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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
17 Oct 1996: Camerer, Sheila
POM Sheila, I would like in our conversations to get a bit of a different approach this time and to ask you a question I have been asking people just for the sake of seeing what their reaction is or is not. And that is that when you look back through your life, growing up in South Africa and living in South Africa and getting married and having children in South Africa, are there any memories of apartheid as it affected other people, I suppose it wouldn't be you, whether it's an incident you saw or something that is indelibly etched on your mind and will stay with you for the rest of your life?
SC Oh goodness, well all I can say is that I went to university when I had just turned 17. Up to then I had had a very typical, protected South African childhood I suppose where the only blacks one encountered were servants on the whole. My parents weren't racists at all, my mother was from England and often recounted stories of how she got into trouble because when she first arrived she treated black people as normal human beings and was told that this wasn't done, that they always went upstairs in the bus and stood at the back of the church and all this sort of stuff. I suppose the boarding school I went to was led by very liberal people. I remember in Standard 6, one incident I do remember, I wasn't particularly politically - well I suppose I was because my father was a politician so I sort of grew up with politics going around me, but we had an Anglican priest, I suppose one would have called him a renegade Anglican priest, he became Bishop later on, who came to speak to us during break and urged us to donate our pocket money to the treason trial lunch fund, and that was when I was in Standard 6. So one did grow up with the fact that things were going on all around one but personal encounters with black people as equals rather than as domestic help I didn't really have until I went to university but then I was thrown right into it because I went to the University of Cape Town which was a liberal institution and there was no bar to black students when I arrived.
In fact the second night I was at the university I went to a party with the Fort Hare students. This was quite a revelation as you can imagine for somebody who had been to boarding school in Pretoria and who had not had this sort of experience at all. It was an interesting experience and after that I was in a multi-racial situation. There were blacks in the classes I attended. I never had a black boy friend myself but some of my boy friends had black friends so we used to go camping together. So perhaps I have an advantage in a way from my contemporaries who didn't go to that sort of university. From the age of 17 I was in classes and social gatherings and stuff with black people as equals and I was extremely critical of the politicians of the day and I grew up in a political environment so I used to meet a lot of my father's colleagues. He was in the opposition to the National Party. He was in the United Party, but that was before the Progressives arrived, and I was certainly a Progressive rather than a United Party supporter at university.
So I think that by way of a background, and I argued politics and for liberalisation and reform and so on from the time I ever tuned in to what was happening. I think the most striking event that I remember from those days was the march from Langa led by Philip Khosana, because I was a student I got caught up in the crush on de Waal Drive and it was a very frightening experience but also quite an inspiring one. Once one was out of it one felt very inspired by the whole thing and it reconfirmed one's view that things had to change.
POM So what would have been?
SC You know about the march by Philip Khosana? I see he's going to come back.
POM That was just after Sharpeville right?
SC Yes it was post-Sharpeville.
POM He's in Botswana at the moment?
SC Yes. He's PAC it seems and he's coming back. But there were 20,000 people who marched peacefully in Cape Town and in fact there would have been no problem at all but there was a little incident at the end of it all which caused arrests and so on, but actually although the chaps hit the car roofs as they walked past nothing else happened.
POM When was the first occasion that you ...?
SC Can I just ask you, I'm not really answering this very well. I don't know whether you - is that the sort of thing?
POM It's like impressions that different people have of the circumstances that were around them. I think it was Nadine Gordimer who wrote one time that apartheid just wasn't about physical separation, it was about psychological separation.
SC You see I don't think anybody who went to a liberal university had that problem and I found that all my life, that I've had black friends before a lot of my contemporaries because I studied with them. There were none at school but I was fairly young when I went to university so I made friends with black people, Coloured people.
POM Did these tend to be sons and daughters of a black elite who could afford to go to a university like UCT, more conservative oriented than radical?
