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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

26 Jul 1998: Constand Viljoen, General

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POM     I'm writing what I would call, since I've been at this now for nine years, an oral history of everybody who has been involved in every situation from 1989  through 1999. So I think, as I indicated to you before, my cut off date is the elections of next year. On the one hand I want to take pre-transition, post-transition, deal with the negotiations which we've talked about to some extent, so my questions today are slightly different. They will cover the war in Angola and I want to -

CV     The present one or the past one?

POM     The ongoing one. I went to Cuito Cuanavale last year where all I managed to get was malaria.

CV     So you've been in Cuito last year?

POM     Yes, and I've walked the airport strip step by step that was fought over, looked at the tarmac to see whether it was injured, non-injured, talked to the commanders of the Angolan government who are still in Cuito and asked them what happened, their different versions of the whole battle. Let me begin with a simple question, I'm going to read you a number of quotes, this is from an article by Tim du Plessis who is the Deputy Editor of Die Beeld. He wrote it on the Afrikaner and the Volkstaat Quest. I would like to give you his quotes.

CV     In which paper was this?

POM     Business Day on 9th July. I would like to start making some of his observations -

CV     We're not all very fond of Tim du Plessis but let's hear.

POM     OK, that's a good start. The first statement I would put would be that: -

     "Afrikaners are non-monolithic. There is not a single politician, cultural or religious leader, newspaper editor or political commentator who would say without fear of contradiction that he or she speaks on behalf of the majority of Afrikaners. General Constand Viljoen is respected, perhaps even admired, by many Afrikaners but every time he protests on behalf of his Afrikaner volk he irritates many Afrikaans speaking people. Since its inception the Afrikaans community have been characterised by stark internal division in the absence of a simple definition of what an Afrikaner is."

CV     Well the whole quote is about, as he starts off by saying, that the Afrikaner is not a monolithic community, I think so, yes, considering the -

POM     That it's not?

CV     It's not monolithic. Considering the fact that within the previous SA apartheid and the whole political issue swivelled around Afrikaner interpretation. You had the liberal, the so-called verlighte, the liberal types, and you have the so-called verkrampte, the more conservative types of Afrikaners, and that for decades long had been the issue in Afrikaner politics. Then came the De Klerk government and they collapsed and they just caved in and handed over without anything in the place of it, without even taking into consideration the fact that the Afrikaner people would like to be a people whether they are monolithic or not, they would like to be a people. I doubt whether in the modern world you have many communities very monolithic any more. This is a national phenomenon which comes from the problem of the fact that we no longer have states, national states in a very monolithic way. In our national states we have influences from outside, business influences, market place influences, cultural influences, because with the shrinking world the easier way of communicating, by fax and radio, everything, the easier way of travelling, if you take the number of travels that take place nowadays, the easier ways of shifting populations, of let us say the North Africans moving over into Spain to sell their labour, that has an influence on the monolithic character of the Spanish people. The same with South Africa. Now you must bear in mind that the history of the Afrikaner here had been subjected to forces ever since its inception in 1652 and when we had the Anglo Boer war a century ago the outcome of that war was to create a less monolithic society bringing in the so-called foreigners which Paul Kruger referred to and accepting their influence especially within the urban areas. The rural areas remained pretty monolithic until such time now, a century later, we now have the De Klerk government and the ANC having decided that there is no longer such a thing as an Afrikaner area, it now just becomes a South African area and, again, the heterogeneous composition of the SA society will certainly have a further influence and the difference of opinion in the Afrikaner people as to how to deal with this heterogeneous society is another source of -  So I don't think we should worry too much about the fact that we're not very monolithic. The fact is slowly but certainly there are signs that the Afrikaner is rallying.

POM     Let's go back to two things. When you said 'when De Klerk caved in' you believe that in the negotiations he essentially caved in, just threw his cards in?

CV     For sure he did.

POM     What could he have gotten from those negotiations that he didn't get?

CV     I'll tell you what the problem is, De Klerk and his government, the National Party, thought that they would deal with this ANC before breakfast. They underestimated the ANC, they underestimated the feeling within the country of black solidarity against apartheid and they thought that they would quickly change the image of the NP from that of an Afrikaner orientated party, apartheid orientated party, to that of a newly born NP of many cultures.

POM     Two things: how could they underestimate the effect apartheid had had on black people since no matter how you put it black people were systematically oppressed?

CV     There was a firm belief within the NP, there was a firm belief that the only thing that was wrong in the past was the fact that the NP wouldn't accept one man one vote, and they thought by accepting one man one vote, by opening up their NP and by accepting all the different cultures within that one party and also by forcing all the other peoples, such as the Zulus, such as the Afrikaners, such as the Griquas, to do the same, they would force the issue and quick as a flash apartheid would be forgotten, the NP will come into power again and they will be back in the seats of government. That is what the NP had in mind and don't tell me that you don't believe this. It's a fact.

POM     I know but it's a total - it's so foolish.

CV     It is foolish but it's a fact. Yes it is. I'm telling you that I was told in 1993 when I started in politics, I was told by the NP we will deal with these people before breakfast.

POM     Even at that time they didn't realise not only the depth of feeling against apartheid but they also didn't realise -

CV     I think they realised the depth of feeling against apartheid but I think they thought that by pretending to change, pretending to swing around 180 degrees they would swing the whole idea in their favour and that the foolish ANC would be dealt with before breakfast and they would find themselves in a hopeless situation and the NP would gain enough support in one or two elections to come up tops again.

POM     Did they totally underestimate the negotiating skills of the ANC?

CV     Yes they did. For sure they did, ever so. When I joined the negotiations I quickly realised it only took a few negotiation spells with the ANC before I realised you are up against professionals as far as negotiations are concerned. You consider a man such as Roelf and compare him with Ramaphosa, Ramaphosa is his master by far.

POM     Ramaphosa ran rings round him.

CV     For sure. Now you take the others such as Joe Slovo, Mac Maharaj, even Mandela, compare Mandela with De Klerk, De Klerk collapsed like a log.

POM     Did you develop an admiration for people like Joe Slovo who in a way was the demon, epitomised the Communist Party?

CV     Not admiration because I will never admire a communist but I certainly quickly learnt that if you deal with them you had better be well prepared and had better be very careful because they are very clever in the ways of negotiation.

POM     The second question: "Every time that he protests on behalf of the Afrikaner volk he irritates many Afrikaner speaking people."

CV     Afrikaans speaking or Afrikaner? Afrikaans speaking people. I am not sure that this is true. He says every time I spoke up, when I complained for the Afrikaner people, I came across or facing lots of criticism from the Afrikaner people. I don't think so. I certainly got criticism from the NP and then from the far right I also got criticism but all in all I won't say that I am rejected by the Afrikaner people.

POM     No, not rejected.

CV     Criticised.

POM     Criticised.

CV     You see the point is I have admitted the fact that we are not monolithic in our views of these things and therefore it is not strange for me that I am criticised. We have a normal, democratic variety of views and I think this is how it should work. You must bear in mind that the Afrikaner's mind has been for centuries flooded with the issue of the rights of black people and how to deal in SA with the threat of the swart gevaar, the black danger. It is only natural that there will be a lot of diverse opinions on this whole issue even on how to kill apartheid because De Klerk thought that you can kill apartheid by giving in, by making a right about turn, 180 degrees, and go back in the other direction and pretend to be more anti-apartheid than the ANC themselves. That's what they tried. I said let us acknowledge that there were certain wrong things within apartheid and now let us accept the fact that in dealing with apartheid one should reject what was wrong, retain what was right or acceptable and find a new way of peaceful co-existence in the country.

POM     What was right about apartheid?

CV     What was right? The problem with apartheid is that in a way it sought the acknowledgement of different cultures, the variety of different cultures and in fact the uninformed can easily say- but this is a form of self-determination. The point is it is not because the self-determination didn't come from the people's themselves, it was forced down their throats by the NP government. That was wrong. It would have been much better to accept the fact that the blacks could decide for themselves the way they wanted to fit in. Can I quote you, give you a very good example? Round about 1972/73 there was a very strong push from certain black leaders, referring to Matanzima and Buthelezi and I think Mangope too, pushing for federalism in SA, saying to the NP government (and that was another point that was wrong about apartheid) saying to the NP government that the economic plans for separate development are not working and let us accept the fact that the creation of homelands will never become viable on their own. You have to find a way and that way was federalism. That's what they suggested. But the NP government forced down their throats and said, no, self-determination is what you want and you will be Zulus in your own Zulu area and we will not even allow white capital to come into that area for the development. You have to develop the whole area yourself. I think that was wrong.

