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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
22 Sep 1998: Zuma, Jacob
POM Mr Zuma, let me begin by asking you a question which just came on to my agenda before I came in here. I have been talking Kobie Coetsee over the last couple of weeks and had planned to go to Bloemfontein to see him again, I've seen him once or twice already. He believes that what's been written, that the ANC made an offer of blanket amnesty to the National Party and that he turned it down on the grounds that he saw it as viewing it as a bargaining chip later on in terms of giving people indemnification or whatever, but that he turned it down and the insinuation is had he not turned it down, had he taken that offer that this blanket would apply to both sides, and that had he not turned it down there would have been no TRC and none of what's going on today. He feels very strongly that that's a misrepresentation and he said that you were the head of the negotiating team dealing with amnesty that negotiated with him. So my questions would be: (i) what was his position on the whole question of amnesty when it came up in your discussions; (ii) what was your position; (iii) did you on behalf of the ANC or anybody offer across the board amnesty to apply to both sides; (iv) where was the situation left, was there a resolution of the problem in any way; and (v) if you had made the offer, as has been said and written, and had Kobie Coetsee accepted on behalf of the government, would there still have been a TRC?
JZ If you had indicated, because I need to think back, if you had indicated that those were the kind of questions in advance I would have had time to check in my mind because if you are dealing with the facts of that nature it would be useful not to put them in a vague way.
POM I agree. It only came up when he rang me downstairs and I waiting outside sitting on the bench.
JZ Because I would want to do that, particularly because those questions are going to be key, I think, for a long time in our history. Yes, indeed at one point he led the government delegation, I led the ANC delegation and negotiated with him the release of political prisoners, the indemnity, the amnesty and all sorts of things. I would just want to sit back, because now it's just the first time you are raising the issue, I would want to think back and be sure because if they are to be recorded down properly I would need to record down facts that I have checked in my own mind because we did go a lot into those kind of discussions. So I would say perhaps this time around it might not be appropriate for me to respond to your questions right now. I might need to see that in the flesh because, as you know for example, the ANC leadership had indemnity which was expiring at a certain time and then renewed, blah, blah, blah. We discussed a lot of that. I might just have to be certain on the facts.
POM I would prefer that you were because I don't want to get something that's wrong and then does damage to you and does damage to him. I don't have a problem with that.
JZ Exactly, because it's quite an important area, very critical as well. As you ask the follow up questions, would the TRC have come about if that had happened, because I would have views about it and that's part of the thing that when people are negotiating, in my view, if only they had understood what people meant when they were saying things, things might have turned differently. But of course there were a number of other issues. I might just want to respond when I have reflected properly.
POM No problem. We can move on. Last week I also met with Dr Niel Barnard for the first time and he says that the NIS had infiltrated the ANC at all levels and even went so far as to say that you would be surprised (that would be I would be surprised) how many high officials who are in government were on the NIS payroll. He said it kind of matter-of-factly. (i) Do you believe him and (ii) to what extent had you infiltrated NIS structures, or for that matter government structures, or had you done so or had the capacity to do so to any similar extent?
JZ Well it will be very difficult to answer those kinds of questions in a more classic kind of thing of answering questions. As you know they are matters of intelligence nature wherein even follow up questions might not be necessarily answered.
POM Do you find difficulty in accepting his statement that the NIS had infiltrated?
JZ No, the business of intelligence organisations is to gather information and to gather information one of the ways is to try to infiltrate so he knows what he had done. I wouldn't know to what extent and how he had done it. We worked hard on those kind of questions and I think there were some discoveries we made, so I wouldn't say he would be totally out. I wouldn't know to the extent at all levels but, for example, we arrested a lot of agents who were from the police, from NIS, so we would have evidence of people that they sent and some people who were there and also some information about people that could have been working. So as I am saying, it's not a straightforward answer. I wouldn't say he's entirely wrong and I wouldn't know to what extent on our side. It was our business as well so we did infiltrate security services. As you know it could not have been necessarily to the same extent because they were in government, they had all the resources. We were a national liberation movement. I think to the degree that we operated, I think we were fairly informed so we were able to get the information to a very large extent through our own work that we did, but a government dealing with intelligence organisation and a national liberation movement I think the disparity is too big, not an equal footing. But I think in our own way we did our best and I think we were actually well informed and we were able to gather a lot of information.
POM I know that from reading the numerous accounts at this point, when you and the Deputy President first met with Mike Louw and there was a second person from the NIS in Lucerne in Switzerland, what was the purpose of that talk? Did you know at the time that it was taking place without the knowledge of Mr de Klerk and without the knowledge of Mr Mandela?
JZ I hope you have spoken to Mr Thabo Mbeki, the Deputy President, on this one because he would be better qualified to answer it. But certainly very few people knew. I knew De Klerk did not know but certainly PW Botha knew, on the one side, and I think Oliver Tambo on our side knew.
POM Now was PW Botha still State President at that time?
POM But De Klerk would have been head of the National Party, no?
JZ I think not as yet but it could be by then but I am not certain, I can't remember that, the timing of that, but certainly he was not the man. He himself had to be briefed when already the first contact had taken place, when he then became the man in charge.
POM Now did you know at that time that President Mandela had been meeting with - ?
JZ By that time, yes.