SC I would say the Coloured guy I got to know quite well was probably from the Coloured elite. That was quite remarkable I suppose in those days that one had a friend that one saw a lot of. He was a friend of this boy friend of mine and we were all in the Mountain Club together and all these dances occurred and camping trips and he was always around. He loved classical music and he was very interesting to talk to, a chap called Kenny Parker. I don't know what happened to him. I hope he's not related to Ali Parker but he came from the Cape Flats. The point is that in those days - he's the only one I really got to know well. In fact he was having an affair with a girl in my flat. Now this is a staid university women's residence in the early sixties and he used to jump through the window. Her room was on the ground floor of Fuller Hall. You know Fuller Hall up on the campus? And he used to pop in and out of the window at night. We all knew he arrived and departed. The fact that any man arrived and departed was something quite spectacular but the fact that it was a Coloured man was really even more radical so we thought we were very advanced, even living close by to all these goings on. It was Randolph Vigne, he used to be the leader of the Liberal Party, it was his sister Phoebe who was having this affair.
POM Can you recall the first time that you went to a township or actually saw the material conditions in which Africans and Coloured people lived? Maybe Africans more than Coloured people?
SC I used to teach Company Law for Shawco at night in Langa, we used to be taken off in the university bus and we sat in a little corrugated iron, I suppose it was a school, I never really paid much attention, I was so worried about teaching company law. We went at night, it was night classes, and I taught black men company law. There weren't any women in the class. I suppose I've got a lot to be thankful for that I went to UCT. That was the first time and it was in those circumstances. I never went to a home or anything then. The first time I ever went to a home of any black person I had a black friend in Soweto, it was in 1971/72 but I was a married woman with children by then. Kenny used to - he lived, he shared a flat with this boy friend of mine so I saw a lot of him around but that was in a so-called white area. But you see my father grew up in the Cape where there wasn't really this heavy distinction between where Coloureds lived and where white people lived. Everybody lived around until PW Botha got going with cleaning up District Six, the Newlands area, and growing up in the opposition, Coloured guys lived down the road as neighbours of my aunt for instance. She lived in Newlands at one point (my father had three sisters and they all lived in the Cape). People, Coloured people always lived down the road or up the road or round the corner so there wasn't this huge divide that one experienced up in Johannesburg. I didn't have a Coloured friend as a child but they were neighbours of my relatives and one just accepted that there they were.
POM How did you end up in the National Party rather than in the DP or the Progressive or whatever it was beforehand?
SC I was in the DP. I think I'm a typical case of a child of priests who goes against religion. I had too much politics when I was little and growing up I think and I was rather put off it but at university I was part of the Democratic Party, or Progressives as they were, not that I was particularly active. I had a boy friend who was the Chairman of it at one stage so I went on demonstrations down Adderley Street and got into trouble with my father because he was the United Party and so on. I felt it wasn't worth the struggle at that point in my life to get really involved and then I gave it up altogether. I really wasn't interested at all and my father lost, I think the last election I was involved in was just after I was married and my father lost his seat to the Nats in 1966 and joined them a year later and I didn't approve of him at all. I wasn't a Nat at all but then my husband got interested in politics and, he's German originally, he was an immigrant, so he suddenly got very excited about becoming a South African and getting involved and the thing was it was all through friends, Dennis Worrall. I had a lot of Nat reformist friends, FW's brother Willem, Wimpie, who was the editor of Rapport, lived in our area and he was the sort of guru of the Nats of Parktown who were fairly up market Nats who were all reformists and I got drawn into this whole scene and I was convinced then that the only party that could effect change was the National Party and so one could go on a protest kick and go on protesting about the wickedness of the Nats but if you knew exactly what you wanted to achieve, you wanted to support the reformists and reform movement somehow to get to going and you saw the only avenue was the National Party then I decided that was the way to go. And I have been pretty consistent. I have never defended the indefensible. I think I can say that.
POM When you hear the revelations of Eugene de Kock and his implication of senior NP politicians all the way up to F W de Klerk, but of senior people, I'm not talking of FW specifically, but of senior people in the party and army generals and police commissioners, are you surprised or does it bear out some of the things that might have been lurking in the back of your mind anyway?
SC I find it profoundly shocking. I would never have guessed that anything remotely like this was happening. There was no hint of anything like this happening. I have never been involved in any security area like National Intelligence or anything, I have never wanted to but anyway I was never called upon to and there was no way of guessing that anything like that was happening. At the time that I came to parliament as a bright-eyed bushy tailed reformist Nat, as a lot of us did, of the caucus of about 120, 130, forty-five of us were new.
POM The class of 1987 was it?
