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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

06 Sep 1998: Coetsee, Kobie

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POM     And all of those points I would cover. When you go home I would suggest, because tomorrow I have six interviews between eight o'clock in the morning and three o'clock in the afternoon, and if you put together the material - because when we moved our house I packed everything in crates and the crates were put in a garage downstairs in the house and I have never unpacked. The stuff is there but which crate it is in, I can spend weeks going around looking for stuff. I will pay all the expense of having it photocopied but this will become a priority with me which means that when Judy gets the basic stuff done and I get the documentation together, we will put the list together of other documentation that is needed or people that are needed for back-ups to verify certain points or whatever, this becomes my immediate priority. It does a couple of things, what it does for me is it allows me to get into the book at a point - a writer will say what point do I come in at. I could come in on a year, I could say I will start in 1998 and then work backwards and then forward. I could start in 1994 at the election and then work backwards and then work forward. I could start any place, I could start with the release of Mandela where most people begin. I don't want to begin there, I want to try a different approach. I want to start maybe with the debate that was going on that you talked about yesterday, the whole point is where do you get in. One can get in on this issue and then spread out from that backwards and forwards in terms of both years and the issues. What it allows me to do, it gives me a definite focused starting point where I am now writing a comprehensive article on something which will keep my mind working in other ways and I will start thinking of other issues and say, this is the way to do it. That's what it does for me and it makes me immediately focused and it means I have quick deadlines to meet.

KC     The nature of the publication you have in mind was not to - yesterday you indicated to me, was not to become part of your book, perhaps eventually, but there is to be an interim situation because it relates to two issues. Firstly, I think an intervention at this point of time is necessary to change the mood in the country, but secondly there is also my situation to be clear. I have been reticent on it for a long time for a number of reasons, a large number of reasons, but those reasons, as I explained to you yesterday, relate mostly to the fact that I did not want to encourage internal strife in the ranks of the NP ministers. Now this consideration has been considerably watered down when Mr de Klerk left the government of national unity and when he and Roelf Meyer parted company because, as explained by Patti Waldmeir and others, the undoing of the grand plan around amnesty or rather indemnity and release got completely damaged, it almost got demolished this grand plan with the acceptance of the Record of Understanding which was brought about by deals between Roelf Meyer and Ramaphosa on the issue of the release of Robert McBride and others and I said to you I'll fax the front page minute as published by The Sunday Times of the discussions which Roelf and I and Ramaphosa and Mac Maharaj and others had at the airport which preceded the Record of Understanding and which actually prearranged things in such a way that it was just a formality. Now Patti Waldmeir gives a different light, or adds a new light to it by saying that before then Mr Mandela said to Mac, "I will show you how to deal with De Klerk", and that's recorded there.

POM     You were saying that it all was prearranged at that point.

KC     No, I say this is partly confirmed, the prearranged situation, and whilst I was voicing government policy on general amnesty, as appeared on the front page of The Sunday Times, there were other deals and that left me with a feeling of discontent ever since. I've kept quiet for many reasons and my attitude is not aimed either at Mr de Klerk or any other NP minister or whatever. My concern was about the fact that I did foresee an inconclusive situation brought about by the release of Robert McBride and all the others in prison virtually that how this was going to damage our future chances of a continued peace in this country and support for the notion of a rainbow nation. At the same time I went out of my way to explain to you that my resistance against the release of people who fell outside the Norgarb Principles was because I did not want to be seen, and in that Mr de Klerk supported me, to be seen with criminals that perpetrated crime allegedly in the course of their duty but which afterwards became clear was not in the course of their duty. At the time it was a mere feeling that we had, that I had, that in a time of conflict as we experienced then anything is possible between forces but we never conceded that people could operate outside the law. That's the point and I stood firm and I am so glad these people are actually boosting my stand on principle.

POM     Just name it so I have it on tape. The article in The Financial Week?

KC     Yes, it's boosting my stand on principle.

POM     Written by?

KC     By Ferreira. It's boosting my stand on principle, namely that I never in the past conceded on this principle, we prosecuted those people and this explains why the TRC people started after a while, the Colonels and whatever, started to admit and confess that they were operating outside the law. Now you must be clear on this too, the people who reproached me may say well there is no now vagueness on the people who did act upon authority from the President and the State Security Council to carry out a cross-border operation. It differs from that and it differs from those who internally went and shot people to do away with them, killed people not only indiscriminately, killed people unlawfully, they were prosecuted. There is Mitchell from Natal and in my time he was sentenced to death. It was upon my insistence that the investigating team was changed when the Attorney General brought to me the possibility of a cover-up. It was in my time that two or three other detectives who shot people in cold blood were prosecuted and sentenced to death which was changed afterwards to lifetime sentences, and I believe they could only have walked under amnesty, as Mitchell walked under amnesty. The policemen in Natal, I think the Richmond area, who connived with killers on the ground and killed people, they were prosecuted. Whenever it came to our notice that there was such a possibility they were prosecuted.

     This emphasises my stand in principle, stand in principle of the Attorney General, that no-one could have had authority to act unlawfully. And that's what this is all about. If you now through an Act of state put these people outside the law where and how do you do that. Norgarb laid down principles saying under what circumstances this could be justified but he found it hard if not impossible to justify that people killed civilians and that's where McBride and others came. That's where the necklace murderers came in and that's where people who acted outside the law in uniform and otherwise, but under the pretext of acting under orders, they come in and we never recognised their justification as a valid one unless they got amnesty through an act of parliament, through proper process, yes, put outside the law. But we drew the line somewhere and we said all these serious cases can only be put outside the law if there is general amnesty because whom do you put outside the reach of the law? Whom do you put outside? How can you - what is fair in such a treatment, as you said, if bad political prisoners get off but good common law prisoners don't?

POM     Our heads are at the same place. When I leave tomorrow I will give these tapes to Judy and say start with the portion on amnesty and transcribe it as quickly as possible. I will fax that on to you so you can go through it and read it and correct it in terms of things that are ambiguous or things that are unclear so that when I go to visit you we have a clear document in front of us so we don't have to go through the operation of my saying what does this mean, what does that mean.