POM When did you first become aware of that?
JZ Well I wouldn't remember exactly when. I wouldn't remember firstly when it happened, it's a question of knowing - but there was a time when Mr Mandela himself informed the organisation, he actually wrote to the organisation at some point.
POM But he didn't know - Barnard says he went over his head. Mandela said, "Don't meet with him, I don't want you meeting with people outside of the country and me here", because Mandela's mind was moving in the direction of as much as you talk to your enemy you never know, it's still talk, you don't know what he's really up to and this is an opportunity perhaps to try and split us and he wanted the NIS to fly you into the country.
JZ Yes. I think that was Mandela's view and that's what Mandela did and I think he was very correct. But there were processes that were taking place as well in terms of the ANC outside. As you know we had engaged the South African different structures, business, academics, intellectuals, and that was known to the NIS. I think it was inevitable that at some point we would meet and I would even feel that some of the people we met they must have been talking to the NIS as well. So whilst Mandela was going on, and this happened even long before you had an inkling whether Mandela was going to be released -
POM Well Willie Esterhuyse told you that he was reporting back to Barnard. He's a professor from Stellenbosch who acted as -
JZ That fellow, we knew he had contacts with them at some point. I am not merely saying about somebody who would say I'm talking to them. They might be people who were not necessarily declaring that one, that we would be meeting.
POM There's this other person, Richard Rosenthal, who has just brought out a book?
JZ I haven't seen the book.
POM He called it, Mission Improbable.
JZ I have seen this book. I have seen the book in the book shop. I didn't think it was so -
POM This was an initiative that he as a private citizen approached the State President about trying to get in touch with the ANC and arranging talks about talks about talks and he was referred to Stoffel van der Merwe and the Swiss government were the intermediaries and at one point there was a meeting between PW and the Swiss Foreign Minister. But he met with you and Thabo in Lusaka. He mentions this because he quotes you as saying two things which I find very interesting. He must have a good memory but he quotes you as saying: -
"I don't think Mr Botha ever sat down and worked out a logical plan for the future. He reacts to pressure and events as they occur. The NP seems bankrupt with no ideas. It has no real game plan."
That would have been something you would have said. Just extending that, when Mr de Klerk took over do you think that he was essentially in the same position when he went into negotiations that he went in without any really well thought out game plan, whereas the ANC went in with a highly developed strategy as to what exactly - You see those little marks? That's where your name is mentioned. It saves you going to the index.
JZ OK. He's very serious. 'High noon in Lusaka'.
POM He's talking about Stoffel, the Minister for Information.
JZ Oh, OK, OK.
POM So my question was, do you think that when FW took over that essentially he too had never sat down and worked out a game plan for the future?
JZ I don't think so.
POM That, again, it was more of an ad hockery reaction to events rather than having a strategic plan in place, whereas you came at the negotiations with a far more developed strategic plan of where you wanted to go and how you wanted to get there.
JZ I think so. Firstly I think Pik Botha really took over from John Vorster. He had to take over for whatever dynamics and the NP wanted to change at some point but I don't think they were aware where to go. You could sense that as you met the academics and everybody else, that they didn't know. They came to a point where they were saying, look, we can't continue with apartheid but what do you do? They had this fear of the ANC which was beyond anything like people with horns, etc., and finally I think accepted the fact that we have got to begin to change.
I don't think De Klerk did have any plan really because firstly I think it was a bit sudden his coming into the head of the government of the NP. It was nothing that was foreseen for a long time that would have said - gave him thought and thinking and planning. He came in because another man got a stroke and that in itself was a bit of a turmoil within the NP because the sick man did not want to give in as such. So he had to go through that and De Klerk had to shift from an understood verkraamte-like - he was actually taken as one of the right wingers leading the NP from the Transvaal. People from a distance that we saw as more moderate were people like Dr Viljoen who was a minister then. But when he came in he was confronted with this situation that had just begun. So I don't think he had time to sit back and plan properly but funnily they had said - we are in, let us negotiate. I don't think there was a well thought out plan how to deal with the situation and I think that was also inhibited from their side by an underrating of the ANC, so to speak. I don't think they understood us very seriously. I think underrating of the ANC to some degree and the power of the ANC's negotiators and the vision of the ANC and its depth. Anyone would have made a mistake if you analysed the ANC like any other national liberation movement, which was different. So he walked in to say it was sort of a general plan of theirs. Yes, let us change but let us control the change, let us manage it, not to work on the details. Also overrated I think was their kind of security strength to a large extent and they therefore hoped that their history of technical governance is going to be the one that is going to help them.
I think things fell too quickly. I mean, firstly for example, if I take as an example, the NP's sense was that they sit on the table, we sit on the table, we negotiate. We argued for multiparty negotiations. It was never in their minds that there will be multiparty negotiations. We had to persuade them to accept that. That was the only logical thing because our view was you could not negotiate the two when there are so many political groupings that have been brought by the situation.
POM So, were you arguing in favour of bringing the independent states, or the so-called independent states in, the homeland parties?
