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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
26 Sep 2001: Malan, Magnus
POM General, just casting your mind back in time to the whole furore over Inkathagate, on a personal level what went through your mind when President de Klerk called you in and removed you as Minister of Defence?
MM Nothing serious. I said, well I've beaten the reds now, I'll join the greens. That was my public statement I made after that and that's the way I feel. If I can serve the country in any capacity I will do it. So it's his choice, he's the leader of the country and he's got to decide which person will be the best. I think he made a fatal mistake but that's for him to decide.
POM Could you elaborate on that a little?
MM Certainly. First of all at that stage the ANC and the SACP they were requesting or demanding that President de Klerk should get rid of Adriaan Vlok and myself. They weren't participating in any negotiations and they had prior to that Operation Vula. Vula was taking place after the signature of the Groote Schuur Minute and the Pretoria Minute.
POM Between the two. It was July
MM No after that.
POM That's when Mac Maharaj was arrested in July of 1990.
MM No, I left Defence in 1991 and CODESA 1 started in 1992.
POM No, December 1991. No, sorry CODESA 2. CODESA 1 was December 1991, CODESA 2 was from January to May and Boipatong was June.
MM Make it 1991. I couldn't care less, it's still after my dismissal that it took place. In other words he was accepting perceptions advocated by the ANC, SACP about the security forces and he decided to get rid of the two ministers, the only two who were prepared to speak out against the ANC. I don't think that's a wise decision, seriously. You're in a predicament and what are you doing now? You're losing the support of your security forces. That's the risk he took. But he went further than that. In December 1992 he got rid of 23 Generals, or senior officers, without any evidence. I mean in the 1994 election President Mandela asked President de Klerk, "When are you giving me the evidence that you have against those 23?" And he couldn't reply to it. He had no evidence.
POM This is the Steyn Report right?
MM Steyn Report, it wasn't a report, but the so-called report. There was never a report. That's my story. I think he took a hell of a chance to go into negotiations and keep where the buck stops really as far as security is concerned, security forces, on the outside.
POM Now how do you, because that would strike me too, was De Klerk in a position that he could under all circumstances rely on the security forces or was he putting himself in a situation of jeopardy, of losing their support?
MM He would never have lost their support ever.
MM They never meddled in politics, that I can assure you, never. I kept them out of politics. My successors needn't even try to do it, it was accepted fact, I'm talking especially of the permanent force and it's permanent force that we're addressing now, never got involved in a political situation. They did, under pressure from America, or rather pressure from America and pressure from the ANC.
POM Did the defence forces up until the time you left and then from your informal talks with colleagues afterwards, did they monitor the negotiations? Did they have any input into the strategy of the negotiations?
MM No they weren't involved in the negotiations. I wasn't involved in the negotiations at all. I doubt whether your defence force can get involved in negotiations because you're busy with political negotiations. And I'm not talking about amnesty. Right at the end they brought certain members of the defence force under the minister who was the Minister of Defence and Justice, brought them in on the amnesty type of situation but they weren't really part and parcel of the negotiations.
POM When it came to the amnesty part was the SADF consulted on that?
MM No. The minister played his cards close to his chest.
POM This is Kobie Coetsee?
MM Right. And you must remember at that stage Mr Phosa went to see Kobie Coetsee, I was out of politics, went to see Kobie Coetsee twice and asked him whether the ANC, on their side, couldn't get amnesty and his reply both times was, "Sorry, you need it, we don't need it." 'We' being the security forces on the government side, so there won't be amnesty.
POM Did he do that at an early stage in the process?
MM I'm not sure, ask Mr Phosa that.
POM What I'm saying is what I have heard is that in fact an agreement had been reached between the ANC and the government on amnesty, or between the negotiators, and Coetsee tore it up saying it's our bargaining chip, they need it we don't, but that when it came up at the end when power was shifting it moved the other way round. They did need it.
MM Well if you're in power you've got everything on your side, you can do what you like and they got power in 1994 so they dictated. I can't reply to that, I wasn't there.
POM Many ANC people believe, negotiators, others, that the government would consult with the security forces, and I don't know whether that would be to say the SADF as such or the SAP as such, during the process of negotiations. During the time you were involved - ?
MM Well up till the time that I was involved in defence I was present when this point was raised.
POM This is the amnesty?
MM Amnesty. It was raised at a meeting where President de Klerk and Mr Kobie Coetsee were present and they said don't worry, we'll see to it. And that's the only place where I was physically there and heard it personally.
POM Both of them said or De Klerk said?
MM Both of them said it.
POM Don't worry, it will be
MM We'll have a look at it. De Klerk went further and he said something like, "I'm prepared, as far as amnesty is concerned, that it be given for those actions where murder was not committed but I'm not prepared to do it for murder cases." That was his point of view.
POM I had an immediate follow-up to that which went out of my mind. So this belief among ANC people in particular that when the NP negotiators would make a tentative agreement to something that they would then go off and consult with the military, is that just mythology?
MM Well any reasonable person will think that, don't you think so? I mean if I'm part of the ANC and you ask me the question do you think that the political negotiators from the other side, from the NP side, the government side, will talk to the people, the defence force and the police who are affected by amnesty. I would say, yes, I am sure they will do it because that's logical isn't it? I wouldn't know.
POM But they never talked to you about it?
MM I was out. First of all I was never invited to negotiations and I think it was the right decision by De Klerk. I'm not blaming him at all for it. And secondly I left defence end of July 1991 and I left government because of the 23 in February 1993.
POM In this Days of the Generals I get a sense from reading, from what you said, that you didn't entirely approve of the Security Branch people.
