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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

02 Sep 1997: Camerer, Sheila

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POM     So where do we start?

SC     I don't know, wherever you want to start. What have you asked the others?

POM     The last time I saw Roelf, before I met you, was at a dinner and he had come from a meeting with FW.

     (Tape switched off)

POM     But because you didn't assess things correctly doesn't mean that they are wrong.

SC     Well I was wrong in my assessment to you.

POM     That was at the point in time that you made that assessment.

SC     That was my judgement.

POM     Two years from now your judgement may be perfectly correct.

SC     No but this was just earlier this year. Oh, because such a lot of things were going to happen and I was babbling on optimistically about the task team and the whole thing was a disaster, other forces were at work.

POM     Then let me ask you first off, would you like to go on the record, as somebody who has done the record with me since 1989 I think, would you like to say: I want to change my opinions or my opinions still stand and that on the historical record I stand by what I think, because if you decide to change your mind -

SC     I'm talking about the last interview.

POM     Then you destroy the whole. If everybody did that -

SC     It would be terrible wouldn't it?

POM     That's right, then there would be no record and I would be wasting all my time.

SC     Exactly, no I'm talking about our last interview. No I don't disagree with anything else but it was interesting, I've decided my judgement is getting impaired with age or something because I didn't agree with myself when I read it a few months later and I realise now I was on the wrong track, particularly in my optimism about the task team and what it was meant to achieve. So, anyway, I thought bloody hell, I got all that wrong. That's what my thoughts were. I don't have it here, I wanted to give it to you and comment accordingly. In fact I might, if I have time to dig through this, I might find it.

POM     We've lots of years to go so -

SC     Have we? No I thought we'd finished, I thought we'd more or less finished.

POM     Two more years to go.

SC     Good God! So you mean we're going to do the ten years from 1989 to 1999?

POM     Yes.

SC     I see. Do you think I should hang in politics till 1999 so that I can keep on babbling away?

POM     I don't know. I'll have to then do maybe one last interview with you on your farm.

SC     As I knit.

POM     As you knit.

SC     And garden.

POM     Like Madam -

SC     Madam whatever she was at the guillotine.

POM     No.

SC     I hope there will be no guillotine.  Hello John, you know Padraig O'Malley? He hangs around parliament and interviews me at intervals. He says I'm the last surviving Nat that he's been interviewing since 1989.

POM     I've met them all. It began in 1989 and now I'm down to - there you are.

SC     Depressing.

POM     Willem de Klerk said when I said I was going to see Sheila tomorrow and he said -

SC     The last one.

POM     That's right.

SC     Well it's interesting. I have a friend who is a friend of his and we were having dinner in Jo'burg about a month ago and he said, well Willem says he told FW he's got to resign now and the best is September. So, anyway, I've shared that with one or two people who said, "Oh come on!" and that's what we have. So Willem knew all along. He had obviously had a chat.

POM     He did actually. I don't think he would mind my sharing it since he gave it to me. It was over their father's grave on the anniversary of his death that the family come together and put some flowers on the grave and FW rang him and said are you going and laying some flowers on the grave today? And he said, "OK let's get together and let's talk", and they spent two hours sitting on the gravestone.

SC     Is that right? That's very interesting. That will be a nice little tit-bit for your book.

POM     Yes but I probably won't use it because it's four years from now. He will have his own book out so he will tell his own story, but where does that leave you?

SC     Yes, in shit street as the classics say.  Well you can excise it before you send it to me.

POM     Well language like that is not the worst language in the world that I've ever heard.

SC     Look I would have supported FW as long as he was around. I was put under a lot of pressure by Roelf to leave with him but I said to him that it's very awkward to disappear when one owes one's political career to somebody in a sense and to just buzz off, and it would have been difficult for me to do that I think.

POM     So now you're here?

SC     Now I'm here and I suppose one must play one's part in this leadership election. I won't be here next week, I'm overseas and I won't have voted for either, whoever gets in.

POM     You're not going to vote for anybody?

SC     Yes, and that's good, and they can't have a replacement for me because I'm a Deputy Chairperson of the Federal Congress. Maybe they'll fire me for my wickedness in not being present.

POM     Where do you see - you are one of the few women who exercise power.

SC     Hardly, not under the present circumstances.

POM     But you have.

SC     Well I've had some influence I suppose within a small context.

POM     Don't diminish your own achievements.

SC     Well I haven't had much time.

POM     In a very male society you have achieved a lot.

SC     The point is I did have some responsibility, which was unusual I suppose. I mean I did have quite a lot of responsibility in the constitutional negotiations, probably the most power I ever wielded, only because I did it off my own bat, I actually took it over. Kobie gave me the job, the first job, but I took it in a second.

POM     So now you're advancing in the development or fragmentation of multi-party democracy. Where are you going?

SC     That's a good question.

POM     Where is the party going? Is there a party?