JZ Homelands parties, the PAC, the IFP, everybody. It was time that we all negotiated because to us it was important because if we negotiated only two without these they would never feel they were part of the negotiations and they will fight whatever results. But if they are part of it they will own it, they would have participated. The approach to it would be certainly different. I am saying that's just one area wherein the NP had to agree to the logic more than its plan and as you know the multiparty took its own dimension and produced the kind of results. For example, we came with consensus, sufficient consensus, because we had to say how do you agree in such a big thing, how do you agree? You can't use the majority so you have got to find a formula that is acceptable to everyone and the formula of sufficient consensus was by and large broadly accepted by everybody. So I am saying we actually provided more in terms of logic but what was important in my view was the power of the NP leadership we were dealing with then to appreciate that logic and be able to agree. That was, to me, an important thing. You didn't find people that because they didn't have a plan they were not able to see logic. I think more than anything they were able to see logic and therefore that's why we were able to agree step by step.
POM When you first met with the NIS what were your visceral reactions? This was, so to speak, the enemy with the face on it meeting clandestinely in Lucerne or wherever. When you met Mike Louw and, I think his name is Spaarwater, was it relaxed, was there tension? Did you see them there as trying to suss you out so to speak or as being there seriously trying to get a negotiating process under way?
JZ I think what you should appreciate is that at the point we were meeting I was chief of Intelligence of the ANC in the first instance. I think that is important to note because it means despite my experience of operating within the ANC I had been in the underground structures, I had been the chief of the underground structures which in itself is quite a clandestine kind of operation. So it was before I became the Chief of Intelligence and I must have had quite a number of serious kind of meetings wherein you expect surprises in one form or the other. I must have by that time really met strange people so it was not the first time I'm meeting strange people but of course critical for what was important as well. We were meeting, I am sure we had known each other through indirect kind of knowledge because they had to understand us, it was our business to understand them.
POM That was done through the Mells Park?
JZ Not necessarily. I am talking about as intelligence on their side. Our business was to study to know them. Their business was to do exactly the same so you are meeting people who are particular, their names would have kind of sense. By that time I knew how he thinks, I should have. I am sure, if they were doing their work they should have known how we thought as well. So to me much as it was one of the critical meetings but it was one of those meetings that I have gone - I mean you are talking to me, I have moved from outside into the country at some point so I have gone through a lot of experience that would tax one's ability and capacity to face the situation. So it was in once sense an important - and I knew it was my business to understand them, not only what they were saying but to understand, to read the fine print in what they were saying, to understand them as persons and I was certain they were doing exactly the same. So I am sure we were both cautious as we moved. But I think there was a sense in all of us meeting that look, here we were, we are South Africans, we had the responsibility to solve the problem of our country. Were we, on this one, really ready for it or not? I think that guided our interaction and I think at that meeting -
POM That's what I'm getting at. In that sense did you accept their bona fides, that they were there in good faith?
JZ I was able to make the assessment and I thought, I accepted their bona fides as well in that meeting. I was able to make out really as an outfit, NIS, because it was not the first time that we had because we had been getting indications how NIS was thinking. It was partly critical in actually helping the government think in a particular direction and Mike Louw was one of the critical persons. I knew that. So I was assessing somebody I had had some information about and I assessed the other person as well and I found that they were - and I think that meeting too, a number of hours, it was to me enough to really make my initial assessment of the two people.
POM How about Dr Barnard?
JZ I didn't meet him, he was not there.
POM He wasn't at that meeting but - ?
JZ I met Dr Barnard later in SA.
POM What was your impression of him?
JZ Dr Barnard. I think Dr Barnard was more or less a little bit more reserved but what was critical in Dr Barnard, my own assessment was that as a leader of NIS he had taken a decision collectively with Mike Louw and others that in fact a peaceful solution in the country was a critical one. That I was able to make out and of course they themselves were able to indicate that they were having full support of the head of their outfit and he was actually part of it, just that he was not there. But of course individuals are not necessarily the same. A very cautious man, very cautious, very careful and when I met him finally on my very first day in SA in 1990 I met him, he came to the place where we were having a meeting, I also made the same assessment that he was part of the contingent that had taken a decision SA must move through peaceful ... Whatever plan he might have in mind I don't know, but that decision I think he was part of it and he was committed to it. That was my reading of him.
POM To what extent, and again this has been written about without what I would call supporting evidence, like one of these - it seems like logical assumptions, to what extent to you think it was still, even although they were looking for a negotiated solution, that they wanted at the same time to engineer some kind of split within the ANC where you would have the nationalists and the moderates on one side and the SACP on the other and they would deal with the nationalists and moderates. Now Barnard says that's bunk, that his intelligence was good enough to tell him that you were never going to split the alliance, it was strong enough and cohesive enough so why bother even trying. What perspective did you proceed from even after you said, OK, these aren't bad guys, they see the way forward as through a negotiated solution, we've got to work to find our way there? Did you still see them as having some kind of hidden agenda or at that point could you see them as being straightforward?
JZ I wouldn't know about the hidden agenda but I think it is true that that thinking has been there, whether in the politicians or whatever I don't know. That thinking has been there because in any case the first worry was this linkage between the ANC and the communists. That was one of government's demands anyway that ditch the communists, we can negotiate with you. So it's not a hidden thing, it was one of the outward policies. We can't negotiate with them, they are communists, etc. I think when finally we had to negotiate I think there was that hope. Whether somebody was not working on it as a strategy I don't know but there has been that hope. In fact that thing has been there all the time. I think up to now some people up to recently who still believe that want the ANC to split and will have some other people within it. It's a general belief. I therefore can't necessarily say the NIS had a specific plan to work on or whatever or what their reportings were, but that was the general thinking that one sensed in general. I can't say somebody had that specific plan as well. I can't even say here is very practical evidence to support it.