MM No I didn't say that. What I said is I doubt whether they were trained in unconventional warfare, you can call it insurgency, you can call it terrorism, you can call it whatever you want, it's unconventional. I doubt whether they were ever really trained in it. That's what I said. Whether they knew what was going on, were they addressing the problem or what? That's my feeling towards it. We were trained in conflict, we were trained in the various types of conflict that you can have whether it was in the office or whether it was in the battlefield. The whole approach of any military establishment is pro-active. If you talk about a police force it's basic situation is reactive. You get the crime and you get the police coming in. You very seldom get the police to be pro-active to prevent a crime because it's very difficult. Now with unconventional warfare the main thing is you've got to be pro-active. If you are reactive you're going to lose and to be pro-active you've got to know what the enemy is going to do before he does it.
A typical case is Bush at present. The Americans, I feel very sorry about their situation, I had family involved in it so I'm very pro-American, but their situation at present is a reactive situation, it's not a pro-active situation. My opinion is that the FBI was caught with their pants down. I don't know if you recall the second day, they said something about closing, it was intended closing the FBI offices in Washington. Are you with me? And they're re-opening it and they're recruiting 1000 new people. I tell you what that means to me, you're caught with your pants down, you were going thataway and all of a sudden the opposite is happening and it takes you 15 years to get a new recruit trained, I'm not even talking about getting inside these so-called terrorist cells. OK. That to me, to return to the South African situation, that to me is the difference between the military at that stage and the police at that stage. The one was totally reactive, the other one was pro-active.
POM Now did you have, did the military have moles or agents inside the ANC that could supply information?
MM If I say yes?
POM Well there's Military Intelligence, it has to be up to something.
MM Then you ask me where? And if I say no you'll say, "Oh you stupid - "
POM OK, well. You're an honest man.
MM I'll tell you this. Why do they crucify me because of the CCB? Why? That's the way we did it. We had to get into it and we got it but I can't say to the public, I can't spell it out.
POM There's this fascinating story in Mr de Klerk's autobiography where he says when he was taking a vacation after the elections in 1989 and he gets a Sunday morning call from you and you say, "I've got to see you right away", and he says, "Gee I'm taking a break after a hard election." And you said, "I've got to see you right away, I've got to fly down and see you", and you come down and you say, "I've discovered something, there's an organisation called the Civil Co-operation Bureau operating that appears to have been engaged in some illegal activities." He said, "Where did it come from?" And you said, "I don't know."
MM That's not true, that's not the whole story. The whole story is totally different. The story is the following: the CCB, I approved of it.
POM You approved?
MM Yes I authorised it. It came through a series of code names, it was Barnacle, something else, something else, they changed the code names every now and then. That's number one. Number two, they were organised in ten cells if I remember correctly. Number six was not approved by me. It was approved in principle but it cannot function before I give the OK for it because its area of responsibility was the Republic of South Africa. Then there was a Brigadier, I think his name was Mostert, from the SA Police.
POM How do you spell that? I can check the name out.
MM MOSTERT. I think that is his name. He started an investigation of things that happened here in SA and he said, and he made it public, I'm not sure at what stage, I think it was January but I'm not sure, he made public that he discovered people who were organising to overthrow the government and that's the first time I heard of Region 6, CCB, because I never approved, I never gave the authority that they could start functioning. OK, now I never phoned De Klerk, he phoned me most probably, I can't recall. I have an idea on one occasion when I saw him it was in Durban at the airport because I can't recall that I ever went to where he had vacation in Natal, not that I can recall. But I called the military in, the Chief of Staff of Intelligence and I said, "What the blazes is going on?" And then he said they thought I gave them the authority initially to do it. I said I never gave it to him.
POM That was initially to carry out covert operations within SA itself?
MM Yes, and the reason why I didn't want to give it, you would get a conflict with the police. We're on their territory now. I had to talk to my colleague Adriaan Vlok in this connection or whoever the minister was at that stage because you can't do a thing like that. And he said, "Well they've carried on, they've done it", and that's why I said it's the first time I discovered it.
They gave me a good example. There was a lady, Schreiner if I recall correctly, she was a leader of an ANC cell and they came from Zimbabwe or somewhere from outside. Now we could pick them up with the CCB on the other side. We had the ability of doing things like that and then they passed them on to this unauthorised, if I can call it that, cell or rather region in SA, that is Region 6, and they followed them through to Cape Town. Then they handed them over to the police and they were arrested and they appeared in court. Now their argument at that stage was, if you pick it up outside and you have to change the responsibility at the border you're going to lose it. You can lose them. You haven't got the background of it, what's going on, and that's the reason why they did it. I said that's the first I've heard of Region 6, and that's what I'm saying. It wasn't the CCB as such, it was a particular small region, six, of the ten. I never knew it existed.
POM We've heard over and over again that the armed struggle existed more in myth than in reality, that compared to other armed revolutionary organisations it wouldn't even stand par. How did you assess the threat of the MK as such to the security of SA since they were either so ineffective, well I suppose ineffective is the word I'm looking for? Where then if they were not a threat in the military sense, where did the threat come from? Where did the threat from the ANC come from?
MM We had a political system here in SA that was totally unacceptable to the outside world and for the future of SA. It could last for a certain period but the globe is getting smaller and smaller so politically you could solve the revolution, so-called revolution if I can call it that, politically but not militarily. So your threat was really politically. If you have a look at what happened and this is PW Botha who did it, all those unacceptable laws that they had in the country and regulations were scrapped prior to his departure but there was a trigger action that lacked and the trigger action that lacked was the Berlin Wall. When the Berlin Wall came down it was the end of communism whether we liked it or not. That was really it apart from the revolution they had in 1991, OK the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. That gave De Klerk the opportunity of saying unban the ANC, let's get Mr Mandela out, let's get the others to come back, let's negotiate, politically negotiate the future of SA so that we have a country and a political system that's acceptable to the world and to ourselves.
