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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
14 Oct 1997: Zuma, Jacob
POM Mr Zuma, to begin, on this whole discussion that's broken out initiated by Peter Mokaba on his discussion document for the December Council on what the relationship should be between the SACP and the ANC, do you personally believe that one ought to be able to be a member of the NEC and also a member of the SACP Central Committee? You go in and, as he would say, you put one hat on and make a decision as part of the NEC, then you walk out and you go into a caucus of the SACP central leadership which takes a different position and you find yourself speaking out of two sides of your mouth. That's one. Two, his contention that the ANC was never conceived as being a socialist oriented organisation and that there is an inherent contradiction between those in the ANC who believe that the way forward is through capital driven markets, i.e. the creation of capital, and members of the SACP who still believe that the way forward is through the redistribution of existing capital rather than the creation of new capital, so the growth people versus the redistributionist people. That's my first simple question.
JZ Firstly I don't know whether it's an important debate right now from my own point of view. One, because we have never necessarily discussed our relationship in the manner in which it is being discussed now, not that people have never had views. It's not our culture to discuss these matters in the manner in which it's being discussed. We have always discussed these matters properly within the structures if people had specific views and I would be the last person to want to add in that kind of public debate, in that kind of way.
POM I'm not publishing anything until the year 2000 when the question will be academic.
JZ I know, I know.
POM Where is your mind now? How do you see - ?
JZ I am coming to that, I am making that point because I want that point to be clear because even if the publication is in 2000 that is the view that I made in 1997.
POM You will be the President in 2004!
JZ Well precisely the reason! I've got to make the point very clear. Secondly, there are issues that have been raised in terms of the conference that are part of the documentation that the ANC is talking about. This is a view expressed by a leading member of the ANC and responded to by leading members of both the ANC and the party. I would be very keen to participate in a debate that is properly within the culture, etc., on these matters because there is no contradiction in all the issues that have been raised. You have had communists being members of the ANC for decades, being members of the trade union movement, being members of all three organisations. It has never raised a contradiction. If anything it has actually helped to enhance the culture of political understanding, etc. It doesn't mean people have never had different views. They had their way to deal with those views. I would imagine if this issue has to be dealt with it has to come in a particular way. I am not even sure that you want to throw this issue in the manner in which it is being thrown to a huge conference of 3000 and something delegates when you have not processed the issue in the first instance. So I am not sure whether this is a responsible way of actually debating the matter, whoever is debating it now. I am not saying they shouldn't hold views. We have structures, these colleagues who were debating this issue sit in the National Executive Committee of the ANC where the matter could have been thrown open for a debate. So I am saying I am worried about the manner in which it has been raised.
POM Why hasn't it been done within the structures?
JZ Precisely, you must ask the individuals.
POM Well I asked Peter Mokaba. I also asked him who's going to be the next Deputy President and he said Jacob Zuma is because I have taken care of the Youth League. Right now he's behind you.
JZ I've got no problem with that. I've not even got a problem -
POM Anybody ring up Peter and say, Peter, there are structures within which we do this?
JZ No, no, because I don't know what makes him to do it. I'm not saying he shouldn't do it, I'm saying there has always been a culture, I will deal with it. I am not expressing a view on this. Certainly it would be wrong for any person who enjoys membership of one organisation to go out having participated in the processes of that organisation and fail to handle his or her knowledge and discipline of that organisation that when he gets into another organisation that is in alliance he forgets that he is part of other decisions and begins to say things that tend to undermine what he participated in. That has not been the culture, this is what I say, historically that has never been a problem. Therefore anyone who does so is actually undermining the alliance itself. So the matter that Peter has raised if people do so they will certainly be undermining. One of the strengths of the alliance has been the respect that members who enjoyed more than one membership knew exactly how to conduct themselves, how to handle the matters in terms that could bring tension or conflict within the alliance. It's a new culture that people could just say things anyhow. Now as an issue I think it's an issue we need to deal with and I am sure we will be dealing with it within the movement, how the members behave. But as to the membership whether the people have a right to have a membership I think we have got a policy on that one, people have enjoyed the membership all the time. I take it Peter is raising the issue because people have raised the issue in the manner in which they have raised them. Now that's why I am saying it would have been useful if the issue was raised within the structures so that we could attend to that issue and then deal with it.
