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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

23 Jun 1998: De Klerk, Willem

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POM     I'll begin with a rhetorical one, has the slide begun?

WDK     The slide from?

POM     The slide from where ANC policies or government policies - you gave me this document, it's the Political Review of June 1997 and I probably will run through some of the statements you made then and see what your analysis of the situation would be compared to a year ago. One of the important ones you had made was that: "It is of the utmost importance for South Africa that the core priorities and policies of the ANC government be successful. If stated priorities fail SA will be swallowed into a downward spiral."

     You are now facing a situation where the country, like many others, finds itself a hostage to the economics of globalisation and where its capacity to determine its own fate, so to speak, is not entirely in its own hands and that even the best conceived of policies may not only not be implemented but in retrospect may damage rather than help the economy.

WDK     As you know I'm always, I would say, an optimist but I'm still not that pessimistic. Yes, I think we're moving into a new phase of the process, namely the electioneering, it's started already. That's one aspect of - during elections, as you know very well, everything comes to a certain extent to a standstill, there is no mood in government circles to make decisions, especially unpopular decisions, etc., etc. That's the first thing that halts the process; the electioneering. The second thing is the whole economy and we're tied to the eastern markets and, I won't say undeveloped, but the emerging market situation and that's a very, very worrying factor and that will also bring a restraint, not in policy making, but to apply policies. That's the second problem. The third one is that the whole, that's a point from the electioneering point of view, that the whole relationship between COSATU and the rest of the ANC and also the Communist Party, let's say the three pillars of the alliance, is very tense, never mind what they say from platforms and COSATU and the SACP gang up to a certain extent against policies of GEAR, etc., etc., let's say, gang up against the more moderate, realistic section of ANC leadership. So that's three factors, the electioneering, tense relationships and COSATU is winning arguments all the way now. We will see what's going to happen with this unemployment conference that's planned. According to newspapers it seems to me it's also scaled down to a certain extent. So I expect really not a very healthy political climate in SA for the next year.

POM     GEAR for all practical purposes is dead?

WDK     Yes.

POM     Do you not think it would be better at this point for the government to say it has failed to achieve its objectives and to redefine its macro-economic policy in terms of more realisable objectives than to continue to insist? It's like insisting that the framework is correct but just the growth figures and -

WDK     Yes that's it. I would say that's the reason. I think there will be a lot of compromises on GEAR as part of electioneering, as part of the pressures of COSATU but I think the philosophy, the fundamental philosophy of GEAR, it's very, very dangerous for a government to scrap that kind of philosophy and say let's go back to the drawing board because it was a kind of a victory over socialism and communism from the economic point of view specifically and it's not ideology any more in SA, there are a lot of communists and so on, but it's the economic thing, particularly an economic thing. If they are going to scrap the whole GEAR in its philosophy in its background it will be a shock, I think, for the international world, especially the western world and so on. It will be a shock for the business community in SA because that's still one of the things that people say well, after all, the macro-economic policies of GEAR are sound policies. OK, but they must admit, but I don't think they will admit, I think COSATU will force them to do that, admit that we couldn't achieve all the goals of GEAR and Mbeki's already giving some hints in that regard.

POM     Well not only have they not met all of the goals, they've met none of the goals.

WDK     None of the goals, yes, that's true. The problem is that GEAR is a capitalist orientated macro policy and the RDP that's the developmental model and they couldn't marry these two philosophies and so from the developmental point of view I think really that they've got problems with a power base. I don't expect that they will abstain from voting and I still believe that the ANC will be in the vicinity of a two thirds majority, it's anyone's guess but it will definitely be a 60% plus vote for the ANC. If Mandela or Mbeki or whoever says straightforward that we've failed in our macro-economic goals and that we failed in the RDP, I think being politicians they will be very cautious to do that. So they will come around the point and again say, and that's the tendency, I'm jumping a lot of subjects now, the tendency during the last months is a kind of a new racism but also from the ANC point of view important leader figures there blaming more or less everything on the business sector or the unwillingness of whites to co-operate and slowing down the transformation process and they are enemies of the revolution and that kind of talk. So they will get round the whole problem blaming other factors and there are other factors to blame of course, the global economy, etc., etc.

