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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

01 Aug 1997: De Lange, JP

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POM     Let me begin, Professor de Lange, with perhaps a quotation or two quotations from FW de Klerk who has said and still adheres to the view that:- " 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 first 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."

     Do you subscribe to that view?

JDL     Basically yes although I had from the beginning reservations about certain areas. The first reservation was that it was a one-sided structure by the Afrikaners, or intended structuring of separate freedoms. The second was, and this is almost contradictory of the first, that I saw no way of these separate freedoms which had to have an economic base also working without partnerships as it were between white and black especially in the economic field but also in the development field, political and otherwise. So, yes, I thought it was not a policy of evil intent. The third reservation I had was this: I had read Verwoerd's doctoral thesis which he did in Germany, he was a sociologist, and he was a planned sociologist - I don't know whether that is the accepted Anglo/American term but it was the German term - which was in fact feted as the theoretical base of social engineering. The assumption there was that one could create a society by planning properly. I was never convinced of that. By participation yes, by partnerships, but not by this theoretical planning and then putting everything in place as it were.

     I recall a Verwoerd lecture on his urbanisation policy and just the demographic side of it was to my mind almost silly. He drew a circle on the board and that was the white town or the white city and one triangle with a very sharp point touching the white town and this was the black town serving the white town but it would be a temporary thing, it was people coming and going from so-called homelands. I remember standing up, I was very young, and saying but it's not one triangle, it's eight triangles because that is the demographic reality of South Africa. And he ignored the remark. So there were reservations but on the basic thrust of the policy as creating separate freedoms as one of possible solutions I, at that time, had no in principle problems with it.

POM     You used the phrase like Verwoerd had the circle and the triangle and it would be the black town serving the white town, so there was this question of one race serving the other which would be contrary to -

JDL     As part of that policy, of course, he had what was the so-called border development areas where on the borders of these homelands there would be industrial development which would eventually be taken over by the blacks, creating for them an economic, in this case, an industrial base. It was a very complex situation. What I have just described is just one aspect of it and the serving of - one can go into too much detail. I had very serious objections, and raised them at the Synod of my church, on so-called influx control into these towns, black townships which broke up black families. Only one person could come in, not the family, either the woman could come in or the man could come in which strained the relationship to such an extent that family life, as I predicted, would break down. That's another example of a reservation but certainly the perpetual servitude of blacks serving whites was never in my mind the intended outcome of the development as envisaged there. The economic realities, of course, perpetuated this thinking.

POM     What went wrong to the extent that you now have policemen and security people and others going before the Truth Commission detailing the most horrible atrocities perpetrated against people? What got out of hand and how did it get out of hand?

JDL     That's a very interesting question and not easily answered and, again, it would be not a straightforward answer. Let me detail one aspect of life. One night at 12 o'clock on a Saturday night I had to go to a charge office to release a student. He was put in jail for drunken driving. I was horrified to see that there were dozens of blacks that had been brought into the charge office for pass transgressions. They had been walking around without their passes, their identity books. And then I realised that a certain attitude was being developed, blacks being, as it were, on the wrong side of the law, performing simple things like visiting friends and the reason why they were being apprehended was simply a question of numbers. Verwoerd's demography which was out of kilter, the one triangle and the one white town instead of eight triangles and one white town, which is the reality, the eight triangles resulted so there were huge numbers and then things went wrong and they were simply kept out and I think a culture of almost harsh law enforcement started developing. That's one aspect of it.

     The other aspect, and I think we haven't gone into this in sufficient measure for various reasons, one of them because it is at present politically not kosher to do so, and that is when the ANC decided to use the young as their front line a brutalisation of the young took place. Young people did horrible things, black young people, necklacing and whatever, and on that side again, and I haven't mentioned all the things on the white side, there was a brutalisation which, as it were, called for counter-measures if one could call it that. I think the whole struggle position became extremely brutal, again supporting this culture in the security service of harsh treatment. What surprised me is that much of this, most of this was never public knowledge so the normal public outcry against these things didn't take place. There was a successful cover up of these things.

POM     Now was that a government decision?

JDL     I don't know. I would imagine that within the hierarchy of the security service there was full knowledge of this and that it was kept covered. Whether it was a political decision or a bureaucratic decision I don't know. I would imagine it was something of both.

POM     Would you find it difficult to believe that either, well, say, first PW Botha did not know what kinds of actions elements in the security forces were up to and may in fact have countenanced them or for that matter FW de Klerk had no knowledge from whence the third force was emerging and effectively took no action against it, complicity by omission?