SC Yes. And we were all keen on reform and so on and certainly we were disappointed. I sounds almost silly to say that you wouldn't have been aware that such things as hit squads and the Vlakplaas and that were going on in the background, but there was no hint of anything like that going on for an ordinary member of the public who is a politician unless, I don't know, unless you were on the inside track. There was no way that you could tell that anything like that was happening. These revelations have come to light in the last five years, from the time that De Klerk took over and started pruning out and holding commissions of enquiry because he wasn't satisfied. I think people tend to forget too easily that as soon as De Klerk took over and things started coming to light and the reform started and so on, he appointed these commissions to try and establish what was going on. I've had discussions with him. He's always looked me squarely in the eye and said that he would never have been party to any such thing and he never knew about it and he wouldn't have sanctioned it if he did and he appointed the commissions to find out what was going on, which he did so I accept that.
POM If it comes out that in fact many senior politicians and senior people in the military and the police knew and authorised actions like this?
SC Well I find that abhorrent. I won't be able to condone anything remotely like that. I spent a lot of my early professional life as a lawyer defending detainees and acting for them. I've even been part of Ismail Mohammed's legal team and George Bizos. I would find it quite abhorrent if that's the case. It seems to be fairly conclusive that (well it hasn't been found yet) but there is evidence that certainly Vlok was involved, I think he's admitted some things, and I cannot condone anything like that. I say let the truth come out and let those who have committed offences either be punished or amnestied in terms of whatever rules apply. I tell you one thing I don't like and that is the way the Truth Commission is trying to second guess the courts. If the courts have found somebody not guilty then that's it. The Truth Commission I think would be making a grave mistake to try and haul them up and put them on trial again.
POM One thing struck me, I was away for a couple of days ...
SC I'm sure you've asked me this before.
POM Oh well, just check the responses then and see if they are consistent. When I came back, last weekend, just after Malan and his co-defendants had been acquitted and the weekend that Francois Pienaar had been axed from the Springboks team, in terms of column inches, editorials, newspaper polling, television coverage, radio, Pienaar won hands down. Do you think people have distanced themselves from these kinds of revelations, that it's an 'it' over there that had nothing to do with their lives?
SC No. No I don't. What I haven't said, perhaps my answer to you was too short, but I think people see it in context, that it was a bad time. If things were perpetrated by Malan or Vlok or anybody else they weren't the only ones, they were reacting to a situation as well. There was a perceived communist threat in Africa. Even at UCT we were made very aware in the political science lectures that we went to, even by no less a figure than Jack Simons, that there were aspirations, the Soviet Union definitely had aspirations in southern Africa and it was seen as a threat. One forgets very quickly too about the cold war and Soviet imperialism, so it was certainly an idea one grew up with and all the facts seem to bear this thesis out. Bombs were being let off in supermarkets and shopping malls and innocent people were being killed. I don't condone that either. Police stations were being shot up, people being necklaced later on, so 'deeds of terror' were being committed. It was a kind of low grade war, civil war. One must see these deeds in context up to a point and that's the whole focus of the amnesty procedure. The only thing we're concerned about is that it be carried out fairly.
POM Do you think it has so far? How would you rate it's performance?
SC It's too early to tell. We're getting to the moment of truth for the Truth Commission as I said in my statement two days ago, because what are they going to do with these generals? You're sitting with people like Strydom and the Magoo bomber, McBride, raving around, free men, who killed people, they murdered them with intent. Are you going to say that De Kock was worse than McBride? It was a matter of degree. He murdered people too. So these people amnestied under a particular piece of legislation, now the ANC has refused to allow that test to go through for amnesty into the Truth Commission Bill. The water has been muddied. There are two tests that can apply, either that test or the Norgarb Principles and that hasn't been resolved yet by the Truth Commissioners in their way of treating amnesty. These five police officers I think is going to be a test case situation. What are they going to do? They don't have to worry about Malan, he's been found not guilty on that particular charge. If others arise the whole question will be who gets there first, the Attorney General or the Truth Commission and if the Attorney General gets there first can the guys stop the trial and apply for amnesty and then the question is will they get it if they confess? McBride got it and there were no funny stringent tests applied to him. He just got it because he confessed.
POM Yes, if this were America one would rush to the media and sell one's story for a couple of million and get an advance on a book, take 18 months in jail, come out and live the good life.
