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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
25 Mar 1997: Lekota, Mosiuoa (Patrick)
POM What, Patrick, have been the repercussions of the actions the ANC National Executive took in the Free State first in the ANC itself, secondly in the Free State and third as far as you are concerned?
ML I think the first serious blunder, a serious consequence of the action the organisation took there was that a leadership that had come into government in 1994 which had begun to build experience and was now operating very well, barring the problems that arose, was now removed and new people altogether, well new people in the main brought in, especially to remove the head of government and introduce an entirely new one who had never served in that capacity before, who had not lived in that province since at least the early sixties and who was not active in the party political structures, took the situation backwards. First of all it meant that the confidence that the public had begun to build in the leadership was overnight destroyed, the civil servants themselves lost influence. Various sectors in the province are completely disgruntled and reluctant to participate, morale has collapsed. I think the losers are the people of the Free State and in a very serious way, from the point of view of the ANC itself, it dented its own image very badly.
First of all apart from anything else I think the strength of the organisation in the province would not have been as strong as what it was in the elections in 1994, but I think this kind of action further cuts into the capacity of the organisation to mobilise big support for the coming elections in 1999. Further afield the manner in which the intervention that was done in the Free State piled up on the unhappiness of members in the other provinces as well where similar interventions had been made. I think many people who had grown used to my leadership over the years and who, when the ANC received my endorsement and the endorsement of others, suddenly developed doubts and now have some doubts about how committed the organisation is to democratic process. So that's a very unfortunate situation. I think those are really some serious negative implications of what happened.
POM You had said before that there was a need for a debate within the ANC itself on the question of internal democracy. Is there any indication that that debate is taking place?
ML Well I had mentioned that and I think there are increasing voices inside the organisation, they are openly raising this question in the sittings in some of our structures, have said clearly that there is need to open up on this question and that it is important that the organisation must vindicate whether it is committed to internal democracy or whether there is going to be this kind of continual interference and intervention that borders very closely on dictating.
POM The precedent has been set. If they did it with you they can do it with the leadership in any province which they disapprove of.
ML Oh yes. I think that the debate that's opened inside the organisation at the moment on this question of internal democracy will raise its head at the national conference in December. In some ways it's a blessing in the sense that I think by making these mistakes the positive spin-off here has been that it has shaken the membership, it's pulled people out of complacency. It's compelled our membership to stand up and really reflect on what has taken place. And so there is a fresh mood now, there is a new mood in the organisation to say the honeymoon is over and we need to take a close look at ourselves to choose to stay with a culture that we developed and cultivated over the years or whether we are going to fall victim to this new culture which seems to suggest a more militaristic style of leadership in which there is just dictation, commands that so-and-so must do this and so-and-so must do that. So that's a very positive thing to happen to Congress at this time particularly because whilst the President is an individual with standing and a record that makes it extremely difficult to challenge. Beyond 1999, beyond his leadership, we cannot hope to continue to marshal membership on the basis of the stature of leadership. We are going to have to rely on the capacity of the organisation to win the loyalty of its membership, to create an atmosphere inside the structures of the organisation that are membership friendly, that encourage debate, that inspire confidence in the membership that they may debate issues in the organisation without fear of victimisation in one form or the other. So in that way I think that this debate has come up quite timeously and it's also important because I think it will play a role in terms of determining who are the people put in the leadership by the end of the year because if the membership of our organisation is really committed to this tradition, to these efforts of democracy, they are going to try and identify a leadership that they are satisfied and confident will be protagonist of internal democracy and debate and that respect processes of democracy generally.
So I think that those are some of the positive spin-offs that have happened. And that's not to move from the point of view of the Free State, but from across the board in all of our provinces this debate is now going on. In others more intensely than some, but in general in all of the provinces.
POM You were saying about the quality of the leadership?
