About this site

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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

31 Jul 1997: Du Plessis, Barend

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POM     Mr du Plessis, let me start maybe with some of our old familiar questions. It's like taking a barometric measure of where things are. Since I've talked to you last, the economy: improving, the same, foreign investment, any increase in the inflow of foreign investment, any perceptible improvement in standards of living or are standards of living of whites still deteriorating at the same level, standard of living of blacks improving at the same level?

BDP     I think as far as the economy is concerned it's been maintaining a growth rate remarkably well. Trevor Manuel has been doing extremely well. He had a bit of a shaky start but he obviously has the support of the President in saying the right things about economic policy, about saying the right things about containing government expenditure. The inflation rate is unexpectedly stable and with a slight downward trend. The balance of payments current account is doing well, capital account is not doing badly. There have been very high volumes of inflow. I don't have the figures at the tip of my fingers. But all in all the economy is doing well and if it hadn't been for bad perceptions about other matters in South Africa like violence and crime and so on then I would say that South Africa should really have been one of the best destinations for investment in developing countries. So from that point of view I think a lot of people are pleasantly surprised and particularly with the ANC handling a transition from a socialist policy framework to a pure capitalist framework, they are doing pretty well as far as that is concerned.

     As far as living standards go, there is a lot of unemployment now among lower qualified whites. The unemployment situation is very serious in the country. The degree of growth that we've had has not produced the jobs. Down-sizing or right-sizing of companies is the order of the day and improvements in productivity in order to be internationally competitive that is the order of the day much to the disgust sometimes of trade unions. I think in the process, certainly as far as job creation is concerned, the economy has not delivered and the government has not delivered yet.

POM     But this is a feature that's not uncommon in other countries too. Europe is experiencing the same thing of growth without job creation.

BDP     Indeed, because of the high degree of mechanisation and automation and so on. But here in South Africa we've been having this problem for a very long time and with unions demanding minimum wages it makes it extremely difficult to create more jobs and now that the economy is open and we're playing internationally it's incumbent upon all exporters and the local manufacturers to be very, very competitive and that means not necessarily giving jobs even to skilled people. But there are quite a number of areas that really raise very, very specific concern on dropping of standards. Our roads are deteriorating very, very rapidly indeed. I heard somebody say the other day that if there's one growth industry as far as the road network is concerned that is really worthwhile investing in is these signs that say potholes because all of a sudden on our freeways all over you see signs warning you against potholes, which is bad. You will see that certainly on the road between Johannesburg and Pretoria, the road between the airport and Pretoria is disgusting really and it's claimed quite a number of lives already. But that is one area of grave concern, the deterioration of the roads. The whole question of education is a matter that causes great concern among parents, changing the education system and the Afrikaner particularly felt very much endangered. Transformation of a university means changing it into an English language university, even Stellenbosch students toyi-toying, demanding education in English.

POM     Demanding education in English?

BDP     Yes, and even Potchefstroom and so on. So the Afrikaner culture and education system for its children, these things are really under threat.

POM     Are they under threat more because of globalisation as distinct from what might or might not be government policy? Young people will want to speak English. Television is in English, everything's in English and they would want to go abroad when they are 18, 19 or 20 and to find that they are only speaking Afrikaans -

BDP     Sure, but let's look at school education first. There's a major change in the schooling system which will come about, results -

POM     This is a particular problem solving -

BDP     Yes, and that thing has no good track record anywhere in the world. So there the perception is around that we are bound to be repeating mistakes that other countries have made. No, what I mean as far as the Afrikaner is concerned, there was very severe protest out of Afrikaans speaking communities because of the perceived threat to mother tongue education in Afrikaans and in the past school leavers from Afrikaans medium schools were reasonably proficient in English, they could help themselves, so I don't think it's a matter of globalisation, that's not the problem. The matter is one that the Afrikaans language as a medium of instruction for Afrikaans speaking people came under threat but Professor Bengu made some conciliatory utterances recently so maybe that's beginning to improve.