JDL     I can't really answer that question with sufficient knowledge. Based on purely personality types I would say that PW Botha would more easily countenance such actions rather than FW de Klerk. That would be my guess in this regard. Another aspect, you've mentioned the third force, I wasn't a deep scholar of change in all its forms, revolutionary change and whatever kinds of change, but the bit I did and there were discussions in this regard was that towards the end of a particular regime's monopoly of power there is a strong tendency for the security services, not as a political decision but within themselves to start developing, as it were, a political attitude in regard to political power and where it vests and how it will be passed along and as we know one sees it in Ireland with the military arms operating and you see it in other areas in history where the military coup sometimes comes into force when a political transition of power is imminent. I would imagine, I have no evidence of this, I would imagine that the so-called third force at least in part had a sympathetic basis in this kind of attitude developing within the military and the police. Constand Viljoen, I can't recall where or when, but as I recall it he made a remark that this was considered within the security services. He was then already in politics but he made a remark which indicated that he would have a large measure of support within the military if he had wanted to prevent through military means the transition of power, passing of power to Mandela and that company.

POM     So do you think in that regard that De Klerk was under constraints as to what actions he could take against the military, that a coup might have been the result if he fired top Generals or attempted to fire top Generals whom he thought might have been aware or countenancing such activity and that he just couldn't afford to alienate the military beyond a certain point and that Mandela never really appreciated the constraints he was under in this respect?

JDL     He must have been aware of this but I must add, I might have created the wrong impression here, that within the military there wasn't a consensus on this type of thing at all. I recall a think tank which was held within the Broederbond under my auspices in regard to how long and under what conditions could whites maintain a monopoly of power and there were military people from all the security services because there were members of the Broederbond within those services, and they almost led the thinking that this would be an extremely impermanent thing. There was no way in which a military coup could bring stability in the long term in this country so it would in effect be doomed to failure.

POM     Did you also consider in the think tank how long the system, as it then operated, could continue to operate without severe instability setting in?

JDL     Yes, yes.

POM     So was that the genesis of the document that was the basic political conditions for the survival of the Afrikaner?

JDL     No that wasn't, that was after that. It was during the period, and you would probably recall it, in 1986 PW Botha started moving on transformation and then he just got bogged down and he held on to power until 1989 when he was ousted. He didn't go out voluntarily, he was ousted. And in that period of three years almost nothing happened. There was a lot of frustration building up amongst people such as myself and in top structures of the Broederbond and within government as far as I know and certainly within certain sectors of the political hierarchies within all parties in parliament.

[P W Botha, this doesn't come out in his book as far as I know, I don't think it comes out clearly, I have a personal theory about this and I don't want to be quoted on it, is that he had his first stroke in July 1986 and this changed his personality. He told me personally, and again this is off the record please, he told me personally in June 1986 that what he could do within politics and public life he had done, somebody else had to take this process further.]

     You would remember that he had said at Upington and followed it up in other places and in parliament that he was prime minister of all the people and had to look after the welfare of all the people, also the political welfare. How he did that is a different matter. The three chamber parliament, without solving the problem with regard to black political power, was part of that. Then in his opening speech, I think it was the beginning of 1986, I might be out with my date, but he was opening parliament then and he said that all people must be equal citizens. This was preparation on the ground floor for significant political change in terms of what was then still in existence. In June he said he had done what he could and somebody else had to take it further. This was a private conversation. And when I saw him in August he just  bogged down and it is my theory that he had a stroke and that it changed his emotional stability and it certainly had also damaged his mind, but this was never made known and I have some evidence that in fact there was such a stroke in July 1986 but it was covered up. Then he just bogged down and within that period as part of the exercise of how to effect change and how soon it must be effected, etc., we held this think tank, seminar - well it was an occasion over two days. So it was not the genesis of that 1986 document.

POM     So the conclusion of the 1986 seminar was?

JDL     You will recall that at the time South Africa was being governed under conditions of a state of emergency, emergency measures and obviously this was going nowhere and the estimate was that you could continue an emergency situation plus until the year 2000 but by then just about every aspect of life in South Africa would be in such disarray that it would be not worthwhile. Economically we were going down the drain. So many people would have to be apprehended and we would be building up, I think as evidenced now by what's coming out, we were right in our guessing that so much hate would be built up that there would probably be no solutions.

POM     Was there also a consideration of the demographic factor in terms of the size of the population that would be required to control a population that was fifteen, twenty or thirty times larger and at some point it just would become demographically, through numbers, impossible for - ?

JDL     There were many aspects of the demographic - the first thing was that it was impossible for five million to govern and produce and plan and whatever else for forty million people. There was no way in which the talents of a mere five million could be made to serve properly, equitably and humanely the needs of forty million people. Quite apart from that was, of course, the fact that you mentioned which was more on the security side, there was no way in which we could do that without horrific military and security measures. So the demographics were part of it, yes. For me the demographics played a part right from the beginning of apartheid. It was doomed on the basis of two things, first of all the demography and secondly the economic realities.

