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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

02 Feb 1999: Naude, Beyers

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POM     Dr Naudé, first of all I would like to talk about the time that Walter Felgate was working with you. I've been interviewing him for the last three or four or five years and he has made a number of mentions of the work that he did with you. Perhaps you could tell me, that was the CI days?

BN     It was the days of the Christian Institute and my recollection is, I'm not quite certain about it, my recollection is that he was related to Cedric Mayson who was a staff member of the Christian Institute, Reverend Cedric Mayson, who was a staff member of the Institute and I think his wife and Cedric's wife they were sisters and that was the way in which Walter through Cedric made contact and indicated that he would, if possible, he would help to assist especially with regard to the publication of a magazine in Natal, and that is how the contact was made. He was previously, my recollection is that he was linked to an organisation in Phalaborwa (that is in north eastern Transvaal) and where he was able to make extensive contacts with regard to mining and the relationship especially between black and white mineworkers. He assisted the Christian Institute for a number of years until we were banned, when this Christian Institute was closed down by the government.

POM     What year would that have been?

BN     That was in 1977. It was closed down, it was officially declared an illegal organisation on 18th October, I think, of 1977, it was then declared an illegal organisation and it was closed down. All our assets, the little that we had, were confiscated by the government and a number of us were served with banning orders, myself, Cedric Mayson, quite a number of others, Peter Randall. We were served with banning orders.

POM     A banning order meant that you had to - ?

BN     Well it meant different things. There were different forms of banning orders. The one was that you were restricted to a specific area of either your city or your region. You were not allowed to have any social contacts with more than one person at a time. You were not allowed to have any interviews. You were not allowed to publish anything or prepare anything with a view to publication. You had to report to a police station in your vicinity at least once a week, in some cases people had to report daily, it depended on the nature of the banning order. Oh yes, perhaps could I add to that? You were not allowed as a white to enter any so-called coloured or Indian or African township or area. You were not allowed, without the permission of the government, you were not allowed to enter any educational institution or any court of law except as a witness or as an accused. So there were a number of very serious restrictions which were imposed on people who were banned but the most severe form of banning was when you were restricted to your house, house arrest, where you were not allowed to leave there without the permission of the Security Police. Mine was not house arrest, mine was a banning order in which I was restricted to the house where we lived in Greenside, still the same house where we live today. And that was the whole background.

POM     So you were restricted to the house?

BN     No, in my case not restricted to the house. I was restricted to the municipal boundaries of Johannesburg but not allowed to enter any coloured, African, Indian township, and then the normal I had to report to the police station in Parkview once a week. Originally the banning order was given for five years, from 1977 until 1982. Then it was re-imposed on me for another three years but it was all of a sudden, I do not know why, lifted in September 1984. Then I was elected as General Secretary in succession of Desmond Tutu who became Bishop of Johannesburg, I was elected then as General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches where I served for three years. They wanted me to serve for a longer period but I insisted that at that stage of the history of our country and the situation, the leadership of the SACC should be in the hands of a black Christian and I gave them some time to find such a black successor. Eventually Frank Chikane was elected to succeed me in the SACC. That's the whole background.

POM     Now at what point did you lose contact with Walter or did you lose contact with him?

BN     Well you see because he was living in Natal, he came up from time to time. First of all with the banning there was no more work as far as the Christian Institute was concerned and then a number of members of the Christian Institute they wanted the Christian Institute either to go underground here in SA or otherwise to establish itself outside SA. I considered very seriously to make myself available, to leave the country illegally because I knew they would not give permission, and then to make myself available outside of the country, and Walter Felgate also assisted in making it possible if I wanted to go overseas to take me out. But it did not happen because when I shared with my wife my intention she said to me, "If you feel that you have to go I will fully understand it but I can't leave our children and I can't leave the country", and that led to a very serious reconsideration on my part of whether it would be right for me to do it. Eventually I decided no, I will stay and then Theo Kotze, the other staff member of the Christian Institute in Cape Town, he then went overseas. He is still living in Cape Town, Theo Kotze. He was the director of the Christian Institute in the whole of the Cape Province and of Namibia and he then left SA to assist in establishing a kind of an overseas division of the Christian Institute, but it didn't last very long because ours was not a liberation movement like, for instance, the ANC or PAC. Ours was an ecumenical organisation and so eventually people felt that it would be unwise for us to continue to do anything of that kind.

