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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

13 Oct 1999: Konigkramer, Arthur

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POM     Just for a minute looking at the other parties, I think the issue I want to get back to is the New National Party, has it more or less imploded?

AK     Yes, I think if you go back I predicted that, I don't think it's got the capacity, it will just disappear. I think what you will find is that new forces will emerge, particularly in Afrikaner society from civil society, not from political. You need more thinking people, more analytical people so, yes, I think they are going to continue to decline and personally I think the DP has also reached its zenith. I don't think it has the capacity to grow. New people will emerge who will form the nucleus of the new opposition parties.

POM     Do you see, as some people have, the NP becoming increasingly a vehicle for the politics of coloured people, the DP becoming a vehicle for the politics of white people?

AK     That is not very desirable.

POM     Increasing polarisation of politics along racial lines. I've put it to people, in fact I did a couple of pieces for the Boston Globe on the election before the election and I said this an election about one thing, it's about race: whites are going to vote for whites and blacks are going to vote for blacks and when you tally up the figures you will find almost a perfect correlation between where the votes go. It's not about policy issues or performance or anything like that. Did the DP run a campaign - turning it into the official opposition it has alienated African voters to the point of where its base is never going to expand and it's a situation where it's demographic base is shrinking not increasing.

AK     Definitely. It was an extremely short-sighted and foolish thing to do.

POM     Even if you're given that the IFP in two elections, let's say it got 10% of the vote, it's hard to predict or project that into a 30% or 40% vote in a five year period without something really dramatic happening, that doesn't appear to be on the scene either. The ANC seem quite aware of the fact that despite their differences with the unions and with the SACP that as long as they all hang together they hang on to the most important thing and that's power, so they're not about to, over an ideological issue involving economic policy, go off and form separate parties and drive wedges among themselves.

AK     I think what you will get developing in SA is a new centre grouping which will be multi-racial and from new people, as I say from civil society. I think that will happen but as far as we can see into the future you won't unseat the ANC but you'll certainly limit its power.

POM     Again, looking back on those free ten years, have all the sacrifices been worth it? Have you truly seen the birth – if I asked you has democracy been consolidated in this country?

AK     No, no it hasn't, but you can't expect democracy to be consolidated in five years, things don't work that way. Certainly the foundations have been laid and it's certainly possible to establish democracy.

POM     Will the opposition be worthless after 1999 or can the ANC override it really at any point, give it short shrift?

AK     No I don't think so. There are lots of institutions which can be used to effectively curb power. I have no doubt that centralisation is taking place but I think it can be checked.

POM     Is civil society emerging as a more important organ of opposition to the government than the parliamentary parties themselves?

AK     Yes I think so.

POM     Should NGOs, for example, be spending more of their resources on strengthening the civil organs of society rather than teaching committees how they should behave or MPs how they should behave on sub-committees or whatever?

AK     I think, as I said to you, I think that you're going to find in SA a lot of political ferment taking place and I think what you're going to see emerging is a new group of people, new leaders that you haven't heard of before, that will emerge from civil society, from business, and I think you will get new political groupings forming around those. I think you correctly predicted that the current parties to a large degree have reached their zenith and are not going to grow. UDM, this is clearly what their perception was. The weakness of course is that they don't have the leaders but the idea – you saw the excitement it created – certainly in the fact that they could get a fair amount of the vote, I think it was 5%.

POM     3.5%

AK     Yes, so that's the sort of thing I think that will happen. It will be new people.

POM     Race? Will race continue to remain the polarising factor it is?

AK     For a while I think yes, but I think that too will die down because eventually – you see eventually people will look to those whom they believe can deliver and I don't think race will be the determining factor. When people see that things are not changing and things are not getting better, they're going to look for other people and I don't think race will be the discerning factor but, as far as we can see, I don't think we will be able to unseat the ANC.

POM     So if I were to ask you what is the difference between SA in 1989, taking these as benchmarks, 1989 when De Klerk came into power, 1994 when Mandela took over and 1999 when Mbeki took over, what are the key-mark differences not just constitutionally but – ?