POM In fact there's a reference in Days of the Generals to a meeting of the State Security Council which the book says you attended but the briefing was given by General Viljoen. This was in 1981, where he said that what we have here is a conflict that will not be resolved until there is a political system in operation in the country that will be inclusive of all sections of the population. Would you say that the military in its assessment of the situation was way ahead of the government in knowing that in the end there would have to be a political system inclusive of all elements and fair to all elements of the population?
MM Sure. But coming back to the military, prior to 1980 I said 20% of your action should be military or security and 80% should be politically, economically, name it whatever you want but politically is the main thing. Why? That's the only way you can solve it. Whether your recipe is doing this, that and the following, the military wasn't really involved in it. When I became Chief of the Defence Force the strategy, the ideal, the aim that was allocated to the military was give the government enough time to develop its political aims. And I said, like hell, I'm not prepared to do it, I cannot do it because then I'm involved in the political situation in SA. I didn't belong to a party or anything. I said the military task should be to support the constitution and the constitution dictates that you should see to the security side of the country so that if there's a change in the political system it should be through evolution, in other words through the ballot box, therefore I changed it prior to going into the political arena. I changed that.
So the military, and I've made many speeches on this, the military kept them out of the political arena. They didn't say to the political masters you should do this or you should do that, they said you should solve the problem, it's in your arena that we have a problem. Whether it's going to be a system like this or that you've got to decide because you are responsible for it.
Therefore, and that's why your first question you gave me, were the military involved in the political arena? I said, "Never". We had many offers for coup d'etats. I had many. People who were prepared to support and give money for it and I faced each and every one of them and I said, "You're running away from the reality of life by doing that. You think you'll get a better system by having a coup. We in the military won't ever touch it."
POM Did you ever in your intelligence assessments of the political situation in the country look at the numbers and say whites comprise X% of the population, half of the Afrikaner population is working in the public state sector, the black population is growing at this rate, we're going to become a minority of 5% by the year 2002. In the long run just the sheer number of people who are 'disenfranchised' will simply overwhelm us, there's no way that we can militarily or from a security point of view lock up enough people to keep things under control.
MM It wasn't a question of locking up people. There were very few people participating in the revolution. I just want to say this much, the MK wasn't a threat.
POM MK wasn't a threat?
MM No, it was peanuts. We could have kept it on for ages but you've got to solve your problem politically. They decided to do it by negotiations, fine, I agree with them. I mean they lost it completely at the negotiation table, make no mistake about it. What did the military do? They created the climate of having peaceful negotiations and that was their task.
Sorry, I had to say this, but I lost your question now.
POM My question was, like you would do analysis of the political situation, there is a mass mobilisation
MM We did do analysis.
POM - there's this, there's that, there's the other. There are pure demographics out there.
MM OK let's do that and let's rather say the following. If you understand the revolution, this is Mao Zedong talking now, any country can be subdivided into three groups as far as their feeling, their support, their situation is concerned of the government, of the political system of that particular country. You will get a small group that's very pro, very supportive of the system and you'll get a small group that's very anti it and their objectives are to get the masses on their side. That's what they do. It's very easy for the anti-government group to get it because they can make promises and a lot of other things and they can threaten and intimidate and so forth and from the same ethnic group they can even do better. So you shift, that's a theory of revolutionary war.
I think the eye-opener came with the South West Africa election. We, the military had in the order of about 3000 5000 people directly involved in the military, getting their income from the military and we spent a lot of money there, a lot of money. I am talking about the economy of Ovambo. We were keeping the whole system up by having the people there, buying their products, etc., etc. The police most probably had, I'm taking a guess, between 2000 and 3000 people there. So all in all you can say there were between 5000 and 10,000 people directly involved with the security forces and earning their income from the security forces. When the elections came, I'm not sure of the figure but it's in the order of about 2000 people voted for the opposition, the rest voted for SWAPO. That's the first time I feel in my position, and I think in SA's position, that we realised that ethnicity counts more than you think it does.
What you said just now about families, I'd rather stay out, I won't vote. I agree, that's what they'll do but they will never swing from the one to the other. The military never made this analysis. They should have made it but they didn't make it. They said, OK right, that's part of the responsibility. What we did, the military from their side was the following: they said the people are living in conditions that are not very supportive for the political system that we have. Name one, Alexandra, I won't repeat what I said about Alexandra. We swung them completely to our side by supporting them.
POM Do it because I will have it for my own record as a distinct from reading it in somebody else's book.
MM OK. We went in there and we said
POM Now you said this was the one action that you took on your own?
