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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
09 Nov 1996: Delport, Tertius
POM Dr Delport, let me start with maybe you just giving me a brief summary of what I would call your career path in politics since we talked last in May. We talked the day after the National Party had taken the decision to withdraw from the government of national unity and it wasn't quite clear at that point whether or not the National Party would withdraw from all coalition arrangements in all the provinces or whether they would do it on a province to province basis. So what's happened to you from that point?
TD Well the initial decision was that we would withdraw from all provincial governments except of course the Western Cape where we hold the majority, which resulted in myself stepping out of the Cabinet in the East Cape and becoming an ordinary member of the legislature here at that stage as the leader of the National Party, then as the leader of the majority opposition party. Now since then we've had our annual congress and at the congress I was opposed by one of the people that I really trusted. It has a long history what happened there but I lost the vote as leader. I decided to stay on in politics. I know that I have the majority support.
POM If you could maybe just give a brief summary of it, it will give me some understanding of the National Party politics in the Eastern Cape.
TD We have a long history of internal strife. What happened here was of a two-fold nature. First of all on a very personal level I had to act with the consent and support of my executive here against one of the members of parliament. We suspended him for a year. I then suspended the suspension after discussing it with Mr de Klerk. This colleague of mine immediately sat down doing his homework and between himself and another colleague they wrote up so many, whether fictitious or not I'm not going to comment on that, they wrote up so many members in their areas, the area of Newton Park and the area of Uitenhage, that they held more than one third of the votes at the annual congress and they blocked their votes against me. So in the rest of the province I got overwhelming support but with that block vote against me I lost by three votes eventually but it was a foregone conclusion. I didn't want to stand back, it's not my style. This has caused a lot of uneasiness in the province at grassroots level and at the level of the party structures but there was another dimension.
This goes back to a very practical situation. In one of our towns here, Despatch, the National Party on the local government, the NP had four representatives, the ANC four and the Freedom Front two. One of the NP members had to resign for reasons which are not relevant so when the time of the annual election for mayor, deputy and the other chairmen of committees came up we had three members, the Freedom Front two and the ANC four. So two of the members called me, the members of our caucus in the local government, in that municipality, town council, and said that the third member wants them to work with the ANC to reach an agreement that he will become the mayor, the ANC guy the deputy mayor, but the Freedom front guys are also willing to work on the basis of a NP mayor and a Freedom Front deputy. So I had a meeting with them and I said of course you must go for working with the Freedom Front and then come to an arrangement also as far as the chairmen are concerned. Now my colleague from Uitenhage under which Despatch falls, Wilhelm le Roux, opposed me. He said we must work with the ANC and on the District Council there of the NP it was put to the vote and they decided against me by a vote of six to four to work with the ANC. I warned them at this stage. I said but four are more than three, please do your sums. But le Roux's attitude was that we must at all costs avoid to be seen working with the Freedom Front, they are racists and that it would create a very positive impression if we work with the ANC, etc., etc. What happened then at the election that evening for mayor was that the Freedom Front after trying once again to caucus, to come to an arrangement before the meeting with the NP, they said, "We withdraw from the election." So that left four to three and the ANC turned around and elected an ANC mayor and deputy mayor. They said they would go through with electing the NP as mayor but then they want all their chairmen positions and next year they want an agreement now that next year they will get the mayor as well. So the two guys there that supported me in my view said, "No go, we have no mandate to agree to that. The agreement was only on mayor and deputy". And so the ANC voted in their own people.
The end result was of course that two weeks later we had a meeting, or rather the election in that ward where our one man had to resign, in the previous last year we won that ward against the Freedom Front by 702 votes or something like that and now in that election we lost it against the Freedom Front by more than 300 votes because our own people turned completely against the NP for having worked with the ANC and in such a way and such an unsophisticated way that we ended up with nothing. So Wilhelm le Roux is, to put it frankly, a Roelf Meyer man, they are representing that faction in the NP who are thinking like, what's that new leader in Eastern Transvaal, Mpumalanga, David Molatse who is saying we mustn't come out hard against the ANC because black people don't like it. My answer to that view was for two years we sat in the government of national unity, our support amongst our own people, our own traditional support base dropped from 20% to 13%. Now why wasn't it made up by black support if that is what they want? Don't come too hard on to the ANC.
So the whole thing of what are we? Are we an opposition, do we consolidate our support base before trying to attract support from blacks or do we as a first priority go for black support? That ideological, well philosophical, I don't know, policy difference within the party is a split right from the top to even local government level. I am on the side of saying, and I stated that in my address quite categorically, the time now is to consolidate our own support base, come out as a strong and clear opposition to the ANC, take us out of the paradigm of the ANC. We cannot be seen to be just to, as Roelf puts it, we haven't got basic differences really in principle but we can govern better. How are we going to really put that message across if you're not in government? So I differ radically and I said the time now is to consolidate and speak with a clear voice and come out hard against the ANC particularly on matters of principle, make it clear that in principle we differ from the ANC even from the economic policy. They can say what they want and the economic policy that they've now adopted on core issues we still differ radically and fundamentally.