SC     Where is the opposition going? That's the question, and who is the opposition? The opposition is increasingly fractured and it's in a real mess and it's difficult to see who can pull it together.

POM     Which is the opposition?

SC     Well the opposition is the 39% who aren't the ANC and they're all over the place. The thing is the surveys show repeatedly every three months, because there are two surveys that operate every six months and they overlap, that there is a monolithic 61% for the ANC. It doesn't budge. There it is and actually if you analyse it also that 61% isn't very flexible. So where does that leave us with 39%? Instead of gathering and coalescing around a movement which was I think a basically good idea it's become increasingly fractured and it will continue, I think, until there is a real willingness on the part of all the small parties to get together. I think if you look at the Nats, the problem with Nats is they've got this structural fault but I think we spoke about it last time.

POM     I would see you as a natural crossing over to Roelf.

SC     Absolutely.

POM     I just see that as natural.

SC     Yes I am a natural. I am going to think very seriously about it now because I think that must be the way to go, it must be the direction we have to go now. But the question is, do I really - you see there are a number of imponderables which bug me a bit. The Nats, in theory at any rate, if they had any cohesion would have 20% of the vote. It's difficult to say that one can translate that into support for Holomisa and Roelf Meyer but to me that would be the sensible way to go because you could get some of the Nats plus some of the ANC, marginally, I don't think it would be major.

POM     But you could be a powerful person in that kind of party. You would be a woman, very important, and that's not just about race it's also about gender.

SC     Well no sooner had FW announced his retirement than I got a call from him,  because I said to Roelf when we discussed it that I couldn't leave FW just like that, I would have to think about it seriously, and within a day of him announcing his retirement I got a call from them and I will talk to them, I will talk to them. I feel very disillusioned at what's going on here. You know I'm not alone and the point is, John Mabuzo (this black guy who shares my office, we share a secretary) feels very similarly to me and so does Sam de Beer. Now Sam is in this leadership race but he's an acolyte of Roelf's really, he would naturally support Roelf and his motivation for seeking the leadership in Gauteng was to try and swing the party towards Roelf Meyer, that's how he argued it anyway. In the little closed circle of the task team he was the most rabid of all of us in what he said about the party and one's got to go the movement route and bring the new party ...  And I think Roelf has been shown to be correct actually. His plan for the Nats for 1997, which was to announce that we would collapse into a new being, a new movement, a new party at the end of the year at a national convention, was, I think, the right thing to do because I think whoever gets elected now will preside over a gradual disintegration. That's how it appears to me now. I don't see how you can reconcile the progressive view in the north with the view here in the south because they have no interest in changing. Why should they anyway? Because it's not going to do anything for them politically in the short term at any rate. I think they're making a mistake actually. I think they should extend their -

POM     Very short term.

SC     Very short term, well 1999, all the surveys show.

POM     But where are you?

POM     Well I'm with the progressives,  but we're looking - yes, exactly, but it means we've got to get out of politics or structured politics and it's easy for somebody like Roelf to do that because he's a national figure, he's an international figure, he's got stature which, I don't know, I'm not in the same league.

POM     You've got stature. Oh come on.

SC     How do I remain relevant?

POM     You are really under-estimating yourself.

SC     No, one's got to try and remain relevant. Anyway what I've decided, I'm trying to get into a law firm actually, to do some legal work, constitutional legal. I'm trying to organise something.

POM     But why don't you think that you are an important woman that has played one of the pivotal roles in the constitution of the country and broke into that entire male society, behind male closed doors and all that means, and you've come out and you survived and you've hung on?

SC     Well maybe you've got me at a very down moment. Maybe I am inclined to denigrate any achievements, because I do feel very depressed about what's happening. One's got to seek new pastures. But what I feel is a waste is if one goes and helps to create another 7% party, what's the point? Then we're sitting with - the IFP will be the biggest opposition party, rightly sitting in the government. We're looking at 10%, 7%, 5%, 3%, 2%, 1%, zero, it's really looking ridiculous, and my option would be to move the rump of the NP towards Roelf. Apart from the real diehards in the Western Cape I believe that most people realise that that's the way to go. I mean one's got to shake up the baggage one way or another. But at the moment we've got this Truth Commission case which I've been vaguely involved in, we've got this election. I don't know which way it's going to go  but it's probably going to go to Marthinus, he's a sort of would-be, white Afrikaans Tony Leon. It's pathetic. And then what have you got? You've got nothing really. I agree, that is the way to go  but one person jumping off alone I don't think is going to have any impact frankly. I think I'd like to see shifting across there most of Gauteng.

POM     If he could take you and Sam de Beer.

SC     That's the point, one's got to talk about it. I'm sounding quite traitorous but I believe we're the true National Party in the tradition of -

POM     But what are you being traitorous to?