MM Yes. Well, I've got a constituency very close to it and I normally drive through Wynberg to Modderfontein and one day when I was driving there I saw there were a lot of army tents standing there and I said, "What's going on here?" They said, "It's police force people living in there." I said "Police force?" They said, "Yes. They've been chucked out from Alexandra, chased out by the people. They lived in Alexandra." I said, "But this can't happen." And they said, "Well there's a barrier and the police are not prepared to go in." Remember at that stage Archbishop Tutu was addressing the people there with the communist flag. That was, as far as the ANC was concerned, the liberated area in SA. I said, "Well I've got to do something." I mobilised the military and said, "Go in, break down those barriers, let's clean up this whole situation." We went in and we cleaned it up. We didn't take people out, it's not the military's job to do that. We cleaned it from papers and waste and stuff lying around with the youngsters there, we had competitions and you get a first prize if you can fill your bag first, etc., and we cleaned it up. I went to the Minister of Finance, he gave me R12 million to get running water in. I went to the Board (The Regional Services Council), it's not functioning any more, and they gave me the whole of the east it's the eastern side of the Jukskei River, they gave that and said you can develop that if you like. I went to the people there and they showed me money that they received in 1963 and they had to be removed and they were paid for their houses, approximately R20,000. They never banked the money, they kept the money and they weren't prepared to accept the money as such, they wanted to stay there. I went to my colleague from whatever department it is and I said to him, "You're making a blue now. If you have promised in 1963 and you can't do anything about it I'm afraid they're going to stay there and I'm accepting it." OK, the people started working with us. I got the private sector and they started building houses. I went to the function when the first five or six houses were bought by local residents, cash, and they moved in and we were on the road to a different situation. Unfortunately there was a chap who was their leader who came out of jail or something and he upset the whole barrel, although it was in a better situation than it was when we received it.
POM This would have been part of or did it precede winning the hearts and minds campaign?
POM Was that a military conception?
MM Well it's an international conception.
POM If I want to put on the one side the total onslaught, you have the total onslaught on the
MM No, that's something different. That's got nothing to do with this. This is an internal situation, it's a revolutionary situation and that's one of the reasons why I say I wonder whether the police were really trained in winning the hearts and minds of people because this is the crux of the matter. I can assure you PW Botha understood it but there were very few of our colleagues that understood this, that winning the hearts and minds of the people is the crux of the matter. I am of the opinion, I know very few people that agree with me, at that stage I said it too, it's not the political right to vote that matters really, it is important, but the other things like having a roof over your head, having an income, in other words a job, having schools that children can attend, having medical facilities, those are things, those are the crux of it to winning hearts and minds of people. The political thing as far as I'm concerned is number five or six afterwards.
OK now you want to talk of the total onslaught.
POM No, the Total Management or Joint National Management Security System.
MM Joint Management System.
POM Which was set up, this is called the 'era of the securocrats' or whatever where the military played a much greater role in government.
MM No not really. They played the same. It was people advocating trying to split, get a wedge in between the military or the security forces on the one side and the others on the other side. I'm sorry to say I think certain media were highly successful in doing that by creating names like securocrats and so forth. Let's go back to it and let's talk about the system. What really happened is you subdivided the system, or the area, the region, the South African geographical area, you subdivided it into regions and the regions are identical to the present provinces that we have in this country. It's a normal situation where you have your government at the highest level with various departments being responsible for various areas or for the whole area but with certain functions. All you did was in the region, in a particular region you get the local representative of a department to sit in a joint management system and evaluate what is wrong in the area or what should be done in the area, feed it through to his department in Pretoria, get the money and do the job.
I will give you a very good example. I always take this example but there are many others. I got involved in it and the reason why is that it wasn't functioning so I said, OK right, fair enough, I'm going to play you know what the Currie Cup is? It's rugby, it's our national game. I said we're going to play the national game here. I'm going to take Mamelodi, I'll take Alexandra, I'll take the Free State, I'll take the Western Province and I'll take the Eastern Province and we're going to play Currie Cup to see how well these joint management centres function. I'll come and visit you, I'll give you a month to prepare yourself and then I'll come. In the centre you had then a chairman, elected, and unfortunately or fortunately they elected the military because the military knew more about conflict and knew more about what the requirements are or were in particular areas. Most of them if it wasn't the police it was the military that were elected. I came there and eventually after five visits I said to Port Elizabeth, "You won the Currie Cup." But then everybody was sparking, they were working 100%.
Now let's talk about it, what was 100%? Most of the departments, the civilian departments, and I'm coming back to the 20/80%. The military weren't doing in the 20%, they were doing the 80% and the other departments including the political were doing the 20% side of it instead of the 80% side. We had an unrest situation in Queenstown in the black township there. So the police and the military had to go in. The Joint Management Centre went in and they established the problem there was they didn't have enough toilets and the people were getting fed up, and I agreed with them. So they called a meeting and I said to the chairman, I think it was Public Works Department who was responsible as I recall, I said to him, "We need toilets immediately." He said, "Sorry, we haven't got money." The security forces said, "Now we've got to take the rap, you've got to get money." And he said, "There's no money." So they went through their command channels and reported to the State Security Council and they said, "We're sitting here with a problem and the department who is responsible for it is not prepared to accept it and this is part of the revolutionary war, this is part of the 80%." And the minister there gave instructions, they got the money, they erected the toilets and everything was fine again.
You see why in a revolutionary type of situation first of all that you've got to know what's going on on the ground, that you address the cause of the problem and that you get the other departments to realise they are the people involved. It's welfare, it's winning the hearts and minds of people. It's not having security measures there, well to a certain extent, but not the security people who are up front. They should be up front and they don't know it, they don't realise it. And that goes for the political people too.
POM You made one statement, it stuck in my mind when I was reading Days of the Generals that you said after going through Alexandra that if you had been born in Alexandra you'd have been leading a revolution yourself.
MM Sure, I got all the editors of the local newspapers, I can still remember the late Tertius Myburgh was there from the Sunday Times. There was a chap from Die Burger there and a couple of other newspapers and I brought them to Pretoria and I said, "Let's talk about revolutionary war. What are the requirements, what have you got to do?" And we gave them lectures on it for a couple of hours and I said, "OK right, gentlemen, now we go and see it in practice."
POM You were saying you took a helicopter and you - ?