POM I am saying from your point of view did you and your Intelligence committee or assessors or whatever sit around a table and say, OK these guys are coming to meet us in Switzerland and then we're going to meet again and the end result is they're going to get us into SA and we're going to start the preparations for the meeting that ended up at Groote Schuur? What are these guys really up to? Is this their real agenda or are they here to suss us out, see where our weak points are, try to divide us and pit one element against the other and negotiate with the 'moderates'?
JZ No, no. We did not have all of that because -
POM You didn't make that kind of an assessment? So people who are around saying that you did are off the mark?
JZ I was never involved in any meeting of that nature, that said that kind of thing. Firstly there had been a number of meetings, as I said, wherein we were trying to change the thinking of the whites, particularly the Afrikaners in the country.
POM The intellectuals.
JZ The intellectuals. I think that had gone a long way and we knew that that was working in the first instance. But the pressure in SA as we understood it as well was beginning to come even from business as well as academics so we knew there was no way not to negotiate because otherwise SA will crumble. So negotiations were a critical point that we were now getting into. There was no way to go back on it. I think, again, it is important to mention that that worry within the government was there, of the communists. I had fierce debates with the government with a person who was leading a delegation here in 1990, of the first delegation of the ANC that came to a meeting at Groote Schuur in Cape Town. One of the names that we debated greatly, in fact even President Mandela had to intervene, was the name of Joe Slovo. The government did not want Joe Slovo to be part of that delegation.
POM Now Niel Barnard says he told De Klerk, "Listen, Slovo's got to come."
JZ But he had to tell De Klerk because the government was saying no, he should not come. There was a fierce debate. I think Barnard had to intervene at the end because the government was saying no.
POM He went to De Klerk and said, "Listen, we can pick our guys and if they want to pick an elephant to come that's up to them. If we want to pick Eugene Terre'Blanche to come that's up to us, everybody picks their own side."
JZ Exactly. But I'm making that point to indicate to you that there was this attitude, we don't want to deal with the communists, we want to deal with other people. Joe Slovo's issue was an example because it was a fierce debate. They actually said, "Please, we don't want him - later on but not the first meeting.' But we said he is an ANC leader. So it was because he was a communist and they were pleading that, please, you can't put him in, it's going to be misunderstood. So I am saying, I am confirming the point, that there was that feeling within government about the kind of communists, put them at a distance because they were ready to negotiate with some people but not with Joe Slovo and not because he was white, because he was a communist. So I am merely making that point that therefore to say there wasn't anything of that nature, it wouldn't be right. There was a feeling that, wait a bit, and that just depicted the example, the debate that we had about Joe Slovo.
POM How about Groote Schuur itself, the first meeting? You went into it with certain expectations and came out of it with an outcome that either exceeded your expectations or was less than your expectations.
JZ The critical point really there was, as we said, talk about talks. You remember that when De Klerk said, was it De Klerk? Yes. When there was the Harare Declaration he then said, "I've unbanned organisations, my door is wide open for negotiations, let them come." We then said no there were obstacles that were in a sense preventing the negotiations to begin so we wanted to discuss the obstacles. Therefore, that meeting was to deal with the obstacles. They were there for talk about talks. At that time we were saying you could not say you want to negotiate when the political prisoners were in prison, people who must be part of negotiations, when exiles are in exile. Who negotiates with you? There is a state of emergency in the country, some people are not even able to participate, who do you negotiate with? So we said lift the state of emergency, release the political prisoners, allow the exiles to return, then we've got people to negotiate with. So those are the kind of things we talked about and that was the beginning of a process because that meeting did come with concrete agreements that were then implemented. So the obstacles were indeed dealt with so that's why we were able to negotiate.
POM You had said also, Rosenthal quotes you as saying - there was a meeting of the NEC after he reported back his discussions, after he had been told by Barnard to stop it, that he was complicating things.
JZ Who is this?
POM Rosenthal, our friend here. Barnard wrote to him and said stop your initiative, it's got in the way of other things and may lead the ANC to believe we're all working at cross purposes but still he was encouraged subtly by PW to pursue it through Stoffel van der Merwe so he did and he reported to you that the Swiss were very anxious, thought the time was very opportune to have some kind of meeting between the ANC and the government, and the NEC met, discussed it and came to the conclusion that the time was not opportune and you summarised it to Rosenthal by saying, again you can read it there, I've marked it: -
"In our view things don't seem to have moved at all. We have no reason to trust the faith of the government. With us they don't have a reputation for honest dealing and we have no basis for trusting them. Until there are grounds for trust it will be difficult for us to overcome our lack of confidence."
Page 216. When was the basis for that confidence created and who was it created with?
