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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

13 Mar 1997: Camerer, Sheila

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POM     The first thing I suppose I should ask is whither the state of the National Party? Maybe you can throw some light on that? It seems to be moving in what appears to be almost two contradictory directions at once, i.e. the movement, or the wing with which Roelf Meyer has been given the task to come up with ideas for the formulation of a new movement and, two, the wing which has the task of consolidating the base of support of the party. The two may in fact be inimical to each other, meanwhile you have increasing calls for the resignation of FW, not just from what would be called the liberal, his own press if you like, certainly from Die Burger and Beeld, and the whole controversy surrounding the remarks he made in London that he had 'surrendered' and I think that was the word that the Afrikaners that I talked to took umbrage at, the use of the word 'surrendered' Afrikaner sovereignty. So maybe that will give you a start.

SC     Yes, well that was quite a mouthful. I think if you had been a fly on the wall at our caucus meeting this morning you would have heard FW and Roelf both with hand on heart saying that they both were headed in exactly the same direction and everything they said meant exactly the same thing, so you would have been reassured, hopefully, as a member of the caucus. The intention of the leadership is not to split the party or to give an indication, certainly of FW, to give an indication that there is parting of the ways with the verligtes or the movement people being sent out into the wilderness to go and find new pastures and possibly graze in them and the rest to carry on as before. I don't think that's the intention at all  because if you look at the party's statement of policy, its vision and mission, the vision which dates from the beginning of last year says clearly that we want to establish a  new movement, a new political movement behind which will line up all the moral majority type of person, Christian values, family values as the things they support and that they will try and establish a movement and possibly even a party. Our mission also said that if it was necessary to achieve that goal, in other words to enlarge the group of people supporting those sort of values irrespective of their past affiliation or of their race and cultural background, that we would collapse the party if that is what was required. But that would be a last step in that direction if it was what was necessary to establish the movement, and that's been spelt out in our policy documents since the beginning of last year.

     I think in theory at any rate the course is clear. I think it's definitely true that certain members of our caucus see it - everybody pays extreme lip service, shall we say, to the idea of the movement. I think the way to get there is the problem because there are various versions of it which keep cropping up in the press as you have noticed. Each person has his or her own version of how this will be achieved and they don't always quite coincide and I think that's what gives the impression of possible splits and dissatisfaction with the leadership and so on. On the whole I think the fact that Mr de Klerk has now decided to take charge of the process  himself, of the whole process of building the party himself in a way, or at least put himself at the top of the process, in a way becoming a super Secretary General, he keeps saying he has a hands-on approach to all this, will avert a split if a split was ever in the wings. I don't think one can say that Mr Marthinus van Schalkwyk has now been appointed Director of the party to build the party as it is in its present form, has the same status as a Secretary General. He clearly doesn't. He is definitely, shall we say, subject to the direction of Mr de Klerk and he has been told, and we've been told, we being us on the task team, have been told that he has to help us, he is our resource, Mr van Schalkwyk and his team, in order to get the movement going. So there is meant to be complete interaction and so on between the two groupings or the two teams, shall we say.

     I think we're being called the Gang of Six and they are the Gang of Four. I'm on the task team, movement task team. Sorry I should have said that in the beginning for the purposes of the record. So, yes, I think that there are differences in approach as to how this should be achieved. I think Roelf Meyer has made it very clear that he has November as a deadline for getting this movement going. He wants to go full steam ahead, he will talk to other parties but an alliance isn't at the top of his agenda. What's really at the top is trying to recruit a large body of black leaders who are presently non-aligned, not particularly aligned, to join a movement which the NP could then collapse itself into. I think he's made it very clear that that would be his way of seeing it, but that is clearly not the way some other people in the party see it. I think the one option doesn't exclude the other really at this point. I think that the differences are perhaps more apparent than real, or shall we say they are surface differences, they don't run all that deep because I think everybody would like to achieve this new political grouping. It's just a matter of how, as I said.

POM     How about something else that keeps resurfacing - ?

