This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
06 Nov 1999: Coetsee, Kobie
KC. You were saying that it was, you asked it's possible, he succeeded Jannie Geldenhuys and it's possible that, yes he was appointed in 1989, in other words it was in the beginning of his term of office that he was appointed. I don't think that indicates any lack of understanding or depth.
POM. I suppose what I'm getting at is one of the reasons for the deterioration, as I understand it, of the relationship between Mr Mandela and President de Klerk was that Mr Mandela would come to him time and again and point to different massacres or whatever and say there is third force operating and there are forces close to you who are up to no good, you must investigate these allegations, and that Mr de Klerk would say, "Show me the evidence." Then he appointed Goldstone.
KC. You have complete access to Goldstone. We had foreign observers working with the SA Police.
POM. I've gone through this in fact with members of the TRC and not gotten some very satisfactory answers in some cases. What I am trying to get at, had during the last years with the establishment of the National Security Management System and the Mini Management Systems at regional level right down to the police station level where there were tens of thousands of people involved all reporting back to the National Management Security System which in term was passing its information on to the Secretariat of the National Security Council, the Secretariat of the National Security Council was composed 56% of the staff from the NIS, 16% were from the SAP, 16% were from the SADF and 11% were from Foreign Affairs so it was really a securocratic secretariat who was passing on information to the National Security Council which was composed mostly of the security chiefs plus statutory ministers involved in holding security portfolios, law and order, defence, police, whatever, had in those years SA reached a situation of where (i) the ordinary process of collective cabinet decision making had been sidelined, (ii) that after the state of emergency was announced in 1986, that you had in effect a national security state that was being run by the military and that while you did have a cabinet or you did have ministers and you did have the paraphernalia of parliament, the decisions were being taken primarily by military structures in consultation with PW Botha through the National Security Council but that there were so many murky underground structures and counter-structures set up that in fact no-one really was in control any longer or knew what was going on, that a monster had been created at so many levels that it was out of everybody's control. The left arm didn't know what the right arm was doing.
KC. But the left arm perpetrating crime had to do it underground and that emerged from the TRC's evidence, from the Amnesty Committee evidence, that all of those policemen had to acknowledge in the end, except for the few that tried to pin blame onto a superior, that they realised they were up against the laws of the country and that if they were caught out they would be prosecuted and that is one thing that is being overlooked by people who write about SA and it's one thing that's being overlooked by the TRC, although it's on the evidence. I have all those files on my computer and all these policemen, Schoon, everyone, admitted that they knew they were doing wrong and if caught out they would be prosecuted. Now the question is, at what level were these crimes allowed and if they were allowed were they allowed with a very well worked out cover-up plan? It seems so.
POM. It seems so.
KC. Yes, that every deed, every offence was accompanied by a well covered-up plan and with people with zips on they knew they would be prosecuted and that made me so unpopular because they knew the law would be down on them and we did prosecute and we did have capital punishment waiting for them and there were policemen who killed people in their care, security people, they were prosecuted and they were then up in court and the death sentence was pronounced. Subsequently these death sentences were commuted to life sentences or 50 years.
. Now the point I'm making, firstly, is that despite this elaborate structure they were still subject to the law, although some of them tried to get away from it. And that was the burning point between Magnus and myself whether the structure or the presidential decrees would be superior to the law. I'll come back to this because it's a very, very important difference.
. Within these structures obviously some basis was to be created for people further down to carry out crime and they did so by using language with a double meaning but they knew that if the Security Council said whoever must be removed from society it's in the sense of a judge saying you are a danger to society, I must remove you, this man must be removed from the Craddock scene. Gerrit Viljoen and Sam de Beer, the deputy, interpreted that to mean they must find another job for you, but people eager to share in the war, so-called war, they found a kind of authority but they had to cover up all the time. They tried to find authority for the killing of Goniwe and nowhere ever were they allowed to get away with that.
POM. I'm just looking, in that regard now that you've brought it up, when the TRC say that going through the minutes of the National Security Council phrases like 'wipe out', 'take out', 'eliminate', 'must be removed'.
KC. 'Wipe out' and 'take out' and 'eliminate', those were not the crucial words. It's 'to remove' were the crucial words. The point is what the Security Council meant by that.
POM. How would you, if you had received an order to wipe out X, what would you take it to mean?
KC. I'm not aware of such an order.
POM. No, I know you're not but I'm saying that these
KC. But even down there they knew they weren't allowed to do that, that's why they went underground. They were scary and they were wary, that's why they did it underground and that's why they had the cover-up story for everything. That's why people vanished. They knew what they were doing to the country.
POM. OK. The commission says: -
. "It seems highly improbable to this commission that the members of the SSC did not foresee the possible consequences of this shift in counter-revolutionary strategy. (That's post 1986). Indeed their increasingly strident language and rhetoric on both public platforms and in phrases was laced to its phrases such as 'eliminate enemy leaders', 'neutralise intimidators by using formal and informal policing', 'use the physical destruction of people, facilities and funds', 'take out people', 'wipe out people', 'remove or cause to disappear', 'use methods other than detention', 'use unconventional methods'."
. What would language like that convey to people who were receiving orders from the National Security Council that involved the use of language like that?
KC. Looking back of course, speaking for myself, we should have had a few prosecutions for hate speech which is already impossible.
POM. For which?
POM. Which was impossible. Prosecutions for hate speech.
KC. Looking back that would have been the remedy. Now I personally took the precaution at Security Council level to change a minute and what I don't appreciate from the TRC is that they overlooked that completely, or it has vanished from their records, in which I made it clear that 'remove from society' means through legal means which at the time meant banning. Through legal means, I can't recall the exact words interesting, I've been wanting from Mr de Klerk a copy of all these records because they said that would put it straight. I haven't got it yet.
POM. Sorry, you asked Mr de Klerk for?
KC. To let me have a complete set of records. When we re-opened the Goniwe trial these very words or atmosphere were an issue and the Attorney General was given full and complete access to all the minutes of the Security Council.
POM. That's D'Oliviera?
KC. No, Attorney General Eastern Cape. It's Rogers or Roberts, I don't know whether he's still in the service. It's not the present holder of the position, Roberts, something with a similar sound.
POM. He was the Attorney General of the Eastern Cape?
KC. The deputy, and he conducted the re-opening of the Goniwe trial.
POM. This would be in 19- ?
KC. Approximately 1992/93. They were given a complete set of the Security Council minutes, not of the sub-structure but of the Security Council minutes, and it was for the judge to decide, and Bizos had complete access to it. He hasn't made new discoveries, he had complete access at the time and it was quite clear that there couldn't have been a double meaning attached to the decisions of the Security Council.
POM. That there couldn't?
KC. Couldn't because I'm telling you that we sat every fortnight and I went back specially and I said this minute is going to give us trouble, I propose that it reads as follows.
POM. So you proposed that?
KC. I proposed that the minutes read to state explicitly that if people are removed it will be through legal means, it will be through the law.
POM. And that's in the minutes of the Security Council and that has never surfaced?
KC. It's never surfaced, although that was included in the material that went to Judge Zietsman in the Eastern Cape. He was Judge President and Bizos had equal access to all these papers. Now I don't say that on another level Security Council minutes were not abused to create a double meaning, because in retrospect that apparently has happened although the people doing that knew that they were transgressing the law, they were breaking the law and they knew they were going to be prosecuted, that's why they all went underground. You must not miss this point.
POM. I'm using a quotation here from a Brigadier Alfred Oosthuizen, the former head of the Security Branch Intelligence Section. He said, "There was never any lack of clarity about 'take out' or 'eliminate'. It meant that the person had to be killed."
KC. No, they knew they were transgressing the law and that's where they went underground. Don't you understand that?
POM. He didn't go underground.
KC. They did. They didn't proclaim when he said in his statements we're killing so-and-so. They did not! They covered it up! You bring me one situation when any of these bastards ever came forward and make a statement that by carrying out the order of the State Security Council such-and-such a tape, I eliminate and I'm now entitled to a decoration. No, even the decoration, so-called decoration for blowing up Khotso House was handed in private, it wasn't a public affair either. So they knew.
POM. The decoration for blowing up Khotso House was handed in private?
KC. The decoration. Adriaan Vlok allegedly handed the decoration to the police for blowing up Khotso House. I mean it's cut and dried and he got amnesty for it but that was underground, they knew it. They knew they were committing crimes and you can't just quote that one officer because I'll bring out so many more files from the net.
POM. Can I get them on the net?
KC. Yes you can get them on the net, 500 or 600 of them.
POM. Where do I go to? Truth & Reconciliation?
KC. You operate the Internet?
KC. I'm seeing whether I have a web site. Can you imagine being retired and I'm running a whole information service in my study. I haven't got it here. All my web sites are in another book.
POM. Could I ring you?
KC. I'll speak this afternoon to someone who will probably be able to give me that. There was even a disk with all the evidence available. A young man was making a quick run from these files, complete files, complete evidence, and then the TRC stopped that. Why did they stop it? Why did they stop it? What are they trying to suppress? I'll tell you what they're trying to suppress is because it is on the preponderance of probability and beyond reasonable doubt. These are all tests. It's clear that these bastards knew that they were perpetrating crimes and that they were using the language handed down to them, they wanted to share.
. Now let me explain to you further. I also talked about total war. I also talked about the total onslaught and what it means. That was the kind of language we used and that's where Magnus and myself, when I was Deputy Minister and he was Chief of the Defence Force, clashed so much so that after a briefing of
POM. You were Deputy Minister of?
KC. Defence and he was Chief of the Defence Force. After a briefing of officers, 200 or 300 of them here in the Nico Malan Theatre, I took precautions in saying that a total onslaught and a total response do not justify us to break the law, the law is still supreme. He clamped shut like an oyster. We travelled in dead silence to Port Elizabeth where we did our briefing. He did not speak to me because we were saying different things and I spoke after him. Of course I was very senior then as Deputy Minister, he was Chief of the Defence Force, and I went out of my way to make this clear, to make that clear that the law is still supreme and my definition of the total onslaught and the total response was obviously not meeting with the criteria he had at the back of his mind. So that is it.
. What is of paramount importance for you, if you want to write about these things, is to understand that there was never really a declared war between the ANC or the liberation movement and SA. John Vorster who was Minister of Justice and Police, he developed a state policy in respect of the attacks on SA and he said they are not making war against us, they are our citizens. If they attack us they are breaking the law, I'm talking now of ANC and others, and they will be dealt with according to the law, they will be dealt with through the Terrorism Act which was then not unknown in the world, subversion, treason which was very easy to prove in a court of law. Most of the people on Robben Island had one or more charges of treason and you can only have those charges if a person you can't have treason against an opposing force. You can't have treason between Italy and France in the previous war, Britain and Germany, unless the one works for the other. So it was treason. And there was another reason too, Vorster said if we concede on this we will have to invoke the conventions applicable, the Geneva Convention and the Tokyo etc., etc., applicable to war detainees or rather war prisoners. So he would never concede on this.
. PW Botha never changed that policy. As a matter of fact it was a legal position, a legal situation because it was internationally accepted. Never ever did they try and persuade us to deal with the ANC otherwise.
POM. Other than through Prevention of Terrorism Acts, Detention Acts.
KC. Exactly. So from this you can now derive that if they are subject to the law so much more the security force inside the country. If they perpetrate anything against the lives, goods, of these people they were perpetrating crimes and we dealt with it accordingly. They weren't overlooked. There were no cover-ups in Justice. Why do you think I survived?
POM. Is there a record of police officers who were prosecuted?
KC. Yes. The one name that comes to my mind is De Villiers and two others for murder. That was in the mid-1980s. During one release exercise 77 policemen were released on equal footing with the ANC for committing political crimes but none was released for murder.
POM. Even when they might have been termed political murders?
KC. Or carrying out, yes.
POM. So do you find that the TRC's use of again can I just quote it to you again?
KC. You don't have to quote, I'm fully aware of it, not perhaps of the words but the atmosphere and what they're trying to do.