POM     Patti Waldmeir says that JP de Lange embarked in 1983 on his course to "deliver the Afrikaner to safety." Could you elaborate on that? Were you the person who drew up the basic political conditions for survival of the Afrikaner, the document that was distributed?

JDL     I wasn't the person but I was the chairman of the work group which did it. There was no way in which one person could draw up such a document and take the others with him. I recall situations where the Executive Council of the Broederbond had to decide on aspects, paragraphs as it were, basic paragraphs of that document and I would not let them vote before everyone had spoken his mind. It took us hours but everyone, the twenty people round the table, had to speak his mind and it was amazing to see how it developed as one spoke and the next one took it up and in the end it was not necessary to vote, there was complete consensus that everybody had to have equal access to power, political power in this country and therefore a black majority government was inevitable.

POM     So as far back as 1983 the Broederbond - ?

JDL     Well in that period, 1983 to 1985 yes.

POM     That the Broederbond itself had come to the conclusion that black majority rule was inevitable?

JDL     At that time there were fairly strong views on cultural protection. There was talk of cultural councils, local cultural councils and regional cultural councils and national cultural councils with authority based on the constitution to protect Afrikaner or Venda or whatever the culture was.

POM     Now when you met Thabo Mbeki in New York was that your first contact with a member of the ANC?

JDL     Well the first organised contact. I had previous contacts with young ANCs but that was by chance. I can describe the situation to you. I was in the United States on a visit in 1982 I think it was, one could date it very easily, there was discussion in Congress in regard to South Africa's membership and the right to get credit from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and there was a measure being considered in committee on the particular day and there were views being expressed by ANC delegates. I was invited to attend that by a Senator who I visited that particular day, so I went not knowing who I would get there and there were about eighteen members of the ANC, sixteen of them young, the 1976 expatriates who were studying in the United States or were already practising as lawyers or whatever. They gathered at Howard University, they were under the guidance as it were of one black woman whom I never got the name of, which I'm very sorry to this day, and also a white Jewish chap from South Africa and they had prepared their briefs at Howard University and there was a tea break during this committee session and we spoke to each other. I contacted Howard and met with them again later on, some of them again later, but this was by chance and they were young and not with really any political, certainly nowhere near Thabo Mbeki's position.

POM     What were the conclusions of the document? What were the basic political conditions that the committee identified as being necessary for the survival? You've mentioned, the very fact that you could - was it stated in terms of - ?

JDL     Voting rights within a unitary state was the first, and that was really a very basic one, everything else flows from that. And then there was majority rule. That was a possibility that, as we envisaged it, that there should be protection within the constitution but also within the structures created for each cultural group, protection of language, of culture, etc.

POM     Do you think that those objectives have been met in the current constitution?

JDL     I don't think so, no not fully, certainly as we envisaged it then certainly not. But this is a debate that hasn't been resolved yet because it will be resolved only in practice in the long term and that is the protection of group rights as opposed to the protection of individual rights. The view was taken at the World Trade Centre and the National Party accepted it. To my mind they could have got a better deal, they weren't negotiating very well. It was accepted that your rights were fully protected if you were given those rights as an individual so there was in effect no real protection of group rights. Practice still has to prove whether this is right or wrong. There is a very strong tendency as experienced by Afrikaners that the Afrikaans language is being put under threat.

     For instance, let me take an example, there was a position at one time, and this is just as it were the development of this individual rights thing, there was at one time the view that there could possibly on demographic grounds be two Afrikaans medium universities. The view now being held is that there is probably place for no Afrikaans university because there is such a demand for places that the language had to be such that anybody could (understand) and that would mean through the medium of English. Now that was certainly not envisaged at the time. A university in the case of a young language such as Afrikaans is an important generator of that language. It is at the very heart of the dynamics of the language, the adjustment of the language to modern conditions, a vocabulary which expresses modern scientific thought whether it's in the humanities or in the arts, sciences, whatever. Therefore a university is a very necessary thing and if you take that away then you thrust right into the heart of a young language.

POM     We were just discussing in the car on the way up that perhaps the greatest threat to Afrikaans as a language is an external one, just the globalisation, information technology, that everything is done increasingly through English which is becoming the world language and even a young Afrikaner would want to learn English and be proficient in the use of English to operate in the global economy or the information economy or financial services.

JDL     Well Afrikaners are by and large very bilingual, much more so than the English speakers in this country. The black people of South Africa are trilingual at the least usually. This is quite an interesting area, I was reading an article the other day, I can't recall which magazine, which tried to indicate how many languages in the world are under threat, it's an Australian bloke who did the atlas, as it were, of the languages under threat and then he also indicates in his work how English is growing and that by the year 2200 about one and a quarter billion people will be speaking English as their primary language. The reasons are economic and the scientific. What I find extremely amazing, knowing the French very chauvinistic view of language, is that many of the science journals in France are today published in English. Can you imagine the French publishing in English? It's happening. Certainly in physics and in chemistry it's happening.