SC     Sorry I haven't really talked about FW and the 'surrender'. I think there's no doubt that there is an element somewhere, particularly the Afrikaner intellectuals in the Cape who have got a grudge against Mr de Klerk. It sort of went to sleep for a while. I was very aware of it a year ago when there was a great muttering going on among people like the editor of Die Burger and the Afrikaans editors and people like Marius Dahling, that De Klerk and the GNU, coming on top of the constitutional negotiations, the Afrikaner had been sold down the river and so on. Then once we got out of the GNU there was a great deal of support for that move among those same people. They were all mollified, I suppose you could say, and I think this speech, the use of the word 'surrender' I think was what reopened an old wound and got them going again but I don't believe there wasn't a bit of steering from certain political quarters in the Cape because I think there are rivalries. But there are rivalries in any political party. I think the one fact that everybody accepts is, and I think he accepts it himself, that Mr Hernus Kriel is not an alternative candidate to lead the NP. He would acknowledge that I think, himself.

POM     Hernus Kriel would acknowledge it? You can hardly be a former Minister for Police and expect to head up a new party.

SC     Well you see I think what he has made clear in party circles is that he sees the party possibly developing as more of a confederal party than a federal one. We used to be a confederal party until quite recently. We only federalised ourselves after the democratic election so each province had quite a measure of autonomy, each of the four provinces. But I think the thinking was that because there were nine now we can't really split up into nine autonomous groups, that we should come together as a federal party and have less autonomy and so there was a move to centralise but I think the Western Cape would like a greater measure of autonomy. I think that's all they're saying at this stage. I often wonder if they have thought it out properly. Somebody flew a kite about the Bavarian option a while back and that was rejected by the party top executive as too racist. It would appear to be racist in the present context.

POM     That is for you an alignment of the white vote and the coloured vote and try to consolidate that.

SC     Can I just explain what I mean. Sorry I'm talking shorthand perhaps. But the Bavarian option, you are aware of what that is, that in Germany you have the CSU operating in Bavaria and the CDU operating elsewhere so that if you're a member of the CDU in Bonn, say, and you move house to Munich you automatically become a member of the CSU and the CSU doesn't have any membership outside Bavaria but they are in a perpetual alliance basically, more or less the same party, but they do have their own character. The CSU definitely has its own character being Catholic and in a sense more conservative than the CDU and that's worked for years in Germany very well.  So I think that kite was being flown for a bit in the Western Cape as a possibility but I think it's too far reaching although one must acknowledge that we do regular market surveys and market research and it's clear that if we want to win the election in the Western Cape in 1999 we don't have to worry about a single black vote. We just have to consolidate the white and coloured vote which is what has basically led to the NP being in power now. So there is no real interest down here in recruiting a lot of black support in the party whereas in Gauteng and KwaZulu/Natal that's our main focus. If we want to grow the party we have to do it that way. So there is an inevitable structural difference which I don't think is impossible to accommodate in some sort of arrangement.

POM     A policy to consolidate the white and coloured vote would be a very short-sighted policy given the demographics of the Western Cape, no?

SC     Apparently not, no. According to the market research, we do a six-monthly market research exercise with MRA, they are the best, and there is no indication that we should worry about any black vote here at all in order to retain power.

POM     Not until even in the year 2004?

SC     Well our research is looking at 1999 obviously.

POM     OK, I'm looking beyond that.

SC     It's so very solid, unless there's a huge immigration and an enormous change I don't think it would alter the picture that much because the survey indicates now how much black support must you try and get to a thing, there's a little line under that. It's not necessary. We just need to consolidate white and coloured here. It creates a problem in the party because although I don't think there's any particular reluctance in the Western Cape to recruit  black voters it's not their main interest.  I think this writing him off in the media has spurred him to new heights of action. He's certainly trying to convey the impression that he's very up and running and really keen and he's working very hard actually. He's going on a tour of all the provinces I think he's gone off to the North West Province today and he's trying to convey, he is conveying the impression that he's very much in charge and has no thought of retiring at all.

POM     But he has indicated, has he not, that he would step down after the 1999 election?

SC     No.

POM     He hasn't?

SC     Not at all. That's Mandela.

POM     That's often been reported about De Klerk.

SC     No he hasn't. He's said that clearly in context with the new movement that if there was a suitable leader and there was an election for new leadership he wouldn't want to hang on particularly but he certainly has no thought of giving up at the moment. He needs to lead the party to new heights, etc.

POM     But the point, again, is that you can't have a new party, a new movement - ?

SC     With the old leadership? Well that is clear. Do you speak to Roelf? I suppose you do.

POM     I'm going to speak with him after I speak with you.

SC     Well you know what his version is, well he will tell you. I know what his version is.

POM     Tell me first so I can check it out against what his version is.

SC     No, you will have to switch it off.

POM     Well it's off the record.

SC     No I think you must get it from him but he makes no secret of what he thinks so I am sure he will tell you what he thinks.