POM. Johan van der Merwe, it was from his amnesty application where he said, the former Police Chief who preceded George Fivaz: -
. "All powers were to avoid the ANC/SACP achieving their revolutionary aims and often with the approval of the previous government we had to move outside the boundaries of the law. That inevitably led to the fact that the capabilities of the SAP, especially the security forces, included illegal acts."
KC. Well there it is. He admits that.
POM. But he would be saying that we committed illegal acts because we were either explicitly or perhaps implicitly told to do so by our ministers.
KC. I don't understand him to say that. He says very clearly there that they were forced to move outside the law.
POM. That's right, they were relying on language that came down from
KC. Yes but I mean it's still outside the law whether it comes you know, I don't want to become aggravated because they were outside the law. I can only surmise why the police did that. Oh yes, they wanted to share the fun, but they all went underground.
POM. This is what I want to establish and what I need documentation for. Let me just say, you attended meetings of the National Security Council where language like this was used which could be interpreted in different ways by different people and was in fact interpreted in different ways by different people, and you took precautions to say it must be within the law and that the minutes is there a record of the minutes of that meeting?
KC. There must be.
POM. Who would have it?
KC. It must be with the Eastern Cape or with FW de Klerk. I asked him the other day has he got a copy, he said maybe yes he has. He has most of the minutes. The Goniwe trial should be in the Eastern Cape with Judge Zietsman.
POM. All the minutes of the National Security Council would have been - ?
KC. I sent it all to them.
POM. All to the Eastern Cape. Who would I approach there if I wanted to get hold of them now? Who would I approach in the Eastern Cape if I said I was doing research on this aspect?
KC. The Judge President, Zietsman.
POM. Is he still there.
KC. He's retired. He retired recently but you can say of him 'an officer and a gentleman'.
POM. Is he in the Eastern Cape?
KC. I think he lives in the Eastern Cape.
POM. How would I go about finding out where he is?
KC. Approach him through the Attorney General, Les Roberts.
POM. Did you feel at that time, and I'm talking about 1986 1989 when the state of emergency was in operation, where you had drawn up the rules within which the security forces were supposed to operate but very often didn't, like many other rules that were drawn up and people simply don't follow, like the DF Malan Accord which procedures were set out that the ANC should follow.
KC. Most of them operated within that. What I am saying to you is that they went underground in order to avoid these. They couldn't allow a person to be beaten up in police cells because a judge or a magistrate was bound to visit him.
POM. So that the level of beating and ?
KC. The point is that the precautions we took, the Department of Justice took, to make sure that within limits they have access to medical people, access to lawyers and access to judges and magistrates. The effort we took to do that, and I should have gone to the TRC but I had no confidence in what was coming through to fruition there, they made up their mind before the time because they had to, but this should have been emphasised with them that we took precautions. Virtually the one wing of the state took precautions to ensure that the other wing of the state operates within the rules. Now if Basson operated outside the rules he is not the apartheid's chief of anything, he's a criminal. I could perhaps swing it in a different direction. I've made the point about the fact that we were dealing here with an internal situation, not at war with the ANC. Now they want to say we were at war, we were allowed to do things that people do in war. Nonsense. They had to go underground to do that. Do you accept that?
POM. So you're having, and I'd really appreciate your getting the web sites for me because this is something that is critical to me in trying to not reach judgements, in order to give balance because that's all that one can do in the absence of, as you said yesterday, writing a book that covers a ten year period. A book about this period will be written thirty years from now when archives are opened and people get access to documents.
KC. But we're always talking now about the mid-80s, but it is against the background of the mid-80s that you're writing your book over a ten year period.
POM. That's right, that would be the jump off point to but I will refer to the past, I know all of that.
KC. I just want to turn to the fact that Mr Mandela time and again belaboured Mr de Klerk with allegations of a third force. Every so often something happened which was inexplicable in terms of state control, yes, he would approach Mr de Klerk and Mr de Klerk would say, "Pass it on to the Goldstone Commission, they have complete clean mandate and they have all the facilities, they have overseas people, overseas monitoring process, I can't do more", which was the truth.
. So he invited the ANC to submit information to Goldstone. Very little information came forward. They tried to pin Boipatong on Mr de Klerk. Boipatong gave the ANC a reason to withdraw from CODESA 2 which they wanted to do in any event but the point is that subsequently now it seems that there weren't security forces involved in Boipatong, if there were police involved they were individuals and that's overlooked. But Mr de Klerk in my presence invited them to submit information.
POM. Regarding Boipatong?
KC. No, no, I'm talking now of any third force activity.
POM. But in your presence?
KC. In my presence. Nothing forthcoming or very little. Goldstone had to delve for it and eventually what he turned up was not basic information from the ANC and yet I have amongst my papers a Citizen report in December 1989 saying that the ANC Intelligence operatives are aware of about five hit squads officially operating, I think it's officially operating. They had numerous opportunities to come forward with that. I pressed them in private conversation, saying to them, listen, these people are rogue elephants, you must help us. And the term 'rogue elephant' was a term used by Jacob Zuma and myself quite often. Here are your 'rogue elephants', we have our 'rogue elephants'. We never recognised them as anything but rogue elephants and they couldn't come up with anything tangible, very little. There were the train killings, some taxi violence, time and again ascribed to third force.
POM. They didn't come forward with evidence.
KC. Yes. If you now look at the number of incidents, the weight of events, stack of events, and how little was brought back to some security operation, if any. So either these rogue elephants were very, very clever or they weren't rogue elephants that escaped from the government structures.
POM. Or they were?
KC. Or they were not rogue elephants who had escaped from the government structures. So if they were there whose rogue elephants were they? I've survived because I don't accept the first, the best, explanation on any event. Life is not as simple as that. And to this day I believe that other forces were stoking a fire in SA amongst white and black, amongst the ANC and the government.
POM. That's what we call the third force.
KC. But I'm telling you now the so-called third force
POM. Didn't emanate from
KC. Weren't rogues escaping, but you can't have a third force unless they were authorised but there was never an authorised third force. Rogue elephants who had escaped from our structures but who have claimed or not claimed to have all of them tabbed, had all of them properly collared, but they were there. That's why I say there are so many inexplicable incidents and events that to this day, and we don't have to go into this, to this day I believe that there is still a further group of people who were stoking fires in SA, even from abroad.
POM. Well I would say two things. I would deeply appreciate the web sites you're using and I will make every attempt to see Judge Zietsman and I've just about set up a meeting with the previous Chief of Staff.
KC. Jannie Geldenhuys. Very fine man.
POM. I'll see him in a couple of days.
KC. A soldier and a philosopher.
POM. That's a unique combination. OK, what I may do is go back to where we stopped yesterday. As you said today we would talk about the mistakes. This is what I wanted to say, is who had the tougher job in your estimation to do when it came to negotiations? It seems to me, looking at De Klerk's side, he had to strike a balance with the IFP, with the right wing, with hard-liners within the NP itself, with the SADF, the securocrats in both the SADF and the SAP, and with the ANC. So he had all these balls that he was juggling simultaneously and trying to keep in the air, to keep things going. What had Mandela to keep in the air? What balls was he juggling with simultaneously?
KC. I think to compare their respective roles would perhaps be of academic value. If you want to assess the weight of each personality and its ability to deal with more or less balls and accordingly pass a judgement on who had the easier task I would say that that's going to be a very difficult exercise for me because I have this admiration for both men and with both of them there then in person it was possible to pull off what we did. I don't think it would have been possible to pull it off between De Klerk and Oliver Tambo and I know very little about Oliver Tambo. I'll tell you why, because Oliver Tambo had a number of advisers who were unconvinced that negotiation is the way to go. So Mandela had to convince all those sceptical individuals, he had to convince all the people who have been jail with him for so many years, he had to convince also the SA society that his intentions were honourable and they are not going to have a blood river once there is peace. So in a sense his was an exercise of persuasion, of convincing people.
. De Klerk on the other hand, I told you before, no-one else within our ranks or outside political ranks but within SA could have done that. It is the total make-up of De Klerk that made it all possible. Take it from me, no-one else could have done it. So whether you admire him for juggling the balls or whether I admire him for sticking to principles amid juggling the balls it boils down to the same thing because the final outcome wasn't just an opportunistic outcome, it was objective driven. We had very clear goals. I can mention to you two or three colleagues of mine who would have lost sight of the goals. He did not. So it's difficult to compare because they had different roles but FW had the most formidable task and I would add to your juggling the balls and I would say still keeping ultimate goals in sight. That took some doing. And the more distance I have between I criticise Mr de Klerk on issues and on this and that performance but an objective, historic assessment blurs out everything else and leaves him elevated above all mistakes, elevated above all oversights and small personality interactions and so on. So I think, we're talking about facts.
POM. Do you think in the current climate in SA, at least among Afrikaners or whites in general - there are a number of books which have been written including one by Van Zyl Slabbert and Heribert Adam, I think it's called Comrades in Arms, it says the best negotiators the ANC had for them were Roelf Meyer and Leon Wessels, that they had bought into the concept that majority rule was inevitable.
KC. Well that's something different.
POM. But he's saying that he sold out the Afrikaners. That's the bottom line. Historically, in a way from the moment he released Mandela and unbanned the ANC, wasn't there a certain inevitability to what the outcome was going to be, it was really managing the way of getting there rather than that the outcome itself ultimately.
KC. Keeping the whole train on rail?
POM. Yes. Once you are going to have one man one vote
KC. That's why I say, I can criticise with very good reason so many of Mr de Klerk's decisions and oversights and so on, but I am saying now with more and more distance assessing his role and what he performed, that that was quite a feat.
POM. This is again two quotes from
KC. You want me to react to these people saying that they sold out the Afrikaners?
POM. No. I'm just saying that's what they said.
KC. All right. You can say any damn thing these days. It just shows you how free the press is.
POM. Well that's what the free press is. This is De Klerk again talking and he says regarding the summit leading up to the signing of the Record of Understanding: -
. "By 24th September broad consensus was reached on everything save the release of political prisoners."
. Mandela then demands the release of MacBride and two others and says that if it's not done that he and his team will just take a walk and declare the summit a failure. He says: -
. "My own instinct was to turn Mandela down flat. However in the course of consultations with my colleagues it became clear that they were in favour of a far-reaching compromise. Some believed that the release of the prisoners was not too high a price to pay for resumption of negotiations. It was ironically pressure from my own side, and not from the ANC, that in the end persuaded me with the greatest reluctance to change my position on the Norgarb Principles. However, Kobie Coetsee, who had not been fully involved in negotiations on this matter was bitterly upset when he heard of the decision. He had wanted to use this bargaining chip to force the ANC to accept the principle of a blanket amnesty. He came to see me and offered to resign. I told him he was a valued member of our team and I told him it had been as difficult a decision for me to swallow as for him."
. My comments, and then you can talk away, is that after the signing of the Record of Understanding, according to Patti Waldmeir, Joe Slovo briefly told her that, "They have given in on everything." And in an interview Mr Mandela gave in 1995 on television he said, "The NP desperately needed that summit. They needed it far more than we did." (i) I would like you to comment on the release of MacBride and the two other prisoners at that point; (ii) whether yes you wanted to hold that back as a bargaining chip because the issue of amnesty had not been settled at that point; (iii) what was the far-reaching compromise that the NP or your colleagues were talking about which they thought was worthwhile to release the political prisoners for; and (iv) did the ANC get far more out of the Record of Understanding than the NP and was the government far more desperate for the resumption of negotiations at that point than the ANC?
KC. Quite a long list of questions. Let me start at the back. One of the immediate advantages for the ANC was a breaking up of the CODESA partnerships, also the partnership, although it was a very fragile one, between the IFP and the NP.
POM. So you think the ANC wanted to bring a stop to CODESA?