MM Prior to that I said, if I was born in Alexandra I would have been the leader of this revolution in SA and they laughed. I said, "I'm very serious. Come and evaluate the system", and I took them to Alexandra and I still maintain what I said then I would have done if I was born in Alexandra.
POM Now if you knew that and you said across SA there are hundreds of Alexandras, we're in a situation where my own logic tells me that we can't win this.
MM No, I didn't say that. We can keep the home fires burning, we can keep it militarily. They will never beat us militarily, but the political people should get into gear. PW Botha, I took him to many of these places, there's a place called Soweto by the Sea in Port Elizabeth.
POM Yes I've been there.
MM It's worse than Alexandra, and I took him there. You had all the mayors there and all the high ups there and he started walking around there and there was a flea market, sort of a flea market, and it was a rainy day and there were womenfolk sitting there selling meat. He said, "What's going on here?" and one of the municipal chaps said, "Well Mr President, don't worry about it we'll get rid of them." He said "I think you won't get rid of this, you leave them. Why don't you build shelters here for them so that they're out of the rain and out of the sun and they can sell? Overseas you go to flea markets and so forth and you will see meat that you can buy there with flies on it, it might be green, but it's one of the tourist visits overseas and you're not even prepared to do it in our own country?" And he did things like that. And he was warned by the police not to go in because there was a bit of an uprising there. So the leader of the country saw it. That's most probably the reason why he changed all the acts passed through parliament that were discriminatory. He changed them, took them off the book.
But they were waiting for one thing and that was the trigger action and you couldn't have done anything else with the Soviets sitting here and the Cubans sitting here, they were a danger for this country. I tell you this much, I went to Russia to go and have a look there because there are a lot of South Africans who say to this day wouldn't it have been better to have the Soviets here in our country, because they don't have an idea what the Soviets stand for and how the Soviets can ruin a country as they have ruined their own Russia, their mother country. That was the situation. The wall went down, De Klerk took the opportunity. He said, right, let's negotiate.
POM Just to back up, your intelligence, your own intelligence, your instincts were telling you: if I had been born in Alex I would have been at the head of a revolution to get conditions here changed. All around the country there are townships that exist like this and that means that in all of these townships there will be a person with a mentality like mine who will be saying I'm going to lead a revolution to change conditions. Militarily we can contain the situation indefinitely but we can't stop the rise of the revolutionaries. In fact the more we militarily contain them in a sense the greater impetus we give to them to produce more revolutionaries.
MM No, not really. I wasn't worried about that side of the physical onslaught to SA, it wasn't really the problem. The problem was getting your own people to accept a situation. I'll give you another idea
POM When you say 'getting your own people', that means the government.
MM The government and the departments, to get them to realise what the situation is in SA. I gave you the example of Queenstown. I think one of the biggest problems we had in this country, fortunately they are addressing it these days, is housing. And remember I'm completely out of my field now, I'm the military man, I'm not the chap that can get involved in latrines and accommodation so I asked a lot of the big housing contractors in SA to come and see me. In actual fact I got the list from the department who was responsible for housing. I went to my colleague and I said, "Can I borrow your Director General? I'd like to have a conference with him on housing." He said, "Sure, carry on." So I got the list and I invited all of them to come to Waterkloof. I put them in my aircraft and I took them up to Omega, that's a Bushman camp in the Caprivi, with the Director General. I said to them, "Gentlemen, you're sleeping here tonight, you'll dine here, etc. Tomorrow morning there's a conference", and we had the conference in a kind of a hall there with all the Bushmen there, we gave them the opportunity of seeing everything. I said, "We had nothing here but we had to accommodate between 2000 and 3000 Bushmen, so we went to Zimbabwe, we bought wood and we erected these (it has a specific name I forget the name now) huts and so forth." I said, "You've seen what we've done here to address our problem. How are you going to address the SA problem as far as housing is concerned?"
They gave me a lot of problem areas. I'm not sure how many but let's say it could have been 20, it could have been 30. And I said, "I can't go back to my colleague and to the cabinet and say well these are the problems we have with housing in SA. Let's reduce it to (I think it was four or five I'm not sure) and they had an in-house session there and they came and gave me five. The first one was getting approval. I think it was ten or twelve departments that they had to get approval from before they can start even thinking of erecting a house. You can never win a situation by doing that so I went back, I went to my colleague and he was furious and he said, "You are getting directly involved in my responsibilities." He wrote me a letter that I had a lot of other work to do, I was responsible for the security of SA, I had no foot to stand on for getting involved in other departments. But can you see now what a war we were against? People weren't realistic about the onslaught against SA. They didn't realise and you couldn't get it through their heads that they have to supply the 80%. The security forces were supplying their 20% and that includes the police as well as the military.
POM So in a very ironic way it seems to me you're saying that you spent a considerable portion of your time fighting a war against elements within your own government or your own bureaucracy who didn't allow things to happen, like houses to be built, the bureaucratic procedures.
MM I would put it softly. I would rather say I spent a lot of time trying to convince people what the war was about.
POM Did you go to PW?
MM PW Botha was never a problem.
POM But you could go to him and say, "Listen, do you know what? In order to erect a house it takes twelve government departments to get the shovel put in the ground."
MM I took him to the Joint Management Centres and there he heard first hand the problems that were really on and he gave instructions there, but you couldn't get him involved in every little thing. I didn't do it. It was between me and my colleague and I lost the battle.
POM Over turf.
POM You mentioned at the start, since it's an opinion, it was Mac Maharaj who said to me when I interviewed him some time ago, as I was walking out the door he said, "You know, the government could have got a much better deal at the negotiating table." He just gave it to me as a throw away remark. In your own view what happened?
