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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
07 Mar 1997: Dommisse, Ebbe
POM Since I last talked with you you've become a man of some notoriety, to say the least, having printed a series of editorials which essentially call upon FW de Klerk to stand down, to say that during the negotiations he surrendered Afrikaner rights with regard to self-determination in regard to culture and language. My first question would be why has it taken you so long to come to this conclusion? Why wasn't this obvious to you a year ago or two years ago or three years ago, or at the time of the signing of the interim constitution?
ED Well I think firstly it's not quite correct that I asked him to stand down. I only said that there were severe deficiencies in the negotiations. I think it didn't take that long either. I pointed out and wrote that my misgivings about De Klerk and the negotiating team started very early and I strongly criticised him after the Record of Understanding which I thought was a sell out to the ANC, and I wrote so, and that was way back in, I think, September 1992.
But going back on De Klerk my misgivings about what he was going to do about negotiations actually started more or less a week after 2nd February 1990. I went to him, I became Editor on 1st January 1990 and I went to De Klerk, say, about the 10th, I can check it up, 10th or 12th February 1990, and I discussed with him what he had done and I said, I mean it was inevitable that the changes had to come, and we supported what he was doing. And then I asked him, "I suppose you are going to govern the country and the National Party is going to negotiate with the other parties?" And he said, "No, it's not going to work like that. The ministers will have to govern, they have line functions and they will have to execute decisions made in the negotiations and so on." And I thought, my God, what's this? I didn't see it like that at all and I thought this is wrong and I said, "Well I suppose you know what you're doing", and I left. Then of course he killed off Gerrit Viljoen, he killed off Barend du Plessis and Stoffel van der Merwe, all fairly able people.
POM When you say he' killed them off', did they just quit because of frustration with the way he was conducting negotiations or did they quit because of fatigue, disillusionment?
ED I think they collapsed because of the pressure of work, they couldn't take it any longer. I think Viljoen might have had a nervous collapse. Du Plessis almost went off his rocker and Van der Merwe had other difficulties, marital difficulties, etc. Then all along he had at his disposal the very experienced team that had taken part in the Angolan/Namibian situations, Pik Botha, Neil van Heerden, Derek Auret, extremely able and skilled negotiators. He never used them. Next thing we had Roelf Meyer in and Roelf Meyer was what we would call a kortbroek minister, that's a minister with short pants. Well then it went from bad to worse and came the Record of Understanding in September 1992 and I was very, very strongly critical of it. What triggered the thing, the latest of course was that he used the term 'surrender'. I mean it is so immensely stupid to use a term like that. I spoke to him afterwards and I said, "How on God's earth could you use a word like that?" He said, "But I meant relinquishing control." And I said, "But you used the term surrender." To relinquish control in Namibia, for instance, it had to be done, it was done in a fairly orderly fashion and so on, but after all Germany and Japan surrendered in the second world war. And with the whole state of opposition politics in South Africa, with South Africa more and more moving in the direction of African disasters, the African pattern of a one-party state, to get the main leader of the opposition saying such immensely stupid things was just too much I thought and I wrote what I thought and I stand by it and the board of directors support me.
POM Do you find that between what you have written, what Hermann Giliomee has written, what Rapport has written, what Beeld has written, is an attack, attack might not be the right word, it's a questioning of him coming not from National Party politicians but from the intelligentsia of Afrikanerdom itself, which is a different level of criticism?
ED It's much wider than Afrikanerdom I would think. I think it's a criticism coming from the intelligentsia of all the important minority groups in South Africa. I think the Democratic Party joins in the same criticism and somebody like Van Zyl Slabbert wrote in Insig, the intellectual magazine that we publish, he wrote a devastating piece about De Klerk. It is very, very harsh on De Klerk and correctly so I think. I think he underestimated the ANC, he never used the skilled constitutional lawyers like they used. They used Chaskalson, they used Kentridge, they used Bizos, people like that. Van Zyl Slabbert puts it like this, that the National Party simply wasn't on the same planet as the ANC in the negotiations and this was the brunt of my criticism apart from the total disaster of the Truth Commission which Kobie Coetsee bungled and bungled totally and incomprehensibly.
