About this site

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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

15 Nov 1999: Giliomee, Hermann

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POM     Hermann, it's ten years since we embarked on these conversations and I remember the first one in your office at UCT and you were recalling that you were in Israel at the time FW released Mandela and how proud you felt to be a South African and how full of optimism you were and almost starry-eyed with the idealistic prospects of the future. Ten years down the road, is the new South Africa that is emerging the South Africa that you had envisaged or is it something different?

HG     You know I suppose one had very much conflicting emotions and ideas. I remember when I met the ANC first at that Dakar meeting one of my first impressions was that it was virtually another National Party, that it came over very much as the NP with the same I also wrote it at the time that it was and the kind of one-party dominant pretensions. Although you have a rather limited base, a sectional base, you claim to speak on behalf of total society and what you thought was best for society. But I think when De Klerk mentioned that, gave the speech, one felt this is his bargaining from a position of advantage of preponderant power and what made one excited was that one could become a genuine multi-racial society in which race was not overwhelmingly the line of division or the criterion for advancement and that one could then build something really exciting of almost a grand coalition, co-equality and so on. That of course depended on De Klerk retaining some levers of power. But what had happened over the last ten years was very much a regime that had taken place very much in the image of its predecessor, that the civil service and the parastatal organisations had become a huge vehicle for patronage, and society again had become structured very much along racial lines and political loyalty very much along racial lines.

POM     It's like another grand experiment in social engineering where the end may be different but the methodology more or less the same.

HG     I think the ANC is pursuing very much similar objectives that the Afrikaners had pursued, the NP had pursued for the Afrikaners. The big difference, of course, is that they didn't really intervene all that much in the private sector. The private sector, as far as relationships between the two white sections were concerned, was one where actually merit had to count. If you were an Afrikaner working for a Jewish stockbroker you were not going to be promoted because you're an Afrikaner, you had to be promoted because you were a good stockbroker. Certainly I think in the private sector of the market there was a fairly merit-based type of society although the Afrikaners had their big firms and the English speakers had their big firms. So there was not that source of conflict. In this particular case I think because they have based themselves so closely on American blacks with this idea of representativity and quotas and all that, whereas American blacks demand 20% or 15% of the jobs, here they demand 70% or 85% which leaves whites very little room except actually if you look at a young boy nowadays, young white person, he must either be exceptionally bright, exceptionally high qualifications, or they must make their future in some rather small companies where they would not be subjected to the labour legislation. Now it's possible that this labour legislation will simply break down, that it will be impossible to implement it.

POM     It struck me, one of the ironies of it was that its implementation depends completely on racial classification which was the underpinning of apartheid, so it was like in order to get rid of the inequities of apartheid one was introducing precisely the same classification system not just in the job context but in an increasing number of contexts where the proportions must work out, as you said, to be representative of the population as a whole.

HC     Yes I think if you look at some of the stuff that the Institute of Race Relations now puts out, the legislation is no longer justified in terms of pervasive discrimination by whites. They acknowledge that it's not all that much but the point is that they want substantive equality, that the outcome must be guaranteed. So it is outcomes based discrimination that you must have a society where blacks fill the top positions in society regardless of whether they had been discriminated against earlier. So in that sense it's very much similar to apartheid, it's not merit-decided but it is the fact that blacks must be in the dominant positions of society. The big thing what one had never really anticipated, although sometimes in one's darker moments one did expect it, was that one would get the reverse of apartheid which was what the white right wing always said. The white right wing always said that this would happen, that things will just be turned on a check. It was more the intellectuals and the political class who believed that you could get something substantially different in a merit-based society.

POM     In an odd way you have been linked to the right, that's probably a completely wrong choice of words, but insofar as the Freedom Front and the Conservative Party have been pushing this idea of cultural self-determination rather than territorial self-determination and then you have a whole group of Afrikaner intellectuals looking for a charter of minority rights, particularly around the issue of language.

HG     I think minority rights is not necessarily a right wing aspiration, it is much more left wing sometimes. I call for minority rights, not that I have much hope that Thabo or that the ANC will respond very, very positively and I think the minority rights unless you've got some kind of overarching authority like the Council of Europe which actually could intervene and could send their commissioner to investigate, it depends very much on the goodwill of government.

POM     The issue I have found talking to Afrikaners, that the issue of language is becoming the issue of an increasing focus, that they see their larger marginalisation epitomised by the marginalisation of their language.

HG     I think that's true.

POM     How do you redress that in the context of not just Afrikaans but, say, of Xhosa and Zulu and Pedi, of all minority languages, does one minority language is it first among equals when it is spoken by a smaller number of people than people who speak other minor, many of the other eleven minority languages?