SC     But what I don't understand about him, the trouble with FW is that he had these lieutenants and he's very influenced by them. He's always had a little group of men who sit around him, cronyism.

POM     All male, all white, all bald, all Afrikaans, OK.

SC     And he's always done it and Roelf was a force for the good and then it was Chris Fismer who was not too bad and then it was Marthinus who was Chris Fismer's protégé and he's really, well all the advice he's given the old geyser for the last year and a half has been bad. Getting out of the GNU was a big mistake. I think you've got me on record there. And just about every decision he's taken has been wrong in the period that this little guy has been whispering in his ear. The way he dealt with Roelf's idea where he was half in favour and then he saw that the forces of darkness are going to be against and he jumped out of it again, and then appointed the task team and sent us off into the wilderness and then chopped us off. Everything he's done, and then support Fanus Schoeman against Sam de Beer in this leadership race, openly, and then getting defeated. Just everything he's done has been wrong. He just takes all these stupid decisions under the influence of this little fellow, to my mind.

POM     Under the influence of?

SC     Marthinus.

POM     But where does your voice come up? Because at some point it would seem to me, Sheila, and I've watched your career since 1989, this is eight years, 1989 was the first year because you were the first person handed over to me by the NP who said you were someone to talk to. Where do you see your political development going?

SC     I see it in a viable opposition movement. That can be the only sensible way              to go, and that's not going to be led by the NP at this stage because they really don't know where they are and they are heading in the wrong direction. That's how I see it.

POM     I talked to Roelf this morning, I had an hour and a half with him, and I know Bantu Holomisa for ten years also, and I said, "Where's your empathy here? Where is the commonality?" He said, "We're going to go run on the basis of good governance." And I said, "Do you really mean to tell me that you're going to take a man who was the head of state of what might have been one of the most corrupt independent states and you're going to run on the basis of good governance and you would get any votes? You must be joking."

SC     Well that's the problem you see. I had a chat to Douglas Hurd because he's an old family friend of my husband's family, we stayed with them in July in England, and he was talking about Roelf. He asked me the obvious question that all of them ask me: are you going with Roelf and how do you see it? And we talked about Holomisa and he knew about Holomisa and his nonsense. He didn't know about Nkabinde and I told him about that, the warlord from Natal, and he said he didn't know whether it was the right thing to do to get into bed with a lot of shits. Now fair enough, but when I said that to Sam he said, "But we're a lot of shits too." It's true what you're saying about Bantu. He does have a frightful record if you look at it, but then if you've been in the NP, notwithstanding the whole reform thing, our record isn't marvellous. We've all been part of that although we've tried to move in another direction so who's to say that our baggage is less bad than his? Everybody's got baggage.

POM     I would go with him any day. I would trust him after nine years of talking to him.

SC     Well I tell you, I just want to say that every day in Johannesburg, I've been up there during the break for a couple of weeks before parliament got going again, Roelf or Bantu were talking to this one or that one, some group or other, one constantly got reports, and my husband was at one of them and he said that Bantu made a very good impression. He's a good speaker. Roelf's not a particularly good platform speaker but he makes a nice guy impression and so on and he's good on the one-to-one or on a TV thing around a table, whereas Bantu is very good on a platform and they all were eating out of his hand and he's self-deprecating in a way, he makes jokes about himself which is quite winning. So for all that we all have this nasty past, he isn't an untalented person I think and he can command a lot of black votes potentially.

POM     I would say, au contraire, I have always found him impressive.

SC     Have you? Well I didn't know him really.

POM     With his form of self-deprecation, by never, having met him first, having lots of bodyguards around him, by travelling around on his own and saying, "I don't need bodyguards, I just travel."

SC     He was very funny, the Irish Trade Minister was here at Kader Asmal's invitation and Kader gave a little party, or he was hosting this function, and I had been introduced to this Irish guy a little earlier on in the party and we were standing in a group and Kader passed him on to me and said could I introduce him to this particular group. So I introduced him and I got to Bantu and as I did he said, "I'm the bodyguard", and the Irish Trade Minister accepted this and looked on to the next person. So I had to say he wasn't, but he did it in quite an amusing way, the Irish Minister was a little embarrassed because he just took it as read.

POM     I must say I was very disappointed that you were unable to go to Arniston when we brought the parties from Northern Ireland.

SC     But I wasn't invited. There wasn't a single Nat, no Nats were asked.

POM     What?

SC     No Nats were asked.

POM     I asked for you specifically.

SC     It was never conveyed to me.

POM     You're joking!

SC     Yes. I was upset too, I thought it would be jolly interesting, but I never heard a word. It was only Roelf who was invited, I don't think any Nats were invited. I don't know who you asked to invite me.

POM     Oh I did, I wrote your name up and I gave it to Valli and I said Sheila would come.

SC     Well he didn't ask me.

POM     I'll take it up with him.