So that was part of, because I'm anti Roelf Meyer, and the guys like Sakkie Louw, Wilhelm le Roux and those that turned against me are Roelf Meyer supporters and I have no doubt, it was put in Rapport the other day that I was ousted here by remote control, and I have no doubt about the hand of Roelf in all of this. So that's my story. I said in parliament here a couple of days afterwards, "I'm not going out, bad news for those who wanted me out. I will not be silenced and I will not be silent." And I do not need, and maybe I shouldn't have said it I'm really not like that in fact, but I said that some people need a position of power to influence the course of events. I do not need a position, I will influence the course of events in any event. So I am going on, I look forward to it, I'm not even leader, I was not interested in being the leader in the legislature here and Nash is now the leader, she's not up to it. I will sit there, I will do my thing on my own and let's see what happens next year.
POM Do you think that Roelf is just a very clever politician? I asked you this question in a variation last year, before. He has this sweet and innocent look and projects ...
TD He's skellum. Do you know the Afrikaans word skellum?
TD He's shifty, he's sly, he's not above a little bit of underhand dealings to get things his own way. I don't trust him, I don't believe everything he says.
POM So where would you put the National Party after nearly six months of being the official opposition party? You looking back and saying I will analyse it's performance from May to November, where would you put it on a scale of one to ten?
TD As far as clarity of vision I'll put it on a scale of one, I'll put it at one. We're totally at sea. We don't know what we want to be. On the one hand you get at one congress you get Roelf Meyer saying we must, Afrikaners and all our traditional supporters, we must be there and we mustn't stand back and we must play in the political arena. FW at the same congress putting all the emphasis on attacking the ANC. We don't know what we are. He is being seen, especially Marike, is seen as people who are going overboard in the attacks on the ANC. Roelf doesn't like it, he never liked André Fourie or any of us who were for strong opposition, for getting out of the - I pick it up here and there that I'm blamed also for the fact that we went out of the government of national unity, that I was the sort of architect and the supporter of that view. It may be true but we don't know what we are. We don't know where we want to go. We have this vision and mission but the interpretation of that vision and the implementation, the interpretation and the implementation we are confused.
POM The division itself seems to me to be a confused vision at this point, that you're leaning in two directions simultaneously and you'll fall between the stools.
TD Absolutely, I agree, because we don't have a step by step approach. We want to become the majority party. Forget it, not in twenty years time will we achieve that, not unless, and that would be out of our hands, not unless the ANC split up in at least three different parties or directions. We're not going to pick up automatically any strays from the ANC or any split from the ANC. We're not going to pick up the Holomisas, in fact we don't want to. Well, I say we mustn't. So it's a long and slow process as far as I'm concerned and we must consolidate and accept that we have to play a role as the opposition but it must be, as I put it, a twofold role we have. First of all we must play the role of a prophetic opposition in the sense that we must say not to the left or not this way but the other. And secondly, and what I call an initiative opposition, that we must put better plans on the table.
For instance, what I would have done had I still been the leader here, I have it prepared, maybe I'll do it, put on the table what they have not done is to put any legislation here in the Eastern Cape through parliament to enable us to deal with disasters. We still need to go through the President's office to get a disaster declared a national disaster and then you can start using those powers under that act. We need one for, not national disasters but smaller disasters which would not qualify for national disaster. A fire for instance, a veldt fire here and there, and that's the type of thing we must do. We must take the initiative and tell them that this is what ought to do and confront them with some progressive and positive steps. That's what I call an, I don't even know whether there is such a word in English, initiative or initiative opposition around.
POM I've noticed that some of the criticism given with regard to the party's stand on both the Education Bill and the Termination of Pregnancy Bill was that it was a reactive criticism not proactive, rather than saying we want A, B, C, D, E and F, it's like saying to the ANC we don't want your A, B, C, D, E and F, we don't know what we want in it's place but we know we don't want what you have. Do you think, again, that's valid in the way the national press report it?
TD It's valid and fair. We never said, we never came through strongly by saying we want a particular system of education regardless of what they are saying. We always back into the paradigm as I call it of the ANC, the parameters they set, then we say this point and that point we want to make smaller changes. But we needed in South Africa a totally different educational system than what is now embodied there. We, for instance, should have said education is the most important thing. Now how do you get that education? There are three, four, five different, home learning, whatever, as long as you can reach at certain points, reach a level and standard and that every one, regardless of whether he uses one of three or four or five even different modes of education would be entitled to the same subsidy. We want South Africa's children to become educated. How is not the issue as long as you can test that mode at different levels from time to time. And that is the type of approach we need. We can never cope with a system in South Africa that we have now supported indirectly by sticking to the parameters, the outline of the ANC's policy. We won't get South Africa's children educated in that manner because we simply don't have the classrooms, we don't have the money to build all the classrooms, we don't have the teachers, we don't have the dedicated teachers.
