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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

18 Nov 1999: Dommisse, Ebbe

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POM     As we were just saying, this is our tenth year of conversations which in a way is quite extraordinary. It's covered such a significant period of both our lives. I suppose I would begin with some rather obvious questions in a kind of a review mode. When Mandela was released in 1990 and there was all the celebratory hoopla about the future and the possibilities for South Africa, that was in 1990 and this is 1999, the end of his term and the beginning of President Mbeki's. Is the SA that is emerging the SA that you had envisaged might emerge when Mandela was released or is it something very different, or something somewhat different?

ED     It is different to what I had envisaged. I think certain things that one thought would happen did not happen. One, of course, is the crime situation which is terrible. We thought with a black government having the power and the legitimacy it would be able to contain crime which is obviously worse; I think nobody foresaw that. Nobody foresaw that the National Party would crumble in the way that it has. Then I think an important thing that we thought might happen, when we talked in 1989 with the ANC before they were unbanned and all that, we talked about a ten-year transition. OK, so the transition was actually – what was it? Three years or something like that. The transition was about three years before De Klerk left the government. Looking back I am quite convinced that ten years would have been much better for a transition in a country this difficult and in the scale that everything happened.

     The hopeful part, of course, is that the fiscal conservatism of the present government wasn't foreseen and that is going quite well. I think the economic and financial policies are sound. Whether the government has the will and the following to implement it always is, of course, very doubtful.

POM     Let me just move back to the crime situation for a moment. There were figures published the other day that indicated that the majority of the senior command structure in the SAPS was still white and everyone acknowledges that there are huge problems in the police service itself going from 30% illiterate, who can't even write out a docket, to people simply with no discipline, it's just ridden with problems which they are saying are being addressed but will take more time than originally thought. If you couple that with the fact that any society that has undergone transition, where it's been a case of a lid being kept on and the lid of suppression taken off, there has been a huge increase in crime. It happened in Czechoslovakia, the Czech Republic, it happened in Russia to an extraordinary extent, it happened in Poland, it happened in all of these countries, so that a transitionologist would say the rise in crime was something to be expected and the problem is whether or not it will be brought under control.

ED     Yes. Well I guess in all of those countries, in none of them is there the violence associated with the crime that we see here, these terrible stories about old widows just being killed for maybe a purse or something like that. I think the use of the AK47 in armed robberies and whatnot, this is not common elsewhere in the world. The violence in SA associated with crime is horrendous.

POM     What do you think – take that and take the level of rape, though President Mbeki seems to have stopped the debate of that dead in its tracks when he said that all the rape statistics are wrong.

ED     No he didn't say that. He said the statistics of the police that only one in thirty five rapes are being reported, that's just hearsay and has no basis in fact. He did not dispute the rate of rape that is being reported.

POM     OK, sure.

ED     And he did not stop the debate in its tracks and it's still going on. I know for a fact, I've seen these open letters that the women are writing to him, women in SA are terribly disturbed by what's going on. I think the rape debate has actually just begun. Mbeki is not stopping it for sure.

POM     One, is this a bonding issue for women across racial barriers?

ED     Definitely.

POM     That in a way it's almost, I hate to say it, a nation-building thing which says that women, whether you're African or far right winger, if you're a woman you share the same concerns about rape?

ED     Of course. I'm still an executive member of the Editors' Forum and the female editors are terribly disturbed.

POM     Sorry, this forum is?

ED     The South African National Editors' Forum. All the women's magazines, all the female editorial staff of newspapers and so on regard this as a major, major issue, and this will continue in my paper. It's just unforgivable what's happening about rape in SA.

POM     Now if you take the level of crime, of violence, unnecessary, gratuitous, absolutely meaningless violence that occurs even with regard to petty crime coupled with the level of pervasiveness of rape from two year olds to 114 year old grannies, great grannies or whatever, the fact that maybe up to 75% of all rapes are gang rapes, what does it say about SA, the state of South African society? What's happened?

ED     The moral fibre of the nation. It makes you despair. I have a foreign friend and I once told him that sometimes I despair about this country, and he said you should never do that. But indeed I do sometimes despair. If I look at certain things in this country we are returning to barbarism.

POM     That's what I've become more interested in, examining in a way, to examine the economics that it's pretty straightforward, but what has happened to the mind of SA that you've had this huge upsurge in violence and rape?

ED     That's one of the things that I find very disturbing about Mbeki when he addresses crime. He says, "Well what's actually happening, in the past it just happened in the black areas and now it's spilling over into the white areas and now they're squealing", really implying that it's OK, it's not so bad, the whites are just squealing, it's been hitting them for the first time. While the real argument is that what's happening, especially to black women in this country, is unspeakable and by using that as a cop-out that the whites are now squealing, he's not really tackling the problem and I loathe that, I think he's quite wrong. You should tackle the problem and not try to get away from it.

POM     Wish it away.

ED     Whatever. And whether one in thirty five are reported or one in fifteen, whichever, I think the women pointed that out in the open letter to him, it's totally unacceptable and he needn't argue about figures like that, you should address the problem which he is not doing of course, and with the Minister of Police he's more or less another disaster as far as I can see, like his predecessor.

POM     Tshwete you think is?

ED     Just noise.

POM     Publicity and more publicity, better at publicity getting than Mufamadi.

ED     Yes, Mufamadi was quite ineffectual and so is Tshwete in a way, threatening and blustering and so on but not really getting the police force into shape. From what I hear now he's busy with all kinds of spying gadgets which is not reassuring either.

POM     He's what? Getting into?

ED     Spying gadgets. As you sit here there's probably something in the roof.

POM     Big Brother is coming.

ED     Yes. He's here. You will hear more about that in the next few days.

POM     I'll be looking out for that.

ED     Sure, there will be something in the paper tomorrow. They've now tried spying on the German Embassy.

POM     Is there any particular reason why they chose the German Embassy?

ED     Oh no, they were just caught out.

POM     They were just caught out!

ED     I think they are spying on the lot, on the Americans, on the Israelis, on the British probably.

POM     That should elicit some response.

ED     It will for sure.

POM     But just to go back, if there is this onslaught against women it means it's an onslaught by men and it would be an onslaught for the most part by black men.

ED     Not only black men.

POM     But more proportionately probably. What is that saying about what's happened to men?

ED     In this country? Nothing flattering. You see that's a very intricate psychological question that you're asking which I can try to give an answer but I am sure that there would be much better explanations than I can give. I'll put it this way, there is something drastically wrong with men who treat women like that. I told my wife that I won't be able to hit you even if you provoke me, however you provoke me, because I think it's just something that you don't do. You don't hit a woman and you don't overpower sexually or whatever. It's totally out of my nature so I simply don't understand how men can treat women like that. I think it's a real low form of life and that it happens on this scale in this country is one of the things that makes it for me, personally, very hard to live here.