POM     Just running around myself, Mandela's speech at the 50th Congress of the ANC was extraordinary. He lashed out at everybody and everything and it was the most unreconciling six hour speech the country has heard in decades.

WDK     I don't know, I can't evaluate the truth of this, but from well placed sources I heard the comment that Mandela was ill-advised about that speech. The advice was that you're leading the ANC now and that's another thing when you leave the government and you're here now as the idol of the revolution, as the chief of uMkhonto weSizwe, so you must be here more revolutionary, more aggressive and that's the way that it's fit to greet your fellow struggle comrades in that mood than to be a statesman and to be a little bit reconciliatory and so on. According to my source this was the advice to Mandela and that was a kind of shock in the country and I presume abroad too, all of a sudden this aggressiveness. Then Thabo also, there was also the inclination but I believe that he is misunderstood, of his two nations, there are still two nations in SA.

POM     I want to get around to that, but many people have said, including I think Mandela's official biographer Anthony Samson who works for The Guardian, that Mbeki wrote the speech.

WDK     That's new for me but I will believe that.

POM     If he did, and taking it in conjunction with his speech on July 4th where he talked about the two separate nations, that there had been no progress towards reconciliation at all, that whites still enjoyed all the privileges they ever had, that inequity was growing, not diminishing. Do you not find that statements that there has been no progress towards reconciliation a commentary of sort on Mandela's efforts to bring about reconciliation?

WDK     No I don't think so, even if Mbeki wrote the speech, I don't think so. I think - well my observations and sources, etc., are still very much at ease with Mbeki. We all believe, and I am also referring to the business sector, not all of the business people of course, but sections of the business sector and even politicians and intellectuals and so on, that Mbeki will be a very well balanced prime minister and a very well balanced president. I think that's part of strategy, part of ANC strategy, let Mandela say the negative things and I, Mbeki, will support him in that with a few speeches and then again we can switch and focus again to calm down the whites in SA and the international world. I really think it's strategy, I really think that it's also strategy to accelerate the transformation process and I think it's unfair, really unfair, to say that there's absolutely no progress in the whole situation of reconciliation and transformation. I think there are millions and millions of rand going into transformation from the business sector in education and training and bursaries and new appointments. I'll tell you just now about that, something more, and there is an atmosphere of accepting the ANC government in white circles, there's a growing atmosphere of give them a chance and, after all, the policies on paper are not that bad, the problem is that they are not very functional in decision making and even affirmative action. There is acceptance in the country that, yes, 80% more or less of influential positions and mediocre and lower positions must be blacks. So I think really that there is progress in reconciliation and there is progress in transformation.

POM     So you would disagree with Mbeki's statement?

WDK     I think it's an over-statement. The truth is somewhere in the middle. There is a faction of South African white people, I'm sorry to say that especially, and I'm not dealing now from my clan or my ethnic group, but especially in English speaking circles. I'm not against the Jews, I'm not anti-Semitic at all, but also in Jewish business circles there is this kind of, oh, everything has gone, everything is going down the drain, we will never ever be in a position to turn the corner. Then of course there's the movement to the right in Afrikaner circles politically that's also becoming more and more aggressive; Corné Mulder's speech threatening a kind of civil war about two weeks ago. But I would still say, well you can look at opinion polls for - support for the political parties is down, the non-ANC parties, well the DP is coming a little bit up and the NP is down, but it's playing with the same people.

POM     Not expanding their electoral base?

WDK     No.

POM     It's diminishing.

WDK     Yes it's diminishing. But there is the person that says I'm not going to vote, I'm not a Nationalist any more, I don't trust the DP, but by and large his attitude, I would say in the majority of people that are really aggressive towards the political parties and so on, but his basic attitude is, we're stuck with the ANC, to put it negatively, the ANC is going to govern us for the next 25 - 30 years, we must help them to make a success, we must not be over-critical and we must look also at the positive side. That's also a growing atmosphere in SA, so the truth lies in the balance, new racism, negativism, yes not enough reconciliation and transformation, that's on the one hand. On the other hand we have the other facts.