POM I want to go back and relate something you said at lunch to the Eastern Cape. First of all you have this picture of government in the Eastern Cape as being a total disaster, as being mismanagement, corruption, poor political leadership, bad administration, ghost workers. Part of it has been attributed to the difficulty of trying to integrate the two former homelands with what would have been the Eastern Cape province and the problems that that posed, part has been attributed to the leadership of Raymond Mhlaba, part of it is just a general screw-up. Leaving that there on the one hand I want you to comment on that and how you see that working itself out. You say your son has come back from Canada, living and practising in Cape Town. Everyone else in your family seems to be doing very well. You have started out on a new business and already have six people hired and have projects under way, that at one level your family, your future looks good for you, at least the way I've gathered since I've come here. On the other hand there is this looming disaster but that disaster has been looming for so long that it doesn't ever do more than loom, it never translates itself into hard core. When I look out of the window here and I see the sea and I see the sand and I see the cars and the greenery and I say this is not a bad place.
TD Yes, this is not a bad place. There are other places that are bad but with which is a 99% black community they don't have sewerage systems going any longer. Soon they won't have any tap water and so one could go on. The latest example of what is going on in the administration was with my own monthly cheque. After four months I found out and my bank manager phoned me and said, "Why have you got such a lot of money on your running account?" Now nobody will believe it, maybe you will believe, I never open my bank accounts because he gets a good salary to look after my affairs in the bank, so I found out that I was still receiving, I was getting my salary as an ordinary member of parliament but they were also paying into my account still my salary as an MEC. So I said that last week or two weeks ago in parliament, here in the legislature, I said, "Thank you, I accept with gratitude this wonderful donation. You must have a very, very high regard for my services." I haven't received a communication. They don't know how to handle it. Now I simply ask the question, if your minister moves out and you don't even rectify the records or stop the cheque or whatever, what happens in thousands of other cases where people retire, where they resign, where whatever. Now we hear the talk about the thousands of ghosts in the departments and ghosts even getting promotions and the money goes somewhere. Last week 2½ million rand pension money was kept overnight, it was drawn in cash at the bank at 4.30 p.m. just before the bank closed, it was kept not under lock and it was stolen overnight, 2½ million in cash.
POM Someone went into a bank and cashed a cheque for 2½ million and got cash?
TD Put it into the safe in the department but never locked the safe and next morning it was gone. Now we're so used to that sort of thing nowadays and we had all these people that gave themselves a year ago promotions through the computer, gave themselves promotions. All that happened to them they were ordered to pay back at R10-00 a month or whatever, they are not suspended. It is bad, it's very bad. I was asked once when I was still the provincial minister here for agriculture, I addressed, maybe I told you that story before, Dairy Farm Day, a whole day that - and I had to speak there, give the government perspective, and I told them about how money is being wasted and people paid. For instance, one of the schemes in the Transkei they had five tractors but two were broken down, but let's say five tractors and they had 32 tractor drivers. I said, "What are you all doing?" They said, "We're working shifts", and that sort of thing. At the end, right at the end, and then it was question time and whenever they asked me I said, "OK but that's just the tip of the iceberg. You've got a point but it's more serious than what you thought." Then eventually an old farmer, a very respected man, got up and said, "Listen boetie, listen young man, you're giving us all bad news. What am I to do?" I said, "Now Uncle so-and-so, you go home and you milk your cows, you milk your cows, you become the best dairy farmer in South Africa. That's what you've got to do. Milk your cows." So we are milking our cows, I'm doing business. I'm in a law practice, little bit of business, one son-in-law who is a medical doctor becoming a specialist. My son is a foreign exchange dealer, the other son-in-law is a farmer-cum-attorney, lawyer. All my children are well qualified and I tell them, "Milk your cows", and I think the private sector in this country is too strong, even if the wheels come off at government level it will be bad with your administration, it is getting worse in some areas, but I think the private sector in this country is too strong to really allow South Africa to completely collapse.
POM Since you had been so intimately involved at one time, how are local government structures working in the Eastern Cape?
TD First of all they're bankrupt. I'm not saying that, Mamasi(?) who is the MEC here for local government has said last week, I know he said it and it was reported in the papers, that the whole of the Eastern Cape, there are a very small number of municipalities who are not bankrupt. They are paying now, he listed some of them who are now paying with money that they owe ESCOM for electricity they are paying salaries. So next month they won't be able to pay ESCOM so the debt will just grow bigger and bigger with ESCOM, then they will start running to the provincial government. We've already overspent on this year's budget so we're further overspent. All I see is that eventually the rand will go to about R7-00 per dollar.