POM     But on the other hand as the editor of a very influential newspaper and an opinion maker in your community, you are more or less obliged into asking what's happening to the mind of the country because if that is the mindset that is pervasive then the rest of society is going to begin to express itself in the same way.

ED     That's right. So what do we do? We constantly point out the increasing lawlessness in this country, the way the police are not performing as they should, the way the courts are overloaded with cases without the personnel to handle these cases, the penal system in disarray and we criticise, we object and we hope somebody listens and we urge people to respect human life.

POM     As far as I can see you're coming at the problem from the point of view that if we fix the police, the justice system and the correctional system and start processing criminals, apprehending and processing them quicker with longer sentences, that will stop the problem.

ED     No it won't.

POM     OK, whereas I'm coming from the side of there's something going on in the mind, that men must be enraged, must feel powerless, must feel the need to humiliate others, to express their powerlessness. Is that about poverty, about the perceived loss of power?

ED     I think the unemployment and the poverty is a major part of the problem. So what can we do as a newspaper? I think this is where the educational role of the newspaper is very important. I think it was a very astute move to use Charlize Theron in the rape advertisement and that really brought home to men that you can't do this, you don't treat women like that. So we support campaigns like that as much as we can. We try to tell people in our paper that rape is not part of a civilised society and this is not the kind of world that we want to live in. We keep on talking about that.

POM     I know I'm pushing you, I know you're not a psychologist, but as a lay person who talks to and mingles with intelligent opinion makers and goes to conferences and fora on a range of national issues and whatever, is there any emerging consensus as to what is the cause of this kind of behaviour, as distinct from how you take care of it?

ED     Yes, I don't think there's an emerging consensus on it. I think there is a broad line of thinking that, OK, we're a society in transition and things get out of hand, out of joint in times like this. I think SA is too much of a macho society. On the other hand women have had the vote, or white women at least, for many years and the problem is not so bad amongst whites, it's worse among the less educated coloureds and it's very much worse among the black population. With polygamy, it's still legal among blacks. I thought about this new bill on removal of unfair discrimination, it's a new bill, in fact it proposes to ban unfair and discriminatory practices based on customary law. Whether that would include polygamy or not we still have to see but among the black people there is still polygamy but then you can say among the Muslims too in SA and there's less rape among the Muslims than among the blacks I should think. And then you add unemployment, people loitering about, not much to do, a very high level. I see now the expanded unemployment figure rating in SA is about 37% which is very, very high. That's part of the problem, people not working. So you can't tackle it only with enforcing the law and so on. It's a socio-economic problem as well, one of the reasons too why the growth rate must go up. But if you ask me for a very simple psychological explanation for what's happening, well I would say many factors, many factors, not only one. That's how I would see it as a layman.

POM     Let me relate that in a sense to the problem of AIDS. Now I have asked just about every interview within a government or a public position, what's the biggest challenge facing the country in the next 15 years, including a host of government ministers. Not a single one has mentioned AIDS.

ED     Not one?

POM     Then I would say, well, what about AIDS? And they would say, well there's a back-up, of course AIDS is a big problem and a very important problem and it's a priority problem, but no-one has said it's the biggest single challenge facing the country and that before you can talk about eliminating poverty or creating growth or anything is that you here are in a state of emergency with regard to something that's passed the pandemic stage, it's into the plague stage. Yet all you get are these token gestures, wear a pin.

ED     Wear a condom.

POM     And wear a condom and that's never worked anywhere. Is there the will, the political will where the President will go on radio or television and declare to the nation, "We are in a national emergency and we have to take national emergency-like measures. Therefore the following will be done."

ED     I don't see that coming. The biggest problems, if you rate at the top the crime, poverty, AIDS and AIDS related – it's not only AIDS that's more or less out of hand, it's tuberculosis, and malaria is the other one. These three, three of them. There are new strains of malaria which are not being treated and people die of it and it's worsening, what you call a mutation of the malaria germ that's happening now. Then TB is out of hand here on the Cape Flats, for instance. That also could be AIDS related but it's not necessarily AIDS related. And then AIDS itself. There is a suggestion that – you know we have this emerging black elite, well it's not only emerging, it's there, the black elite in the country who are in favour of affirmative action because it helps them, it does not help the poor and so on. There's a theory which I've heard that the black elite is not really worried about AIDS because they think it will affect the poor and not them.

POM     I'm sure you've either heard of it or maybe have a copy of it, the reports prepared by the US Embassy, one for US businesses doing business here and what the impact of AIDS might be on their bottom lines, and the other kind of an assessment of what impact it might have on the macro-economic picture. The latter very much said that as long as it is confined to the poor, the unemployed, women and children to a lesser degree, and doesn't enter into the skilled classes, the educated classes, then it's just basically getting rid of a lot of unemployed people and while it may wreak havoc with the social structure of the country it will have a minimal effect on economic growth. That report was classified immediately.

ED     Whose opinion was it?

POM     You should ring the US Embassy and ask them about the report they prepared, or that had been prepared for US businesses in SA.

ED     Was it the opinion of the Embassy?

POM     It was the opinion of either – it wasn't quite clear whether it was the opinion of the embassy after it's own assessment or the opinion of people they hired to do the assessment.

ED     Or of government people who were there?

POM     Yes.

ED     It could match up. I would not be surprised if that is how the government sees it. It obviously means that the festering sores of the squatter camps would become worse and from there on what kind of other related illnesses could not be carried out, out of these places – cholera and whatnot, I don't even want to know about it, cholera and all kinds of other things which has already happened in some places. The water problems, the sewerage and night filth and all that. It's a very cynical view of what's going to happen. It means the government washes its hands of the problem, that's what it means. I know, I know from doctors who speak to me, already they are testing in some hospitals, immediately get a blood test, and you hear if you're HIV infected you're sent home to die. This is already happening in this country.

POM     So you might come in for, say, I was going to say a broken foot, but they decide to take a blood sample and if it's HIV positive they will put a plaster on your foot but rather than saying stay three days and elevate the leg for ten days to make sure you don't die of blood clotting, they'll say go home now?

ED     In the Transvaal where my daughter works, she's a medical doctor, they call it the 'hollow eye sickness', your eyes sink back and she recognises them as they come in. You can recognise AIDS by just looking at the person if you're medically trained.

POM     So where do you think it stands in terms of, despite the hype, leaving that aside, there's certainly been a lot of that –

ED     About AIDS?

POM     About AIDS, but hype doesn't deal with the problem and the health budget for next year is being cut, not increased, so there are less health resources available on every front. Where is the political will to say that if we look down the road a bit, unless we get this under control and the spin-off diseases that will emerge, there's not going to be much of a country to govern in 20 years?

ED     The political will isn't there. The Minister of Health was in Uganda. She came back and said they had a very good programme about AIDS and she might want to implement it here and nothing has been done, and as you say the budget has been cut. So the political will is lacking. Then you ask yourself, OK, we were going to have a growth rate of 6% by the year 2000, we're going to get 400,000 new jobs every year by the year 2000. Obviously that's not going to happen.