     Another area that is seriously under threat is the standards in health. Now from the perception of the black people certainly there is much more health availability, a much greater degree of availability in the rural areas and fresh water and so on, so there are very real improvements I think for the masses but there is still a very severe lack of delivery as far as black housing is concerned.

     You talked about standards of living. There is a very, very rapidly growing number of black elite people with very high standards of living. You can see them driving around in very smart cars to a much greater degree than before. What's also noticeable is how many black women drive around in new cars and so on.

POM     Now is this kind of black middle class emerging mainly out of the public service sector?

BDP     No, also private sector. I was told bluntly some years ago already, and I have no problem with that, but I was told bluntly that no state money or parastatal money will go to a company that has not already got a decent economic empowerment structure in place which means equity for black groups or black individuals, and secondly, what do you call this - affirmative action, that hasn't achieved some results already as far as affirmative action is concerned. You see a lot of businesses, every business that remotely will do business with the state or a parastatal they just get black partners and it has become a struggle to find some reasonably qualified people. They are not around any more, they have all been absorbed. And, again, I've got no problem with that. It brings about a better balance and if they can make a contribution then, fine, if they can add value.

POM     So leaving aside the question of crime, it's a big thing to leave aside given the magnitude of it, are you after three years, as the present government enters the last two years of its run, are you surprised that things are going so well?

BDP     It's a very mixed bag. I am surprised at certain things. I am very pleasantly surprised about the economy and the management of the economy and the policies taken by the ministers concerned and the Reserve Bank maintaining its independence and trying to contain, taking real steps to contain the growth in money supply. That is a pleasant side of the business but, as I say, in other respects I am told that in certain state departments really nothing happens. We talked about this before, the health thing. This Minister Zuma, I told you before that she delivers our best doctors all over the world. That's what she's delivered so far and now she's at loggerheads with major pharmaceutical companies. She's now backed down all of a sudden on the two-year, first she called it training, then she came back to honesty and called it two years social service by doctors. They are taking her to court. So she said, no the training can't work now any more, it will now be one year social service which is the only thing that you can call it. But she didn't use market mechanisms.

POM     So social services defined as?

BDP     Doctors, after graduation they go for one year internship and then she wanted to slap on another two years of so-called further training in order to get them into the rural areas. But there's nobody there to train them. She hasn't got that programme in order so she abandoned that and then she said, OK, one year, she demands now a social service in addition to the year of housemanship. She wanted to deploy them into the rural areas. She could have achieved that without force by merely offering incentives and so on because young doctors get terrific experience in the rural areas. They are called upon to learn very quickly to do operations and so forth. So they are still taking her to court and she caused a major upset threatening with legislation to have parallel medicine imports and in other words the massive investment of international pharmaceutical companies in South Africa will come under threat, and so on. But so far she has wasted millions on Sarafina and she has made a whole series of mistakes and yet she enjoys the protection of the President. She's also placed a moratorium, in operation now already for two years, on the building of private hospitals and nobody knows why. She is just extending the moratorium all the time. The only argument that they always raise in this respect is that private hospitals will steal away the nurses from the state hospitals but if they pay them properly it's no problem. Let me put it this way, if all the medical aid scheme members or a larger proportion of them can come to the private hospitals then she can use all the other facilities for the lower income sections in the community.

     Also we've not made real progress with the collection of rates and taxes and payment for services in the townships. That civil disobedience which was inculcated by way of the civic organisations in the apartheid days, that has become a very comfortable way to live. You get your electricity, you get water, you get sewerage, you get refuse removal and you don't pay for it, no rates and taxes. So there are quite a number of local authorities that are on the verge of bankruptcy not being able to pay their officials. So there is disappointment certainly in a lot of areas and then surprises in other areas.

POM     So if you had to rate the government's performance at this point in its term on a scale of one to ten, one being poor performance and ten being excellent performance, where would you place it?