POM     But my question, General, is what was right about apartheid?

CV     What was right? The fact of acknowledgement of different societies, of the reality of different cultures within SA. What was right in apartheid was the fact that it acknowledged group rights and the acknowledgement of group rights is not wrong, it is the way the NP went about this that created the wrong-doing. It is the right thing to acknowledge group rights.

POM     So what went wrong? You hear the revelations before the TRC of elements in the security forces who have (let's leave the ANC out for the moment) who committed the most horrendous kind of crimes, besides just killing people, wrapping them up in dynamite and exploding their bodies over and over again till they didn't exist, the lying, the duplicity, the large scale campaign of concentrated terror carried out against anybody who was opposed to the NP government.

CV     Why did you start off by saying leave the ANC out of this?

POM     Because I'll take them back in later on.

CV     But you can't really do that because you had a conflict and the conflict was a conflict of two interests, one looking for what they called the liberation of the black people and the other one for the survival or the complete power of white people, which was wrong, that's very racist.

POM     It's wrong.

CV     It's wrong because racism is about, for example, the colour of the skin. I think that's racism. When you talk about the nature of the Zulu or the nature of the Afrikaner and the nature of the Indian, you can't classify that as racism, it's nationalism, there is a difference.

POM     So was there a point - well first of all I would say, what went wrong because, I mean the MK, to you as a professional soldier, the MK was a third rate -

CV     I think what went wrong was firstly the international threat of communism which caused the perception with the security forces that it had to be prevented at all costs. We could not allow international communism to come inside. That was the first thing that went wrong. The second thing that went wrong is the NP's incredible resistance to change. I have not seen a party sticking to the same policy for so long, notwithstanding the fact that its policy was completely rejected by the rest of the world and internally inside SA. I think that went wrong. The reason why it went wrong is probably because of the strength of the security forces. Had the security forces not been that strong the change could have been much earlier but it was possible for the NP, for the then government, to hide behind the strength of the security forces.

POM     Now you distinguish between the South African Defence Force and the 'security forces' or are they both interchangeable? How would you distinguish between the security forces, the operatives that ran Vlakplaas, like De Kock, and the professional military forces of the country?

CV     There is a big cultural difference between the old police and the old defence force, completely different people or creatures. That is why most of the -

POM     What's the difference?

CV     The difference is the influence of their surrounding. I think the police force is a force composed of many individuals and the defence force is a force composed of teams. The defence force is a force that spent a lot of time in human development, in training, teaching and improving the quality of its people. There might be reasons for that. I think in the defence force you prepare for war and a war gives much greater responsibilities than a policeman. In the police force they train for catching a criminal and bringing him to court and putting him in jail. That's the difference. The police force themselves as individuals had much more power than the defence force because we acted in groups, we acted in platoons and in companies and battalions and so on whereas they acted mostly individually. You take situations such as De Kock and the other people who have been in front of the TRC, most of the atrocities that they have committed can be attributed to a very small group of people or maybe even one or two individuals. It would be much more difficult to commit the same atrocities within the defence force because of the fact that you're operating in platoons and companies and battalions and there are too many people involved.

POM     Let me ask you on that, you had here the National Management Security System under PW Botha, you had the NIA, you had covert operations and covert intelligence, do you and with the revelations coming out, and again I'm concentrating on one side for the moment and I will go back to the ANC, do you believe that nobody knew what was going on, that minister after minister can get up there and say I had no idea? This is the government of a country that maintained complete control over almost every aspect of society and they are saying we didn't know what the police were doing. We didn't know what the security forces were doing.

CV     As you know the police and the defence force actually operated independently to such a degree that whenever we had to have joint operations we used to have a specific manual, operational manual to explain how the police and defence force should work together because of the different cultures between the two organisations. Yes we completely differ. But to say that the people didn't know about this, I think it's wrong. I think like Vlok did, Vlok admitted knowing about these things and I think this is right. Magnus Malan too he gave a very good overview of the whole situation long before Vlok, Magnus Malan said that this is what I take responsibility for.

POM     Was this at the trial in Natal?

CV     Not KwaMakutha. The KwaMakutha trial was a farce, the KwaMakutha trial was not an honest way. In fact the ANC, now we're back on the ANC, the ANC used the KwaMakutha trial to force the Generals to decide rather not to go for the KwaMakutha trial but for the TRC, and the Generals said, no, by all means, you have implicated us and we want to go through the KwaMakutha trial because that's the only way to be proved innocent and it worked, they were proved innocent because completely it was a total rejection of the state's case within the KwaMakutha trial. I firmly believe that.

POM     But going back to my question which is when minister after minister from De Klerk down across the board all say we never knew these things were going on?

CV     I'll tell you what my view is on this. I think that there was a lot of covering up from the individuals. Where things really went wrong, you see -

POM     Individuals like?

CV     De Kock.

POM     Like De Kock.

CV     When things really went wrong in my opinion was when the individuals of the old Intelligence Branch, the security police, they gathered the information and they then acquired the habit, which was incorrect, of dealing with operational matters and this is especially because of the fact that the ANC took the struggle to the townships. What happened after 1985/86 was that in the townships the ANC hid behind the human bush and it was impossible for normal soldiers operating in the area, a platoon marching through the streets of New Brighton was useless, at least it did have some value in that it had a presence in the area, but that platoon would never have been able to identify an ANC operating from within the bush. Then the security police came in and the security police through their infiltrations and informers etc., found out  the people within the bush were the ANCs and then the problem was how to deal with them and I think then they accepted a responsibility which they never should have accepted. Their responsibility was to collect information. How to deal with the information, that's an operational issue. I think the police themselves started dealing with the people in an unlawful way, in a way in which they kill people, because they really thought whether you shoot a terrorist or whether you give him poison or whether (I'm not saying that they have given them poison), but the point is the method of killing to them became immaterial because they as Security Branch knew that this man is a terrorist and this man is fighting against the overthrow of the state and we have to oppose this man and that's the way they went about this. Also you must bear in mind that the whole conflict was not one of force, of fighting. It had many aspects. You would find that the security police would know exactly who are the inciters within a township, who are the people that are in a position to raise the temperature. Knowing that, I think these people started dealing with those people and this was the answer of the police force from the new situation.

     There is another point where things went wrong in my opinion and that is especially Malan, General Malan, but also PW Botha realised the importance of local co-operation and then they created what you call the National Management System and they had what they called the Co-ordinating Operation Centres.

POM     This was the campaign to enter the hearts and minds of the people?

CV     Joint operation centres and those centres brought together members from the police, members from the defence force, members from the old Native Affairs Departments and so on, members from whoever was necessary. Then they would get information but the problem is - where I got into conflict with Malan was when he bypassed my operational command by allowing these people to exercise a decision making of their own. I said, no, never in your life. If I have some elements operating inside such a joint operation centre then I personally must accept responsibility for them. I can't accept responsibility for my officers commanding Eastern Cape Command for what they in the joint operation centre decide to do in Port Elizabeth. If they want to do something it becomes an operational commitment from my side and therefore I have to give orders, I have to at least be informed, not informed but consulted about the whole situation.

     The point is they developed a new, I would say risky, uncontrolled decentralisation of decision making and the problem is with the situation as I described to you with the police force, security police knowing who the terrorists were within the black communities, they started also to collect information and to act and that is how it happened and these people probably out of dedication for their job decided to carry on with this and I think this is where most of the atrocities came from. But that was after my time when the so-called, what was this organisation called that started in 1986 within the defence force? The Civil Co-operation Bureau. When the CCB started I think this CCB was actually - that was now after my time so I am now theorising please, I'm theorising, I have not been informed nor did I enquire about the operation of the CCB - but the CCB as far as I can see now it carried further this idea of the Security Branch gathering information, deciding what to do with the information and acting operationally.

     You see previously when, for example, I was informed about so-called strong houses within Matola of the ANC, I as the Operational Commander, then I could evaluate the intelligence and I could really check it and I did. I made absolutely sure that the information was sound and that the intelligence was well correlated before I took any action. Then I took a decision and I carried out the operation. It was not asked from my intelligence people to carry out the operation, I did the operation. So the functions of gathering of intelligence and operating on the intelligence should never be in one organisation and that is what happened. It happened with the Security Branch and it happened afterwards with the CCB. I think the CCB was the so-called 'answer' to the problems created by the ANC deciding to take the battle to the townships. I think that was the answer, that was the strategic move to ensure that within the townships you could still protect the innocent black people who would like to participate and who would like to be part of the third tier government, etc., to protect them against the ANC. Because the ANC went in and they disciplined and they subjected the black people.