POM     You've almost shed that many jobs in the last four years.

ED     500,000 gone. So the political will is lacking. Apart from that the other problem, I mean while we're at this, the other problem that's becoming more and more prevalent is the wiping out of the distinction between party and state which is becoming a major issue and which will affect the economy or might effect the economy.

POM     Do you have a copy of that? The Mail & Guardian published an abbreviated version.

ED     Yes I've got it here. Is this the full report?

POM     Yes, that's the full report. If you want to make a copy of it you're welcome to.

ED     I'll do that just now. The party cadres are being appointed in positions which should be independent and you can go from the Governor of the Reserve Bank to the National Director of Public Prosecutions to the new head of the Income Tax Division.

POM     The Police Commissioner.

ED     The Police Commissioner but also the income tax people.

POM     Oh, Gordhan.

ED     Pravin Gordhan. I think it's a very dangerous appointment. It must be useful for a government to have somebody who has a complete insight into everybody's taxes. If he's friendly he can pass on very damaging information can't he? And so it goes on and on and on. This started under Mandela and this is the creeping hegemony that eventually ends up in a one party state which proved to be the downfall of many African states and I think the process is here. If this goes on then you can be sure that the kind of economic growth and so on that we should have plus tendencies like AIDS, unemployment and crime, but we're not going to be successful.

POM     Even basic policy making, if you take certain givens about how AIDS is spreading, since not much appears to be done to prevent it from spreading, what's the point in investing huge amounts of money in skills training when perhaps up to 30% or 40% of the people you're investing in are going to be dead within ten years of the time they complete training?

ED     Exactly. In that open letter of the women I spoke about there's one very –

POM     Sorry, open letter of?

ED     The women to Mbeki about rape. They also come to the question of AIDS and there's one very revealing figure, the Kagiso Trust identified a few years ago 170 leaders of the future, 170 future leaders. Of those 30 have already died because of AIDS.

POM     Now was that in SA?

ED     In SA. 170 and 30 are already dead.

POM     So that there is the fallacy that you were coming to earlier on and that is that the emerging classes think that it's not going to get to us.

ED     Of course it's getting to them.

POM     But it's getting to them and as it wipes them out you're wiping out the elite.

ED     That's right.

POM     So you're left with nobody who has the capability to govern.

ED     That's right. That's where they are seriously wrong. Apart from that, if you go on with this what I would call rabid affirmative action, you're also alienating the people who because of history and apartheid and all that are actually the best qualified, which means the whites. Then on the white side you get the brain drain which is reaching alarming proportions. I can tell you, apparently there's about a quarter of a million South Africans working in London alone and somebody made the remark after the World Cup match between England and SA in Paris, there were thousands of South Africans who came over from wherever in Britain and Europe and what was remarkable about them was in spite of the victory and the flush of victory and all that, they were so well behaved, they were not drunk and noisy and loud like the crowds here. So why is that? Because they are the better educated people who are now sitting overseas.

POM     Are there reliable statistics on what the real level of emigration is?

ED     No.

POM     I read one report that said it's about three times higher than the official level.

ED     Yes it could probably be. There are no reliable statistics. What's also happening is that many people are not saying they're emigrating, they're saying they're going overseas for a visit or whatever and simply do not come back. They get a work permit. The work permits are actually higher than the emigration, the official work permits, but they also get work permits there. I met one couple coming back, I was in Europe recently, the girl is very well qualified, she has a legal qualification, she can practice here. Her husband is with a British firm of Attorneys, he's worked for them for four years, he's got a contract to go back for four years. They're coming back for three months on a sabbatical. They will stay here and see what it's like. If it's OK they will stay, if it's not he's got his contract. They have two children, they live quite safely and happily in London and they will go back. I'm going to bet you they're going back.

POM     A friend of mine had not a dissimilar story. She had been in Harare two weeks ago and at the height of all the furore about Mugabe whether it's gay bashing or suppression of internal opposition or whatever, and her remark was, "You can say anything you like about the political situation but I was walking the streets at one o'clock in the morning and I didn't feel that I had to look over my shoulder at the person approaching me or behind me or look askance at the person approaching me, I felt safe."

ED     Exactly. That's the difference here, you don't feel safe.

POM     So when people say Zimbabwe is going to hell, look at its currency, look at this, look at that, that may all be true but the people who live there actually feel safe and what's the point in having a little more money or even a lot more money if you feel unsafe all the time.

ED     I had a very interesting discussion with an Indian who I met in Barcelona. He said it's also now happening in India that the petty crimes are increasing. Very interesting on what he blames it, he blames it on TV.

POM     On TV?

ED     Yes. He says the under classes see all the wealth and the opulence and whatnot on TV and they think why shouldn't we have it, why shouldn't we have it now? That was a slogan of Boesak for instance, Allan Boesak, "We want it all and we want it now."

POM     I was playing around with that idea, talking to William Makgoba about African values and Eurocentric values. Nobody can give me a really good answer as to what the hell is the difference between the two.

ED     Mumbo jumbo.

POM     It appeared to me that in an increasingly global society that's going to more rapidly become globalised rather than the rate slow down, is that we're all consumers now, consumerism is everything and cuts across cultures, cuts across religions, cuts across all these other barriers that have perhaps separated us and contributed to our diversity in the past are disappearing as we all consume the same goods, wear the same kind of Nike shoes or same baseball caps, T-shirts and electronic equipment and watch the same programmes. I often wonder, what does a person in a township, perhaps in a rural area, a fairly underdeveloped area, with a television who sits there watching an American sit-com like Murphy Brown or Seinfeld, I wonder what goes through their heads.

ED     It's difficult to say. There are a few things that of course in spite of the globalisation you've also got the rise of the ethnic minorities. The Catalans in Spain, the language issue, the Basques, the Flemish and the French in Belgium, French and English in Canada and so on. Here you have this block of Afrikaners who don't want to be part of the Anglo-Saxon world because of the language issue.

POM     Again, is Mbeki, despite his going to the Broederbond and talking to them, is he under-estimating the power of language as a source of conflict or potential conflict?

ED     I don't think he is but there are important parts of the ANC who do under-estimate it and who are very – that I told him personally, "I simply don't understand you as an African not being sensitive about the language issue because you are now taking the imperial language of the world and you're getting rid of an indigenous language like Afrikaans." It's beyond me how blacks can do that. Well he listened quite carefully and of course letting go of their own languages and then what became the pattern in Africa that the liberation movements picked the old colonial language, dropped the indigenous languages and were unable to communicate with their own populations. That is the pattern right throughout Africa and it's happening here now. It's an imperialist frame of mind that quite baffles me.

POM     So is it that the elites speak English and the masses speak eleven official languages plus maybe a dozen more thrown in?