POM     Just take it in chunks, finish with GEAR first. You said a year ago that if the ANC does not succeed in making reasonable progress with its macro-economic policy and management of its GEAR programme we would fall into international isolation and irreparable domestic decline. Now in the year since you made that statement, for the first time per capita income is falling, joblessness in the formal sector, there have been about 100,000 jobs lost since 1994 in the formal sector, they may have job summits but it will be one more conference and in a global context all over the world one of the rules of the game, to use that awful word, is that you downsize, you rid yourself of labour and substitute capital. Europe has an unemployment rate of 12% or 13% and has had that for the last several years. If I repeat it, would you make the same statement?

WDK     No I would say I will be a little bit more cautious saying that, but I will say yes there is a decline in performance, there is a decline in the economy and in getting rid of people, no jobs, etc. The poorest of the poor become poorer. It's still a question of 7% of the total population is in command of 40% of the total money available in SA and 40% of the total population has only 11% of our resources. So the ordinary black person, the worker, the people in the old homelands, he or she is declining in quality to a certain extent. On the other hand there is also really an outreach, never mind official outreach via non-governmental organisations and that kind of thing and training and so on, but the individual - there are a lot of black people employed in homes, especially black women and black gardeners and so on, like Thabi here.

     Well that's not guesswork, there was an empirical work done here in these northern suburbs that their salaries, my salary that I pay for Thabi and so on, increased within a year and a half to more or less a 75% increase, so that's the individual reaching out in this kind of personal relationship and there are thousands and thousands and thousands of those people working in SA. Then the informal sector, according to the newspapers, according to one or another minister who said it somewhere, that you can't measure really what's going on in the informal sector of the economy but that it's absolutely becoming a kind of a success story and there are thousands and thousands of people involved in this informal sector and that all the statistics about jobs, etc., in SA and earnings are to that extent not correct because you can't measure the informal sector. That was according to a minister or somebody.

     Just another thing, I'm worried that I'm going to forget this, I experienced this now, my wife is head of the advertising, the Triple A, the Advertising something.   It's the professional body of all the advertising agencies in SA and she is Managing Director of that and so transformation is also very high on their agenda and there is even from government side red signals flickering that what's going on in the advertising industry, there is not enough transformation. But there is still a lack of black experience in certain sections of the economy. What's happening now in her world of advertising agencies, first of all the really able people, black people now, you can't get them with a salary beneath R20,000 to R25,000 a month. That's the four, five or six dozen very competent blacks in that world. Now there is a lot of window dressing going on. Of course advertising agencies, apart from the two giants or so, can't afford it. They are also going downhill from the economic point of view and now there is a lot of window dressing with black people getting jobs there who are not in a position to deliver. Then even to get a black with a master's degree and a little bit of experience and a little bit of economic background and so on in a middle management position, still then you must pay R15,000, R16,000, R17,000 a month in that industry. So there are threats from Thabo's office, via Mr Peter Vundla, that the government is going to look into the transformation enthusiasm of the advertising sector of our economy. But that's a real problem and there's what they call the revolving door syndrome, my percentage is not correct, but there are only 5% of blacks and according also to the new laws and so on there must be 60% blacks pulled into the businesses, management, etc., etc., and there are not enough black competent people. And let it be apartheid yes, and that's really a problem even if you're willing for transformation, willing for affirmative action, there are no people available and then just to bluff you take ten people in and you say to yourself, well I'm going to employ them and they can do something -

POM     But this becomes even more complex, so to speak, when you put it in the context of a global economy because essentially you're making your industry, through the appointment of unqualified people, less competitive so you're more likely to end up losing jobs in that particular sector.