POM     The Street Committees?

CV     Street Committees, that's the point. But now please, I must say again, this is my theory. I have not been informed nor have I gone into this but I am absolutely convinced that this is what really went wrong operationally.

POM     My question, again, would be when minister after minister comes forward and says we never knew about any of these things after the ninth prisoner somehow slips on a bar of soap or falls out of the 10th floor window in John Vorster Square, you at least would think that somebody in cabinet would say - what kind of soap are they using? How many times can so many people slip on a piece of soap and fall out of a window and fall ten floors to their death?

CV     I think, as I said, that the security police, especially the security police, took for granted the fact that they would be justified in acting that way and I think there was a lot of protection of higher up people. I am sure that the ministers and the higher authorities did not know of all the incidents. I am, however, inclined to agree with you that it would be hardly possible to think that they didn't know about more than what they admitted up to now. Probably they knew about more.

POM     So when De Klerk made his submissions to the TRC did you find them, looking at them, to be honest submissions or submissions of evasion?

CV     I think in many instances it was honest but I think there were also some evasions of the realities of the fact. But remember I left the defence force in 1985 and I have never breathed down the necks of my successors so I don't know how De Klerk operated. I knew PW Botha. I have never operated with De Klerk. I have seen him in the State Security Council and he was dead quiet all the way, hardly said a word. I don't know how De Klerk - when you get power, power of the president of the country, then you don't know how he acts. De Klerk himself was dead quiet in all the operations. I remember the time when we discussed within the State Security Council the release of Mandela, the very first discussions on the release of Mandela, De Klerk didn't take a viewpoint, PW Botha did, Pik Botha said something and a few, I think at that stage there was also the old Minister of Water Affairs, Fanie Botha, he was there, he did say something. But De Klerk very, very seldom participated in this, very seldom. So how De Klerk operated after he took over I am not in a position to say but I am sure that part of his evidence could have been evasive.

POM     Because he never even discussed that in his submissions, that there were discussions about the possible release of Mandela. What was your advice to the State Security Council at that time?

CV     At the very first discussions I refrained from participating, I just listened. The general discussion was, PW Botha said Mandela is an old man, he is sick too and it would be very bad if we allow him to die in jail, it would not be good for the country. At that stage he said can't we find a way of letting him go. That was PW Botha at that stage. I can't remember exactly, this must have been round about 1982/83, I can't remember the exact date.

POM     So what trapped, in your view, PW Botha that he - people say he got to the Rubicon but he could never cross the Rubicon.

CV     I think what trapped PW Botha and the security forces was the mood of the ANC to take the battle to the townships. It created an impossible operational situation for his people. How do you deal with that? You as the Commissioner of Police are given a certain task and one after the other people are being necklaced and they are being burnt and their businesses burnt and what do you do to protect these people because you have a responsibility to protect them? You can't identify which people are responsible and when you identify them there is nothing you can do about them because they just disappear in the masses. That has caused the atrocities. If you look at the atrocities you will find most of the atrocities after 1986, in the last few years. About the only atrocities that the defence force were involved in was that of the CCB which was the same kind of problem as to how do you deal with a terrorist movement that takes the battle to the townships. If you analyse that, that was the cause of the ugly turn that this battle had taken after 1986.

POM     Do you think, I want to go back to Angola and the war in Angola and talk about Cuito Cuanavale which, maybe I'm entirely incorrect, but I see as one of the turning points in the realisation on the part of what was the most powerful armed services in Africa having to face the reality that they were getting involved in a war that they couldn't win, not that they would lose it but they couldn't win it.

CV     The aim was never to win that war. The aim was not to win that war. The aim was to check the expansionism of communism in southern Africa and that they did. In fact I have always maintained that in three places in the world the international communism got defeated. The one was here, southern Africa, the other one was in the Middle East where they could never really subject Israel, and the other one was Afghanistan where the Afghan rebels dealt with the whole situation of the expansionism of communism from Russia. I think those three spheres, three operational spheres, caused the collapse of communism and therefore I always maintain that what we have done in Angola was not in vain and I want to emphasise it was never aimed at winning that war. Had we been given the authority to move up to Luanda and to capture Angola in 1975 we could have done that with a regiment of armour and a regiment of armed cars, a few battalions, it would have been possible but it was not the idea.

POM     I'm talking about a time after you had left the defence force, that was the battle of Cuito Cuanavale.

CV     Well I was invited to go to Cuito, I think it must have been round about 1986 or 1987. What happened is I was very much involved in the development of the G5 and G6 guns and then I was invited to go and see operations there, how the G5 guns operated and I was right up to Cuito on that visit. There was a great argument going on amongst the soldiers, many of them who were at that stage Citizen Force soldiers. The argument was whether they should attack Cuito and get on further or whether they should just remain at Cuito. Because remember, the whole Cuito battle was about protecting Jamba, Jamba being the main centre for Savimbi. Before the Cuito battle we had the other battles of the Luiana River, I think, in that area, those were excellent battles that they fought. But those rivers, the Luiana River and closer to Jamba, about half way from Cuito to Jamba, those rivers were not very good obstacles, but the Cuito River was an excellent obstacle and the defensive positions at that stage when I visited Cuito which must have been 1986/87, the whole defence was based on the Cuito River and it was not an idea to cross the river and attack the other people, it was just maintaining a sort of Maginot Line.

POM     You were on one side and they were on the other, the river was in between.

CV     Yes, the river was an obstacle in between and you don't cross the river, and we will stay on this side and you stay on that side, as long as you don't attack Savimbi's Jamba base. That was the idea about the whole thing and that is where I watched the shooting or the performance of the G5 guns which we developed.

POM     They were powerful guns?

CV     G5, 155 mm, yes, excellent.

POM     My understanding, having gone there and talked to people in the Angolan Army who were involved in the battle at that time, is threefold - one that there was a set tank battle which was the biggest tank battle since El Alamein and Montgomery where you wiped out the Angolan Army and you advanced.

CV     But that was the Luiana River battle.

POM     That's right, you won that straight on.

CV     And then they went to the Cuito River and they said this is a better obstacle, we will stop here.

POM     Then my understanding of that, then you got to Cuito and the river itself was an obstacle.

CV     No it's not that, we used the obstacle, we never intended crossing the obstacle. That is what I gathered from my visit there. Remember I was not at that stage in the defence force.

POM     But you must have talked to many people there.

CV     Oh I talked to them and their argument was, to hell with this, why don't we now wipe out the strong point on the other side.

POM     The airstrip was on the other side.

CV     That's right. Then the other people would say, now look here this is a good obstacle and you always sit on this side of the obstacle when you defend it, you prevent them from coming across. We don't want to attack S... Pinto, what's it called nowadays?

POM     Let me go back and tell you my understanding that the people to whom I have talked have given me and that is that it was the air battle that was the decisive factor here, that the SA Air Force had Mirages, French Mirages, and the domestically manufactured airplane, because of the arms embargo you couldn't get replacement parts for the Mirages. The Mirages were ageing, you were up against -

CV     What was particularly good on their side was the air defences.

POM     They had MIGS.

CV     The MIGS were not a problem, the air defence was the problem, their air defence system. Their air defence system was superior to ours. In other words their radar sets and the control of weapons and so on was superior to ours. But the real thing that won that battle at the Luiana River was a change that we made in 1966.

POM     You're talking about the tank battle?

CV     I'm talking about the tank battle, yes. In 1966 I was then at that stage Officer Commanding of the Military College, the old Army College, the one at Voortrekkerhoogte and we started together with General Dip Marais who is now also assisting with the TRC, we changed the tactics of the SA Defence Force. At that stage we had a lot of old ageing tacticians from the second world war teaching to us in Africa the tactics of Europe and we said, Marais and myself, we said this is impossible, our whole tactical doctrine is wrong. Then we started with the idea of mobile warfare.