POM What other people say to me when they read his statements and whatever, this also came up in my conversation with him, is this very sensitive issue of representativity. To put it crudely, that Indians and whites are over-represented in the major leadership structures of the ANC. For example, that there are five Indian ministers out of 26 senior ministers, and they are one million out of a 40 million population and the imbalance here is wrong, that more Africans should be in control of their fate rather than it being put in the hands of whether it be Indians, coloureds or whites. So there is a disparity here, a need for affirmative action at the top leadership as well as affirmative action in the civil service.
JZ I am not sure because I don't think we could quote that and say that our policy says this one.
POM Oh I know that but it's an issue.
JZ No, no, I understand you. I'm saying from the policy point of view you can't say our policy says that's how things should be, but I don't think anyone is debarred from having a view or a concern. Again, it's a question of how that concern is raised. I am aware, because people have made those remarks, including Indians, have made that kind of remark that there seems to be over-representation. Again it's an issue we need to talk about properly so that we can put it either in our practice or in our policy or whatever. It's an issue that you could raise as a concern, not because there is a deviation from any policy. There is not deviation from any policy but that concern is raised and all I am saying is that the matter needs to be brought into the proper structures so that it could be dealt with.
POM But isn't this a matter that would have been raised within the NEC?
JZ It could be raised within the NEC. In the NEC you raise any issue.
POM But then hasn't it been raised?
JZ No it hasn't been raised formally. But people have said, informal meetings have been held, we need the African leadership. It has never been debated. I was saying the matter has not been raised. It could be raised, it could be discussed, and I am saying people have recently been talking that we must discuss the question of the African leadership but it hasn't been discussed, it's not been raised properly and formally. Even that issue has never been raised formally and people are free to raise it if they think there is a problem, if they have got a concern. We discuss any issue in the NEC.
POM But do you think it is an issue?
JZ It hasn't emerged as an issue. I know that a few people or some people have concerns but it hasn't been an issue.
POM So when the media or the intellectual organs of the country talk about this conflict within the ANC about being Africanist?
JZ No, there's no conflict that I know of.
POM How do stories like this - ?
JZ The intellectual organs of this country say everything about the ANC.
JZ It's because the ANC is a factor in the country. I can tell you no thinker in South Africa can say anything without talking about the ANC, he wouldn't be thinking, either critically or in praise whether in business - if you plan a business you have got to check what the ANC policies are, if you are a journalist in order for your story to be credible you've got to say something about the ANC whether negative or positive, if you are an editor you've got to edit something about the ANC. Anything you do, so it's nothing, it's not only intellectuals. Even criminals they can claim 'I'm ANC', because the ANC is a factor in the country and that's why thinking people have got it as a reference point, it's a benchmark.
POM So if I talk, which I have, say, to an unnamed minister who is non-African and who says 'I have concerns about the future because I don't quite know what this whole thing about representativity, about Africanism, really is.' Now does that person have a concern that's real but which he or she won't raise because it is not the politically correct thing to do, maybe it was in dispute in the organisation?
POM No I don't know. There is nothing which is politically not correct to raise. We prefer that people raise things within the organisation rather than to talk to journalists because talking to a journalist is actually being more naughty to go to the journalist and make those kind of suggestions. You don't know whether the suggestions are correct because why not raise the matter within the ANC. The ANC has it's own policies about the national groupings in the country and it has the most advanced policies. In our basic policy document, the Freedom Charter, we addressed this issue, the equality of all national groups before the law in the country. We recognise they exist and that they've got to be handled in a particular way. In our description of the struggle we have not hidden the fact that the Africans in particular have been at the bottom of the ladder and that has never been, up until 1985, it was in 1985 in a conference in Zambia that an ANC conference took a decision to open the National Executive Committee membership to other minority groups. Up until 1985 they couldn't be members of the NEC no matter who they were.
POM They could be members of the ANC but not members of the NEC?
JZ NEC, National Executive Committee. They were members of the ANC.
POM So as a white person I could have been a member of the ANC but I could not have been a member of the NEC?