KC     I see this as different from my other interviews, this is meant just to be the start of a working session and I don't think in this case I am just interviewing. In this case I am more than that, I am your researcher, I am your advisor.

POM     You point me.

KC     Exactly. I see it therefore in a different nature altogether and since I have an interest on these two issues, doing something for the country according to my perception, secondly doing something for my own political well-being -

POM     A sense of vindication.

KC     And thirdly, at the same time handling it in such a way that we do not damage the basics of justice, which I think I must add because that was the guiding force as far as I am concerned on the past.

POM     But that comes across in everything you've said to me since about the first time I've interviewed you, your obsession with the law, the implementation of the law, the rule of law, the primacy of the rule of law over any individual and that's your starting point on what good governance and democracy is about, that no individual supersedes or no side steps are taken to evade what the law says.

KC     It seems to me we are really at eye level on these issues as well because you come across as though these are your own principles.

POM     That's right.

KC     I've noticed it ever since we met. All right, so I've elaborated in order just to repeat and make sure that these points are clear.

POM     So I will start getting the tapes done, transcribed as quickly as possible. That means they should be done during the week if I get Judy really at it. I will have them faxed on to you so you can go through them so when I come down to Bloemfontein we don't have to spend time going over what we were doing yesterday. You will have made the corrections and clarified things because in conversations like these when they're translated onto paper the person who is transcribing often doesn't know how to break a sentence up and what belongs in one sentence and what belongs in another. You put together the documentation but I will pay for the copying of it because that's part of ultimately on the research, and my name will appear on the article and I pay for the research that I do.

KC     And even if I have to employ staff because its laborious.

POM     That's my cost. That maintains the integrity of my independence. Then we get cracking and get a list of the individuals, of the documents and then I go after each individual specifically in terms of particular points, how to do it.

KC     Could you perhaps elaborate on which publication? How, where and when?

POM     That would be done when you want to do it, number one. Number two, when I go back I will go to my agent and my publisher, my agent really, and I will say I am writing an article on the whole amnesty process in South Africa which has taken a number of different twists and turns and the ramifications of which have enormous implications for the country. Finally I will sell the idea to the New York Times, the Sunday Magazine, the New Yorker Magazine, to The Atlantic - about four or five enormously influential national magazines that are read by opinion makers all around the country and become the basis on the way issues surface and are dealt with and it will certainly percolate back here in a very quick way and very quickly. That would be done and the ideal thing would be for it to appear after the Truth & Reconciliation report is released and one gauges the reaction to it so that one can incorporate reaction to it to say well this kind of reaction was really foreseeable because it's the result of a contaminated process, contaminated since 1991. And then you come to how do you deal with it, where does that leave SA, that's the last question. Does it leave it in a position of where it can move forward and heal and become, as you say, the rainbow nation, or does it leave it in a position of where this thing is going to fester like a bad sore that somebody is continually scratching and slowly but surely destroy the political fabric of the country?

KC     Now suppose that at an opportune, strategic moment I submit a proposal to Mr Mandela and Mr Mbeki and the government and whomsoever which could coincide with the publication of the TRC report, in other words slightly preceding your publication, and inevitably your publication will have to take cognisance of such a proposal and other proposals such as, for instance I've mentioned to you I've read in the newspaper, made by the Generals and by the NP, I forgot to tell you. It seems as though they are echoing now the Generals. So I wouldn't be echoing either of those although there may be people saying that I now come forward and am wise after the event, which will be nonsense of course. Be that as it may, your material will show that. Will it inhibit your publication if there are - amongst others my proposal is how to deal with the situation?

POM     No I don't think so. I think we should proceed on parallel lines. I am a writer, historian, whatever you want to call it, political analyst, a writer who tries to find the truth about contentious matters and matters of great conflict and to tease them out to see what do they mean and what are possible ways of dealing with these issues, and if so what are they and how should they be implemented. You are an individual, you have the right to do what you want at any time, make any submission when you want, independent of anything to do with me at all.

KC     Very well, yes. Whereas I do appreciate that the value of your article which may assist me eventually tremendously depends on your integrity and your independence, whereas I really appreciate that. I think that we also have an understanding that the eventual product would either not land me in more controversy and, secondly, I say more because I can't expect you - you could say to me I'm going to take you out of the controversial area - but I can at least say that I think we should make sure that I do not become more controversial through an article to which I contributed. Firstly. In that sense it may be necessary then to have the last session before publication, put it that way, and you must now decide how that's going to impinge upon your independence. As I say I really appreciate that the value will depend on your independence and your integrity which must be maintained at all times. But then secondly I think that we need to say to each other that there may come forward circumstances, circumstances may develop which may cause us to review our plan. I'll mention to you what circumstances I have in mind, for instance if I am summoned to appear before some forum or other, the Amnesty Committee or whatever, or I decide to go there myself. I just want to mention that as a possibility but I will liase with you all the time on such a course. I will be guided by your advice and your interest but I must keep that option.

     Then I also have to tell you, and I thought last night, I wanted to tell you actually when we started the session the day before yesterday, that there are people, film makers around, apart from filming Mr Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom, who are busy with the same area, perhaps overlapping and they have been interviewing me, wanting me to participate, advisor or participate. I said to them that my first option of course is not a short term involvement. My first option would be to ensure that the history of SA is properly and correctly written and films such as, for instance, the film of Allister Sparks was inclined to romanticise the situation and to have a focus on a number of known issues but not all the issues. He covered only very few issues. So that was my response to them but do you think this may perhaps affect any of your work, any of your publications?

POM     My answer to that, again, would be that if there is any individual out there writing or filming or doing any other kind of investigative work they have the perfect right to pursue their interests and I have no objection to that, that is a fundamental right.

KC     It might even in a sense support your work eventually.