BDP     On the overall I would personally place them on a five out of ten now.

POM     That would be up from - like it's a government of non-national unity almost, the ANC government doing better than what was the government of national unity?

BDP     That's quite possible, if I rated them lower last time. Overall it's not too bad but they will have to begin to deliver.

POM     So delivery is still - ?

BDP     Delivery and granting them the freedom, not being too harsh on them with regard to their preparation in order to deliver, they had to get their policies in place and so on and that takes time. I think they could have gone about it much quicker without throwing out of the window everything that pertained in the past because it was a so-called apartheid government but the fact is that the bureaucracy was in place and that was a very solid bureaucracy and sometimes with pockets of incompetence but in terms of procedures, in terms of getting work done it was reasonable. Now in very many departments it's going very badly.

POM     How about, just now I was talking about the government of national unity or the former government of national unity, the National Party, is it beginning to disintegrate with Roelf Meyer going off on his own? I think some recent polls indicate that the Democratic Party is increasing its share of the vote and the National Party's share is falling. Is it lost?

BDP     As I said to you before, if there is a body politic here, and the National Party for years denied them rights and now all of a sudden unbanning the parties that fought for those rights and those parties coming into power, the National Party now becoming an opposition party after its quantum leap into anti-racism and anti everything, non-discrimination and so forth. The same faces, many of the same faces, same names and that very same party now saying to the same body party politic, now listen, the rights that I denied you before that have now been given to you by the present government, if this present government would ever take it away or begin to take it away from you I will protect you against that so you had better vote for me in order to protect you against the government that gave you rights from taking away those rights again. It's just a contradiction. The National Party will I think survive as a party but I think it's doomed into opposition for ever. There is no political party or alliance on the horizon now that can even remotely, in my view, prove a threat to the ANC from the point of view of one day being an opposition of a kind that can be considered an alternative government. I believe that that can come about in only about ten years or so and I believe that party doesn't exist yet and the leader of that party that will be a threat to the ANC, that leader still sits inside the ANC.

     I repeat what I said to you before that I think the most important political event in the next ten years is not what's going to happen on the opposition side it's what's going to happen inside the ANC. Looking back to the history of the National Party that governed for such a long time, if the English language press, I believe, it's just an opinion, I tested it against Van Zyl Slabbert the other day and he found it quite credible, we're colleagues/partners in a few projects and we have a lot of contact, I've got a great deal of respect for him as a scientist, as an academic. What I said to  him was I believe that if at that time, just post-1948, the English language press and the so-called money power, capital power of the English speaking communities in South Africa and the large corporations, if they didn't so vigorously fight the National Party the National Party would not, I believe, have governed that long. It wouldn't have kept the party together. I remember so well the importance in our days of creating a threat in order to -

POM     To attain solidarity?

BDP     Absolutely. And the ANC is an even worse combination than the Afrikaner. You know the Afrikaner's trekked away from the Cape to get away from the Union Jack and they weren't even outside of the shadow of the Union Jack and they started fighting among themselves. So the Afrikaner is not a homogeneous group and politically, even church-wise we're very deeply divided, but we were kept together by a common threat, the swart gevaar and the old remnants of anti-British.  Now in the case of the ANC they have got such clashing philosophies with regard to the economy and so on and so on, inherent in that Communist Party, socialist unions and the capitalist ANC that they're quite capable of destroying themselves. We shouldn't try to destroy them and we should keep the structures of effective opposition politics in place and there should be opposition parties and they must do their best and they must fight the government but I think we must allow it in some way, I don't know precisely how to define it, the ANC to destroy itself. There is enough back-stabbing, there's enough jealousy, there's enough ambition and jealousy and everything, all the things that I've mentioned, in there. Once that starts happening then a real restructuring of opposition -

POM     Mandela is still a particular kind of glue as well.