SC Well if you got amnesty you wouldn't get a jail sentence at all. There was an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal, did you see it? Saying what kind of justice is going on in South Africa, these guys who committed frightful murders are getting amnestied. There seem to be various court processes at work, some where proper rules of evidence apply, some where none apply.
POM When was this? Was it recently?
SC About a month ago.
POM I must check.
SC It was quite an interesting leader.
POM Again, when you were growing up was there - what I'm interested in is was the state propaganda machine, if you will, intense enough to convince everybody that the ANC was in fact a part of, if not the SACP itself, and that they were synonymous and that to support the ANC was really to support communism and Soviet expansionism?
SC You forget that I grew up in an opposition household so I grew up with Dr Verwoerd being a complete bogeyman and the Nats were fellow bogeys in our lives. They were wicked and racist and awful people and I can remember going off, and we weren't part of the Afrikaans establishment, we were English speaking South Africans, and we regarded these people as a bit of a joke. I can remember coming with my law degree from UCT and going on a prosecutor's course in Pretoria and being lectured by a senior police officer on the evils of socialism, communism, liberalism as all one thing, one entity. I remember it very well and we all had a good chuckle about it. But it wasn't regarded as pernicious this sort of ridiculous attitude towards various isms. It was just regarded as stupid. I suppose perhaps we made a mistake in seeing it that way. That was mid sixties. I regarded these sorts of people as very misguided. But as I say there would have been no question of me ever supporting the National Party if it hadn't been for the reformist people in it who took the lead then, like Worrall and De Klerk and so on. The situation was so desperate then it just seemed that unless the Nats did something to change themselves it would be a conflagration, there did seem no other way out. Don't forget that at that time, the late seventies, early eighties, the bombing, everything had got a lot worse.
POM Who rules the country today? Is it the National Executive of the ANC, the government or the parliament or is parliament really by and large a rubber stamp for policies that are decided by the NEC conveyed to the government which is largely NEC and rubber stamped with modification perhaps here and there by parliament but really the decisions about policy and the direction in which the country is going is made by the NEC of the ANC?
SC Well I don't think we're at that stage yet but I think there is a tendency to move in that direction and I think that the GNU was a good brake on that because it actually reinforced the need for consultation and the fact that the NEC couldn't impose it's will on the country.
POM That's gone now?
SC That's gone, well the IFP is still around but they're not really very effectual on a national basis so what we're left with I suppose is parliament and the parliamentary committees and public opinions. Now the ANC has made a big play about the spirit of openness and consultation with the people, really in order to keep their constituency on board but it does have perhaps unforeseen consequences in the sense that other constituencies can also make a big fuss and noise and get a chance to be heard. So you do get more interesting line-ups of allies on issues, you do get issue alliances I think building up. For instance, we keep finding ourselves on the same side as the Black Sash on certain issues that arise in legislation which would have been unthinkable some time before. So it's not entirely rigid but I do think it's a tendency that will develop as the ANC becomes or has become more assertive and has less of a brake on it at executive level.
POM If the 1999 elections were held today (I know this is just pure speculation but I am trying again to take benchmarks of where people's perceptions of things generally are), if those elections were held today would the ANC do better than it did in 1994, would the National Party do better or worse than it did in 1994?
SC Well according to our opinion pollsters or our market research people we could be around 25% if things went well for us at this point.
POM That's considerable.
SC That's the outside best sort of shot.
POM And what's the worst scenario for the ANC?
SC About fifty something, 55%, 57% or something like that.
POM But you don't really see a serious, at least this time round, a serious dent being made in the proportion of the vote that they hold?
SC What did we get? 20%? So if we go up 5% that would be a lot. But I can't see them dropping much below 60% at this point although the market research shows that on certain issues and areas they are down to about 55%, that I've just seen.
POM I think I asked you this yesterday and if I did just let's skip it, about the National Party leaving the government of national unity.
SC You did.
POM I did? OK.
SC I told you I spoke against it at this point, I would have thought it should be later on.
POM And then I think I also touched on if I didn't cover, but what I asked a lot of people, non-National Party people, this question, not ANC people, just people, and that is the scenario of the National Party of organising in black areas, becoming a truly multi-racial party and for the most part people see it as wishful thinking, that in a short period of time, even the space of a generation the oppressed aren't going to turn around and in large numbers vote for their oppressors.