SC     I thought it was very peculiar. I actually looked at the list of delegates and there wasn't anybody from the Nats as far as I know.

POM     I saw that and I went down the list and I said there are people here who are interested, and I know because you and Tom - and I'm going back there next week to the British/Irish Association, and I said Sheila's a natural.

SC     Well he didn't ask for me.

POM     He never did. That's really interesting.

SC     Maybe he didn't want any Nats there.

POM     By the way that struck me afterwards was that they decided to structure it in a certain way.

SC     Well I looked to see if I could pick up a Nat name and I didn't. It was only Roelf who was on. It was just about the time when he left.

POM     That's right, the very weekend, it was that weekend that the contest for Gauteng was going on when Sam de Beer got elected.

SC     Did I tell you I spent a week in Ireland, in July? Ireland is wonderful at the moment.

POM     Where did you go? It's the tiger of Europe. It's the Asian tiger, so what is it called, the Celtic tiger?

SC     It's getting all this money. Extraordinary. All smiling from ear to ear and money, they're awash in money from the EU and they all say 'Thank you EU' every day. One guy said for every pound we put in we get six back or something. And all these people in their stately homes are awash in money as well, all fixing their roofs and displaying their gardens and stuff.

POM     This is totally off the record, if I asked you to do something over there in terms of getting people to meet one on one, would you do it?

SC     Yes, sure, but -

POM     The lesson is how you put people - I'm going off the mark in my interview. I said to Valli, "Didn't you ask Sheila?"

SC     No he didn't.

POM     You learn as you go on in life.

SC     Yes maybe. They obviously didn't want any Nats there, I think.

POM     I think so.

SC     Anyway, that was a pity.

POM     Where do you see - ?

SC     Well I've got to really make a decision fairly soon, haven't I?

POM     I think so.

SC     I don't want to sit around doing nothing and waiting to talk to audiences, I don't know who. I must try and organise some legal work for myself. I am in a little firm but they don't do any constitutional stuff and I actually would quite like to get into - I'm trying to organise to get into a big legal firm and starting up a constitutional law section.

POM     One of the things that has struck me in the last year and a half is that FW has taken everything on the chin. PW has been left alone.

SC     Yes, that's because of Mandela. If you look at that Truth Commission it's wall to wall ANC. It's part of the propaganda machine and Mandela likes PW for some reason apparently, that's the truth, it's not an apocryphal story, but he feels that PW should be left alone as a sort of old grandee. Of what, one asks. So it's very unfair, I think it's unfair to FW but I still cannot understand why he's dealt with the Truth Commission the way he has. I've asked him constantly why he's doing it the way he is and I never get a straight answer. On the face of it, it looks as if he's being very unfairly treated in the sense that he took power, saw he had a can of worms, started to do something about it and none of which is appreciated and now he's left carrying the can of worms that he's got and so on. The fact is that PW  bequeathed it to him. It's clear it all started at the height of this 'corruptracy' and he's being let off the hook. Now is this fair, one asks?

     On the other hand I didn't like his first submission. I wasn't consulted except at the last minute. I said what I thought about it and made some suggested changes, none of them were implemented I think, and then we were called into being, a little strategy team to guide FW, by Roelf, and we never met and we kept asking when we were going to be called together. We only met the first time to be constituted and then we never met and we never met and the year dragged on and eventually one heard that a second commission was going to be put forward. So I said to Fanus Schoeman who is FW's adviser, so-called, I'm expected to make statements every now and then about our disputes with the TRC so please before you put in a submission, the second one, can I just have a look at it because I'd hate to be taken by surprise one day. So he said sure, and a couple of days later he said, "Well better than that I'll give it to you to read and you can make comments." So I gave them six pages of comments and they had lone debates with FW and he did implement some of my suggestions and so then we kind of resuscitated this strategy team and we started to meet. But by then it was water under the bridge, one couldn't really change it dramatically. We just brought in that bit about taking political and moral responsibility in full, etc., that was our wording, but it was all done - who the hell did he do it to? It certainly wasn't me and one wonders who he took advice from and why he did it that way.

POM     Why do you think, it's almost like somebody who three quarters crossed the Rubicon, to use the old analogy, but couldn't walk the other quarter of the bridge where the bridge at that point had more sure-footing.

SC     I think there are a number of reasons. If you've got a difficult legal case to put, this is one person puts it, that is clear, well if you've got a difficult legal situation as a lawyer you don't have five spokespersons with a possibility of contradicting each other, you have one. So that makes sense, but it means he took the whole thing on himself and all the fire has been directed at him where I don't really think that's fair, but he was the head of state so -

POM     But why did he allow that happen?

SC     He did, he encouraged it to happen. He engineered it.

POM     Why?