BDP     Yes he is and they must win the second election. They will do, I believe, everything in their power to keep the alliance going in order to win the next election and then Thabo Mbeki will be president and he's an Africanist. I asked a very, very prominent black business man, well political businessman, not Cyril Ramaphosa, the other day what he thought of Thabo Mbeki and obviously we all think a lot of him. He said Thabo is an Africanist and in the context of that discussion over luncheon was the whole question of proportionality and the civil service and positions of power better representing the ratios than now. For instance, Indians are completely disproportionately represented now in positions of power both in government and in the civil service. Now Thabo is an Africanist this fellow said. So once that begins to happen you get a different - maybe it won't work out that way, but if Thabo should be a little bit firmer on his Africanisation of the civil service then it's quite possible that your non-African opposition parties can begin to form alliances, but they will keep themselves together. That's the point I want to register.

POM     Until after?

BDP     Until after that election.

POM     How about the odd couple? The Roelf and Bantu show?

BDP     They got Lucas Mangope on board last week, I don't know if you heard that.

POM     He's on board?

BDP     Yes with them. Now Roelf has got two homeland retreads on his Grand Prix racing car and he's not going to make it. He can't do it with Bantu and Lucas. Just forget it. Lucas is the leader of the African Christian Party, something like that.

POM     What's motivating Roelf?

BDP     He wants to be inclusive, to include every possible anti-ANC grouping into a process of mobilising support for the creation of a new political party.

POM     A couple of years ago if you had picked one member of the National Party that might cross the aisle and join the ANC you would have picked Roelf and before he formed his party he went off and he saw President Mandela, I assume in some way to get his blessing rather than his disapproval.

BDP     To explain himself. No I don't think that combination will work. But as long as they form an opposition party I don't think they will be a major party, never, I don't think so. But as long as there's another opposition grouping maybe they provide a home for people who don't feel that they can associate any longer with the DP or the ANC or whoever. Opposition politics must be supported as far as possible but my personal view is, as I said to you earlier, that it's doomed to be in opposition for ever.  When I discussed this with Van Zyl Slabbert I said to him, and being in opposition for ever is a topic on which he is much more experienced than I am, he enjoyed that one.

POM     So in one sense there's a fragmentation of the opposition in terms of there being perhaps more opposition parties emerging but that the real opposition to the ANC will arise from within the ANC itself?

BDP     No doubt.

POM     And if either one part of it would form a coalition with some of the other parties at some point in time - ?

BDP     Well it's quite possible. Let's look at it from a purely theoretical point of view. Who is uncomfortable inside the ANC right now? COSATU is an uncomfortable partner, that is what they appear to  be. I don't know what is going on in the real inner circles but they openly oppose GEAR. The communists certainly are not happy at all with the new capitalists.

POM     The former communists.

BDP     Well maybe a Workers' Party, maybe a Labour Party. My personal view is that I think that can happen but by the time that happens Cyril Ramaphosa and Jay Naidoo will have no credibility any longer to really be potential dynamic experienced leaders of the labour movement. Jay Naidoo having just gone through a privatisation of Telkom is certainly no longer the trade unionist even if he is that in his heart of hearts. He can't just. If COSATU should break away and form a Labour Party I don't think either Cyril or Jay as former Secretary Generals of COSATU would qualify any longer. Jay has been discredited really from that point of view. He's too closely associated with GEAR and what have you, and old Cyril is now doing too well financially to ever be regarded as a potential leader of a Labour Party. So COSATU has been thoroughly depleted of dynamic leadership and innovative leadership.

POM     We were talking about the Roelf and Bantu show.

BDP     And then I said to you that very recently, last week in fact, they took Lucas Mangope and his party aboard and now with two homeland, retreaded homeland leaders you can't go into a Grand Prix race and then I said to you that they may develop a political party which can be a home to people who feel unwelcome in some of the other parties but I don't think that they have a future beyond just being a very small opposition party. There's no way as things stand now I believe that their party can ever dream to become big enough to be an alternative government.