WDK     Yes, and lose our share in the global economy. That's very true and that's the dynamic and I know that this is to a certain extent behind closed doors accepted by the ANC, that, well to put it bluntly, we can't blame just for a full 100% white unwillingness, etc., etc., and we must give more emphasis on the training and re-education programmes and there are a lot of training opportunities for blacks and bursaries and things like that and that's the direction that affirmative action must go.

POM     You talked before about the NP, the DP, all the other minor parties, don't really form any kind of viable opposition and you have the concept of the business sector opposition in partnership. Before we talk about that, what's happened to the NP? Is it truly on its last legs?

WDK     I believe so, I believe so. I was always on the side of Roelf Meyer when he was still in the NP. The NP should have changed its name and a lot of other things about two or three years back, let's say two years back. They have waited too long, that's the first problem, and I think that the organisation of Roelf and Holomisa, the United Democratic Movement, that they focus very much - I don't think Roelf will bring a lot of white votes into that political party but there are going to be a lot of black votes going to them, Bantu Holomisa's own following, the Transkeian people and all the disillusioned, not all, but a percentage of them will vote for the UDM. So the NP lost its appeal to blacks, to Africans, because there is an alternative for the non-ANC African. There is an alternative now in the UDM. So they gradually became a white and a coloured party and more coloured, to speak in the old racial terms, than whites to a certain extent and there's unrest within the coloured community too that they are not willing to be the second layer of Nationalists, so there is a lot of ambition in leadership, etc., etc., in the coloured community and there are expectations, not before the election but after the election, that the coloureds will leave the NP like a sinking ship. It never had Africans but the X percentage of blacks, black Africans let's say, 5% or 3%, they have more or less all gone to the UDM.

     The coloureds are restless, not that happy any more and the verkramptes, the more right wing Nationalist is, I won't say Van Schalkwyk is there, but the leadership of the NP on national basis and on regional level is more middle of the road with a tendency to the right, not the right political movements but right of the middle and that's going to be the downfall of the NP. So I think it will dissolve after the election. I am not that optimistic about the DP because the only gains of the DP are Nationalists, so it's just moving people around. OK, Tony Leon's style of opposition is also in my opinion not the style of opposition that one should use in SA. It's a typical westernised kind of opposition leader, very sharp, very negative, very cocky, very aggressive.

POM     More suited to the House of Commons.

WDK     Yes. And I don't think - well he's now all of a sudden the new hero of the whites and the Afrikaners. I've got nothing against him, he's a nice chap and so on but that's not the leadership for the future opposition. So Buthelezi, the IFP, nobody knows what's going to happen. They have also lost a lot of support and this alliance between them and the ANC with a kind of a deal that's on the cards now, that the ANC will give them the province and they will vote for the ANC in the rest of the country and Buthelezi will become Deputy Prime Minister. That's one of the scenarios. But knowing Buthelezi, he is always playing his cards very close to his chest and he's a very erratic personality so one really can't say what's going to happen with the IFP, but my feeling, my intuition is that Buthelezi will position himself, never mind rhetoric, just a little bit right of the ANC. He will distance himself more and more from the so-called white parties, that's the DP and the NP. I  know it's old hat to talk about that but opposition in SA politically speaking will emerge only somewhere during the year 2003, when the ANC has sorted itself out.

POM     Do you think that western liberal democracy puts far too much emphasis on saying that and insisting that to have a democracy you must have a viable multi-party system? That in fact in Africa you can have a functioning democracy -

WDK     In a one-party state.

POM     Not necessarily one party but where one party is very dominant but it can still be a democratic society?

WDK     I won't say that from the podiums  because accentuating multi-party democracy with the accent on multi-party is perhaps at this phase still necessary, but in reality I think things will develop that we also will accept it and it will be the scenario that a dominant party, it's a better word than 'one-party', that the dominant party will be always a reality in SA and that opposition even if they consolidate in one grouping, never mind how, with alliances or a new kind of a party emerging, that opposition must play, and that's my point there, must be opposition with a new style, a style of negotiation and compromise and talking behind closed doors and try to persuade certain personalities to compromises or to real politick of whatever and not this kind of demonstrative media opposition because without the media nobody will know anything about opposition but the alliance between media and opposition and media and government and that's not going to work in SA.