HG     One usually says that Afrikaans is different from the other what we call non-dominant languages in the sense that it is a language with all the high culture functions which have been developed over the past 50 70 years and it had been a tool for emancipation for Afrikaners and so on. What we say, of course, is that the Afrikaners simply in principle, because the constitution also provides that, that the language shouldn't be scaled down. There's a provision in the constitution that no language can be scaled down in status, but what we try and argue is that Afrikaans provides an excellent bridge for the other non-dominant languages to develop also those kind of lexographical facilities that could help it to become a major public language as well. Of course at the moment very few blacks still ask for that for their non-dominant languages. The middle class blacks are basically all into English and leaving their own languages to be private languages. What linguists, and especially people like Neville Alexander and Quesi Pra(?) at UWC say (he's from Kenya or Tanzania), is that a large part of the backlog that Africans have in development is because of the language issue, because they get all their developmental programmes in the colonial language. The elite speaks this language, the languages are drafted in this French or English or whatever, Portuguese, and then the common people haven't got any good grasp of these languages at all so a lot gets lost in the communication. Unless one could persuade the ANC - look language is a very important issue and rather than building up a whole new nation around English as lingua franca and ultimately the only language, it's much better to develop language diversity.

POM     Do you not think in a global sense English has won that war, so to speak?

HG     I think to a large extent it has but of course a government, like many governments in Europe, realise that one should put some limits to it that you, for instance, allow different regional dispensations, that in certain areas, in certain regions like the Flemish or like Catalan and Basque one should allow these languages to develop as much as possible and to retain as much of the public functions that they have. In South Africa the obvious answer would be instead of changing all over the country from having two languages of record in the courts to having only one, one should say in the western part of the country Afrikaans and English would be the language of record in the courts and we will try and upgrade Xhosa to achieve the same function. But the ANC is very much centralist, it doesn't really want to have that kind of thing and so what then happens is that some of the Transkeian judges are sent here and then they immediately start protesting against Afrikaans.

POM     Do you think they are in any way sensitive, using maybe Quebec as the example, to how language itself can become the divider in a society. If you go to Montreal you can bump into French speaking people who have English and who just won't speak English to you.

HG     It won't happen here. Everyone realises that English is a linking language but I think the government could be much more sensitive. Mbeki is constantly making speeches to that effect, that language is very important, but at the moment the cue which business gets is from government is let's phase out the other languages and let's rather concentrate on English. Mbeki is still to meet with some Afrikaans organisations and to state what actually does he have in mind. Are they to guarantee mother tongue education, can you have single medium schools? So the fight is much more around those issues, not really compelling businesses to use both languages in advertising or whatever. It's about schools at the moment, language of record in the courts, which is very much more in the hands of government at the moment.

POM     Looking at the election results, and given that this is not a normal society, but in any even quasi normal society if you had the ruling party going into an election in which the majority of the electorate across all racial and ethnic lines believe they have done a poor job in handling crime, a lousy job at creating jobs, a poor job at managing the overall economy, a poor job in creating housing, in fact if you went down the four, five or six major issues on which there is universal acceptance across the board that here they have failed, and yet that government goes into an election and comes out with a higher proportion of seats than it had when it was inaugurated as the liberation movement in 1994; (i) what do you think accounts for the increase in support for the ANC (as a proportion, I'm not talking in terms of absolute numbers in terms of turnout), and (ii) the complete reversal of fortunes of the NP?

HG     I think it's very much the same as after 1948. I'm just writing that history. What people in the first place vote is not so much for but also to a very large extent against. In the case of the Afrikaners of 1948 they were against the Smuts government, they were against English speaking predominance in cabinet and in the economy. Then by 1948 there were still about 20% - 30% of Afrikaners who didn't vote for the NP. Now they had come round by the early sixties and why they had come round was that they had seen that on some crucial symbolic issues the NP government was making progress, but secondly it had also shown that it could govern the country, that it was capable of dealing with the economy. There were constant, I only discover it now, there were constant fights in parliament, in cabinet between cabinet ministers. Verwoerd, who wanted to prevent Africans coming to the cities, and the other people would say good heavens man, you will destroy the economy, we must get the blacks here, we need them for the labour force. And businessmen would say we can't govern the country if we keep the blacks out.

     I think it's also a question of very much symbolic games but then showing that there is no risk to the economy, that the economy is going on. What the Afrikaners, the Nationalists did was there was not this massive transformation of the civil service, there was no purge of English speakers from the civil service, there were four or five high profile cases. Here you had about 60,000 whites leaving the civil service or on packages and so on so you have a much more inferior civil service now. It has got nothing to do with colour, it's got to do with experience. I did some work in the Northern Cape and I hear the same in the Northern Province, even if people suffer difficulties with their pension pay-outs and so on, they still vote for the ANC because it's their team and they don't want to vote for any of the white parties. It's a kind of a team, it's a kind of a sentiment. It's also voting for the other side is to be, in the case of Afrikaners, a slegter Afrikaner will vote for the United Party, he's not proud of his own kind and so on. So it's that combination. Now for the NP after 1948 they made steady progress up to round about 1970, so that is 22 years before they started experiencing a decline, the first time the vote came back.

