other way. Is that true?

RM     It's not completely true. There were ministers who voted also for us leaving but of course I didn't fall under that category any longer, I was already out. But it was my view that we should consider the question actually a little bit later and not now and I argued it that way for specific reasons. But I am quite prepared to abide with the decision and I was convinced actually afterwards that maybe it was now just as good as later, but it had to come some or other time. In a certain sense it's a pity that it had to come because I believe the country gained more from the cooperation than it lost so for the country it was a good thing and the longer it could sustain the better, but on the other hand we have to go back to normality also, politically speaking.

POM     Why did your demand that there be a government of national unity after 1999 be somehow put in the constitution, be dropped so easily?

RM     Well it was not as if we dropped it easily. The ANC was just firm on that and they didn't want to talk about it. They didn't want to find a way out. They didn't want to seek a compromise on that. On all other matters they were prepared to talk and find compromises. On this one they just said, we have a mandate from the NEC and we can't talk about it. I had the impression when I first approached Cyril with the different options, he was not reluctant to consider them and I had the feeling that the President himself was not negative about considering them because actually what we have proposed in the final instance was in line with what the President himself publicly said before. But apparently their caucus and the NEC reacted so negatively on the issue that they had no mandate to move or to manoeuvre on the issue whatsoever, so there was no way of getting forward on it.

POM     OK.

RM     Thank you.

POM     Thanks very much.

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.