JZ I think firstly again I will go back to say our interaction with a lot of South Africans in a sense did help to give general understanding of the thinking of the government and specific people and the very action then of the meeting that you talked about in Switzerland, because that meeting had to do a lot of clearing things as well as understanding really. Now dealing with the NIS you knew you were not dealing with ordinary people picked up from the veldt, we were dealing with people who were in the centre of information. We were dealing with people who were in a position to answer your questions if you asked about an individual, if you asked about the party they ought to have particularly within the country. Of course also the fact that even Mandela was talking to them, because by the time we met them they also indicated, these ones, that there have been the kind of discussions. So the accumulation of the interaction with other people, you would also appreciate that one of the people we met among the intellectuals was FW's brother, Wimpie. You needed to understand FW as well, not only from the political point of view but what kind of a person he was. I think it was partly my duty to understand very clearly at that meeting, the first meeting, from the intelligence point of view, as I was meeting the chiefs of Intelligence of the NIS, to understand them very well and therefore to ask the necessary questions which would help to clarify that issue in our own minds. I think that meeting did go a long way really to indicate that it had shifted from other positions and were now beginning. As you know that was the very first contact.
POM The first official contact between NIS and - ?
JZ In a sense, and us.
POM An official agency of the government and even though neither of the principals were involved, De Klerk nor -
JZ No, the first was PW.
POM PW. I must check on that because I -
JZ The first meeting it was PW.
POM PW? Is that right?
JZ Absolutely right.
POM One of the things that Barnard, I found him to be very straightforward, absolutely - I said, gee if this guy is supposed to be a master spy either he's so devious he's made an art out of not being devious at all, it kind of just comes straight out, this is what I think and take it or leave it. One didn't find any sense of dissembling about him.
JZ He is, he is a straightforward person.
POM So one felt one could work with him.
JZ He is straightforward fellow. He's a fellow who if he says this is what I will do he does it. I agree with that.
POM He's somebody that if he gave his word that something would be done, you could say -
JZ You could say it will be done.
POM He would see that it would be done, yes. That made it a lot easier than to deal with somebody who was -
JZ He was even better as an Afrikaner with that kind of - because that is the Afrikaner culture anyway, they are straightforward.
POM He goes to pains to say this. This is who we really are, we're not this devious bunch of manipulators and whatever. So what has intrigued me in a way is that, and I'll just make this as a general statement and have you comment on it. I was talking to Barend du Plessis yesterday and he said, "I was never in the inner loop, I never knew what was really going on." He said, "We used to get briefings from the securocrats and if somebody had been murdered and we would be told it was faction fighting within the ANC or between the ANC and the PAC. We accepted that. We knew probably that the police were acting excessively sometimes but that was the line function of the minister involved, not mine as Minister for Finance. I had enough to do trying to keep the economy afloat and no time to worry about anything else, that took 24 hours a day. Where was the time to start asking probing questions." But he said, "PW ran a one-man show and he did things like the bombing of Botswana during the Eminent Persons' Group, he took that decision on his own. He initiated the talks with Mandela on his own, kept his entire cabinet out of it." They never knew right through till the very end. He got Willie Esterhuyse on a one-on-one initiative between the ANC and himself where Esterhuyse used to report directly back to him. Then the NIS recruited Esterhuyse and Esterhuyse told you that he would be reporting back to Barnard so you knew what you were saying was going back to Barnard. You had Rosenthal operating in it and the NIS. Barnard says, "Who? Rosenthal? Never heard of the guy." Even though he's quoted in his book in some letters. He had to scratch his head and say, "Well he was a minor detail, I think he was an irritant. He got in the way of us doing things." Was he a player? But Rosenthal was doing something through Stoffel van der Merwe who was reporting to PW or sometimes Rosenthal himself reported to PW. In that kind of situation would it have been possible that acts would have been taken that would have been ordered by him of which members of his cabinet were simply not aware?
JZ I think that was very possible. I wouldn't know how they functioned, I would be lying, but that would have been very possible because I think as a fact for an example the police really ran the show. I think it was out of NIS - NIS took it upon itself as a national duty to begin to say to the government these people are not actually reporting everything properly and they have got things to do which you must be careful about. I think the NIS took a deliberate decision at some point.
POM He told me that I should have a look at - he said we used to give national assessments to the cabinet or to PW or whoever and he said I should go and take a look at them. He said if I requested them I would be turned away from the door right now. Who should I look to, to see them?
JZ I wouldn't know at this time. I don't know whether it's the Justice Minister or Deputy Minister of Intelligence. I don't know, I'm not sure, I can't know with the national government who is in charge of that.
POM Of that agency? Or whichever department it comes under?
JZ I think Deputy Minister of Intelligence, Nhlanhla, if not Dullah Omar who is the minister in charge.
POM I know Dullah.
JZ Dullah would certainly know.
POM OK. So when they say, people like Du Plessis yesterday saying, "I can honestly say I'm stunned - "
JZ I think many of them did not know.
POM "I'm stunned, I'm absolutely flabbergasted."
JZ Many of them did not know. The way PW ran the show many of them did not know. It started during the time of Vorster when BOSS was established. BOSS became like the kind of thing that relied on - and I don't think they wanted to question that, they accepted it. That was a problem with the Du Plessis', they accepted the status quo and got busy with their thing as if nothing happened. That was the unfortunate thing.
POM But did you ever say where is this guy PW coming from? We have this initiative coming from the NIS instigated by themselves but with the approval of - ? PW had approved the meetings that took place with Mandela. They were anxious to get in contact with you with his knowledge. You have Willie Esterhuyse operating in a different frame at Mells Park. You have this guy Rosenthal operating through Stoffel van der Merwe, did you ever say, what's this guy trying to do?