     It was not won because of armour superiority but because of tactical superiority. In 1967/68 we changed the whole tactics of the SA Defence Force to suit Africa and that battle was about the very first one in which we could apply our theory of mobile war which actually is based on not to hold ground but to create the design of battle in such a way that you would lure the enemy into killing ground and then the superiority of fire power and movement, you would kill him completely. That is exactly what happened in that battle. So it was not a battle of armour, never think about a battle that could compare with El Alamein, it's completely impossible. In Africa you don't operate that way. And fortunately for us in 1967 we started to change the tactics and we had lots of resistance. In the second world war, when you defend our teaching, it was that that would be a brigade of three battalions, battalion, battalion, battalion, and the general theory was that the front of a battalion would be 1200 metres, not very much more, about 1200 metres which actually then meant that the brigade could rather, if he had a little bit of distance, he could rather not be a bit more than about 3000 metres. I said that if you had to do that in Africa you will need the whole world's troops because you will not have it. Then we said let us not go for Africa for this kind of thing, let us go for a mobile type of warfare, whereas if you have a little koppie there, a little one here, the enemy is coming thataway, then you lure the enemy into passing this and when he comes in here you decide this is your killing ground.

POM     Your enemy is between two battalions.

CV     No, two koppies, features, and then you lure them into a killing ground and you have all guns and your tanks and everything operating against that, pre-planned, the whole thing. When they are in that area it is as if a terrorist ambush takes place but this is an ambush on the brigade scale and you lure them in there, once they are in the killing ground you just operate all your guns, all your fire power. So that's the way we succeeded in the Luiana battle. But then when we got to the river again -

POM     That's Cuito?

CV     Cuito, then you had a big problem and that is you have to prevent the enemy crossing the river. So what did we do? We had lots and lots of observation posts along the river there and that is where I was informed about the G5 gun because this was a very broad river, a few hundred metres in places and the guns, the 155 mm guns, the G5, was in a position to fire at certain defensive tasks from the river across in places. I was told that these guns could fire a shot right in the river every time it was asked for. So whenever anybody would try to cross the river here we could fire on the defensive targets. So this was normal tactics.

POM     I want to go back to the air battle.

CV     In fact in this battle we didn't use a lot of tanks, we used more wheeled vehicles because we said in our 1967 change of tactics, we said in Africa mobility is very important and we then developed the G6 gun from the G5. [The G5 was a ... gun, it was rather difficult, it had a little engine that - but in the sands of Angola it's incredibly ...]  Then we developed the G6 gun and we developed on the basis of the chassis of the Ratel, we developed the armoured car which is now called the Rooikat, the Rooikat armoured car. And the Rooikat armoured car firepower-wise would be slightly inferior to the tanks, the T72, but because of its mobility it could reposition itself and it could outmanoeuvre, in Africa it could outmanoeuvre, not in Europe it's much more difficult in Europe, but in Africa it could outmanoeuvre the T72 tanks. That is the way we got many of the tanks, they were shot either with the G5s and G6s artillery pieces and many of them were shot even with the smaller 90 mm of the armoured cars. But this battle was not - you cannot compare it with the battle of El Alamein, it's completely different.

POM     Going back to the air war, I suppose my question is, was that a turning point insofar as you are saying that they were superior.

CV     It has always been. I remember I was at Cassinga, I was physically on the target at Cassinga, personally, and that was about 250 kms inside Angola and we had Mirage support but it was such a long distance to go that the Mirages could come in and they could spend only about six to eight minutes over target and then they had to go back to refuel. That was the problem. So in Angola the Air Force had always been a problem.

POM     So the capture of the airstrip in Cuito would have been crucial because it would have allowed you, if you got control of that you would mount operations from Cuito to any place in Angola?

CV     If you wanted to, but we didn't want to because it was not the intention to attack Angola conventionally. The intention of Cuito, the whole aim of the Cuito defensive system was to defend Jamba, it was not to attack.

POM     So was there any point where the Generals, Chiefs of Staff, came back to the government and said we're at paralysis here, we're at one side of the river, they're at the other side of the river, we can stay here indefinitely, neither of us are going to win, neither of us are going to lose but it's rather pointless. Or did you achieve your strategic objectives?

CV     We achieved the strategic objectives. We wanted to facilitate the operation of Savimbi, that was the strategic objective.

POM     He's still doing so.

CV     He's still running.

POM     So you would see the Angolan war - as in many books and treatises by military analysts it's treated as like the first 'defeat' for the SA Defence Force.

CV     It's not a defeat, it was not a defeat. Eventually, when this is the border, the SA border, and we're now talking about Jamba being here and the Cuito River coming down like this passing through, etc., and eventually here you have the river passing through Ruacana, here you have a little place called Calueque and here you have Ruacana, this distance here this must about 300 kms from Calueque to Cuito. Let us say that is Cuito Cuanavale, the idea was Savimbi had a base here and that base was crucial for his continued operation so there was another river here, the Luiana River, I think it joins up here, and the MPLA originally had crossed the Cuito and they came through and eventually they were stopped with this battle as I've explained to you, on the Luiana River and having stopped the defence and having destroyed their armour we went over and we got the instruction to clear this area up to the Cuito, which they did. We cleared up to the Cuito and they were told to take up a defensive position on the Cuito and that defensive position was in position until such time as the Cubans started operating against Calueque. Now that you should talk to Jan Geldenhuys about because he has written a book about this. General Jannie Geldenhuys, he has written a book on this. Eventually it became futile to try to defend this because the Cubans then started to attack Calueque and they started to threaten Ruacana and, as you know Oshakati, Ondangwa is not very far from Ruacana, about 120 kms. So that is how it worked. That's how the battle developed but, please, talk to Jannie Geldenhuys about this. He was in command there. He was my successor.

POM     Do you, this is where I want to bring in the ANC into the conversation, they say they were fighting a just war. Now let me qualify that by saying they were denied the vote, they had to carry pass books, I believe one of the statistics released was that a black person was arrested every three minutes for a violation of pass books, there would be influx control laws, there were the forced removals. First of all, when did it every strike you that something was wrong, unjust about this, that it wasn't right, that 35 million people should be so dominated by three million people, or did it ever cross your mind?

CV     Oh yes of course. You must always bear in mind the ever increasing tension about the involvement of the USSR and the involvement of the Cubans in Africa, so we had two instances. We had that instance. Now can I come back to Cassinga. If this is the border, Cassinga, there's a road coming down here and Cassinga is - you get Tetjamatete there and Cassinga is about there, 250 kms in. When we were operating in Cassinga itself against the SWAPO base, and that was a proper SWAPO base, I was there, I promise you, Cassinga - the Cubans and Tetjamatete had some tanks, we were just a pure paratrooper force, so the whole operation took much longer than we had planned. We had planned the operation to complete by ten, we started at eight in the morning and we hoped to be finished by ten. By three o'clock we were still there, in the afternoon, and by now the Cubans had succeeded to start up their tanks and they were coming down the Tetjamatete / Cassinga road and we had some aircraft operating against them and we also had infantry shooting at them, RPG7s, etc. Now at that stage it became difficult because of the air movement and then we decided, I would say at that stage we were about 150 people, we decided that OK we have completed the job now and it would seem as if the helicopters would not be able to come through because of the threat of enemy aircraft operating and the threat of the enemy tanks coming from Tetjamatete. Then we said, look here, let us walk back, and we were quite prepared to walk some distance. Naturally, of course, we would have been picked up some time, but moving back there my people got very worried about the fact that I was there, I was then Chief of the Army, and they said now what happens if you are caught? So I said, never mind if I'm caught here I will take the battle further on the diplomatic side as a prisoner of war.

     Now I'm saying this to you because you asked me the question, when did you realise that these things were wrong. At that stage already, that was 1978, but that was not the first. The first case was actually in 1968. In 1968 I was on the banks of the Limpopo River together with some cabinet members, I was then a Brigadier, and we were discussing the wars in Africa. Remember at that stage Rhodesia was still running and the Rhodesian war was at its peak at that stage and the wars in Angola, the wars in Mozambique were still running, etc., and then I said to them, "You politicians must pull finger", and I talked to three of them. They must hurry up. And I was talking to Vlok, Langley, who was then an NP MP and a chap, I don't know whether you know him, you probably don't know him, Alex le Roux, and we were arguing about the wars in Africa and I said to them, "You politicians must realise the fact that we can for a hell of a long way prevent being defeated and I don't think they will ever be able to defeat us, but it's not the solution." In 1960 I was on a staff course at the Military College and one of my first papers that I was asked to write as a Staff Officer, a military Staff Officer, was how do you deal - remember in 1960 the Uhuru War started, the Kenya war was just finished - and in my paper I started making a study of revolutionary wars and ever since 1960 I have kept myself updated on revolutionary wars and I realised, and I very soon learnt the fact, that the revolutionary war is not won in a military way, it was won the political way. I was telling these three people on the banks of the river in 1968 that the politicians of SA must hurry up because we can carry on for a long time militarily but we are losing initiative all the way.