SC The 1994 election, the estimate is that 500,000 did countrywide which isn't a vast number but it's something to build on. Basically we're trying to unite all communities around values as you know. I think the kind of black people we are tending to attract are the sort of Tories in the black community. That doesn't mean to say that they are well off, they're not. They tend to be in financial terms middle to lower middle class people even in black financial terms. We don't get the really poor flocking to our banner.
POM Well one would hardly expect that.
SC And we don't get the illiterates.
POM What about this phenomenon of on the one hand leading up to 1994 you had all these premonitions of a black take-over of land, of houses, of jobs, of everything, of whites really being trodden under, and yet in many regards whites view the transition as very successful in terms of its constitutional and political progress, and yet white fears don't diminish. If anything there is a larger degree of white scepticism about the future I would think from just the people that I have interviewed than two or three years ago.
SC I would agree with that.
POM Why is that do you think?
SC I think if people had felt totally comfortable, didn't feel threatened in their homes, there wasn't a threat of crime, of being killed, of mal-administration, of lawlessness, being taxed to death and the demonstration that there have been a lot of crooked people in a very short time making a lot of money when they shouldn't have, corruption revelations and so on, the huge consultancy fees paid to perhaps under-qualified black consultants. All this has made a bad impression on the people who were perhaps previously in charge. I've also detected an increasing tendency to make racist jokes and for whites to have a good old hugger-mugger together as whites saying the blimming so-and-so's.
POM Somebody just said that to me last night.
SC Well it is a tendency that one picks up and that people are retreating to what they know, their own communities, their own backgrounds, so let's play bridge, let the rest go under but we will carry on in our little way.
POM In a sense racial polarisation has grown.
SC Well it hasn't burst out into the open but I think it's a manifestation of the dissatisfaction of people in a way.
POM Again among your constituents, is there a feeling that there is more corruption now than there was in the past?
SC My constituents would definitely think that, but the English speaking community that was never in power, so to speak, that I have always grown up in, say the new buggers are no better than the old, they are up to the same tricks, probably doing it better. That's the sort of comment you hear all the time.
POM But there is widespread concern about levels of corruption whether it's consultancy fees or whatever?
SC This roving round the world at the expense of the taxpayer or whatever. Yes, there is. One picks it up all the time perhaps because it's better reported than it used to be, more transparency and so on.
POM Would you say that white people, given their level of concerns when the government took over, do they feel that the government has lived down to their level of expectations or has exceeded their level of expectations?
SC When I think of all the worry and fear and trembling that was around at the time of the election I think there was a euphoria immediately post election that lasted for about a year when there was a perception that things began to go wrong, or at least you began to pick up that they were going wrong. On the whole I'm still optimistic and I think most people are. When you pin them against the wall and say, come now, you've made all these racist jokes and you sound fed up but on the whole are you going to leave or are you going to stay, is it that bad? People usually come round and say, no it can still come right, it's not that bad. There's a residual optimism hoping for a home, that things will turn out to be OK in the end and the macro-economic strategy seems to be OK. I think there's general approval for the more market-orientated approach of the Finance Ministry and the Trade & Industry people. Hanekom with land reform hasn't yet done anything that's anything like what Mugabe has been up to north of us, so it seems that he's a fairly level headed person. The whole land reform thing seems to be happening in a fairly level headed way. So there is cause for comfort as well in the investing community, shall I say.
POM But yet domestic business is not investing?
SC It's investing a bit more, it's got better.
POM But it's hardly setting a blazing torch for foreign investors.
SC No it's very careful, very wait and seeish, it's less wait and seeish than it was. There is more investment now. In a sense maybe that's an indication that people are saying, well it's not going to be perfect but let's settle down now and make a go of it. I think there's that sort of feeling around. Whenever the gold price goes up everybody cheers up a bit.
POM What about the ANC's handling of the Holomisa affair?
SC Well I don't think it reflected any credit on them and that's just fuel on the fire of people's perceptions that the ANC is not really being democratic, that it's a whole bunch of commie ideologues trying pretend to be democratic and how long will they keep up this facade. That's the sort of feeling that this has inspired in a lot of comment people that I meet anyway.