At the Pretoria Minute, for instance, there was a deal about a general amnesty which up to this day I think is the best. What's happening now is that I think the Truth Commission is a travesty, it's loaded against the former regime. I've pointed out it's not like in Chile where there was a balance between the old and the new regime in the commission, and they are going for De Klerk and his security forces and so on in a big way and Tutu is saying that he blames the Afrikaners. This is collective guilt that he's loading onto the Afrikaners. I think it's terrible and dangerous and I asked De Klerk how on God's earth could you have agreed to a commission which is loaded like that? He gave an answer which I think was simply laughable. He said, "But I was in a minority position at that time, I had to take it."
He's not a fighter, that's the real thing and I think it's having terrible consequences and now, what's happening now, is now I think the ghosts are beginning to bite the TRC as well because what's happening now, now the impimpis are being hounded and the impimpis being those who spied for the apartheid government while on the liberation forces and the names that are going to come out - you know I was at a meeting with Thabo Mbeki once with editors sitting around and he pointed out that in George, a small town alone, there were about ninety impimpis, 89 spying on the ANC and one spying on the right wing. And he made the point that if that was the case in George, what about the bigger cities like Johannesburg and Cape Town and so on? How many hundreds of spies were there? Then some of the English editors asked him, "Well do you expect the Truth Commission to accuse people, some Nationalist Ministers?" and he said, "Yes." And I gained the impression that he was pointing at De Klerk and Roelf Meyer and I asked him, "What about ANC ministers?" And he said, "Yes there might be some too being guilty of gross violations of human rights." And it grew very quiet and I asked him, "Will there be a Cabinet left?" And he remained silent.
The consequences of the Truth Commission, what did John Vorster say, are too ghastly to contemplate. And this is happening now and it's having a devastating effect on this country. I think the country needs building up, needs consensus, needs reconciliation. It's like the baboons tearing their inner parts out, this is what's happening with the Truth Commission.
POM I want to go back to De Klerk first. There was the speech in London where he used the word 'surrender', then there's Patti Waldmeir's book that says De Klerk sold out after the Record of Understanding, but what she said, she said at that time was not new or is not new. Most people knew a deal had been done between the ANC and the NP at that time and that essentially the NP had rolled over, so that in itself could not have been the catalyst. What I am looking for I suppose is what is the catalyst that at this point in time so many -
ED The catalyst is the word 'surrender', that's the catalyst. Surrender is terrible word in Afrikaner politics. It goes back to the Boer War and so on. We won the first, well we call it the war of liberation, and when you want to tease English people you say "Remember Majuba", and the second war of liberation, commonly known as the Boer War, the Boers had to surrender in the end and there were six who did not want to surrender, the bittereinders, who are folk heroes and one of them served on our board. The word surrender brings back terrible memories of humiliation and defeat and he had no mandate to negotiate surrender of anything. He had a mandate to negotiate power sharing and a form of constitution that would guarantee certain basic rights.
POM So that when Hermann Giliomee accuses the NP negotiating team of failing to protect the Afrikaner's language and cultural rights, attributing its defeat to weak strategic planning and absence of non-negotiables on its agenda except for the right to own private property, and then he says, "More devastatingly he charges the Afrikaner middle class, a term which includes the NP leadership of 'selling out' their poor kinsmen and comrades, compares the plight of post-apartheid Afrikaners with that of their impoverished kinsmen after the Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902." Would you agree with that?
ED He puts it very harshly but I have no big differences with that.
POM It's like in hindsight if the team around him was so poor and after the Record of Understanding it seemed to people like yourself and to others that the negotiators were being - I think Cyril Ramaphosa made a remark after the negotiations that in the end the NP just caved in, it puts this whole mythology of Roelf and Cyril in a different light. It would indicate rather than this being two men who negotiated a very difficult situation, that Ramaphosa simply took Roelf trout fishing and had him for a meal.