AK     First of all one has to look at the moral issues. First of all the De Klerk government was immoral, it was wrong and it was a completely unsustainable situation so he did the right things but he could never deliver, it doesn't matter what he did, in terms of making the country grow and getting political legitimacy. The next one you mentioned was 1994, yes we had democracy but clearly the country has failed economically and I think at the end of the day as much as everybody idolises him, the person who must accept the responsibility for that is Nelson Mandela because he was the boss and clearly the country has gone backwards. I think empirically it can be shown at every level. So 1999 you now have Thabo Mbeki and Thabo Mbeki has clearly set himself the task now of delivering. Well let's see him do it. We can talk about that in a couple of years time. But he certainly seems to have the determination, I think he's going about it the wrong way as we've discussed all morning in terms of centralisation of power and things, I don't think that's the way to go, but he certainly seems to be very goal orientated which I think is a good thing and his overall policies I think are right. So I think, yes, that's my response to those.

POM     Where does his African renaissance fit into this? Is it rhetoric for the intelligentsia, good for writing articles and adding to one's résumé if one is in a university but in terms of the practicality it has on the ground – ?

AK     No I think it's rhetoric but there is a kinder way of looking at it. I think essentially what Mbeki is trying to do is to try and modernise Africa, so you can classify that as a renaissance. In other words you do things differently, you don't do things as have been traditionally done. For example in Africa, we've been discussing it, the levels of corruption and so on are simply unacceptable and that's why things don't work. He has declared war on corruption, he has done things to try and root it out, which is essentially trying to create a modern state. I think that's what it's all about.

POM     Coming back, where do traditional structures fit into this? The level of HIV, for example, is higher in rural areas than it is in urban centres.

AK     I don't think so.

POM     OK, I'll give you that one.

AK     It's a question of – I think if you go through any society, SA is in a period of transition, it's essentially still going through what Europe went through in the late 18th and 19th century, the industrial revolution, the urbanisation and the moving of people off the land. Now you asked what the role of traditional leaders is? I would say that at the end of the day any policy can only work, or any changes can only be meaningfully implemented if there is a sense of gradualism. It is, in my judgement, very foolish to think that you can demolish 1000 years of history in traditional government by simply saying we've now got democracy, everybody is going to be elected. It doesn't work that way. What you've got to do is to try and find a marriage between the two, you've got to find a mechanism of letting those two systems co-exist. I would say to you, for example, as we discussed earlier, one of the main reasons for AIDS is the breakdown of family life, the breakdown of the authority of the family, of the father, of the Amakosi, that's what's causing it. People do not simply want to rebel, they don't want to be controlled and that's what causes the problem. So I would say you've got to find a mechanism to instil traditional values, moral values and then try and marry them with modern democracy.

POM     Do you still find here a tendency to blame the lack of delivery, the lack of ability of being able to deal with problems on the legacy of apartheid?

AK     Yes.

POM     When does the legacy of the legacy of apartheid run out?

AK     I think it ran out in 1994 didn't it? No, I think that of course is typical of any politician, that they always find something to blame, but unfortunately it's no good, you might be able to fool some of the people some of the time but you can't fool them all. If you look around many a simple black person will tell you that life under apartheid was better, things worked, and that's not that he doesn't want democracy but he makes the simple observation that if you go to hospital now there are no medicines. Now of course we know there are good reasons for that but at the end of the day that's what he perceives and it's no good blaming, it's an exercise in futility.

POM     The IFP post-Buthelezi? I don't see on the scene any dominant personality of his stature. Is there a party after Buthelezi or does it fold into the ANC?

AK     I would prefer not to speculate on that. It's a simple observation though that in any country or in any organisation or any business or any party, when you've got an individual that so dominates obviously when that person who towers so above everybody else, when that person goes clearly you get huge vacuums and what fills those of course is very difficult to predict. The ANC is not like that. It's got a much more, although as you correctly pointed out Mbeki has concentrated a lot of power in his own hands, but there are still a lot of competing senses of power which you don't get so much in the IFP.

POM     So your final words, whither SA?

AK     We're in for a rough ride.

POM     In the long run?

AK     Well certainly in the middle run. In the long run it's going to be very difficult to see that far ahead and there are major things which could happen which are completely unpredictable.

POM     Like for example?

AK     Well you mentioned one of them, for example unless the question of AIDS is addressed it could deplete a very, very substantial portion of the SA population and what is then going to happen after that? You could get dramatic racial polarisation which would mean that you essentially have a Great Trek in reverse and you get a focusing of people around certain centres along racial lines. Those are things which are all possible.