JZ I think broadly the NP because of the isolation, because of the pressure that began to mount within the academic areas of the Afrikaners, they felt their isolation. They came to a point where they said, but we can't continue like this, we have to change. I think that was basic in terms of agreement. That allowed people like Kobie Coetsee, because I think Kobie Coetsee was actually very critical as a man who actually began to interact with Mandela and interact with PW and I think he was also the minister in charge of NIS. So really Kobie would be a critical fellow in terms of impacting and interfacing and interchanging and that's why Kobie before we started talking there was a time we got a statement where he had said the time had come that SA must change, we must re-write the history because they have now accepted the fact that the history has been wrongly written. This is the time when he was interacting with Mandela and in a sense trying to begin to send signals. So Kobie was actually critical, Kobie Coetsee, and I think PW relied a lot because the fact that PW was able to communicate with Mandela it was through Kobie Coetsee more than anybody else. Kobie Coetsee, I think, was very critical.
POM One of the remarks that Barnard makes, and made more as a former political scientist than as somebody who was involved in a process because he sees himself as a professional civil servant and he serves the minister of the day, but he says one of the people who is being pilloried, is not getting the credit he should get for setting this whole process in motion towards negotiations is PW, that in the end most of the difficult decisions had been taken before FW ascended the throne and his statement unbanning the ANC and the SACP and releasing Mandela was merely the logical end of a process that had been building for years and the person who was responsible for that, even though he couldn't quite make the leap at the end, was PW.
JZ Barnard is correct. De Klerk came in, as I said, when the decision for the meeting took place he was not part of it, I think he was merely briefed about the very first initial meeting when he took over. I think there is a logical way the Afrikaners operated. Vorster, firstly the reasons which I still want to know should be found why Dr Verwoerd was assassinated, because he was moving on the other extreme and he was sending the country really to something else. When Vorster came in, Vorster started a new policy of détente, in other words talking with the African leaders in the region in Africa, started softening on black leaders who accepted him, that kind of stuff, but stopped short at some point, Vorster. It came to a point where he could not go any further and suddenly a big problem emerged against Vorster that made him to shift off immediately. They called it the Muldergate scandal.
POM Oh yes, Muldergate.
JZ That's right. So the first one, Dr Verwoerd, he was actually murdered. I am not sure who has the information why was he murdered, who were the people behind it, what was their objective. And the next leader is Vorster, at a given time the Muldergate scandal comes, hits him overnight, he's gone. PW takes over. PW, if you notice, had better policies than the policies of Vorster. He actually took the process a little bit further. He met with big business, he did all of that. So he was actually the architect of moving in a particular direction, of starting to speak. It was during his time when they started speaking with Mandela in prison. It's him we are told who said in a meeting of the NP, who actually made a statement first, "Adapt or die." That was a very significant statement because he was saying there is a situation, an objective reality that we have got to accept or if we don't accept the reality we die. I think that's very important for PW Botha and we are told that in one meeting people who could not accept adaptation he sent out of the door.
POM Democracy at work.
JZ Absolutely. Now I think he did a lot of work. The fact that he came to a point - first he did not want people to go and meet the ANC but later allowed these people to come at the government level, indicates how he was gravitating. Now I have said, for example, when I have time I will talk about this because there is a credit that PW Botha ought to get that he did not get because when FW came in - I mean part of the information goes, part of the thing that made PW angry is because FW was one of the opposing fellows in his processes but when he came in he took the limelight. Barnard is correct, it was a logical conclusion. FW found the ground already prepared but he was just the kind of right person really to take the conclusion, to take it further. I am not sure how PW would have moved. Having taken the process up to a particular level I am not sure whether he would have been able to do what FW De Klerk did. FW De Klerk, I think, had all the necessary ingredients to take the process further.
POM It's like the analogy that one heard, or at least that I draw on, it was like Richard Nixon going to China back in the seventies. A Democrat couldn't have done it, he would have been told he was a cop-out to communism and whatever, but a hard line Republican with his credentials solidly established could take that kind of risk.
JZ That analogy. He could take that kind of risk. He was ready to do so. He is a practical man, he takes decisions. He had a different style of government. He was open and De Klerk had those different envelopes. He began to create a collective, depended on his ministers. They negotiated a lot of details. So he was the correct logical conclusion of a process that had begun. If PW had proceeded we might not have reached the kind of end as we did because he was a different man. I don't think he had the kind of sophistication really to deal with what FW finally dealt with. I mean FW, I was part of those negotiations, they were very tough and President Mandela is not an easy negotiator, very tough negotiator. I am not sure if it was PW sitting across the table what would have happened. But De Klerk, as I say, had that kind of sophistication to be able really to go through that kind of thing and be able to.
POM So when, you said the negotiations were very tough, in a book that Van Zyl Slabbert wrote with Heribert Adam and some other academic recently, their conclusion is that, and I can quote almost verbatim, that the best negotiating agents that Mandela had going for him were Roelf Meyer and Leon Wessels, that in the end it was a pushover, they just threw in their hands. Do you think that's an unfair assessment?
JZ That those two threw in their hands?