ED One could say that but of course then the question arises, but why did the leader approve that? He had the final say. I think if I would sum up De Klerk I would say that he has a very legalistic approach to politics instead of the more necessary strategic approach and it was a severe weakness. They would struggle with formulating certain concepts and so on but in Africa constitutions are not worth much, it's only a piece of paper.
POM What should he have sought and fought for as non-negotiables that he did not get?
ED Well certainly the position of Afrikaans would rate very highly as far as I am concerned. I think Schlemmer makes the remark that no language had fallen back as quickly and as severely as Afrikaans in the last two years or so. You can go on and on about this. The question of a proper federal system which we simply don't have, it's just a joke to think that the provinces in South Africa are federal states like, say, in the United States or in Germany or any of the European countries and so on. They have virtually no powers. Devolution of power, including a federal system, the protection of minority rights, language, culture -
POM You were saying, just going back to the point about if one looked at the editorial lines taken by Die Burger from 1992 onwards?
ED Well, I think the point was that throughout we were fairly critical of what happened in the negotiations and I think I told you when at some stage after the first constitution was negotiated you asked me how would I rate it on a scale of one to ten and I said about six, and you seemed to be surprised that I rated it so low.
POM Or so highly.
ED Or so highly? You thought it was too high?
POM From your point of view I might have thought that.
ED I thought that was rather low because a constitution is such a primary document for a country. If you take the elections in South Africa we all knew the first one was going to be an uhuru election and the ANC was going to win with a big margin and then we had to face a future in which the pattern of other African countries came to the fore, that the so-called liberation movement swept the boards more and more after the first election. At some stage I read of a national politician that said this, and I thought my God I hope this is not true, that he wasn't in the numbers game. It's so incredibly stupid and that was the feeling throughout that our negotiating team was just too weak in the knees, that's all.
POM Why does Roelf Meyer continue to exert such influence within the NP if it's assumed that De Klerk did a poor job and 'surrendered', then his chief negotiators certainly did a poor job and 'surrendered', and why does Meyer still continue to occupy a position of such prominence and continue to be seen to be the heir apparent, or is he seen as the heir apparent any more?
ED I don't think he's seen as the heir apparent, number one. I think one should distinguish between holding a powerful position and exerting influence within the party. De Klerk's judgement of people is really very, very weak, and that's putting it mildly if you see with whom he had surrounded himself throughout the years. Secondly, after the furore about pointing out that there weren't much clothes on the king early in February, Beeld ran a poll about support for De Klerk and so on and that was in Gauteng, most of the Beeld readers are in Gauteng, Meyer did worst of all, he got 2%, Hernus Kriel got 5%, Tony Leon got 8%, Constand Viljoen got 28% or something and De Klerk himself got 58%, if I remember correctly. Roelf was just ahead of any coloured leader and any coloured leader was just ahead of any black leader, so I wouldn't say that Roelf Meyer carries a lot of influence within the party. I would say rather not.
POM Well then what accounts for his continuing to occupy a high position? Is it possible that he can come forward with a plan that will in fact heal the schism in the party, that will at the one time take the core of the NP, allow it to be built on and at the same time allow for a strategy that will increase its share of the electoral vote in the future? Is the fact of the matter, as it would seem to me just as an observer, that with the demise of apartheid and the coming to power of the ANC and given the demographics of the country the NP is condemned for ever to be a small party that should define itself in terms of an identity which it doesn't have. Now you talk about that there were not sufficient constitutional guarantees for language and culture and federalism, so does the role of the party become standing out for those things? Does it become more identified with the Afrikaner or in its attempt to broaden its vote does it become less identified with the Afrikaner and more identified, or try to be more identified, with the African, which is a contradictory position?
ED Sure, obviously. I think the party is already moving away from identifying with the Afrikaner and it's a very dangerous game. It's what I told you about retaining your old readers and gaining new ones. I think the NP today simply does not have majority support among Afrikaners. It's a simple fact. I think they are in the political wilderness, milling around. Meyer's strategy of gaining black votes I think is not going to work. I think what you say about the Inkatha people is a truth that we all know, they do not trust the NP after betraying them at the Record of Understanding and secondly, also, not only then but betraying them about international mediation. They were also betrayed by the ANC about international mediation, obviously, so they don't trust them and Buthelezi constantly says that.