POM Is there a general perception among the National Party or in the National Party that the ANC is becoming slowly more autocratic, slowly more disregarding of the opinion of others?
SC That's clearly my perception, yes. Very much so. I have experienced it in the negotiation process where in the first round at Kempton Park it was the ANC that was terribly concerned about open government and the rights of accused and so on and it's changed totally, and the right to information. It was then proposing all the various curtailments on these rights in the second round. We were on the other side.
POM In what other respects were the negotiations different this time, if you could compare the two sets?
SC Well I found that particularly striking. They were the proponents of these great liberal values last time and suddenly the boot was on the other foot this time around and we were lining up with the Human Rights Committee and the Black Sash to demand the right to information untrammelled on, uncurtailed and the right to be given reasons for administrative action and the rights of the accused and so on. We were arguing for less curtailment and the ANC was arguing for more. So that was a particularly striking experience. I think what has been interesting is that one has in this round the testing procedure, that one suddenly finds one has an ally in the Constitutional Court because those sort of excesses of the ANC in the last months of negotiation when this assertiveness took over, I mean they have got egg on their face on virtually every issue where they refused to accept.
POM This is from Kempton Park?
SC No, no, now. That's the difference that we've got this hidden ally in the Constitutional Court because all the things we wanted and the ANC refused to accept, the Constitutional Court backed us up. Not all of them but all the issues where the Constitutional Court insisted on changes, they were exactly the changes we insisted on in the last phase of the negotiations and were told to buzz off by the ANC. So that's rather nice in a way. That's been a different thing. We've got Big Brother helping us there.
POM The National Party would, if anything, feel a certain degree of vindication over the rulings of the court?
SC Oh yes great vindication. We've downplayed it a lot in the interests of getting what we wanted in the final stage.
POM Have you gotten in the draft that has now gone before the court, is it ...?
SC Yes, it's not perfect, it's better, it's a lot better than what we had on the issues, the nine issues. Well, there's more of an unfettered right to collective bargaining on the part of the employer. But you see we don't only have that, we have the whole reasoning of the Constitutional Court judgement and the interpretation of what a collective bargaining right means. It means exercising economic power against your adversary, according to the court's interpretation, so it will be impossible for the trade unionists to argue that that right doesn't include lock-out because the court specifically said the way employers do it is to lock people out. It's been enormously helpful that judgement. The fact that we included those principles was a very good way of dealing with the last stage of the constitutional negotiation I think. It was a very significant protection for the rights or the important points in the constitution from our point of view.
POM On the Council of Provinces?
SC Yes. I haven't really had much to do with that.
POM Do you have any idea what it is supposed to do?
SC I think it's a camel really, it's a sort of compromise body now because the ANC wanted to get rid of it from the point of view of having it in parliament.
POM They wanted to get rid of?
SC The Senate.
POM Of the Senate, OK.
SC And make it a side issue this council and have a Council of Provinces but not as part of parliament and now it's a kind of mixed beast. It's in parliament but it's sort of half not in parliament. Anyway I haven't really followed that debate at all.
POM I suppose my question is that is anybody really clear about what it is or what it's supposed to do?
SC I think those who negotiated the finer points will know.
POM You do?
SC Well a whole lot of senators were involved in making sure their futures were secure so they did that negotiation. I must say I really didn't follow it too well. But I think it probably makes sense. The ANC's argument that this body which is meant to protect the interests of provinces seemed to have no connection to the provinces once it arrived here, ignored anything like that except where it had to vote because it was a provincial matter. And now to make them commuters in a sense between - well half of them have to commute between a province and parliament is probably a good idea.
POM On the rate boycott in Sandton and Randburg, what's your reaction to that?
SC I think it was just a foolish decision of the local government structure to have such a vast increase in rates in one go. It just smacks of ham-handedness and immaturity and a lack of consultation which runs counter to the way the ANC professes to do things. I think if you goad people beyond bearing they react and that's what happened there. So with a big business entity like Liberty Life which is a major player in Sandton to take a stand really meant that the ANC had to listen.
POM One thing that has struck me enormously about Johannesburg is that it's become a completely changed city downtown.
SC Yes, for the worse.
POM Yes, I mean the Carlton has ceased to be the hotel.
