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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

18 Oct 1999: Ramaphosa, Cyril

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POM     Going backwards, from the beginning it would appear that you wanted to make the negotiating process a two-way process between the ANC and the NP. At the beginning what role did you envisage for the IFP, especially with regard to the concept of sufficient consensus?

CR     The IFP had a role but we always saw just two parties to the negotiation process. It was those who were for liberation and those who were trying to hold onto the reins of what I would call 'stale' power, stale state power. If anything the IFP in our view in KwaZulu-Natal, they had to be delivered by the SA government, just like Lucas Mangope had to be delivered and Gqozo had to be delivered by the SA government because they were really their cohorts. They were not part of the sufficient consensus.

POM     So you saw ANC, NP plus the others and it was up to the government to bring the others in?

CR     Yes. And yet at the time there were others who had moved out of the government's orbit, like the other homeland governments who had moved over to our side. In the end they played a role, all of them, cumulatively, but in specific terms when we had to come to a consensus it was consensus between the ANC and the NP and then it was regarded as sufficient to move the process to the next stop, not necessarily to settle everything but to move to the next stop and by a process of moving on and on in the end on a globular basis we hoped that everybody would then be part of the consensus.

POM     When De Klerk released Mandela, unbanned the ANC and a negotiating process began, do you think that De Klerk had a clearly defined strategy in mind, that he had a set of aspirations that he hoped to achieve in negotiations, that he had a set of bottom lines below which he would not go or do you think he was so convinced that the outcome of the negotiations would be a kind of entrenched power sharing with a permanent role for the NP perhaps as a junior partner advising and guiding the ANC that learned the ropes of government, that he never really thought beyond that, that he didn't have a strategy?

CR     I think in hindsight it's quite clear that his strategy was very naïve. He thought that he would be able to have power sharing in perpetuity. That was his clear strategy and it was informed by quite a number of things. He in his own head thought that they are not capable of ruling this country, the white people are still much more important and I don't think that De Klerk is a non-racialist, I think he is still very much trapped in the racist mould. Let me put it more mildly, he still has racial prejudices so he's still trapped in that. Now what he thought was his ultimate strategy was informed by that or influenced by that. His initial sort of starting point was that he was doing the right thing, releasing Mandela and what have you and he thought he was in full control of everything that would unfold and that assumption that he was in control in a way played itself out with the violence that started raging throughout the country, because he had control of the security forces but that too was naïve on his part because he didn't really know completely what they were doing and what they were capable of and what they had done in the past. I think he knew to some extent.

POM     You think he knew?

CR     Oh yes, there is just no way he didn't know.

POM     Just on that, what advantage would the violence have been to the NP?

CR     It's clear, it's happened so many times in history. Terrorise your adversary to a point where you can actually browbeat them, browbeat them into submitting to some of the things that you would want them to agree to. It's classical.

POM     But from the very beginning this was working against him, his international reputation began to fall.

CR     But that's the point I say, that is the naïve part, that's how naïve they have been throughout, right from the days when they started unfolding their apartheid strategy. They were naïve enough to think that it would work and so every strategic intervention that they made they thought would lead to some form of success and history now tells us that it didn't.

POM     In his autobiography - I assume you haven't read it?

CR     Because I have a mental block!

POM     Well it was a very defensive autobiography but he goes to pains to say that when Mandela did bring things to his attention he did take action, he set up the Goldstone Commission, he gave the Goldstone Commission carte blanche access to everything it wanted, he gave it the resources and Judge Goldstone himself says the government never got in his way. After Boipatong when the ANC accused the government of complicity, and indeed he quotes Mandela in his biography as saying, "We said it was complicity with the police, De Klerk never apologised, no-one was ever arrested or convicted, on his investigations, arrested or convicted." Yet Goldstone investigated at that time in 1992 and found no evidence of police complicity in 1992. The security forces did arrest people, they were convicted. He says he went as far as he could go on that, Mandela's being not fair when he says he didn't take any action to follow up to find out what happened at Boipatong. Which part is true?

CR     His part is not true. Everything was so well arranged. It's quite easy for me to ask investigators to come into this company today or even in the ANC, I will ask anybody to come in to come and investigate if I knew that systems were in place to deflect the investigative probing, to deflect and to prevent the truth from coming out. By so doing I am proving that I am actually open and transparent. You can arrange things in such a way that the truth never really comes out, so he can't really be credited for that, the truth has already come out that there was police involvement and complicity, even if Goldstone never found it.

POM     But he did in 1994, he came back and said after he discovered Vlakplaas. But at that time was Goldstone being led along the garden path by elements within the security structures?