There's another thing holding back any real political realignments and that is the anti-defection clause in parliament. I don't know if the ANC really wants to get rid of it because it ensures them power for as long as one can see. There, for instance, is a totally anti-democratic clause in the constitution. As far as I know there might something like that in India but in no proper democracy anywhere is there anything like that. These are all hurdles that the NP will have to cross and as it is I think we are still a strongly ethnically conscious society. I have no doubt about it, a deeply divided society, and the kind of constitutional system that we should have, a consociational one advanced by Lijphart and so on, this is not noticeable at all in this constitution.
So what does the NP do from here? It tried to get black votes on its own. They won't get it. It's as simple as that. Then, secondly, I don't think there will be much political realignment anyway before three people go, being Buthelezi, De Klerk and Mandela, before they go there won't be much happening and that will only probably be after 1999. You can position yourself to take advantage of them leaving but whether the NP, split as it is now, will be able to do that I simply doubt.
POM Where does that leave the NP? If there were an election held tomorrow, say, say if the ANC called a snap election and said we've a weak opposition, a divided opposition, which way does the vote swing and what does the NP run on?
ED I think the obvious way to attack the ANC is their big weakness of being unable to deliver, of being a confused party with a socialist wing and a free market wing. I think the cleavages are there to be exploited. In the end it's all being held together by Mandela. As long as he is there, there is not much happening in the ANC and you can attack them and there might be a fair stayaway vote as far as the ANC is concerned. I don't think they will easily reach a two thirds majority unless the opposition collapses completely. I don't think that's likely. Inkatha will hold it's own I think. I think the Democratic Party will probably improve and so will Viljoen. The NP will dither along but whether a two thirds majority can be avoided if the opposition remains as weakened and divided as they are is a crucial question. And then we come on to the one-party scenario which is fatal for Africa, fatal anywhere I should think.
POM In terms of how the NP is positioning itself now, I know I keep repeating myself, but I don't get it. On the one hand the idea of attracting a large number of black votes is an illusion; most people believe it's just purely illusionary. At the same time it's not consolidating its core vote, it's not standing up more for Afrikaner rights and culture and language, it's floating some place in between saying we're the main opposition party and we're headed by FW de Klerk who is the man who brought about the transition. Will the party split? What's the scenario sometimes propagated of the Western Cape, the NP here seeing its future in terms an alliance between whites and coloureds versus Africans?
ED That's just a simple fact, that's a fact of the Western Cape. I think the vote in the black areas here is 95% plus ANC, and in the coloured and white areas its very, very strongly Nationalist Party. Why should the Western Cape split? I would say that that is as stupid as you can get. With Africa falling out of the boat in world economic terms South Africa is now delivering something like .7% of the world's GNP. For a small western secessionist state it's suicide, it's simply not on. I could never support anything like that.
POM I don't mean secession I mean just the party splitting.
ED No I don't see that coming, no. Why should the NP - it's been dominated in the last few years by the northern wing of the party. The built a new headquarters in Pretoria and so on. This party here is now the dominant one within the NP countrywide, the Western Cape is the dominant wing, the strongest wing. It's the only one with a real power base. Should it forfeit the coffers of the party to achieve what? I don't think it's on. I don't think the people who I know want that, the kind of system that's being mooted, like Strauss's Bavarian Party.
POM It's not on.
ED I don't think so.
POM So if I were to directly ask you what is the future of the party or does it have a future other than consolidating its original base and trying to look after the interests and concerns of the people who constitute that base, what incremental level can they add on so that it makes a difference in the longer run?