POM     If you look at the ANC vote it is almost an entirely African vote and, as you intimated, even if you were a dissatisfied African who had not received a house, electricity, water or whatever, the chances or the probability that you would then turn around and vote for the NP who had oppressed you for the better part of 50 years, because you didn't get a house would be almost bordering on more than irrational behaviour. It's simply just not going to happen. While I've heard complicated analysis of what the election is about, the correlation on figures is that it's about race, whites voted white for the most part and blacks overwhelmingly voted ANC.

HG     I think 95%/96% have voted for the historically white and historically black parties, on both sides.

POM     So the racial divide is as alive, if not more alive now.

HG     Than ever before, yes.

POM     One cannot pick up a newspaper or a magazine any day without the word 'race' being mentioned in some context or another, to a disturbing extent.

HG     I would agree.

POM     I want to get into this a bit because I spent 1½ hours with William Makgoba the other day and I came away just as wise as I went in. He agreed with everything I said and when I came out I'd forgotten everything I said. What is the basis of this supposed division between Eurocentric values and African values?

HG     I think one must start with the fact that there are no African values, African culture has been destroyed and Makgoba could keep on talking about it but what is the African culture? What is there that's different from broad western consumerist culture? They are phasing their languages out of the public domain, there is nothing around language, there is nothing around literature, there are virtually no poets, good poetry written nowadays, there are no more black plays really of any significance apart from the struggle plays. What is it that is the African culture?

POM     I said to him we are all consumerists now.

HG     In the case of Afrikaans you've got the healthiest press group in the country, also the publishing house that is the furthest advancing in the new electronic media and the Internet. You've got a vibrant publishing industry so I think there is something separate to Afrikaans culture. People do still write history books in Afrikaans, they write good novels in Afrikaans and so on. But what African culture is there at the moment?

POM     If one even takes Nigeria, 232 different tribes, and that's just one country and one million people, say multiply that by seven or whatever, you end up with a couple of thousand tribes and does each tribe have the culture and then how do you amalgamate them all together and talk with an African set of values? I think their point is that Africans look on things through the lens of consensus.

HG     Ubuntu I suppose.

POM     Last year over 50% of all the deaths in civil conflict in the world occurred in Africa. How does one reconcile this with ubuntu? How does one talk about African renaissance if one doesn't talk about conflict?

HG     I think partly it was also the problem of the Afrikaners because they differed really so little from the English speakers when the English speakers and the Afrikaners really shared so much in terms of sport, in terms of the way in which Afrikaners had based themselves on the English speakers. But at least we had the language, that made a difference and so you could structure the whole fight for jobs in the civil service and so on, in the lower rungs of the civil service you could structure that in terms of the bilingual qualification and that civil servants had to be bilingual and that was decreed as far back as 1910 so you could now say it's time to insist on that. But on what grounds can Africans claim privilege or superior access except on the basis of skin colour? Surely you can't claim all this employment equity legislation, affirmative action, the quotas on the basis of race, you could do it partly on the basis that they are servicing a black population group which is in the majority but they have never really developed, as far as I know, any kind of justificatory basis for making all these claims except that it must represent the population composition which is not something that they had brought about except through procreation and so on.

     One gets some interesting, some younger black journalists now writing, someone at the Centre for Policy Studies who says there's nothing very much empowering about making claims on the basis of population representation, you're just taking a God-given formula and you base your claims on the basis of that. What is empowering about that? Jews make their claims on the basis of their superior intelligence and they way in which their great achievements virtually all groups make it on the basis that they have a special dimension to what they have to offer. The ANC have now reduced them to this whole population ratio equation, that's how they base everything and so you must constantly play the race card. There's nothing else.

POM     The Democratic Party, the conundrum I was trying to explain to Marthinus van Schalkwyk this morning, is that I guess Robert Schrire did an analysis for them of why they performed so poorly in the election, but in the course of that he had carried out focus groups among Africans and presented them with different sets of policies and then he told them which policies belonged to which party and they had chosen for the most part National Party policies, but even when informed of this they simply said, well that's too bad, we wouldn't vote for them anyway. Now, if you're in his situation where you have lost the bulk of your support to the DP and your likelihood or probability of breaking into the African vote is in the medium term at least zero, how then do you position yourself? Do you position yourself to fight to grab back some of the support you lost to the DP which is white and some coloureds, or do you sit still and wait for what I see the ultimate, this new world fantasy of the ANC miraculously breaking up and suddenly you can form coalitions all over the place? What would you do? What advice would you give him?