POM     If it happens that way it happens, if it doesn't then it doesn't, but the more people who are trying to establish what the truth is, the better the chance that the truth actually emerges. That's number one. Number two, you are free to talk to anybody you want to at any time, under any circumstance, there are no caveats with regard to that at all. Number three, we are in a way in this particular project - have reached the point of where we either have established or must establish, I think we have established, mutual trust.

KC     I think so. I am saying this for the sake of your machine and mine.

POM     Mutual trust to me means that I trust you to point me in the directions that serve the purpose of unfolding the truth even if on occasion pointing me in a direction that might not be, I won't say in your interests, but will show a larger picture or create a larger picture, but you're saying I'm not here to vindicate myself, I am here to establish the truth.

KC     Even if it shows I don't have an immaculate image.

POM     That's right. That's one. Number two, you must trust me that my integrity is such that I will pursue the truth and do everything possible to establish the truth as fully and as comprehensively as possible and that's my guiding principle in how I start going about things.

KC     It's not only living with that, it's also subscribing to that.

POM     And that may hurt me. I could write a piece that my public or even my publisher might find damaging, or where other people that I've interviewed in the past would say, I'm not talking to you any longer.

KC     And they might say, what's happened to this great liberal?

POM     That's right, so I would say that's the risk I must take.

KC     Very well Padraig. Then I think there is one point we still have to get on record there and that is in the course of our conversation I mentioned to you that I have an understanding with Mr Mandela that where it affects him and where it's not been overtly made known that I will still consult him, which I have done in the past. I can't recall any such situation now except that I did tell you that I went to see him with a proposal on how to deal with the situation without, that was the nature of the proposal, without compromising us in respect of the real criminals which operated under the cloak of government force, under the pretext that they have government authority, which they didn't have. I simply say, and I can give you notes, but it is a matter of fact that there is also my friend Jacob Zuma on that final agreement which we signed on that situation where he actually then came second to Cyril. I would like to clear that with him. That is the nature of - although I haven't spoken with him for almost a year, if not slightly more, but that is the nature of my relationship with people that if I compromise them one way or another that I may not understand and foresee what other hurdles may be created for him, I first have to clarify it and perhaps find even a way of coming around it without stretching the truth. You understand? It may be a different way of saying it. Are we au fait?

POM     Let me put it like this, I have known Jacob Zuma now since 1990 or 1991, I forget which. He is one of the people who actually in front of his staff, I brought him out, I said I want to talk to you every six months and he said OK. I said, listen people say that to me and then they don't live up to their promises, I want you to come out to your staff and say it in front of your staff and I want you to say it in Zulu. I brought him out and he said it in Zulu and I took it down in Zulu, so six months later I wrote to his Chief of Staff or whatever saying Mr Zuma blah, blah, blah, and I got back saying he's very busy, he's this, he's that, and I sent back a blistering note saying, no, Jacob, I cc'd it to him, and said he would see me and he said in front of this person, and that person and that person and this is what he said in Zulu, Zulus keep their word. Two days later I had an appointment and we have a very good relationship. So I have no problem going to him and saying, listen this whole question of amnesty is pre-occupying me at a very fundamental level.

KC     We understand each other. It may be strange to politicians but to you as an academic who prefers to have all supporting the same truth otherwise it could become so controversial if Jacob says I can't remember that, it's not my signature.  But at the time we did not publish it but we did make it known as a fact that this has happened. It was so important to my mind, and I think I got Mr de Klerk to make a statement that there is now a conclusive agreement reached between Coetsee and Zuma or between the ANC and the NP to this, that and the following effect, the media didn't pick it up.

POM     The media never picked it up?

KC     Not never, but they didn't allocate any importance to it at all. The fact that those people were flown out to Durban and released there, they didn't understand it. That's why people write nonsense.

POM     Well the best nonsense I saw, and I was saying to Patricia this morning, I've seen so many people in the last week who said when I read them something from the newspapers, who say, "Lies, damn lies", and whatever. I don't think I'm going to buy a newspaper again. But the head of today's Sunday Argus has an amazing statement from Morkel to Madiba about detention without trial for well known criminals. That was in the paper, a small item was in the paper which I have right here. If you get the Sunday Argus, you can get it downstairs, and look at  (tape switched off).  You were saying about putting - ?

KC     You have made notes against the text that you gave me. Suppose I get those notes and I say to you, all right I will react to this and your notes, or don't you think your notes are all that clear?

POM     I think I've just asked some basic questions out of the notes, you will see what I'm doing if we start, you will see what I'm doing, I'm just going now for some of the major things.

KC     Let's go, we have 40 minutes before going down for lunch.

POM     I'll give you the page so you'll have the reference when you get the transcript back. We are now going to discuss the notes that I made on Patti Waldmeir's book The Anatomy of a Miracle. The first question would be - this is your impression of Mandela which I would like to have. (This is on page 12) She says: -

     "Mandela's presence is pure power. Everyone who meets him chooses a different adjective to capture that essence, regal, patriarchal, chieftainly, but they all recognise it immediately. Mandela was born to rule. He thinks so and after a few minutes so do you."

     You had many meetings with him?

KC     Well if I may say, when your question is in the nature of an opinion, whatever I say can't possibly be the last word.

POM     Sure.

KC     Because what is relevant is, is this your opinion now or what was your opinion at the time?

POM     What was your opinion at the time and what is your opinion now?

KC     Exactly. Now you see I would like to sit down and it can't be dealt with just in a single sentence and it may be too elaborate. We have to pick the cherries. Personally I think if you could follow the same procedure and I put this on tape I may perhaps go through this when it comes to opinion. When it comes to fact I could deal with it in another way, I could verify it on documentation perhaps for you. Now your question is relevant in the sense that Patti says that the NP was seduced by this, that and the following, and Coetsee was manipulated by Mandela.