POM     I want to go back in time a bit to this book that is igniting some -

SC     Oh, Patti Waldmeir? I haven't read it, I haven't got hold of a copy. I've been dying to, I don't know if it's available yet.

POM     It's not available here until June. Roelf has got a copy, he got a copy sent to him by Patti, so at least he has a copy. She calls it 'a study in the psychology of capitulation' and her essential thesis is that in the end, her overall thesis is, "that by the end of 1993 the power balance had swung so far towards the ANC that he (that's De Klerk) and the NP was left with little alternative but to accept majority rule with little other than five years of guaranteed coalition government. More elaborate forms of power sharing and constitutional protection for Afrikanerdom could not be won."  Do you think that's an accurate reflection?

SC     I think that's very crassly put really, I think it's very simplistic because from my experience of working in the party inner circles in 1991 with Dr Stoffel van der Merwe as the Secretary General in those days, it was clear that he had a very firm grip on where we were heading and he was steering the process at that stage in our constitutional bottom lines. I think there is no doubt that he, and I am sure the top leadership, was aware that we weren't going to hang on to power, that we were going to negotiate a power-sharing arrangement on whatever terms we could get it. I think mistakes were made along the line, I think we overplayed our hand at CODESA at one point.

POM     At what point?

SC     At CODESA, when we all broke up, but that was as it appeared to me. There might have been a bigger game going on, in fact there probably was.

POM     She mentions that point, Waldmeir does lend credence to the view, "that De Klerk might have extracted more from the ANC in terms of constitutional checks and balances had he not been so fixated on finding race based gimmicks to counter majority rule."

SC     That's rather an unfair way of putting it I think, but we had an unfortunate situation where Gerrit Viljoen was in charge of the negotiations at CODESA. The pressure was all too much and he fell ill and then it was taken over by Tertius Delport who was a lightweight by comparison and he wasn't a skilled negotiator in the way that Viljoen was and he overplayed his hand I think in the discussions and asked for too much and didn't take what he could at the time, didn't accept. It boiled down, but there was a lot more behind it of course, to percentages of votes at one point. I think that the ANC were looking for a reason to break that up because they were giving away too much I think. There was a sudden fight against the settlement there and there was a feeling -  we were very pleased with what was happening and the agreements that were being reached in the Constitutional Principles Committee on which I served and then one was aware towards the end of an ANC feeling that we were getting too much, I think, and then we got so cocky with Delport in charge of the constitutional principles side that I think we overplayed our hand and the whole thing collapsed and that was when we were in trouble.

POM     In fact she says that you could have gotten more at CODESA 2 than you finally got.

SC     Yes because we overplayed our hand at the crucial point and we lost direction with Viljoen no longer there and then Delport taking over with Roelf as his sort of deputy. Roelf and Delport didn't see eye to eye on things in any case and I think Roelf really kept away from it as much as possible because he didn't like what was happening and I think Delport - well I mean this is my perspective as somebody on that committee - just overplayed and we landed up in a mess. But I also had the feeling that the ANC didn't want to settle. I think they are putting a very pro-ANC gloss on what happened because I think there was a group in the ANC that started trying to back-track and they were fed up with Ramaphosa, that he had been too ready to settle and he suddenly got very rough with everyone towards the end and then we broke up altogether. Yes I think that that's the ANC's version of what happened.

POM     She also says that the ANC negotiators were prepared even to accept 60% rather than simple majority rule in decision making mechanisms but that they were over-ruled by Mandela himself.

SC     Yes well certainly a hard line developed but I think Mandela was leaned on by his left wing, or whatever you want to call it, hard-liners, at a certain point because suddenly the atmosphere changed in the last couple of weeks.

POM     At Kempton Park?

SC     Oh no, I see what you mean. I'm getting my negotiations mixed up. Sorry, not CODESA, you're talking about the multi-party negotiations?

POM     Yes.

SC     60% where? In the Cabinet? You mean weighted majorities? The interim constitution says decisions have to be taken by consensus.

POM     It says here, "ANC negotiators had already done a lot of work on exactly how to break it. Mohammed Valli Moosa takes up the story."  She says, "The final capitulation came on November 17th 1993 after months of gruelling talks at the World Trade Centre. The negotiators were by then spending almost every waking moment with the enemy under conditions of sleep deprivation, heavy alcohol consumption and the absence of almost all contact with the outside world so when Meyer and his colleagues appeared in Cabinet meetings they were treated like so many Trojan horses sent by the ANC."