HG     I don't think they can really meet, they could get the whites back from the DP. You see the NP, I've also done work for them last year and the beginning of this year, what their problem is, it's not their problem and I think one must be generous to them in that they have taken the coloured people on board and especially the lower middle class and working class coloured people. There are people today in the ANC and the NP's caucus that never really would have made it in a merit-based DP caucus so the NP has done their bit for coloured advancement, not the Trevor Manuels or Dullah Omars, but the not too well educated coloureds. The NP is much stronger on coloureds below Standard 8 than above Standard 8. The NP in many ways has become a working class party. Now the whites have left because the NP is no longer a status party, it's no longer conferring status to someone who is a member of the NP. So it will be extremely difficult to win back those whites because the DP members of the caucus are performing so much better. They're much better briefed, many are quite often more intelligent and so on. So the NP's only chance is that the ANC will notice, especially if they use this kind of equity legislation, that there's a dangerous racial polarisation in the society and that it would be better to have a party in cabinet that represents most of the taxpayers, the more wealth taxpayers, represent most of the employers and so on and that they would prefer to have the NP there rather than the DP. I think that is more or less the only option for the NP apart from merging with the DP on the DP terms.

POM     Interestingly I asked Marthinus this morning if President Mbeki came to him and said, listen we're prepared to offer you a couple of positions in cabinet, I want a more inclusive government, what would your response be? And his response was that we would probably do so.

HG     It's the only way that they could be saved.

POM     Because this idea of constructive opposition, other than it's appreciated and rewarded in some way, it's another death knell because you're not seen there as opposing anything, you're leaving a vacuum.

HG     It's a very dangerous game, it will probably fail also because the whites are not making enough trouble. The IFP is not in cabinet because the ANC loves them but because the IFP can make trouble in Natal, they've got a fairly good kill rate and so on, so there is a real incentive for incorporating them. At the moment the whites show no evidence whatsoever of trying to derail government initiatives or thinking of starting a resistance movement.

POM     As recently as yesterday ex-President Mandela said the third force is still alive and well.

HG     It's that kind of statement, I don't know, I wouldn't put it too strongly, but it's almost as if they need the third force more desperately than anyone else. It's kind of an expression of their desire to have a force like that.

POM     Well yes, but does this come back to - I'm sure it occurs in literature all over the place, that in order to maintain cohesion you need an enemy, therefore you have to create an enemy.

HG     He was always quite prepared to create one, with all his statesman's games he was always prepared to do that kind of thing.

POM     And Tony Leon has become now like a perfect set-up?

HG     Although it's difficult to attribute sinister motives to him, that he may have somehow his hand dripping with blood. He's such a two-faced lawyer type.

POM     By winning the war, sorry, winning the battle, lost the war in the sense that by being able to take away the greater part of the NP's vote they did so on a basis that appeared to make them racial, i.e. the subliminal connotations of the slogan 'Fight Back' so that they have made it more difficult for them ever to break out into

HG     The way in which we actually started, there is no breaking out. I think it's much better then to get even if they were to push up their votes to 20%, 25%, 30%, the ANC will still treat them in the same way. So it's much better to gather your votes in an aggressive campaign and to continue in this aggressive way. It somehow pleases the white electorate that someone tells the ANC to get lost. I recommended to Marthinus that he fight on this inclusive government ticket but I was very glad the DP also developed their kind of ticket. So whites almost had these two options to choose from. I don't buy that story for one moment that if the DP were to temper their criticisms of the ANC they would get more support from blacks.

POM     Oh no, no, I'm not saying that. I'm saying that the boxes, what we are talking about are boxes that are going to take a long time to unlock and the games are played within the boxes. It's intra not inter, and that calling the squeeze here is the NP or the New National Party, that it either becomes a party of coloureds, and whites move over to the DP, and Africans move to the ANC.

HG     But I can't see that anything else could have stopped that kind of logic except a kind of figure like FW De Klerk who played a major role in the negotiations. He probably could have kept the coloured and white constituencies together in one party, FW de Klerk. Whether he could ever have retained that section of the African population that he had in 1992, which was about 20% in 1992, is doubtful because the ANC have really waged such a major propaganda war on him and because of the English press the ANC is able to basically win that war, the way in which they presented Boipatong for instance which now appears to be one of the greatest propaganda coups ever. The SABC will continue with that. Shell House is another case where the TRC has basically accepted the ANC's version of the story, the Shell House shootings. I think everything is more or less, with the disappearance of De Klerk, and you have two young politicians like Marthinus and Tony Leon, I would imagine that that kind of thing will happen, that you will stay in your racial boxes. I think only a major figure could transcend it and I don't think a major figure could appear in peace time.

POM     One thing, I've been talking to a couple of the people who were initially involved (in fact all of them except one) in the talks with Mandela. I was having a long conversation with Niel Barnard who I find a very interesting man and a very sharp brain. He made a point and that was that FW was brilliant at tactics but had no strategic vision. I come back then to the question of when he released Mandela had he any strategy, any plan? Did he say it's going to go from A to B to C and this is the end result, and this is what I want, and this is what I'll settle for, so I'll play my hand at one level but I'll settle really for another? Or was it an 'ad hockery'?