POM     It says,

     "As always Mandela was interested in people (page 14) it was obviously genuine, it was also supremely politic. He is not above manipulating emotion for a good cause. This meant manipulating his own emotions as much as others. Mandela the supreme disciplinarian banished bitterness because it stood in the way of liberation but it also meant manipulating men like Coetsee, Van der Merwe and Barnard. They entered talks supremely confident about the outcome. Pretoria expected to be able to outsmart the ANC in negotiations and intimidate him with the power of the Afrikaner state. The government's confidence was bolstered by the belief that it could divide the ANC along the nationalist/communist divide isolating the communists it so feared and striking a deal with the more moderate nationalists."

     Now, would you say that's an accurate statement or an inaccurate statement, to your knowledge?

KC     It's not an accurate statement. You actually gave the answer yourself in the sense that this creates the impression that there was a complete walkover whereas yesterday you pointed out that in respect of the economy, in respect of the law, a different author says something completely different and therefore this is her opinion, but I don't agree with her. I think Mr Mandela did not plan our seduction at Robben Island in a secretive way and said to his people, listen what I will do is to go and pretend this, I will pretend that I will be co-operating but in the meanwhile, no, we have time on our side. Then they would say to him, how long would it take us before we can put things right and what will happen in between? Then a lot of things, he would say, no we will have a constitution, we'll give them even provinces, we'll have Premiers and then after five, six years - and even I will say at the first election I don't want a two thirds majority, but then I will retire and you will get your two thirds majority and you will do what you want, that's my grand plan. It's nonsense, but this is what she's saying, so it's nonsense.

POM     When she says?

KC     He was persuasive, he was nice, I liked him. If it had been any other person it could have been completely different but it was not a matter of manipulating me into doing things that I did not want. That's what it pre-supposes. It's not so. Everything went, as far as I'm concerned, very smoothly up to a point, up to a point, and that's when I said to you that many of our plans collapsed as a result, and I want to go on record, and I am on record, as a result of Mr de Klerk changing his themes and not relying on the experience of people such as Pik and myself and so on.

POM     One question that's always intrigued me because it falls naturally after that, you had a team of people who negotiated the Namibian settlement, experienced, toughened, used to the ways of negotiations. They were never called on at all.

KC     Yes I mentioned to you a man like Jannie Geldenhuys, he was on my list.

POM     That's the General?

KC     General Geldenhuys. He was on my list, we drew up a list, a very lengthy list of individuals all over the country and all disciplines. We did not ask what are their credentials, what are their political views to become involved. I still want to know what happened to that list and why that was dropped by the side. You see it all collapsed really with the Record of Understanding and I said to you also yesterday that there was this continued bickering with the Department of Justice overtly too involved, contravening, going beyond their boundaries and so forth and appointing people only from one university. I'm not questioning Mr de Klerk's judgement, it is quite possible that his view was that we were too technical, but then at the time we were preparing the state, the government, every department, for a change. We were so way ahead, this is a different story. Changing the mindset of people.

POM     So when she says that they, i.e. the government, you, that you entered the talks supremely confident about the outcome, that you were just cleverer than the ANC, that these were guys who had spent all their time in the bush.

KC     We never underestimated them. I did not. I am sure Gerrit Viljoen did not. I am sure Pik did not. We never underestimated. There could have been advisors but if people who come, I would rather say that some of their advisors that were later so closely attached to the Department of Constitutional Development succumbed, but we never underestimated them. We also never underestimated our own powers. We had a plan, we had a blue book on constitution and we had a plan of negotiating, of putting forward proposals but building in enough to fall back on and still attain our objectives, but the ANC were doing the same, exactly the same. We never underestimated them. We studied them, we knew their strengths and we knew their weaknesses but we never underestimated them, especially not the lawyers in the background, never.

POM     What do you make of a remark that Roelf Meyer made, page 44, he said: -

     "These guys had an advantage of us, they had been through negotiations par excellence in the mining industry while we had to learn through experience on a daily basis. You can't learn these things in books."

     Is he saying the ANC were better prepared, better negotiators than the NP?

KC     Well if I have to give you my opinion on this it will be a harsh judgement on Roelf Meyer, it will be a harsh judgement on Gerrit Viljoen, Roelf Meyer and FW de Klerk.

POM     And on FW? That's in part because he switched from the people who - ?

KC     You must bear in mind people like myself and Pik got on with the ANC and various of their leading figures in a very natural way and we could take up positions without creating enmity. This was for a very long time the situation. Then Ramaphosa succeeded in breaking up CODESA 1 to start afresh. Why? Because the Nats have gained too much advantage and they saw a person like Tertius Delport, not myself, but a person like Tertius Delport as obstructive.

POM     As destructive?

KC     Obstructive. And a few others as obstructive. I think Ramaphosa liked me as a person but he did not like me as a negotiator. He respected me as a person, as I respect him as a person, but I think he knew I saw through his stratagems, I saw him coming and for that reason he didn't want me around.

POM     Was that one of the reasons why they behaved so 'destructively'? In Patti's book she says: -

     "Ramaphosa set out to destroy Delport".

     Was it because Delport was actually a tough negotiator?

KC     He was different from most of us. He is very clever, had a very clear vision and he took his mandate seriously. He acted every time within his mandate and stood his ground whereas Roelf would act outside his mandate, then come back, compromise his colleagues, creating situations where they are overwhelmed by the ANC, getting agreements from FW and then afterwards as he was confronted, that this and that has been agreed upon, we couldn't do anything else, we made a stand on a number of issues.

POM     Yes, we were going through those.

KC     We have gone through those already.

POM     Early in her book she says that FW never believed in simple majority rule and didn't believe so until the very end but that Roelf was an early convert to it.

KC     I know that, I know what you're getting at.

POM     It would seem to me in terms of a chess game, so he's confronting Ramaphosa and Ramaphosa has a mandate to get simple majority rule.

KC     To lay the basis for majority rule.

POM     And your opponent, your protagonist across the chess board is somebody who already agrees with you, who says I already believe in majority rule. Aren't you psychologically at an advantage before we even move the first piece?