POM     When you entered politics, if you are leaving, do you leave more disillusioned than you were when you entered?

AK     Yes.

POM     Less hopeful about the future of the country than when you entered?

AK     Yes. But I say that with a sense of, as I indicated to you, there comes a time in one's own life when you make a decision in terms of what you can do and what you think you can do and what you want to do and I have said there's a tremendous polarisation that has taken place across the country, there's an enormous energy and upward mobility of young black people that resent people, and they resent particularly your ability. So in my own judgement then when you're confronted with a situation like that you must make a judgement: you can say, well what am I going to do about it? I don't want to stand and fight that system, it achieves nothing, so I would rather stand aside, let that happen whatever the outcome of it is and I will focus on things which I believe I can achieve on a very targeted basis. That's what I want to do.

POM     I raised the question once with a leading member of the ANC that particularly the Africans who were benefiting from the new SA were the sons and daughters of blacks who during apartheid days had the ability to send their children to good schools or to private schools or to send them abroad or whatever, let's say the sons and daughters of people who did not live in the townships and that they acquired some of the skills necessary to run the new order of things and they are the main beneficiaries whereas the youth who were on the frontline, whether IFP frontline or ANC frontline, both frontlines facing each other, are the people who've lost out, there're exactly where they were, whereas those who contributed least to the 'struggle' are benefiting in some strange way the most. Those who contributed most are continuing to lose out.

AK     Let me give you the ultimate irony in terms of that perception, and it's not a perception, it's a reality. If you look at the height of the ungovernability programme when people were being driven out of schools and they were torching the schools and they were parroting the phrase, "Liberation now, education later", all the leaders of those people, their children, where were they? They were in KZN. Motlana, his children were educated here, Percy Qoboza – and I could go on, to the province they hated most, the province that was resisting this burning down of schools. That's where they were educated, in this province. It's just another way of saying exactly what you're saying, that the irony is that the very target of the most vehement and violent protests against our policies which do not destroy facilities built by communities no matter how inferior they are because they're better than nothing. Those people were educated in these schools and our schools.

POM     Lastly, on the question of amnesty. Even though the ANC has said there will not be (anyway somebody insisted last night that they had not said there would be a general amnesty), just events again moving inexorably in that direction?

AK     It's inevitable, it's the only solution.

POM     For example, and I've asked this very directly of people, can you foresee of any circumstances where the government would move to indict Buthelezi on the basis of findings in the TRC report or for that matter move against Winnie?

AK     The TRC report is a joke, it really is. It's not regarded seriously and the reality is that the more perceptive people have realised that it was an attempt to re-write history and to get a politically correct version, as the ANC saw it, entrenched. It won't work. I will predict it and I have no doubt in my mind that it will come to pass. There will be a general amnesty in KZN in particular and I don't think the time is far away. If you look just casually, and I'm not speaking from any specific knowledge, I think next weekend the President of the IFP and the President of the ANC and President of the country are going to unveil a monument in one of the townships, I think it's Sebokeng, to the victims from the IFP, the SPUs and the SDUs. There you're beginning to see now the signs. What is that? The very fact that those two leaders have agreed to do that tells you that they've accepted there's blame on both sides and they want to clean the slate. I have no doubt it's going to happen. There is no other way. If we agree, as we did originally, that you have to pacify the country it's going to have to happen.

POM     Do you think, and I happen to agree with you that history will judge Mandela in a far more critical light than he's been judged, where there's been an absence of any attempt of a judgement so far except to glorify him as one of the icons of the 20th century, do you think that history will be more fair to Buthelezi?

AK     Yes.

POM     That it will be more fair to De Klerk?

AK     Yes.

POM     Do you think De Klerk came out on the raw end?

AK     But it's not surprising. I think if De Klerk hadn't done what he did this country would have been infinitely worse off and I think any objective analysis in time will show that. There are so many precedents in history where you get major reformers like that and they simply go up in smoke and I think personally where De Klerk made an error of judgement is having done all he did he somehow believed, naively, that he could still retain some semblance of power and all the privileges that went with it. I think that's where he made a major mistake. I think what he should have accepted is that, which he accepted belatedly, was that I've done what I can and he should have then stepped out and maybe new forces would have come. But then you see now what has happened, what is De Klerk's legacy now in terms of his own party? It's a failure, but in history I think nobody could ever take that away from him. That required not only enormous courage but tremendous skill to actually pull that off. I think he will be rewarded. And Buthelezi whatever his failings are, whatever people say about him, Buthelezi will be seen, in my judgement, as the rock on which apartheid finally faltered. No doubt about that in my mind, because if they had succeeded in leading KwaZulu to independence we would have had a totally different scenario. I think apart from what I was discussing with you earlier where the fact that people like Dr Dhlomo, guided by the President, Dr Mdlalose who engaged the NP in discussions which culminated in the agreements which then ultimately were the parameters within which the NP released the ANC and so on, which was negotiated by the IFP, that's the one aspect.