SC     Well by certain people like Delport who then was no longer in charge of things. It's true. I was there, I was filed in with the rest of the Trojan horses at one or two Cabinet meetings because I was in charge of the Bill of Rights negotiations. And we were grilled, but luckily I only had to report on the property rights clause which we won that round quite well and we won labour, so we were doing quite well. I didn't have too much of a problem.

POM     She says, "The ANC negotiators", Waldmeir reports, "were willing to accept a 60% vote with Mandela - "

SC     On what vote?

POM     I guess it would be 60% vote for - "but Mandela was adamant that decisions should be taken on a straight majority. He just hammered De Klerk and Maharaj is quoted as saying, 'And in the end he cracked him'." Do you think that's correct?

SC     I think that's their perspective of it. I think that De Klerk, he was negotiating from a position of weakness, it wasn't an easy thing to do. If you're negotiating yourself out of power as a minority government I think he did extremely well. I think one must see that in context with what De Klerk undertook to do in the referendum, which of course the right wingers raise every now and then, but they never actually get specific on that because if they did they would lose the argument because everything De Klerk asked for a mandate to do he actually delivered, except that he didn't deliver the GNU in permanent - he could have stayed with it, he delivered actually what he said but he then gave up some of what he had achieved. I think one must see that in context with what he went to the country to ask. He's very tuned in to elections. You know what happened, you remember the Potchefstroom by-election which we lost and that triggered him, the alarm bells all rang, and he went to the country for a mandate to do certain things and we could all say afterwards that we did achieve what we said we would.

POM     Now I recall, and this is recalling past interviews with people, but I recall many ANC people saying that after the referendum he adopted a much tougher line at CODESA. So he again was in control of the process?

SC     He was in control of the party, he wasn't looking at a party that was crumbling. It went through various vagaries. I think nobody can say mistakes weren't made and I was a negotiator and we did have long hours and there was huge pressure on us to reach agreement and if you arrived with your ANC negotiating partners and reported back to 'the channel', i.e. Cyril and Mac on the one side and Roelf and Leon on the other, that you hadn't reached agreement you were ordered off to go and reach agreement. I was threatened with being fired at one point by the person in charge of our negotiating team if I didn't play ball and be more compliant and make more of an effort to reach agreement on specifically the property rights clause. I had quite a showdown with certain parties. But we won out, we won the property rights negotiation that time around anyway by sticking firm, standing firm.

POM     One could see, I suppose the impression, just from the accounts that I've read of the reviews of her book, is that De Klerk didn't stand firm on a lot of things, that in the end he simply rolled over.

SC     Well that's an impression she wants to convey but I haven't read the book so it's difficult for me to tell just from press reports. I don't think that we caved in on the Bill of Rights, the key things that the ANC were worried about really because we didn't, we hung in there. What can I say? I didn't have an overview of the whole process. I was so deeply involved in my little corner of it that that's really all I was worried about I suppose. It seems to me that we totally mismanaged the amnesty thing.

POM     Well Mac Maharaj this morning said to me that they proposed way back that there be a general amnesty.

SC     It had to be the way to go.

POM     And it was turned down by the government.

SC     Well it was Kobie being too clever by half. It's just ridiculous. Actually when I read that he had actually - a few things fell into place, that it was him who - it was just typical of him actually to be just too clever about it all and think he will catch them by differentiating and not giving a general amnesty. It was just nuts. That really was a major blups I would say because it's clearly what is required in this whole process. I think the whole process of the Truth Commission thing is getting so messy and awkward and the conflicts that are arising constantly with the normal court process, the victims feel that their rights are being trampled on more than the guys who were murdered, I mean the families of these victims anyway. The Attorneys General are furious because they want to prosecute all these people, they have been collecting evidence over the months and years and suddenly finding that they haven't got any accused. So there is a complete clash of interests going on all the time and it's unresolved, it's messy.

POM     In that regard do you think that the TRC is doing a good job in uncovering the truth or are they uncovering various perspectives of the truth?