MM I wouldn't know. I was outside. I can't comment on it because I was never involved in the negotiations but I can say this much, there's better negotiators that sat outside than there were inside. Take a man like Pik Botha, a very good negotiator, they didn't involve him. He's in a class of his own. He was never involved.
POM All the negotiators who had been involved in Namibia, none of them were involved.
MM Never, nobody. I was out, I was out of politics. I left the beginning of 1993, CODESA 2 started in 1993, late in 1993. But why Pik Botha wasn't involved I couldn't say. They had a bit of a problem, they had Gerrit Viljoen in and then they had to replace him with Meyer. On the other side they had a man with a lot of experience, make no mistake.
POM Do you subscribe to the theory of many people that the government simply under-estimated the negotiating skills that the ANC would bring to the table, that these were people like Ramaphosa, trade union men who had sat with hard businessmen, done tough negotiations, whereas on the government side you had government ministers and the like who had never been involved in a negotiating situation, had no negotiating skills, didn't know the art and craft, how to manoeuvre and play off, how to trade?
MM Remember a politician is one-way traffic. You tell your supporters what you think they want to know. You allow very little communication from their side and if there is communication, like a question, you don't really reply to the question I always say public political meetings are like a circus with a politician, it depends who has the best circus, and you never really reply to the question. So it's one-way traffic. So what are you doing? You're getting the skilled negotiator on the one side with a lot of experience and you get a chap on this side who's never been negotiating. I mean it's like a Springbok team playing a soccer team rugby, the soccer team hasn't got a hope in hell, it's got about four members too short in any case. Missing. Now this is one of the questions.
Secondly, I don't know if you know that in a television interview President de Klerk was interviewed
POM Just very recently, right?
MM I would say about two years ago, and he was asked the question, "If you have the whole situation over again what would you do differently than you did when you were State President?" And he said, "If I have it over again I'll spend more time on the negotiations side." Admitting something like that, you can't believe it. Isn't that the problem. I mean where does the buck stop? He's the head of the country. I mean what he said there gave me the indication that Meyer was negotiating without any instructions or any fall-back situation and De Klerk had to make decisions. That's the impression I have of it.
POM Then you would more or less take those decisions back to De Klerk and say these are the decisions I - ?
MM Well this is the position, do I have freedom of movement here or what is your opinion of the situation, what should I do?
POM And De Klerk wasn't paying attention, he wasn't on top of negotiations?
POM Do you think there's any element to that, that the government under-estimated the sophistication of the ANC?
MM Sure, sure. I mean I'll say certain things and I'm involved now. First of all if you fire your two ministers of security forces and you are prepared to accept the risk of losing the support of your security forces by doing a job like that and firing 23 of your senior officers, something is wrong with you. You're taking a hell of a chance. You're under-estimating what's happening in this country. Then what does the ANC do? They tell him, "We don't negotiate now". They're putting pressure on the government. CODESA 1, testing the government, seeing how the government will react. But who's playing the tune? The ANC is playing the tune and the government is sitting here accepting it. I can tell you I'm almost sure as God made little apples that the ANC was laughing and they were testing the government and when they went into CODESA 2 they realised we're going to hammer them. I mean that show that Mr Mandela made
POM That's at CODESA 1 when he blasted De Klerk.
MM Can you recall that? Hell! That was I mean the overturn, hell he won it just like that.
POM That would have been on TV because it was the opening of CODESA 1. If you were a white person in this country and you saw your President excoriated like a schoolboy
MM And not reacting.
POM What would you think?
MM Of course you're sitting with a dynamic person on this side and you're sitting with a loser on that side. That's the picture that was portrayed through to South Africans whether white or black, I couldn't care less.
POM During the period of 1986 until Mandela was released when Niel Barnard, Kobie Coetsee and two others were having talks with Mandela over a four-year period, was the SADF kept informed?
MM When Botha saw him first
POM Botha saw him in 1989, July 1989.
MM Kobie said he saw him prior to that?
POM They began with PW's approval to see Mandela in 1986 when he was in Victor Verster and they held something like 40 meetings over a four year period and Niel Barnard was the lead man.
MM I might be wrong but I doubt whether your dates are right. I have an idea it's later, not 1986 but later. And now I'll reply to your question: I was kept, and the whole cabinet, well not the whole cabinet but a few members of the cabinet, were involved about it and there were members of the defence force who knew about it because you had to condition them, you had to inform them what is developing in the country so that they could know and put their thinking in the right frame of mind if it happens. So, yes, I knew about it and there were others who knew about it. If I knew about it, I can't recall that I specifically informed them but I would have informed them.
POM You would have informed?
MM The defence force, the Chief of the defence force and he would most probably have informed his staff or his command council, whatever.
POM What was the relationship between the National Intelligence Agency and the SADF? I ask the question because Barnard insinuates that in a sense they were the real initiators of getting a negotiating process going, that it was they who made the overtures to the ANC in exile, it was they who realised that a military solution simply wasn't on the cards, that there was only one way to resolve this problem and it was through negotiations and that independently they set out to make contacts with the ANC to see whether the ANC was interested. There was a series of meetings in Geneva and London.
MM I wouldn't know. I wasn't so much involved with the situation. If Barnard said that he did it well he might have done it. It's nothing upsetting, he's not creating new ideas.
POM What I am saying is would he not have kept you informed?
MM No he wouldn't.
MM Well it's not his duty. His duty is to inform the head of the state.
POM Does this not create conditions for miscommunication between one department and another where you're both involved in the security of the country? If you're operating with your right arm in one direction and he's operating with his right arm in a different direction?