POM     Was that negotiated? When?

AK     It was negotiated over a period of almost ten years and I was present at several of those meetings and we could talk a whole day about that. So that's the one aspect.

POM     Is there any documentation that refers to it?

AK     There is. The one document, the final document agreement, I've got a copy of that somewhere, but otherwise it hasn't been documented. So that's the one aspect, in other words the political work of getting the NP to accept that the only way that you could free up and negotiate truly, meaningfully, agreements that will last in the longer term is an acceptance that you have to unban the ANC and release the political leaders. And there's no question about it that that is Buthelezi's main achievement. Secondly, the fact that he was able to resist independence which I think forced the government to finally agree that if you couldn't lead eight million people to so-called independence this policy would never work. So I think on those two history will judge him very favourably.

POM     Is there an irony in the fact that the man the ANC pilloried from pillar to post, whom they demonised, you know what I'm getting at, where there was a virtual civil war with his party and the ANC, of all the parties in the country he is the only one who retains a senior position in the government of the country and has been Acting President on many occasions?

AK     Is there an irony in that? I suppose so but I think it's more reflective of a reality. Why did they demonise and pillory him? They demonised and pilloried him because he was a serious political challenge to them and he was a very serious political force. So in that sense it's not ironical, it's an acceptance of a fact. At the end of the day the ANC can dispense with De Klerk after all that he did, but it can't dispense with Buthelezi because he won't go away.

POM     Now just as we've pointed to the failure of Mandela clearly in matters relating to the economy, what has been the biggest failure of Buthelezi as a leader? To me, I would say that he failed to expand the base of the party.

AK     There's no middle management. Let me just come back to the point we were discussing just now, whether there is an irony in that and then also related to that is a question of whether there will be amnesty. I would predict that it's not going to be long before the ANC formally apologises to Buthelezi and says, "We are sorry, we were wrong." I think it's coming and I think it's coming fairly soon. That's what I can read.

POM     That's a stage for some form of reconciliation.

AK     That is a very interesting question as to what will happen after that, because maybe that is where a role will have then been served and reached it's apex. I don't know.

POM     Is there a question after all this time that I haven't asked you, you walk out of here saying you missed asking an obvious question?

AK     No.  There comes a stage in one's life when you want to do nice things, where you want to be able to get up in the morning and say, "My God, what a beautiful day! What am I going to do with it?" Instead of going and having pointless political arguments and achieving nothing. Yes it is sad, it's taken me a long time and wrestling with my own conscience but I've made up my mind now.

POM     Can I ask you, just more as a matter of interest, what happened to the airport?

AK     It won't happen unfortunately.

POM     Durban would always remain a limited capacity?

AK     No I don't think so necessarily. Look, it's very difficult to know exactly but I think maybe as a province we made a mistake in trying to do too much and by trying to want the biggest and the most modern port and at the same time wanting the best international airport in the country. I don't know, in my own sense maybe we've made a mistake. What we should have done is we should have spent all our energies on expanding and improving our port, increasing its efficiency because I think what would have happened then, once you've demonstrated your efficiency, you've demonstrated the capacity of the port, there would be a demand to expand it and once you get the demand to expand it the only way you can realistically expand it is to take it out to the airport which would have then forced them to do that, not because you need a new airport but because you have to expand the port. So I think that's maybe where we made a tactical error.

POM     The port facilities here, just in terms of its breadth, is a far more impressive port than the port in Cape Town.

AK     Oh yes, well it handles 70% of cargo.

POM     But yet the one in Cape Town has been turned into a mega tourist attraction whereas here even after five years, other than the Catfish Restaurant I don't know what's down there.