KC     Of course. Let the two of us find ways to get round my people. That's what she says, that's what she's saying, but it's not the complete truth because we said power sharing and Slovo had to find a way of getting around that or at least using that concept with a proposal, giving it a different name to get it past his people, and he called it a government of national unity which is the same as power sharing in the broader context. But when we discussed power sharing, when it came to cabinet decisions, I want to tell you later on when I heard what Mr de Klerk's trouble was at cabinet level, what frustrated him which eventually caused him to go, he was then actually, and I'm sorry for Mr de Klerk, he was then paying a penalty for not accepting the position of people like myself on what power sharing really means. There was a decision at one of our supreme sessions, there was a decision that power sharing means power sharing at all levels, all levels, local government, provincial government if it's there, parliament too. I defined it as such, it was accepted, it was never adhered to. That's why I say I can list now all the positions we decided upon which weren't accepted. Then later when I talked to some of our colleagues, when I talk to provincial people, NP members, I said to them, now listen this is what's possible, Mr de Klerk made a decision, I agreed to serve under Mr de Klerk and under particular circumstances according to the NP constitution the leader may make ultimate decisions if he is convinced, that's why there's a leader.

POM     If he is convinced that that is the right way to go.

KC     Exactly, and so although we might have had different positions in the beginning, Mr de Klerk in given circumstances, a given situation, took a different decision. So although I'm giving to you our position, I was the one who always said to my colleagues that he has been acting within his power and once he has taken a decision I abide by it. And I advised my people in the Free State until I laid down the leadership there to do the same, but there were times when I got their mandate and I went to Mr de Klerk and I said to him, "We have taken a decision, there's a deviation from this, I can't abide by that and I will have to resign." That was on the question of the provinces for instance. He changed it, he changed the agreement I understood there was on his part to Roelf's proposal that there be provinces after the general election, that provinces then be negotiated and we said no, our position was according to the blue book, there will be provinces, there will be a federal system with the following features, as close as possible to the federal system but in order to meet the ANC we even said let's not call it a federal system. I will send you clippings where I flaunted the idea which was actually taking the NP policy a lot further by saying we must have a deal start, we must have a shared constitution, deal start as in the United States. They call the states composite parts of the federation, they share power.  This is how we operated and that's why to a certain extent Mr de Klerk could, I think, rely on me although I differed from him, although it flew into the face of whatever. Once he's taken a final decision I will do my damnedest to persuade him in between.

POM     But essentially in the latter part of the negotiations the man in charge had beliefs that weren't in conformity with the mandate that he had to negotiate, in fact shared the beliefs of Ramaphosa?

KC     Yes. I understand what you say but we're going to take a lot of time on this, because it's fascinating. But you must look at the balance sheet which Mr de Klerk and Roelf published after concluding the interim constitution, saying this is what we were mandated to do, this is what we have achieved. This is what we were mandated to do, this is what we've achieved, and it looks like a very nice balance sheet. There is always the question again, are we looking at the situation as it was then or are we looking at it today? You see, because we may end up in a situation where we will say but Tertius Delport and others who stood by him and took up that position were right in saying that in respect of the bill of rights there must be 80% or a 75% majority, in respect of amendments to the constitution, in respect of the following there must be 75% majority. Others said let's have two thirds majority. Now it would be interesting who gave in and who came back and said no let's agree to 66% because eventually that's why Tertius Delport was out in the cold.

POM     He held on to looking for?

KC     Well he was acting within his mandate. Now the difference was that Roelf would go outside his mandate but not committing himself, coming back and then starting to manoeuvre and compromise us. Quite a number of colleagues got really damaged that way and just left from sheer frustration but in politics you never complain, you never explain so I honour their memories.

POM     Again, this statement,

     "South Africa's last white President had not set out to hand over power, he set out to preserve it as much as possible for as long as possible. He never intended to give it all away but in the end he did so and happily. He traded power for influence and gave his heart and soul to the democratic revolution which had so terrified his forebears."

KC     Again it's an opinion. It was clear right from the word go that FW wasn't seeing it as a situation black against white, he wanted to get away from it. What he did negotiate away was, and he did so willingly and happily with the support of the NP, what he did negotiate away was the exclusive hold through the sword, the power of the state that the whites had on government, but he did so willingly, not reluctantly trying to preserve that. That's a nonsensical statement and she should know that, but it's popular and it's not true. De Klerk right from the beginning and PW too was having visions, and I tried to explain to you, he just didn't know how. For FW the how was perhaps not exclusively in his mind, if I may say much of it was with Justice, and as it unfolded, as the process unfolded De Klerk made concessions which gave the appearance of surrender. But you look at the balance sheet, what he did create and what he did preserve was creating a state machinery, constitutional machinery that would in itself be forceful enough to take care of those interests that were important to De Klerk. Again, the justice system, again the economic system, again the rather orderly system of law making and operating within the law. Look at human liberties. I want to tell you, the ANC is not going to take away human liberties easily. There will be such a backlash. So if you look at Mr de Klerk's pronouncements on way of life, standard of life in this country, we would have said he succeeded 100%. But he didn't succeed alone. He shared these visions with Mr Mandela and others and the ANC is not going to abandon these easily. There are pronouncements now and again that shock but they're put in place now and again. Look at the lion's share, or rather large share black empowerment is bringing to black people, that's part of it. Now she talks about surrender, that's part of it. She has been talking too much to Giliomee and such wet blankets and a few people in the Afrikaans press world. Am I too optimistic?

POM     No but it's very interesting that Hermann was one of the first academics that I talked to in 1989, 1990 and whatever, and he would then talk like blue blazes and by 1992 or 1993 or maybe even 1994 Hermann changed completely. He became -

KC     1995, 1996.

POM     He became narrow and I would have to pump him for his opinion.