HG     Patti Waldmeir gave me her transcriptions of interviews with people in 1989 and 1990 and 1991 and there was one interesting one when De Klerk was elected as leader of the NP in February 1989, he said it's now time for a big jump and then Barend du Plessis said, "FW, if you jump we jump with you." Now that's the kind of imagery. They knew it was time for a jump, they jumped but they never thought about where they would land. I suppose they would have drawn the line on private property, that's possible although I'm not quite certain.  If private property was seriously compromised they may have drawn a line.

POM     Well OK, because that was a question that I had put to them during that period, that if it came down to having to give up substantial or all political power but retaining economic power which would you opt for? And the answer in every case was economic power. Private property played a key role.

HG     Especially as the ANC was still backed by the Soviet Union or whatever. But if you actually look at De Klerk's autobiography you could quite clearly see that some aspects were not thought through at all. For instance, when it comes to the functioning of the government of national unity, he obviously assumed that the same kind of protocols would be followed as in the case of the earlier government in earlier cabinets, which is stupid because earlier governments had been one party in the Westminster tradition and one party rules and so on. He should have had much more of a focus on multi-party government. The way in which Buthelezi plays it is if he doesn't get his way then he would communicate that to the electorate. But De Klerk simply thought that things will be as before.

POM     I'm seeing FW tomorrow and I've gone through his biography, I've got every page marked and now I've got to go back home and go through it, but one of the things that struck me, or a couple of things, one it's a defensive biography, that 'I had a much difficult job than President Mandela. I had to run a country and I had to negotiate at the same time'. Just with regard to that, it's an aspect I have lately come to, become more interested in, I'm seeing General Meiring and his predecessor, is that he refers to two speeches he made, one on 20th January 1990 which would have been a month before Mandela was released, to the senior police officers in which he tells them that a new order is coming into being, that they are no longer to be involved in politics or to be partisan, that they are to use all their energies to combat crime and protect lives, and that he could detect some scepticism in the ranks and one can understand that given that Mandela hadn't even been released. Most of them didn't know what the hell he was talking about. Then a month after Mandela was released, in March, within his speech, you may recall a tape of that speech was released with a confidential briefing, a tape that was released to the press, and it appeared from the media that everybody wasn't exactly happy with what he was saying. Brilliant conclusion! And then he gets to the Generals and he tells them in March that the rules have changed and at this point he's dumping securocrats and he's reorganising the process of government. Now again, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to say if you're dumping a lot of people, marginalising a lot of people who had exercised great power between 1960 and 1990 and sending them off into the wilderness, that you're going to make a lot of enemies. To what degree do you think considerations of having to keep both the police force, all the security forces, in line and somehow bring them with him, constrained his course of actions or, again, did he play a tactical game with them? Did they put severe limits on what he could do and what he couldn't do?

HG     It's difficult for me because that was so hidden. I wouldn't be able to guess. I think his biggest constraint was that the ANC was in no hurry to get to some kind of settlement. I don't know whether the ANC ever made a decision to spin it out for four years but he probably would have preferred to settle much earlier, De Klerk, although on the other hand they wanted to have in all the parties which necessarily slowed the whole thing up. I think the first evidence of third force activity only started surfacing later on. I haven't got the chronology with me but I thought it was in 1992, 1993, round about then.

POM     After the Pretoria Minute suddenly violence took off in Gauteng.

HG     But were there immediately suggestions of third force activity? Didn't the ANC come up with that a bit later?

POM     That was later on. Ironically when I interviewed other parties at the time and asked them who was responsible for this sudden increase in violence, every other party, that is every other black party, pointed to the ANC, said the ANC always get rid of opposition.

     They were his reserve battalion, if negotiations broke down he had to have the military behind him and say I can draw on the power of the military to

HG     I don't know whether he actually ever thought if negotiations broke down. You can ask him. But look at Van der Merwe, have you interviewed Van der Merwe yet?

POM     Yes, Fanie?

HG     No, no, Johan van der Merwe, the head of police.

POM     No.

HG     He is in fact a very, very good person. I have had a long, long conversation with him. He's not the kind of person that one would distrust, I think he's a very loyal police person and he's quite frank and open and so on. Now the military, while Magnus Malan was there, it's more on the middle levels, the kind of Eugene de Kock level, lower officers. It seems to me there was a lot of free enterprise there, a lot of activities on almost lower middle level. I don't think he was ever afraid of the top Generals really that they will really suddenly

POM     Kat Liebenberg was involved up to his eyeballs.

HG     Yes but this is not the kind of you know I don't know that kind of scene. I suppose Annette Segers(?) is better on that, I think she is in Princeton at the moment.

POM     Who?