POM     Why?

BN     As a result of that there were a number of ecumenical organisations, the Council of Churches and others, who then in a certain sense stepped in and took over a major part of the work of the Christian Institute. That's the whole background.

POM     Walter's career has taken so many twists and turns, were you surprised when he ended up in a sense being Chief Buthelezi's right hand man and one of the very hard hardliners during the negotiation process and subsequently, and then his reversion to going back to the ANC?

BN     Let me just say that I never clearly understood why he at times took the stand that he has taken. I'm not condemning him, I'm not judging him. All that I'm saying is that he has never, at least to me, he never made it clear why for instance he took specific steps and so I felt I had no right to judge him on the basis of incomplete or incorrect information. In any case the fact now that he has left Buthelezi, and there must be valid reasons, perhaps he's published them or talked about them, I do not know about that. But if so I found it very interesting that he all of a sudden then switched over to the ANC and many of the people who criticised him simply said that is typical of Walter, he is basically a politician and if he realises that he's on the side which eventually is not going to win, that is Buthelezi, he will find a way in order to make himself available to the other side, in this case the ANC. That was what others were saying. I'm not saying that because I do not know whether that is the case or not.

POM     It just looks like a very chequered career, from the IFP and then back to the ANC.

BN     Very chequered. In all fairness towards him let me say he never left the work with the CI, he continued on a part-time basis with us. He was not a full time staff member, Walter. He continued his contacts with Buthelezi and the work which he was doing and because he knew that we were in very, very close support in the Christian Institute days with Buthelezi. So in that sense he was a bridge builder in the work between Buthelezi and the Christian Institute.

POM     Chief Buthelezi, and I have interviewed him I think nine or ten times, and he places great emphasis on his Christianity and how important his religion is to him, and yet the Truth & Reconciliation Commission names him specifically as being the director of hit squads and involved in assassinations and the like, which he vehemently denies. Would that surprise you?

BN     You mean the fact that he denied that he was involved?

POM     No the fact that on the one hand he has taken in the book he wrote he talks about the importance of I think he's a Methodist is it?

BN     Methodist, yes.

POM     - of his religion to him and yet on the other hand it would appear from the evidence represented and in the findings of the TRC that he was deeply involved in the organisation of hit squads.

BN     Well on the basis of the information which was given up till now, also before the TRC, from our viewpoint as we read it everything points the way that in some way he was involved but he does this in such a shrewd way that it's very difficult to pin him down personally as the person who is responsible for that. That is my impression, because he's got a good mind, a bright mind Buthelezi. Make no mistake about that. And there is no doubt that he is aware of the fact that especially white Christians, the white community, that they take very, very careful note of their faith and he certainly has used that commitment to the Christian faith very ably and very skilfully in order to make himself acceptable to the white community in SA.

POM     Did you have direct dealings with him in the seventies?

BN     From time to time yes but not directly and constantly and so on, not as far as I can remember directly.

POM     One of the things that he has said repeatedly, well during the seventies and in fact for a lot of the eighties, was that he was the most prominent black leader both nationally and internationally, political leader.

BN     He constantly has said that.

POM     Speaking out against apartheid and saying that he would not negotiate with the government until Nelson Mandela was released and refusing independence for KwaZulu/Natal, and yet in the eighties with the outbreak of violence between the IFP and the UDF it would appear that the ANC set out to demonise him as the arch collaborator with the regime and again the TRC named him as a collaborator with the state. Do you find contradictions in these things or a pattern that his opposition to apartheid was genuine, real and committed but that he found that perhaps the best way to fight it was not through armed struggle but through in fact some kind of co-operation with the state, whether or not to induce reforms out of them or not?