     In 1980 when Rhodesia collapsed I had a few Rhodesian officers on the staff course at the Military College and I called them in and I said to them, "Please, you have been on a staff course now, I'm not sure what's going to happen to you now because there is a change of government in your country, etc., but do me a favour, write to me the lessons learnt from Rhodesia and not the military lessons, all the lessons." And they wrote to me all the lessons of Rhodesia. So in 1968 I warned these people, I said to them that militarily we can keep on for a long while but politically you have to find the solution. In 1980 just before I became Chief of the Defence Force I said to these people, these gentlemen from Rhodesia, write me a paper. That paper I passed on to the politicians. At that stage PW Botha was the Minister of Defence. I passed it on to them and I said the war in Angola, the war in Mozambique, the war in Rhodesia are all parts of revolutionary war and we had better learn from the lessons of those wars. I then said to them that every year that you take longer to come to a final political solution your strategic options become less and less. I warned them in 1980. In fact between 1978 was the first one, remember that was with Cassinga when I said at Cassinga I will take the battle further on the political side. In 1978 I already had warned them that this kind of operation needs a political solution.      

     So, you asked me had I ever since I started, in 1968 I would say was the first definite way in which I started to push for this. Between 1978 and 1985 when I retired I recall four formal presentations from my defence staff to the political masters, the cabinet, not fools, the whole cabinet, and I still have one of those available, the others are all in secret files. But formal presentations which we have given to the politicians saying to them, look here we can carry on with the military battle for a long time but it is not going to solve the problem, you have to come to some political agreement because you have to find a way in which to give all the people of SA hope for the future.

     Now considering further the fact, you've earlier on asked about the situation of when did things start to go wrong and I said when the police eventually had the problem of how to deal in the townships with terrorists hiding within the bush. Now that was in 1985, so ever since this thing happened we kept informing the politicians and that's the reason why I said earlier on the incredible resistance to change from the NP.

POM     So they didn't listen?

CV     They didn't listen. In this discussion, the 1968 discussion, they said to me, now what's your solution? So I said to them I am simple but if I was in your position I would take all the national states, KwaZulu/Natal and the homelands of the black people, I would take all the national states and I will use them as states of a federation and I will take the four provinces, Transvaal, Free State, Cape and Natal and I will have four white states and I will take the urban areas such as New Brighton, Soweto, Sebokeng, those places, and I will make one or two or three, it doesn't matter how many, what I call 'city states', urban states. The reason why I say so is those people have been de-tribalised, they are no longer really linked to their homeland situation. Then I would form a federation out of this whole thing. That was in 1968. In 1973, remember Mangope, Buthelezi and Matanzima pushed for the very same thing which I said. Then these gentlemen, including Vlok, said to me you're talking heresy. You see what I'm saying, that incredible resistance to change, that stupidity of not listening to advice.

POM     But General, my question goes deeper, is there at any point along the line when you said to yourself separate toilets for blacks, separate facilities for black and white?

CV     I didn't even worry about those things. I think those were wrong right from the beginning. The real thing that worried me, and which is still worrying me today, is how do you solve the problem of living together in the country, because I realise that you cannot do so by ignoring the Afrikaner people as peoples. You cannot do so by ignoring the Zulu people as peoples and yet you also have to agree that there are some people, for example the Indians, for example many business people that do not belong to any specific group. So you have to find in SA a solution for group rights, for individual rights, which is what I'm still doing. So what I have said on that day in Cassinga to my people when they said what happens if you're caught, I said well OK, I will carry on with the battle on the political level as a prisoner of war and here today I am still doing that.

POM     A prisoner of war.

CV     No, no I've never been a prisoner of war. They could never catch me.

POM     You feel that the war that was being fought here through the apartheid years was in essence a just war?

CV     We saw it as a war gaining time for politicians to come to a solution.

POM     You saw it as a war against the expansion of communism into the area.

CV     You've asked me a question earlier on which I haven't answered and you started off by saying about the just war of the ANC, you wanted to talk about that.

POM     I wanted to go back to that. The ANC say that they fought a just war, that from 1912 until the foundation of uMkhonto -

CV     When you talk about justness of war there are two aspects that are important, the one is, is the cause of the war just, and the second one is, are the methods being used in the war just? Now I have often said in public that I think the ANC can make out a case for the cause of their war to be just. On the same level we can make out a case for the cause of our war against communism and expanding the philosophy of communism inside southern Africa, we can also say yes we have a just cause. However, when we come to the justness of the methods then the ANC fails miserably and we in a certain way, the CCB type of operations, that also fails. So I think maybe in considering the justness of the cause both sides can make out a good point for having a just cause. If I have to be honest maybe I should say the ANC might have a slight lead in the arguments for justness of cause, but when you come to justness of methods then the ANC has completely failed because they have taken the war to the people.  Now the ANC has shown a total disregard for the safety of the non-warring factions within the country. It was Mbeki who decided to take the war to the townships.

POM     Who?

CV     To the townships, Mbeki, Deputy President Mbeki. They had an argument, they paid a visit to Vietnam and they went to Vietnam for the purpose of studying their strategy, etc., and he came back and he said look here, there is no way that we can fight this war according to the principles of the liberation wars which have been fought in Africa. He referred to the Angolan war, the Mozambican war, staying in a neighbouring country, operating from the neighbouring country in military fashion, deeds of terrorism and deeds of attacks on police and so on, there's no way they could do that because, he said, look at the area, there is no bush. And he used the argument and he said they will crush us, the military machine will crush us if we dare to enter SA and come to the places such as Gauteng where we don't have enough bush, because in the sense of the South West Africa war they had the bush of the northern parts and the bush of southern parts of Angola. In the case of the Rhodesian war they had the bush of the valley, the valley of the Zambezi. But in SA approaching the heart of SA there is no bush, there is not enough bush, and he said the military machine will crush us. Then they decided we will take the battle to the cities or to the townships and he said we don't have bush, we must use the humans as a bush. Then they came and then they operated their strong subjection programme, etc., subjecting the peoples of the townships to ANC discipline and that has caused a big problem in the country. That is the real issue that caused the gross violation of human rights. I could have told the TRC that when they started.

POM     What did you tell the TRC?

CV     Go and have a look at my presentation, I have made about four presentations which if I start to tell you now it will take us all day.

POM     Can I get copies of them from the office? Not today but if I come back?

CV     Well ask the TRC, get the official copy because the TRC will also give you the questions and answers which is very important because I have made certain submissions and then they have presented me with some 25 questions and then I have made another submission but that's all on their records. Ask them, they should be able to give it to you. It's nothing secret. I have the submissions, the formal submissions, but it's much better to have the verbatim because you know how these submissions go, you go and sit down there and you start talking and they ask you questions and you answer the questions, so that is the important part.

POM     You make a very clear distinction between the role of the SADF and the role of the police and the 'security'?

CV     The SADF played a very important role especially regarding the safety management system. There was a big difference between the operation of the police and the operation of the SA Defence Force. I will give you an example, I told you that in 1960 I wrote my first military paper.

POM     Do you have a copy of that?

CV     I never kept copies of this. It must be somewhere in Military College in the secret files or so.

POM     You said you had one paper that you kept.

CV     I've got the one paper. I will just have to look where it is but that's a formal presentation that we made to the cabinet in which we said look here, we are strong enough and we can carry on for long, indefinitely, but you have to find a solution for the people of the country.

POM     Would it be possible to -

CV     I will have to have a look for that.

POM     - look in your attic or wherever?

CV     In fact I can forward those to the TRC, I have never given it to them.

POM     Do you think the TRC is making an honest attempt to - ?

CV     No.

POM     It's not? OK. Let's talk about the TRC.

CV     The TRC has 17 commissioners of which 15 are pro-ANC and the whole thing of the TRC has become a propaganda effort for the ANC. This is my honest opinion. They have completely missed the aim of reconciliation. We're not going to get any reconciliation. In fact they've admitted that. I saw, I went to them and I said to them will you explain to me the road to reconciliation. Then both Tutu and Boraine said to me that they realised that they will never get the reconciliation.