ED You know the NP did so much to snooker itself. Take the anti-defection clause, now obviously the strongest party would gain most from such a clause I would think so that was left in the constitution. That has to go out. That's a big battle. Secondly, I think the ANC is already trying to gerrymander the provinces, they are trying to cut the borders in the Northern Cape to ensure that it will - this is the weakest ANC province, the Northern Cape, they have the smallest majority there. In the next election you could knock them out. I mean taking a province from them is, I would think, a substantial victory and now they're trying to change the borders. I suspect them of wanting to change the borders of the Western Cape to cut more of the Eastern Cape in so that they can get more blacks in and I suspect them of cutting the borders of Natal/KwaZulu. I think they are as weak a lot of politicians as you will find anywhere on earth. I do not trust them one centimetre of anything. You've seen in the United States gerrymandering is quite popular there and I think they will try it here. So the NP, I don't know if they can stop it, they don't seem to be very successful in the Northern Cape. I think they will have to play for time. Until Mandela goes not much is going to happen as I emphasised before and a week in politics is a long time, many things can happen.
POM Then there's the further conundrum in the sense that on the one hand you're saying FW should have resigned after he received his Nobel Prize. He had done his job, he had his moment of glory, it was time to move on. Yet on the other hand there is absolutely no heir apparent to replace him and is this his greatest strength? Is this the best hand that he can play to, that without him the NP would get weaker rather than anything else?
ED That's the danger yes. Well somebody wrote that at least he has 13% of the vote. In Russia Gorbachev got 1% last time round. But it is the difficulty of a reformer that once the reform has been carried through his job is over and the NP has a severe problem there. There is no heir apparent and something will have to come up. Some of the political scientists say of course that if there is a vacuum it has to be filled, and leave it at that.
POM If you were he in playing your political cards, would the political card that you would play be the card that, "OK I'll resign but remember I am the glue that is holding the party together and that without me you're going to be a lot worse off than you are with me even though you may not think you're a hell of a lot well off with me, you're going to be a hell of a lot worse off without me."
ED I think that's his reasoning, he's more or less saying that and he will probably go after 1999, after the election.
POM He's making a lame duck of himself.
ED That's right. But the way they engineered the constitutional negotiations they actually succeeded in doing that as well. They were a lame duck all along and once they were in government and spreading the gospel that they are achieving so many successes within government but not being able to communicate it, I think that was just a joke. Everybody laughed about that, it was not credible. I've never heard of politicians who don't want to brag about what they achieve. It must be a first time in world history maybe.
POM So Roelf Meyer can't really come up with a new - when he comes out of that room to which he's been consigned with that notebook, that notebook is going to look as blank a year from now as it did a year when this idea was first mooted. Nothing has happened in a year, why should anything more happen in the next year?
ED No, I don't expect much to happen. I expect things to start developing after Mandela has left. I think after Mandela has left the cleavages and the schisms within the ANC will get worse and worse and then also the possibility, if not the probability, of a real radical workers' movement coming to the fore and rising and that's a definite possibility and a dangerous one as well of course. If you get people like the populists, a real populist movement, that could cause immense problems for the ANC.
POM Do you see Holomisa as a possible force in this, that if he forms this new party that in the Eastern Cape he will indeed eat into the constituency of the ANC?
ED I have no doubt that in the Eastern Cape - the latest poll by the Helen Suzman Foundation found that he was the most popular leader in the Eastern Cape and none other. I think he's very strong there and he could play a very big role in a new movement, populist movement, and probably would, and maybe Winnie Mandela as well. Would the PAC go along with them? That's another question. I think the ANC is very afraid of that. I think the main problem for the ANC is the economic one. How can they implement GEAR which is a free market, capitalist system, how can they implement that with COSATU and the Communist Party being integral parts of the government? Inconceivable as far as I can see. It simply won't hold together in the end. Maybe they can carry on for a long time.
POM So you see realignment coming not from the NP side of the equation but rather from the slow disintegration of the alliance and that creating then the possibility for different forms of political realignment.
POM Let me go back for a minute to the TRC. First, in terms of what has been exposed regarding what members of the security forces have done, the murders they have committed, the manner in which they have been committed to the callous disregard for human life, do you think that it has any real impression on white people or whether they say a few bad knaves and we're sick and tired of this whole thing. Two, that until and unless senior people start being named, like Generals or whatever or they start making submissions, that it goes no place and the same applies for the ANC. They have I think four ministers who have made applications for amnesty as against two. But where do you see its fatal flaws as being?