CR     Of course.

POM     Was he being led along the garden path by De Klerk or did De Klerk say I've got this guy by the whatever and I will just let him submit his report even though I know his report is wrong?

CR     Yes. Some of these things they happened with the knowledge of the head of state, because that's where the buck finally stops, that's where the buck stops and as head of state you get to know. That's how these things work.

POM     Yet he quotes the example of he used to tell Mandela, "Listen, just because you're head of state doesn't mean you know everything that is going on in government", then he cites the slight, or almost one could say gratuitous, pleasure he got when he confronted Mandela over Vula with the documents and Mandela was surprised by the extent of the operation. In his words, and he said, "Well there you are Mr Mandela, you see sometimes you can be the head of an organisation and not know everything that's going on within the organisation. It's just what I've been telling you all along."

CR     I will not answer that.

POM     You will not answer it because?

CR     No, no, De Klerk is entitled to put that view across. That's all maybe one should say.

POM     Well let me ask you, was Mandela fully informed of the extent of Operation Vula?

CR     De Klerk is fully entitled to make that accusation.

POM     I'm not making it, I'm asking it as a direct question.

CR     No, no, I am answering it.

POM     We're not answering in terms of De Klerk and De Klerk is irrelevant. I'm saying Operation Vula, did - ?

CR     I don't know.

POM     You don't know what Mandela knew? OK. Looking at Mandela and De Klerk, who had more balls to keep in the air at the same time? For De Klerk I can count he had to keep unity within his party, in some way keep his party with him. He had to take the white community with him even after the referendum, he had to still bring them along, he had to take his cabinet with him, he had to take the parliament with him, he had to find a way of assuaging the right wing, he had to find a way of operating so as not to completely alienate the security forces who in the crunch were his only fallback, the only fallback he had. So he had all these and sometimes keeping all these balls in the air may have led him to make contrary statements or take contrary positions. Was his job tougher than Mandela's? How many balls had Mandela to keep going in the air?

CR     Clearly De Klerk's job was tougher than Mandela's and I think the ANC at some stage went out of its way to say that because they faced such a difficult task in terms of remaining cohesive we must help to strengthen the NP because they are important, their continued existence is important for us to finally prosecute our full liberation. So that was said with the full knowledge that there were enormous divisions within their ranks. The security forces and everything else was a major, major problem for them and so De Klerk had to be assisted because he had so many balls in the air at the time. So he had more than Mandela.

POM     And at the same time was he playing whereas you saw the process as between you and the NP, he saw the process as between you, process A, process B between trying to put together an alliance of homeland parties plus the IFP that might prove to be a counterweight to the ANC, so while he was playing ball with you at the same time he was playing footsie with the IFP?

CR     Absolutely. That's an apt description of it all. That's what he was trying to do hoping that the other side would help to weaken the strength of the ANC, they would become his allies and out of that alliance they would be able to block what the ANC wanted. That is what got the ANC to finally say the negotiations in the end are not between us and the IFP, they are not between us and Mangope, they are not between us and whoever else, they are between us and the NP and the NP which has been strengthening and supporting all these forces, giving them arms and everything else and training them and getting them to set up armies and all that, must deliver them to a settlement. You had the classical thing, you go against the enemy who is most visible to you, who has most power and you put pressure against them and they will in the end be the ones who put the pressure on the others.

POM     On the others, the lesser bits.

CR     Yes, and they will deliver them.

POM     Looking back again, do you genuinely believe that De Klerk wanted to bring an end to apartheid?

CR     I don't think so, I think De Klerk wanted to go more the power sharing route and in doing so be able to get us to buy into their grand plan.

POM     So it was a final form of co-option; rather than a tricameral parliament you'd have a quad-cameral arrangement.

CR     That's what he wanted to do.

POM     Do you think that he saw Mandela as inevitably becoming the first black President of the country or that somehow he could manage things so as to have himself - ?

CR     He actually saw a rotational type of presidency. He saw himself being President for six months or so, then Mandela and then Buthelezi. He saw a triumvirate of some sort.

POM     So do you think he negotiated with you out of conviction or out of expedience?

CR     I think it was more expedience.

POM     More of expedience. Do you think he negotiated in good faith and wanted a quick and conclusive end?

CR     I think there was some good faith but it was tempered by some of their strategic perspectives in terms of how they could weaken the ANC along the way. Good faith in as far as reaching a settlement, yes, but reaching a settlement on their own terms then I would say there wasn't much of good faith in that. They did want to reach a settlement.

POM     A story, unless I forget it, Patti Waldmeir tells a story in her book, which I think you at least glanced through.