BN     That is what he has always said, that this was the reason why he acted the way in which he did and why he never moved into the armed struggle. Again, let me just say I can't judge that. All that I'm saying is that it leaves a number of big question marks in the hearts of many members of the black community in SA, of whether in fact can one really trust Buthelezi for the claims which he is making. It leaves a number of very serious question marks in that regard and I think that is one problem here which the ANC had in their response, I would say their attempts in order to include him in the whole liberation struggle because I think people will be able to indicate to you he went and co-operated up till a certain point but my impression is, and that is the impression I think of the majority of our people in SA that basically Buthelezi rules and controls as far as possible the whole Zulu nation, especially in the rural areas, and nobody has the right in order to go out on his or her own without the approval or the support of Buthelezi. I think that is generally taken for granted even today that basically he is and he wants to be in control of everyone under him, especially in using the whole tribal system of Chiefs and so on and not allowing any of them to step out of hand and to give the impression that he is not the one in control.

POM     Moving to the TRC I actually downloaded in Boston all 3500 pages late at night so my university wouldn't wonder where all the paper was disappearing to and I'm struggling my way through it, it makes for long and difficult reading but a couple of things have struck me and I would like your comments. One was its statement that in a sense it received very little co-operation from political parties, from institutions of the state, even from individuals in these organisations, that very few members of even MK came forward to say, or exiles came forward to say what it was like to live in exile and how they survived and certainly very few people from state institutions came forward and in most cases, particularly the NP and in the case of the police and the SANDF, the presentations were disappointing and that they were unable to paint a full picture as they had hoped to do. Indeed, had it not been for Eugene de Kock the lid might never have been opened on the past that was. That's one. Two, that the ANC's going to court to prevent the allegations that it had been involved in gross violations of human rights seemed particularly odd in view of the fact that it had itself set up two commissions on the Quatro Camps, one an international commission which found that there had been violations of human rights, that it had said at that time that it would take the appropriate action to deal with the situation.

BN     But has not done so properly and adequately.

POM     And then was going to court in a way to block something that it had accepted, in a commission it had said of itself, kind of detracted from the attention paid to the findings of the commission. Three, that on the surface with the brouhaha between it and De Klerk with the court and the manner in which Mandela received it saying, "We receive it with all its imperfections", it wasn't exactly a ringing endorsement of its work even though he thanked them for having done a difficult task, I find few people who are aware, as it were, of its findings or have gone out of their way to find out what the findings were, fewer people still in the political parties who have even bothered to read it. So there's no sense of responsibility on both individuals, with the exception of one or two, and on parties' or organisations' side, no sense of saying, yes we did something wrong and we admit to our wrongdoing and we ask for forgiveness for our wrongdoing and we want to become part of a healing process. It's rather that, well, it's either biased or it was one-sided or it had nothing to do with me and, second lastly, that it has not yet created an atmosphere or an environment conducive to reconciliation between the races and lastly that it has a problem with the 200 people that were named and it's very problematical, some people say it's never going to happen that people are going to be prosecuted, that there's been an arrangement made for a general amnesty. Looking at the last, do you think at this point that it has gone as far as it can go and that what has been revealed has been sufficient at least to have a record of the past, incomplete as it is, that a future generation can look at maybe more dispassionately and realise what their forbears were involved in? Do you believe at this point that prosecutions should be left aside and a general amnesty declared or that the law should be allowed to proceed and where there is prima facie evidence of a crime having been committed then that prosecution should follow?

BN     I would respond by saying my opinion and my conviction is the latter. Whether it will be possible to be implemented

POM     The latter means that there should be prosecutions?