POM     And then you had put this theory to Van Zyl Slabbert about the National Party of how perhaps opposition to the National Party might have emerged in the post-1948 period.

BDP     Oh yes that part. I said to you that I believe now that if the National Party hadn't been so vigorously opposed on a variety of fronts, and it may be a very unscientific statement to make, then maybe the National Party would have disintegrated earlier. But the English language press and business community always gave enough ammunition to National Party leaders to keep the laager going against all the threats, the white gevaar, excuse me the white danger and the black danger and so on with all the remnants of anti-English feelings and so forth and right now I believe that we should keep vigorously the structures of opposition politics in place but I don't believe that any of the parties can become an alternative government. That will have to come from inside the ANC. I believe that a party that can eventually become an alternative government, potentially, that party is still to be born or formed and the leader of that party, I believe, still today sits in the ANC. Then we talked about the possible disintegration of the ANC. I believe that the real potential is for COSATU and the communists to form a Labour Party of a kind but by the time they do it, having had their leadership depleted, which is where we ended the previous tape, they can't very well then ask Jay or Cyril, their two previous Secretary Generals to come back and lead them. I don't think it can work. They don't have credibility I believe with the labour movement and the trade unions any longer, certainly not Cyril who has become a real capitalist, and certainly not Jay who failed really in the RDP, and in his present position he had to deal with what seems to be a very successful privatisation and he's done it rather skilfully. But certainly privatisation as such is not a very popular, it doesn't really endear him to the unions.

POM     Do you think that for the most part the ANC wants a democratic state, is doing it's best to ensure that even if it is a one-party democracy for all intents and purposes, that there are institutional structures and a fairly strong civil society to balance its strength and that the country is in fact moving along the road towards democracy or is the ANC becoming more autocratic?

BDP     I don't think the ANC is becoming more autocratic. If they are doing so then it has certainly escaped my attention. I don't think so. They are finding out the hard things about governing a country like slapping a secrecy clause onto the media, using old apartheid confidentiality legislation against The Independent Newspaper Group concerning this Middle East arms contract which contained a confidentiality clause. So they are finding out that it's not that easy to be so open and transparent and democratic in all ways but I don't get the impression that the government itself is very autocratic despite its huge majority. But effective opposition can only come from a party in the future where that party has a very, very substantial black voter base. All the others put together cannot be effective opposition so there must be a split in the black community and up to now in that slip-stream of liberation the ANC will remain virtually a one-party - I think even more so in the coming election. I think they will increase their majority.

POM     So if you were a betting man you wouldn't be surprised if they did better perhaps, even get two thirds of the vote?

BDP     I have no doubt in my mind as things stand now that they will get their two thirds majority.

POM     Well that poses problems in terms of their ability to control, amend the constitution at well.

BDP     That certainly does. You see there is already a clash between the central government and the provincial governments with regard to certain powers that the provinces want. The ANC is very reluctant in that respect because Buthelezi is the most vociferous demander of greater rights for provinces. But other premiers of ANC origin, of ANC orientation, feel the same way. So maybe the checks and balances will come from different levels of government. But the black voters are in the majority in the provinces, except in the Cape, but with the massive migration from the Eastern Cape maybe, if not the next election then certainly the one thereafter, there will be a majority of black voters. So at local level also most of them.

POM     So even the strategy in the Western Cape of trying to tie up the coloured vote and make it a coloured/white versus African is really a very short term strategy?

BDP     Well I think it's not a strategy from the point of view of being racist about it. It's just the kind of policies that are better supported by whites and by coloureds and certainly there is evidence that particularly the coloureds have a very anti-black feeling because in the previous dispensation they weren't white enough and in the present dispensation they are not black enough, so they say. I think that polarisation potential is inevitable, it can't be redressed by way of policies because you've got massive numbers in squatter camps. It's ideal for a party to get their support.