KC. Because up to that point Mr de Klerk's own rating was almost equal to that of Mr Mandela in the press, standing at almost 50% or 45%/46%, the NP was 42%/43%. If people were asked to vote, that's the way they were going to vote. There was the Inkatha Freedom Party which was a force to be reckoned with. There were also, not at CODESA but outside and some of us wanted them to be included, I'm talking of the right wing. They tried to have a presence there, it failed, but Inkatha was disillusioned because we allowed on that agenda the whole question of traditional weapons. Mr de Klerk is wrong if he says that was the only issue, the release of prisoners. No, the question of the fencing of the hostels and the carrying of traditional weapons was the other issue. Now by allowing those issues to be the last to be solved, which was not the truth (this is another thing which I will deal with one day when I write) Inkatha was furious that the whole question of traditional weapons became such an issue. Mr de Klerk virtually estranged Buthelezi from the alliance. The other partners of the alliance who were all self-governing states such as Bophuthatswana, the Ciskei, some of the Indian parties, not the Indian Congress, and although they were a motley crowd they were there. They were really a motley crowd but they were there and they were a voice. The ANC had similar organisations underpinning them but with Buthelezi having no more confidence in the alliance he became estranged from them because the effect of the Record of Understanding was that there are now only two parties, ANC and NP.
POM. Is that the way the ANC wanted it?
KC. Yes that's the way they wanted it because yes that's the way they wanted it. All the partners that we had.
Tape No. 2
POM. Let me summarise to come back to where you're at when CODESA 2 in May of 1992 was coming to its final plenary session. Mr de Klerk was in a very strong position, his approval rating among Africans and blacks was very high, he had the support or seeming support of Inkatha. There was a possibility that if an election were held shortly after that that the NP in a coalition with other parties could possibly out-vote the ANC or come close to out-voting the ANC and that the ANC therefore found it in their interest to say let's abort this and find ways of reducing the support for Mr de Klerk, of in a way demonising him in the eyes of the African community.
KC. Yes, and Boipatong very conveniently then came up and was immediately seized upon as a reason for breaking up relations completely and the ANC wouldn't talk to the NP. Mr Mandela phoned me and said to me, "Well, I'm precluded now to talk to you, I'm precluded from talking to you. Cyril and Roelf will be the channels in the future." It all indicated to me at the time that Cyril said, "You can't handle these people, I'll show you what to do with them, I'll take to the streets", and that's what he did.
POM. Well is Joe Slovo essentially correct in saying rather gleefully to Patti Waldmeir, "They caved in on everything", in the sense that they went to the Record of Understanding
KC. This is some months later. We're talking of the period May to September. In that period Roelf and Ramaphosa talked and Roelf and Ramaphosa talked and Roelf and Ramaphosa talked, and we were faced all of a sudden with fourteen points and Roelf very, very ably solved eleven of the fourteen points. That, my friend, is something to study and to write about. That, because those eleven points that they solved, leaving only three points, with two ministers who were then perceived by Ramaphosa as really the difficult ones, Hernus Kriel and myself, and leaving the door wide open to indirectly thrash Inkatha with the carrying of the weapons and with the fencing of the hostels. So the release of the prisoners became a major issue as one of the so-called 'unsettled' issues. I stuck to my guns because there was a cabinet decision which said that these very serious perpetrators of crime will only be released and can only be released if there is a general amnesty. Those were not the exact or particular words, I think I have a copy of a newspaper report dealing with that. But it was very cleverly orchestrated to focus on ...
. I think that Cyril perceived me then as a person standing rather well respected in the ranks if the ANC, close to Mr Mandela and they have to deal with me. I was working then for a general amnesty involving also the bordering states and the people incarcerated there, some of them even facing capital punishment.
POM. This would be some of when you say even involving the bordering states, that's members of the ANC?
KC. Defence force.
POM. Defence force, yes, OK.
KC. Held in Zimbabwe and Botswana. We were working towards a solution. Jacob Zuma travelled to some of these states, he got early releases. Gert Roodman of National Intelligence had a blanket Power of Attorney and all was moving towards a point where we could have a solution, a general solution on release and on amnesty involving all, settling all this with one single stroke of the pen.
POM. One package.
KC. Full package. Mr de Klerk was informed of this. Most of the cabinet members were not informed on account of the highly secretive dealings with the neighbouring states, on account also of the fact that it involved some of the ANC operatives, Jacob Zuma, but with the full knowledge, I believe, of Mr Mandela.
POM. But was it Jacob operating in an individual capacity or at the instructions of the NEC?
KC. I accepted that he was acting under authority which I think he did.
POM. So these meetings with the neighbouring states were taking place within what time span?
KC. Two or three months.
POM. From when? Would it have been during the period of CODESA 2 taking place, before May?
KC. It was after December 1991.
POM. OK, after December 1991.
KC. I have some correspondence. I have the mandates for Gert Roodman for instance.
POM. Could I have access to that, copies of it?
KC. Yes, but I wanted you to write, to give me a publisher to publish this.
POM. That's right, I will.
KC. So we'll have to talk about it because I'm giving you now valuable material which I will have to share with you.
POM. I know, you're giving me extremely valuable material but material that hasn't surfaced in the context in which you have put it but it's what I would call, and you would call as a lawyer, uncorroborated. I need documentation, I need to get the proper sequence of events so that no-one can say you know what I mean? So no-one can say oh he's got the wrong name, he's got the wrong date, therefore discredit the whole thing.
KC. So I'm giving you the span, I'm not giving you dates, but I'm giving you the outline and we can pursue this. Obviously last time we discussed pursuing this and nothing materialised. You said you would try and find a publisher that would be prepared to publish separately on this issue.
POM. I will have to do it with my publisher which I quite sure they will do.
KC. But you did not come back on this.
POM. Well I can say that.
KC. You can accept that that was what happened and so forth. Now can I just continue the narrative. So building up to some kind of positive complete package, entered Mr Ramaphosa and allegations that the team, including Jacob Zuma and Matthews Phosa and Joe Nthanthla, had under-negotiated and that they would get the release of these high profile ANC operatives such as MacBride and two or three others. Now we were moving towards a summit meeting already scheduled without these other issues resolved and I could feel the pincers closing in on me, specially designed to close in on me, because where on earth do you determine a summit and you haven't resolved all the issues. So having determined the summit we had to find the solution and you must now read Patti Waldmeir, she says Mr Mandela was with Mr Mac Maharaj.
POM. That's right, and he rang
KC. He rang, he said they must be released and Mac Maharaj said, "You're taking it too far", and he said, "I'll show you how to deal with it." Remember? That was completely new to me. It contradicts to a certain extent Mr de Klerk himself, contradicts in the sense that he said he was advised by his own people and security force people and so forth to do this, that and the following, whereas according to Patti Waldmeir he was just slapped down by Mr Mandela.
POM. But he's saying that contrary to what Patti Waldmeir may have said in her book, "I was persuaded not by Mr Mandela's threat to walk out but by my own people", that's the context he's using.
KC. Yes, and both could be true, but I was not included in that consultation because I held that we were going to pay a horrible price, both the ANC and ourselves, and they're paying it now.
POM. Why would you not have been involved in that discussion since amnesty - ?
KC. The point is that I only learnt afterwards about this overwhelming, so Mr de Klerk told me afterwards, overwhelming feeling on the part of my colleagues that I'm hindering the process now and releasing these prisoners is not so important. They didn't understand the magnitude of what they did.
POM. Why were your colleagues thinking that in August or September of 1992 that you would have been hindering the process?
KC. In the sense that no release of prisoners, no summit. In that sense. I said so be it because it's so important, we are going to pay a horrible price. Whatever positive we achieve will be neutralised by now onwards. They didn't understand it, and Roelf didn't understand it.
POM. Were you also making the argument - ?
KC. Niel Barnard didn't understand it.
POM. Were you also making the case that damn it, if we want a comprehensive amnesty settlement that covers our people as well as their people we don't give up one of our key
KC. Of course I argued all this.
POM. And your colleagues said?
POM. Generals said?
KC. I wasn't aware of Generals but on that particular day the police were giving in to every damn thing in any event.
POM. The police were?
KC. Yes, anything.
KC. On that particular day Hernus Kriel said, "I still have 3000 files on the ANC", and Mr Mandela wanted to walk out. So Kriel quickly talked to the Chief of the Police and he came back and he said, "Oh no, we'll forget about the files." I said we can't forget about the files, it's not for the police just to forget about the files. This is a matter for the Attorney General. Can you imagine, here I was on this very good footing, good standing with the ANC and here I come out as the most stubborn. But I believed it was for the common good and now I'm right. I've proved that I was right. It was such a lack of foresight. Unbelievable. I notice that you have that clipping.
POM. I'll come to it in a minutes.
KC. Amnesty Accord, is that the one - ? In the context you can't understand all that I'm saying unless you read that.
POM. I have it in my hand. What it lacks is, what I was going to ask for, this was the report in The Tribune on the Amnesty Accord written by John McLennon in The Sunday Tribune, it came out in September 1992? There's no date that I can see.
KC. The second one is the more important one. I gave you also the clipping from Patti Waldmeir, at the back there isn't it?
POM. Which one, but I have her book though. Yes I have it.
KC. You may forget many things about me but one thing you will never forget, that deep inside I'm an academic.
POM. Well there's a whole career in front of you then.
KC. You should have realised that long ago.
POM. I have, I'm using it. So, just to backtrack, in your view at that point when De Klerk agreed, and your colleagues or the cabinet or whomever was involved, to the release of MacBride et al, they had (i) undercut one of the key principles of the Norgarb definition of what constitutes a political prisoner, (ii) they undercut your capacity, took away one of your cards in your play for a broad based amnesty that would take care of everything in one package, (iii) in their agreeing to the fencing of hostels
KC. Which was never done really.
POM. Yes, because I used to go around to the one on Khumalo Road and have a look every now and then and said no fencing here yet.
KC. And the regulations to be passed for carrying arms.
POM. That they alienated Buthelezi completely so that the ANC had in fact won the day, so to speak. They had said we wanted this process all along to be between us and the government and now we have it.
KC. And how they did! We were on the back foot from then onwards all along. My colleagues did that.
KC. Lack of insight. I'll give you why too, because everything was going so smoothly at first. It was all right if Coetsee was there in front taking all the patting on the back by Mr Mandela but he's also taking all the slaps, he's also taking all the knives, so that was all right. But now things are developing, the possibility of Mr de Klerk being nominated for the Nobel Prize and the whole world is opening up, hell, we must be there to share in the spoils and we must do so very, very swiftly and we must not allow Coetsee to be too meticulous.
POM. Did they not have the insight or the foresight?
KC. Foresight and insight.
POM. This includes Mr de Klerk, that by narrowing the process to the NP and the ANC he had totally alienated beyond reasonable doubt, so to speak, Chief Buthelezi and that the ANC were now more or less firmly in the driver's seat, that they had set the agenda for the forthcoming multiparty talks and that the end was in sight. In fact he had thrown in the towel.
KC. And our well prepared constitutional proposals were in jeopardy. I suddenly realised how little they understood about it. Now there's one facet to Mr de Klerk that I must now say, and I've indicated to him that one day I will say that, by then things were going so smoothly for him but he started to feel himself strong enough alone to overcome any problem with the ANC.
POM. This is even after Boipatong?
KC. This now after Boipatong but especially before but also with the Record of Understanding.
POM. He felt he still could control things?
KC. Yes that's what he felt and he started to use ministers eager to get somewhere and that's why people say we used a very bad team. We used a team that couldn't negotiate, the people weren't capable, because I withdrew then. What he does not write is that I said, all right, I will stay on.
POM. As minister?
KC. Yes, I will stay on but I'll see to proper governance now in this country. A short while later he appointed me also as Minister of Defence and I said I will see to proper governance but I had also an understanding with him that we will monitor the process and with that understanding I said to him he must now make an announcement to that effect. He leaked
POM. That you would monitor the process of?
KC. That there would be two sections in cabinet, one concentrating on good governance and the other would be negotiating. What is more he said the arrangement was that I would do it with him. I said I'll do it with you and that's why I didn't attend these small little meetings of Roelf Meyer where they didn't know whether they're coming or going, but material produced and traversing areas where Justice had attended to long ago, fix proposals accepted, tested, the lot, that was a difficult time.
POM. A difficult time?
KC. A difficult time. I saw my personal role then as being to keep ourselves on the rails in respect of our ultimate goals, a constitutional state, federalism. I went for the broader concepts and succeeded to a large extent. I claim it.
POM. Except on federalism.