BN     Yes, should be. Whether it will be possible because of the number of people who now have applied, requested amnesty and whether there will be the time to complete all these investigations that's another question but I'm talking about the principle. I believe the process should continue and if there are those who clearly, where it can be proved that they did not conform to the demands which were made with regard to political amnesty, they should definitely be prosecuted regardless of whether it is ANC, PAC, NP or whoever else it may be. That to my mind is the only fair way in which we can deal with it. Whether it will happen I do not know. It seems to me it may not happen. But with regard to the whole question of reconciliation, will the process, the investigation, research, the exposure of what has come out through the TRC, not only the publication but also over television, radio and reports in the press, will it be able to help the process of reconciliation in SA? I would wish to respond by saying the following: number one, there is no doubt in my mind that the establishment of the TRC was absolutely essential in order to deal with part of the problem, namely to even slowly and agonisingly prepare the way for eventual reconciliation; but secondly I would wish to say that my impression is we must be very careful and very cautious about speaking too early about reconciliation in this process. I may be wrong but I think it is going to take at least a generation before we can establish meaningful reconciliation in our country between black and white and also between certain sectors of black and black. That does not mean that this is not important. I believe it was very important. But if I could add the third point I would wish to say so much will now depend on who is going to take the process of reconciliation further now that the TRC with the section of amnesty, now that the TRC has completed its work it has handed the big volume to the State President, now that the process technically and legally is past, my question is does that mean that the task of the TRC or a body similar to the TRC has been fulfilled? And I would immediately wish to say, no, in fact everything which has been revealed both with regard to the victims and the perpetrators brings home to me the fact that we will need a similar process more urgently in the future than ever before.

     I have asked myself to what degree will the churches and religious bodies, not only of the Christian faith but also of the other faiths, to what degree would they be willing and able to take upon themselves the task of assisting people to come to true reconciliation? I do not know, it would be very interesting to see how your churches or groups of churches will respond. It is true that individual churches respond differently. If you think for instance of the Archbishop of Cape Town, Njongonkulu Ndungane, if you think of the President of the SA Council of Churches, Nguve Dandala, and the way in which they have responded to the need to continue with this process of reconciliation, I am very grateful for that. But one group of churches which I am really deeply concerned about are the Dutch Reform Churches because the majority of the perpetrators of the apartheid injustice belonged to one of the three white Dutch Reform Churches. To what degree is the DRC, the NG Kerk, the Hevormde Kerk and the Gereformeerde Kerk, to what degree do they take seriously the need that they must continue to assist their members who were perpetrators in order to come and to admit that, to confess that. That process seems to me, with one or two exceptions, that process has not yet even started. Therefore a tremendous task awaits us all. I am thinking of the SA Council of Churches, I'm thinking of the Muslims, Hindus, the Jewish community, calling them the Interfaith Community. All of us have a tremendous responsibility in order to assist and support the process of reconciliation, but I think we must also be very realistic to say that it will be a long, painful and difficult process to fulfil. That is how I see this whole situation in SA today.

POM     So people who are looking for instant reconciliation are just blind to the reality of the world in which they live?

BN     But it's unrealistic, it's totally unrealistic. Let me just say, there are individual cases which we have seen where there was a wonderful emotional acceptance of that and I thank God for every one of those events. Please don't misunderstand me. But to expect that this could become as it were a wave of national reconciliation, going through the hearts of people, I think that is expecting too much.

POM     It has been said over and over again that a feature of the whole post-apartheid period has been the lack of black bitterness towards whites and the lack of black anger, yet it would appear to me just as a lay person that so many people cannot have been subject to so many injustices in every aspect of their daily lives without humanly accumulating anger and bitterness at the people who do it to them. Personally I am more inclined to believe that they may not be showing anger and bitterness but it's there, it has yet to be expressed, it's just suppressed, but that if they didn't have it it would be unnatural and that this blind thing of - oh blacks are so good, ubuntu, they forgive everything, that that's just unreal. It would be unhuman to have such injustice done to you and not to feel anger and resentment and bitterness, that it has to come out some time and express itself and blacks too must be encouraged to express their anger rather than to conceal it, that you're not helping them by saying you're wonderful, you don't have any bitterness, you're great people. It would be much better to say, you must be very angry, talk about it, where is it? What are you doing with it?