ML I was saying that I think it will also influence the leadership, it will also influence who comes into the leadership because I am sure membership will think we've got to put in place leadership that we can more or less satisfy, guarantee ourselves that this culture of internal democracy will survive and will be protected.
POM Do you feel vindicated in the sense that the ANC in the province turned down the NEC's recommendation that Dr Casaburri be nominated leader of the party in the Free State?
ML Well I feel vindicated first of all because when we went to the provincial conference, although all of us were allowed to stand to be additional members of the provincial executive, those who showed themselves as my opponents could not make it into the provincial executive at all, but also above everything else in that conference even as an additional member I got the number of votes that no other delegate throughout the conference, either for official positions or for additional members, got. I got the highest vote. And I think it said something about what our people in the Free State, inside the structures of the ANC, thought about the work that I had been doing there with others and also what they thought about the others who more or less showed themselves as my opponents. I think the fact that Ivy was not elected as Chair, but somebody else was, I think vindicated the fact that our people are committed to democracy and they do want to be heard and if only it was not for the fact that the NEC had made a ruling that I may not stand for that position together with some of the other comrades and so on, that we were placed in that position, we would have been returned with unprecedented majorities to our positions.
POM You were actually told that you couldn't stand?
ML We were told that we may not stand for Chair, the position of Chairperson, Deputy Chairperson, Secretary, Deputy Secretary and Treasurer. Those five official positions we were told were out of bounds, not because we had done anything but the thinking was 'we think you will divide the province because half of the province support these people and half support you'. But as it happened the voting showed that out of about 400 delegates I received 300 and something votes when I stood as an additional member which told a big story. There was no question of division in the province. There was a tiny minority there that would not have voted or didn't vote for me, and in fact even some of the people didn't vote for me even for the position of additional member. There were some who still felt, I mean they were not interested in me as an additional member, they had wanted me and others to be in the official positions. But those who voted made the point quite clear that the people whom the NEC thought had a lot of support had no support in the province at all.
POM So are you a member of the PEC in the Free State? You can attend meetings and make contributions?
ML I am a member, yes. There is no way in which I could have left that out because I would have no political base at all so it was important for me to take even that limited opportunity of being an additional member to continue, therefore, to participate in the leadership of the province.
POM You got something like 370 out of 400 votes?
ML I got about - no it was less than 350.
POM It was over 300.
ML Out of 400, more than three quarters.
POM You had mentioned before that when the NEC or Shell House would send out people to chair meetings of the PEC when this trouble was going on between yourself and Pat Matusa that they gave misleading reports back to Shell House. Why do you think there was this kind of conspiracy against you? Has this got anything to do with the exiles versus the internals?
ML I would be more inclined to say it had to do more with the fact that there is no doubt about the fact that there are some of the people who feel that if they can undercut some of their potential competitors that will strengthen their own positions. I think, I certainly have no doubt in my mind, that part of it was that. There was no question in my mind, there is no question about the fact that a number of the people who came to the province actually had a clear sense, a clear sense as to where the will and the mood of the people of our organisation lay, even when the delegation that was the final delegation, the task team that was put out there, even when they came to the first meeting it was quite clear who had support and who didn't have support in the province. But they still went back to mislead, they still went back to give the kind of reports and slanting them in the way that they wished and so on. And then of course finally when conference passed its judgement on this issue I think a lot of them had to sit up to think well - a lot of people who were not of the division are there including the national officials and so on realised that they had never been given the proper information about this issue.
POM Is there still a power struggle of sorts between what are called the exiles and the internals? One gets the impression that many of the internal leaders from the UDF days are being slowly but surely sidelined or moved out of politics?
ML There is no doubt about the fact that there has been this interpretation of our situation by the press but it's not totally unfounded because if one takes into account, if one looks at the pattern of things, the pattern of development of things that suggest - give credence to this kind of thing. Now whilst I may not be able to say that there is definitely a conspiracy going on and so on, what I can say without hesitation is that it does appear at the moment if you look at the organisation, the pattern suggests that there is some effort to sideline some of the people that have come from internal formations before settlement.