KC. Well it's weak but it's there. Provinces were almost not there. There was a deal not to have provinces but maybe provinces much later.
POM. So what was, again this is one of the fundamental questions that I'm concentrating on, is subterranean forces at work, the constraints on the government in negotiations and one of them now is: what was President de Klerk's negotiating strategy? The 2nd February 1990 he released Mr Mandela to worldwide acclaim, television sets from all over the world, be becomes an instantaneous celebrity, a world figure, he travels abroad, he meets the Queen, he meets Mr Gorbachev, Mr Mitterand, he does the whole route, he's now had SA accepted back into the international fold. Meanwhile, had anyone ever said, well after we release him we're going to have to negotiate with him, what's our negotiating strategy, what are we negotiating for, what will we push for and what will we settle for, do we have a bottom line beyond which we do not go?
KC. All that was in place. The Blue Book, well prepared in advance.
POM. The Blue Book?
POM. Where's that?
KC. The first time you hear about it?
KC. Setting out our ideal constitution with bottom lines and enough meat built in before you arrive at the bottom line. Perfectly strategised.
POM. Where would I find a copy of that?
KC. With me.
POM. With you? OK, well
KC. It's mine.
POM. Well of course. If you loan it to me I will copy it.
KC. No, you must bring me a publisher.
POM. What do you mean 'bring you a publisher'?
KC. I told you right from the word go that I need to go on record and publish.
POM. And that you will, you will occupy a substantial portion of the book that I'm writing. It will be directly you
KC. If we could come to a good a proper understanding, yes. It's one thing for you to give me a standing, it's another thing for me to say things the first time.
POM. Well that will be where the context of the book will be, part of the book would be to attack and to refute many of the accepted wisdoms about what has gone on.
KC. I need your skills, I need your insight, I need you to challenge me when we do this and we had a discussion of a possibility of a joint publication, because I need your skill, I need your experience. You need me and I need you.
POM. Well you can take it and we can shake hands now that we have a gentleman's agreement on that.
KC. A broad agreement?
POM. A broad agreement which means
KC. Like the Security Council?
POM. Let me put it this way, (tape switched off).
KC. When it comes to amnesty and the Generals and their eagerness to co-operate, somewhere in Mr de Klerk's book or somewhere else I've read that there was a suggestion that the Generals were persuaded that if they co-operate now to get the summit going, they would get amnesty or there would be hope for amnesty. I was a part of that, I wasn't aware of that and I told Mr de Klerk. So I don't know whether he adjusts this in his book or what, I'll have to just re-read it again.
POM. I didn't come across that actually.
KC. What I do know, when it comes to the legislation, the subsequent legislation which we had to pass, and I compromised, I said, "All right, these releases which you have brought about now can only make sense and can only be linked to what we have done in the past if there is another law creating more room for state presidential intervention because that was an illegal process, releasing people, stopping prosecutions. I will only do so with the sanction of parliament." So in effect there was retrospective confirmation of the release of these people and although he had the power to do so it also had an effect on the people on trial, primarily ANC people on trial.
POM. Is this the ANC people on trial in 1992?
KC. Yes, because I wouldn't budge on that, that was still my province. I would only budge on it if there is a law. I must have the record somewhere where Matthews Phosa, he's a good lawyer, where he dealt with the history of all this and the need for a constitution to start and so forth. This was made possible through an Act of Parliament. Now the funny thing is that I was opposed in parliament by the DP and by the Volksfront or whomsoever, and the Indians (we were then in the tricameral parliament) passing this bill.
POM. Matthews Phosa on the need to?
KC. We had the law authorising the withdrawal of cases comparable to the MacBride case.
POM. When was that law passed? He wrote you a memo, he submitted a memorandum regarding that, but did the government agree to that?
KC. No, no, I had to pass a law in parliament and that I insisted upon. That was The Further Indemnity Act.
POM. The Further Indemnity Act 1992.
KC. Yes. I was fighting to establish the role of the law, the role of the courts and said that the only way you could deviate from this was if there's a general amnesty for all. Now just one more point I want to make, when we discussed this second Indemnity Act we set up the Steyn Commission to advise on indemnity and release. Mr de Klerk said in cabinet, "Are there any colleagues, are there any members of your departments who have perpetrated crimes that will require indemnity?" He said, "I am not aware of any, I'm not going to apply for indemnity but you colleagues have a last opportunity now and members of your departments." All the policemen must come forward now to ask indemnity, could have asked for indemnity as well.
POM. At that point.
KC. At that point, but, I want to tell you this much, that according to the strict criteria we adopted at the time, very few would have received indemnity. Many more have received indemnity from Tutu's Amnesty Committee than would have received indemnity from us.
POM. That's in the Indemnity Act of 1992.
KC. Yes, because the criteria there were very strict instructions or genuinely believe that you were carrying out instructions, and none of these police officers could have said that they genuinely believe they carried out instructions.
POM. Under that Act, under that Indemnity Act would they not have still qualified for amnesty?
KC. If they could prove that they carried out instructions and believed that they were serving a political purpose, yes, but what I know from the files is that very few of them could have said, if any: I swear that I believed my State President gave instructions, firstly; or secondly, that I was carrying out a political programme for the good of this country. They were perpetrating crime and Judge Steyn wouldn't have allowed them.
POM. Just to follow up on that point, I want to just read another quote which says: -
. "Another very key issue (this is where we come to the heart of the matter) that was unresolved until shortly before the adoption of the interim constitution was the question of amnesty and how we should deal with the conflict of the past. Throughout the negotiations it had become accepted as one of our basic points of departure that there should be a comprehensive process of amnesty for all those on all sides who had been involved in the conflict of the past. Thousands of ANC members, including many who had committed heinous crimes, had already been granted indemnity under the 1990 Indemnity Act and the Further Indemnity Act of 1992. Minister Kobie Coetsee continue to be involved in negotiations on the delicate question of amnesty. At the same time Roelf Meyer, one of our Chief Negotiators, had overall responsibility for all aspects of the negotiations. Unfortunately, co-operation between the two was bedevilled by a serious difference of opinion at the time of the Record of Understanding on the issue of amnesty."
. Let's just stop right there. It says: -
. "It had been accepted as one of our basic points of their departure that there should be a comprehensive process of amnesty for those on all sides."
KC. Read Bulbring again.
POM. Bulbring on what date? Does this give the date there some place?
KC. The Sunday before the Record of Understanding. Or could be ten days before the Record of Understanding.
POM. Yes it would have been the Sunday before.
KC. Or the Sunday before then, I'm not sure.
POM. That's sufficient. What were the serious differences between you and Roelf?
KC. Well he deals with this earlier on when I wanted to use that as a bargaining chip for a comprehensive amnesty.
POM. So Roelf was in favour of the release of MacBride?
KC. Obviously he was instrumental in bringing that about not realising the value of that.
POM. Regarding, and this may have been covered, the Indemnity Act of 1990 and the Further Indemnity Act of 1992 and my question was: how could these Acts have been passed by parliament at the time without you also including your own people in both Acts?
KC. But they were.
POM. But if they were, then didn't they already qualify for indemnity just in the same way as being released?
KC. For the easier ones, automatic, but for the more serious ones they had to apply.
POM. In the same way as the ANC had to apply. So had they applied?
KC. Of course it was available to them.
POM. So you had to apply, I remember talking to a Mr Bester in Home Affairs at the time and to Penuell Maduna who was in charge of getting the amnesty forms filled out from those in exile and they had trouble getting them filled out because they said we're not going to it says you have to list all the charges that you're seeking amnesty for, indemnity for, and you only will be indemnified against those acts and if you leave out things that you're involved in then you don't qualify for indemnity on the things you leave out, and some of the exiles thought this was a trap so they had trouble. The police could have taken advantage of those laws at that time to apply for amnesty and they would have been considered in the same way as the applications for amnesty.
KC. Absolutely. I've said this in similar terms before several times.
POM. If that was true then why was amnesty still an issue up to then?
KC. The question now, amnesty on application or blanket amnesty.
POM. OK. At this point you wanted a blanket amnesty?
KC. Well still qualified in the sense that the needle, the eye of the needle wouldn't allow for the real criminal to abuse the opportunity. You follow? I said people call it a blanket amnesty but my proposal and the way I work it out, I have so much paper on it, was to make it still impossible for the true criminal to pass through the eye of that needle.
POM. Was there a lack after, we're now moving from the signing of the Record of Understanding, you and Roelf have had a serious difference of opinion.
KC. No misunderstanding, absolutely difference of opinion.
POM. On how this matter should be pursued. There was no co-operation between the two of you.
KC. On other issues yes.
POM. But not on the issue of amnesty? But you're still pursuing the issue of amnesty?
POM. Not after the Record of Understanding?
KC. After the Record of Understanding and my passing of the legislation I only administered the product of the 1992 legislation.
POM. So you stepped out of the amnesty issue?
KC. I stepped out of the negotiation process. They tried to bring me onto the terrain now and again but I stepped out of the negotiations, I did not negotiate with Cyril, I did not negotiate with any of the other people whatsoever.
POM. So your compromise with FW when he says you offered to resign was that you would stay on but on the following conditions, (i) that you would now deal with governance issues, not constitutional issues, that you were stepping out of the constitutional.
KC. I won't be up front in the coalface, as he put it, of negotiations. We would oversee and monitor. This I said that I will do.
POM. He goes on to say: -
. "The ANC played a delaying game. As a result there was very little progress. As the date for the adoption for the interim constitution grew closer senior members of the government, especially those involved with the Security Department, became anxious to learn what progress had been made. Minister Coetsee, who was renowned for playing his cards close - "
KC. Nonsense, not true.
POM. Not true?
KC. Not true. I told him already. Not true.
POM. What would lead him to make a statement like that. I mean, is this because he uses obviously he didn't write the book himself.
KC. That's not true. His one and only motivation is that he has come to realise the magnitude of this oversight and the crippling effect and he has to find a scapegoat. But I will tell you now what really transpired and what has transpired could be brought home under those sentiments expressed there, but in the context there not true, but I will explain to you now what happened. Are you ready?
. I got so uneasy when I also realised that the item of amnesty was sometimes on Roelf's agenda and sometimes not. It would disappear completely and then I would bring it back and I said, "You have my proposals how to deal with this", and nothing came of it. Then there was a final row between Roelf and myself. I said, "Listen, I'm not going to waste time with you any more because you have a deal with the ANC to deal with amnesty after the interim constitution has been accepted." And I challenged him in cabinet on this, I challenged him at the Security Council on this and I realised the mistake I made was I didn't circulate the memorandum. To his defence I must say that he didn't appreciate it, he didn't have the insight, and De Klerk thought he would be able to manage it from behind.
POM. In the interim government?
KC. Yes, wherever. But there was a deal. Patti Waldmeir's evidence and I will show you now even the Bulbring, I'll read it out to you very carefully, give it to you. But what I did in a sense is covered, the things that I did are covered by Mr de Klerk's words there, I remained involved. I'll tell you what happened. Throughout 1993 we negotiated the Chapter 7 on the judicial dispensation, on the integration of the defence force, I introduced the top structure of the ANC to the defence force, I did everything Mr de Klerk expected and much more, but I realised this thing of amnesty wasn't receiving attention so that's when I started to tax Roelf Meyer. He never invited me to come and sit down now with him and Cyril: you give me the proposal and I'll discuss it with him. But with the Justice and with the military and with the National Intelligence I sat down with the people, relevant people and discussed it with them.
POM. On both sides?
KC. On both sides, but I was never invited, nothing was ever arranged for the amnesty thing. I knew why, because they already had the deal, how to deal with it. Now we're building up to some date in November 1993 and Niel Barnard came to me.
POM. This is after the settlement has been signed?
KC. No, no.
POM. Just before it?
KC. No, just give me time, October/November 1993, Niel Barnard came to me, he said to me, "You must please now be at the Trade Centre tonight. There are a number of things and I think everyone wants to see you there." I said, "Niel, you know what happened last time when you invited me to the airport, the next day I was in the firing line of the ANC and my own people."
POM. Why did he invite you to the airport? The first time?