SC     Well one of the reasons is, as I say a legalistic argument, I've talked this out with a number of friends and lawyers and so on, one reason is that it's better to have one spokesperson so some decision may have been taken somewhere, but I wasn't part of that inner security circle so I really don't know. I don't know why he did it that way really but I can only speculate and one reason would be that it's a difficult case and it's better if one person puts it. I don't like some of the things he said in regard to this national self-determination. I actually said to him that means nothing to me and a lot of people haven't got any interest in it who supported you over the years, now what does all this mean? And it was never consulted, because he's got very autocratic in the last couple of years.

POM     Whose statement was it? Was it his statement?

SC     It was his statement on behalf of the party.

POM     But it was his statement.

SC     Yes it was, it was his.

POM     But who drafted it?

SC     Well I know he wrote it with Dave Steward, he's been his adviser in his office, he's a right wing Englishman, quite a nice chap really, but his views aren't exactly -

POM     Right wing Englishman?

SC     Well he's incredibly unliberal in his approach. He's quite a pleasant chap but he writes English well. He actually drafted it but where the content came from, lord alone knows, apart from the stuff we were allowed to add at the last minute. So I really don't know, it's a puzzle to me why he handled it that way. I haven't managed to get to the bottom of it.

POM     Do you find it a puzzlement to yourself? I remember you telling me that you are the class of 1987 that came in and were going to change and move.

SC     Yes. Well we did, we succeeded.

POM     Then is your task done?

SC     Well I think, yes, yes and no. I felt that very much last year. Yes and no in the sense - I felt that very much last year. I thought I don't know what I'm hanging around for because my relevance has ended. What I really enjoyed doing and so on, and one had achieved it, the constitution is there and multi-party democracy, we're here, the majority is in the government. What else is there to do? And then I thought, well I must stick it out and try and be part of ensuring multi-party democracy survives and so on, which is interesting in itself, but you've got to then decide where you fit in. I agree, I'm at a cross-roads now because I don't like what's happening in the NP at all.

POM     It's a very funny thing, is that talking to Roelf and talking to Willem de Klerk that they both said the same thing, that the degree of white disillusionment had grown enormously in the last year.

SC     I think it has.

POM     It has?

SC     Yes it has generally, there is a white disillusionment. Everybody wanted what happened to happen, the guys in my circle, but there's increasing disillusionment about black competence, ability to run things, their racism which really bugs a lot of white people. There's this aggression that one didn't pick up before and the crime and it's expressed through the crime which touches a lot of white people, I suppose rather badly. So there is that sort of resentment. I think there's less of it here in the Western Cape because you are cosseted by the fact that your guys are running things and it's not quite so bad. I think that's why the Gautengers are all fleeing here.

POM     You are a national legislator. When you see things move through parliament, move through the various legislative processes into the committees, out of the committees, other readings or whatever, do you get a sense that things are moving?

SC     Well they move very slowly. I think there are a lot of well-intentioned people in parliament in the ANC benches, really I do, particularly the people I work with. I think there's certainly an increasing reluctance to take the opposition seriously and it's quite a worry amongst the ANC parliamentarians that they're being sidelined too.

POM     They're not the opposition either.

SC     Yes, but they're increasingly being overridden.

POM     Marginalised by the NEC.

SC     I think that's true that there is a feeling there, but everything takes such ages. There is extreme inefficiency. You see what happens in our particular arena is that the justice people, I think they've got very good people on the Justice Committee of the ANC, but they've got to pussyfoot around because the executive can't get it's act together and we hang around and hang around and draw things out endlessly, they do, because we can't bring things to conclusions because their bosses haven't decided what the conclusion should be.

POM     Are they better than when you came in in 1987 or are the paradigms not comparable?

SC     I think it's quite different because we were just rubber stamps then, we got our orders. I enjoyed - I must say my only enjoyment in those days in the committees was to be difficult about agreeing to our orders and to try and to be less of a rubber stamp and to raise that with our bosses. I don't know that the ANC does that, maybe they do, but it's quite a different paradigm now because there's a lot of room for arguing on the committees and it's fun. I think the committee work is fun in parliament.

POM     Fun, but does it make a difference?

SC     I think it does because the public can participate. They're much better. I think that part is much better but it does take a long time.

POM     Do you not think that all our conversations have almost irrevocably moved in a certain direction and that what you must come to terms with is what role you feel you play in it?

SC     Well one is faced with either opting out or looking seriously at a new party.

POM     I hear more people saying opting out.

SC     Yes. Well the commercial world looks very interesting to a lot of people I suppose, but that's bad.

POM     Well then, I suppose this would be my point, is that I think I heard Mandela say two years ago, he talked about the need for a new patriotism, as a loose phrase, but what I get no sense of here at all is of cohesion, of people saying we're in this together and that there must be sacrifices to be made at one generational level in order that the children can benefit or whatever, but there has to be a determination. That's never been expressed by Mandela.