BN     You're raising, to my mind, not only a very valid but a very serious viewpoint. I am deeply concerned about the fact that the majority of whites in SA believe the black community is so forgiving and so reconciled in their whole attitude that they don't need to worry in order to build therefore a new serious, sincere relationship between black and white as far as the future is concerned. I think partly your black community is to blame for that because they give the impression that there is no anger, no bitterness, not even thoughts of revenge coming into their hearts or being born and generated in their hearts. Many blacks have said this is an expression or a reflection of the African culture of ubuntu. I think this is partly true but it is not also true that what is happening especially in the rural areas, where today so many white farmers are killed, could that not be an expression of the suppressed form of anger, bitterness, injustice which was inflicted and where now many of them, call it less educated, less cultured, young Africans simply express this anger by shooting, killing white farmers. I am not saying this is the case. I've been asking myself to what degree this could not be partly the reason why this is happening and it seems to me that one must challenge your leaders of the black community, not only of the churches, but others too, to say please come forward, let's have a number of consultations, workshops, seminars between black and white where we raise these issues, where we ask these questions, where we challenge one another, where we are both honest, also painfully honest to one another, then come out into the open. I can't prove this but I sense, I've got an inner sense that if we do not in that sense stimulate that process of expressing our deepest feelings we're not going to solve the problem of reconciliation in SA. You cannot have true reconciliation except through an honest, open relationship between you and me.

POM     So reconciliation has to take place on individual ?

BN     Yes. In the first place it could start with small groups of people right throughout the country. That to my mind is going to be more helpful and healing than a massive decision from above, from churches, from groups, from leaders, especially if they do not touch the grassroots of our people and of their feelings in that regard. And that's why I just wish to say I am deeply grateful for everything that has happened but I think we must not bluff ourselves in SA. We must be more realistic, we must be aware of the fact that the process towards real, meaningful, lasting reconciliation will still be a long and a difficult and a painful one. But if we do accept that challenge there is no doubt in my mind that we, through God's grace, may be able to help not only SA, not only Africa, but that we may be able to help the whole world to find a deeper foundation and basis for reconciliation.

POM     One of the reasons I'm asking you some of these questions is that, as you know, as I've told you in the past, I've been very deeply involved in Northern Ireland for the better part of 30 years and at some point there they are going to have to go through a process. Now would be the wrong time, if you had a TRC tomorrow morning it would inflame passions to such a degree that the fighting would start all over again, but it's still the lack of trust and bitterness. The absence of violence doesn't mean peace.

BN     That's very important and that's why I'm saying we must not bluff ourselves and if we could indicate that very clearly to, for instance, Ireland, to Eastern Europe, also East and West Germany, Poland, if we could do that then I think we could help our brothers and sisters throughout the world. But if we do not do it, if there is the feeling on the part of the world outside that we are covering up, that we're not dealing with the deepest of the emotions of the people concerned, then we're not helping them and we're not helping ourselves.

POM     And the churches must become the agent of this change because the politicians will let it drop?

BN     I believe so.

POM     They would like to say put it all behind us and forget it.

BN     The past is past, let bygones be bygones. It is not possible to use that expression, to my mind, realistically and honestly when you deal with these issues. You cannot talk of let bygones be bygones except if you have at least taken the major steps in this direction. Only then can you begin to say OK, let bygones be bygones and only then will the hearts of people say now we are satisfied, we have been able to express our deepest feelings, we've listened to what others have said to us, we have discovered their pain, hopefully they discovered our pain, our feelings of injustice, now the process of reconciliation can start.

POM     OK. Thank you ever so much. It's always such a pleasure to talk to you.

BN     I'm grateful.

POM     Always. Glad to see you looking so good.

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.