ED The Truth Commission? Well I think in its very composition. It's loaded against the former security forces. Basically it's people from the struggle background and some of the investigators, I mean the two in Natal and the Eastern Cape are both members of the Communist Party. I don't expect much impartiality there, in fact I expect nothing. So it's fatally flawed in its composition. The Vice Chairman, Alex Boraine, compiled a data bank before the commission was formed and it's being used; I think the data bank that Boraine compiled has more or less set the agenda for the Truth Commission. We criticise them constantly about it. They never even answer about that. If these facts were known world-wide I think there would be great suspicion about the Truth Commission. So it's not properly composed. I think it's loaded against the security forces. What they are getting, of course, are lower level criminals, criminals like Eugene de Kock and Dirk Coetzee and scum like that, people who can't be tolerated in any civilised society. Whether the Generals and the State Security Council and the government actually either knew about this or whether they acted on direct orders from the top, the Malan case was a farce, it was thrown out in the end because the actual murderers were also the main witnesses and it could not in any way be proved that Malan had given these orders. Professional soldiers like Viljoen and Jannie Geldenhuys and others who were accused there, my God, for them to order soldiers to kill women and babies in huts and so on, it takes a big imagination to think that they would do that, that some out of hand and rogue elements would do it. That's what people are thinking and people are definitely getting tired of this. It's dragging on and on and on. And secondly, what's coming out about the civil war in Natal? What's coming out about the penal camps of the ANC in Angola and so on, Quatro and the atrocities there? What's coming out about the impimpis, about the people who spied for the apartheid government while working for the liberation forces? That's the kind of doubts about the Truth Commission which they are not answering in any satisfactory or convincing way.
POM Do you see it petering out in some inconclusive way because of the contradictions it's beginning to face, that is the families of security forces asking that police informers be named and that ANC high rank and file be exposed, that the defence forces will to the end anyway stonewall because allegations can be made against them which allegations are not proof? Three, that it won't bring about reconciliation in the sense that as for black people as they hear about the activities of a Eugene de Kock or a Cronjé and they see those guys up there on the stand and they're looking at their watch and saying, "If I talk for another 15 minutes I'll have amnesty. How much must I say?" But there's no remorse, there's no sense of forgiveness, that would increase their anger rather than diminish it, the fact that it can make for a situation of polarised race relations rather than less polarised race relations.
ED Firstly, I don't see the commission just petering out. I think that they will make a report which might be biased. You know showing remorse is not required by the Act. You needn't show remorse when you ask for amnesty. It was pointed out by Tutu himself, you need not show remorse, you can just say, "I did it." My own son served in the armed forces during those times and I saw his instructions on how to conduct yourself in what was called insurgency warfare and it was very, I thought, very well laid out and very well thought out and it was the way a professional soldier should conduct himself. But he was a soldier, he was not in the police. The police force of course, you can see them now, aren't they one of the worst in the world probably? So I think the police force is much, much more guilty of all and everything than the defence force people. They were properly trained. They were the best army in Africa and they were not trained to do the kinds of things that were done by Koevoet in Namibia and by police forces here, what's this thing called, the CCB, Civil Co-operation Bureau, and so on. These were actually criminals who belong behind bars and they are seen as that and they drag the name of the police through mud.
On the other hand the people who are portrayed as freedom fighters and so on, I think some of them also belong behind bars. Just criminals. So there's not, to my mind, there's not a lot to be proud about the liberation struggle and conveying it as a just war while using methods like bombing women and children in restaurants and bars and so on it's just despicable. That's the only word I have for it. I have no respect for that. And our women and children being shot, land mines and limpet mines and bombs and AK47s, it's despicable, that's the only word I have for it. So I don't have much respect for what Dullah Omar calls the morality of the struggle and so on because there was no justness in the war, there was no justice.
POM When you say there was no justice in the war, was there justness in the cause?