ED     That's right and it's just like Tsarist Russia where the elites spoke French and couldn't communicate with the people. This is the pattern now. Mbeki is aware of it. Whether it's one of his priorities that's another matter. I think he has so much to do that man probably it's not a top priority for him. It could become one if the tensions within the ANC if more than half of his following don't agree with it. The communists and the socialists obviously don't agree with it and the tensions could be increased and he might look for new allies and he might have to have a bust-up with the trade unions. I think he's thinking basically that I'll have to fix the trade unions before I give much attention to, say, inclusive government and so on and then his first fall back position will be towards Inkatha because he would not want to be seen by the Africanists as moving to white parties so if he gets Inkatha then maybe he will look at other parties if he wants a real inclusive government.

POM     Just on the trade union question it has struck me since I've come back this time, or this year, that one seldom hears the word GEAR used now. A year or 18 months ago it was nothing but GEAR, GEAR and more GEAR, that since the dressing down the SACP and COSATU received prior to the election from Mandela and Mbeki there has been relative silence on the issue from the trade unionists themselves. Now, (i) to what degree do you think that, again, there was politics at play; Sam Shilowa was a major opponent of GEAR and he is now the appointed premier by a president who is the chief advocate of GEAR, he's not going to talk against GEAR any longer, so that's the end of his principle stand on GEAR and one can look around and see other people plucked from trade unions that are now sitting in parliament and they're not there to articulate anti-GEAR positions. Jeremy Cronin is not sitting there to get up and suddenly make a damning remark against GEAR, he's there to put his hand up and vote yes every time a GEAR police crosses the floor. So is opposition in a way, again in this kind of redeployment of people, being cleverly picked off?

ED     Of course. If you look at the privatisation issue, if you look at all the real tough jobs, it's been handed to the communists. Radebe is now in charge of – a member of the politburo or whatever it's called, Jeff Radebe is in charge of privatisation. The trade unions in the civil service, Fraser-Moleketi is in charge of that, she's a member of the Communist Party, the politburo, I think vice-chairman of the Communist Party if I'm not mistaken. In that way he's been co-opting the potential opposition within his own party against the GEAR policy and free market, he is not being led by the trade unions. He's doing that. It's clever. Whether it will be successful is another question.

POM     And the composition of trade unions, of COSATU itself, has changed dramatically. The plurality of its members are now public service workers.

ED     And they couldn't shake Fraser-Moleketi in the showdown when they wanted higher salaries. She simply refused and said there's no more money. That's a real show-stopper isn't it, where do we get the money from?

POM     So since increasingly segments of the civil service, it will be more of an ANC civil service or public sector than whatever you want to call it, appointed on merit or the old British system of doing examinations and you went in with a number and you get maybe called or you may not be. That's the way it used to work in Ireland and as the Brits did it. If you have an increasing number of the civil service itself who are owed their appointments to the ANC, who at the same time are members of COSATU, they are less likely to take up arms against the government.

ED     Of course but are they likely to implement the GEAR policies with any vigour? That's why they're struggling. I think also they're moving towards a situation where they found themselves with the old civil servants. I mean a civil servant to obstruct any policy is a very dangerous animal. You can shift around paper and look as if you're actually working but actually you're not doing anything. Privatisation in SA it's just a sham really isn't it? Nothing's happened, or virtually nothing. And of course if it's done in an energetic way the foreign debt could be halved or more.

POM     If it were done the right way you could cut that current debt by half?

ED     Yes. And you would probably have more efficient institutions coming in the place of state run enterprises.

POM     Why is this not happening?

ED     Well some people are saying, what do you expect if you put communists in charge?

POM     Yes! Putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop.

ED     That's right. Also, I guess – you know under Mandela, Mandela was very well liked and he was respected abroad and all that but as far as running the administration was concerned he wasn't hands on, he was way distant. Under Mbeki it's still very early to say but he's only been there since June, nothing much is happening. His front line in parliament, he spends most of his time out of parliament, I think it's becoming the old imperial presidency again where the president runs the country and he is more or less ignoring parliament. That's more or less happening now and we don't see signs yet of a very active, competent civil service. It's still bloated, they still have to fire about 50,000 civil servants and they should have done that right in the beginning. I don't know of any major cutbacks.

POM     But are they not now almost in a catch-22 situation of their own making in the sense that while the sunset clauses provided protection until 1999, and sunset clauses are gone, but they have been replaced by the labour laws passed by the last ANC government which makes employers go through enormous cumbersome procedures before they can retrench people so you can't just say I'm laying off 10,000 civil servants on Monday morning with two weeks notice. Everyone has to be dealt with as an individual case.

ED     Severance packages which cost a lot. Secondly, of course, just a week or two ago they had evidence before one of the parliamentary committees that because of the new labour laws if all the civil servants now took unpaid leave that would cost the country R11 billion.

POM     If all the?

ED     Unpaid leave, if they took it now all at once it would cost the country R11 billion because of the new Act. What is it called? Basic Conditions of Employment. Saki Macazoma worked out that Transnet, if they applied the law as it is, Transnet, a state run corporation, it would cost him R800 million a year more and he's already running at a loss. That's what I call the law of unintended consequences.

POM     Is this all part of, again, transition? One could in the ANC's favour say they inherited a civil service, a public sector that was a mess, four independent states, five more homelands, the central civil service, the Own Affairs, the 14 different departments of everything ranging from the totally inefficient in corrupt and badly run homelands to perhaps relatively inefficient in Pretoria, and these all had to be amalgamated into one unit. They were riven with corruption. In fact they had been subsidised by corruption, and that under the circumstances they haven't really done a bad job.

ED     Who? The ANC?

POM     At least – how do you fire in the East Transkei? Well firing the alive civil servants, never mind the dead ones that are still collecting their pay, how do you fire the 15,000?  I think it was Niel Barnard who pointed out to me that they have 25,000 civil servants in the Eastern Cape in agriculture and the Western Cape has something like 8000 and that the difference in productivity level of what they administer is about ten times  higher in the Western Cape than in the Eastern Cape, they're just surplus. In fact I think the Department of Agriculture there declared bankruptcy last week and closed shop.

ED     Yes, they need to send a letter now whether they could make a telephone call.

POM     They have to what?

ED     This Agricultural Department in the Transkei, if they want to make a telephone call they need to send a letter to ask for permission.

POM     Well in one regard then where is the country going and how many of its problems are of its own making and how many, like even HIV, are problems that are largely outside its control and it doesn't have the capacity, the means to deal with?

ED     That's a mouthful. Well you know the old saying, if darkness threatens to overwhelm you light a candle. One would like to see that the government does something that is really – let's look at the financial position of the government. I think everyone was surprised by what Trevor Manuel did. Everyone thought here was an activist from the Cape Flats, a real rabble rouser, which he was, and what on earth – and he's talking about amorphous entities like the market and so on, real dark things we need to go and – and he learned and he kept his mouth shut and suddenly he's a respectable person and I think the management of the Finance Department, the fiscal policy and all that, taxes are still too high but we're working towards getting it lower, that seems to be effective and that's very encouraging. There's a staff there. Alec Erwin at Trade & Industry is a card carrying member of the Communist Party and is really carrying out open market policies and also very surprising and fairly efficient, not a good speaker though. His dealings with the European Union and so on, consistent. So that's fine. Then you find the Department of Labour which passes laws that are in contradiction with what they are doing elsewhere. It doesn't make sense. There's no urgency about job creation at the Department of Labour, which should be its top priority. It's more worried about giving protection to those who have jobs and not worried about the unemployed, which is the same position as COSATU. Then you can go on. There are other departments which are simply inefficient, like the police.