POM     Who said that? Boraine?

CV     Boraine and Tutu.

POM     That they would not get to reconciliation. So what is the purpose? It's not achieving justice, it's not achieving reconciliation.

CV     The purpose is the so-called truth and the so-called truth in order to influence political thinking. There is a deliberate reason for stretching the TRC to the 1999 election, that is to keep apartheid alive and that is to keep as far as possible black solidarity and that anti-apartheid feeling in order to have an influence on the 1999 election.

POM     Let me refer all this back to when you and President Mandela had your first meeting. What did you talk about?

CV     I think we talked about the situation. Remember it was the first time we met and Mandela was there and Modise was there, Joe Nhlanhla was there, I think also the previous one, previous chap from Eastern Cape, before the present MEC, I can't remember his name, he was there, and we discussed the situation at that stage and I said to him, look here I am here representing certain peoples, I am representing the Afrikaner peoples and this is what I want and I am not in agreement with what De Klerk is doing and De Klerk is not talking for our situation. Then we had a long discussion, I would probably be able to look up more. I'm trying to sort it out but I never get to that because I have too much to do. We discussed and the crux I would say is that we had agreed at that stage that negotiation would be the best way of solving the conflict and we had agreed that the negotiation process between the ANC and the then Volksfront which I was representing would be carried on and Mandela then said that, he used the words, he said that the real task between him and me would be to make sure that between the Africans and the Afrikaners there would be some way of reconciliation.

POM     But that hasn't happened.

CV     Yes, it was supposed to happen through the TRC and it didn't happen, so as far as I am concerned Mandela failed.

POM     But do you ever feel that - it's often said in various books that you and Mandela hit it off, there was chemistry between you like there was never a chemistry between him and De Klerk, that he admired you maybe for your forthrightness and your bluntness where he was in a similar situation of being forthright and blunt which is different than playing politics.

CV     Have you seen the piece that I've written recently in The Beeld, that's an Afrikaans piece. Let me see whether I can get one for you. The very same man, Tim du Plessis, approached me and he said that they, Die Beeld newspaper, would like to write something about Mandela turning 80 and he then asked me to write a very frank résumé of the situation between me and Mandela and that is in Die Beeld paper but it is in Afrikaans.

POM     Well I will have it translated if you could give me a copy or if somebody could make a copy of it. Has your opinion of him changed? In some ways it would seem to me that he co-opted you, that he made promises, fine-tuned you, brought you in a way into the process, kept you in the process but has never really delivered on anything that he promised.

CV     It would be wrong to say he hasn't delivered on anything because at least in the process of constitution writing we have got the principles for which we stood in the 1996 constitution. So I would say up to 1996 things went perfectly good. It was after 1996, when we came to the implementation of what is in the constitution that we started having trouble. I put it in that article, the whole thing started changing between me and Mandela on the TRC issue and it actually started with the KwaMakutha trial in KwaZulu/Natal. It then became clear to me that Mandela is an instrument from bigger thinking within his party and I think that bigger thinking is probably some form of cabal or management committee and Mandela at that stage was no longer the man who said to me, look here we have to find a way of solving the conflict between the Afrikaners and the Africans. Mandela was becoming more and more an instrument in continuing the revolution and I am sure that there is some revolutionary committee within the ANC completing the revolution which Joe Slovo admitted that the revolution only now starts, that was after the whole takeover in 1994. This is my view that Mandela and that part of the ANC is probably still working on some form of economic, psychological revolution.

POM     As the principle of self-determination is written into the constitution why have you never tested that before the Constitutional Court?

CV     It has been confirmed by the Constitutional Court. It is not a matter of testing the principle. The problem is how to put that in practice because any form of self-determination must be implemented by means of national legislation. Now when that is started then they start to swing round and they have all sorts of given ideas, schools, the idea of our language being pushed out of all governmental functions, the whole idea of territorial self-determination, the idea of a volkstaat. So they are now starting to refuse carrying further with that kind of accord. Do you have a copy of the accord that we originally started?

POM     No.

CV     Maybe I should give you such a copy.

POM     Please.

CV     Because remember the first meeting between me and Mandela was in 1993. In 1994 we had an accord.

POM     That was an accord between you and - ?

CV     The ANC and the NP. That accord actually made possible the whole idea of - here is a copy. If you read through this you will realise when you ask me what did you talk about.

POM     This is called The Accord on Afrikaner Self-determination between the Freedom Front, the African National Congress and the South African government - National Party, 23rd April 1994.

CV     A few days before the election. When we signed that I called off my preparations for a war. You want to keep this?

POM     Yes, oh yes! I keep everything. I have accumulated more material than would fill two rooms already. I don't know what to do with it.  But I have heard from a number of sources off the record within the military that at one point there was some serious consideration being given to a coup.

CV     Never, never. Not from my side. I soon found out that the SA Defence Force, maybe it's a creation of myself, would be loyal to the government and secondly I realised that in the case of a coup we would get no support from people such as Britain, the United Kingdom, United States, Germany and those places.

POM     You wouldn't get support from them?

CV     No. That would be foolish. I would not do a foolish thing and to start a coup -

POM     But that's not involving you, it's involving some of your successors. It was never a consideration?

CV     There might be some foolish efforts such as the theft of weapons in Bloemfontein and so on but there is not any planning of any coup.

POM     Well not now but this is back in the 1990s, before the elections.

CV     Surely many of the Conservative Party politicians thought that this Viljoen is a man that will just switch on the whole of the defence force and that we will swing the defence force and they will make a coup, but it was never planned. My whole idea with the war that I planned was to grab a piece of country and to say this is our country, this is the volkstaat and we will defend it. We have grabbed it and we will defend it if you attack us. But it was not even the idea of capturing.

POM     But is that not almost contradictory to what you said, that because of the ethic that you instilled in the military to be loyal to the government at all costs, you instilled that.

CV     I was no longer in the defence force, I was then in the Volksfront. I was then already retired for seven years and I was called upon by my people to come here to give some strategic ideas. Part of my strategic planning was I did politics, I did propaganda, I did economics, I did also warring, different spectrum of strategy.

POM     To go back for a moment, how has your relationship with Mandela changed?

CV     Materially. It has changed materially. Personally I still have respect for him and he has respect for me, but politically there is no relationship at the moment, virtually none.

POM     Do you have a political relationship with Mbeki?

CV     Yes I have to because Mbeki is going to take over from Mandela.

POM     Now you put some proposals, new proposals, forward regarding a volkstaat recently. (a) Is it possible to get a copy of those proposals? (b) This actually spells out for the first time a territorial -

CV     Not for the first time. We have been on record ever since 1996 that the Freedom Front is favouring the idea of a volkstaat in the North Western Cape. I haven't got one here, I've got one in Pretoria, a complete argument on the whole volkstaat idea for the North Western Cape that I can give you. It's not a problem, but this is also in Afrikaans.

POM     I have a dentist in Boston who is an Afrikaner so everything I get in Afrikaans I hand over to my dentist and say translate. So the world works in funny ways.

CV     It's quite a lot of work to do to translate that. I haven't got it here, it's in Pretoria. When are you leaving?

POM     I will be here, I hope, until the end of September but certainly until the end of August.

CV     That will give us enough time to get one and make it available to you.

POM     Now this article again talks about these are hard-line proposals, that for the first time you have concretised many of the things that were abstractions before. What are the essence of, just to hear your voice rather than read a paper because I prefer to hear the voice rather than to read a paper, what are the essence of the proposals that you have now put before the government and have you received any response?

CV     The essence is, firstly, we want to have cultural self-determination, that is protective measures for cultural survival of Afrikaners wherever they stay in the new SA. That includes aspects such as education, such as our language rights. It also includes the creation of Afrikaner councils at the different district levels in order to have available Afrikaner bodies that would care for the Afrikaner survival all over the country.

     Then the second point is we have suggested that there should be certain areas in which we have enough Afrikaners staying where we could allow for them some territorial autonomy, where the Afrikaners would be able to look after their own schools and look after their own hospitals and look after their own agriculture, etc. in such areas.

     And then the volkstaat issue was that we should in the long term develop an area in the North Western Cape where you don't have a lot of people staying, where it's virtually desert, that we should start a new development there which the Afrikaner will do, we don't expect them to do so, and by the time that we're finished there we will have enough Afrikaners staying in that area after being resettled in that area, where they should be able to then have the volkstaat on their own. In other words the strongest form of territorial self-determination which is the main one.