ED Yes I would go along with that if they held it to that: we had a just cause but we made severe mistakes. Of course it was an oppressive regime, everybody knows that. Of course when you come to the media, who helped more to change the course of history than the Afrikaans press? But I don't expect much credit to be given to that.
POM Will you make a submission to the TRC as other media are being asked to do?
ED I think our group will, the group chairman will make a submission if asked. I myself, well Tutu wants to meet me, I'll meet him. He's busy with a very, very dangerous game. He's singling out Afrikaners as having collective guilt for what happened in South Africa with no credit being given to Afrikaners who tried to change it in any big or small way and I'm accusing him of using those methods. Collective guilt is a very, very dangerous thing and I'll tell him so.
POM Judge Goldstone who was in Boston recently, and I hosted a couple of events for him, he made a very clear distinction between the two, between collective guilt and individual guilt, and opposed the concept of collective guilt rather vehemently. He said individuals commit crimes, individuals must be held to account, individuals are not societies.
ED Well Judge Goldstone is a Jew and of course collective guilt was applied to the Jews in Nazi Germany, what happened there. This is a real danger for this country, applying collective guilt to the whites or the Afrikaners or whatever.
POM Is that beginning to happen?
ED Tutu said so. Tutu said so, he wrote an article for us in which he said that of course the majority of the atrocities in the struggle were committed by whites and by Afrikaners and he said, "You, you people hurt our people." Isn't that collective guilt?
POM Let me go back to what Van Zyl Slabbert said what was maybe most disturbing of all, last Sunday or Sunday week, where he said that the preparations for the poll in 1999 were already a year behind. Do you think it a real possibility that polls will not be held in 1999 or that, again, the weight of world opinion, there's a certain weight out there that lies on the new South Africa in the same way as it lay on the old South Africa and the idea of the new South Africa postponing elections would be as abhorrent as the old South Africa continuing with apartheid policies?
ED Sure. I think the major deterrent for the ANC in doing what they want in their heart of hearts is definitely foreign world opinion. I think the economic policy that they apply is what the World Bank and the IMF and the diplomatic corps and the international community want and they want it because it is the only one that succeeds. Socialism has more or less collapsed, even in countries like Sweden and so on. Russia is there for all to see. East Germany was there for all to see. And these were the countries that were the role models of the ANC so they have to tread this narrow path of capitalist, free market economy and if they start fiddling around with elections and basic human rights and freedom of the press and all that then the international community of going to punish them severely as they are already doing by not investing in South Africa in the way it was thought that they would. This is one very big deterrent which I, as a member of a minority group, hope that it will only increase.
POM What is going to happen with Afrikaans language, Afrikaans culture? Who takes up the banner?
ED The press. If you look at the Afrikaner institutions, political parties sliding, the church has almost reached a position of being dormant, academics are falling around, that's the only term I could use. This newspaper became the biggest newspaper in the Western Cape last December. We're now the biggest daily in the Western Cape. We passed The Argus and we're almost double The Cape Times. So the press is a very important institution and we can galvanise support. And the interesting thing I think is that as far as our attention to culture and language rights are concerned we would be considered on the left in Europe, not on the right.
POM Meanwhile the volkstaat with its enormous paid out salaries and commissions, was this just another case of the ANC cleverly buying off Viljoen?
ED That's right. It was a cynical political ploy and Viljoen does not seem to be able to see through it. He was taken for a ride by Mandela.
POM If the NP were taken for a ride by Mandela or the ANC and Viljoen was taken for a ride and the Conservative Party shot itself in the head, the PAC is so marginalised as to almost no longer count as a political party and the DP is one small voice out there that nobody believes will grow into any kind of significantly larger voice, you're really waiting on the collapse of the alliance, hoping for the collapse of the alliance for things to change. If not there will be an ultimate, almost an execrable movement into a one-party state?
ED Yes except that I think the economy is maybe the great leveller. The ANC is going to have such trouble with the economic policy. COSATU is flatly opposed to it, the communists are dragging along and not liking it at all. So, yes, I think the economy will be a factor which they can't wish away and they have to make it work and it takes dedication and will to do that. I don't think they're capable of it but it will only increase their problems.