POM     Home Affairs which is holding up easing restrictions that would bring foreign investment into the country, R300 million rand of foreign investment into the country.

ED     Well a simple example here in the Cape, you know we can expand tourism in a big way. OK, crime is a problem and unemployment, but we must see what else is holding the tourists back. Number one is the SA Airways which is blocking more flights to the Cape. How does it make sense? So that kind of thing is happening and I suppose it's happening in all countries but as I've often said before, you know SA it wants to be the beacon of hope in Africa, it needs to move faster, there's more expectations of it, there's more pressure on Mbeki and the government to show that a black government doesn't necessarily fail as in too many other cases. His footwork has got to be better and he's got to move quicker. There's no sign in this government that they realise that. As you pointed out with AIDS, there's no political will about that. As I point out about crime, there's nothing of urgency about that. What about GEAR? Is GEAR really pursued with all the forces at the command of the government? It's not. So the future in the short term doesn't look particularly rosy.

POM     And you have at least two provinces that are almost non-sustainable, non-viable, the Eastern Cape which is simply not working and the Northern Cape which has said it's not. It's official policy is that it's not viable.

ED     Northern Cape or Northern Province?

POM     Sorry, Northern Province. I got my northerns mixed!

ED     The Eastern Cape, I would say now is more viable than a year ago. OK, this comes from Jane Raphaely, she's the head of Femina. This is the movement, Women Demand … plus all the other associated organisations here. You will see the Kagiso Trust figuring there.

POM     I must ring them up to get their figures and that other report that you mentioned. Are they doing a lot of work on AIDS related issues? Among my other, my official duties at the university is that I edit a Public Policy Journal and I had done one in 1989 on AIDS in the United States when it was just beginning to hit the big time and I am now putting together a special issue on the Economic and Political Impact of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. I went to Lusaka, I've been doing the rounds of getting names and trying to line up contributors but I'm finding that very little work or very little research work has been done on the economic and social consequences of AIDS.

ED     Here in SA?

POM     Not just in SA, in other countries too.

ED     I can give you the name of an expert on all of this.

POM     Is that Whitehead?

ED     No, Virginia van der Vliet. You know her?

POM     No.

ED     She's the wife of David Welsh. Do you know David Welsh?

POM     I have heard of him but I have not met him.

     If you were president in January 1990, you are De Klerk and you are on vacation and you get a call from me and I'm Magnus Malan and I say I've got to fly down and see you straight away, I've learnt something quite shocking and have to talk to you immediately about it. You say come ahead and I come down and I say I have just learnt of the existence of something called the Civil Co-operation Bureau, a covert unit within the Department of Defence. I never knew of its existence and I learn of its existence and I believe it's been up to all kinds of illegal activities. What, as president, would your response have been?

ED     If I'm not mistaken that term was quite well known during the mid-eighties already because that was when PW started this thing where it pulled in more and more of the military into the civil running of –

POM     That was the National Security Council.

ED     Yes but there was something under that called, Nasionale Bestuurstelsel – National Management Security System.

POM     But that was a whole structure that went from National Management right down to the local police station.

ED     But the thing you're now talking about is the Vlakplaas business?

POM     No before, this is the Civil Co-operation Bureau for which De Klerk set up the Harms Commission to investigate whether it had been involved in murders.

ED     CCB.

POM     So Malan, this is the Minister for Defence for eight years, he's been a protégé of PW and he suddenly discovers the existence of a covert unit within his own department that has been up to apparently all kinds of illegal activities and not just covert activities but illegal activities. Would your first response as President not be, "Magnus, you've got to be kidding me that you knew nothing about this. Come on, don't let's shoot smoke. You're telling me now but you did know because if you didn't know I'm firing you. That's what I'm doing because you should have known."

ED     Should have known, yes.  Do you think that's what happened?

POM     No! I brought this up with De Klerk two days ago and said, "Why didn't you fire him? Isn't there a doctrine of ministerial accountability, that you're accountable for - ?"

ED     Collective responsibility.

POM     I always cite the example of Lord Carrington who after Argentina invaded the Falklands proudly walked into the House of Commons and said, "I was Secretary for Foreign Affairs and I didn't have my eye on the ball and I didn't notice that Argentinean warships were steaming towards the Falklands. I take full responsibility. I resign." And they all said, "Hear, hear, what a gentleman." De Klerk said" 'It doesn't work quite that way here. Unless there's direct evidence of ministerial involvement in something, evidence that he knew, then he's not held accountable", which seems to me to me a twisted notion. He even gave the example of Gerrit Viljoen when he was Minister for Education was involved in a scandal and he said, "I talked to him and Viljoen said he hadn't the slightest idea of what was going on, so that's fine here" You go on being minister rather than saying you damn will should have known and even if you didn't, being a minister has accountability and being fired comes with the job.

ED     Yes.

POM     Or would you think that Magnus did know? Do you think it likely that a minister of that calibre, one of the key members of the National Security Council, the almost chief oracle of the total onslaught, wouldn't know about a key covert operation within his own ministry?

ED     I think he knew.

POM     General Viljoen says of course he knew. That was his answer.

ED     You see then comes another question, De Klerk then knew in 1990 that there were things like that going on and therefore the whole argument that they're pushing forward, why they didn't have a general amnesty? You see of all the mistakes De Klerk and Kobie Coetsee made in my mind the very worst was the question of a general amnesty because he knew and the ANC knew and most people in SA knew that there were a whole lot of bad guys on both sides, people who really belong behind bars and up to this day they are sitting right within the Cabinet. Those civilised people should be associated with it, so you decide there and then if we want to go forward in this country we need a general amnesty, forget the sins of all the scoundrels on all sides and De Klerk blew that opportunity, De Klerk and Kobie Coetsee blew it.

POM     How did they blow it?

ED     Because there was an agreement, I think I've told you before –

POM     You told me that they blew it but you didn't say how.

ED     There was a written agreement about a general amnesty. It was Niel Barnard and Fanie van der Merwe on the one side and on the other side, if I remember correctly, it was Thabo Mbeki and Joe Slovo.

POM     That's exactly what I've heard. OK.