SC Yes. I think there's a great deterioration, an apparent deterioration in the condition of the CBD. It's not a place that one goes to with any enthusiasm at all. What else do you want me to say? My main reason for not really wanting to go there too often is that it's dangerous. It's clearly a dangerous place. I think that the hawkers on the streets and so on, I don't mind the Africanisation and the greater colour that's there, but I think the filth and the danger is something that one has to address. You know my sister is a Gauteng MP and she doesn't enjoy going into town every day at all. It's quite dangerous in that parking garage they have to use too.
POM Do they put a policeman there at the garage? There are certain identifiable dangerous points and you would think that the obvious thing is you put a couple of policemen whether at the traffic lights or something, that you put a couple of policemen there but it doesn't seem to happen. I've never seen a policeman.
SC No. Well a lot of the policemen are meant to be plain clothes. I was a prosecutor at the magistrate's court and that corner where those pictures were taken by The Star - are you talking about that? The corner of Sauer Street and Hoek Street? That used to be the favourite handbag snatching place where they always opened car doors and grabbed handbags even when I was a prosecutor. But that place was seething with plain clothes policemen. I used to have to prosecute all the cases they caught, they would be hauling them in.
POM What's happening now?
SC I don't know. If there are policemen they're not doing anything much are they, if guys can commit the crimes in broad daylight that they clearly were committing?
POM I suppose this is what confuses me, is how did a police force that was known for its efficiency, its efficacy, its capacity to nail their people, is suddenly unable to catch anybody. I was looking at some Institute of Race Relations figures and they were ...
SC No it's pathetic but it's also the Nedcor Project figures. It's really pathetic the proportion of people who actually land up in jail as a result of the crimes they committed compared with the number of crimes that have been committed. It's a tiny proportion. No I agree. The police force was under-funded and under-staffed for many years, not only for the last 2½ but I don't know, I don't think the previous government did enough about it. I said so repeatedly when I was here in those years, although attempts were made. Hernus Kriel was the only one who really did try and recruit more policemen and increase salaries and training courses and stuff, but as many as he recruited seemed to leave. They have always been grossly underpaid, for years, and the thing is the government didn't grab this issue and do something about it, the new government, they neglected it in favour of spending more money on schools and, I don't know, consultants and housing and what have you, allocating funds for that, and they just reckoned the other would just have to jog along but I think it's caught up with them. Even now they make a big 'We have these plans', they make a big fuss. Mufamadi and Fivaz get together and announce all sorts of plans and if you read the paper three days later there's a little story saying well of course they can't implement them right now because they don't have any money, and they don't seem to vote the money, they don't have any priority funding coming out of the RDP for anything much. I think they have started with that. There are huge numbers of vacant posts in both the police force and the Justice Department and there's a moratorium on filling them plus there are vast numbers of resignations.
POM Did I read to you yesterday Van Zyl Slabbert's remark? This was in a recent interview I did with him and he said, because he tends to state things pretty cogently, he said:- "The reason the government appears to be paralysed is not because nothing is happening but because too much is happening at the same time. A range of goals is being pursued with competing, sometimes contradictory, results and the government has neither the experience or the political will to establish priorities." Do you think that's an accurate assessment?
SC The last bit I would agree with. It hasn't got the experience to sensibly do it or the political will to choose police above education, for instance.
POM Why does it not have the will?
SC Because I think there are perceptions that it grew up with. The police were something that the whites worried about and the hell with it, let the whites suffer. I think there was an element of that about it as well and there was this enormous pressure to improve education, but they have just got to reprioritise because it's the black community that's getting affected. Have you noticed the real excitement happened about law and order and the breakdown of it when some prominent black people got bumped off? That was the first time that anybody got really excited up at the top there. Jessie Duarte and Sydney Mufamadi when Doc Khumalo's father was gunned down, you know the big soccer player, ooh, that was the best reaction we had. I suppose that's human nature. Anyway, I think they do realise now that there's something that just has to be addressed in this next round.
POM Two last questions. One is on the National Party itself. The only place the NP is entrenched is here in the Western Cape and Hernus Kriel is certainly not a Roelf Meyer.
SC Well he's different.
POM He's different, but they represent two, I would think, very different views of the direction.