CR     I think that one I can say I read.

POM     You read that, so you know what books you approve of and what books you don't.

CR     Absolutely.

POM     She tells the story of it would have been in the wee hours of 14th May, of when the deadlock had been reached in your Working Group in CODESA 2 and you were taking the problem to Mandela and going to his house, a group of you, and throwing pebbles at the window. He was asleep and he later recounts that he thought his end had come, that people were firing bullets at the window, but he came downstairs and he let you in and he discussed the problem with you. According to her book, and she makes the categorical statement, after your giving the assessment of the situation to him, he said, "Bring negotiations to a halt." Now I put this to Albie Sachs who was part of that team that went to Mandela's house and he said, "Absolutely no way. Mandela never said that. Mandela never said halt negotiations, stop negotiations." He's vociferous on the matter, he jumps out of his chair and says, "Whoever told you that just got it wrong, that didn't happen." Well, did it happen?

CR     I'm trying to recall the issue and whether Albie was part of that delegation that went to see Mandela at that time.

POM     It was over the percentages issue.

CR     It could never have been 'stop the negotiations'. There were only one or two times when negotiations had to be stopped and that was over Boipatong and on this issue it would have been don't agree and if they refuse to accede to our demands you can stop talking to them and he would talk to De Klerk at another level. So it would never have been categorically stop the negotiations. And I think these are tactical,  manoeuvres that one had to apply all along the way. I remember once getting into a really serious argument with Roelf and he threatened that the negotiations would stop and I said, "Fine, then we can stop negotiations." So these are tactical issues, they are not principled or strategic positions that people had to take in terms of stopping the negotiations. There were two moment when negotiations had to stop.

POM     Boipatong and?

CR     Boipatong and the Group 2 negotiations as I recall in CODESA 2.

POM     That's what she's reporting when he said - and he left it up to your ingenuity on how to engineer a halt to negotiations without the ANC losing face.

CR     Is that the one where it led to the breakdown of CODESA 2?

POM     That's right.

CR     Yes, then that would have been it. But Albie would be wrong there.

POM     Albie would be wrong?

CR     Yes Albie would be wrong.

POM     So Mandela would have said stop negotiations?

CR     If it leads to that then negotiations must stop, because that was a fundamental issue.

POM     This is where you came up with the you accepted 70% (these percentages are driving me crazy), 70% with the rider that if there was not a constitution drawn up within six months the matter would be referred to the people and a simple majority would prevail.

CR     That's right.

POM     Now when Tertius Delport saw that as a trap, that all the ANC had to do was to sit back for six months in a Constituent Assembly, he was dead right to see it as a trap.

CR     It was.

POM     So in fact he was behaving as a good negotiator not a bad one, he would have been stupid negotiator had he said 'deal reached'.

CR     Yes. And it was on that issue that negotiations broke down.

POM     He said, "No way will we agree."  In some of our other interviews you say or intimate that the deal on the table for the NP at that time with the 70% acceptance level for decisions on the constitution was the best offer they could have gotten, but in fact it wasn't, it was one that had an in-built flaw, at least from the NP's side, that allowed you to say we've got them now by the balls, we can sit back, quibble over this, quibble over that and in six months we can have whatever constitution we want.

CR     Yes, in the end they got a better deal though than the one that had been put forward.

POM     In the end they got a better deal than they would have gotten at CODESA 2?

CR     But it still didn't stand them in good stead.

POM     Because?

CR     Because in the end, I mean they were hoping

POM     To the very end.

CR     They were hoping that they would be able to determine the direction of everything and what went into the constitution so what might have seemed like they got a good deal in the end never really finally fully helped them.

POM     Do you think De Klerk understood democracy? Did he want a democratic settlement or a settlement that would simply work?

CR     He couldn't have wanted a fully blown democratic type of settlement given what manoeuvres and steps they kept taking as we went along. I think he wanted in the end a settlement that could work.

POM     Did he believe do you think he understood what democracy, given his background, the system he operated in, when he bandies about the word democracy, do you think he had any idea what he was really talking about or it was simply a phrase that came out of his mouth?

CR     I think it was more the phrase. I don't think in reality he fully understood what true democracy meant.

POM     Do you think that he was to an extent demonised by the ANC after Boipatong with their increasing emphasis on his personal knowledge of the violence and his unwillingness to take action to stop it which seeped and undermined whatever support he might have had in the black community? I think I have mentioned to you before, I know at least one man in a township whom I've interviewed for years, he used to refer to him after 1990 as 'Comrade De Klerk' and after Boipatong he referred to him as 'The Red Devil', so that you successfully demonised him in order to break any support he might have had in the black community and that this continual pressure that he knew, he was responsible, his response was as much strategic as it may have been factual.