HG     Annette Segers who wrote a book on the South Africa military. You could ask De Klerk but I would be surprised if he suspected a prolonged elaborate plot on the part of senior Generals to derail the negotiations. I would doubt it. He would be worried about the rogue elephants and things like that but not really something that permeated a large part of the army. I don't think so.

POM     If you assume for a moment that you're President de Klerk and this is January 1990 and you get a call from me and I'm General Magnus Malan and you're on vacation, taking a break, and I've got to fly down and see you right away, a matter of supreme urgency. You're on vacation, you need a break after all your international travelling and I say, "I've got to see you." So I fly down and I see you and I come in and I say, "I just learned something awful. I've learnt that deep within the ministry that I controlled for the last ten years, whom my prime mentor was the previous Minister of Defence and then State President, PW Botha, I have found that there exists such a thing called the Civil Co-operation Bureau which appears to be up to all kinds of illegal activities." As President, what would you have said to me?

HG     Well, haven't you been doing your job?

POM     Would you not say, "You're fired"? (a) Haven't you been doing your job and (b) you're fired, rather than saying, "Christ! We must set up a commission." Is that remotely believable that Malan, I tend to go after him too now that he's got amnesty, but could De Klerk, a sophisticated man, really believe that Malan didn't know at all or could he not afford not to believe him?

HG     Your question is also that if he were to dismiss Malan would he be afraid?

POM     That there would be a kickback through the military?

HG     I would never really think that a coup was possible in South Africa because of the large dependence on conscripts, and that was one of the earliest lessons that I learnt in South Africa politics and this is that because of the existence of a conscript army you really have got very limited options because the conscripts are as divided as the white electorate is. You really need a large standing force to create serious trouble.

POM     So what could be his motivation for taking Malan literally at his word?

HG     Well I think it's more his concern that that voters, the white voters would take badly to that. They would see Malan as a strong figure, someone who is being dumped, and De Klerk is not the kind of person that one certainly would suspect of being overly zealous.

POM     It would be a tactically bad move.

HG     Yes tactically a bad move. I still think that his greatest weapon, De Klerk's greatest weapon, I said to him the other day, was that he held the white referendum too early. If you look at the Northern Ireland case, it came at a stage when the details of the settlement was much clearer and people then could make a judgement on whether they wanted to have it or not. But De Klerk asked for this referendum not so much because he had anything to show to the electorate of what he would be negotiating for, the bottom lines that he would be insisting on in negotiating with the ANC, not to speak of the details of the plan, but because he was afraid of the right wing threat in white politics and I think, I'm looking back with the wisdom of hindsight, he could have stared them down, he could have faced them down. In the end the whites would have realised that the Conservative Party offered no solution to the whole thing whatsoever. So because he took fright of the surge of CP victories in by-elections he decided to hold the referendum at much too early a stage because that was his great weapon, that was his great strategic weapon that he could say to the ANC, you will never be able to govern the country unless you get the whites to acquiesce.

POM     And you're saying the country held the referendum - ?

HG     Too early. He gave away his trump cards. That's why his negotiating position immediately started weakening.

POM     Why then do people, including Patti Waldmeir, say that after the referendum that the NP began to harden its line in negotiations.

HG     It was a bit of initial confidence and so on but immediately when it came to a sticking point De Klerk withdrew and said, "Look, let's talk again." He didn't back up his negotiators. It was Delport and his people who tried to take a hard line. They thought they had the mandate. But what the ANC said was that these guys have got the mandate so the world opinion, the western leaders could simply be told, "De Klerk has got a mandate, we can press ahead and get a settlement."

POM     But he had run that campaign specifically on the repeated slogan that vote yes or no (I don't know which it was) if you don't want majority rule, so he was running it on a lie besides other things.

HG     I said it once to Gerrit Viljoen, we go to a spot here at the coast and we talk once a year. I remember at the end of 1992 I said, "What we're going to get is majority rule." He was then already out and he said, "It looks like that."

POM     Now did De Klerk know in his heart of hearts that the end was going to be majority rule but that if he said so, if he sat around a table and said, "Colleagues, we all know what the end is going to be. It's going to be majority rule", there would have been either rebellion within his ranks, he would have been tossed out? So that in being unable to articulate what the problem was they were facing, i.e. majority rule, they were unable to develop a strategy because they couldn't acknowledge what the outcome was going to be?

HG     I read a manuscript the other day and I don't think it's going to be published and I haven't really checked its references yet, but there is a reference to the fact that when De Klerk was sworn in as President in 1989, that would have been September 1989, there was a family meeting afterwards with this friend of his, Bingle, who was the minister officiating at the swearing in, and De Klerk was said to have cried and said, "Look you must pray for me because I may go down in history as the man who sold the Afrikaners out or gave the country away", or something like that. I think in my heart of hearts, if I really want to have to put my money on it, I think De Klerk probably knew that he was ceding power and that all his talk about power sharing he never really, truly believed in it.