KC. We'll come back to this, that's a deal. I said to Niel, "You know what happened, I'm not going to." And he said, "No you must really come. Amnesty is on the agenda." So I asked General Liebenberg to go with me. We got there and they were sitting in different little rooms.
POM. Who were sitting?
KC. Omar and Mac Maharaj, Cyril Ramaphosa, it all looked very disorganised but relaxed, a very relaxed atmosphere. And I thought this is not structured. One of the ANC top people came to me and he said to me, "Just remember this thing is finalised." What are the proposals? "No we want you to submit proposals." I said, "But I've been feeding proposals through Mr Meyer, what are your counter-proposals?" "No, no, they want to listen to my proposals." I said, "But you have my proposal."
POM. A senior member of the ANC comes to you before the meeting and says this thing has been already settled and then who asks you for your proposals?
KC. Now we sit there rather relaxed and informal round the table, Cyril coming and going and Omar coming and going and, "What are your views on amnesty?" Rather bored. Bearing this in mind, because it's the second time that this gentleman told me the thing is finalised, and he thought it was a grand finalisation for the ANC military people. Be that as it may, I said, "You have my proposals and Mr Meyer was to negotiate that." They didn't even call upon Mr Meyer. Niel Barnard was one minute there and he could see what was going on, the next moment I was looking for Niel and he was gone. I looked around, no-one supporting from the government, no-one from that department who was supposed to process all the paper and say these are the proposals and counter-proposals.
POM. So you were sitting there with General Liebenberg still and yourself.
POM. And opposite you was Cyril.
KC. Unstructured. Omar sat there, Cyril coming and going, Mac there coming and going. It was quite clear to me that this was a mere window-dressing to say I was there and the longer we stayed the more compromised we got, we may get. And the moment we allow them to state what the proposals are and what the counter-proposals are we were involved. So I said to Liebenberg, "This is clear to me, absolutely clear, that there is a deal on amnesty and that deal was the one already published by Bulbring in 1992." I'll read it to you.
POM. Oh that's in that article. This is the article in the Sunday Tribune, I'm just saying that to remind myself.
KC. Sunday Times, especially Sunday Times. This is very informative but it's not the one, it's Edith Bulbring. So I said to Liebenberg, let's go. We left. We went to some bosperaad the next day for other issues, the NP, with some ministers staying behind and some going to argue and debate elsewhere. We were brought back and Mr de Klerk said that late that night, or the night following, he was forced to agree to a deal on the amnesty and he will now read it out to us. By then he knew I didn't want to have anything to do with it.
POM. When he says he was 'forced' to agree, what does he mean by 'force'? By whom?
KC. By the process as being the last issue.
POM. So he's saying because this is the last issue and because the date for the interim constitution to be signed is approaching, I am now forced to deal with this.
KC. He didn't say, I am going to refuse to sign the interim constitution because I consider this of so much importance that I won't concede on this. He didn't say that but that's what he should have said, which I proposed on several occasions. Now he read it out to us and I immediately turned to him, I said, "I'll give it to you in writing, this is a mandate for the Truth Commission about which I have informed you, Mr President, about the planning round that."
POM. How did you know about the planning around it?
KC. It was open material. It appeared in some magazine, some legal publication and I had made an appointment with Mr de Klerk and I told him about it.
POM. You made an appointment with Mr de Klerk?
KC. Yes, now this is sometime earlier, and I said to him, "There are people planning a Nuremberg but they would settle for a Truth Commission and it's going to be uncontrollable." Again, my views on amnesty were excluding criminals.
POM. What did he say in response to you?
KC. You will see here that he agreed with me all the time. He says so too in his book, that I supported him in his views on criminals, but it was the other way round. It doesn't matter. I said I'd give them to him in writing and I turned to Roelf Meyer and said, "I'll give it to you in writing that you have agreed to a Truth Commission." He denied it, De Klerk denied it.
POM. So did you send them a letter?
KC. You know it was a way of speaking, I'll give it to you in writing. I'll be a prophet, I'll give it to you in writing. I should have.
POM. They said.
KC. No, they deny it, they said no, it's not true, I will manage it from the back, that kind of thing. Then we had a meeting, we had the signing of this document at the Trade Centre, a very quick meeting at which Chief Justice Mahomed presided and which I almost did not attend on account of this issue.
POM. Well he says, let me finish his accounting because it parallels in some way
KC. It's not a Truth Commission.
POM. He says: -
. "However, the issue of amnesty was not resolved. In the end the best our negotiating team could do was to reach agreement on the inclusion of a paragraph (that's to the interim constitution) that stipulated 'Amnesty shall be granted in respect of acts and omissions and offences associated with political objectives and committed in the course of the conflict of the past.' Amnesty was to be dealt with in a spirit of reconciliation, that there is a need for understanding, not for vengeance, a need for ubuntu but not for victimisation. The wording provided no indication of how the process would be managed. The ANC delayed discussions until after the elections when they had a majority and they imposed their way which was the TRC."
. And his end quote was: - "The manner in which we dealt with amnesty was probably our greatest failure during the negotiating process."
KC. That's why I continued to be involved, which was not the truth after the 1992 legislation up to that night. So after the adoption of the interim constitution with that wording I really got worried. I went to see Mr de Klerk. He was going to see Mr Mandela. He was going to have a hand-over session with him, handing over the reins which is the usual. I took the proposals to him.
POM. Your proposals on amnesty?
KC. Yes, which could have been covered by that but I said to them it's wide enough to provide for a Truth Commission. Mr de Klerk said, "I'll discuss it with Mr Mandela." Mr de Klerk afterwards returned to me these proposals with a note, there wasn't time to discuss these. The next few days there were quite a number of talks between Mr Mandela and myself. He invited me to his Houghton home and I said to him, "Mr President, Mr de Klerk and you couldn't find time."
POM. Now this is after the interim constitution?
KC. This is now a day or two, after the 27th April 1994. I said to him, "Mr President, you and Mr de Klerk couldn't find time to discuss amnesty which is of paramount importance, as much for you as for us, and the future handling of this will depend on you now. Here is a proposal that will not cover for criminals but will deal with true political offences." He took it from me and he said he would get his advisers to advise him. Now why did I visit him there? He invited me to offer me the position of Minister of Defence. That's when I used the opportunity to hand this to him. I said to him in response to that, "Thank you for the confidence, etc., etc., but the final inclusion in your cabinet, according to the interim constitution, rests with Mr de Klerk'. A couple of days later he phoned me, I must see him at the airport in Pretoria, his sincerest apologies, he couldn't get me past Mr de Klerk.
POM. Show me your back. I want to see how many knives are still in there.
KC. Well this is now off the record for the time being. I told Mr de Klerk about the offer at the earliest possible opportunity. He was furious. Another colleague was also offered
POM. He was furious that?
KC. That Mr Mandela by-passed him. And as it was the final outcome, that was Mr de Klerk's explanation, the final outcome of a much smaller percentage of the votes entitled him only to six cabinet ministers. I said, "You don't have to explain to me, it's cut and dried." Less than 24 hours later they phoned me, Mr de Klerk phoned me to say to me they're going to offer me the Presidency of the Senate, but by then Mr Mandela had already phoned. I didn't say that to Mr de Klerk. Mr Mandela, if I remember correctly, phoned me also from the airport, he was leaving for some overseas mission and just in a word or two, "Thabo is dealing with it and so forth, but will you be the President of the Senate? Thabo will be dealing with it. Goodbye." And I want to tell you that was the best thing that could have happened because that enabled me to put a further nail down the structure of federalism, a very poor nail but it's there, the Senate and subsequently the National Council of Provinces.
POM. Out of the Senate came the ?
POM. Did the idea for an NCOP to replace the Senate in the final constitution emanate from - ?
KC. The ANC and the NP together.
POM. And you were involved on that issue?
KC. The rough drawings were done in my office by ANC and NP members. Now looking back what we would have done with the amnesty process is what has now been done with the amnesty committees except that we did not place a lid on disclosures but we did place a lid on publication. I feel to this day that we were justified in protecting people because many allegations which have been made at amnesty committee hearings and elsewhere were never substantiated, especially not to intervene with prosecution because we had in mind still if there is material then it could be the foundation or the basis for a further investigation but the material itself could never be used. It's somewhat different here. If you apply and you don't get amnesty then everyone knows about it and they can still prosecute. So it was a drawn out process.
. Now some other knowledge came to me about this deal much later. I have it as a very, very I have from a very reliable source, very, almost personal friend of mine, that that final paragraph of the interim constitution was drafted much, much ahead of that evening. I was perfectly justified in concluding this is a set up, this is window dressing, they wanted me there, let me go. It was drafted in London by Albie Sachs and Fanie van der Merwe, between the two of them they produced that paragraph, glibly accepted by Roelf, not seeing that this is a Truth Commission like a loose cannon bringing neither reconciliation nor whatever.
POM. This is where I want to ask you, Mr de Klerk says, this is at the end, he said: -
. "By 17th November 1993 the text for a transitional constitution was virtually complete, there were still six important outstanding matters on which our negotiating teams had failed to reach agreement: (i) the manner in which decisions would be taken in the government of national unity cabinet, (ii) some outstanding matters relating to boundaries. Perhaps most important of these were the functioning of the government of national unity and the process by which the multiparty cabinet would take its decisions. Would it be by consensus or by a two thirds majority? The latter option would conceivably give the minority parties a veto. As had happened so often before during the negotiations these questions were referred at the last moment to Mandela and me to resolve. Once again the stories that the ANC leaked to the media about my private meeting with Mandela are misleading. They created the impression that I went into the meeting determined to force the ANC to accept the two thirds option. Certainly some of my cabinet colleagues very much wanted me to. However, I favoured a consensus model. By that time I had already presided over a cabinet for four years and in all that time we had never voted on any decision. We had openly discussed matters and ministers had frankly expressed their views. In the end I articulated what I thought was a general consensus. Sometimes I generally did not agree with the consensus but then that became the decision of the cabinet. Mandela and I agreed that the government of national unity cabinet would take its decisions on the basis of the spirit of consensus underlying the concept of a government of national unity. In the end this is how the government of national unity worked in practice, at least for the first two years of its existence."
. So was he opposed, in discussions in your own cabinet before, on this issue of your participation in the government of national unity, did the question of how decisions in the government of national unity would be taken arise? Were there two points of view, two thirds and no, let's go for consensus? Did de Klerk say I'm for the consensus approach?
KC. What I am prepared to say on this one is that Mr de Klerk is completely right if he says there were two approaches and he's, of course, also correct that the consensus model is the better one for good governance and especially if it could be used in a government of national unity even better because that would avoid different sections of the cabinet voting differently. So in the end his vision on this, or view on this was correct. I can't fault him there except to say that there was very serious conflict in the cabinet on how this was to operate and how this would be interpreted.
POM. That's within the NP?
KC. NP cabinet, how this would be interpreted and so on, and I differed technically from some of the junior colleagues, which Mr de Klerk took umbrage at, but it was settled.
POM. But the impression I have gathered over the years was that while this was the agreement on paper, or the understanding between Mr Mandela and Mr de Klerk, that in practice it was an ANC government which put Mr de Klerk in the invidious position of seeming to be part of a consensus arrived at decision in cabinet, as a member of cabinet, and then stepping outside the cabinet and as leader of the NP attacking the very decision to which he had been party. It was schizophrenic.
KC. It was incongruous and his caucus made life for him impossible for this very reason. Some of the members of the NP caucus, having been sidelined they thought during the negotiation process, now came back with so much enthusiasm in the role of what? Not support of the government of national unity, but as critics of the government of national unity, boom, boom, boom, a few lines, middle page, so and so has said so and so. So what have they achieved? They applied pressure to Mr de Klerk. I didn't attend caucuses after I took the Chair in the Senate. Once a year - I went there to say goodbye and so on, but they made life difficult for him, they did and I think it must have reached him and I wonder if he was capable of taking it any longer. I'm talking about this incongruous set-up, having been part of a decision and now going there in parliament and sitting there and his people criticising the government decision. I think it made him fed up and if we have failed in other respects, add one more. We didn't apply our minds to what kind of role the NP caucus should play and they weren't educated, they weren't actually guided into that role. That was an oversight and as a matter of looking back, in retrospect I would say that I did see the possibility, I saw it coming. I couldn't see the solution with the people in charge there and with all respect to my colleagues around Mr de Klerk they couldn't analyse that problem and come forward with a resolution. So he was rather left alone and he managed for a couple of years and then gave up.