POM That De Klerk just threw in the towel and said - in fact what Van Zyl Slabbert was saying is that in the end the Afrikaners were taken to the cleaners, they were simply out-manoeuvred, out-negotiated, out this, out that, out the other. I see you have a little smile on your face. I won't read any significance into that, on the other hand you say the negotiations were very tough. Now as I go through, I used to ask this question back in 1989, I asked people in the NP what is more important to you, political control or economic control? And in every case the answer came back, economic control and that their primary concern was preservation of the free market system, the rights of private property and on those issues they won. So in a sense they knew that the ceding of political power was a foregone conclusion no matter what formula of power sharing you came up with, but on the hard ones of who contains control of the levers of power of the economy they had then embedded in the constitution as constitutional rights to private property and the like. So it wasn't all a giveaway.
JZ No it wasn't. I am not saying it was. There were negotiations, you see in the South African set up the political negotiations were sharp, sharper because the system here was very sharp as well, the political ones.
POM When you say 'sharp' you mean?
JZ What I mean they were more hard kind of negotiations than the economic ones, given the nature of SA. For example, one of the issues we negotiated very strongly, if I could remember, was the issue of the armed struggle, whether we were supposed to call off the armed struggle or not. It was important for the government to succeed in negotiating with people who were not carrying on the armed struggle. As you know we only stopped MK, the armed struggle, in 1991. So when we went to Groote Schuur the armed struggle was still continuing. It was one of the very tough negotiations. The other negotiations that were tough was when the ANC walked out because of Boipatong and came back with the Record of Understanding demand which almost got everything that it wanted, very tough negotiations. So I am saying there were issues that became tough at a given moment, so they were not easy issues.
POM So you saw the Record of Understanding essentially as you got everything you wanted?
JZ I think the Record of Understanding was a critical negotiation because, again, the government forces, security forces, put the NP really into a very big disadvantage because by conducting that massacre in the middle of negotiations was actually putting the NP or the government into very serious disadvantage. Naturally we had to make very serious demands for them to indicate that they were serious about negotiations. I think it went a long way. That's why the IFP, for example, from that day they pulled out of negotiations. That's when the IFP thought they were being sold out by the NP. Why did it agree to ANC demands? I don't think they appreciated intellectually the fact that the NP or the government security forces had actually compromised the government by conducting that kind of a massacre which we had to not necessarily take advantage but actually move in very seriously because for us to continue negotiating the government had to show that it was serious, it wasn't part of the plot to be negotiating and it was killing our people. So that was one of the tough ones. I don't think the government had much really to offer on that one.
POM Now you were in charge, or one of the chief negotiators with General Viljoen on the question of a volkstaat and Patti Waldmeir writes that you even reached an agreement and you were going to sign an agreement I think at ten o'clock on 23rd December 1993 and the night before, talks between Cyril and Roelf broke down with Buthelezi and their alliance over federalism and Viljoen had to pull out. But she says: -
"The ANC never had any intention of giving Viljoen his homeland but they managed to make him think they were seriously considering it. They hoped to keep him talking right through the elections and beyond, certain that the demand for a volkstaat would diminish once Afrikaners had seen that they would not be victimised in the new SA."
Again, did you go into talks with him saying we've got to keep this guy talking. It's like Lyndon Johnson's phrase of which he said it's better to have somebody inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in. Were you in a way negotiating in 'bad faith' insofar as you were saying we will string him along, string him along, string these talks out and in the end we've no intention really of entertaining the notion of a volkstaat?
JZ No, I don't think so. I think our engagement of Viljoen was a necessary thing and a critical thing. If we did not engage Viljoen in particular you are chasing us away. If you did not engage Viljoen in particular you would have - the right wing, that in a sense was the example of how the whites felt but the Afrikaners in particular. The uncertainty was very big what would happen and you can't blame them because they had been schooled in racial politics for decades. Suddenly they have got to accept this and therefore they wanted a volkstaat. Now a volkstaat is not a realistic demand but you can't say so and then that's the end of the story because if people believe it is actually a realistic demand you have got to engage, you have got to logically prove it is not. I think we had a lot of discussions in good faith, to say what offer do they put on the table? Where do we get it from? How do we get it from? How do we interfere with the rights of everybody else in order to satisfy the Afrikaner? Where do you cut it from? Because in every part of this country wherever you cut you are interfering with the rights of somebody else because we will have to say those people are either part of the volkstaat or they must move out - is that what you want? Now those were the kind of details we went to. In other words, understanding the demand but let us talk about the practicality of it. Is it realistic? I think the engagement helped a great deal because we said let us look at what has happened in the world. There were joint delegations that went abroad, for example, at one point and their own delegations to look at different constitutional models wherein interests of specific groups have been accommodated within one country.
POM You did that during that phase of the negotiations?
JZ During the negotiations. We went to a lot of meetings. The question was, and we couldn't wait, and up to a point where we then agreed that the issue - because they think they want a state, they want this volkstaat - we couldn't make everything wait until the volkstaat issue is settled. It was an issue we could be dealing with as we go, that's why we established the Afrikaner Council which is called the Volksraad, which then was to deal with this issue as an structure that was accepted, it would seem, the government, the Volksraad.
POM That was the agreement that was going to be signed on 23rd?