POM     Talking about polarisation, we had discussed the Truth & Reconciliation Commission in the context of whether it was increasing racial polarisation in the country or decreasing it and whether or not there was any real reconciliation emerging out of it?

BDP     I don't think there's real reconciliation coming out of it. I can't see that. It's very raw still. As I said to you before it was a terrible thing for me to learn that in the government structure that I was part of policemen and others found it fit and thought it was in harmony with the policy to torture people, so how the reconciliation can take place I wouldn't know. As you said before, that imbalance which is quite obvious just makes it appear like an instrument in the hands of the ANC and by definition that can't bring about reconciliation.

POM     So you think it has worsened race relations in the country rather than improved them?

BDP     I think if right at the beginning there was a general amnesty saying listen guys we're sorry all around, we're not going to scratch open all these wounds, just forget it, like Mugabe did, and let's get on with  building the country. Now you've got this continuous, the way that the SABC represents it also, they're ramming it down our throats on the Afrikaans radio services also. The TRC in Perspective, In Focus, and all kinds of programmes coming with the gory details of how terrible every white man was in this country especially those of us in the National Party. You're getting fed up with it. You get alienated. You feel like a foreigner in your own country if you listen to that kind of thing because that certainly was not the way that Afrikaners lived. That certainly was not the way that the National Party wished to live. That was not the kind of instructions that we gave to the instruments of the state and the structures of the state. Now all of a sudden we're made out as we're all evil. Now that's not reconciliation, that's not reconciliation at all. Those perpetrators on the other side are meted out a different treatment altogether, a much more sympathetic and tolerant treatment.

POM     If one were to compare the treatment of Thabo Mbeki when he made the submission on behalf of the ANC and kind of said, yes we made mistakes and there were some instances of torture but - ?

BDP     And gender abuse.

POM     But there was so much infiltration that it must be seen in that context. It was very different from -

BDP     That was enough. Now that document that lies there -

POM     That's the one that you received with regard to - ?

BDP     Yes with regard to the training of people, soldiers and policemen to protect Buthelezi and other Zulu VIPs. That is perceived now by at least us whose names appear as State Security Council and so forth, it is perceived by us as the TRC having been forced to accept the judgement of a High Court now saying, to hell with that, we're going again. I scanned through it. They're going for Buthelezi, they're going for PW, they're going for FW.

POM     Going for Buthelezi for?

BDP     That he wanted these people also with offensive capabilities and not only defensive capabilities. And that's the perception that we had, that the court case didn't achieve the purpose that they wanted. Now they take the much more flexible and lenient procedures and structure of the TRC to pursue the same end.

POM     And the National Party has - ?

BDP     And FW said he is not going to appear.

POM     He won't appear but the party has withdrawn its co-operation altogether from the TRC.

BDP     Yes, pending certain things, also that court case. But this proves a problem. As one of my former colleagues said to me, he's a lawyer, an advocate, and he said to me, "Now listen if the TRC finds that we are, all of us whose names appear as members of the State Security Council, that we are accountable for the murders of people by so-called hit squads they can make such a finding. It won't necessarily stand up in a court of law but history will say that there was a finding that the following people were implicated in the murder, the systematic and structural murder of so many hundreds of people." I don't want to be that.

POM     Do you feel affronted in a way that you have to respond to a document like this?