SC Ideologically I think Hernus is very liberal in his basic views. He is. He approaches things differently. He's got an image of not being a liberal minded person but actually he is. I think he wants to be the strong man because he's still the boss man and so on whereas Roelf has had to deal with having to negotiate for anything he has for a long time, coming from Gauteng. He's not a racist, Hernus, he's a liberal on race issues and on most issues. He's got this image of being a big tough guy. Maybe he reckons that's the only way to become the boss in the National Party.
POM Well that's it. Is there still, as is natural in all political parties for there to be different wings, but is there still a wing in the party that doesn't harken back for the good old days but harkens for more strict allegiance to your own constituency?
SC All the opinion polls, or should I say market research, that we do shows that our formula in the Western Cape works. We haven't got to rave around looking for black votes to make the difference between keeping power with a good majority and losing it or having a decreased majority. It seems to indicate that we must just go for it, the same recipe works.
POM Many people will say that the Western Cape is a clear example of the politics of race, that white and Coloured fears vis-à-vis Africans, that really the formula is as simple as that.
SC I don't think it's that simple but the point is that black voters aren't our priority here to maintain our position. There aren't very many of them and they're of the kind that are unlikely to change their view to our way of thinking because a lot are illiterate and at a very low ebb economically. I'm just saying that is what all the market research shows. Inevitably I suppose one concludes that in order to stay in power in the Cape and improve one's position it's not that we have to go after black votes. That's the reality of the situation.
POM Sol Kerzner. Is he a ticking time bomb?
SC I don't think so, not on what I've seen. I don't see how he can be because the whole extradition thing is so complex and complicated. I could go on for half an hour explaining from what I've seen, I wasn't a player then, I don't know what the decision was. I'm sure Foreign Affairs Department bent over backwards not to extradite him in terms of their urgings of government. They had a very strong position that these two guys shouldn't be extradited but I think they had very good reason from that point of view because who would send anyone to the Transkei to stand trial in those days? Law and order had more or less broken down. There was no hope of a fair trial. If you look at our present situation, we've just passed an amendment to the Extradition Act which gives the minister all the discretion he needs to refuse to extradite on the very grounds that prevailed at the time of the Kerzner incident because Bantu Holomisa ran a military junta and passed decrees that had no sense for human rights at all. This decree number ten basically said it didn't matter how people were dragged to court, once they were there the courts could try them, they had jurisdiction, and he proceeded to go and kidnap people to stand trial in the Transkei. Now how can any responsible government go and deliver up citizens to face that kind of situation? I think it would be unwise for any government to do that. That's one issue.
But I think as far as what I can see from Omar's report and the files he has that you can't really say that the Justice ministry or the minister at the time acted legally and correctly. In fact Omar concedes they acted correctly, the grounds they based their reference back of the extradition application were legally justifiable. In Omar's words they were correct. There were so many imponderables. Was there an offence committed at all in the Transkei? The argument is, and it's true that the lawyers acting for Kerzner and Bloomberg advanced these arguments well in advance, but you see they had all been raised in the Alexander Commission so these were common currency already when they put them before the Department in 1990, they had already been thrashed out in 1988 and 1989 at the Alexander Commission and basically they said their claim is that the offence was committed in South Africa because the money was actually paid in South Africa to a Mr Gouws or something. It might have been bribery. If you can prove bribery it isn't even an offence because in those days in South Africa there was no offence, bribery of a foreign official was not an offence, so there was no extraditable offence here. But there's a legal argument between two sets of lawyers. One said it didn't matter if it was not an offence in South Africa, if it was an offence in the requesting country you still had to deliver the person up. But then, of course, you consider what kind of a country you're sending them to. And the minister has just gained the powers now, we're voting on it tomorrow, to give him all the powers to refuse under circumstances like that. I think in international law terms it would have been perfectly acceptable to refuse to extradite somebody to a military bloody dictatorship that has no regard for the rules of law or natural justice. But the legal grounds on which all this was done seem to be impeccable. I can't see how this can become a time bomb really. I think it's just ANC playing politics with Kerzner because of Holomisa.
POM That's the last question, is he really going to be marginalised or is in the process of being marginalised from public life or do you think there's a constituency out there that will rally around him in some manner?
SC He seems to have a little group of supporters now. I think it's too soon to tell really.
POM OK. Thank you.