SC     I think they way they went is quite wrong. They should have had a general amnesty and then they should have had a group that could be perceived as less one-sided than it is, of highly respected commissioners who would then, along the Chilean model lines, go and find out what happened and report on it and then focus really on reparation. I don't know, what can you do? Dragging all these people before the courts who are now applicants for amnesty and they are not even certain to get it. It just seems an extremely messy thing. So we're only getting some people who perhaps have had secret guarantees from somewhere coming forward to tell their beastly tales and a lot of the victims are not coming forward because of intimidation, especially the ones who - I mean the 500 cases of necklacing where only one or two have come before the commission. I think it's a very messy process and I think you can try and dress it up but in the end I don't think it's done all that much good. I think the idea is good to have a Truth Commission to find out what happened and there we were caught short again, or those who were negotiating that, because the interim constitution ends on this note, that there shall be amnesty for all people, but it's not specific as to how amnesty should be granted. Dullah Omar is insistent on the amnesty being granted through the Truth Commission. I don't think this was foreseen by the negotiators or certainly if it was foreseen they kept quiet about it or if they knew about it, I mean our top negotiators, and I think that was a big mistake. I think it should have been specified how this amnesty be granted. So that's a double problem. I think it's a very messy side of things and it's a pity.

POM     I think I may have covered this before but it strikes me more often as I come over. I had Richard Goldstone in the States a couple of weeks ago, I set up a small lecture tour for him and he talked about the TRC and one of the things he was saying was that it was having an impact on whites as they watched these revelations on television and saw the cold blooded murderers confess to atrocities and the barbarities of the murderers.

SC     Well it doesn't help nation building much.

POM     But my impression from talking to ordinary whites is that they've tuned out of it.

SC     I think people are horrified, I think the young people are horrified, my daughters' age, they don't believe the cold war ever existed and that there was any Soviet imperialism here and the securocrats, what on earth were they doing? Why were the security forces acting against what was certainly perceived, I think genuinely perhaps at the time or certainly in the seventies, as a real threat to the continued existence of a market economy here, of capitalism, western values and all the rest of it. So that's when the whole thing began to build up, the late seventies, eighties, this securocracy if you like. The younger are shocked to the core. I, being a cold warrior or coming from that time or being a student when it was very real, don't have such difficulty in understanding why people committed these atrocious acts in a sense because they felt they were defending certain things from an onslaught, and it wasn't only to wrest white privilege away, it was the communists who were going to come and overrun Africa, etc. So I think there is a certain validity in what happened perhaps at first but obviously it got out of control. You see that's why I think that the Chilean model was so much better because they held their hearings in camera and they just published their report in the end so it wasn't a pulling out your innards in front of the cameras day after day. I don't think it does much for nation building frankly. I think it reconfirms people in positions and hatreds and resentments and horror and also the switch-off factor among the whites. I don't think it's done anything to -

POM     The which?

SC     The switch-off factor among the whites. I think it's very real. I accept what Richard says but I think people who were children during that time are perhaps more horrified than the other whites, if you like.

POM     Do your daughters follow the proceedings with a fair degree of attention or is it just sporadic?

SC     I don't think they follow it. No, they read the papers, they look at the odd story in the papers and hear the odd story on the news. I don't think they would watch the televised proceedings.

POM     Is there any kind of real engagement, fascination with what happened or is just kind of "Oh my God!"

SC     Yes that sort of attitude. No, just really horrified.

POM     Then on the other side you have -

SC     Can I just say, Goldstone's point that I think is his most important message really is that this collective guilt business is nonsense. That's one of his major themes.

POM     That's right.

SC     That the whole judicial process is aimed or geared to find individuals guilty of acts, it's only individuals who can take these decisions. I think that's correct, it's the background to any war crimes trial as well, that he didn't find the German nation guilty, he found individuals guilty of inhuman acts and that must be the case. I think that's a very valuable message of his here to the ANC.

POM     The one coupled with that was what would appear to be, and I talked to a number of the commissioners over the last couple of days, and to a person they expressed disappointment with the submissions made by the NP.

SC     Well we are about to make another submission I believe, which I haven't seen although I was meant to be part of the Strategy Committee that would look at it. De Klerk is keeping very cagey about this next submission.

POM     The first submissions were a mixture of half apology, half belligerent.

SC     Justification. Trying to explain where the Afrikaners came from and stuff like that, which I said to him I didn't like, I'm not an Afrikaner anyway, I'm a reformist Nat. What's all this got to do with me? I don't know that it was very relevant. Maybe that's why he didn't show me his next one. I said to his PA, Fanus Schoeman, I'm being called on quite often to comment on the legal aspects of the commission so I hope they give me a copy when he hands it in otherwise I might be caught on the hop.

POM     What do you think the party should do? It would seem to me, and this is an observation, that unless De Klerk, perhaps De Klerk himself goes before the commission and says I, on behalf of my government and the previous governments, take responsibility for actions that were carried out.