JZ Yes. That conference took a decision which indicates to you, there is nothing hidden, nothing mysterious about it, that has been the situation, but the matter was debated in conference and we then took a majority decision to open the NEC to the ANC, that's why the Joe Slovo's were elected, the Ronnie Kasrils were elected only in 1985. They served in other structures except that one.
POM Many people would say they assumed disproportionate leadership positions after they came into the NEC.
JZ No. That's why I'm saying that's not the issue because they can't be a majority in that NEC, they have never been a majority. It's a question of splitting hairs.
POM I know, but I said there are five Indian ministers out of 26, where the population representation is 40 : 1. Many Africans say we're under-represented here again.
JZ I'm saying no-one is debarred from having that concern. Let the concern be raised so that we could look at that proportionality. The fact that we have got so many it means that the ANC doesn't think racist when it even allocated responsibilities. It doesn't think racist. That is why you could not say now the number is so much, I have gone beyond. That's not the issue, but once you have them sized and people say Jesus Christ, it's over-representation, it's an issue that they are raising that they are concerned. I am saying let the issue be raised so that it could be discussed because if it is not discussed then it is not going to get to be discussed because whoever has got a concern must raise the issue in the proper structures.
POM Do you think it is an issue?
JZ I don't think it's an issue.
POM You don't, OK.
JZ I don't think it's an issue because we are not necessarily looking at - you see we talk for example of proportional representation in the country. That's political majoritiness, it's not when we are within one organisation. If people want to make it an issue to be discussed so that we take a decision we've got no policy on that. We didn't say in the ANC NEC there is a position that you can only have so much in the ministries. There is nothing like this, it's not against our policy. You could have any number. But if it is a concern, if people feel that is a concern, why not raise it so that it could be discussed and see how far we go with it. That's the point I'm making. There is no violation of any policy. It's not.
POM I suppose, not to beat a point to death, my point would be, do you think it is an issue that should be raised, should be discussed and a very clear policy be enunciated rather than it be an issue that is not being discussed but nevertheless is an issue that is floating out there with all kinds of poisonous little tentacles to it about race, about everything else?
JZ I don't know. You know if you raise that issue formally, officially, I don't know how many other things you are going to raise which are not policy matters. They are matters of how the organisation handles itself. Look, for example, if I make another example, just a short point, there is no policy that says a white man or an Indian or a coloured cannot be the President of the ANC, but by practice that is not possible. You don't have to sit down and work out a policy because once you do so you are actually becoming racist in a sense. You can't do so, that is the practice. It's generally known. If at one point one President of the ANC appoints more whites it's because of a number of considerations. Some people could be concerned about it, somebody else might do a different thing. Now I'm just afraid that if you say such issues should be discussed you will end up discussing every other issue which is not a matter of policy. That would be my problem. I hope you do get my point. There are many things that might irritate a few people, individuals, which are not a matter of policy. But what I'm trying to run away from is to take concerns -
POM Which you're not trying to run away from.
JZ What I'm trying to say is you can't take every other little thing because somebody feels very strongly about that it must be a matter of policy because you will be restricting the innovation, you will be restricting the right and authority that presidents have. I might want, one person of the ANC might find that Comrade so-and-so who is not African is good for this and for that and for the other at that given time. Now once you restrict in policy you then change your organisation to begin to think racist and I'm saying I'm worried about that. The concern is fine, people could raise the concern and talk about it and say - for instance once you prescribe policy you are actually in the camp of thinking in racist terms. That's not our policy. We don't think racist. But at the same time I think what people ought to be saying, much as we are not thinking racist, we must not do things that will make people begin to think racist. If they are raising a general question to say let us be careful about this one, I will understand because there will be people anyway who will be concerned in one form or the other. I am just afraid that if we begin to say conference must take decisions, how many minorities would be allowed in cabinet, I think that is reducing the ANC's very correct and over-riding policy into a very little, small, petty kind of an organisation.