POM What about your new job? One, is it a job you would really prefer not to have? Two, is it a position - has the Council got teeth, real teeth where it can achieve and affect national legislation? And three, would you prefer to be back in the Free State?
ML I should say, I would say to you without batting an eye, for me it's always been a privilege to have some share in contributing to democratisation. Naturally, of course, everybody has some preferences. I was very, very happy with the work I was doing in the Free State, I was extremely happy. Even at this moment I think the wound, the manner, the intervention and the manner in which I was removed without, in my view, sufficiently justifiable grounds has left a very deep wound in my psyche and I certainly will probably be unhappy about this each time I think about it until the end of my days. I am also lucky that I have found something to continue to do.
With regard to the National Council of Provinces I certainly think that it's a very important national position. It is sad that I came there to fill it under the circumstances in which I did. I wish it could have been in a different way, but that's water under the bridge. The position of the leadership of the Council of Provinces is a very significant one and whether it is influential in the politics of the nation or not is going to depend entirely on what our team under my leadership makes of it. I was extremely moved today in this session that we just adjourned this afternoon, I had given a lecture in the last sitting to members to say that it was important that we should approach the Council different from the proceedings of the National Assembly, not party politically based but as provinces dealing with issues and emphasise that side of it. The debate this afternoon did precisely that and at the end of the debate today I could say to the members before we adjourned that it gave me deep pride to watch the way the proceedings had been going. I am now satisfied that the Council is well on its way.
POM So in a sense you're in the driver's seat. You can make out of the Council what your own drive and your own leadership - ?
ML Well it is my responsibility. It is my responsibility.
POM But since it's new you can do a lot of innovative things?
ML Oh certainly, definitely, but there are prescriptions of the constitution. There is a prescription of the constitution as to what the powers are and so on. It's in the manner of implementing that that the real challenge lies and the constitution although it gives an indication of the direction in which the NCOP must develop does not set out in full what contribution the NCOP must make to the national process. It just gives some indication and it leaves the responsibility to the leadership of the Council to define to a fuller measure the nature of the Council, the extent to which the Council can participate in the legislative process and also to identify in particular long term objectives that the NCOP can and should fulfil if the nation's fledgling democracy is to mature to its fullest capacity. I think that in the short term the NCOP will and must make sure that there is immediate participation in the daily processes of legislative processes of the nation. This is like a national thing, making sure that whatever legislation is tabled in the National Assembly will receive attention in the NCOP, that it will reach the provinces and that provinces will come back to comment on it sensibly, seeking amendments when necessary and so on and also of course promoting communication between the provinces and the National Assembly, between provinces themselves as provinces, between the National Assembly, the provinces and local government and today we passed the bill, finally passed the bill on traditional leaders but that also must be brought into play in the legislative process of the nation. So much for that, in the short term the most obvious issues are those.
But I think even more important is the longer term investment the nation is making in the NCOP, the issues of cultivating future leadership, making sure that those of the younger leaders, whether it be at local government level or provincial level, who are bound some time in future to graduate to national leadership begin to learn, to know each other. As I said some time ago to some of my friends, the NCOP provides us with an opportunity to capture the central message that President Nelson Mandela in coming out of jail and meeting the leadership that was then the National Party leadership and saying to them that it is not in the interests of our country that we should be fighting each other, let us put our differences aside, let's sit down and discuss the problems of our country and collectively find solutions to them. The NCOP is in the long term the forum within which that ethos of negotiating differences must thrive and it must be the hallmark of the NCOP for South Africans to see it and debate their problems and however intractable they may appear find solutions. In doing that what the NCOP will be doing is to get leadership first of all in the provinces of different political parties, compelling them to take common provincial positions. In the process of doing that, learning to know each other and sharpening their own skills at negotiating and finding compromises. But even deeper than that at local government level doing a similar exercise, compelling local government structures in considering legislation and giving feedback to the provincial leadership. Whatever parties they may be and whatever wards they may represent provinces would want to know that the issue is this and we would like to know what is the locality of this town or that town thinks, not what this party in that town thinks. And in doing that it compels them to negotiate, it ties them to the process of negotiation, it familiarises them with each other so that even by the time they graduate to national leadership they are not strangers to each other, they are familiar with each other. And I say if the NCOP works in this way it will be cultivating the leadership, it will make that moment when the President met with De Klerk and said let's go and negotiate the problem of our country, it will make that moment live for ever in the nation as politics in the nation's government.