SC     But he has said that.

POM     But he sent out indirect messages to people that things like Vlakplaas were OK.

SC     You see he has said that. That's what the newspapers don't really like to hear. That's exactly what the submission said, that as the head of government he obviously takes responsibility and he's appalled by what happens but he wants to say he never gave orders for this sort of thing and it's something that gained momentum and somehow was steered at a different level and they weren't fully informed. That's the gist of what he said. But he said that the NP, don't forget he gave a party submission, he said the NP never took any decision to rave off and murder activists. The NP really was concerned about other things, security of the country and they endorsed certain decisions of the leaders or certainly took decisions at congresses but there was never any resolution to go out and kill the opponents. It just wasn't ever part of it, in fact quite the opposite. During those times when all this was going on the NP was on its road to reform and had taken all these decisions to democratise South Africa and so on.

POM     Where did these orders emerge from?

SC     That's exactly the case. Clearly the emerged from people like Vlok who has asked for amnesty.

POM     But would he do it on his own as distinct from not reporting to the Cabinet?

SC     I find great difficulty with this. I just don't know where it would have come from, but he was a Cabinet Minister under PW. PW, if I give you a simplistic scenario, I saw it as a junior member of the NP caucus, clearly there was a securocracy in charge of things. The big deals in the caucus then were Malan, PW, Vlok, all the security people and even Meyer, don't forget, was promoted to Deputy Defence (it was Leon Wessels who was Police) and so on and he was in charge of that Joint Management Systems which is what the ANC suddenly started mentioning about him. That was winning the hearts and minds but at the same time making sure that there were no revolutionary goings on. That's just about all I know about it. It was never gone into detail. I knew what I read in the newspapers about it. I can remember Roelf Meyer and Joffel van der Westhuizen briefing a grouping of businessmen which was organised by SA Breweries, for instance, on how they were tackling it in the townships around Johannesburg and it all seemed quite a good idea the way it was described to us. I believe that attitude, that whole syndrome was inherited from PW Botha, and if you recall as soon as FW got these reports coming in from the Harms Commission, and then it led to the Goldstone Commission, he obviously got irrefutable indications that there were funny businesses going on and that's when he demoted, if you remember, Vlok and Malan.

POM     That was Inkathagate, over the giving of money to Inkatha.

SC     Yes that was one thing that happened then but it was as a result of the report he got from Goldstone and I can't remember the exact dates but it was clearly one thing led to another. It's a typical De Klerk move, I would say, not to have fired them immediately but demote them and because of loyalties - anyway they eventually left. He did make an attempt to get to - he clearly got notice when he became President that there were all these dirty tricks going on and he immediately took steps to do something about it. He was the one who instigated the investigations about it. From that point of view, what can one say? He claims, and he said it to the commission, that he has never been responsible for ordering the death of any political opponent and it has never come to his notice that this has definitely happened. But when investigators that he appointed showed him evidence that led in that direction he immediately took steps to get rid of them and so on. Look what he did with the army officers. So I think that was the gist of his thing from a government role, then the party he distinguished as well, tried to explain where the party came from and how it developed and so on. He was asked to give this submission as a representative of the party. What annoys me, I think I've told you before, is that all the reformists who supported the changes have been tarred with the brush of the old securocrat era. It's not as though any of us would ever have agreed to what was going on, clearly, in the background without our knowledge and that's been brushed under the carpet. That's what upsets me about this whole thing.

POM     Because you feel that you're being tarnished with the brush of atrocities carried out?

SC     Exactly and we would never have supported atrocities. I came to parliament to help with the change to democracy. That's what's so disquieting about it all.

POM     It says, "Proof that Cabinet knew of third force", and this is a conclusive proof that PW Botha and senior members of his Cabinet were party to plans for a state-sanctioned third force, "are contained in official records dating back to November 1985. Among the government ministers present at a series of Cabinet and State Security Council meetings at which the proposed third force was discussed were Botha's successor, FW De Klerk, Magnus Malan the former Minister of Defence, and Pik Botha, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs."

SC     Something about the status of those minutes -

POM     It says, "Cabinet minutes for 14th May 1986 state that 'a need has arisen for a third force to effectively combat terrorism and unrest' and the force was to be complementary to existing security forces 'so that they will not be unnecessarily compromised'."

SC     That was a while ago. I remember there was a bit of a flurry in the media and then it died, that story, because there were other - De Klerk commented on that somewhere along the line. There has been nothing more heard of that. I think there was a query about the status of the minutes as I recall. I don't know. I don't know what was going on them. I wasn't even in parliament.