CR     I wouldn't say it was a question of demonising because demonising has a negative connotation to it. I think it was a question of just stating the reality that people had to be aware of. In the end De Klerk, because of what the security forces had done and his refusing to take responsibility and own up, led to his own unpopularity.

POM     Do you think that he was deliberately using the third force violence (i) to undermine the negotiating process or (ii) to use it ?

CR     Without any doubt.

POM     He wanted to undermine it but not to kill it? Is that right?

CR     To weaken the ANC. It was largely aimed at weakening the ANC.

POM     Did he also use it as a way of advancing the agenda of the IFP in some way to make them a counterweight to the ANC?

CR     Yes because the IFP suddenly was catapulted into a national type of organisation, or an organisation that had national prominence and it had to go that route, as you correctly say, to be a counterweight against the ANC.

POM     Now, the 'war' between the IFP and the ANC or the UDF going back to the early 1980s, this cost 10,000 to 15,000 lives, would you say that was in fact a war between two groups of black power centres each seeking power or would you say, no, this was a war that was from the sidelines the NP government was using one side or the other as puppets pulling the strings, or were you responsible for your own actions?

CR     The latter, it was more the latter.

POM     That the government was the orchestrator of that war too.

CR     Yes it was the orchestrator. It was actually the ANC against the NP and the NP was operating under a different guise which was utilising the IFP base.

POM     But in the villages where slaughter took place?

CR     It was fanned. It was fanned and it was tribalised and that's what it was.

POM     Must the war in KZN one day be examined or do you think a blanket - given where the TRC is now, do you envisage a blanket amnesty emerging and a closing of the books, or do you see an ongoing process where the 200 or so people who were listed and did not respond to invitations by the TRC to represent their case will if their prima facie evidence which is forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions or whomever, that if the evidence is there they will be prosecuted or do you see the whole thing slowly dying out?

CR     I think it won't die out.

POM     It won't die out. Do you then foresee cases of all people in that 12 volume report, of all the people who were damned most, Buthelezi is damned the most by that report, do you foresee a day when the state will prosecute him?

CR     I don't know what will happen.

POM     If you were a betting man and you're a politician and you're looking at the security of the state and the cohesion of the state, which is in the greater interest? To take a man that one day you held accountable for the violence, and you did throughout all those years, and you then appointed him Acting President when the President and Deputy President were out of the country, and then the next day you turn around and say we're going to try you for war crimes. Not inconceivable?

CR     I don't know. It's a difficult one.

POM     You know more than that.

CR     I think that's a difficult one, it's a very tricky one.

POM     If you were a betting man?

CR     It's a very tricky one.

POM     If you were a betting man who is part of a council who had to make a decision on it, and you're not so we're just saying that, but if you were what would you say?

CR     I don't know. It really would depend on a lot of things.

POM     Would the same apply ?

CR     To whom?

POM     You said it would depend upon a lot of things.

CR     The balance of forces at the time. How do you read them, how do you assess them, what role is everyone playing now and which way are we all going? It will depend on a lot of things.

POM     Would the same considerations apply to Winnie?

CR     I don't know.

POM     An easier, and getting to contemporary questions: why did you leave NAIL?

CR     Oh, ho, why did I leave that? I wasn't happy there.

POM     Because?

CR     I wasn't happy with just the strategic approach.

POM     The approach as an entity that had a corporate strategy as distinct from an entity that had a black empowerment strategy?

CR     Well black empowerment strategy, both, both in the end, corporate and black empowerment.

POM     It wasn't succeeding in doing much to - ?

CR     What's that got to do with this?

POM     To do with which?

CR     With what you're writing?

POM     Because I took the trouble of reading, which took me longer than half an hour, all our transcripts back to 1993 while I was tied up in a wheelchair and you said you had been re-deployed by the ANC into the business sector to advance the purpose of black empowerment by joining NAIL. I take that as which you were about to do this. Are you saying that NAIL as an instrument of advancing black empowerment failed and therefore because of its failure and disagreements with your colleagues over its failures you left? Is that a yes or a no?

CR     Yes.

POM     OK.

CR     YES! YES!

POM     Now we're getting close to the end. What about the imbroglio that emerged out of that over the exercise of share options and those who were going to enrich themselves? Do you think to the man in the street or in the township or whatever, that gave black empowerment a bad name?

CR     It did.

POM     You just said it did.

CR     Yes, it did.

POM     Now what steps have you taken or are you taking to bring black empowerment back to what it originally was envisaged as?