     So I think, to put it generally, that we must still find, we've got to find - what's the English word? It's a simple word like household, table or chair, I can't get it now, but we're  based on a western democracy to a certain extent. We've got all the elements of a western democracy in our constitution, not all of them but the majority of them, and I don't think that the ANC, even with a two thirds majority will tamper with the basics of the constitution. But the style of democracy in SA can't be a western style and we must still find our own style and that must be also more, let's say, Africanised because I think that even the man in the street, the majority of blacks are 'converted' to the idea of democracy and of the constitution, the human rights culture and that kind of thing. I don't think that they will reject that except from activists groupings, but the style must be more relaxed, it must be more co-operation, it must be more partnership. That's the developmental model of democracy and that's the way we must develop in the country. It's another kind of democracy, they also call it a participative democracy and not a representative democracy as in the western world. So there is a whole philosophy at the back of what kind of democracy but I don't think we can copy western democracy and we've got a constitution now that's more or less a mixture of European, American and especially German.

POM     Do you think the west has been slow to absorb that lesson that there are other forms of democracy other than western liberal democracy?

WDK     I think they absorbed that but they don't want to give their attention to that. They're bullying, yes the western world is to a certain extent bullies. On the other hand they say that political freedom, democracy and free market is one concept but in reality when it comes to wheeling and dealing, that's not always a principle of the west. If you look at the Chinese/American connections now and even in country of southern Africa, but these countries, Uganda for instance, and up north and certain countries that have really progressed on this kind of something of a western democracy but the African style and with a lot of African tradition in this something of a democracy, so there is progress in that regard but here the white element, the western element is very, very erratic I would say about this, this is the model of democracy, finish. There is no compromise. I would say, no, we must still make compromises on the style of our democracy.

POM     Talking about opposition, you have a situation where any number of commissions have called for reform in the public sector and the necessity to retrench between 55,000 and 100,000 state employees, yet the public service unions have made it very clear that they will shut down the country if it comes to any kind of massive retrenchments. Not only that but they are threatening to go on strike because their wage increase this year is going to be 2% less than was promised three years ago in the package they made with the government. What must the government do to take on the public sector or bring it to heel?

WDK     I would say it's a good policy to streamline the public sector. It's too big, it's necessary to streamline not only for economic reasons but also for the functionality of the public service. I think that they must be very careful not to take white, specifically white, expertise out of the public service and their emphasis must be on education and training, in-house training but also a lot of real high quality courses and things, short term, three month courses in public administration, public finance and so on, so that the layer of quality people, and that's not only the white people, there are a lot of white people that luckily they get rid of, but the quality layer within the public service be it white, black, yellow, never mind, is really very thin. It's about, I would say, 10% to 12% public servants from the highest office to the lowest that are really capable of doing the job and there is from this Presidential Revision Commission, there were a lot of points that they made on how to improve the public service. I haven't got them at my fingertips.

POM     As distinct from improving, how would one address the problem of retrenching large numbers in the face of fierce opposition from the unions who simply say, we're pulling everybody out?

WDK     Being in the election year already I think that there will be a calming down of government in retrenching. They're not worried about retrenching whites but they will be very careful to cut the personnel of the public service drastically.  It's necessary but they will do that after the election.

POM     If you look at the last four years and pick out areas where the government has made really tough decisions, could you point to any?

WDK     Well GEAR was to a certain extent a tough decision in the face of a lot of opposition in their own power base, the whole philosophy and policies of GEAR. They have tried now with education to be tough but it's collapsing.

POM     You mean Bengu faltered, you could call it a card game with COSATU, he kind of threw in his cards and said, OK, I give in.