ED     And Kobie Coetsee came into the room and he said, "No, no, no." He sat here and he told me the most fantastic story about how he wanted to bring back the agents that we had overseas and all kinds of bullshit as far as I'm concerned. He blew it, Kobie Coetsee blew it but the responsibility was De Klerk's because if he knew in 1990 about what some of these De Kocks and people were doing, obviously they were doing terrible things and obviously the ANC was doing terrible things to themselves and to us and to poor innocent women and children. To this day Dullah Omar still maintains that they were on the moral high ground of all that stuff and so on which I think is absolute rubbish. Anyway, you're talking about corruption, and this is, by the way, corruption, when this government took over they were already corrupt because they were corrupt as far as all the NGOs were concerned, they were stealing money from the NGOs in a big way. So the moral high ground and so on, when politicians start talking about that, I think we should run for cover. There were a lot of scoundrels on both sides and for the future of SA that hatchet should have been buried, there should have been a general amnesty, we shouldn't have had the Truth Commission or if we had a Truth Commission it should have been balanced. It wasn't balanced. This was a struggle appointee commission. A very peculiar gentleman at the top and below him another very peculiar one and I blame De Klerk for that. I'm very sorry, and I will never forgive him for that. I think he put the future of the country at stake at that time. Whatever mistakes he made later on cannot be compared to the question of a general amnesty.

POM     Well your version corroborates exactly other versions that I have received, down to it being Kobie who hit the roof.

ED     In major transformations of society of this kind I think the very first step is a general amnesty because obviously many, many bad things happen on all sides.

POM     Do you think at that time in 1990, and this relates to what constraints were on De Klerk in terms of negotiations, could he have afforded to fire Malan? He sets two examples in his autobiography, one of in January 1990 of addressing senior police officers and telling them from now on everybody is to be neutral, no politics and they are to devote their time and energy to law and order and protecting the lives of the people and he could feel kind of misgivings among the officers. Then he goes on to say in March, that would be a month after he released Mandela, he gave the same message to the SADF brass and there there was a much greater degree of hostility towards him, he could feel the hostility from some elements and he clearly knew a lot of the security people working on his side, he had dismantled the National Security Management System which meant that a lot of people who had occupied very powerful positions had now been sidelined and if nothing but personal position or grudgery, or call it what you will, would have been out to knife him in the back, had he got to watch himself with the security forces? Did they restrain him, were there restraints to how far he could go?

ED     I have severe doubts about that version, his version of history. You know right throughout PW Botha's term of office it was a constant refrain, especially of the military, that the solution is 80% political and 20% military. That was a constant refrain. He had a kind of an emotional opposition to the security forces. I also thought that was quite a big mistake because what else had he to fall back on in case everything collapsed? Why alienate the only real source of power that you have? I think that weakened his position in negotiations. With Boipatong he allowed the ANC to get away with murder. So I don't support that version, his version of history. Even if he felt, as he says, hostility within the security forces but how could he have approached it?

POM     What I am saying is, could he take actions that would totally alienate the security forces?

ED     He did, oh he did. He fired those 23 officers without any grounds. He's now in a civil suit against General Thirion who was De Klerk's supporter, he supported his policies and the way he was going on and he fired him. It was such a major mistake, incomprehensible to this day and what's more the police were always a bit different but within the army and the armed forces there was a long-standing tradition of being loyal to the government of the day and had he used that and had he told them, "Gentlemen, we are moving to a new dispensation and I need your support and in this new dispensation there has to be law and order and we are going to negotiate with people who had been our enemies and you will understand this, this is the end of the way. Now we're going into peace talks." It's as simple as that. He would have had their support. He did not have it. And always of course there's in-fighting between the armed forces and all that. That happens now in this country. Of course there's hostility between them, different intelligence services and all kinds of other funny things being founded like the Scorpions and so on which might even be -

POM     Sorry, which might?

ED     The Scorpions, that might be the new Gestapo for all we know.

POM     So you don't think that the military, that they being the only power he had - ?

ED     The security services, the security forces, they were the only real power that he had.

POM     Well did he then not have to make sure that they were always on his side no matter what step he took, that he had their kind of covert approval if nothing else and did this act as a restraining factor in some of his dealings with the ANC that he could go so far but he couldn't cross certain lines because he would risk alienating the only base of power that he had?

ED     He did alienate them. I think you misunderstand me there. He did alienate the security forces and thereby he weakened his position, his negotiation strength.

POM     OK, because he had nothing then to fall back on. What you're saying is that he couldn't rely on them in the crunch?

ED     No, because he hadn't taken them along and on board.

POM     OK, got it.

ED     A major mistake.

POM     Just during that period, 1986 – 1990, after the state of emergency was declared, one gets the impression from reading a number of books and one that I've been relying on is a very, very detailed book, I bought it here, by Dan O'Mara, he's at a Canadian university, called The Forty Lost Years where he deals in very comprehensive detail with the inner workings of government but he paints the period from 1986 to 1990 as one in which the National Security Council in effect were the rulers of the country, were the government of the country, and that it was served by a secretariat, 56% of the staff came from the National Intelligence Agency, 16% from the SADF, 16% from the SAP and 11% from Foreign Affairs, so all the information – it's operating limb was composed almost entirely of people who were in the armed forces and it fed into the National Security Management System which percolated down to local police station level which was the lowest unit. So it was a total – the SCC could call any matter a security matter so even fertilisation of potatoes could qualify.

ED     Yes, they did have that effect but the other thing was – at that time my son served in the navy, he was called up for national service and I saw the instructions that he got, he was a Marine in the navy, I saw their instructions when working in black areas and so on and I saw their instructions to the police. It was North Pole and South Pole, it was two worlds. The military had a real concept of fighting an insurgency war, the police were total jackasses.

POM     This is winning the hearts and minds strategy.

ED     Yes.

POM     That was the defence strategy.

ED     How you treat the people and so on. It was very intelligent and it was very effective as far as – I mean he was in the Marines, it's a very tough corps, and how they worked in comparison with the police, they were real savages. I don't think everything came from there. There was definitely a different structure in the military who knew what it was all about and the police who did not know what it was all about. Look at what happened, the shootings here – what was that one incident on the road? Shot the people from the Casspir and so on.

POM     So despite all this co-ordination there was no co-ordination.

ED     No.

POM     Despite this vast machinery.

ED     The country is too vast and the conditions are too different and the forces weren't the same.

POM     A different culture in each?

ED     Oh decidedly. The police culture is the cop on the beat is his own boss while the military structure is very different, it works down, down, down and there's always somebody in charge. Not with the police culture. That's very different. The Kits Konstabels, the instant cops, to this day almost half of this police force are Kits Konstabels, instant cops.

POM     That means?

ED     Untrained, just with a uniform, unable, as you said, to write even.

POM     Half of the members of the SA Police –

ED     That's the figure I've heard.

POM     But half of them walk in, are given a uniform.

ED     Not properly trained.

POM     And told, these are your list of instructions, and of course they can't read anyway so they'll say, OK, and walk out.

ED     That's right. A very ineffective police force.