AK     The reason for it is very simple, first of all there are a number of reasons. First of all there were very far-sighted individuals in Cape Town, in the state I might tell you, it was not private sector driven, it was driven by the state which is amazing. It's one of the few great examples of state intervention that really turned into one of the greatest tourist attractions in the world I think, I think we have to accept that. That's the one reason but the main reason why Durban has failed is politics and corruption, that's why it's failed. Simple politics, simple corruption, that's why it's failed. We have infinitely greater assets than Cape Town in the port. I don't know whether you've ever actually had a look at the buildings in Point Road, they are stunning by international standards. The buildings in Point Road, these most beautiful 19th century buildings. They are exquisite. Cape Town hasn't even got a tenth of what Durban has in terms of physical structures and the setting is unparalleled. Cape Town is beautiful but it's still cold and misty and windy. We don't have those things, we have this magnificent balmy weather, magnificent Indian Ocean and the magnificent Bluff which – well Table Mountain is dramatic but it's far away, the Bluff there is just quite something. It's politics and corruption. I'm afraid you can lay it all at the door of the African National Congress, they were the ones that destroyed that. How did it get into Malaysian hands and who was buying off whom? That's what it's all about.

POM     How did it get into Malaysian hands?

AK     The land, the Point. The land was sold to a Malaysian consortium and the Council is now having to buy it back at a cost of R200 million.

POM     Just to finish, I want to get a grip on how do you perceive the ANC?

AK     A mixed bag.

POM     The world sees them as a liberation organisation, the people who came in with the idea of establishing a democracy, where there would be elections, where there would be a Bill of Rights, where there would be a Constitutional Court, where there would be checks and balances, where there would be a minimal capacity for dictatorship or for one man rule or whatever, unlike most other African revolutionary movements, or perhaps revolutionary movements around the world.

AK     As I say, I think it's a mixed bag. You see I think the fundamental weakness of the ANC, and it comes down to this question we were discussing about what they might do with Buthelezi in the sense that they may acknowledge that they were wrong and apologise for it, I think the fundamental dilemma (and that's why I used the term 'mixed bag') of the ANC is that it hasn't come to terms with its past. Until such time as you recognise publicly that it was wrong to promote ungovernability, that it was wrong to encourage people to defy authority, that it was wrong to encourage people not to pay their rates, until such time as they come to terms with that and acknowledge it publicly, you're going to continue to have, as I say that it's a mixed bag, where you have very noble intentions but you've got the revolutionaries there that still preach ungovernability and still when they can't get their way they will force and they will throw stones and they will throw petrol bombs. Until such time as they come to terms with that and say it was wrong, which means that anybody steps out of line now you're going to get clobbered, so that to me is the fundamental, that's why I could never join a party like that. I've got great friends in that party, very noble people, but there are some very ugly ones too.

POM     Two last questions on political parties, one is on the UDM, was it a noble experiment that failed or did it fail because, again, given the resources at its disposal, which was no government funding – ?

AK     It failed for a number of reasons. For example, in KZN it's extremely short-sighted and foolish to get involved with a man like Sifiso Nkabinde. He was a criminal. I have been very impressed by – the UDM has got some incredible young people, really outstanding youngsters, brilliant people, committed people. So that's where it went wrong.

POM     And making alliances with –

AK     People that were essentially destabilising the province and because you have one whose support was through the gun and then you take people like that on board obviously it's going to come apart at the seams, it must do.

POM     With its young people is it still a force?

AK     Well we will see.

POM     It's there, it's in parliament, it has a presence.

AK     In KZN it's got one member but it's got a lot of potential, it's got a lot of very, very fine people, young people, so we'll see.

POM     Freedom Front?

AK     No that's finished.

POM     Is the whole Afrikaner dream of a volkstaat gone?

AK     It's gone.

POM     So where people thought they would be the biggest threat in the end became the least.

AK     Very correct and objective analysis by Mandela. He knew by simply humouring them that the problem would go away. It was very intelligent the way he handled it. If he had confronted them he would have simply worsened the problem. He simply neutralised them. He was very clever.

POM     Did he do that, or has he done that in a way by always smoothing over things with Buthelezi, by paying him the honour of being Acting President?

AK     No, no, that's been a totally different relationship. They have never got on well. He gets on much better with Mbeki.

POM     A man who is so beloved by the masses, I can't find anybody who got on with him.

AK     That's correct.

POM     Arthur, I will leave it at that. I will probably, almost surely I will be back.

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.