POM     Then if that were true then he could never develop a strategy.

HG     He realised that he was up against such major forces. It was almost like a dam and you allowed the dam wall to be broken. You can't really repair that dam wall while the water is flooding out. I think I would see him as somebody standing on that dam wall and larger and larger parts of the wall start breaking away. What do you do? How do you reconstruct the wall? That is to me the image of De Klerk, a man standing on a wall that he himself had breached and which is now breaking up at an ever faster speed.

POM     He didn't have enough fingers to plug the dyke.

HG     Yes. I think he must have known that. When I saw him three months ago, the thing with De Klerk that one must be on your guard against is that he is such a pleasant personality that one doesn't ask him the tough questions. He's really a very affable person and one takes a liking to him, but then afterwards one thinks that one should have asked much tougher questions. But he keeps on saying that that day no-one was looking at him askance. Now why would people look at him askance except if he in his heart of hearts felt that perhaps he had let them down. And then at that particular occasion two months ago he also spoke that his wife had opened an Agricultural Show somewhere in the Northern Province and two people, a policeman and a military person had come to him and had said they are so keen to fight crime and to work and to get the new South Africa working and to put all their energies into the new system, but both had been told that their upward mobility in the police and the military, respectively, is zero, that they have reached their ceiling. He said, "Well that was never the intention of the settlement." So I think he must have some uneasy conscience.

POM     One can't accuse him of being naïve. You don't make your way through the intrigues of NP politics by being naïve.

HG     I don't think he knew what he was up against in facing the ANC. He could deal with Van Zyl Slabbert, I think he was a match for Van Zyl Slabbert in parliamentary politics. He could deal with people like Zach de Beer or Tony Leon or Colin Eglin. The ANC and especially their people like Ramaphosa and Mandela were quite different. I don't think whites in general, Europeans in general, people coming from Europe, can deal with that. I thought at some stage that the Israelis could deal with the Palestinians but even they seem to be wavering. It is that kind of historical guilt complex.

POM     Sorry, when you say you don't think Europeans could - ?

HG     Europeans could deal with blacks who would say to them you have maltreated us, you had actually taken over, you have taken away our dignity, you have impoverished us and this is the product of three centuries of European colonisation. I think there are very few European nations that actually could look blacks in the eye and say tough luck, we were the victors. Certainly the right wing in Israel, the Likud people that I spoke to, would be prepared to say to the Palestinians, to Arabs, "You have made some fatal errors, don't expect us to be sorry for you. We know that if you were in our place you would do exactly to us what we are doing to you at the moment."

POM     So whither Africa under the ANC? The broad question, which is easier to answer, you see this increasing centralisation of power at every level, you see this Redeployment Committee and all of that, the increasing lack of relevance of parliament, lack of ministerial accountability. You have all that on the one hand, and I know this is addressed in your book which you must autograph for me, you address it in a number of aspects, but are you moving from a one-party dominated democracy, not to a one-party dominated state, but to a state where race has become everything, period? So race is the defining factor, not whether it's forms of consociation or whatever, it's simply, bluntly race. And we don't like to say that because we shrink from reducing things to such simplicity. That's one.

     Two, given the way in which globalisation appears to be working, the prospects for the South Africa economy are at best in the next 40 to 50 years, I would take that as a kind of a period, are medium to low. When 3% is being hailed as a miracle breakthrough in growth you're not even running even, you're running downhill. Unemployment is getting worse, it's going to get worse. The skills base isn't there and won't be there for a generation, and that how would I put it? The context I am increasingly using to look at South Africa is Germany after unification, you had billions poured into East Germany, West Germany threw in everything. There was no such thing as 'we're doing it out of guilt', it was doing it out of love, and yet today the divide is almost as great, not quite, but almost as great and there's a hardening of attitudes on both sides and there's anger and resentment, and if a country like that couldn't heal inequities with the immense resources at its disposal by throwing money at the problem, how can this country be expected to do so when you've got not only different cultures but when the resources aren't there?

HG     I think why the South Africa one-party dominant state is interesting, it's the only one which will have to make the system stick and stable without high economic growth. If you look at Taiwan it's very high growth, Malaysia 8% - 9%. I suppose Mexico, I don't know Mexico all that well, but Mexico in the thirties and forties and fifties was probably quite high growth. Singapore exceptionally high growth. First of all it will have to be done with very, very low growth and I think therefore the whole question of crime and unemployment is going to foul up the whole process into a much larger degree than any of these other states. Secondly, of course, in the South African case, which is a bit of a safety valve, is emigration. It's like the Chinese in Malaysia, they can get out, they can get away. Your most talented people will be getting away and making careers abroad and so on.

POM     That's reducing human capital.