POM Would this kind of overspending, which seems to be pretty typical, there doesn't seem to be much hope of the macro-economic plan achieving its goal of reducing the deficit to 4% this year. From what I can see the deficit is more likely to go up than to go down.
TD I can't see it going down and that is why I said, and I made a broad statement, that we differ really in economic policy because what is sadly lacking is the will to really exercise and implement some discipline, financial and fiscal discipline. Because you can't go on like this. We also in the previous government, we also bought our way out of some difficulties in many instances, doing some wild things in terms of development of homelands and things that never could work, and we learnt that lesson. You can't buy yourself out of difficult political decisions. You've got to take the decisions and stand by it and force it through otherwise all the nice words about economic development and big plans will simply remain words on paper. You can't have development if you don't address the problem with the labour unions. How can you ever have development? Macro-economic plans will not get you anywhere. You've got to address that, you've got to address the inefficiency and the over-spending at government and even local government level. But then the third biggest problem that I don't know how we're really going to deal with it is the incompetence of senior public officials.
POM When you talk about the incompetence of senior government officials do you mean black and white or blacks brought in or people left over from the old homelands administrations who were already in senior positions and who retained those senior positions under the agreements reached at the time? In a way was the National Party government part of putting in place the seeds for a long time administrative disaster?
TD Yes I think we started it all by the whole idea of the homeland governments, because if you look at what Holomisa did to the Transkei it's terrible, but we allowed it. In fact it was our plan that there should be homelands and they should be run by black people and that was a mistake because although regionally they did provide and give some experienced officials to assist they were slowly but surely ousted and I must also admit that I don't think the people who were interested to take up those positions were really the cream of the top because many of those people, I don't want to discredit them, but that was the only way for many of them to get promotion, was to be willing to be seconded to the black homelands administrations. So they started off on a bad footing. But I want to equate the problem with the administration also with our problem for economic growth. It's not only economic growth and good administration is not only about facilities and computers and whatever. Even as far as a school is concerned it's not only about how many teachers but what is the calibre of the teachers, what is the mental attitude of your official, of the people as far as economic growth is concerned.
After the war, World War 2, not all nations would have achieved what the Germans did achieve. Not all nations can achieve what the Japanese achieved. We haven't got one single really blooming economy in Africa. Why is that? I may be called a racist but I have a problem with the mental attitude towards work, towards opportunities, towards money for that matter. There is simply here in the Transkei and Ciskei and in this now East Cape government, there is no respect for money. There is no real grasp of what money represents. Money is not something that is simply made by a machine. Money represents something. One rand is equal to a lot of sweat, toil, initiative, whatever, everything that goes into economic growth, and there's no concept, no real understanding of the value of money. There's no real understanding of time. That has become a joke, you talk about African time. But it goes much deeper than that, the realisation that time is money, time is an opportunity to use energy to produce something. Isn't that the start of economic growth? You take human energy, you take natural resources and you create a marketable commodity. Isn't that the start of making the cake bigger? People want to get a job, get an opportunity, want a farm, a whatever, a tractor, and he says if I don't get that I'm under-privileged never realising his own initiative, his own energy, his own respect for money and time and all that is the very starting point. That is what will bring success, not all the paraphernalia and the support systems and whatever.
POM Now if I were to ask you to compare and contrast just your experience, that is in terms of administration and getting things done when you were Minister for Local Government and before that Deputy Minister for Provincial Affairs, and your experiences as MEC for Transport and then for Agriculture, what would be the major differences?
TD Well at least I could formulate policy and get others to write the memoranda. Every single Cabinet memorandum, every single policy document, every single speech was written by myself. That's why I have that callous on my finger after the two years, two and a quarter years as an MEC, a minister here in this department. I couldn't entrust but nothing to my permanent secretary, the head of my department, or any of his officials. And that's the big difference.
POM Now did these officials come from the previous homeland, independent state government?
TD Yes, all of them.
POM All of them. Where does Mhlaba stand in this? Was he simply a man who was thrown in out of his depth, who never really had a chance from the word go? Do you think if he is replaced by Arnold Stofile, and I say that hypothetically and speculatively because there seems to be a lot of uncertainty around the point, and he starts bringing in new people, will that make a difference? Or has the problem attained a critical mass of inefficiency that it is growing exponentially on itself and you can never catch up to remedy it? For every little bit you can remedy it it's grown ten times, the cancer has spread ten times in the meantime and you're just kind of treading water, you're treading water and slowly going under.
TD I think he will have to be a superman because he would have to have the political will to fire a lot of people and bring in really experienced people. What I suggested more than a year ago, I pleaded with the guy, I said we are moving into a disaster in terms of our administration.
POM You said this to whom?