POM     Thank you for the time. I've just one or two last things. One was related to just – yes, Niel Barnard was this young academic at the University of the Orange Free State. He spent six months at Washington Georgetown University in the Institute of Strategic Studies. He did a PhD on the transformation, power relations and international relations, he becomes head of the Department of Political Science through a series of lucky events in the OFS at age of 26 and at age 29 he's plucked out of obscurity and made head of NIS, the newly created Intelligence Agency, by PW Botha. Where did he emerge from? Why?

ED     Oh well, you know PW was born in the Free State, he's still alive, he had, and I suppose he still has, a tremendous confidence and trust in people from the Free State and this was one. Apparently Barnard got to his notice as a very competent academic and everyone was surprised at the appointment but Barnard took a leading role in opening up negotiations with the ANC.

POM     Mandela speaks of him as being the best of the four people who visited him, he was the only one who would engage him in argument. He enjoyed the workout.

ED     Yes. I think also, Mandela said so himself, he read Die Burger at Robben Island and he got some insight into Afrikaner thinking. Mandela told me once that he visited this doctor, the physician who operated on him for his prostate when he visited him the second time around and how the doctor offered him coffee and he said that, "That changed my perceptions about Afrikaners completely", which is a very strange statement showing that he thought Afrikaners were real stupid, backward people and he met this physician who was very educated, cultured and so on. I think Barnard reinforced that kind of image, that Afrikaners aren't all that stupid. It was a very revealing remark, I thought, that he made to me. He thought they were all just stupid, backward, country bumpkins and then he met this one. He met Barnard, he was quite sophisticated in his talks about political scenery and all that. I think that's why he made an impression on Mandela.

POM     And straightforward, blunt.

ED     Yes, effective, and he had wide contacts within the intelligence community, I would suppose probably with the Israelis as well. Mossad are considered to be very, very good. They helped us to build a nuclear bomb I think. And he travelled a lot at that time, that explains some of it.

POM     Barnard did.

ED     Yes. Also of course some people in intelligence agencies would say that when De Klerk sat down to start the negotiations he just opened champagne bottles, popped the corks. He would agree to that I suppose.

POM     Sorry, when De Klerk started negotiations he popped the champagne corks?

ED     The table was already laid, the arrangements had been made.

POM     Well Barnard says all the difficult agreements had been concluded before De Klerk even took office. Then how did De Klerk manage to screw it up? Drank too much of the champagne?

ED     I think he lost control of the process after the Boipatong incident and, what was that thing called, the Record of Understanding. Then I think the ANC turned the tables on him. The agreement excluding Inkatha was a major mistake, major, major.

POM     Let's almost end on that.

ED     Add to that, who did the ANC get as negotiators? They got Kentridge, they had Chaskalson there.

POM     Kentridge?

ED     Sydney Kentridge, barrister now based in London, Chaskalson, Constitutional Court here and George Bizos, people like that. Then he lost Viljoen, he lost Barend du Plessis, De Klerk lost all of them, Stoffel van der Merwe, people like that, and he had to put a complete junior like Roelf Meyer in charge of the negotiations. He left out all the veterans of the negotiations on Namibia.

POM     Why?

ED     Beats me. I could never understand it. You know Patti Waldmeir makes one observation in her book about the vanity of De Klerk, I still think it has a lot to do with that. He wanted to run his own show.

POM     Somebody else said that to me, that he couldn't tolerate, not tolerate, but he didn't want personalities in his negotiating team that would loom larger than him and like Cyril took the limelight on the ANC side and it made him a star, Mandela didn't give a damn, he said, "Go ahead, just get the job done."

ED     And he gave him expert advice. Having people like Chaskalson and Kentridge and Bizos to advise you is very useful, I should think, in the toughest negotiations about this country's future since the Boer War. His side was very light, amateurish really.

POM     Who were the advisors? I was asking De Klerk whether he had any 'kitchen cabinet' or any group of people outside of government that he would talk to or could draw advice from and he said there was none, but he mentioned one man, a professor at the Rand Afrikaans University, I can't remember his name offhand now, I have it at home, but it arose in relation to a question and a number of the people who had been involved in the negotiating process have said to me that De Klerk was a terrific tactician but a very bad strategist.

ED     That's correct.

POM     That he had, it's a question I've been asking members of the negotiating teams and I'm coming back to it again this time, what was your strategy from the day De Klerk released Mandela? Did he say, OK this is the plan, we will go from here to here to here and then they will make us an offer and we will have a counter-offer, we will know what we aspire to, we will know what we want and we will know what trade-offs we are prepared to make and we will know when to say, "We've reached our bottom line, thus far and no further." Had they worked out all of that? All of his negotiators say no, it was more ad hockery than anything else but De Klerk when I put this to him and pointed to this man who said they had a plan worked out with weights attached to priorities and –

ED     From the university?

POM     From the man at Rand University who drew it up, so I've got to find him.

ED     I'm getting more scared about the past than about the future. Pieter-Dirk Uys now says in his satires, "I'm more scared about the past than about the future." No I don't think he had a strategy. Some people say that it was like somebody making a paradigm shift, that you think up to the end of the jump but not further on.

POM     Sorry, that he thought up to?

ED     The paradigm shift. Alright, we're jumping over the river but there was no strategy for once you've landed on the other side of the river, what now? I think that describes the situation. And as you described it now the people round him they were just negotiating, they knew there was going to be a new constitution, a new South Africa.

POM     I posed this theory to myself, there's no substantiation of it but one that I've just been playing around with, and that is that in his heart of hearts De Klerk knew the outcome, knew that he had begun on a process that was unstoppable and would ultimately end up in majority rule one way or another.

ED     Well Roelf Meyer said to me in so many words, I'll quote it exactly, he said, "De Klerk regards himself as a transitional figure." Early on in the negotiations he said that and I thought that's dangerous because a reformer takes the toughest road of all, it's very dangerous. I've already pointed that out. But if that is so, that he realised how dangerous it was, you've got to look very far forward and make plans for different kinds of possibilities. And coming back to that delegation where I was where we discussed in 1989 a ten-year transition period -

POM     This was in Dakar?

ED     No, that was in the south of England, and Willem De Klerk, Wimpie his brother, was part of that delegation. If that's your bottom line, a ten-year transition period, there are many more things that you can play around with to get time, to work out things further forward.

POM     So who else was at that meeting?

ED     We met with Thabo Mbeki, with Jacob Zuma, with Aziz Pahad. The top member of their side was Anthony Trew who is now in the Government Information Service,

POM     He was the top man for? He's an American is he?

ED     No he's South African. He worked in Mandela's office for the past five years and is now in the Government Information Service.

POM     I met him about two weeks ago, we had a social exchange.

ED     ANC. He was based in London at that time. Our side was Willie Esterhuyse, Sampie Terblanche, Willem De Klerk, Louis Kriel from Unifruco, Rev. Ernst Lombard (he's died since), he was from Stellenbosch. A ten-year transition. In the end of course, looking back, it was a major mistake of De Klerk not to carry through with the five-year transition.