POM. It seems to me one other thing wasn't addressed and that is that even though this was a legislated government of national unity, in most coalition governments, power sharing governments, (i) they are voluntary and (ii) the parties where there are four or five parties involved, as in Israel or India might be good examples, the parties get together and they bargain with each other, the dominant party who's going to head the government bargains with the other parties to see can they reach agreement over policy matters, so they enter government with common policy positions whereas in the SA situation you had a legislated government of national unity with decisions by the cabinet supposedly taken by consensus but where the caucuses of the two parties who were mainly involved disagreed fundamentally on some of the issues. There wasn't a co-operative legislature behind a government of national unity. As you said, the role of the caucus had never been determined.
POM. Was this not brought up at - ?
KC. I accept that that was a big, big hiatus in our make up, it was.
POM. We turn to two things that you said I shouldn't forget.
KC. This was especially the set up in the House of in the Senate you wouldn't find this incongruous situation. We had a very wise person there, Alec van Breda, and he guided the NP. His name is important but it's not important for you. He imbued his colleagues with a different spirit of co-operative opposition, put it that way, which worked.
POM. There are two things you said I should ask you about yesterday, one was don't forget to ask me about, or you said remember Operation Vula.
KC. I think our time is running out, it's two o'clock. I've just marked here the deal.
POM. Maybe instead of doing that we could pick up you said "Ask me tomorrow about the mistakes we made", that was your last remark.
Tape No. 3
POM. We'll move on to a different subject because I'll probably gave to go back to what we were talking about after I review the tapes to see where we stopped or where things went wrong or didn't go wrong.
. This regards a meeting between PW Botha and Mr Mandela. Again Mr de Klerk says, and I quote, "You cleared it with him (that's FW) beforehand as leader of the NP in the Transvaal." Did you have to clear the meeting?
KC. I think it's terminology which perhaps sounded more like him authorising it and emphasising his senior position. I shared it with him. I told you that we had developed a kind of relationship amongst colleagues, sharing with each other views and events and also what may be expected. But there is no point in me not pointing out that we had perhaps a special understanding as well and that's why I kept him informed in general terms but I kept him informed. I said to him what is going to happen is something of major importance for him as the newly elected leader of the party. He was just elected leader of the party and at that point of time we were still arguing in the press the question whether the leader of the party and the President should be one person or not. You remember, you are informed of that? There was this further if not stronger reason to share it with him. He had then just been elected as leader of the party and at the time I had a personal point of view which Stoffel Botha shared with me, namely that the position of leader of the party and President of the country at that crucial point of time in our history should be united in one person. You're with me? I said that was a stronger reason why I shared it with Mr de Klerk.
. If I remember correctly my motivations to PW Botha, although I believe that Niel Barnard has a somewhat very personal version of this, but my conversation with PW was along the lines of, "Mr President, we think that you should see Mr Mandela as soon as possible. It is going to be of paramount importance for your place in history that you see him." And I shared that as well with Mr de Klerk that I used that argument with Mr Botha. He said go ahead.
POM. He said go ahead and ?
KC. And arrange the meeting. That's what Mr de Klerk said to me. We discussed it that the importance of that interview at that very, very crucial
POM. PW said go ahead and arrange a meeting?
KC. No, no, FW.
POM. FW said go ahead and arrange.
KC. Yes, I said to him, "Listen, it's of paramount importance for PW's place in history that he sees Mandela", and he said, "Yes, go ahead." In other words it was in a sense of yes/no, give him that recognition.
POM. But you didn't inform him at that point that you had been meeting with Mr Mandela since 1985?
KC. No, no, I informed him every now and again. Just bear in mind too that Mr Botha informed cabinet and he informed the Security Council as well. I reported to Mr PW Botha and he chose in what terms he related to the Security Council and cabinet.
POM. This was not until after he met with the Security Council didn't know?
KC. That I was talking with Mr Mandela?
POM. That you were talking with Mr Mandela between 1985 until the meeting - ?
POM. The Security Council knew all along?
KC. And the cabinet.
POM. And the cabinet?
KC. But they weren't informed in detailed terms.
POM. Well, what were they informed of?
KC. I reported to Mr PW Botha and I was under his instructions to leave the reporting back to Cabinet and to Security Council to him and he would say that a colleague is seeing Mr Mandela and he is relating to Mr Mandela. He is primarily concerned with his conditions of incarceration and so forth, he would say. You must remember with Mr Mandela's operation - by that time I had not seen Mr Mandela. I met him after the first operation for the first time and after that meeting Mr Botha said that I've met him and that I have instructions to take care of him. So that was it.
POM. The impression I have had all along is that there were only four people, the four people on the team that knew about these meetings, including the President and you four who met with Mr Mandela but that nobody else did.
POM. So you mean that members of the cabinet knew?
KC. About the fact of my interaction with Mr Mandela, full stop. This is an issue that's not on the table, it's not discussed. Any questions? No. No questions. I will report back to you what I consider necessary. Just to show where you perhaps have overlooked a certain issue, when Mr Botha made that speech offering Mr Mandela his release to the Transkei virtually, by that time it was a known fact that I was seeing Mr Mandela from time to time, that I was interacting with him. You must remember that it was Mr Botha who authorised Mr Mandela's removal but that was now some time before that but afterwards he authorised that he be accommodated in rather friendly circumstances, surroundings, at Pollsmoor, but after his second bout of illness when his lungs were attacked he authorised me and he shared that with the cabinet that Mr Mandela be accommodated at some clinic.
POM. So members of the cabinet knew that you were periodically meeting with Mandela?
KC. Yes, I was questioned about this in parliament as well by no other person than Ferdi Hartzenberg and they wanted to know what I was discussing with Mr Mandela. But the fact that I was seeing Mr Mandela on occasion was a known fact. The report-back on this was only one channel, Mr PW Botha, and he chose to report or not or just mention the fact and he was clever enough just to mention the fact.
POM. But would he mention it in the context just of your meeting with Mr Mandela or did he reveal that there were a group of people meeting with Mr Mandela including Fanie van der Merwe and Niel Barnard, yourself and there was a fourth?
KC. I wish I could check this against the minutes. It's not impossible that he said that he has now formed a committee around me. It's not impossible that he did. It's more likely than not that he would have done that. He will just as a fact say, "This is what I've done", full stop.
POM. I suppose what confuses me is that I have been under the impression from everything I read that these meetings were conducted in absolute secrecy and that the only four people who knew about them were yourself and the four participants.
KC. They were. About the frequency of those meetings and the content of discussion only four of us, plus Mr Botha now and again although his authorised biographer says that I reported back to him on Mandela but he couldn't understand what I was saying. You must have read that? Talking about Sampson saying but I will tell you why he is needling me, because I've only
POM. He couldn't understand what you were saying?
KC. Why he was needling me, Sampson? Because
POM. When he said that PW Botha couldn't understand what you were saying.
KC. That's what Sampson says PW said to him.
POM. What didn't he understand?
KC. Exactly. I'm very keen to find out myself. What didn't he understand? I'll tell you what he didn't understand, he didn't understand that I was getting him out of a corner into which he had painted himself by saying that he will release Mr Mandela against renunciation of violence and settlement in the Transkei. I said no it will never work. He made a speech about it then and a fortnight later he called me in and he said to me, "You must get us out of this corner", and then I started to work on a formula which up to this present day is a cornerstone of the SA harmony, reconciliation and development, because those were the very words which I negotiated with the two of them that would get them out of their respective corners.
POM. Between Mandela and PW?
KC. Yes, because Mandela wouldn't renounce violence and PW was insistent on that, so we had to find something in between that could encompass both.
POM. So you found that he would be released on ?
KC. No, no, no, no. The statement we released the Sunday after the news broke that he saw him on 4th July 1989. That was a carefully worded draft which I prepared ahead in advance in order to get them out of their respective corners and find a new focal point which became a focal point even today, reconciliation.
POM. So again, is this a correct summary? That Mr Mandela had written to you asking to see him; that when he was in hospital you visited him in the hospital; that he heard nothing from you for a while so wrote to you again; that at that point you had brought the matter to PW Botha who authorised you to go and talk to Mandela to see what he wanted to talk about; that you went and saw him, maybe on a couple of occasions, maybe several occasions, came back, reported to the President and the President said, "OK let's establish a small team of people who will go and visit with Mr Mandela and explore the possibilities whatever those possibilities are regarding the constitutional dispensation of the future or his own release or whatever."
KC. Not exactly like that. Mr Mandela's book is much more in detail on the sequence of those events and if I were you I would take that as right.
POM. His sequence of events is
KC. Well just to prevaricate, I went to see him of my own accord. I must say that Winnie asked me also to go and see him. She believed that she brought the two of us together which I one day said, well if that's going to make you feel good, yes, all right.
POM. This is on the occasion that she met you in the aeroplane?
KC. Yes, but by then I was already looking for an opportunity and I wanted to break the routine, the custom of Ministers of Prisons rushing to Robben Island or rushing wherever and I wanted to do it my own way. At the same time I didn't want to go into a knee-bending performance. When Mr Mandela got ill, was operated on, I got my opportunity.
. Now what you must not forget is that Mr Mandela saw PW Botha's hand behind the smooth manner in which we handled his operation. That could fill a whole history book in itself and it has not been told anywhere in absolute detail but it could fill a whole volume. Our considerations, the different views of the different departments, the one department wanting to fly in a whole team from Scotland, from America, a number of observers, certification and I insisted, no, we will do it ourselves. I didn't speak to Mr Mandela before the operation but I saw to it that he got the message that he can trust us. The Officer Commanding Pollsmoor got that message across to him and he said he wanted to be operated upon by an Afrikaans speaking specialist which was Le Roux, already then recommended to him by Willie van Niekerk who was the Professor of Gynaecology at Stellenbosch, then Minister of Health. Eventually we were persuaded, Mr Botha and the Security Council, I wanted to have a word on this as well, persuade the Security Council which was not the Security Council then, I'll tell you now, to get Le Roux, and Willie van Niekerk proposed that Dr Hertzog, if I remember correctly, from Switzerland be in attendance and be a party to the bulletins issued by the medical people, not by Prisons. That's where for the first time we showed to the outside world that we were treating Mr Mandela completely differently, because otherwise the Prison Authority would have issued a bulletin. No, the person who operated issued the bulletins. It went down very well.
. Now elsewhere, I think in Mr Mandela's book, he either said to Winnie or someone else that, "They cannot afford to let me die on the operating table, don't worry". Of course he was right. I mean everything was on my head, but we got through. Then I thought now is the time to go and see Mr Mandela. Dealing with him as a fellow human being of considerable stature, although I said at the Senate, "When I first met you Mr President I already saw you in this position", which was true. When I met him that day, I saw him as the President. I think then started also respect for PW Botha.
POM. They being the ANC?
KC. No, respect of Mr Mandela towards Mr PW Botha because he must have seen behind all this good organisation, tremendously good organisation, he must have seen PW Botha's hand. Then he went to Pollsmoor, separate facilities, meeting his people, already elevated. Just bear in mind that in the background was still Oliver Tambo, his shadow at least. Mr Mandela, it wasn't cut and dried that he was going to be the successor. We wanted him to be the successor.
POM. But at that time Oliver Tambo hadn't yet fallen ill so he was President of the ANC.
KC. I think he already had the first stroke, already an indication of health problems. You can just check against that but just accept that we were preparing Mr Mandela.
POM. To succeed?
KC. Not to succeed, not to succeed, to be the ultimate leader of the parties with whom to negotiate. Now if I say this to you now it's not wisdom after the event, you can check against everything else. Helen Suzman, I'll always give her credit, came to me, she made a special appointment and she said to me, "You have met him, I've been to see him and he is one of the last moderates that we can talk to and you must now jump at the opportunity." Of course I was blank and I kept my peace but I definitely recognised her wisdom.