TD In parliament and in the Cabinet, in a Cabinet memorandum in fact which I later translated, I made a speech in parliament in the legislature based on that Cabinet memorandum. My suggestion was bring in a corps, a panel of experts in terms of administration and give them carte blanche to work out a proper administrative structure for the province and to recommend to put people in the critical positions who are really up to standard. Unfortunately you see we started off, and at the time I was really pleaded that at least get one man, and I proposed the name of a highly qualified and highly experienced, unfortunately white, expert in civil service administration, but they appointed to the Civil Service Commission in the East Cape one or two school teachers, a preacher, a lady who was a clerk somewhere, a lorry driver, because you see the 'people must govern'. I argued that view of the people and that's their view of democracy and the civil service must be democratised and you must get away from the people on top telling you, it must come from that, all those sort of silly ideas that can never work. So when the Civil Service Commission, that appointment in itself was a disaster, and then I pleaded for an alternative. Just bring in as consultants real experts and even overseas people maybe, whatever, and I am sure we could have put together a very strong, smallish but strong team to put it right here. And they never got round to it and then they decided, yes, but they were going to appoint the same old horses again, the same faces to check on themselves. So it wouldn't have worked and it's not going to work unless we get someone with a political will and the political strength to say this is what we're going to do. Otherwise we will simply tread water and slowly or faster, I don't know, it may take time but the wheels will come off sooner or later.
POM On a related question, and this refers to first of all the replacement of Mhlaba as premier, Stofile has said that he can come in and he can become the head of the party in the state but that it's up to the legislature to choose the premier and the premier to choose his Cabinet. Now I'm confused on this for a number of reasons. First of all the incident last year with Popo Molefe and Rocky Malebane-Metsing when Molefe fired him and the NEC essentially said give him back his job. And then you had a similar incident with Patrick Lekota and then you had the next instalment of the Lekota affair and I'm not quite sure what the situation is with regard to if Stofile did come in and he was elected head of the party or whatever, whether that would automatically entitle him to become premier or where they are two separate positions, or who does the appointing, who does the firing, or who does the ordering? The provincial executive in the Free State last week told Lekota to get off the air in his radio programme. Who makes the decisions? Who's running the country? Is it the National Executive of the ANC? Is it the national government? Is it the parliament? Is it the National Working Committee within the National Executive of the ANC? What is the relationship between a premier and his power to hire and fire and the power of the central government to override him?
TD The answer is quite simply it's the ANC that's taking the decisions but the ANC is still working it out where does our real power lie? Is it Mandela, is it the NEC? What sort of delegated powers will we allow to the lesser, senior people but down the line? They don't know yet. They don't know, it's a total shambles. I don't know what's going to happen here. You see on the one hand, no, let me put it this way; there is a vast difference between the implementation of what the constitution says as far as, for instance, the NP is concerned and as far as they are concerned. In terms of our structure it's clear, you elect a leader and that leader will have all the influence right down the line. He will consult. If he doesn't he's doing so at his own peril, and I'm talking now in the days when we were in power. PW Botha and after that, will in a totally different style, but it would be FW de Klerk who would appoint, who would eventually appoint even the administrators and the MECs in the provinces, but he would not elect the provincial leaders because the congresses of the party would elect their own leaders and he would take cognisance of that and more often than not, well it was an unwritten rule that all provincial leaders will be absorbed into the Cabinet.
But I'm not sure to what extent the NEC of the ANC will allow a province to take it's own decisions. My experience was here that my colleagues, also the Premier here was very sensitive to what, as they call it, the centre. In other words national government and the guys up there in the powerful positions, what the centre says and what, as they call it, directives they receive from the centre. So I think the NEC has a very definite influence, a very strong influence. Whether they can really go totally against the wishes of a province, of their provincial structures I don't know. I think it will only be sorted out as time moves on. For instance, the Holomisa affair, they ousted him, they suspended him from the ANC and yet there's no doubt about it that Holomisa has the grassroots support here in the East Cape. He's got a lot of support. I wouldn't say he's got majority support in the old Transkei and Ciskei but that he is a very powerful figure that's for sure, and the same with Winnie Mandela.
POM Just on the Holomisa affair, it would seem the ANC wanted him out or elements in the ANC wanted him out, that this affair could have been handled differently, i.e. he could have been suspended, he could have been fired as deputy minister, which he was, he could have been suspended but to kick somebody out of a political party seems rather drastic. In fact I was asking people, do you have a constitutional right to belong to a political party of your choice? That's another question which I think about. But why do you think they were so drastic and what kind of message were they trying to convey, or what is the message? Are they underestimating completely his support in this part of South Africa and the implications of that?
