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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Notes added subsequently by Padraig

     Regarding my conversation with Roelf Meyer, these are some of the points that were made on the previous tape that either may not have been recorded or that if the tape is entirely damaged I will try to recap.

1.     He re-articulates the view shared by Niel Barnard that De Klerk was a brilliant tactician but not very good at strategic vision. He cites as an example of his tactical abilities his calling of the white referendum in March 1992 but his lack of strategic vision again in there being no clear sense where he wanted to go and precisely how he wanted to get there, that he had in the back of his mind that the objective was some vague sense of power-sharing that went from a second chamber and group rights all the way to a rotating presidency but that he didn't understand that his strategic goal should have been the achievement of a just, democratic society and formulated his options within that framework.

2.     He also refutes Kobie Coetsee's account of what happened prior to CODESA 1 with respect to how Mandela's speech was drawn up, etc. He is quite explicit that De Klerk's account of that meeting is the correct version and he says that De Klerk's speech was a blunder, that De Klerk should have conveyed the contents of it or had a meeting with Mandela himself prior to the opening of CODESA to tell him what he was about to say and thrash the issue out with Mandela and that even if Coetsee had talked with Mbeki, which Mbeki denies saying that it was Roelf who read the speech over the phone to Mbeki in the presence of Mike Louw, he says two things:

     (i)     that it would not have been his responsibility since he dealt with constitutional matters and that task would not have fallen within his portfolio and

     (ii)     he says that if Kobie is mistaken with regard to how the message to Mbeki was conveyed and denies delivering the message himself then perhaps the call to Mbeki was never made and that all this comes as a surprise to Mandela and hence his reaction.

3.     As regards the first issue he believed that SA has gone through a revolution between 1989 and 1999, that when he himself joined politics in 1979 he would have fallen into the reformer camp of the NP but that he would have been more of a follower and not an initiator and that it was not until the 1990s he reached the position of actually being an initiator of reform. He recalls having conversations with Wynand Malan who was a friend of his who thought that the pace of reform in the NP was too slow, left the NP and joined the fledgling Democratic Party but at that point in his own development he was not prepared to go that far.

4.     He never heard of anything called the Blue Book, doesn't know what Kobie was referring to.

5.     On the issue of amnesty he too identifies Kobie as the block to any advancement being made, that the delays were on his part and that the importance of amnesty to the ANC changed over time, that whereas in the beginning (that would be at the time of the Pretoria Minute) they would have been quite prepared to accept an agreement that included blanket amnesty because they wanted their negotiators to be brought into the country. However, their negotiators as a result of the Indemnity Act of 1990 were brought into the country and the Indemnity Act of 1992 consolidated the release of political prisoners. Indeed under the Indemnity Act of 1990 anyone who filled out the appropriate application form for indemnity, and that required the listing of the offences for which they sought indemnity and they were given indemnity only with regard to the acts specified, and that allowed thousands of ANC exiles to return. But after the time of the Record of Understanding the release of political prisoners had moved down the agenda of the ANC, particularly with the agreements between Ramaphosa and Meyer regarding constitutional arrangements, and the agreements between Leon Wessels on the fencing of hostels and Hernus Kriel on the carrying of cultural weapons with their ANC counterparts, and that left one issue outstanding which was the release of political prisoners which came under the portfolio of Kobie Coetsee. According to Roelf, Kobie dragged his feet on this issue to the extent that he had to haul him before Cyril and was given the 'Cyril' treatment. This resulted in the souring of relationships between Meyer and Kobie far more than any other specific issue. After the signing of the Record of Understanding the issue of course was of far less importance to the ANC since they had gotten what they wanted and the question of getting their people into the country or getting indemnity for their people was no longer one of the burning issues on the front burner, hence their dilatory tactics and in the end the codicil attached to the interim constitution on amnesty was drawn up by Cyril and Roelf with input from Mac Maharaj. So on these two crucial issues Kobie appears to be way out of line with both De Klerk and with Meyer.

6.     In 1988 Meyer met in Durban with Buthelezi, a secret meeting or it must have been 1989 when he was Deputy Minister, to clear the obstacles that had to be gotten out of the way before there could be negotiations between Buthelezi and the government.

7.     Mandela interpreted De Klerk's prevarication as an indicator that he was trying to slow down the negotiating process whereas in reality it was more of a case of De Klerk not having weighed all the options in his mind and not precisely knowing what he should be weighing them against. This also conveyed the impression to Mr Mandela that De Klerk was less than honest on the whole question of negotiations since he would often, or sometimes at least, enter into agreements and then having re-thought them would renege on the agreement or not live up to the agreements as Mr Mandela understood them. This too was cause for tension.

8.     As regards Buthelezi, Roelf was inclined to think that even if Mandela had made a visit to him, Buthelezi, that it would not have made much of a difference as regards the conflict. He thinks that Buthelezi regarded himself as an African leader of equal prestige and due the same degree of respect as Mandela and indeed perhaps even believed that in a competition for the black vote that he might prevail over Mandela, so initially he was not in any particularly gracious frame of mind that would seem to put him in an inferior position to Mandela.

     [My own observations on this are that this is perhaps

(i)     why Mandela offered to meet with him;

(ii)     who said the meeting should be in KZN, either Ulundi or Nongoma or in Durban for that matter?

(iii)     The ANC's insistence that Mandela would never appear in Ulundi despite the fact that he visited Umtata and the capitals of other homelands and

(iv)     that you did not have a situation of where Buthelezi was offering to meet with Mr Mandela, so he wanted Mandela to come to him to thank him for his support of Mr Mandela while he was in prison rather than the other way round, rather than his going to Mandela and offering his help in any regard that would facilitate the achieving of a democratic SA.]

9.     Roelf also referred to a meeting, it may have been in 1989, but it certainly was a meeting when Gerrit Viljoen was Minister for Constitutional Affairs, when he met with Buthelezi at a secret meeting in Durban and drew up a list of the obstacles that would have to be overcome before Buthelezi would be prepared to talk to the government. Among those 'obstacles' to be overcome was the one relating to the release of Mandela, others in the ANC, and the unbanning of the organisations.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.