MM Well in any country it won't be that way. Co-ordination is very important but if you're on very sensitive ground there's a question of need to know basis and on a need to know basis at that stage I would say it's not necessary. You're not involved in negotiations in the sense of there's decisions made that we will need and we're going to do this and that. No, Barnard's responsible to the head of the state and the head of state can make the decision to say you'd better start informing people about this.
POM That would have been a decision purely of PW's?
MM Yes PW's or De Klerk, could have been De Klerk.
POM At the cabinet meeting following the meeting between Mr Mandela and PW Botha, they met in his office in Cape Town, they had a photograph taken and at the following cabinet meeting he passed around a copy of the photograph of himself with Mr Mandela. What was the reaction in the cabinet room as this photograph was passed from one person to another?
MM I wouldn't know. I can't say extraordinary, not with the photo, but I'm visualising a situation
POM Was there surprise? "My God!"
MM I doubt, I think at this stage they knew. Seriously I knew about it not by receiving a photograph. I knew it and as I said a couple of others knew it.
POM That a meeting was going to take place or had taken place?
MM Had taken place. I can't recall that he took the photo at the first meeting, I doubt it very much, because he wasn't inclined to do things like that. It might have been the second meeting or the third meeting, I don't know even how many meetings he had and I couldn't care less about it because it's his responsibility. So I can't say there was any reaction if a photo was passed around. There might have been certain colleagues who didn't know about it but generally speaking there wasn't an uproar that I can recall, or any reaction. There might have been a reaction of well done!
POM Did the military through the National Security Council ever make a recommendation that Mandela should be released before he actually was?
MM No I doubt whether the military would have done it, not that I can recall. It's not their function. This has got to do with the running of a country. The military is responsible for the security inside it. If they put their noses in things like that I would have disciplined them.
POM But you were involved in an internal war that was a threat to national security, Mandela is one of the key
MM Well I can tell you what, we were negotiating peace in South West Africa with the Cubans and I think the Russians were present, but definitely the Americans and our Ambassador from America was there and he was like a record that had a chip in it, a gramophone record and he had two or three things to say. The one was, "You've got to release Mandela, you've got to release Mandela, you've got to release Mandela." I took him aside and said, "Listen here, if you say it once more hell's going to break loose because we are negotiating for peace, Mandela is a very important issue but this is not the place to do it and you're not the man. You've got to see the President and you talk to the President about it, you don't talk to me about it." So that gives you the idea. It's the President who's got to decide on it, it's his show, that's where the buck stops and we're supporting him.
At that stage we were involved in a lot of other things. It was the peace situation in SWA that was definitely a hell of a problem. So the military won't get involved in this, they won't have free time to start thinking of whether Mr Mandela should be released or not. There's other people, the political arena should play that. It will never, not that I can think of, but I would have disciplined them if they were really getting involved, putting their nose in the responsibility of other people, especially the political people.
POM I want to talk about the total onslaught but I know you
MM Can I say something? What is President Bush doing now?
POM What is President Bush doing now? I'll tell you what he's doing
MM No, no, we're talking about total war now. Politically, economically, diplomatically, militarily he's using all his means and I agree with him, I'm not trying to oppose him. He's doing all the things that he should do to get the terrorists and that is total. All his means. It's a total means of a country to reach objectives. Now you want to talk to me about total war, total onslaught?
POM What I was going to say to you is that last night I read your statement to the hearing in the TRC on the State Security Council and you were talking about revolutionary war.
MM Which one is this? 7th May 1997?
POM That or one in October, I don't know, but it was all about I was going down the list of the things you were saying. I was saying "Oh that's what Bush is doing, that's what Bush is doing, that's what Bush is doing". In fact what you should do is get that out in print.
MM I am doing it, don't worry, that's why I can say it to you. When we did it they said you're destabilising Africa. They're not saying he's destabilising the world. What he's doing is right, I agree with him fully but total onslaught is not my phrase, it's an international phrase. I studied in America, I was taught it there at the military school and I agree with it. You shouldn't ask that question, you should get South Africans to ask that question.
POM I suppose my question is there were a number of assumptions made regarding what were Soviet aims in SA.
MM Assumptions, that's what they said. Brezhnev, the President I was looking for just now, Brezhnev said there are two chambers in the world that you have to control. The one is the strategic mineral chamber and the other one is the energy chamber. The energy chamber is the Middle East. Why do you think you had that Desert Storm? Because of that. I agree with it fully. A world power cannot allow things to happen in that particular area and the strategic mineral chamber, part of the strategic minerals, world reserves, are either in Southern Africa or in Russia and they tried to control it. It's not assumptions, he said it. I won't see you within ten years.
MM First and only
POM The first what?
PAT The first and only.
MM First and only interview.
POM Oh no, I always get a second!
MM Well over ten years you can come.
POM I've been waiting ten years, fair do OK?
MM Walking with a walking stick.
POM I will be.
MM And you'll ask me a question and I'll say, "I say again."
POM In fact it was Mac Maharaj who was telling me about their communications system in Vula and their encrypting system, which he said was a very sophisticated one, and he was saying, "I still have some of the computer tapes, they didn't get all of the computer tapes. But, damn it, I have forgotten what the unencrypting code was!" So they're sitting there and they're useless.
MM He was a good minister.
MM He's got it here. A couple of them that are excellent.
POM What I'd like is in fact to come back again some time before I go. What I will do in the meantime is have a transcript of this done, sent on to you. You can read through it, pick up points and have a copy for yourself so it's always in your records so that you're never misquoted. I do that with everyone, but you had said you have an evening engagement and since I've really a lot more questions, we're cutting off at a certain point. Would you have any idea, since I'm tracing down sources for where Brezhnev might have made that statement?