CR     I think black empowerment has to be redefined to make it more meaningful, more real and more all-encompassing. It should begin to move away from being seen as a process that's just aimed at enriching the few. It should have much more of an impact.

POM     But you never saw it as that. You always saw it as a way of, a means of redistributing wealth.

CR     The wealth and opportunities and everything else. I've always seen it as that. I've never seen it in parochial terms, by the way, but it just means that after that NAIL debacle we need to actually give it much more meaning and definition so that people can understand what they're about, or what it is about.

POM     Does black empowerment in terms of giving blacks the capacity to own shares in corporations that are listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange or whatever, in that sense is black empowerment not about expanding the black middle class rather than empowering the masses who have no jobs anyway and don't have anything to put it - ?

CR     I think the two are not mutually exclusive. You can actually expand the black middle class and this is something that many people have always tried to shy away from because it sounds too bourgeois to say you want to create and expand a middle class but in the end if we were looking for wealth creating that can spread that's what you need to do. But in my book black empowerment should not only be about that, it should also be about giving attention to how you begin to address and start the process of eradicating poverty that the people at the lower end are actually suffering from. Then this implies that it's not only through exchange of shares and through the creation of black business that you can fully and effectively and meaningfully address the whole question of black empowerment. It is an all-encompassing project. It involves government, it involves NGOs, business itself, both established and emerging business, the whole broad spectrum of SA society needs to be involved in empowerment and empowerment needs to be (and I've said this to you many times) needs to be seen as a process where you fully empower people. It's not only about shares.

POM     I've read accounts of, I don't know whether it exists, but I've read accounts of this Deployment Committee in the ANC that seeks to put key ANC people in different sectors of society. When you look at what the ANC has done in terms of bringing about a transformation of society, conceptually is there anything different in what you are attempting to achieve than what the Afrikaner attempted to achieve in 1948, leaving aside the oppression part, that you're not going to do it by oppressing other people?

CR     Not only that, it is different in that they were very sectional. They were very sectional and they were racially sectional. It may not be different, we don't want to do it by being sectional. We want to spread it right across the population, but obviously the emphasis has to be black people and women and disabled people like you today. And when you start off with women it's right across the board. When you talk about black people it's Africans, coloureds and Indians. They were very sectional, they only focused on Afrikaners and we are broad.

POM     Three last quick questions. One is, you move in multiple business circles. What are the reasons businessmen abroad give you, when the subject comes up, why direct foreign investment in SA continues at such a trickle? Last year it was even in Africa it's not among the top five in terms of attracting foreign investment. Two, despite the Job Summit of last year and all the hoopla that went on around that, unemployment continues to rise.

CR     Yes. Why is that so?

POM     Why? Why do businessmen not invest in SA? In plants, not capital flow. We're talking about direct foreign investment.

CR     There are a number of reasons. Maybe I should say I don't know.

POM     You've given me too many 'I don't knows' today. Come on.

CR     I think it has to do with this whole emerging economy, negativity and being in Africa doesn't help. There are problems, fundamental problems that our country has and it's things like the crime, the exchange controls and things like that, the exchange rate between the dollar and the SA rand, all those things put together do have a negative impact. We've been getting some foreign investment but it is not enough. We need more, much more, but your confidence rises when you see Mercedes Benz, Daimler Benz saying they are going to produce so many cars, they're going to pour one billion rand into this country and they are developing plants for the export market. That is pleasing. When Placerdome(?) from the United States, or is it Canada, takes an investment position in this country in the mines and puts money in the ground, so that is comforting and pleasing. But we need much more of that.

POM     And lastly, what is the greatest challenge of the next fifteen years, the greatest challenge facing the country?

CR     Jobs.

POM     I ask that in the context of why would you not have said AIDS which is wiping out the people who will take jobs?

CR     I was about to say AIDS. Jobs, jobs, AIDS, AIDS, AIDS, AIDS.

POM     Is the government doing enough on the AIDS front? Does it really know what it is doing or does it believe that if you have an AIDS awareness programme that somehow that resolves the problem in AIDS when the experiences of most other countries is that it doesn't? It's a very minor factor that.

CR     I think the government is beginning to do I want to see them get to a point where they are like Uganda where every minister whenever they rise to speak, speak about AIDS and there is much more information and programmes and projects that they embark upon. It's getting there. Another one that's coming is malaria. That's going to be a big challenge as well. It is already a big challenge, 30,000 people and it's going to be rising and rising. So we have serious problems but we've got a great country.

POM     So what company do you want to take over now?

CR     They are taking us over.

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.