BDP     Of course, absolutely. I was subpoenaed, I was threatened with a subpoena to appear as a state witness against Magnus Malan in his trial last year. I haven't told you this. I had one Dutch commissioner and one of the investigating officers here in this very office sitting where you sit now and they said to me that since I was Minister of Finance and since I had approved the finances for secret projects I was now in line to come and testify and I had a choice, I could either be subpoenaed to go and testify or I could volunteer an affidavit. And I said even if I submitted an affidavit would it be possible for me to be subpoenaed to go and testify orally? Yes of course. So I said OK fine, so I must have a document drafted that complies with - you can never be your own legal adviser, that complies with legal things. Of course, yes. So I phoned up, to make a long story short, Dullah Omar refused, he refused me legal representation, state paid legal representation. I had to find my own legal resources to scrutinise my affidavit and to present it in a format and then it was fortunately accepted by both the state and the defence but that was the full story. As Minister of Finance, just as little as I can accept responsibility what a teacher writes on a blackboard with a piece of chalk that the Ministry of Finance approved as part of the budget, just as little can I take accountability for where an AK or an R1 bullet goes. It's just impossible. I can't be accountable for everything that happened, everything that was done with the money, so I feel affronted. But anyway there is the possibility that the finding can be made that is extremely detrimental to me, that's the essence of the notification, so I have to decide. I'm not in politics, FW has got a certain line, he's in parliament. I'm not in parliament I've got to take a different decision perhaps altogether.

POM     But he said, and I just quote, I've been going through Patti Waldmeir's book in great detail as you can see because it allows me to go back with some questions to the people that she either attributes or condenses quotations from. She has De Klerk as saying two things: -

     "The people who structured apartheid and put it on the books were not evil people. Apartheid was in its idealistic form a plan to make all the people of South Africa free, the Afrikaner fought the anti-colonial war in modern history in Africa against Great Britain so Afrikaners have a deep understanding of the need of a people to be free."

     "We would lead the rural homelands to independence just as the colonial powers to the north had done. The goal was to bring justice to all by transforming South Africa into something like Europe, national states working together in respect of common interests."

     Just taking those two statements suggests that apartheid was conceived as something noble that just went wrong. Do you see it that way or how do you see it?

BDP     Well that certainly was the basis on which it was founded.

POM     But it was founded on an idealistic basis?

BDP     Absolutely. Lesotho was given complete independence by Britain. So was Swaziland and so was Botswana. They are nation states and South Africa was originally also more or less structured in terms of black nations living in certain geographic areas and then we came and the coloureds came about as the result of the various mixes. Now the idea was that if Britain can do that to the northern states and the states that I mentioned here locally then we can also do it but the whole problem was that there was no real understanding of economics and the mobility imperatives that spring forth from economics in those early days. It was thought that you can enforce it without taking development there. Hendrik Verwoerd had a major clash with Anton Rupert when Anton Rupert offered, from a purely business point of view, to put certain developments in certain areas. Verwoerd said him, take your white money out of the black areas, that will be exploitation. Let the blacks develop their areas according to their own way, like Lesotho and all the rest of it. So the basic negation of fundamental economic principles and so forth that made it totally unworkable in the end and injustices ensued and it boiled down to pure discrimination and in the middle seventies when I went to parliament there was a real upsurge in the National Party that economically it can never work, we will have to find a different political solution because we cannot undo what irrevocably had been done by economic laws.

POM     OK. I will leave you with that. Thanks very much once again.

BDP     Let me give you an example. Andries Treurnicht was Deputy Minister in charge of black affairs and he would not grant black lawyers and attorneys, black advocates and attorneys the right to occupy offices in Johannesburg where the courts of law were. He said, no, no black offices, they must stay in Soweto. I mean how impractical can you be? The courts of law are in Johannesburg, the clientele are there, the individuals needing black lawyers but the lawyers are supposed to be in Soweto. I'll give you an example, the African Bank, big story, African Bank, the first black run, black capitalised African bank in South Africa, were not allowed to have a branch in Johannesburg, in downtown Johannesburg, only in Soweto. I'm talking about the early days. We argued this in caucus. It was incredible, the total disregard by the ideologists of economic realities and basic economic realities destroyed apartheid and converted that idea into an unworkable, discriminatory, unjust system.

POM     Were the ideologists motivated by purity of intention or the fear that once you began to tamper with any aspect of apartheid essentially at the end of it you would have black rule?

BDP     A combination of both but particularly the last one.

POM     So fear of black rule?