TD They did underestimate it, but then he made it quite clear right from the start he is not against the ANC, in fact he was a firm supporter of and member, a loyal member, of the ANC. Secondly, he made it quite clear he is not against Mandela. In fact two days ago he addressed a packed hall, I forget now exactly where it was, here in the East Cape and he there said explicitly, "Mandela is my father, I regard him as my father." So he played it right, he played it right. But they underestimated and I think if they wanted a go at Holomisa for whatever reason, he's rather brash, he's maybe too confident, maybe he causes internal problems, I'm not sure, but if they wanted to have a go at him their choice of the arena was a bad one. To charge him with disloyalty because he's referring to something which is a known fact and which he brings to the attention of the Truth & Reconciliation Committee, and I think also that that was done rather deliberately by him to settle an old score with Stella Sigcau, but the ANC handled it badly. I was rather surprised at the fact that Kader Asmal thought at the time that he was not showing any real - I never got the idea that he was on top because of the situation. The first reaction from Holomisa was one of being fairly aggressive by saying, "But of course I'm going to say it and I will say it again, what right have you got to silence me?" And then he objected against the fact that Asmal was not objective and Asmal had to give in on that one, so I think poor old Kader took a knock on this one and Holomisa came out very strongly. I don't know what the real reasons are. I can just suspect that he is still too much of, too used to being the kingpin and the tin-pot soldier and autocrat and dictator sort of 'my word is law' sort of approach and that that caused some friction. Because really what he said was a known fact, that couldn't have been the real cause of it all.
POM Let's talk for a minute about, I'll get back to the Constitutional Court but I'll skip it for a minute, I'll throw them all together and then you sort them out. The Malan trial, the Truth & Reconciliation Commission and the course it has been following, the revelations at the Eugene de Kock trial and the applications for amnesty and the revelations of Brigadier Coetzee, applications for amnesty by Adriaan Vlok, you had General Johan van der Merwe saying, "Yes I okayed the blowing up of Khotso House but I did it on the orders of President PW Botha." You've got almost, at one level it's as though Pandora's box has been opened and this thing is running out of control. I don't know whether you watched Prime Evil? What do you feel as a person when you start hearing these things? When you hear a Johan van der Merwe, a man who denied ever there being a third force, or a De Klerk for that matter who denied ever there being the existence of a third force and it's now becoming quite clear to most objective observers that indeed a third force did exist and may have operated at the highest levels of government, or been known to the highest levels of government, what does that make you feel?
TD Where do I start? All right, first of all for sure we made the same mistake that Nixon made. We made the same mistake that John Vorster made. I don't know whether you remember the so-called Muldergate scandal here? Instead of John Vorster immediately getting up in parliament and saying, "Yes, I sanctioned it", even if he didn't, he should have said, "Yes this government needed, was not given a fair deal by the English press. We needed some voice that brought some balance to the English speaking reader and the international world which has no access to the Afrikaans papers, and yes we did it, we took government money and I'm not going to be judged by you, I'll ride out an election." He would have walked it, biggest majority ever. But he tried to suppress the facts. The moment we saw, or that we didn't get the amnesty, we didn't close the books, there should have been a full disclosure. Now it's coming out, you're cutting off the dog's tail, in order not to cut off the whole tail you're doing the dog a favour by cutting a small piece off every day. And it's very, very, very bad for the general self-esteem, for the spirit, if I can put it that way, especially of the Afrikaner. This thing is going to, I don't say break us, but it's very, very bad for everything that we thought we stood for, for discipline, for not running away, all of that. It got out of hand to such an extent and I can honestly say, I mean I was a fairly latecomer in the executive. I came in, as you said this morning, in 1989, but I cannot imagine for one moment that some of the senior guys didn't know. Even in the De Klerk Cabinet there must have been, I mean Vlokie was there, then they should have come clean and said, "Yes we were in the aftermath of what was called by PW Botha, the total onslaught on South Africa and these were the reasons but this is what we did", and then we would have come out of it far better and should have gone with that sort of a statement at the very first session of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission.
POM All those years that the ANC maintained that there was a third force and that the government had a dual strategy, one was to negotiate, two was to wipe them out or undermine them in the townships, it would appear now that they in fact had reason to believe it. If I were to ask you just straight what you hear and what's not all gone undenied, do you believe that the ANC may have been right, that in fact there was a third force out to do exactly what they think?
TD As a lawyer I'm forced to say yes I must believe it. I think they were right and I feel betrayed by my seniors in government, in Cabinet, by either not informing, not coming clean and let me immediately say I think you've come to know me over the years, I would never have sanctioned, not brutal murder, but I would have sanctioned a war because as I understood the situation and even in retrospect it was a low key war. So I'm not saying that I would never have sanctioned any offensive moves or whatever, but if it was against innocent people or killing at random or even torture that sort of thing, I could never have lived with it. But to fight guerrillas in the sense of people infiltrating those landmines, people that planted the landmines, that sort of thing, as far as I'm concerned that's war and I would have gone and I would have wiped them off. But I feel I have a deep sense and feeling of betrayal.