     So this is basically what we have suggested to the ANC at the moment.

POM     And you've suggested it to the ANC or to the government?

CV     What's the difference? The ANC is the government.

POM     Well Buthelezi is part of the government. Now if he is part of the government -

CV     No, this is then put to the ANC if that's the way you see it, but I admit that the whole concept of Afrikaner self-determination will have to be cleared with all the political parties. We deal with the ANC at the moment because we realise because of the strength of the ANC that we first have to crack that nut before we can go to the other political parties. But as in the constitution writing process we succeeded in getting unanimous support from all the political parties for what we have in the constitution and we would very much like to have unanimous support for the practical implementation of self-determination whatever the final decision will be. We don't want to create another problem for SA or a problem for the Afrikaner people. We don't want to be at loggerheads again with the rest of the population. So that's the reason why we have to try to get consensus from all political parties on this issue.

POM     But it would seem to me that after four years of you being conciliatory, being reasonable, not asking for too much in terms of the protection of cultural rights or whatever, is that you have simply been sidelined and if you have what will the repercussions in the Afrikaner community be if the situation continues?

CV     Considering the problem of change in SA, considering the magnitude of the change in SA, four years cannot be regarded as a long period and in the history of a people four years can be disregarded as an important period. Therefore I don't think at this stage you can say that we have been sidelined. Yes, what we can say is we have not achieved what we hoped for. In 1993 our constituency was pressing for a volkstaat before 27th April or a war. This was more or less the attitude before 1994. Then we said to them, let us be reasonable, let us negotiate, let us not go for another war because eventually after another war you will have to negotiate again so let's rather go for negotiations straight away. We must admit that although we have succeeded constitutionally we have not succeeded in practice.

POM     What remedy do you have, what legal remedy do you have against that?

CV     I think the important point is also to realise that because of the proximity of apartheid and because of the dangers, at least the perception could be drawn from what we suggest, that this is a new form of apartheid, that we have to be very careful not to expect too much too soon. But the whole concept, the whole theory of self-determination, the application thereof in this pluralistic situation of us, is so correct and is internationally so acceptable that we are confident of eventually finding success in this way. I don't think it would be wise now to start with another war or even to start with another great pressurising campaign for this specific. What we do at the moment is, well to start off with, we do have to inform and market the idea to our own Afrikaner people. The Freedom Front at the moment is not the majority party of the Afrikaner people. We are about 37% to 40% of the Afrikaner voters, so we cannot speak from a position of majority with Afrikanerdom but we have worked out a wonderful scheme, 100% in accordance with international law, 100% in accordance with the application of the principles of self-determination elsewhere in the world, and there is no reason why we will not be successful. The only thing is that many of our own people doubt whether we will ever succeed with it and that's the reason why they do not seem to be very keen on it at the moment. But as we go along and especially with the 1999 election we will prove further support and we will eventually get to a position of majority consensus.

POM     Among Afrikaners.

CV     Amongst Afrikaners, yes. And if we have reached the consensus of the majority of Afrikaners then the ANC will be able to give its backing.

POM     Now what's the difference, the ideological difference between the Freedom Front and the Conservative Party on this whole issue of self-determination?

CV     Not a big difference. The CP would like to go for a complete Afrikaner Republic. We say that the idea of a volkstaat over 30 years is a more reasonable idea, but they want territorial self-determination, we want territorial self-determination. They want cultural self-determination, so do we, we want cultural self-determination. The only difference is when you come to the territorial is where? Exactly where? We have concretised this whole idea of the North Western Cape. They still have to do this. So, yes, there is not a big difference between us and them. What is more, initially the NP members rejected our whole idea. Remember what I said to you, I said the NP made 180 degree turnabout and they said that we will now prove that we are more anti-apartheid than the ANC themselves. That caused the NP to try and they failed. That has resulted within their own ranks in a disillusionment and within the NP their members are now starting to turn towards us and many of them become more conservative than what we used to be. So the point is the Conservative Party and the Freedom Front are very close already, many, many Nats are coming across to our view of thinking about self-determination so I am confident that either the FF as one party or some form of Afrikaner coalition will in 1999 be able to say to Mbeki, Mr Mbeki we now no longer ask favours, we talk for the majority of the Afrikaner people, this is what we want, and then the ANC will not be able to turn down the offer.

POM     Do you think that the ANC doesn't understand your history?

CV     They understand it perfectly well. They made such a damn good study of this it's just not true. They are dead scared that eventually we will turn violent. If we come with a good case, with the majority support of the Afrikaners, and they keep on turning this down then it's going to lead to conflict, no doubt about it.

POM     But they know that?

CV     They know that, very sure they do.

POM     Do they identify - ?

CV     Remember what I said, I said I don't want to be guilty of yet another conflict between the Afrikaners and the rest of the country. I would rather go for consensus.

POM     Do they appreciate what you went through during the Boer War, that the first concentration camps were set up -

CV     26,000 women and children died.

POM     Have they any - ?

CV     Feeling for that?

POM     Yes, is there any identification there that you too were oppressed?

CV     Oh yes, sure, they have. The ANC, you must bear in mind, have many parts. When you talk about the ANC traditional they understand this. When you talk about the SACP and the COSATU elements they don't understand it, COSATU mainly because they're young and aggressive, the SACP because it's their ideological conviction not to acknowledge this. But the traditional ANC - that's why I always got along better with the traditional ANC than with the others.

POM     Would you see Mbeki as belonging to the traditional ANC?

CV     Yes.

POM     Do you think he's somebody that you can deal with?

CV     Most of my negotiations have been with Mbeki and I know him well and I have respect for him and he has respect for me. Yes I think we can get along.

POM     Is he receptive to at least - ?

CV     More than most other people. Yes, for sure. Look Mbeki has a great responsibility. He must lead this country in the very crucial second five year term. One can say the first five year term was changeover but the second five year term will be decisive and for him to run into conflict with the Afrikaner people would be foolish. I think he is wise enough to know this.

POM     He knows your history of, not to repeat it, but of struggle and when struggle doesn't -

CV     Mbeki has studied this over and over. And they will notice that there is some consultation taking place within Afrikanerdom and they will realise there is no way that they could deny the Afrikaner people something like self-determination which is an internationally accepted concept. They can differ with us, we can do some arm pushing on exactly how that should be applied but there is no way that they will deny us that but we have to realise that because of the proximity of apartheid, because of the severity of apartheid, etc., we have to be very careful otherwise we will run into conflict again and I want to stay clear of conflict. The moment we have succeeded in having a conflict-free approach between us and the ANC then the country will start to grow, the economy will grow, the confidence will come back, etc.

POM     Do you not think that a consideration on their part would be if we grant these various stages of self-determination to the Afrikaners then the Zulus will look for the same thing?

CV     Yes, why not?

POM     And then everybody will -

CV     Yes, why not? It was already said so by Mangope and Matanzima and those people in 1973, give us a federation.

POM     But then the country begins to disintegrate, it's no longer - what is SA then?

CV     No, no, no. You want to say now what the ANC is saying. They will say this is Balkanisation. It's not Balkanisation. It is a well known concept in the world, right through the world we have pluralistic states growing and internal self-determination is one of the means of arrangement between the pluralistic variety of states and it doesn't mean that you've attacked the integrity of the state, it doesn't really mean that at all. It only means that this is a set of rules through which you arrange or rule the relationship between the different parts of the state. That's all we're looking for.

POM     So what functions, in an autonomous unit, what functions of government would you want and what functions would you have the central government reserve?

CV     That is the crux of the matter and that is part of the negotiations that will have to go on. But I would say all the functions affecting my cultural way of living should come to us, own affairs. All the functions affecting the rest of the country such as economy, finances, I would say that would have to go to the central government. We should have less centralisation and more decentralisation.

POM     Have you looked at the plans for devolution in Scotland and in Wales and in Northern Ireland?

CV     Yes we have. Very interesting.

POM     And compared the differences between the three countries.

CV     We've studied the whole world, there's not a place in the world that you could mention that we haven't studied. Belgium, Eritrea, Canada - you mention it, we've studied it.

POM     Have you done a document on that?

CV     Yes, that's one I will give to you, that's the basic one. I'm not sure whether I haven't got one here. I know there's one on my table in my office. (I haven't got one here but I've got the one in Pretoria and I will be going to Pretoria on Friday and then I will make it available for you.)