POM     Amazing.

JDL     But then he ends up by saying that perhaps English will fragment into various incomprehensible languages such as has happened with Latin which fragmented into French and Spanish and Portuguese and Italian and whatever.

POM     That's an interesting thesis. The American English and English English for a start.

JDL     Yes, it happens through Britain, some people I just simply don't understand and to my joy there are Englishmen who don't understand them either.

POM     When this document was circulated, I assume it was circulated among the power elite, that would include the prime minister at the time and members of cabinet and whatever. What was the reaction to it?

JDL     Positive, but not just circulated and action. We were, as it were, travelling around the country, the Executive  Council of the Broederbond. We arranged regional meetings first of all, if I recall correctly forty-two round the country where we introduced this document and what it was and it was a member of the Executive Council who did that. Then we had the second meeting with the chairmen of the sub-regions and they had to take it further into the sub-regions which typically would have ten or twelve chapters within that sub-region and they would visit each of those chapters. So the document wasn't just sent out, it was accompanied with explanation and with open discussion and it would sometimes be met with antagonism, negative feelings but it led, I would guess, to about 1500 resignations from the Broederbond, people who could not accept it and the rest were a mixture, people who were loyal to the Broederbond no matter what policy, those who thought this was the way to go and those who were prepared to be convinced over time, even if their emotional reaction was negative they were prepared to go along.

POM     Can you recall what PW Botha's reaction to it was?

JDL     Positive.

POM     So in essence as early as 1983 he saw the inevitability of it.

JDL     By the time it was in such a form that it could be presented in the way I've just discussed it was not 1983, it was round about 1985. Oh yes, he was convinced.

POM     That there would be a one man one vote universal franchise, a black prime minister or state president?

JDL     That was the implication of the document.

POM     And FW De Klerk?

JDL     Yes, with some reservations at that time, but also yes. Later he became a much stronger supporter. He was, I don't want to assess this incorrectly, but I had the feeling at that time that he was taking a waiting position as it were on the document, FW de Klerk. Later he came out pretty strongly in favour of it.

POM     Some people have suggested to me that part of his being seen as being part of the more conservative element in the government was pragmatic due to ambition.

JDL     He was very conscious always, as most politicians are - I haven't met an exception yet who is not very conscious of his position as a politician and what is negative for his position. There is a personality trait also involved here. I recall very clearly one day at a lunch sitting next to his mother, FW's mother, and I asked her how her sons were, that is Willem De Klerk (I don't know if you have discussions with him) and FW. She looked at me because she knew I knew both of them and she said, "Well as you know Willem makes trouble and FW makes the peace." FW is not inclined to cause trouble and that is one aspect. The other aspect you've mentioned is that he was very conscious of how anything affected his political position, his position as a politician.

POM     That's a very interesting observation that he does not like to create trouble. Do you think that this weakened his hand as a negotiator but when push came to shove that Mandela was just far more ruthless in the single mindedness that he brought to getting what he wanted and that De Klerk rather than fight, as it were - ?

JDL     I think this played a role yes, subconsciously, but I think it played a role. You cannot easily transcend your basic personality traits. They go along with you, even into bed.

POM     So, just to go to your first meeting with Mbeki and Mac Maharaj in New York. First, what were the first impressions they made on you?

JDL     This was rather a mixed bag type of thing. I remember the first night when there were drinks and Mbeki and I talked, then we went into dinner and there were no designated places and I landed up with the chap who had been the previous Secretary of State.

PAT     Cyrus Vance?

JDL     Cyrus Vance was there but the other chap, he was a military type.

PAT     Haig.

POM     Al Haig.

JDL     Yes. He was there at the table and then one of the ANC members said, "Hell we can't allow him", he said it publicly, "We can't allow the Broederbond to sit alone with these blokes. We have to join them." And one of them sat down there, and I don't recall his name, he didn't play a role during the rest of the week. The next day, that was the first day of the conference as it were, there was an experience which confused the relationships immediately. I had to speak on education, the future of education in South Africa as I saw it and I had just done the search on the future of education a few years ago prior to that, and a chap got up (and I've forgotten his name, I can look it up, I think Patti Waldmeir perhaps mentions this I am not sure) and went to the podium which was not such a formal thing, the speaker would stand at the podium so that his papers could rest on something but everybody taking part would sit at the table and speak with this chap who went to the podium. He was the Director of Welfare and Educational Services of the ANC with head office in London but operating mostly in East Africa, Nyasaland and Tanganyika, schools and things like that. He would typically decide whether a young chap would get a bursary to go on to further studies, whether he would complete his school, whether he would go for military training and such things. He got up and he said, he really blew his top, he said he had never seen such hypocrisy and the only thing they were going to do with me they should have me killed and everybody went into shock, especially the hosts. I had been sentenced so many times by the right that it wasn't such a surprise, such a shock any more.