SC     Well it has, there was a lot of talk of national unity and reconciliation. I think that a bad mistake was made, I think we need a government of national unity actually as a framework within which the parties can operate and fight each other and so on. I really think old De Klerk made a big mistake under the influence of Marthinus van Schalkwyk and Hernus Kriel to get out because one has lost a huge platform there. How can we preach to people about making sacrifices and joining together and so on when we've left to get into the opposition ranks to snipe at them all the time. It doesn't make sense and I share your assessment that that is lacking from the picture. But if you're in Johannesburg, here I sit in this office and I run around with party matters, but in Johannesburg I've got a connection to a small legal practice and I see my husband's business colleagues all the time and talk to sensible people in business there. They actually don't really mind what's happening because they want small inefficient government so that they can operate well and I think there's an increasing sense -

POM     They want small, inefficient government?

SC     Well they want small government and if it doesn't work very well they do it themselves. In the legal arena, if I can give you an example, all the affirmatives who have been made Taxing Masters of the bills of costs in legal cases don't know what they're up to, so what the Attorneys do is they get together and agree instead of going to the Taxing Master and fighting it out with someone who hasn't a clue, they agree together and then they just go and present the new affirmative Taxing Master with a fait accompli. In other words, small government, because it's made itself irrelevant to the process of business that's going on. That's a very African thing to happen in a funny sort of way but it may be the best way to free the economy, let everybody do their own thing because there is very little efficient government. Under the Nats there was too much government, too much red tape. There's a lawlessness in a sense that's laissez faire, one just does it because they can't cope so one just does one's own thing and makes it work. Now I think that has advantages and disadvantages but at least the business people aren't utterly depressed about life. There are lots of interesting opportunities presenting themselves and profits to be made.

POM     Let me take you back; every year, I think I've told you before, I visit one person and he gives me a tutorial on the finances of the country, and that's Derek Keys.

SC     I bumped into Derek on Saturday morning, he was waiting for his wife to pick up her groceries, she was going through the till and he was just standing there. She was going through the till with her big basket of stuff and he was standing there like her lord and master, half waiting to help but half overseeing the process.

POM     Well that's good because he kind of put it the same way. We were at his third floor office in the Gencor building on Hollard Street and he looked out on all his domain and we talked about the economy and I went through all the rituals. Nobody disagreed with this from unionist to leftist to capitalist, to say GEAR isn't working. It's not working.

SC     No.

POM     The growth rate may be at 2½% a year, it's going to go no greater. Factor in the rate of growth of population and you get under 1% rise in per capita income per year. That means the mass of the poor are going to remain exactly where they are.

SC     And if you want to be utterly depressed you have to drive through the endless squatter camps and informal settlements around Jo'burg to get completely depressed. They're going to be there for ever. Eighty years, a hundred years isn't going to change their depressing -

POM     Therefore this talk that's put forward as transformation is an illusion because there is not going to be that form of transformation taking place at all.

SC     The people at the top, their colour is going to change.

POM     Well yes, they will change. What Keys was saying is that the economy will grow, per capita income less than 1% a year but that's growth so that's better than no growth and if one's going to be poor in a country it's better to be poor in South Africa than in many other countries and having come from Angola last week I want to tell you I agree with him completely. Two, he says that employment is not going to increase. You're going to have a static situation. In fact it might even get worse.

SC     The birth rate's gone down a bit, the black birth rate In any case the abortions are helping.

POM     A little bit, so that's kind of a factor but that's not changing. The gap between the rich and the poor is going to stay about the same. It's going to stabilise where it is and that's where it's going to be.

SC     But he was very depressed about what is happening with the Nats. He just clucked his tongue and said, "Disaster." He feels FW did the wrong thing, the timing was wrong, he should have got out earlier and left Roelf in charge, really.

POM     What could Roelf do about an economic policy agreed upon across the board by all parties which essentially can't work because the external and internal constraints say it can't work.

SC     Isn't it a bit soon to tell? I mean the fact is it's there. If you look at the theory of GEAR, the  book, it looks fine actually, it can be approved of by the IMF and The World Bank and you and everyone. On paper it looks fine. Then the implementation will jog along. It won't be easy because of COSATU and the Communist Party in the ANC ranks. In fact not much will happen where it hurts them.

POM     He said there's no structure of things, that the rate of government spending, even though Trevor Manuel is holding the deficit to 4% -

SC     And he's quite strict.

POM     And very good.

SC     He is. He's being progressive.