POM To switch to something completely different and I am sure you have looked at, if not read, Patti Waldmeir's book Anatomy of a Miracle. She quotes you talking about the ANC's relationship with the IFP and with Buthelezi. Her point is that she was saying that you are one of the few ANC people who said Gatsha's problem is probably of our own making, that we went a long way towards creating that problem. The implicit thing is that it's never been recognised in a way that the situation can be finally dealt with. One, is her assessment of what you think correct? Two, I talked to Chief Buthelezi the other day and he is still as angry as hell saying only the symptoms of violence are being dealt with, not the in-depth causes, and that he fears that in 1999 everything will explode again, that no-go areas are still no-go areas and even those that are calm on the surface that underneath the peace initiatives are not dealing with the underlying causes of the distress between supporters of the ANC and IFP. Do you think that in history, one tries not to apportion blame but to apportion truth if that's possible, what would your assessment be of how the conflict between the IFP and the ANC not only had its origins but how it escalated in the way that it did to a point where you have this troubling undercurrent of violence almost permanently present?
JZ Firstly, I think I have dealt with this question before. The problem between the IFP and the ANC, two things, politically speaking we come from the same thinking. We then differ at a given time in history on a few points, not many, which tend to be exaggerated by the interpreters, even the academic institutions.
POM Can you tell me which are the ones that are the non-important ones that are emphasised as being the important ones and which are the ones that matter?
JZ We differed with the IFP on the question of the armed struggle, and again it was being interpreted, when meeting with the IFP we couldn't find the difference. In the London meeting, for example, of 1979 it was not that the IFP was against the armed struggle but it could not adopt the armed struggle as a strategy because it was within South Africa.
POM Was this appreciated by - ?
JZ It was appreciated by us both, but that was a point of difference. The second point was the question of whether you call it sanctions or disinvestment. Those were the two issues politically speaking. When then those issues were standing very clear what the National Party government did was to create disinformation to make those disagreements become permanent and lead to conflict, what you call the third force. That is why when the ANC was unbanned we stopped the armed struggle, we stopped the sanctions of South Africa. We couldn't say now there are no differences, let's come together because a new issue had arisen, violence had taken place and many people have died so the anger of people had become hatred.
POM Just to play devil's advocate, so you're in London and I am, say, the representative of Inkatha and you are the representative of the ANC, this is all hypothetical, and I say, 'Listen Jacob, you've got to understand our position is not that we are against the armed struggle per se but if we endorse the armed struggle then our internal usefulness becomes completely -
JZ That is not a hypothetical case, that's how the argument went.
POM OK, and then you would say, 'I appreciate the argument and we must find a way to co-ordinate or to make the two policies work hand in hand.' I leave, I go back to my principal, you leave and you go back to your principals and suddenly there appears to be this major break over these issues. Now you think disinformation is created. Didn't sufficient structures exist so that I could get back on the phone or go round to Lusaka or go God knows where and say we're being used? What happens, what's the dynamic?
JZ That's why I'm saying I have discussed this issue before. When there was a meeting in London there was exactly the same argument. It's not an hypothetical case, it was exactly the same. So it was agreed that it is not different. The ANC accepted that Inkatha can't preach armed struggle. The IFP agreed that the ANC can't stop the armed struggle. But you see there was a political atmosphere here which you need to follow. Part of the reason that our enemy got in was because a culture of black politics within South Africa that was following the ANC politics rejected the homeland politics. And your leadership which was here did not have the sophistication that the ANC had which led to rejection of the policy but had tactics how to work within in order to undermine. So your ANC support base within the country, the MDM which did not understand this meeting, continued making statements. At that time people like Motlanthe and others were making statements against Buthelezi, not accepting him and because of Buthelezi's nature instead of looking at that critical meeting in London he responds to them which makes the political conflict continue and the Special Branch takes advantage of that, gets in and says the ANC wants to kill you, we need therefore to train your people, the war is coming against you that you must fight. So they take advantage of that, it is not just the ANC only, that's why the conflict first started with UDF and Inkatha. The ANC only started fighting with the IFP after 1990. So that's a dynamic which we need to build on.
POM When I first met Chief Buthelezi which was in 1990, he produced for me a big book of 600 pages of insults made against him by mostly UDF, Mass Democratic Movement, all these tar him, feather him, he's a scapegoat, he's this, he's a sell-out. He said he was deeply hurt and aggrieved. Now, one, do you think he had a legitimate grievance? Two, why did it take so long after the ANC was unbanned and you were back in the country to start mending what must have been to most of you - ?