     Then I got to know Thabo Mbeki, and Mac Maharaj especially, better. They went into damage control mode and I remember not in what they said around the table but through the tea cups, "He is suffering from exile madness." The press was there but the press were, I recall one chap from CBS but this one hour programme they have, Sixty Minutes, he's one of them and he was not allowed to use this incident as news. Eventually I think he broke it but that was only about two months after the conference. But they were there, everybody was excited about this incident. Thomas was sitting next to me and when I made this joke that I had been threatened by the right and now by the left I must be somewhere in the right position, which I think lessened the tension slightly. But Mac Maharaj especially was magnificent in his damage control at that time. It was a broad spectrum of participants from many parts of the world in fact. So that's how I got to know them over drinks the previous night and then damage control. Thabo Mbeki was not in the room when this happened, he was on the phone and when he came in they went into a cluster.

POM     He was arranging for it!

JDL     They went into a cluster and Mac Maharaj spoke first and then Thabo took this up and a real discussion between Thabo and myself took place after the conference. The conference I think lasted until the Friday and that Saturday we had discussions in the morning and again in the afternoon and the afternoon session lasted about four or five hours. We had dinner together, my wife joined us.

POM     What was the basis of the discussions? Were you able to say to him, the Broederbond - ?

JDL     I informed him more or less on the broad basis of that and then he asked me what message did I have for his leader, that was then Oliver Tambo, and I indicated to him that we were prepared as Broederbond to promote the idea of a unitary state with equal voting powers for everybody, there's a whole jargon around this thing, but that the Afrikaner had been threatened and still felt threatened as a small group of people with a young language and culture and they would demand protection of their cultural rights which meant language and it meant education through the mother tongue.

POM     Was he appreciative of that?

JDL     Oh yes, oh yes.

POM     So in a sense as early as 1986 there was a meeting of the minds between key elements of the Afrikaner establishment and key elements in the ANC leadership?

JDL     Yes. Are you having discussions with him? With Thabo Mbeki?

POM     Yes.

JDL     Ask him on this, test him on this. I think he views it as a start of the real negotiations, meaningful negotiations, and I think it was. I obviously came back and informed my council on these matters.

POM     Did you debrief PW Botha?

JDL     Not immediately but a bit later on, yes. I, in just about every meeting I had with PW Botha since, I don't know the exact year, but 1984 round about there, impressed him with the Broederbond's view that Mandela must be released from prison if any real negotiations about the future of this country were to take place. They could not take place while he was in jail. So he was in a sense prepared for my discussions and as it appears now Kobie Coetsee certainly knew and had discussions with Mandela at that point.

POM     So what took so long?

JDL     Well I indicated to you that I think it was a personality change in PW Botha which made him hesitant to continue with what he had started but had no lessening of his will to govern. He held on to power and he had to be forced out. In terms of holding on to power it was the next stroke, the one in January 1989, that led him to make a mistake in terms of holding on to power when he resigned as chairman and leader of the National Party. He gave up his power face and opened his flank and certainly FW de Klerk and those supporting him at that time took that opportunity and by September Botha was out. He had killed his own power base. What took so long is thus to be found within PW Botha's personality. There's a lot said and written about how there were securocrats and so on but I'm personally convinced the answer lies in the change that took place in him in July 1986.

POM     Just to backtrack to something you said, you talked about Afrikaans as a young language and a young culture.

JDL     Therefore very self-conscious, we're now in our puberty time.

POM     And come under severe threat from the English and the memory of the Anglo/Boer war was still fresh in many, many people's minds, certainly in the older generation of people. Do you think that the outside world never sufficiently appreciated the residual threat that was part of the legacy of the Anglo/Boer war, that you had been dominated, you had been subjected. The British did establish the first concentration camps in South Africa and that the lingering memory of that, or not the lingering memory, but that memory of that time was part of Afrikaner identity and that the outside world never understood the degree to which 'the threat of black majority rule and of domination', what a role that just played in the Afrikaner psyche?

JDL     I am quite sure of that. I have to expand on what you've just said. It was not only the memory of the Anglo/Boer war it was also the fact that after the Anglo/Boer war the Afrikaners were still, and partly also relegated to being, a rural people. The policy of the burnt earth, the farms that were destroyed, thrust some Afrikaners into the cities completely unprepared for urban life and urban work situations. So they in fact became labourers in the city and then the 1918 flu epidemic, if you visit small towns you will find many unmarked graves, young Afrikaner children dying in the rural areas due to the flu epidemic of 1918 and that led to further impoverishment which increased the tempo of urbanisation and the final thrust was the drought and the depression of 1930/31/32.