POM     Just on a more general level, after four years where do you think SA is going? If I said the rand has gone to hell but that's not a fault of this country because you don't have control over it.

CV     No, no, I differ with you. I think the rand's problems started in the eastern parts but the collapse came through lack of confidence in SA.

POM     Why is there this lack of confidence?

CV     Because we have many, many problems, for example the issue of labour. Many, many undertakings leaving the country, an outflow of capital from the country because of lack of confidence.

POM     What does the lack of confidence stem from?

CV     I think from the ANC's failure in government.

POM     I said what does the lack of confidence stem from?

CV     I think (a) from the uncertainty about GEAR, the macro-economic plan, (b) from the instability within the ANC, the very clear signs that they are starting to break up. I think the situation about opposition politics is another point, that there is no real alternative for the ANC government and we all realise that the ANC government is not shaping at the moment. I think also the issue of the Reserve Bank is a very important issue, the independence of the Reserve Bank. The appointment of Tito Mboweni was the wrong appointment there, it should never have taken place. I think Mandela's friends in the world are another problem, Cuba and Gaddafi and those people. I think the work ethic inside the country is another problem, people not prepared to work hard and want to rob Peter to pay Paul. That's what's taking place in the country at the moment. So I think those are the important points. So the problem also is that the ANC as a government, you know there might be reasons for that, maybe we're partly to be blamed for that, but they haven't got the potential.

POM     They don't have the talent?

CV     The talent nor the intellectual ability. That's the reason why they stick to the SACP because the SACP is generally -

POM     What you mean is they have the - somebody has said to me that they have intellectual capacity but they don't know how to turn intellectual capacity into instruments of implementation. The debate is more important than the -

CV     Yes. How are we for time?

POM     We have another five minutes. How do you see the future? You're moving into the elections of 1999 and you expect to do better than you did in the last election?

CV     I think the future will be that there will have to be, before the election, some re-arrangement of the opposition forces. It's very difficult to say how that's going to take place because the problem is the NP.

POM     Where is the NP going?

CV     It should disappear. I know where it should go to!

POM     It seems to stand on shifting sand and the sand is shifting all the time. What does it stand for or does it stand for anything other than opposition to whatever the ANC proposes?

CV     You see the opposition parties should start reshuffling in order to achieve a few things. The first thing what they mustn't go for is to be anti-ANC, because that's nothing. You can't be anti you have to be pro something. I think the pro something would be pro democracy but not a democracy of individual rights only. In other words a democracy also showing space for the idea of group rights, for the idea of peoples who want to participate. Secondly, a democracy that would be prepared to serve the purpose of devolution of power, not a democracy that would centralise as the ANC is doing at the moment. You know if you want to say to me what do you have against the ANC, I would like to say that they show all the signs of a big SA Communist Party in forming.

POM     So you see signs of authoritarianism increasing?

CV     That's right, increasing, increasing and I see a sort of a one-party domination increasing and I think that is wrong. So when I say the opposition parties must start to reshuffle I mean they must oppose that. Then the second thing that the opposition parties should aim at is to have better control over security, control over crime in the country. This is one of the biggest problems that we have at the moment. And that can be done.

POM     Why isn't that done?

CV     Because the ANC can't switch off the revolution. The crime in SA comes from the revolutionary minds of the people, they have been over-revolutionised in the period up to 1993 and there is a momentum of revolution and there is a deliberate extension of the revolution by some parts of the ANC and, as you know, a revolution operates on the fuel of conflict, on the fuel of violence.

POM     So you would think that part of the crime is in a way political crime rather than just ordinary, decent crime? Put it that way.

CV     It's difficult to say, I wouldn't put it that way, I would say part of the crime or the majority of the criminal acts can be attributed towards the political result of the revolution in the minds of the people and in saying so there is a difference. I'm not saying that the crime is politically motivated. I say the political aspects of the revolution left a residue within the minds of the people that is not conducive towards peaceful living and hard working and discipline and so on.

POM     The ANC knows quite well that crime is - internationally if you ask people about SA the first thing that comes to their minds is crime and that's one of the big inhibitors of foreign investment and everything else. Now why (i) isn't more of the budget allocated to crime? Why aren't there more retraining schemes in operation to retrain the police and make the police more efficient, less corrupt, more professional?

CV     I think it's poor governmental ability.

POM     And how did a police force that was regarded as one of the most ruthlessly efficient in the world in apartheid days become one of the most almost inept?  What happened?

CV     I think this is a problem of change. This is the problem of change and the same thing is happening with the defence force. The defence force has really tried its best in order to maintain standards. The police force collapsed and there is a reason for that. Remember what I said to you earlier on.

POM     Why doesn't the government, recognising that this is perhaps the major problem that the country faces, crack down in a far more severe way and devote far more resources to dealing with the problem?

CV     I don't think they have the ability to do that. I have given to Mandela a complete plan after two months of work and they have not implemented it. I can't say why, I don't know.

POM     Did you even get a response?

CV     From him yes, I had more than an hour to brief him which I did. I briefed him with transparencies and everything and he then said to me thank you very much, he likes it very much and he thinks I have very good ideas in the plan, etc., and please we must not at that stage make this known to the press and so on.

POM     We must not make it known to the press?

CV     Yes, not make it known to the press and so on and he would first like to have it evaluated by organs of state and I must leave it with him. After three weeks, that was August last year already, after three weeks, it was the end of August, I tried to find out what was going on and nothing had happened at that stage. Up to now I don't really see any success in implementation.

POM     So in essence you got no response? You met with Mandela and you discussed it and then everything fell into a black hole.

CV     He called me in May 1997 and he explained to me his great concern about the crime situation in SA and he asked me what would I suggest. And I gave, you know the points that you were making as to why don't they start retraining. In fact I said that you have three departments, police, prisons and justice and all three departments needed a complete rethinking of the functions of the department. You know you take a silly thing such as, for example, the backlog in trials, there is no reason why a court can't run around ... if you don't have enough prosecutors.

POM     If you don't have enough prosecutors, yes.

CV     Then you privatise and get people and say if you want to work four hours as a prosecutor and you want to use those four hours from eleven o'clock at night until three in the morning in order to go through the backlog of cases and so, there's no reason why not. There are so many ways of solving this problem but they don't. You're right in asking why don't they do this? I don't know. I, for example, advised Mandela to make a very good study as to what are the causes of the present situation of crime because here I have been saying to you that I think it is the revolution, over-revolutionised minds that can't switch off, etc., etc., it's possible, but then I think the way to go about this is to take a lot of criminals and have them questioned by criminologists and to come with a special report to say look, here the causes are the following, so and so and so and so. Then you say, how do I address the causes? What worries me is the fact that I get the impression, that also holds for the murders on farms, I get the impression that as long as they catch the people and over-fill the jails they are happy, they think they have done an excellent job. This is not the government's function. The government's function is to have a crime-free society and you're going to have a crime-free society by changing the minds of the people away from the reasons why they are committing crimes and they don't know what those problems are.

POM     Well the Institute of Strategic Studies does a whole plethora of studies on crime and security.

CV     They do a lot, the same with Business Against Crime, they have also financed some of these situations but I don't know why the government, they hear this and they see this but they don't act.

POM     Some people have said to me that the problem here is that the government or the ANC is terrific at producing white papers, green papers, yellow papers, whatever you want to call them, but that they can't translate the policies - and they are all good papers and make sense - but there's an inability to translate policy into practice.

CV     It might be the case that they've never governed before, it's possible. They have spent 30 years in exile in which they studied, studied, studied, theorised and theorised but they never put anything in practice. The same thing about money. They have never generated money, they have always received money and they've spent money. The seem to need the lesson that in order to have money to spend you have to generate money and how do you generate money? You have to look at the economy for growth. And how do you look at the economy for growth? By creating conditions of confidence in the country and in the external situation of the country.

POM     So when you're developing strategy for the next election will it be concentrated on the issue of self-determination for Afrikaners or will it be broader based in terms of alternative policies that you would offer in terms of crime prevention, economic growth?

CV     We have to, we would be foolish if we just stick to the issue of self-determination. We will have to move a bit wider. We have to be part of a bigger movement in opposition in SA and we will do so, but we will never give up our drive for self-determination. When we join a bigger organisation part of our prerequisite would be an acceptance of our desire for self-determination for Afrikaners.

POM     OK. Thank you ever so much for your time.

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.