POM The chances of getting to a 6% growth rate - this is more fantasy?
ED It's fantasy and the only sector capable of delivering that is the private sector. I think the private sector, I have said it before, is the real saving grace for South Africa, not the government. And the other thing of course is with modern technology and so on I think the nation-state is growing less and less important and viable and this government is finding it out slowly. People are going round the government. The private sector is doing it's own thing, ignoring the government. Maybe that will save South Africa.
POM So three years into the transition you would regard the government as largely incompetent, inefficient, incapable of delivery and at odds with itself in regard to the most basic of policies, therefore paralysed to a great extent and unable to get anything done?
ED And dangerously so because for South Africa to reach a 6% growth rate it means a very skilled work force and they are screwing up the education system. Any country in 1997 that fires, for instance in this province, 6000 experienced teachers will be regarded as insane. That's the kind of thing they're doing. They want tourists and they are breaking down the health system which was always a big attraction for tourists to come here, a proper, very good health system. They are breaking that down. The hospitals are falling to pieces. So I think they don't know where they're going.
POM Well on that basis, I'm probably leaving out one very important question I wanted to ask you and I suppose it comes back to, again, whether this whole thing about De Klerk is like a storm in a teacup in the sense that all these facts have been known for some time and it's just that somebody let the genie out of the bottle by mentioning the terrible word 'surrender' and if that word had not been used, if any other kind of language had been used the debate would have been more circumspect.
ED Yes, of course the fact that he used it also had, I think it really caused a stir in opposition politics and it might yet be to the advantage of the country that suddenly these opposition politicians got a kick under their behinds that stirred them into some kind of activity. Whether it's to the good or not but at least there were signs of more movement and that gives one a bit of hope but not much.
POM So if we've talked about the government as being in paralysis, ineffective, incompetent and inefficient, by the same token if we look at the political opposition, they, during the same period of time, have been equally as incompetent.
ED I wouldn't say that. I thought the Democratic Party -
POM Well leaving out the Democratic Party which is difficult to call an opposition because of its size. I mean mainstream parties like whether it's Inkatha or whether it's the National Party, are the two which have not produced visions or policies that offer a viable alternative to African people.
ED The real opposition was only done by the Democratic Party. Well at least they were there. They did in the end - things like the Sarafina debacle and so on, the AIDS furore. Yes they did a lot, they did a lot to focus public attention and to force the government to - well they forced the government into shame and that was good.
POM What do you think the net result of this kind of debate about who lost what for the Afrikaner, who surrendered Afrikaner sovereignty, who had weak leadership, who caved in, who didn't develop strategy, what do you think is the net result of it all? What comes out at the end of the day?
ED I think the most important point is that it made Afrikaners realise that they had to go for self-reliance and self-sufficiency, stop hoping for other people to help them. That is a very, very big advantage. I think it shocked them into that.
POM That it will shock them into it?
ED It shocked them, it had shocked them that self-reliance and self-sufficiency is the way to get ahead in this situation. It's very important. I think we will see more private schools. We will see moves for at least one private university and support of Afrikaans newspapers, cultural products, etc., that will increase and it's to the good. I believe in civic society, it must be able to help itself.
POM So on that scale you're more optimistic than on the political scale?
ED Yes definitely. As far as the private sector is concerned I'm much more optimistic than about what the state of South Africa is hoping and trying to achieve.
POM Where does all this leave the African masses?
ED The African masses? I think in that sense the Afrikaner is the role model for them, pull yourself up by your own shoe-strings, do not rely on government to do it for you. The sense of ubuntu among the black people is very important if it means that people help me to help myself. The shouldering of personal responsibility to somebody else is a major weakness in African society that has to be overcome.
POM Do you see yourself as an African?
POM Do you resent it when people say that you're not an African because you're not Africanised in the way that most of Africa is?
ED I suppose that goes for the Arabs so that's just nonsense, I don't pay any attention to that.
POM OK, I'll leave it at that. Thank you again.