     And what did the Afrikaners find when they came into the cities, that the haves were the English and the have-nots were the Afrikaners and in fact the Broederbond came into existence directly as a result of the urbanisation of Afrikaners and the threat that they - their language wasn't acknowledged in the cities, not in the workplace and not in the schools. It was only in the forties that the first senior secondary school for the Afrikaners was created on the Witwatersrand. Previously, although the majority of Afrikaners were already living on the Witwatersrand there was no senior secondary school for them. It was in 1942, if I remember correctly when the first secondary school was - there were ten-year schools but no twelve-year schools. The first twelve-year school was in 1942.

     So the Afrikaners as a cultural group were under threat within the urban situation and the workplace is a very demanding place and a very strong place. If the language there is only English then there's a strong tendency to anglicise and many Afrikaners did in fact.  Therefore, you will find amongst the people classified as English speakers in South Africa many Afrikaans names to this day. The Broederbond in essence was an attempt to help the Afrikaner to successfully urbanise and become a modern people in urban terms but remain an Afrikaner. So this was not only the memory of the Anglo/Boer war but it was this accumulation of experience over time as it were.

POM     Was one of the effects of the language policy of that time that in effect it stultified the level of an Afrikaner's education, that there wasn't a twelve-year school?

JDL     Oh yes.

POM     That in effect the language was - ?

JDL     Let me illustrate it to you. On the Witwatersrand, which is the economic hub of South Africa, the Afrikaners who were successful in business were almost for 90%, and we did a study on this at my university, for 90% people coming from outside of the Witwatersrand having completed school and university at Bloemfontein or Stellenbosch, Pretoria, some at Potchefstroom. Those who succeeded in business who had been living in the Witwatersrand and were born in the Witwatersrand were few and far between. I can count them on one hand as it were. Albert Wessels, Toyota, and many other factories. The Rembrandt Group, these were all coming from elsewhere having had a good schooling and going on to an Afrikaans medium university. Those who lived, were born and brought up on the Witwatersrand seldom succeeded in business so it's schools in fact put on the Witwatersrand. When my university started, that was in 1967, the neighbouring schools, secondary schools, which are close by within a kilometre or two from the university, typically only 10% of those in Grade 8 would continue up to Grade 12, ten out of every hundred children, the others would drop out at the age of 16 with compulsory education, they just left. There was no culture because of it. And those were schools which had recently become senior secondary schools. So, yes, this had an effect. The fact that the university and the technikon and the teachers' college came into the Witwatersrand only in the sixties of this century caused a tremendous uplift of the Afrikaner born and bred on the Witwatersrand and today they are highly successful people. I would imagine that this is going to happen also with our black children.

POM     Now you had a quote, I can't find it, but it was more or less to the effect that after the Afrikaners came to power in 1948 it took them a year or two years at most to replace the heads of the SABC.

JDL     That's right.

POM     And all the state, quasi-state or parastatals as such. Did the way in which Afrikaners used, or the National Party maybe, used affirmative action to consolidate it's power after 1948, did that play any role in perhaps a reluctance to concede majority rule to blacks whom you may have felt would do exactly as you had done, i.e. replace you?

JDL     Of course they would do exactly the same thing. I started speaking about this in the seventies in fact. From an educational point of view I said too many Afrikaners are being put into positions which will become highly insecure in future because they were going into the parastatal and state services to such an extent that if ever there was a change in power, and inevitably there must and always is a change in power, nobody keeps going for ever, they would be exposed. The Afrikaner saw the civil service and the parastatal services as highly secure services and they were that while you are in power. In the United States it's somewhat different because every new administration changes the administration. It's only at the lower levels that you are fairly secure, but certainly at levels of secretaries and so on you just lose your job because you're a Democrat and not a Republican or the other way round. In South Africa we have the British tradition, the civil service just goes on presumably.

     I said that our focus in the education of our young should be an entrepreneurial focus, a professional focus and not a civil service focus. And then when we worked on this document I requested, as it were, members of the Broederbond who were active in Chambers of Commerce, etc., to use their influence in re-orientating the Afrikaner towards using his talents outside of the civil service, moving out as it were but nobody listened or very few listened. Now they are doing it, yes, but they're doing it in a haphazard way although there is some organisation beginning to emerge. It's difficult to re-orientate somebody who is service orientated, security orientated towards risk taking and entrepreneurial frame of mind.

POM     Do you think the ANC has as aggressively used affirmative action since they came to power as the Afrikaner did in 1948?