JZ No, no, that one was not necessarily the Volksraad. I'm not sure whether that was the agreement, what the thrust of the agreement was. It was not necessarily to establish the Volksraad. We were making an agreement here, I think slightly different, but which was critical to have the Afrikaners under the leadership of Viljoen as part of SA to participate in a logical conclusion of whatever, rather than to fight it out.
POM But you're also building and cementing relationships with him.
JZ It was very important to cement the relationship.
POM So he was seeing that you were actually contrary to what Waldmeir says, it's not that you were never prepared to give him a volkstaat but just to string him along, engage him in a good faith bargain.
JZ Not at all. Engage him in good faith.
POM And see where it ends up.
JZ Where it ends up. Let him present a formula that will convince anyone a volkstaat is possible and that's what we're looking at. And I don't think that formula was able to come out.
POM Just some very quick last questions that can be given in a sentence or two, and thank you for the extra time, I appreciate it. The recent Markinor poll with the ANC at 41% in KZN and the IFP at 19%, do you think that's an accurate reflection of the actual state of the parties at the moment?
JZ I don't know about the accuracy, the exact accuracy. We have always had the biggest sympathy in the province than the IFP. Even in 1994 if you look at those kind of Markinor or any surveys, they will indicate that trend. What becomes difficult here is when you start violence and intimidation because that suddenly changes the picture in the sense that people can't vote according to their own choices. That's the problem. But insofar as the support is concerned there is no doubt that the ANC has more support than the IFP here.
POM Do you think that whereas the symptoms of the violence have been dealt with the underlying causes may still be there and that if the IFP sees itself under very severe threat of losing power in the province that there could be a re-resurrection of that kind of violence again?
JZ Much as one cannot guarantee what would happen but the situation cannot be as it was in 1994. The problem in 1994 was that the government that was in place, the NP government, was part of the violence so forces that were engaged in violence were actually not stopped. I think today the situation is different. The government in place will honestly act against any violent actions. It's not going to pursue it or even condone it or even participate or help it to be enhanced. That's the difference. Even if somebody starts violence today it cannot go to the same degree.
POM Richmond. I spent four days there, very instructive days, just after the police station closed and the new police contingent came in with the army and I had just three observations. One, it looked to me more like an operation in which the police were there in support of the army rather than the other way round. Like an undeclared state of emergency but the army were running things and the police were following behind. Two, that again no matter who you talked to you got all the stories as to who was to blame. Every place had a different version but do you not think that in the end you have always said, the ANC has always said, every conflict must be negotiated out, that's been your message. There is a conflict here, no matter who is to blame, or God knows who is to blame, that in the end the UDM and the ANC must sit down and say let's put aside who is to blame, let's try to create an environment where there is no more violence, that there is something to the argument when people say, well by us sitting down with them or giving them political credibility that they really shouldn't have, but in the end this conflict must be negotiated out. That means you and them must, being the two -
JZ But who is UDM in Richmond? That's the question. If we negotiate with the UDM in Richmond who are you negotiating with? That's the basic question that throws a different dimension to that principle. You see in SA we could not negotiate with Inkatha or Mangope or Gqozo and not with De Klerk. No negotiations, no purpose would have been served by any negotiation if we did not negotiate with the man who handled the state of SA whether he had homelands self-governing or independent. Now it would be a futile exercise to negotiate with Mangope and reach a settlement and think we have got a settlement. We don't have a settlement. Equally, who is responsible in Richmond? Sifiso is an agent of the police, handled by the police in Pietermaritzburg and Richmond, Sifiso Nkabinde, the leader of the UDM. Now he creates a UDM which is a creation of the police. If you negotiate with him, not with the police, what negotiation? Because whatever you say it's not going to carry anything if the strategy of the third force, if you are not negotiating with the police. We have said we are ready to negotiate with the handlers of the UDM leader. If he is part of the delegation that's fine. You can then reach an agreement. But what agreement do you reach with an agent of the police, not with the police? That's the difference with Richmond. You are not talking about a political person who has emerged as a leader, who is therefore a force to deal with. You are talking about the political agent who was expelled from the ANC because he was known to be working for the police.
POM Yet he had been one of your key people.
JZ We knew him long time ago.
POM He wiped out the IFP in that area.
JZ He was a key, infiltrated by the security police. That's the difference. So the kind of political talk is different from Richmond. If we are saying let us negotiate with the police in the province, with their agents, that's fine. That UDM there, that UDM in Richmond is - we are talking, for example, about people who were part of the ANC.
POM But when he was fighting the IFP was he fighting the IFP with the collusion of the police?
JZ Of the police. Of course. The police have done a lot of harm. They handled both the IFP agents and ANC agents in Pietermaritzburg. It's a story we must talk about on a different day.
POM And the last one, you can tell me on the way, because I am seeing him tomorrow morning, Walter Felgate, does Walter Felgate play any role in the ANC politics in the province or in politics?
JZ He was part of the IFP.
POM But now he's joined the ANC.
JZ He's joined the ANC now, he's a member of parliament.
POM He is a member of parliament?
JZ Yes, we've put him in our side in parliament.
POM So he still plays a part.
JZ Let me take the title of your book here.
POM Not mine, of Rosenthal's. It's yours.
JZ Oh that's wonderful. Thank you very much.