POM     Everyone agrees on that to the point where I was talking to Marthinus the other day and I said if the ANC offered you a couple of posts in government what would your response be?

     Just one more question. This is just an opinion question. When Mandela was released one of his first calls, he says and confirmed by others, was to Chief Buthelezi to thank him for his support while he had been in prison and that he (Buthelezi) wouldn't negotiate with the government until he was released and the ANC was unbanned and the political prisoners had been released and there was the return of exiles. Mandela said he would like to visit the King and himself. Buthelezi said that would be fine and they even talked about dates, 10th, 11th or 12th, and he wanted to place a wreath on the grave of King Shaka which Joe Matthews told me he couldn't have done that, that's against Zulu tradition, the Zulu king doesn't even go to funerals never mind graveyards and laying wreaths in the European tradition. I had all my transcripts of my first interviews with the King and Buthelezi found in Boston and faxed over here so I could go back to Joe and say that's what he said.

ED     Joe isn't a Zulu.

POM     Joe isn't a Zulu?

ED     As far as I know.

POM     I think he is.

ED     Z K Matthews, was he a Zulu, his father?

POM     Joe Matthews, yes.

ED     His father is ZK Matthews, he was the Ambassador of Botswana.

POM     Who was the Professor Matthews at Fort Hare University.

ED     That's right, which is Xhosa country. Anyway, I would think he's not.

POM     OK, I will check. I'm seeing him again. One would have thought that Mandela would have said, "My number one priority is I've got to stop this war between the IFP and the ANC, we can't have blacks killing blacks in what looks like a civil war to me at this point when we're going to open negotiations with the government." So he accepted the invitation, he goes to Lusaka, according to himself, and the NEC vetoed the idea that he would visit the King. He's then about to go to Pietermaritzburg to address a joint rally with Buthelezi and he accepts and then the ANC in Pietermaritzburg, Harry Gwala, says, "We'll slit your neck if you do that." He backs off doing that. One, having accepted an invitation from the King of the Zulus and he being of royal lineage himself says in his autobiography that even while on Robben Island he was an advisor to the King of the Tembus, would be aware of the enormous insult to the King of the Zulus to turn down an invitation after he had made the request himself and of course he would know, given Chief Buthelezi's personality, how he takes everything as an insult so he would know that he's compounding a problem by not doing so.

     Why do you think the man who could also write in his autobiography when he was moved to a single cell in Pollsmoor that in a way, "I was happy because now I could do something that I had been contemplating, I could write a letter to the government suggesting maybe we should start talks about negotiations and I knew that if I was upstairs with my three colleagues, Kathrada, Walter Sisulu and Raymond Mhlaba, that they would have all said no and that would be the end of the initiative, so on my own I wrote the letter because sometimes a leader must stand as leader of his people and take the decisive action." This time he didn't take the decisive action, he listened to and accepted the advice of the NEC, perhaps in his own definition being a loyal and disciplined member of the ANC and no more.

     One, why do you think he didn't insist on going, this has to be done. Two, do you think if he had met with Buthelezi at that point early on and with the King and there was a rapprochement and that they had gone around and covered KwaZulu-Natal for the first six or seven months of his release rather than him travelling all over the world saying to every community, "The war is over, we now have a common enemy and it's the government and we're negotiating with them. We're not fighting against them in a violent way but the war between Inkatha and the ANC is over", do you think that would have had an impact?

ED     Yes, to answer the second part of your question first, yes it would have. I think up to this day there is suspicion that the ANC fought a people's war in Natal, that they went to Vietnam and spoke to them about a people's war. They came back with the intention to destroy Inkatha by fighting a people's war. So with Buthelezi and Mandela doing that kind of thing I think certainly it would have had a major, major influence in stopping the war. Whether they could have got rid of somebody like that Stalinist Harry Gwala is another matter, or Nkabinde or people like that. I think there would have been more killing high up too but certainly it would have lessened.

POM     Well 4000 people died from 1990 to 1994 in KZN.

ED     Secondly, I think the real reason why Mandela changed his mind about meeting the King was that he wasn't sure of his own position within the ANC. You will remember at that time Oliver Tambo was still president and he hadn't taken over. He was the real leader but he was not because he was in jail and he has this kind of also respect and loyalty to Tambo and I think that was behind it all, that he thought he could have authority to do as he liked. That's how I would explain it.

POM     Well in my corollary question, perhaps the obvious one, to the extent that the NEC in Lusaka said, "No, you're not visiting the King or Buthelezi, he's tried to destroy us for years, you're simply not doing it", to the extent that they took that decision they must bear a considerable degree of the responsibility for the deaths that occurred between 1990 and 1994 no matter whether the security forces were involved on the part of Inkatha in one way or another, stoking the flames or whatever. They could have taken a decision that would have perhaps made even an ally out of Buthelezi and the course of negotiations could have taken a different front if the ANC and Inkatha came in as united.

ED     Sure. That would have really sharpened De Klerk's mind as well. It would have put him under much more pressure than he was. No I think that is perfectly true and of course another question that arises out of that is how did the Truth Commission manage to misread the whole civil war in Natal as they did? Another question, why is there no mention of all the Impimpis, all the people who worked for the government on the ANC side before 1990, all the spies, all the agents? If apartheid is a crime against humanity they aided and abetted the crime against humanity all those spies and there were hundreds of them.

POM     Hundreds of spies?

ED     Of the ANC who worked for the national government.

POM     That's right. In fact, and don't I love to tell about that, it comes from Joseph Lilyfeld's book, he used to be the correspondent for the New York Times and he wrote a book and he recalls some General Coetzee in Pretoria who said, "Oh, the MK, the ANC, bah! We just infiltrate them at will. It's child's play." So a year later he was in Lusaka and saw Tambo and he said, "General Coetzee says he can infiltrate you guys at will." He says Tambo said, "Yes, yes, he's dead right, he's absolutely right. No matter what kind of screens we put up they pass the screens. Do you know what? Some of our best and most effective members are government spies." He quotes Tambo as saying this.

ED     So all this holy talk about crime against humanity and all that those who aided and abetted the crimes, why are their names so secret? It's another dirty little secret of South Africa and up to this day they sit right up in the cabinet. I guess that's why the government is so wary about doing something about the Truth Commission's report.

POM     Do you see now an amnesty emerging?

ED     I should hope not.

POM     Or will the whole thing just be dropped?

ED     Just go away? It might. It depends on how strong the ANC feels it is, just let it go away. All the questions haven't been answered, not by the Truth Commission that's for sure. There's still the question of 27 top ANCs who asked for amnesty and they didn't get it and they want to reapply. For what? What did they do? How many people did they kill?

POM     That includes the president.

ED     That includes the president.

POM     Well I know I've taken up an awful lot of your time. It's always a pleasure talking to you and I've enjoyed it. I will be back but maybe sometime we can get together and just have a drink when I don't have my tape recorder on and we can just chat.

ED     Yes.

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.