POM Just to take the one case of the ten youngsters who were taken in the minibus and gotten drunk and then were murdered. Now obviously this could have been handled in any number of ways. They could have been arrested, that's the obvious one. There was no need to - so they wanted to be guerrillas but they were drunken kids. There is no sense of proportionality between the action that was taken against them and the severity of things they wanted to do. They were kids.
TD Yes, sure, I agree with you. One cannot but feel absolutely ashamed of what transpired.
POM Do you when you're around colleagues or friends ever talk about things like this? For example, does it occupy five minutes of the conversation and then Francois Pienaar's axing as captain of the Springboks takes over the rest of the evening's conversation, that it's not talked about?
TD I think it's not talked about because it's such a sore point. It's rarely ever talked about, but I think we don't want to talk about it. We are rather stunned into silence and that's bad, that's bad. It should not be like that but that is the factual position.
POM One day it must be faced.
TD Yes, well I think we are sitting back to see what direction it will go. I feel of course that it should have been dealt with in a totally different manner, either a blanket 'close the book', or otherwise what we should have done is to come clean and gone to the TRC to say, "This is it and we ask for amnesty." Because if one puts the whole picture into perspective, 502 people were killed by the ANC by the necklacing method, and Robert McBride, that was so many absolutely innocent civilians were killed by the ANC. So at least one would want to get some proper perspective on what happened on both sides and I know for a fact that, it was the Magoo Bar that was bombed, that during the negotiations Ronnie Kasrils came to me and said, "Can't you do us favour, speak to your people, it's time that they must release this guy Robert McBride from prison." I said, "But he killed innocent civilians, that was not part of the struggle surely?" And he said, "But it was because I gave the instructions." He admitted it to me and I believed him at the time and I still believe that he was the one. After all he was some sort of General of Operations or some senior position. Now if you think of charging Malan or whoever, or PW Botha or whoever, then surely it must go the other way as well, then the Kasrils and those guys must also be charged. So I feel the whole thing is not being dealt with in an even-handed manner but at the same time I say we feel ashamed, we feel betrayed, we can't believe that we really sank to those depths to kill, maybe not innocent people, but simply to kill if there were a lot of other alternatives. So it's bad.
POM I'd just like to hear again your observation on this; when I've come back this time, and I've only been away since June, but I notice a difference in attitudes among people, I notice a far more hardening of race attitudes, I sense that whites are angry, angry that a lot of this is being thrown back in their face and they're asked to feel guilty but they don't so they're being asked to feel something they don't feel, and that rather than leading to reconciliation on some basis this whole thing either has backfired or could backfire pretty badly. One, do you think that as part of a way of alleviating guilt that whites are saying this is a witch-hunt, we're getting treated unfairly, there should be, as you said, what's good for the goose is good for the gander? So they take refuge in that which allows them not to have to confront the guilt they might feel if they had to deal with this question more straight on? Do you feel that there is anger because for the first time they feel just what you feel, betrayed but they're not going to say they feel betrayed, they'll maybe admit it to themselves in the privacy of their rooms but they won't get up there and say we were betrayed, it's almost like incest, it's in the family? There's a lot of confused psychology going on, I suppose that's what I'm getting at.
TD Well most definitely there are at least two conflicting emotions, the one is we were wrong, we shouldn't have done that and there is shame on what we do and anger at what is happening to the country. If you have to sit in the legislature like I do and listen, for instance, yesterday a man getting up and saying that this theft is part of a planned strategy by, he doesn't say the National Party, but he says, "Those that were in power formerly", all of this, everything that happens here is part of a strategy to undermine our government. So I get up, I object, I say either the Honourable Member has facts in his possession and then he must present it to the police or he is making a statement of fact for which he has no proof thereby deliberately misleading this House. The Speaker merely took note of what I said. We are fair game, we can be lied about, and that sort of anger is even for me difficult to control. I sit down with a straight face but I'll tell you I feel like punching him for blaming me for everything that's wrong and it's difficult to take. So we have these conflicting emotions at present and I think the anger is the easier way out. I would rather be angry than ashamed. Maybe I am, I am sure I am over-simplifying but if I look into my own soul, yes I'm more angry than ashamed.
POM Just to go back to something we talked about at lunch and you talked about the last time and I began with the question that a number of people now say to me when Kobie Coetsee began negotiating with Mandela in the mid-eighties he came back to PW and said we can deal with this guy, we can strike a deal and get a good deal and that created a process that brought FW in who took the step that led to the whole process of negotiation, but that in the minds of the government, of the National Party in general, was the belief that when it comes to this stuff they're amateurs, we're pros, we'll be able to handle the situation when it comes to negotiations and that generally the NP went in (a) over-confident and (b) not thinking the implications of things through or where they might inevitably or would inevitably lead, amnesty being the best example and (c) that the ANC came in highly sophisticated, highly organised with a very developed sense of strategy, knowing exactly where they were going and how they were going to get there and that as a result, by and large, people say, they took the National Party to the cleaners.