POM Have you been disappointed with - this is like two parts of the same question, one, the NP is trying to remake itself in a way where it can attract a significant number of African votes and do you think that's realistic or really pie in the sky fantasy? And two, you have day after day this litany of atrocities before the TRC, you have the NP government saying we never knew this was going on, you had De Klerk making a submission yesterday that was a downright belligerent submission saying apartheid was not a crime against humanity, we didn't know what was going on, we're not accountable. Their whole attitude rather than becoming more inclusive it seems to be defensive.
ML I think with regard to the TRC process and the attitude that is coming from Mr de Klerk and so on, I am wary, not because I am afraid, sometimes I look at a situation and I think maybe I should not concern myself. With regard to the TRC process I think that will take care of itself. I am not particularly alarmed. It doesn't matter to me really what Mr de Klerk and others may say. I think that ultimately this nation through that process will find the truth facing them. I'm not disappointed about it. With regard to the TRC process I think that will be so. But De Klerk's attitude on the other hand doesn't surprise me. I have never formed the impression that he or the NP came to the negotiation table because they had suddenly found a golden heart towards us. I think they recognised the reality of the moment that had dawned, that there was no probability or possibility that in the long term they could win in the battlefield struggle. I think that they did so because they recognised that if they went for negotiations there was an excellent opportunity for them to salvage quite a lot for their people which is something we really appreciate. It was good for them to be wise not only for Afrikaners and for whites but for us as well because any continuation of that armed conflict could have destroyed our country and the infrastructure and left such deep psychological scars that we would never have been able to survive as we have survived. So that's something to be appreciated but it's important to realise the fact that there was no conversion on the road to Damascus, so to say.
POM They still don't believe they did anything really evil or wrong.
ML As you can see from what his attitude is, I cannot understand, I find it extremely difficult to believe that a man who had been a senior member of the leadership of the NP, actually leading the biggest national party, provincial congress, namely the Transvaal, and who since the early seventies, at least since 1972 I think, was a member of the NP in parliament and had come through all of that time until he was State President, can say that he did not know as late as 1990. I can't conceive that he can say he did not know that the Security Police were killing people. We were saying that every day, we were saying it in public meetings, at mass meetings, we were saying it in the Transvaal, in the Free State, in the Cape, we were saying it everywhere. For De Klerk to say that he did not know that they were killing people, that the Security Police were killing people when even Jimmy Kruger, who is now late, on the death of Steve Biko actually said, "It leaves me cold", when even Adriaan Vlok who was his colleague in the party is asking for amnesty, essentially conceding, admitting that he knew of the killings of some of the people, that the politicians knew, that's not a policeman. It is impossible for me to believe that De Klerk who was the head of the country could say he didn't know that. His predecessor, PW Botha, already set up this machinery, himself is answering questions even before he came to the head of government that was happening. Who is going to believe that he didn't know this? It's nonsensical, absolutely nonsensical. But I am not surprised by it because, as I say, I don't think with regard to himself there was a certain conversion on the road to Damascus. No. And that is so, so that is the first point. What was the second element of your question?
POM The second element is, do you think that the NP can ever remake itself or remould itself so that it will attract significant numbers of black votes or are they just really condescending insofar as they don't understand what they did to black people?