WDK     Yes, and then Dr Zuma, health care, her policy is not that bad. Again the driving force at the back of her policy is really to accentuate primary and preventative health care and to decentralise from the urban areas and to provide cheaper medicine and that kind of thing. But they can't administer their policies. Policies on paper, the white papers, and at last they are the law, are not always that bad but they are not in the position, they haven't got the resources and the experience and that's a kind of a problem with their own divisions within their power base really to push their own policies into practice.

POM     Do you have a situation where you have central government that is far too large, largely inefficient; where you have provincial government, and that in many cases is on the verge of collapse, if already collapse hasn't taken place; and that you have municipal government where at least one third of the municipalities are already in bankruptcy or next to bankruptcy; so that you have this kind of administrative paralysis involving huge numbers of people and no-one can get a grip on it?

WKD     Yes I fully agree with that. My, not optimism, but my hope and it's based on certain facts, is that this sentence of yours is also very, very urgently recognised by the power base of the ANC and they know that this is going to be their Achilles' heel and that they must get their administration, their governance in order and it was a major derailment of policies, the haste of affirmative action, of retrenching experienced workers and forced to a certain extent inexperienced people in positions and there is even in the black elite community a kind of a reaction towards this method that affirmative action from this point of view is humiliating also for the specific person in question, to put him behind a desk and he can't deliver. So you're feeding his aggression and his frustrations and you're humiliating him and there are articles in newspapers here written by black people, there are conferences, social gatherings where one can detect this mood that the methods of affirmative action are absolutely wrong, especially the labour laws now of Mboweni that within the quota system that business or whatever must have within five years or so 80% non-whites employed. That's all really unwise but it's typical according to Boers in that regard, historical people in history, that's typical of Africa, that's typical and you will know more than myself. It's a typical reaction after a revolution, this whole drive to control everything and only to feel safe when you have the control of every layer of the country.

POM     So in this sense the ANC is in a certain way not behaving very differently than the Afrikaners did after they took power?

WDK     Typically, yes, typically.

POM     It's like imitation of your oppressor taken to the nth degree.

WDK     Yes one can write a whole nice article on that because that was typical when I was a very young man in 1948 and my father was a minister of state later on and Strydom was married to my father's sister so I was, as a youngster, already part and parcel of this political world and they have started off, the first thing was to fire the chief of the SABC, within two weeks. He was also an Afrikaner but he was an old Smuts man and they fired about three quarters of the Generals in the army and the police within a year and replaced them with not very competent people, and that goes for the civil service too. They cleaned it from English speakers and it was a part of the Afrikaner establishment and after a decade the new generation is then better equipped, better qualified, with more experience to pull this whole thing a few grades up. But that's typically imitation of the Afrikaner way of going around. That's why I say we also see black nationalism, I'm not referring to ethnicity, I don't think black ethnicity is really a problem now, being a Sotho or a Xhosa or a Zulu, it's not high on the priority list, it's not high in the emotional world, but there's an over-arching black nationalism and one of the essentials of nationalism is that you always are not only for something but also against something and that's a real threat for SA.

POM     I'll give you a funny kind of analogy that I've been playing around with in the last couple of days and I am using Bafana Bafana as a metaphor. The country barely scraped its way to France, which was an accomplishment given that it had never been on the international stage in soccer before, but went there with great fanfare and a highly honed degree of hubris that they were among the best. Now they get humiliated by France and they first of all look to the coach and scapegoat the coach by saying, "What would you expect? He's a French coach anyway, whose side was he on?" He's like the third force, infiltrated. Then you turn and you look at the players and you say, well ten of the eleven players play for European teams, they don't represent Africa really. European football or soccer is different than African soccer. Then you've a breakdown in discipline and then you have members of the team complaining that they've been in camp since the 15th May. I mean a whole month whereas some countries spent two years or four years preparing for the World Cup and just a disarray sets in.

WDK     I would say, yes, that's really the model to look at the political situation, that's the model. But I again want to emphasise that my hope is that it's part of the election year, there is a realisation within the top layers of the ANC that things must change. We can't continue in this way and hopefully after the election we can start really to solve certain problems by decision making.

     (Break in  recording).