BDP     Yes, fear that you will eventually not be able to stop having a one man one vote system. If you don't achieve a geographic separation you won't have it, you must end up with common voters' rolls, and the geographic separation was to be done by law, enforced by the police and the only chance that apartheid ever had, could have had, was that if from the very beginning there was enough money sacrificed by whites through huge taxes in order to make the homeland areas viable. But if you had this honey-pot, forget it, there is no degree of social engineering that could have stopped that and that is where it went wrong because black people were here, they were contributing to the economy, very often on an illegal basis, and living in places where they weren't by law allowed. They were holding positions which by law they weren't allowed to hold.

     Let me tell you another ridiculous situation, I'm talking about the mid-seventies. There just were not enough buildings for white builders and painters so first of all a black man was not allowed to paint a newly built house. A white man must do that. Eventually there weren't enough white painters, running like crazy from house to house to paint, so black painters were allowed to put on the basic coat but the final coat had to be done by whites and ultimately - you see? It was totally ridiculous. And this is the kind of thing that bothered us, the new generation who understood economics and the inevitable consequences and that would translate into severe discrimination and suppression.

POM     Do you think that white people, Afrikaners in particular, and black people, come at apartheid from really perspectives that shall never meet? Like the white one being the one articulated by De Klerk that it wasn't composed by evil men, it wasn't meant to be the domination of the black man by the white man. It was supposed to be giving independence to the black man just as other colonial powers had done in the rest of Africa and it went wrong, it went horribly wrong and injustices were done but it wasn't conceived in the spirit of racial domination; whereas the black person comes from it that it was conceived in a spirit of racial domination to suppress all black people and considered them essentially to be non-human beings.

BDP     Well both of those are absolutely true. The blacks had a total right, justified in feeling that it was designed to dominate and it was designed to injure and it was designed to suppress. They didn't want it that way, they didn't want to go and live in another place. And the government said OK fine, if you don't want to go and live in a homeland, if you want to live here then you must accept that you've got no rights. But the ridiculous thing, I never forget this, we talked about it this morning in another interview, I remember so well this argument in caucus: OK fine gentlemen, we now say that Transkei is independent and we would like the whole world to regard them as independent and on the same equal footing with their neighbour Lesotho. That's what we want, yes that's what we want. However, if a German or a person from Britain comes to live in South Africa and he's white he can live in any white area and if that Briton or German happened to be black they could also because they're foreign. But a Transkeian is also foreign and a Lesotho guy is also foreign. Why can't they come and live in a white area? So if we don't recognise Transkei's international status how can we expect the rest of the world to do it? So if you want to take the policy to its full consequence, accept a Transkei neighbour and a Lesotho neighbour. If you don't then you're busy with colour discrimination.

POM     So if I were a black businessman from Britain and I came over here and established a business here, let's say hypothetically or whatever, or got a job here and I kept my nationality, say I had a job with Shell or something or Shell moved me over here, I could live in a white area?

BDP     Yes, oh yes, and you were an honorary white, kind of thing. There was a lot of nonsense about that. But you see those practical things, when the practical things started coming into shape and all of a sudden, yes Transkei is now independent, yea, yea, the policy is working. Now what the dickens do we do with this, the ordinary Transkeians who want to come and live here? You see that's where the wheels started coming off and the inertia to address that caused a lot of problems. It should have been understood and it wasn't. It wasn't understood early enough.

POM     So from the mid 1970s you say there was a continuous debate going on within the National Party caucus itself?

BDP     Yes. I don't know if it had been there before but certainly I was part of it from the very beginning of that debate around the coffee tables and so on, but it took such a long time. If I owe the South African nation an apology, if I go to that hearing and I need to apologise then I will say I'm sorry about what happened under the flag of apartheid, I wasn't aware of it, but since I was instrumental in maintaining the structure I am culpable and I tender my apologies. But what I really owe this country an apology for is me and my fellow verligtes that we didn't manage to convert not only the verkramptes but the -

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.