POM     The thing is that your growth, government expenditure can grow while you still hold the deficit within 4% of GDP, so that doesn't mean that government expenditure isn't growing, it is growing so you're doing very well holding your deficit at that level,  but government expenditure is growing. Two, there are no domestic savings at all, it's an over-consumption society. Three, the inflow of foreign investment is very moderate and will stay that way. It's not going to improve very much. So where are you? So all these goals, what this rejuvenation and this catalyst of take-off is supposed to -

SC     Well it's not taking off. But the fact is that at least somebody is coming, there is some sort of semblance of economic stability. There's also physical stability after a fashion, if you exclude crime. There are plus factors which will allow the trickle to carry on, trickle of investments and interest in tourism so there will be some foreign money coming in. So your scenario about everything jogging along and not improving greatly and more or less staying the same, at least it's stable and perhaps that's the best one can hope for. What we've got to guard against surely is over-centralisation leading to crazy African dictatorships and that sort of thing. As long as those other factors are in place that won't happen.

POM     But are you talking in the longer run, that is the reasonable expectancy of our lives or whatever?

SC     Talking about medium term.

POM     Medium term, yes. That's a nice way of putting it. That things are really not going to change a lot.

SC     It looks like that.

POM     Do you believe that?

SC     Well I can't see why they should change a lot.

POM     Now you are one of the chief opinion makers in this country. You're a woman, you're white, there's a special niche for you to carve out a role so how would you see that role? Now, let me help you -

SC     Can I ask you what you want out of me? Is it within a political context? I have to operate within a political party, political grouping.

POM     But then you've got to leave the party.

SC     But you see one shouldn't only see it in a negative sense, but if you see it as leaving rather than as joining something newer, that's what I feel, one's got to help build an opposition grouping that's viable.

POM     I would say, go with Roelf, tomorrow morning.

SC     But one's got to build -

POM     But there are no structures.

SC     There are no structures at all.

POM     There's no money.

SC     Well there's probably more money than the Nats can get at the moment. The Nats are on their uppers, nobody wants to give us money. I've been fund-raising, I was fund-raising with Roelf and then had to go back to them when Roelf disappeared and they said we can't give you that sort of money now because we've got to give some to him and we don't want to give you any money at all, you're going in the wrong direction. So we're really on our uppers. It's not good at the moment, definitely not. But what we have to aim for in the short to medium term is an opposition party or grouping that can command 30%, we've got to try and aspire to 30% at this stage I'm talking about because that means that one could get to 40% and then we pose a threat and then we can have some sort of influence on the ANC's approach and attitude and that might inspire them to - you see I don't think that we can sit around and hope that our 10%, 7%, 8%, 5%, 4% parties, totally fractured, waiting for the break-up of the ANC. It's a monolith, it's not going to happen. The only way it's going to happen is if the opposition looks like 30% or more like 30% and there's a threat that the way we're putting things is finding sympathy with their fringe supporters and then you're going to possibly - that would be a catalyst to break up to a more centralist party. So there is movement potentially if the fractured opposition could only get its act together. I know that Tony will not join forces with the Nats, he's said that to me, unless he's lying through his teeth.

POM     I had an amusing conversation in fact this morning before I talked to you, and I was asking him to differentiate between what would be white liberal values, whatever they are, and Afrikaner values, and I asked Roelf the same question yesterday and they both came down the same wave length that western liberal values are about the individual, about individual rights, about the individual's capacity, about the individual's innovativeness, entrepreneurness, expressiveness, cohesiveness, whereas Africanism is much more defined in terms of community and that the individual interest is sacrificed on behalf of the community. The question I asked Roelf was, I said does this mean, or would it mean if I gave an example, that you've children and they are going to a school and it becomes a mixed school and you say the standard is going to go down as a means I think it might get bad because I'm going to take them, me, individual, on behalf of my child, on behalf of myself, I'm going to give them the best opportunity they can have and that's why I'm taking them out of this school and putting them into that school whereas that mixed school goes down?

SC     It might not.

POM     Where black people might say, well we'll stay with the school because it's bringing us up.

SC     I suppose, if we didn't have like Blade Nzimande, if we're talking about education and you're allowed a certain measure of parent participation.

POM     Blade?

SC     Blade Nzimande, that nasty, communist, education boss in the ANC. He's changed the education, he's bullied old Bengu to change it so that the parent body doesn't have the right to decide which way the extra money that they are collecting for their school is to be spent. It can only be spent as the communist dominated ANC education desk decrees it. In other words they have changed that to diminish the powers of the parent body. So if you have that sort of thing happening you're going to get the whites removing their kids to private mushroom schools, you know the mushroom private schools, whereas if you'd allowed participation of the parent body in a free way -

POM     Now where does the Grove School case come into this? The eighty schools in the Western Cape?

SC     I haven't specifically followed that but I know what's been excluded is the parents' right to determine how the money they've collected is spent. They can't spend it on more teachers apparently, they can only spend it within certain bounds and that doesn't encourage parents who want a high standard to stick around, does it? Otherwise if they were given a free hand, those sort of mistakes I think are very destructive, that the ANC make. That is not conducive to nation building is it, because you don't allow parents to - this enforced uniformity of mediocrity is not what the yuppies are going to live with and put up with, are they, whether they're white or black?