JZ There are two simple things. Firstly, in Buthelezi's position I think it was important for him to understand that there was a genuine rejection of the homeland policies. Right? And therefore people are not going to accept him easily. We had a policy of calling all those who accepted Bantustans puppets. However, we found a way to work with them. He was very sensitive about that. He then blamed us, that is our supporters, but you couldn't win in mobilising people against apartheid who are not as sophisticated in terms of leadership as the ANC and tell them that in fact don't go against apartheid full time, that kind of stuff. So he took that position and these people schooled by anti-apartheid politics, anyone who was a homeland leader was a puppet. I think he ought to have understood the situation because in the dealings with us a lot of things were discussed with him which were never open and published. The ANC could not begin to school its own people first.
POM But he says that he only took the position as head of KwaZulu/Natal or whatever after consulting with the ANC.
JZ But these people did not know, this younger generation did not know that. That's a fact, they did not know that.
JZ When the ANC came back you could not move ahead, away from the understanding of their constituency, so it was important first to deal with the constituency, to take them on board so that you could move towards - you couldn't say you are all wrong, you moved towards Buthelezi. It would be a stupid national liberation movement. That is why already in 1991 there was a top meeting between the IFP and the ANC here in Durban to discuss the issues, to begin a process. That is why when we came back we began to interact with Inkatha. If there was no Special Branch role we would have solved these problems by 1991 but you already had agendas by the South African government not to allow the IFP and the ANC to come together.
POM What's interesting to me about this is that, again, there was a meeting that took place I think in Switzerland after De Klerk became State President but before Mandela was released and Mbeki was there and you were there and Mike Louw from the NIS was there, and Neil Barnard could have been there. But it was a meeting which Mandela didn't know about or that De Klerk didn't know about, but that the NIS wanted to meet with you guys. They weren't meeting with you but they were one of the partners. There was this meeting in Switzerland, do you know which one I'm referring to?
JZ I think I do.
POM The NIS were there, you were there, Thabo was there and neither Mandela knew about it nor De Klerk, and according to accounts both were furious afterwards that the meeting had taken place without their knowledge. They wanted to know what was going on, who was planning what behind their backs. Now since the NIS played a role with meeting with Thabo during the eighties in London and other places and the NIS were in on the meetings with Mandela when he was in prison and, according to the accounts you would read, they appeared to be one of the agents of change, wanting to change things. What was the relationship between that meeting that you would have had with them, what were they there to do, to facilitate change or to suss you out? What's the relationship between that and you talking about the way in KwaZulu/Natal after 1990 the Special Branch, i.e. an arm of the NIS?
JZ The Special Branch was not an arm of the NIS. These two, we are talking about the police, the Special Branch was the secret police, the NIS was the National Intelligence Agency.
POM Don't you think it would be a stupid National Intelligence Agency that didn't know what it's secret police was doing?
JZ No, they might have known, they might have known. I am sure they should have known, but they were part of the strategy to destroy the ANC.
POM Now which was? The NIS was?
JZ No I'm saying government, every institution of government. It's general objective was to destroy the ANC.
POM So when people like Mike Louw still occupy the high position in the NIS?
JZ Not now.
POM When people who were in major positions - ?
JZ No, what I'm trying to do, let us not connect those two in a wrong way. I want to clear this because you need to get it right. Every institution of the government its major aim was to destroy the ANC, common goal, whether you were a soldier, you were SAP, you were Special Branch, you were Intelligence of the Special Branch, you were MI (Military Intelligence), or National Intelligence, whatever.
POM So when Mandela opens discussions with the government, they are out to destroy him?