JDL     Oh yes. There is one difference though, and this is not true across the board but it is certainly true in certain areas and in certain departments of state, they got rid of expertise too quickly and this has resulted in bad administration. The Afrikaner didn't make that mistake. They saw to it that there were people taking over who were capable of taking over, by and large, not in every instance but certainly in the majority of cases and that is not happening at present. I am still involved in education as chairman of the Council of Universities and Advisory Council for Universities and Technikons in South Africa and I see that what is happening before the new expertise is in place, as it were, the old expertise is already down the road, has 'taken a packet' as we say in South Africa. But by and large I think it's about the same thing that's happening. I regard it as a very normal thing to happen. It would be beyond human wisdom in all senses of the word if it was different.

POM     So when you look back at what you believed in 1983, the document that emerged and was discussed at that time, and in the following years and your conversations with Mbeki in 1986, all in one way or another conceding that black majority had to come, it was inevitable, and when you see what emerged out of Kempton Park and the constitutional arrangements of today how would you weigh the two?

JDL     Between one's conception and reality there is always quite a difference but quite apart from that, and I can't even fully recall how I projected myself into the future on the basis of for instance that document, I would say that by and large it came out almost better than I thought in the sense that the relationships between the groups in South Africa, in spite of what's coming out at the TRC and in spite of affirmative action within the civil service and parastatals and in spite of the growing unemployment among white Afrikaners and English speakers, that the dramatic transition of power from the monopoly that a small white group had to voting rights for everybody in a unitary state, we've done rather well.

POM     You have said that you think a better deal could have been negotiated by the National Party.

JDL     On the cultural side.

POM     On the cultural side. Patti Waldmeir calls the negotiating process as a study in the psychology of capitulation. Do you see the Afrikaner as having capitulated or really having rather successfully negotiated a pretty good deal for himself, again given the demography, given what lay down the road and given the inevitability of black rule, either the year 2000 or 2010 or whatever, that rather than capitulating he - ?

JDL     I think it's early days to answer that question fully. I, and this is a personal view, I am of the view that conditions have been established and in the immediate transition period in which we are now there are going to be a lot of traumatic experiences but in the longer term, medium to longer term, there is a place for the Afrikaner as a man of Africa in Africa and that in itself if it eventuates is an amazing thing because Africa has not been kind to other colours in Africa. Nowhere have whites been part of the political process since uhuru. I think they can be here. One of the reasons I say this, and it might be pie in the sky thinking, one of the reasons I say this is that the real political divisions in South Africa are still to take place. It is, to my experience and reading of history under democracy and also under other forms of government, true that the middle is the major force in history and the revolutionary or the reactionary forces are shorter term. They are very intense but they're not chronic, they're acute. Using medical terms, the middle, I don't want to use the word 'normal', but people who want to work and want to be safe and want to bring up children and have families, etc., etc., are more or less the norm and political divisions tend to reflect this in some measure.

     At present our divisions are historical in terms of struggle and previous monopolies of power and white privilege or privilege of the rich which cuts across the Afrikaner/English thing, the DP for instance, the liberal establishment, they have to have an establishment because it's not simply the liberals. This is a natural thing for South Africa. We are moving and it will be after 1999, not before 1999, because the struggle memory is too strong and the cohesiveness as a result of that is too strong for anything to happen in this regard significantly but one sees the beginnings of this. The foundations are being laid within the ANC for divisions around the middle and the extremes and I would guess that the stronger parties after the year 2000 will be left of the middle and just right of the middle, but both in the middle. I don't know if you want to react to that, this is purely speculative.

POM     React within this sense, would you subscribe to the view of some of that opposition to the ANC will emerge from within the ANC and not from outside? In other words that the National Party is splintering, that Roelf's new party will just stagger along, won't go really anywhere, but that within the ANC itself will be the evolution of opposition politics?

JDL     Yes, yes. Obviously the evolution of such opposition will be characterised by alliances, etc., being formed before there is a consolidation into - if you look at the Democratic Party in the United States, it is in essence an alliance between very different groups. Most of them are minority groups and I would guess that something like that might happen in South Africa, on those lines obviously and not replicating exactly them. Yes I think the real opposition will come from the unnaturally large party, the ANC.

POM     There are two parts to this, one is the one that was popular last year that FW sold the Afrikaner down the drain during negotiations, sold his birthright so to speak. Do you think that's a very harsh and unreal judgement?

JDL     I think it's unreal.

POM     And the other is that he should quit, he should quit secure in his place in history rather than - ?

JDL     You know that type of thing is to my mind - how many politicians quit when they are ahead?

POM     Well Mandela is going to.

JDL     Well he will probably be one of the century's exceptions. Many of them quit when - they should quit at the height of their power then history is usually fairly kind to them but they tend to quit when they are on the downhill, they are sliding. Let me say about FW what I said about PW, I was asked in a full session of the Broederbond, there were about 1200 delegates from all over the country and I was asked straight out the question, what is the immediate political future? And I said nothing will change unless the people change, referring by the people to PW Botha and his supporters. I tend to think the same thing, nothing will happen within the National Party unless the people change. I think FW's time has come. Whether he sees it that way is different. Look at PW Botha, in June 1986 he saw that he had done what he could, if he had left then he would have been the initiator of change. Then his personality changed and he held on to power and we came to regard him as the nigger in the woodpile, to use such a racist expression.