POM     What are you going to put up with?

SC     In what context? I'm not going to put up with anything, I'm going to opt out or I'm going to decide to try and find a space in a bigger opposition.

POM     When I come back here in six months?

SC     Well I'll have decided something by then.

POM     I won't see you in this office.

SC     I hope not. It's a ghastly office, sent to Coventry by the Chief Whip who hates me.

POM     What I was saying is that the smartest move of whoever is the next leader of the NP should say we're going back into the government of national unity.

SC     Well that has to be the answer.

POM     And then that means the ANC have to shuffle at least nine of their ministers out of position.

SC     You see one of the candidates has already said that's his option. Danie Schutte from Natal. Is he not one of your interviewees?

POM     No, I missed him. I thought I had everybody targeted.

SC     He's got a better chance than Sam de Beer of beating Van Schalkwyk because he's got a conservative image, but he isn't really conservative, but he comes from Natal and we've never had a leader from Natal. He's a kind of compromise between south and north and he, in his initial opening statement, says that he would favour going back to the GNU. He's a lawyer. I followed him really, he was deputy minister before I was. He became Home Affairs briefly and then he was our chief spokesperson on justice before he was demoted to Natal by FW, he fell out with FW and was sent off to Natal. So then he's the leader there. But I think he would be a better bet than this Van Schalkwyk fellow, although maybe it's just because I'm too old for him.

POM     That would really throw a screw in the whole political apparatus of the ANC.

SC     Well exactly, one could screw them up and also beat one's breast about nation building at the same time. It must be the right option. I always thought that was Roelf's scheme actually, to be the only - you see it makes it difficult for him with Bantu because they hate Bantu, the ANC, and I think they'd try and do anything they could not to have him if he's with Bantu. I think, I actually said to Danie, I think Mandela even in 1999 is going to be desperate, not Mandela, Mbeki, to have some whites that he can draw in. It must be the answer. It helps them. We didn't gain a thing from leaving the GNU, not a vote, we lost them, so we must think again as far as our situation in the GNU is concerned.

POM     If you got an NP leader who said, OK we go back into government, you'd stick it out, but if you got an NP leader who said let's continue to be the loyal and diminishing opposition, you'd say it's time to move?

SC     Well I don't think that would be the main consideration. I just feel the Nats are on a highway to nowhere at the moment.

POM     Sheila, nothing I say will be published until we'll all be dead.

SC     I know, you're right, that must be the answer. Look if we don't try that, Roelf's crowd will.

POM     If you don't try going back in?

SC     Yes, it will be Roelf's gambit, it must be, because he wants to be part of the GNU, nation building, loyal but opposed, etc. All those things are important. I very much agree with you that that's what's missing, the nation building, reconciliation bit.

POM     On that, the last piece, I will let you alone for the next six months.

SC     I'm sure I'll disagree with everything here, but you've reached me at the lowest point.

POM     That's fine. History is supposed to be about that.

SC     You've reached me at a low point. I'm really mixed up. At the moment I'm trying to help Danie especially because he said that he's game to go back into the GNU. That was his commitment immediately. He's always wanted to, he's always wanted to be in the GNU.

POM     Exercise power when you can exercise it.

SC     So I don't think that will get us very far. I think, I mean the Western Cape is pulling out all the stops to try and get the other one elected.

POM     Who?

SC     Van Schalkwyk.

POM     I've never met him. I kind of feel disappointed I never heard of him. Who's this new guy, I'm saying.

SC     Go and seek him out, go and chat him up.

POM     But it would be a brilliant move to move back in. You'd couple two things, you'd couple displacing the ANC and making them knock people out because they're constitutionally -

SC     They would be on their back foot completely.

POM     But you constitutionally have the right to be there.

SC     It's very awkward to sell that and save face.

POM     The TRC, just a last thing, is it bogging down into no truth?

SC     I think they're getting in a mess. I don't know how our court case will go. I think they're getting in a bit of a mess because the chorus against the way they're operating is growing. We're not on our own, the IFP is taking some of the line, well they always have from the beginning, and now the army officers are all taking that line. I think that our court case, if we win it, we won't win getting Boraine removed perhaps but we might get a declaratory order that they are not complying with the act. I think we stand quite a good chance of that. Certainly on the papers I've read their case is really weakly put. Have you read the papers? Are you interested or not really?

POM     In which?

SC     In the TRC case that we've got.

POM     Oh yes, oh yes. I don't have a copy of it. Is it possible to get a copy?

SC     I've got it all here. I could ask Sophie to copy it for you. It's very voluminous. I could give you the Heads of Argument perhaps on our side and you can read the other side's Heads of Argument.  These are the papers here so it's quite voluminous. This is the Heads of Argument summing up our case.

POM     Could you ask her to copy them?

SC     OK, I'll ask her to do it.

POM     And on that I will leave you alone and let you go home.

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.