POM     I was saying, Professor, that when one brought up the subject of corruption a couple of years ago there was this immediate defensive reaction on the part of either the ANC, or perhaps Africans in general, that the corruption was really the legacy of the past and whatever corruption was taking place the new corruption was nowhere on the scale of what it had been under the NP government. I've noticed in the last year that for the first time public officials, including Mandela, have come out and said that a lot of our revolutionary brothers are putting their hands into the cash register and enriching themselves and if you look again at the provinces in particular, I mean there's hardly a province where there is not a major corruption scandal, is corruption becoming part of the new government's culture?

WDK     I won't say that, I think they are geared to fight corruption, they are honest in their intentions to fight corruption as government, as Cabinet. They recognise the devastating dangers of corruption but, again, the problem is that we haven't got enough manpower, enough well equipped police persons and systems to fight corruption efficiently. I would say that's one answer. The second is that it seems to me that I think in Time of last week the leading article is on world-wide corruption as a new tendency at the end of this century.

POM     Time magazine?

WDK     Time magazine, yes. I haven't read it but I saw it on the culture of corruption, call it bribery or payola, it's a disease that's everybody's business.

POM     And that's the issue of?

WDK     Issue of 22nd June.

POM     Jeremy Cronin said recently, this was a criticism of the ANC, he said: - "'You can already smell authoritarian tendencies in the air in South Africa. The ANC will win the next election by default because the opposition is so unfocused. There is a lot of jargon and not much thoughtfulness coming from the government. Mugabe epitomises where we could be ending up. We implement austerity but when we encounter resistance we give up for a few months. There are swings between demagoguery and managerialism, it holds terrible perils for democracy."

WDK     Is that still Jeremy Cronin? The whole thing?

POM     The whole thing is Jeremy Cronin. Does that surprise you coming from Jeremy Cronin.

WDK     Yes, definitely, but he's a kind of intellectual, but there is also a lot of propaganda in that, the infighting between the communist grouping and the ANC and non-communists and the communists, so it's a very nice paragraph, it's very strong.

POM     Are there authoritarian tendencies in the air?

WDK     I think yes. For instance, the recommendation of this President's Review Commission that a lot of power, more or less 60% more powers than now, must be centralised within the president's office. That was for me to a certain extent a shock. There is a real aggressive attitude of ANC leaders towards criticism. There are a lot of threats about the undisciplined press. There is a kind of an arrogance in certain public speeches of high powered people but I think it's more talk and it's not realised already but there is something of that tendency. Well, if one was to want to be soft on that you can say that's typical of all politicians, you can say that that's part of African tradition to a certain extent to be more authoritarian in leadership than the western style of leadership. It may be that the ANC is so self-confident that it doesn't pay any notice to any opposition talk and the opposition is in shambles so it's not possible for them to shock the ANC to think twice about something and the infighting within the ANC itself. I would say there is a tendency to more authoritarianism but I don't think it's a real substantial threat at this moment in time but it's latent there.

POM     Do you think that the ANC confuse legitimate opposition with almost a conspiratorial endeavour to undermine them?

WDK     I think you put it really very, very well. It's very well said. There is a conspiratorial kind of an energy working within the ANC. There is a lot of distrust, mistrust in even colleagues and there are small cliques and small groupings within commissions and committees. Yes, that's a kind of a culture perhaps being a revolutionary movement and there is a threat from their point of view that the masses will get more and more distant from them. They are not any more the freedom fighters and the liberators and so on, they're becoming government, they're becoming authority and I would say yes, I would agree with that sentence of yours.

POM     By the same token, whenever I talk to someone in the ANC I always ask whether they believe the third force still exists and to a person the answer is yes, an immediate yes. Is this, again, an example of blaming incompetence perhaps on forces out there that are creatively trying to destroy what they are doing?