JZ I understand that. Listen, all those were to destroy the ANC. That was their prime objective. And National Intelligence, NIS, started being BOSS during Vorster's time, its objective was to destroy the ANC. Each one worked out its own strategies. That's a different matter. South Africa with time, with the increase of the struggle both in the army, let's first start with the army, the army in the eighties began to say you need negotiations. It was Magnus Malan and Viljoen who said the conflict in South Africa is 80% political, only 20% is military. That statement was suggesting we've got to solve this problem politically not militarily. The intellectual in South Africa began to feel the isolation of the world, began to interact with the ANC, business. So you reached a point in South Africa where the thinking was changing, thus IDASA organised the meeting in Dakar, thus the business came to Lusaka to meet with the ANC, big business, against PW Botha's advice, thus a number of other meetings with academics began to take place not with Intelligence, not with NIS. NIS was not the first to say we now need to change. There was a recognition by NIS of that situation and also of the situation that you could not solve the problem in South Africa through confrontation. You need ways to discuss. That's how the trend moves. What then happens, independently they were talking to Mandela out of Mandela's initiative. Not out of their initiative. So Mandela's initiative with them added value to their thinking that in fact he is right, we need to change. It's not them who became genius overnight. He had a lot of meetings with them, wrote documents to say you can't solve the problem through conflict. Then at a given time, because all this contact was done by business, by intellectuals, by farmers, by religious people, we met them. We were influencing the Afrikaner thinking. It began to filter back to the Intelligence and they began to be interested to have contact with the ANC. So there's no conflict. Mandela never got angry about it.
POM But when - ?
JZ I'm coming to that, I'm explaining that one. Because it's not NIS, Mike Louw brilliantly thinking - pooh, here we are - not at all. It was a flow of events. It was a timing that had come. The NIS had a discussion with PW Botha and they agreed we need to consult, to begin to contact the ANC because NIS became more convinced now with all that information that in fact what we need is change. The National Party itself had accepted the fact that they couldn't continue with apartheid but they had not reached a point where they would say we must turn and move. So PW Botha then said, "Fine, I'm now sending you, make the contact." When they made that contact Tambo said, "OK, meet them, let us hear what is going on." So it's not that the meeting was not known. The leaders who mattered knew about the meeting. PW Botha on one side and Oliver Tambo on the other, the meeting you are talking about, to say where are we, what is happening? That meeting, it's important that it was the first meeting that was a real eye-to-eye contact between the regime and us because other meetings - we had been meeting South Africans of every description, but that was the first one. PW Botha alone knew. He was the President of the country so there was no need for De Klerk to know. Tambo who was heading the ANC knew about the meeting so there was nothing out of order. PW Botha when that meeting had started is attacked by a stroke. He moves out of the scene. De Klerk comes in as the President. There is a secret he has to know. He then had to be briefed and he accepted it and he continued. That is why he would always say, "I took over from where PW Botha left off." So that is not related to any third force activity.
POM No, but you said that every institution in this country was out to destroy the ANC. So the NIS come to see you and they are now accepting the need for change but are they there in a spirit of accommodation or are they there to suss you out and find new ways to destroy you?
JZ No, no, NIS did a lot of dirty things. I'm saying, like intellectuals in South Africa, they did a lot of things to support the National Party. Business, they did a lot of things in support of the apartheid policies. All of these reached a particular point where they realised it was not healthy. NIS as an institution reached a point to say you need change, you cannot govern South Africa as a white regime, you need that all South Africans must participate. So they reached a point where the reality dawned upon them to say we cannot continue and decided therefore to work to increase that influence within the NP. So at the point when they were coming to see us it was well known as an institution, a new thinking had developed that they actually wanted to play a role to influence the positiveness. That was NIS, it was not Military Intelligence, it was not the Special Branch. Those were doing their own things as institutions how to manipulate everybody against the ANC. That is why even long after the unbanning, when we were here, some of these institutions were just continuing like in the case here, as you had at Shobashabane. Even now at Richmond they are still continuing when in fact it is already a government which is supportive of the ANC government. So I am saying it's not exactly the same, it's not connected.
POM So when a government minister says 'I didn't know what was going on', you in a way are saying, if I hear you correctly, that many institutions of the apartheid government were working at cross purposes, NIS understanding the need for accommodation in some ways.
JZ Not at cross purposes. Each one had its own agenda on the same objective. It is only at a point when others stopped and began to be critical of others. The police for example, NIS at a certain time did not think it was a correct method to continue with repression and the briefed PW Botha that by so doing we are actually increasing revolution. So they began because they had information. The Military Intelligence was doing its own thing. What the claim is today is that whoever was at the head of these departments must have known, must have sanctioned moneys.
POM But individually, within their departments?
JZ No, there was a broader one from the Security Council where decisions were taken, but of course they were decisions on principle but there were further operational decisions which were needed from the minister, some at the level of the Generals going down.