POM     My question inexorably comes down to -

SC     What was the date of that?

POM     14th May 1986.

SC     That's right. No, no, I mean the story, when it surfaced? It was quite a while ago.

POM     19th January 1997.

SC     Oh, I must have missed that. Because there was something similar raised a while ago.

POM     I saw that too.

SC     Maybe De Klerk will comment on this. I don't know what he's going to say in this next submission. I haven't seen it.

POM     Everybody seems to say 'I knew nothing', and yet awful things were going on all around them.

SC     As we've heard.

POM     How many whites really believed that Steve Biko banged his head against the wall and killed himself?

SC     I don't think any of the white liberals in Jo'burg believed that. I certainly didn't and I was acting for a lot of his colleagues at that stage and everybody was thrown into disarray and was horror-struck and I can remember sitting in my law office when the guy I was working with walked in, threw the paper on the table, it was the predecessor of The Sowetan, and he said, "Now they've torn it." And we all said, "Oh goodness, can't believe this", and so on. So most of the liberal establishment, Johannesburg white liberal establishment, wouldn't have believed a word of it I am sure.

POM     If everyone says 'I didn't know' and yet these actions were carried out - ?

SC     Look it's a real problem. I'm reading Albert Speer's biography, have you read it? Albert Speer's battle with the truth. Now he asks the question throughout the book, could he have known of the extermination of the Jews, and he must have, but then he had this reason why he might not have heard Himmler's speech, the Gauleiter, and he asks the question throughout the book. I think she concludes he must have known but somehow blocked it out because he had other concerns, loyalty, the problem about trying to win the war and so on. I can't tell you why. All I can say is that at any level I operated at, one was in complete ignorance of anything like this going on. One presumed that if anything was known it would be at the Security Council level. I always presumed that but they don't seem to have very satisfactory minutes either so I've no idea.

POM     Do you run into anybody in your party who says they have an idea?

SC     Well no I haven't. I can only remember, as a junior member, querying things that were done with Adriaan Vlok because I knew some people quite well who were detained and I can remember Chris Fismer and my going to him and saying, "Well why the heck have they detained Vusi Khanyile?" I don't know if you've ever come across him, running Thebe Investments now. The sort of answer you'd get was, "Well there are reasons which I can't disclose." What do you say?

POM     You referred to the firing of the Generals when De Klerk fired 23 Generals after one of Goldstone's submissions, sorry after the Steyn Report.

SC     That's right, but there have been a series of investigations and reports.

POM     Yes, and that one of the people named in it was General Meiring, the current Chief of Staff, and he selected the people who, even though he was implicated, it was left to him to select the people who should be retired now. Obviously that report would have been brought to the attention of Mandela and Mandela appointed Meiring Chief of Staff of the new SANDF. So was there ever talk of a situation of where if De Klerk pushed the military or the security forces too far, took too drastic an action, particularly in the light of the flood of allegations about the activities of a third force, that there would in fact be a coup, that the military would only take this process of democratisation to a certain level?

SC     I was never aware of any talk like that but the point is that it doesn't make any sense if you are managing a process under difficult circumstances, if you look at what happened at the World Trade Centre when the AWB tried to chase us out of the chamber and raved around the place armed to the teeth, I was shaking in an inner chamber, standing next to Cyril Ramaphosa wondering if this was my last hour. We were all in that position. I'm sure you've interviewed me about that before. Anyway, the point is, who was raving around outside were the AWB but Constand Viljoen trying to keep them in check, so he was definitely in that camp and he was the previous head of the army. I think to pretend that it wasn't a tricky business managing this process of transition is just silly. Clearly it's ignoring reality, so I think both De Klerk and Mandela must have seen the same reality which is, all right, get rid of some of the rot but you can't fire the top guys because it's too risky.

POM     During those days the ANC were talking continuously about the existence of a third force and that the security forces were behind the train robberies and the security forces were fomenting what appeared to be black on black violence and De Klerk was denying it in saying this isn't true.

SC     But we all thought this was a far-fetched story and it never happened. It seemed so unlikely. I never had any evidence that anything like that could happen. I can remember all of us saying this is probably the ANC organising it, or something.

POM     But it turns out there was a third force.

SC     Well it does seem to be the case, yes. What can I say? It's clearly something that was, I believe, inherited from the past I suppose. This sort of counter-insurgency.