KC     Then he was fighting, he was fighting - previously he was also fighting us. Then he realised he still wanted to fight us but he can't any longer fight with us because we were in charge of the white establishment, or rather we were the leaders of the white establishment holding on to power. So he had to continue to fight but then he fought with us for relinquishing power. He pretends to say that it's the circumstances under which they gave away, but what did he want to retain? What did he want to retain, what did he think? The everlasting guarantee that we would have a pleasant life? What has changed in this country? Look at our environment here, and that's where the danger lies. People like Giliomee day after day, week after week, creating the impression that it was wrong, that there is somewhere a threat that could take away what we have now. My God, it's going to be taken away if we are not prepared to bring about a sharing of things in this country. The ANC is in for great trouble if they think they can bring about sharing by just grabbing. So what we have to do is bring together these two poles.

POM     That's why the next question is almost redundant, because I say who today among the Afrikaners believe they gave it all away? Some might say they could have gotten a better deal but that's a question of speculation not fact. What kind of better deal could you have gotten? As you said yesterday, you got 51%, they got 51%, it added up to 102% which is the way negotiations should be, that's what peaceful negotiations are about where you come out with a settlement. One side can't come out feeling that it only got 20% and the other side got 80%. I want to take you just, jumping, but this is to Patti on page 215 of her book. I know this is an issue of concern to you so I'll read the quote: -

     "The ANC was not alone in having a major crisis of conscience. Between June and September 1992 the NP strategy and its constitutional thinking both began to shift. For the first time De Klerk made it his top priority to reach a deal with the ANC abandoning the idea of an anti-ANC negotiating bloc with Inkatha which had been rendered impractical by the obstructive behaviour of Chief Buthelezi. Buthelezi and the leaders of all the other smaller parties would have to be persuaded to accept the deal in the end but would have no legitimacy. But first the super powers must reach a meeting of the minds. There was another more subtle shift just beginning to take place. Roelf Meyer was urging the cabinet to turn away from the idea of explicit minority vetoes towards majority rule. Opposition to him was fierce for Meyer's goals were different from those of older more conservative members of cabinet. He had the best years of his political life before him, he wanted the best he could realistically achieve under majority rule. They were fighting to preserve remnants of a past that he believed was doomed. The dispute opened the first serious rift in cabinet since De Klerk launched reform in 1990. Roelf Meyer presenting his verlighte liberal camp says he often felt that 'we were only three and a half in cabinet, Meyer and verlighte ministers Dawie de Villiers and Leon Wessels plus all the other bits and pieces. Ironically, the leader of what became known as the anti or reactionary faction in cabinet was Kobie Coetsee, the man who launched the negotiation decade in 1985 and then found he did not like where it was leading. Even De Klerk himself was often a reluctant convert to Meyer's positions."

KC     There was a time when I thought, myself, I'm not sure, whether Patti Waldmeir was not in the service of the Department of Constitutional Development, but I'm not sure. Is this slander? Is this slanderous? Is it?

POM     Is it to say that's slanderous?

KC     I'm not sure whether she was not in their service.

POM     That's an opinion.

KC     I'm just asking the question because presenting Roelf now as a person who believed in majority rule opens up all kinds of questions which you have already raised. How could he have opposite Ramaphosa? And I said to you that we succeeded to a large extent with the concept of power sharing. Our friend, the late Joe Slovo, made it palatable for the ANC by calling it national unity, it's the same thing really. One of our very last decisions was that there would be power sharing at all levels. So it is really inconsistent with the concept of majority rule. It seems to me either that she didn't understand the new constitutionalism all over the world where you don't really have any majority rule. Even where you have majority rule it's not a matter of winner takes all and I think that needs a bit of analysis and I would like, whatever I say now, I would like to see in the near future, to see and elaborate myself on this because this is a basic flaw in her thinking and her information which obviously she got from Roelf and Roelf is making himself now more attractive by professing to majority rule, although what we did pick up at one stage is that Fanie van der Merwe, one of our supreme advisors, is no longer in favour of power sharing or a government of national unity, he wants to arrive at majority rule pure and simple as soon as possible. That was a rumour which as far as I'm concerned is still a rumour. But having read this I wonder whether it was a rumour. Be that as it may, I think it's a matter of interpreting there.

     I would say that Roelf abided by the culture of the power sharing to a large extent although he didn't, as far as I'm concerned, he didn't understand the concept of power sharing at all levels because he forgot parliament. When he negotiated he forgot parliament with the result that the NP with some pain succeeded in getting some positions in parliament. Now that's not a sideline, this is relevant to the question of majority rule because if you allow positions to the opposition in parliament it's a matter of power sharing. Putting a chairman of the Freedom Front in charge of a very important committee such as, for instance, say Agriculture which could hammer a Minister of Agriculture, putting a chairman of the IFP in charge of a committee that would hammer a minister, could decide not to pass his law, his legislation, that is power sharing and it's still there. So the question of majority rule, that's why I say they didn't understand the basics of what we were doing, of what we had to do, and that was my problem with that Department of Constitutional Development, they didn't understand what was available and even what the ANC wanted.

POM     How would you, again, just interpret this?

KC     You're asking about myself too?

POM     Yes.

KC     Well the matter of fact is that this has a factual background. The anti situation came from the opposition to the deal they made on amnesty.

POM     So when you're saying that, when she says here that ironically the leader of what became known - she puts in a context of a movement towards power sharing towards majority rule, that Roelf was trying to push the cabinet in this direction and we knew it had fierce opposition.

KC     Those were not the opposing questions. The issues here were plain and simple Roelf's way of doing things, of manipulating the cabinet towards his deal already concluded. I mentioned to you a number of things and they set out, that department, to decrease our influence and it came from that department as a session of which I'm aware when their media spokesman said, let's call them this, and that was leaked to the reporter, and they started with this, they're 'aunties', they started with that. But it is because we were giving Roelf pain, I said to Mr de Klerk myself after the Record of Understanding debacle, I said, all right I will now steer with you the process but I promise you I will vet everything they do and everything they say. He said, yes it's all right. You understand what I'm saying to you? So it's not a matter of the issue of majority rule or not or him pushing us in a direction. That's nonsense. It's a figment of their imagination to create a reason for Roelf to attain higher ground. That's why I say I'm not sure what the relationship is between that department and Patti. But the issues at stake here were not related to majority rule or not. That's nonsense. It's related to the bill of rights on which I took up very firm stand, the bill of rights published by the Department of Justice. Well they got a lot of opposition from me. I vetted and I criticised every stop, their inadequacies. Now she complains about inadequacies, inabilities, and yet at the same time she gives the impression that Roelf's side were the 'aunties', she suggests that. She says that we were seduced. At the same time she paints Roelf and his department in a better light. You see what I'm trying to say?