. The point I'm actually trying to make is that despite our high profile or our presence there, Mr Mandela realised that behind this was PW Botha and on another occasion in 1993, before he went to meet with Mr PW Botha, Mr Mandela invited me to some resort where we spent two days together and where I briefed him on the role of PW Botha.
POM. On PW's role in making sure that he got the best medical care, that he got separate facilities in Pollsmoor, that he was taken care of, that this was all PW's doing?
KC. Yes, the fact that he was well taken care of and so forth. PW Botha, I gave him all the credit which was well founded. And he was interested in knowing that. He wanted to know the detail although he suspected as much. I gave it to him and I think that a lot of the good understanding between the two men came from a deeper knowledge on the part of Mr Mandela about the spirit in which Mr Botha approached his situation.
. Now let me also say to you, there was such ambiguity in PW's approach. Initially behind all this was the politician wanting to utilise his opposition. Firstly, his effort to get Mr Mandela to settle in the Transkei. I did tell you that in that process Mr Mandela and Mr Matanzima met in my official home, they met there and they made peace with each other.
POM. This is in your official home in - ?
KC. Cape Town. They made peace and PW expected from this event an invitation from Kaiser Matanzima to Mr Mandela to settle in the Transkei. That was never discussed. So Mr Botha as a very, very seasoned politician saw this as an opportunity to utilise his opponent. It didn't work. We told him but he didn't believe us and that event is very carefully discussed in Allister Sparks' book which is fairly reliable on this issue. Then a further confirmation of Mr Botha's agenda on Mr Mandela was the fact that he revealed so little to cabinet, to Security Council. Naturally it bothered me for a very long time. Why did he do that? Eventually I found an answer, it's actually so easy to understand the solution if you understand PW Botha. He didn't want to recognise my official interaction and the committee's official interaction. He didn't want to recognise it officially, it was all off the record but it was there because should it fail, should it backfire then the bastards are on their own.
POM. You were saying that recognising this possibility?
KC. I took my own precautions. I said to Mr Mandela we can only continue if not a word about our discussions reaches the press. He said, "Leave it with me, on my side I will take care of my side." Niel Barnard is by nature a cautious person and a very reliable kind of operator and Fanie van der Merwe even more so, Willemse even more than the other two, a selfless individual if ever there was one and yet very, very effective. So it didn't reach the press. If it reached them because in vague terms and so forth, so I took the precaution of making sure that it does not backfire through the press because that was the one way to backfire. And yet it leaked through to the opposition and I must turn it up, Hartzenberg questioned me in parliament about it.
POM. You say Ferdi Hartzenberg asked a question?
KC. Yes, and someone else. Ferdi Hartzenberg and/or someone else and they tried to pin a lie on me, that I lied to parliament. They tried but they couldn't succeed. I was telling the truth at the same time as saying nothing.
POM. I guess this is still, forgive me for harping back, because President Botha was periodically telling the cabinet
KC. Here you're using the word periodically. I just said he chose to inform cabinet and the Security Council in the words he chose to but you're saying now he informed them periodically which gives the impression that he briefed them on the detail which wasn't done.
POM. Yes, but he was telling people, he was telling other people that you were meeting on occasions. What I'm trying to get at is that in other words there was no more hush-hush once you tell four people who say we will say nothing and they all know each other, here you've got a cabinet
KC. I see your problem.
POM. - and he goes to the press and he says, "You know what? Kobie and three other people are meeting, Niel Barnard and Fanie van der Merwe - "
KC. Well that's the way it actually I think got to the opposition. That's how it happened.
POM. But it was never mentioned in the outside world. It was never mentioned that
KC. I was saying to you now I was questioned in parliament but I dealt with it in such a manner that I think I don't know what I did say but it's possible that I could have said in the tradition of previous Ministers of Correctional Services you interact with business and that's what I'm doing, full stop.
POM. But more than just the four and Mandela and President Botha knew that some form of contact was taking place?
KC. Yes, yes. But I mean the point you must not miss is that it was not extraordinary of me as responsible minister to contact him. It's difficult to explain all this without the personal pronoun 'I', but if I was a different disposition it would have failed.
POM. If you'd been Jimmy Kruger.
KC. It would have failed.
POM. He would never have gone there, though he did see him on Robben Island.
KC. He did see him on Robben Island. No he would have and he would have made a statement on it three times a day and then he would have reacted in the press against Mr Mandela and saying up till such time as he renounces violence he will stay where he is. That's what he probably would have done.
POM. This is coming into the again FW says, "In the run up to CODESA 1, the ANC had done nothing to honour its obligations under the DF Malan Accord". Can you recall what these obligations were?
KC. Surely you also speak to Roelf. Why didn't you get it from him?
POM. Well I'll get it from you too. I like to compare accounts.
KC. Why? I was a critical advisor.
POM. An advisor in regard to?
KC. The question of disarmament, of decommissioning my dear friend. Decommissioning.
POM. "These issues", he said, "included the demobilisation of the MK, the need to place arms - "
KC. Who is saying that? FW?
POM. FW. "The need to place arms caches under proper control and the question of amnesty."FW said he wanted all these matters to be settled before the beginning of CODESA 1. Then he goes on to say: -
. "On the evening of the 19th December, the day before CODESA was due to start there was a deadlock in the group dealing with the DF Malan Accord and the ending of the ANC's armed struggle. The last minute breakthrough which the ANC had promised and for which we had all been hoping and waiting had not occurred. Minister Coetsee and his team placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of the ANC. I gave Kobie Coetsee instructions to contact the ANC in a final attempt to find a solution and to inform them that I was seriously not going ahead with CODESA. He reported back that the ANC had once again promised to make rapid progress in the immediate future on the outstanding issues relating to their compliance with the DF Malan Accord and had committed itself to rectifying the matter. A long discussion ensued with the Policy Group (that's FW's group which included you). I was irritated because I been placed in a Catch-22 situation."
KC. Because I was placed?
POM. No, because he was, he's talking about himself. "The softest option was to continue with the launching of CODESA."Unless I say it's otherwise it's De Klerk quoting himself, referring to himself.
. "But to adopt a very strong position during the conference on the ANC's delaying tactics and its failure to implement its undertakings. I instructed Minister Coetsee to convey a message to Mr Mandela that we would continue with CODESA but that he should know that we would make a number of sharply critical comments about the breaches of the ANC of the DF Malan Accord. He left the meeting and reported back a little later that the message had been delivered to Thabo Mbeki who had promised to pass it on to Mr Mandela. He also reported that there was an understanding for my (that's FW's) concerns over the delays and that I would consequently have to take a strong line."
. Then after FW's speech excoriating the ANC Mandela replied calling De Klerk an illegitimate, discredited regime incapable of upholding standards. That was the blow-up between the two of them and then he was furious since Mbeki apparently had never informed him of your message. De Klerk was furious, a serious breach in their already tense relationship was exacerbated all because of a foul-up. Mbeki didn't pass on the information. Did you go to Mbeki and say what the hell did you do, why didn't you pass the information on to Mandela? Look at the situation you've created. You nearly wrecked the negotiations before they started. No?
KC. Because it wasn't like that. You're in a tight spot because you have to go and clear things with your friend Roelf, my friend Roelf, and my friend FW.
POM. Then I want every conversation is confidential, so what you say to me is not what I'm going to go back and say that you said this. I play by your rules.
KC. I'm not breaching any confidence. I'm not criticising Mr de Klerk because in broad terms he's expressing the spirit of the ANC's lack of controlling their arms caches either because it was still part of the organisation or it was part of their strategy to keep up or maintain the profile of a liberation movement and they didn't want to relinquish or abandon that status of a liberation movement. What's a liberation movement without arms and without arms caches? So they were hedging all the time. The person who actually was in charge of driving that situation was Adriaan Vlok. Roelf Meyer was his deputy minister, Roelf eventually shouldering most of the responsibility. I was then handling the return of the exiles and the setting up, levelling the playing field with the introduction of people to the negotiating table, making it possible for them to come into the country and others could be released.
. FW divided the responsibility which was a great mistake because they soon realised that these two areas were interlinked, the question of the return of the exiles, the question of the release of prisoners, the question of amnesty, but at the time it was still a crime to possess arms, automatic arms and sell them and all this had to be attended to. At the same time as we make it possible for them to surrender their arms we had to also deal with the decommissioning of arms. Nice word, very convenient.
. So what really happened was that day after day and with paperwork after paperwork, the ANC was really playing for time. As I say, either on purpose, but I reported back to cabinet it's because they don't have control, they lost control. That's part of the present problem too, my friend. There are I am sure a number of caches still and the ANC never revealed that those arms caches were surrendered or blown up or whatever. You can just make a note of that. Be that as it may
POM. But no procedures were set up to verify whether or not - ?
KC. Yes there were procedures upon procedures. The police developed procedure upon procedure and it was all to be endorsed. I'm now talking about, he said he instructed me, I wasn't in charge there. It was Roelf, it was Adriaan Vlok, Roelf, I sat in overseeing and also to guide them to get two processes to coincide. By then the question of prisoners was already cut and dried. The return of exiles was formalised and finalised, the arms problem. But at the same time it was for Mr de Klerk a serious problem that a party about to enter negotiations on the constitution still retained the status of a liberation movement and my input into that speech - as a matter of fact I looked at that last night in which I argued the logic was not of such a position of them entering into negotiations, entering the constitutional process and not abandoning their status as a liberation movement and also thereby abandoning their arms and making a final commitment there and then.
. By then we had already made tremendous progress. I think words like 'irreversibility' of the process had already been thrown around, bandied about, and it was again reasonable of Mr de Klerk to say no matter who delivered what message or whatnot, to say you must now relinquish your status as a liberation movement, the process is irreversible, hidden arms caches cannot be tolerated, it's going to endanger the peace, what do you want do with it? So what I want to emphasise and I argued with him as well, is that it doesn't matter who was in charge, myself, Roelf or Adriaan Vlok, it doesn't matter to whom a message was delivered or whether it was conveyed to Mr Mandela or not because Mr de Klerk's position on this is sound and correct.
POM. But he either gave
KC. Let's come down to specifics now, but I don't want to force you to agree with me. You must understand this, the central theme you must understand because some other people with whom I argued this didn't understand the central theme, namely of a liberation movement not abandoning the armed struggle and not surrendering arms. So we were in cabinet and we were preparing Mr de Klerk's speech for the next day and there were three of us talking to the ANC, myself, Roelf Meyer and Mike Louw and the cabinet was literally on a high, nothing could go wrong for us. The opinion poll was favouring Mr de Klerk almost 50%, NP deep into the 40%. So we established the principle how did you deal with it, how did you translate it into words? I made the first draft. Mike Louw who is a fine draftsman helped me with that. Roelf Meyer did the phoning. We didn't speak to them personally, we were in cabinet. Mike Louw is outside cabinet. I went into cabinet and I said to them, "Here's our effort." What! Let me name them. Pik Botha right in front said, "You can't do that! Hammer them", but they were on a high, "Hammer them". To my surprise Gerrit Viljoen too, not to mention two or three others, and I was furious with them. Here Roelf and myself were trying to get things together and they were trying their darndest best to be tough. I made two or three efforts to tone down and yet not attack the principle. I've stated to you the principle. To tone it down in such a way that it's not offensive.
POM. It makes it's point very bluntly.
KC. So eventually they dictated to me what should be said, brought it outside.
POM. They being?
KC. Cabinet, and everyone had something to say. One sentence was more ferocious than the other. So I brought it outside and Mike Louw said, "This is disaster." He went and had it typed. I said to Mr Mbeki, "Roelf will read to you now what Mr de Klerk is going to say."
POM. Sorry, you rang Mr Mbeki?