POM     And in a sense FW is replicating this in a different sense?

JDL     Yes that's my view.

POM     Two questions and this will wrap it up, and thank you for the excessive amount of time that you have given me, do you think that the fact of the National Party having left the government of national unity had any appreciable impact on the performance of government itself, number one. And two, on a scale of one to ten, one being very unsatisfactory and ten being very satisfactory, where would you rate the performance of the government at this point in time given the formidable, extraordinarily formidable obstacles they faced in taking over power?

JDL     To answer the last question first, I would put it round about six and a half to seven. I could give some flesh to this view. Regarding the effect of having left the government of national unity on the effectiveness of government, five. Certainly some experience left the government when the National Party left, they were rather experienced people. Politicians have said more than once privately to me, "If I leave then there will be a leadership struggle which will destroy the party. If the National Party leaves the government of national unity it will result in the destruction of good government." This is all nonsense, it always is nonsense. And who will replace this leader or that leader? That isn't a valid question because the position quite often carries the person, he has the capacity within himself but he's never shown it because he's never been in the position. If you put him in the position suddenly, yes he is there and he is capable of doing the job, if not extremely well he does it in sufficient measure. Truman is a case in point.

POM     Would FW be a case in point?

JDL     To some extent yes.

POM     If Barend du Plessis had been elected president of the National Party and in due course state president, would the outcome have been different or would events have taken a different course? Would FW, for example, have led some of the opposition on the conservative side within the government to the changes taking place?

JDL     I can't answer that question because there is one imponderable here and that is that I am not sure that Barend du Plessis was strong enough, had enough staying power to have really done anything, or that he had the nerves for such a position. In fact I think later events proved that he was not really tough enough even for that position that he was then in. He had almost a nervous breakdown. If he had been in the leadership position that nervous breakdown might have come earlier. I might be doing him an injustice but I have to take this fact into consideration when you ask a question like that. FW has much stronger political nerves than Barend du Plessis ever had. And let me tell you that within the political decision making process nerves are just about as important as anything else.

POM     I saw Du Plessis yesterday and I have been interviewing him since 1990 when he was Minister of Finance and in 1990 we both saw him as being extraordinarily uptight, highly strung, agitated, almost an edginess to the way he would respond to questions and to talk to him now is to talk to a completely different individual and he's relaxed, he's laid back, he's enjoyable, he laughs. It's just a transformation.

JDL     He was under too much strain and stress at the time. He had a lot of talent but talent is not enough, you must have the guts, the staying power, or you have to be stupid enough sometimes.

POM     We'll leave it on that note and thank you. I might come back to you again later in the year. Patricia and I came here first in 1985, in fact we brought the Dunne Stores - you remember the ten young girls who came from Dublin and got thrown out of the country? They got as far as the airport and got thrown out and we managed to get in at the time and in fact spent the first day of the state of emergency, our last day in the country, wandering around Soweto looking for Archbishop Tutu. I knew then I was coming back here to do serious work but I left with the very simple view that apartheid was evil and there was nothing good to be said about the white man, that this was a police state, which in many respects it was even then, but like most, since human nature is more complex than essentially white/black and it's far more complex to look at the changes that already were taking place in attitudes and in various segments of Afrikaner society and it's as though a lot of acknowledgement had been going on but there's a big space between being able to acknowledge something and being able to take action to implement the implications of that acknowledgement.

JDL     Another factor in all of this, and I said this publicly and privately first, that you must not expect either the whites of South Africa or the blacks of South Africa to transcend human nature. I think we've done well on the better side of that.

POM     Are race relations as good as you would have expected them to be?

JDL     You know, to many Afrikaners what is happening now is a journey of discovery of black people. The compact between white and black was so narrowed down to master/servant type of situations, uneducated and educated, that many white people did not think there were educated, capable blacks. They had never experienced them. My old mother-in-law she was 97 when she said this, "You meet people I don't meet. I've never met them in my whole life and you speak about blacks and coloureds in a way that I have never experienced. I have seen them as farm servants." And this is true in her case, been very good to them and helping them study and whatever, housing when they had to leave the farm and so on. And suddenly the media, and especially television, brings them into the lounges and into the bedrooms of people. Again, this illustrates, I think, the worst side of apartheid, reducing the contact between the groups of this country to such an extent that they could only think in stereotypes of each other and by and large negative stereotypes. Now that's changing and it bodes well for the future.

POM     A good note to end on. Thank you.

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.