ML I'll tell you what, you were saying - I think you did actually phrase the question this way: were you disappointed that the NP is not conceding and is trying to get support from there? I think we should welcome the effort of the NP to be born again. I think we should welcome it and I'll tell you why. South Africa is more than the ANC and we certainly need, and we are going to have, a different political scenario in this country. The present reality, party formations that were born out of the conflict of the liberation struggle and the oppressor, you can see the parties to the right coming from the old order and parties that came from the liberation movement. On the political stage we have not begun to have what I might refer to as a situation that would have eventuated had we had a normal political process building up to this so we are still really in the liberation formations against the government formations of the past. We are still in that formation. As long as that position remains we have not as yet normalised the political situation. The situation will have been normalised when, if I may borrow the President's closing remarks at the opening of parliament this year, when he said that there are good men and good women in the NP, there are good men and good women in the ANC, good men and good women in all the parties. I think until such time that we can get, if you like, all the good men and women from all of the parties that are there on the one side we have not as yet normalised our situation. So it seems to me welcome. What you referred to as an attempt of the NP to renew itself, to be born again, is actually not the rebirth of the NP, it is a re-disintegration of the NP because what is going to come up out of the ruins of the NP? It is going to be something new, it's not going to be the NP. They may struggle and do this and do that but in the end when something really new comes up it won't be the NP it will be something different.
POM Let me ask you one last question before I release you into Patricia's hands or she will kill me. These allegations that have surfaced in the last couple of weeks about there being senior members or five senior members of the cabinet who may have been police informants, is this whole thing in your mind another kind of third force element of disinformation intended to sow division within the ANC?
ML I don't think so. I think it is unrealistic to suggest that. All of us know that there were always amongst our ranks people who worked with the old regime. They may not necessarily be in the cabinet but it is also not impossible that there are some of them in cabinet because we don't know them but there were always people there. I don't think that we should be very defensive about that. We also had people in the police force at that time, in the prison service we had comrades some of whom we recruited and were told to stay there and continue to do their work but give us information about what is happening. Just as much we also had people in the end there and elsewhere. Similarly the old order had people in our ranks and frankly some of them did rise up to top positions and I think the only thing is it's not a weakness on our part to concede that the regime had better resources than us, better resources than ourselves. They could even afford to pay people in our ranks and if you consider that a lot of our people had nothing, if they tempted them with money or applied coercion or force, they could kill them and so on, there are various reasons why. But on the whole I don't think that that thing is born necessarily, I don't think this is born of just some clever idea by somebody who is trying to attack, I don't think so. I think it's just ridiculous to take it to those proportions, which doesn't rule out the fact that one or two innocent individuals may be fingered. That also is a possibility but I think it will be very difficult to prove that somebody who didn't have anything to do with this was working for the system. In general anyone who is indicated, the test must always be whether those who finger that person can prove, can produce some tangible evidence and not just finger them.
POM Should names not be named therefore until proof is given? If people start naming names and tarnishing people without proof it's like destroying their reputations once the accusation is made. You know what I mean?
ML In some cases it is not impossible but I think the numbers of those who may be fingered who have not done anything will be so small, will be extremely small, there cannot be many. On the other hand it is also true that there are people towards whom fingers of traitorous behaviour were pointed long before 1990 and we still have them and it's only that we have never had conclusive evidence but we do know there are people who have been fingered before which means there was reason long before 1990 for them to be fingered. There was at least some foundation to do that. The question is whether we can garner sufficient evidence to prove the matter beyond reasonable doubt.
POM Is the ANC pursuing this in its own internal investigations or is it just letting things lie?
ML Two things. As you know we have raised the matter and have said clearly and publicly that the ANC is committed to full disclosure which means whether the ANC can try to cover up for anybody or the other, members of the public who have other information can make that information public and therefore expose the ANC if the ANC tries to make cover up for others.
POM OK I'll leave it there. Thank you.