HG     Reducing human capital. So the thing in the end that could be one possibility for stopping the ANC's patronage train is simply the recognition that you are weakening your economy, that you're losing skills and if you were to impose this kind of labour legislation or equity legislation that is now in the pipelines you would even further reduce your chances of high growth and of foreign investment and presumably after a year or two or three you would be having a lot of legislation on the book that can't be enforced. I can't imagine that these Equality Courts would be sitting here in different towns and passing judgement. It seems an Orwellian kind of situation.

POM     I know, take the use of the word 'Kaffir', now that's hate speech if it's used in one context, it's satire if you use it in another. And 'Boer'. Who makes the differentiation of whether it was used in self-deprecating humour? If you use it yourself is it OK? If you're a Boer and you call yourself a Boer is that OK but if somebody else calls you Boer it then becomes hate language?

HG     It's interesting. Last night I just happened on it, Pieter Dirk Uys had a programme on one of the TV channels, ETV, not SABC, and he was making a joke of this kind of legislation very much in the same way that he pilloried the old apartheid farce. He was in very much similar terms making jokes about the Boer and then he had the black man, and the black man was using the words 'Kaffir' and 'Boer' all the time and making fun of the legislation. So it's almost a reply of the apartheid years. Pieter Dirk Uys was playing almost exactly a similar role.

POM     Do you believe that the ANC is committed to democracy? They use the word often enough.

HG     I don't think they're committed to democracy but what they have at the moment serves their purposes very well.

POM     I had always wanted a study to be done, and I mentioned this to Wilmot James the other day and he said, "Ah-ha!", and that was to take the first either NEC or National Working Committee and to look at where each member had been trained, whether Moscow, Berlin, and to try to analyse the degree to which the mindsets they would have learnt affected the way in which decisions were made. I always find it hard to believe that someone who spent five or six years studying in Moscow could come back and suddenly start spouting democratic values with belief as distinct from when their beliefs were oriented completely. It's not like changing religions, it's like

HG     It's almost just a joke and you say to yourself, it's almost just a joke and I can't believe in it any more. I think it must have an influence. I think probably in two or three years time down the line, one would imagine, there would be some major crisis emerging that the economy possibly will pick up for next year but towards the end of next year it will start slowing down again, you'll be back to 2%, 1%. You will be having a lot of laws on the statute book that can't be enforced. Your economy will be stagnant. Your crime will still be out of control. Somebody must say, "Look where do we go from here, what do we do now?" Medical funds probably will collapse.

POM     AIDS?

HG     AIDS will hurt the economy.

POM     I have asked every senior political figure that I have come across so far to name the greatest challenge facing the country in the next 15 years and not one has mentioned AIDS.

HG     Not one?

POM     Not one, not a single person, and that includes the top aides to the President.

HG     They just put their heads in the sand.

POM     Then they say, well of course AIDS is a big problem but it's regional. To me, I'm saying this because I'm working on an anthology on this journal that I edit on the Economic & Society Impact of AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa, the figures are devastating. In 20 years time there may be no people to govern.

HG     I've got a friend who once wrote The Rise and Demise of the Bantu Speaking Peoples. It's a guy who's in East London, he's doing some stuff there. He says that's frightening.

POM     Now you heard of the two reports by the American Embassy, one for South Africa. Well they did two reports, one was for American businesses here with their assessment of what AIDS would mean to their bottom lines and their conclusion was it wouldn't make very much difference. The second one was what impact would AIDS or the continuing proliferation of AIDS

HG     The second report was?

POM     Was on the macro impact of AIDS and again it's like one of these Orwellian conclusions, it was classified immediately it was done because it's conclusions were that as long as the majority of people who were dying from AIDS were from the lower socio-economic groups and were women, that there was an abundant labour pool to take their place, in fact you were cutting your unemployment problem and if the government was adopting a strategy, the strategy should be to prevent it moving into the skilled classes, that only then would it have a really detrimental effect on the economy.

HG     That sounds to me benign compared to other analyses I have seen.

POM     Who is doing work on it?

HG     Rob Schell is an historian who works in East London. He's got a population unit. He used to be a bit of a controversy because he highlighted the role of returning armies, SADF in Angola and Namibia and the ANC people coming from Tanzania. According to him it is AIDS that has spread the fastest in the world but he also adds factors like the very good road system and so on. But he's doing some very interesting work.

POM     Is there anyone you know of who is specifically looking at how it will skew family structures, how the health costs for every dollar invested in the education of a child or every rand invested, you can write 50% of it off.

HG     I think the insurance company, Metropolitan Life, which is now in the NAIL group, they've got a Managing Director, Peter Doyle I think, who made his name on AIDS projections. Metropolitan Life is very active in the black market and he is an acknowledged expert. His stuff is not published but he's working on it. The insurance companies will have to know.

     How's the Irish settlement? Is that in big trouble or not?

POM     We should know today. Are you telling me this part of the conversation is over? Yes, I see.

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.