TD Which they did. They did. We completely underestimated the ANC and I think you must see it against a background of Africa and the world where black people were thought to be rather inferior, with inferior mental and intellectual capacity, and we were the masters for at least here in Africa 350 odd years. So after all you're dealing with inferior people, we'll give them a little bit of this and a little bit of that and we will placate them and it will take a long time to really get them at a level or in a position where they will really compete with us, leave alone rule the country. And they simply outmanoeuvred us on every score. The only one that we won, if I may say so, was the first part leading up to CODESA 2 when the Viljoen/Delport strategy of - they didn't see through that strategy before right at the very end and then they had to deadlock at CODESA 2 to get out of that situation, but I think we talked about that long ago. That was the only time. After that it was one way all the time.
POM Essentially they wanted to get out of CODESA?
POM And they did, pretty brilliantly.
TD And we were blamed for causing the deadlock but, I don't know, you probably saw the series, there they admitted that they had to and they planned that deadlock and they had to get me out of the way and they say, Ramaphosa and Maharaj, old Mac says, "Once we had Delport out of the way and we had to deal with Meyer it was plain sailing." No, they won the day, no doubt about it.
POM You talk about the morning of the break in the deadlock when there was a meeting between Nelson Mandela and State President F W de Klerk where essentially Mandela said, "Listen we don't need everything written into the constitution, we don't need formal agreements on power sharing. You and I are going to run the country together." Was it FW who repeated this to you or he brought it up in Cabinet?
TD What happened was there was, right at the end, in fact I think Kempton Park was due to start the next day and there were still five, six outstanding issues, amongst others the power sharing but power sharing reduced to the one and simple question, what majority in Cabinet for a decision? We said 75% all along. It was referred for a long time, nearly a year, to the channel, Roelf/Ramaphosa. I was worried about it myself. I saw President de Klerk about it. What's happening? We don't get any report back. I was with Kriel and André Fourie at one stage, we went to see him specially on this. What is happening, we don't get any report back? It was one of the final outstanding issues and then eventually it was decided between Roelf and Ramaphosa that Mandela and De Klerk would meet to sort out the final four or five outstanding issues. Then I think it was on a Wednesday because we had the Cabinet meeting, the normal Wednesday Cabinet, at which was said that he will meet with Mandela that evening or late afternoon and that we will have a special Cabinet meeting seven o'clock the next morning. At seven o'clock they said we must realise that this is now going to be, and Roelf explained, a package deal. We will get some, not everything and we will get this and that, it's a compromise. And then FW said, "We decided it would not be wise to have a set majority in Cabinet because then you start off by a voting process and what must be developed is a process of consultation and some conventions will have to be built up and I see eye to eye with Mr Mandela. Between the two of us we will let this work." And he said, "I need him, he needs me and he realises it and he says so and we will run the country and we will develop those conventions about how power sharing will be dealt with, consensus seeking will be dealt with." And that was the morning that after they reported on the outstanding issues I went, when we broke to stretch our legs, he went to his office quickly and I went to him and said to him, "I'm going to resign, I cannot accept this, I have to get out", but I think I told you that.
POM He talked you out of that?
TD He talked me out of it, yes, because he said, "What am I going to do?" I said, "I will get enough support to block your two thirds in parliament, two thirds majority for the new constitution." And I would have, I was in a position to do that and then he said, "But the very next day we will have a revolution and then you will be the cause of a revolution, we have no alternative." OK, so I bowed to the inevitable.
POM Come 1999, will the ANC do better? If you were a betting person and there was an HSRC poll that came out about two months ago that showed that even though quite a number of ANC supporters were disillusioned it wasn't going to have any impact on the way they voted in 1999. So do you see the ANC being returned to parliament with a lesser percentage than they have now or the same or even a greater percentage?
TD Let me put it this way, if we do better it will not be because we have attracted more black votes. It will be because people will stay away or not vote ANC, but they're not going to vote for us. So that may push up our percentage although I doubt it. I don't see a swing away from the ANC in the next three years.
POM Is it possible they could even get over two thirds?
TD It's possible.
POM So there goes your constitution.
TD Yes, sure, sure. Yes it is possible because you see there is no alternative and what is disturbing to a certain extent is the fact that ...
POM There is no alternative.
TD There is no alternative and what is happening now in the legislature more and more they are becoming their own opposition. The executive is being criticised and called upon to improve by their own standing committee or portfolio committee chairmen. They will never go as far as really being opposition to the executive but they are starting to play a role of keeping them on their toes, and of course that will make opposition politics for us very, very difficult and as long as they can get the message across towards 1999 that we are improving, we ourselves know that things are not going right, they will get overwhelming support.
POM OK Tertius, thank you.
TD Always add that six months in politics is a very long time, so we've still got two years.