WDK     That's a tendency, the word that they're using lots of times is that it's disinformation about somebody or something, Leon is spreading disinformation around. I think that that's the case really, a feeling that there's a kind of a conspiracy against them, they must be cautious, you can't trust each other and a third force is orchestrating all the kind of stress within the political system. Really I don't believe that at all, there is no third force, organised third force of power working any more in any state department, especially from the white side. Whites are so disorganised and there is no coherence and there are no ideals and there are no strategies, so there is no new conspiracy emerging from the Afrikaners or the whites. Within their own power base I think there are a lot of conspiracies going on between, let's say, COSATU, the communists and the non-communists within them, and there are also the pro-Mbeki sections and the anti-Mbeki sections and the old thing of the old UDF, the people that remained in the country and struggled here and the people that left the country, the exiles. There is still tension  between them, they are still labelling each other in inner circles, he's an exile and we're of the old United Democratic Front, we took all the brunt of it here in SA and they left the country, and the old Robben Islanders. So there are a lot of groupings within the ANC and it's not that easy to keep them together and perhaps that's also one of the reasons that there's a lack of decision making in the ANC.

     You asked me a little bit earlier, firm decisions on things, they've got the policy, they've got the rhetoric but they don't want to make real tough decisions. [Also on the economic field, perhaps you must not quote me in your book, but I was in Madrid a few months back and I met Dr Anton Rupert at the airport and we sat next to each other in the plane so I asked him, being a senior high ranking, high profile businessman, if you must give me the main point of criticism against the ANC government what will it be? And he said, "Well in my world of trade and industry and commerce they can't decide, they delay decisions for months and years even." So I asked him is that the experience of Rembrandt then, is it a lack of capabilities or is it intentionally so? So he said both but he emphasises the intention of not making decisions, just that the wheels move and give the impression that we're doing things but a fear to make absolute decisions on certain points.]

POM     What gives rise to that fear since there's no threat to them from - ?

WDK     But within their own power base. That was the experience of the NP during the Vorster era and then we got a kind of a dictator in PW Botha and that was also the experience during FW de Klerk's time that there were so many sections within the leadership down to grassroots level, different emphasis and different sections and different political philosophies and different strategies, that leadership is only trying to keep everybody happy and calm. I think that's a main problem of the ANC now.

POM     Talking about groupings, does the ANC underestimate the desire on the part of many Afrikaners for some form of self-determination, whether it's cultural self-determination or spatial?

WDK     Well I am very subjective on this because I am absolutely against the ideal of a white Afrikaner homeland and that kind of thing. But to answer you as objectively as possible, I think that in general the problem of the ANC government and the Afrikaners as a broad group, with also sub-groupings, is specifically the language issue, the language in education, it's the language on the public broadcaster and English is the official language now even in Afrikaner businesses. Even businesses like Sanlam tend to only send letters and things in English now and that's a very, very sensitive point in the Afrikaner perception of the ANC because Afrikaners are language nationalists to a certain extent. We're very proud of our language and the achievements of our language and we see Afrikaans as, to a certain extent, an indigenous language born in SA and the language with a lot of achievements. It's a scientific language, it's a cultural language, it's a language of poetry and art and literature. So we've achieved a lot and I would say that there's the perception that the ANC is really not sensitive about that. That's the first point.

     The second point is that the ANC over-estimated the power of Constand Viljoen and the right wingers and the volkstaat people. According to public opinion polls and so on it became more and more clear for the ANC that they really represent only of the population 3% to 4% and of the Afrikaners more or less all of them together, AWB, Volksfront, CP, more or less 15% of Afrikaners, I'm not speaking of 'Afrikaanses'. Afrikaanse is accentuating the language bond and that includes the coloureds and there are a lot of Indians also with Afrikaans as mother tongue, as first language, and even a percentage of blacks that can't speak English, it's their second language, it's Afrikaans apart from their own language. We call them Afrikaanses, Afrikaner people, but if you refer to Afrikaners you refer specifically to the white Afrikaner. That's not a real threat, the vast majority of Afrikaners are not interested, they are without any teeth. The Afrikaners want to be part of the whole, as an indigenous group of people and they must fight for their language not as a second language of SA but ... and they force all Afrikaans universities now to become bilingual.

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.