POM     So she says here, this I think the last big issue -

KC     Page 47, the real issues of the 'aunties'. There is so much material on this. It happened to be the people who questioned Roelf and wanted closer explanations from him. All the people that were really alive in cabinet and questioned Roelf, they became 'aunties'. You must accept that it did not touch upon the question of what the ANC was going to attain.

POM     "How would decisions be made and what position would FW de Klerk occupy in cabinet and how would cabinet take its decisions? Joe Slovo had a plan for dealing with the first problem - the NP will just collapse. Meyer had made it clear that De Klerk wanted a position of personal power within the new government. He was insisting on being the Deputy President, deputy to Mandela. Cyril Ramaphosa quickly agreed that this could be so but there must be two such deputies. The first Deputy President would come from the major party, the ANC, and the second from the runner up, the NP. De Klerk was furious. He would hold only a poor third position in cabinet, but there was worse to come. Meyer had frequently raised the question of how decisions would be taken in cabinet where parties with over five percent of the national vote would be represented proportionately. De Klerk was insisting that important decisions be taken by consensus, meaning everyone must agree or at the very least by special high majorities. This would give de Klerk a vote but Ramaphosa had always deflected discussion of this issue.

     "Towards the end of October 1993 both sides knew the problem must be resolved. Officially government was still insisting that most cabinet decisions be taken by something like a two thirds majority and decisions on security matters by three quarters, but privately men like Meyer and his close colleague Leon Wessels knew this battle was lost. Several weeks before they had begun to argue that it was unwise to insist on a figure at all, on the grounds that a figure of two thirds in cabinet would simply mean that the other third would be permanently ignored. With opinion polls showing the ANC likely to score more than two thirds vote this would mean oblivion for the NP.

     "Meyer and Wessels began to argue for percentages to be dropped in favour of a commitment from the ANC that it would take decisions 'in a spirit of national unity'. They wanted to create a moral obligation on the part of the ANC to listen to the NP. According to their proposals blacks would no longer be forced to get the agreement of whites in order to govern, they would just be morally obliged to do so. The most central tenet of the NP policy on power sharing was about to be abandoned. De Klerk had not come around to this view at the height of the campaign to persuade him. Leon Wessels outlined to him the argument for doing a voluntary deal. 'The ANC knows as we do that South Africa can only be governed by a government of national unity. They know they need us or there will be no stability. Those of us who have grown up in the process don't fear the risk of a voluntary management but those who haven't do. What is the alternative? Constitutional entrenchment won't be achievable and fighting over it will divide the parties further. A meeting of minds is the only way.'

     "Cyril Ramaphosa had caught the strong scent of capitulation from the rival camp and he was delighted. When towards the end of October I wrote an article in the Financial Times suggesting that De Klerk was about to accept majority rule, he (that's Ramaphosa) congratulated me for 'rubbing salt in their wounds'. But Meyer genuinely did not feel that his side was capitulating. This was a case of Ramaphosa wielding the whip hand. Meyer fervently believed the NP would have more power under a voluntary arrangement than under a compulsory one."

KC     Say that again.

POM     "Meyer genuinely, fervently believed the NP would have more power under a voluntary arrangement than under a compulsory one."

KC     He wasn't alone in that. Once we dropped the increased majority on substantive parts of the constitution it became almost a contradiction in terms to insist that you have a power of veto in cabinet because a cabinet should have been structured in such a way that it precludes legislation which would require a higher majority and hence cause conflict. Once we embraced the concept of trust with a lower percentage for changing substantive parts in respect of language, bill of rights, courts, everything, there was no point in trying to have that in cabinet as well. So when this point came up I remember we argued then about the creation of a convention. So it was not a Meyer position, it was eventually a cabinet position and I argued in favour of - well if that be the case then we should go for a convention, establishing a convention which will be established now in a government of national unity if things are well managed and said that that was the situation, that a convention would be established that the President would summarise a decision and not call for a vote but in taking a decision he must all the time also bear in mind all the issues that are at play, namely a government of national unity so that is then part of his make up. I think that this is how it went.

     I must immediately say this, if I understand it correctly now, now she flatters Meyer or is kind to him, next she almost makes him a victim of Ramaphosa's charm. No, that's not correct. It was a decision of cabinet we go that way. We abandoned the concept of constitutional protection through the vote by a lower majority. Then it's just a matter of you don't have a broadened protection, almost taking it from the voters putting in the hands of the impossibility, because how would it be possible to get a 75% or 80% majority? That was a bad one. Once that was gone we had to rely on trust and confidence and that is the position today and I think that the ANC would be wise, let me put it this way, I don't believe Mr Mandela has called for a vote at any time. It was mentioned a little while ago that he did once in a while call for a vote but ever since, no. What I'm trying to say to you is that, no, she is trying to set the blame onto Roelf Meyer for coming to Ramaphosa here, hanging on to the notion of accepting majority rule.