KC. No, Mike had all the numbers, he phoned him. He said, "Mr Coetsee wants to talk to you." I said to him, "Mr Mbeki, we've made a counter proposal too, Mr Mbeki, two or three which cabinet rejected on this issue." You understand? And they reacted harshly in such a way that when I brought out their version Mike Louw said, "This is disaster." That was their final word and they were as tough as nails and I almost said to them, "I hear you. I've been doing all this work and you're on a high now and you think you're on top of the world." So Mr Louw phoned Mr Mbeki, "Mr Coetsee has a message for you", and I said to him, I think we were then on first name terms, "Thabo, this is the final position of the cabinet. Mr Meyer is going to read it to you." I didn't say to him convey it to Mr Mandela. I took it for granted that he would convey it to Mr Mandela. If I now in retrospect, I think I was justified in taking it that he would report back to his boss. So Roelf read it out to him but Roelf already then had a good relationship with Ramaphosa, he informed Ramaphosa as well. Now I don't say that Ramaphosa played a role here but the next day when things went sour between Mr Mandela and Mr de Klerk I could see him grinning and smiling all the way. I may be wrong, I may be wrong.
POM. So (a) it's obvious that Mr Mbeki never passed on whatever the content of the speech to Mandela.
KC. No, no, you can't say that. It could have been a premeditated, absolutely premeditated reaction on Mr Mandela's part. I can visualise Mbeki reporting back, Mandela saying to Ramaphosa, "You and you and you and you, let's discuss this."
POM. Cyril was saying this is a great opportunity.
KC. This is a great opportunity.
POM. Get up there and lambaste him.
KC. Because you are not supposed to orchestrate behind the public's back a statement, so you feign surprise. It's rather naïve of us to have thought that such a momentous thing would be allowed by the ANC to have the image of an orchestrated, prefabricated kind of statement.
POM. So it would be awkward for them to think that they had already worked out their response in advance and they wanted to appear spontaneous.
KC. And somewhere outside there was MK, there were arms caches and above all they attached tremendous value to the issue of the armed struggle and of the liberation movement which to today, if I'm not mistaken, they haven't officially yes, you may argue the de facto situation counts.
POM. I'm not arguing anything.
KC. No, you may argue and argue well but it says nothing. If they say we are still a liberation movement it is now by way of a figure of speech.
POM. Doesn't Sampson, I think, say in his book that there was a secret agreement between Mr de Klerk and Mr Mandela that there would be no handing over of arms until after the new government was in place? I'm 99% sure and I can check it tonight because I have the book with me.
KC. That was on the question I would like you to check that.
POM. Now it may not have been reached at
KC. I've been set up by then, you see, I think it was on the question of amnesty.
POM. Amnesty. I'll check it tonight. Again to put things in sequence is: you had not been having direct discussions with the ANC regarding demobilisation and the handing over of arms.
KC. We had direct discussions. They had a committee interacting with Adriaan Vlok.
POM. With your committee, OK.
KC. I sat in occasionally and we got close to an agreement at DF Malan, that's why it's called the DF Malan Accord. Now it was a question of implementing it, a broad statement of objectives and so on. Now comes implementation, police with locks and irons and who will be in charge. In other words it was but it was low on delivery that question. Really Mr Mandela's reaction to Mr de Klerk, that goes against the spirit of democracy built on politics and not parliaments. But let's just fire away.
POM. But he was going to speak last and that was Mr de Klerk's manoeuvring that he'd give his place to De Klerk so that De Klerk was the last speaker and that's when he demanded to speak, or not demanded, kind of headed right towards the podium to rebut
KC. After De Klerk's speech. There is something else. I think my interpretation of what happened before the time Mr de Klerk had hardly spoken, Mr Mandela got up and he walked to the podium and he delivered this brilliant attack on Mr de Klerk. It was a well prepared, pre-informed attack. I'll write my memoirs, I'll prove that.
Tape No. 4
KC. What I want to reiterate is that to hold it against Mr Mandela that he reacted the way he did is unfair, he's a politician, and he used that opportunity. We were looking for trouble, we were looking for trouble and we got it. But at the same time Mr de Klerk was completely justified in what he said.
POM. Right in principle, wrong in language.
KC. He was absolutely right on principle and for the sake of history, you know what's happening? We're looking now, it's all being clouded by the bad spirit, the ill feelings between Mr de Klerk and Mr Mandela and I think Mr de Klerk tries to say that it's a pity that happened because that bedevilled the relationship between them. That may be so but from the historic point of view, purely from the historic point of view, Mr de Klerk was a purist in virtually every way. He could have perhaps done better on a tactical level. He shouldn't have been drawn into this by his colleagues who wanted to be tough because the next morning the first one to show drill (this is now really off the record between the two of us) the first one to throw around and reproach and so on was Pik Botha, but he was there the previous evening, he was right in front screaming for the blood of the ANC. How can he justify it to the outside world and we must insist that Next day after Mr Mandela's hammering of Mr de Klerk he was the first, he was the first to try and save the day. Yes this is a fact.
POM. So to an extent it was Mr de Klerk's own fault insofar as he chose to follow that tone.
KC. To follow that tone. Not the principle.
POM. To follow the tone and use that language.
KC. For the short term, but on the long term, from the historic perspective he was correct especially now in retrospect looking at the unknown sources of AKs, ammunition.
POM. That whole issue of decommissioning, was it ever resolved satisfactorily?
KC. Not to my satisfaction. I must take you now through the whole history of amnesty.
POM. We'll leave that until tomorrow.
KC. The point is I've become I'm very tense about this because I think my party and the ANC both were very unwise in not taking this issue of unlawful arms and arms caches firmly by the throat and dealing with it. We are going to pay a price. Mr Mandela, the miracle that he has created, he's at the very foundation of reconciliation because any time Tutu speaks of reconciliation people say -
POM. I brought up at one point in the conversation with Matthews Phosa, the issue of decommissioning, he himself had enough arms stashed in and around Maputo to -
KC. We had no jurisdiction.
POM. He says if you can find them I'll give you a million dollars for every cache you can put your hands on.
KC. All Mr de Klerk had to do was to pursue and once he got that hammering to say sorry, I don't concede this principle. We're going to have total and complete amnesty for your people, not for criminals, but then we must have all the arms under proper control. He could still have sidelined the De Kocks and the Barnards and the Vlakplaas people. This is for tomorrow.
POM. De Klerk could have sidelined?
KC. Which we did, we did.
POM. Well we'll leave that. I just want to finish on the issue of the demobilisation of arms. The fact would be as I hear you saying that despite the procedures laid down in the DF Malan Agreement, those procedures were never implemented.
KC. Reluctantly they were avoided, didn't come to fruition.
POM. Was that on both government's part and at one point did the government say, let this one slide, we're no longer going to keep harping on handing over of arms, let's just proceed?
KC. I would rather have the Accord in front of me. It's now very specific and if I were really in charge I would have been able to go into the detail but I have the documents, let me see whether I have that.
POM. OK. I'll try and look it up on the Internet tonight.
KC. You see it's not even documents that are in my up to date file because it was not as such my responsibility. That's where Mr de Klerk is wrong. But it's not that serious. If I write my memoirs I will perhaps say to him you were wrong except it may be interpreted in terms that I didn't deal with it properly, but it wasn't my responsibility. Perhaps I should just put that on record.
POM. Because that aspect of the brief had been assigned to Roelf.
KC. No, to Adriaan Vlok, the Minister of Police, and his deputy, Roelf Meyer.
POM. And it was Roelf who made the call to Thabo and said this is what Mr de Klerk is going to say tomorrow. Now when Mr de Klerk says, "He reported back", that means you. "He reported back that the ANC had once again promised to make rapid progress in the immediate future on the outstanding issues relating to their compliance with the DF Malan Accord."
KC. Then the argument relating to the afternoon or the evening preceding CODESA. He's talking there in general. He's not talking of that evening.
POM. I can in fact check that right now because I have the page.
KC. Whatever was said I won't budge.
POM. No-one in the ANC said to you, "We got the message and we are taking steps to rectify the matter."
KC. No, no, no. We are now talking about tomorrow and on this issue Mr Mbeki said this is what we are prepared to live with, this is what we are prepared to support.
POM. Mbeki said that to Roelf on the phone?
KC. And to me. And I got his point of view and I take it to cabinet. They exploded.
POM. This was the day before?
POM. So then the proper sequence of events would have been that there have been talks with Mbeki and the ANC but they have put some proposals on the table, those proposals were put before cabinet.
KC. You're confusing two things. The DF Malan Accord was preceded by a number of talks involving the police, involving the ANC, some of their commanders, he lost all of them. In general terms the DF Malan Accord was established. Now it comes to execution. That is building up, building up, and here we find ourselves a day before CODESA. What are we saying about this major issue? It's a matter of principle. Now Mr de Klerk has his team around him and they're working on a speech. We conveyed, I could have conveyed, Roelf could have conveyed, but I definitely spoke to Mr Mbeki myself as well.
POM. Did you talk to him that day?
KC. That afternoon and Mike Louw spoke to him and he could have spoken to other people. Roelf also spoke to Ramaphosa, he put forward a proposal how to deal and what to say about the DF Malan Accord.
POM. Who did?
KC. Mbeki. Just bear in mind, they were in the wrong, they were the erring party. We're talking about their arms. He submits a proposal and we take it and there could have been one or two or three but we take it to cabinet. cabinet says it's not good enough, it's abandon the armed struggle, surrender of all arms. Now this is what we want you to say. I read out, I show it to Mike Louw and Mike Louw says, "This is disaster but we have instructions." He phoned, he spoke to an official, it was in the cabinet room in Pretoria, "Mr Coetsee wants to say something." I said to him, "Listen, Mr Meyer has got quite a lengthy position on this and Mr Meyer will read this out to you. I'm afraid this is the final position." I didn't say to him please convey it to Mr Mandela. Have you got it now? I did not. I was justified in assuming he would have and I think he did. But as a politician he did and we left ourselves wide open because they were in the wrong. They had to turn the tables on us and they did so with a minimum of ammunition, with a personal attack on Mr de Klerk. We're not answering the ammunition except to take up a strong position that the ANC is a liberation movement. You must see the speech.
POM. When you went home that evening, or whenever you did get home, your wife had watched television and seen this on television.
KC. The day after.
POM. What I'm trying to find is this would have been the first time ever that whites in SA, Afrikaners in SA, saw a black man get up on a stage on television and, as you put it so well, in the most articulate phrases castigate, blame, attempt to humiliate their State President. Did they say, my God, a black man is doing that to our President? My God, is this what the future is going to be like? Did anyone say, gee, blacks don't treat whites like that?
KC. You make it sound like a horror movie.
POM. What was the reaction among your constituents? Did they say, what's going on Kobie? Is this a new Mandela that we're seeing now, the first time we've seen him cold and furious?
KC. As I told you the previous time, I believe that the ANC was the key to our return to international politics, the international world, I predict a new dawn for SA. Our sports people must return. I said to them John Vorster said we must make it possible for our young people to compete against the world's best. He didn't say how. This is how it's going to happen. Now you have an opportunity to throw me out with the votes.
POM. There were no elections after that.
KC. No, no. They had to elect me as the leader or not. In the referendum we did marvellously well, so come on, you're writing a horror movie.
POM. You won the referendum on the basis that if you don't want majority rule vote for the NP. OK?
KC. Did we?
POM. Yes. It was your slogan.
KC. That was a horror movie.
POM. Just politics.
KC. No we didn't.
POM. I was here!
KC. It must have been up in Transvaal.
POM. But what I'm getting to, was there any reaction among your social circle, your friends gee, this is a different Mandela than we saw before. It's like being given a completely different picture of somebody.
KC. That's why I say when he walked out, he started to walk to the podium even before Mr de Klerk had started to walk back to his seat.
POM. So this wasn't this is what Winston Churchill would call a spontaneously rehearsed speech?
KC. Completely born from surprise.
POM. OK we'll leave it at that.
KC. But what do you think of my theory?
POM. I think your theory is very plausible, particularly knowing Cyril I think it's even more plausible still. I would think this would be right out of his head.
KC. Of course.
POM. This is one we can turn around.
KC. Of course they were in the wrong. They were in the weaker opposition internationally. Remember, you must just bear in mind the outside world were represented in their hundreds, ambassadors, observers and everyone was really in a situation where the ANC becomes a normal political party and abandons the armed struggle and surrenders their arms. Tomorrow we can talk about the mistakes we made in not enforcing that.
POM. The mistakes.