POM     If you recall at the time part of the breakdown of the relationship between De Klerk and Mandela was that Mandela insisted that De Klerk (a) had to know and (b) if he didn't know he could find out and (c) that he wasn't doing anything about it.

SC     We had a party executive meeting in the Union Buildings, in De Klerk's office, when he came out of that Cabinet meeting when Mandela had attacked his integrity and he was basically in tears. He was absolutely, absolutely finished he was so upset that his integrity should have been attacked. He came in utterly furious and he really had difficulty restraining himself from crying.

POM     Was this at the end of CODESA?

SC     No this was afterwards, when they were all in the Cabinet and this whole thing arose again and Mandela attacked his integrity on this whole security issue, on this exact issue in fact. He wanted to get out of the Cabinet then I think. He was terribly upset. I've never seen him remotely as upset as that. He was going to cry. He was actually tearful. It was terrible. So I think he was very deeply affected by any - I mean my only experience of him being confronted or accused of anything like that was that he was deeply hurt and completely furious and hurt that it should be thought that he was party to any such thing. What can I say? He came from the Cabinet meeting to the office in a complete state in this meeting where the executive was sitting. As I say, it seemed an absolutely natural, human reaction to that accusation.

POM     Do you think then that the TRC is basically failing in its mission, that in fact it may be contributing towards more racial polarisation and the opening of wounds but not the healing of wounds?

SC     I really think that's the impression it's creating now. In theory it shouldn't but I don't think there's much reconciliation. I think there is a lot of bitterness being generated because of the way they went about things. I think the way it operates is not conducive to reconciliation. It's a pity.

POM     Again, I notice among blacks, blacks whom I talked to a couple of years ago who were quite passive about the past and prepared to forget about it, now see these guys stand up and tell in gruesome detail how they murdered people, burned people and sat around drinking beer, and they say they're all going to walk.

SC     I think it really hasn't been helpful. I've said to you I don't think the way it was done was correct. I've always favoured a general amnesty and hearings in camera and the publication of a report with reparation to victims. I really think that would have been a reconciliatory way to go, but anyway there was a group, I think some ANC people saw it that way too. I know because I was party to the negotiations in the Justice Committee, but that was decided otherwise elsewhere. I think it was a mistake. I hope that it pans out all right. I think if this thing drags on and now with this Appeal Court ruling that they may not have the names of people revealed who may be implicated in human rights violations without giving them notice and a chance to have their legal representatives present is in fact absolutely in line with what the Act says and how we understood it and they were just ignoring it. In fact on the day when we had our presentation to the TRC we were invited for a snack lunch by the TRC people and I had a long chat to Boraine and tackled him and said, "Well why are you doing it this way?" and he said, "No, that's not the way we read it." And he was jolly well wrong. The Appeal Court pulled them up and said they must do this. If you look at the Act it's clearly what they should do but it takes so much longer and I think that may delay the operations. I bet you they're going to come to us and ask for -

POM     An extension?

SC     - and a change to the Act. The point is if that happens then that's the beginning of the rot I think because the way other Truth Commissions in Africa have gone, some of them are still sitting after twelve years, ten years, they never get to the end. I think that the ANC might have a hidden agenda of wanting to keep it going until the election in 1999 but I think that will have its downside potential as well because people become tired of it all.

POM     There are 167 days left, they have processed 47 of the applications of amnesty, approved 15 and have something like 5200 left.

SC     It's definitely not the way to go.

POM     It's an impossible task.

SC     They knew it from the beginning I think.

POM     Just to conclude, do you feel optimistic about the future of the NP, that it can in fact broaden itself in some way, expand its electoral base or do you think it's a party whose time is over, that it is so synonymous with apartheid that you can't reform what must be abolished, that you can't reform the NP, that the only way forward is to abolish it and try to start anew?

SC     I don't think one should see what's happening now as an attempted expanding of the party as such. I do think that this movement idea is the only game in town, I think it must be explored. So far my experience on the task team has indicated that it holds quite a lot of potential. We've had a think tank or two with interested unaligned black people of some prominence and they have all indicated that they would be interested in such a political entity which stood outside the NP, but clearly they can never associate themselves with the NP as such. So I think it holds a lot of potential and I'm all for it.

POM     In the failure of it happening what would you do? In the failure of a new movement developing would you remain with the NP or quit politics?

SC     It would be a hard choice I'm sure. I think one must just see how it develops but I certainly throw my weight into trying to get this movement going.

POM     OK. That's it for today. Thanks again.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.