POM     This is just the last part of that: -

     "Members of De Klerk's cabinet returned jubilant from a meeting with Mandela about a month before the eventual deal telling them Mandela had agreed that the two men must govern the country together. De Klerk says nothing so dramatic happened but that Mandela assured him of his commitment to consensus 'more than once'. Still on the very eve of the deal the matter remained unresolved. Political leaders were due to adopt the new constitution at the TEC the next day and still there was no deal on power sharing, so late on the night of November 17th 1993 De Klerk and Mandela met for one last time. Maharaj was there waiting when the two men emerged some time in the dark hours of that interminable night. 'Mandela charged De Klerk with clinging to the vestiges of white minority power', Maharaj says reconstructing the meeting which only the two Presidents plus Ramaphosa and Meyer attended. But then Mandela just told him, 'I've always acted on the basis that you're needed, that you have a role to play.' ANC negotiators had not believed this would be enough to placate the President so they had prepared other offers. They were prepared to agree that, say, a 60% vote would be required to take decisions in cabinet but Mandela was adamant, the majority 50% would decide, he could not run a cabinet any other way he told De Klerk who had to acknowledge that that was probably true. 'Madiba went there not to give an inch and he just hammered him', says Maharaj, 'And in the end he cracked him.' That was the moment when De Klerk accepted majority rule finally and for ever.

     The wording of the interim constitution left room for a dispute on exactly how the cabinet would make decisions. The clause eventually inserted read, 'The cabinet shall function in a manner which gives consideration to the consensus seeking spirit underlying the concept of a government of national unity as well as the need for effective government.' Fanie van der Merwe insisted that this clause, taken together with another saying the President must act 'in consultation with the cabinet' meant that Mandela must govern by consensus, but the ANC said that the majority would rule and they turned out to be right."

KC     All right, can I perhaps summarise the question. If one deals with Patti Waldmeir's book I think there are two possible approaches. The one is to say Patti has hidden sentiments on the outcome of the negotiations, her sentiments being that the NP gave in, shouldn't have given in, they've had opportunity not to give in, they made mistakes, they had a poor negotiating team and so forth, so she is promoting a point of view that the party gave in too easily and shouldn't have given in firstly. Secondly, there is a possible approach to say that Patti Waldmeir is told the process by a person favouring majority rule in its known form of winner takes all and everything that happened in between, interim constitution or rather the power sharing concept of the NP, that was part of their policy, the acceptance of that policy by Slovo calling it a government of national unity, accepting Slovo's intervention as a solution. All those were just interim situations and it was all aimed at bringing about majority rule. The ANC went out of their way to say we have obtained majority rule right from the word go because they told their electorate that we want majority rule. Have they abandoned that objective? No, because they still have to take into consideration their constituency who were still supporting the idea of majority rule, winner takes all, we blacks want all positions, we want the total governance of the country.

     Now the second approach on the part of Patti as a confirmed believer in the principle of majority rule and now she's promoting that situation and saying we're wasting time, we're there already, then one should ask yourself whether she is not wrong. So one approach is, does she succeed in building a case against the NP for its weaknesses, poor negotiation and she wanted to demolish De Klerk and the team or whomsoever? If one were to follow that approach then one needs to look at every bit of criticism and some of it may be true, some not. Some may be misinterpreted, some not. But then the second one is a matter now of does she support majority rule or is she writing objectively in saying it's inevitable, it's going to happen? We can't like to respond to that. Isn't it just an opinion? Whatever you say now, especially if you say that as a politician, if Mr de Klerk is to defend that position, I don't know whether he's going to defend that position in his book and say, no I didn't go for majority rule, I wasn't a convert to majority rule. Patti suggests somewhere that he was slowly a convert to that concept. Then the question is whether Mr de Klerk is going to accept that he misled, by implication, the electorate. He said we attained what we wanted, we created checks and balances, perhaps not adequate, perhaps not 100% checks and balances, but we succeeded 51%. Should I run to Mr de Klerk's defence in my response to you? Should I attack Patti Waldmeir and say no, what we have achieved is not majority rule, we have a federation and a federation is definitely not majority rule? We have a federation in the making.

     Relating to the question of majority rule as a fact or as being inevitable, that would include the question of the power of the provinces, the powers that they have, limited as they may be, does that promote the concept of federalism and if it does then it's not majority rule because if you look at the American situation the Americans wanted to create a balance of power between and amongst the states, between and amongst the varied institutions. Has that been created? If that is the case then this girl doesn't understand constitutionalism. At one time she appears to be right wing and on the second round she appears to have succumbed to the Ramaphosas and their ability. It seems as though she is repeating what Mac Maharaj wants her to repeat, namely that we have succeeded with the making of majority rule, we set out to have majority rule, we have achieved it although we did so secretively, although we seduced the NP into it, but our real intention is to abolish everything else and eventually land up with majority rule. That's not possible because there are checks and balances which are there to prevent them for sure and for certain.

POM     In fact the tendency is for the devolution of more power to the provinces.

KC     And to local level.

POM     As the provinces say, we can't do our job unless we have more power, which is probably the best example of this.

KC     They are enjoying a taste of power and no-one is going to deprive them of their full meaning. That was my approach when I insisted on provinces, not to counter the ANC but because I genuinely believe that in that in itself is a very important ingredient for peace in this country.

POM     In having a provincial system.

KC     In having a sharing of power, shared responsibility at all levels.

POM     So you see a situation, if we look at the next election, just a projection, it looks like that in the Western Cape, for example, no party is going to win an outright majority so you could have a voluntary coalition between the ANC and the NP or between the ANC and the DP, there are three possible combinations.

KC     Yes, anything is possible.

POM     You've got the Northern Province where there would also be a situation of perhaps a hung balance of power.

KC     The North Cape you mean.

POM     Yes North Cape. You have KwaZulu-Natal which may or may not end up close to that too.

KC     But it will make for peace? I want to tell you in KwaZulu-Natal it will make for peace if the IFP and the ANC share a responsibility and share government, in other words.

POM     Wouldn't Buthelezi being elevated to a position of some prominence be - ?

KC     But that's at national level.

POM     Yes, but wouldn't that be an implied condition of - if you were making the deal, cutting the deal, wouldn't you say well one of the things here is that we must co-operate at provincial level.

KC     It all depends on what she understands under majority rule and obviously she doesn't understand the concept unless, of course, and that would be fatally wrong, to equate majority rule with black rule. That would be fatally wrong. There was a time when majority rule meant exactly that in the minds of certain black power organisations but the ANC themselves relinquished that idea a long time ago.

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.