MM He made it in Somalia.
POM He made it in Somalia?
POM So all I have to do is get when he was in Somalia.
MM I'm not sure. Fortunately I was in court in a certain sense for committing 13 murders.
POM That was the KwaMashu?
MM KwaMakutha, and because of that when I was cross-examined every speech I made in parliament and outside they questioned me on it and I have an idea it's in one of the Hansards where I said Brezhnev said it. I know he said it and I still maintain it was here somewhere in Africa, Somalia, somewhere there that he made that speech.
POM That would be in the records of the trial?
MM No, no. They never questioned me on it.
POM Oh I thought you said they went through
MM No, I said it in parliament and if I said it in parliament it would have been in the early eighties, 1980, 81, 82 maybe.
POM Maybe he's a friend of yours but two people I've been interviewing for ten years, one is Louis Botha, he was on trial with you.
MM Oh! Is it. Give him my regards if you see him again. A very nice gentleman. He was sitting next to me. He was number 20, I was number 19.
POM I remember he came to our hotel room, I had written to General Niekerk or whoever was the head of the SAP in Durban and just asked could I see him. I told him what I was doing so he assembled all his officers and took me in one day and in the middle of it, he was then Major Botha, and I walked in and he looked as though he was in command of everything. He said, "I can't stay but I will come to your hotel room this afternoon", and he came to our hotel room and he came loaded down with documents and on the first question I asked him it took up 20 pages and he was only on the first question and he had pieces of paper and references and books and everything. I must have seen him about 12, 15 times.
MM He's living now in Port Elizabeth somewhere.
POM Yes that's where he was living. He moved there. The other one was Jac Buchner.
MM Oh yes. I didn't know him, I know who he is.
POM Anyway, as I said, I'd like to see you again. I'm here until 9th November.
MM You're interfering now with my golf.
PAT There must be an hour of the day when there is a thunder and lightning storm.
MM When we're rained out. We'll see.
POM Oh come on, say yes.
MM I have responsibilities. My biggest responsibility is not here, that's my wife and if she knows that I'm having an interview, hell will break loose.
POM I'll tell you what, I won't ring up. This is how we'll do it. You see I like the politician in you, like the military I will ring up your wife and say, "Guess what?" on the husband giving interviews on the sly, not telling you.
MM And for that, not doing that, I've got to say yes. If I take your bribe.
INTERVIEW P O'AMLLEY WITH NELSON MANDELA ON 12 DECEMBER 2001
NM When did you arrive here?
POM I've spent about five months of the year in the country since 1989.
NM Oh I see. No I meant this time.
POM I arrived last night.
NM Oh I see. Straight from Boston?
POM No from Johannesburg because I've been here in the country since July, mostly listening to Mac. Mac can talk a lot!
NM You should have seen him last if you see him before us you might think that our interview is worthless!
POM President Mandela, I will begin in the middle of the questions if that's all right with you and I'll go to Vula, Operation Vula. When you were in prison, in Victor Verster, did you know of Vula's existence at that time?
NM Oh yes I did. One of the first tasks of political prisoners was to ensure that you have got safe communications with your organisation outside prison and we were well equipped in order to get that information.
POM So after you were released from prison you met with Mac when Mac was in the country illegally at the time?
NM Yes I did.
POM Now you were then engaged in negotiations. Did you continue the approval of the existence of Vula, that it should continue with its clandestine operations?
NM Well Vula was an organisation which I fully supported. The Communist Party was in the forefront of trying to facilitate negotiations. The chairman, Joe Slovo, was the man who approached me first to say let's suspend the armed struggle so as to give President de Klerk the opportunity to convince his people that something positive has come out of negotiations. There was never any doubt in my mind that Vula is complying with the decision of the African National Congress as well as the decision of the South African Communist Party. They supported negotiations.
POM But Vula was still continuing the importation of arms into the country?
NM No that's not true. Vula acted as part of uMkhonto weSizwe. Of course until we decided to suspend the armed struggle that process of bringing arms from outside was going on and Vula did not oppose that, it was part of that. I say it was the chairman of the Communist Party, Joe Slovo, who approached me on the eve of the meeting of the National Executive of the ANC and who said we should suspend the armed struggle. I then asked him, after doubting first, but when he explained to me I was convinced that the information that was given to me by De Klerk was absolutely wrong, that Vula was not in any way against negotiations, and if Vula was against negotiations the chairman of the Communist Party would never have asked me that we should suspend the armed struggle. I then asked him to raise the matter in the National Executive, which he did, and I supported him fully.
POM Well when Vula continued in existence, for what purpose did it continue in existence after you had suspended the armed struggle?
NM No, uMkhonto weSizwe continued to exist after we had suspended the armed struggle. In fact that was one of the complaints of the National Party, of De Klerk, that uMkhonto weSizwe is still there. We had not disarmed, we merely suspended because the possibility was there that the negotiations could break down and we wanted to be ready if that happened. So there's nothing wrong in Vula continuing its activities after we had suspended the armed struggle because that's what the ANC itself was doing.
POM So was Vula in a sense a back-up that in case negotiations broke down - ?
NM Not Vula only but the African National Congress and uMkhonto weSizwe decided that they would merely suspend the armed struggle. Our army would remain there in case something went wrong with negotiations so Vula was just part and parcel of what the ANC was doing.
POM In his autobiography former State President de Klerk says that when he informed you about the existence of Vula that you acted
NM No, not surprised, you make that clear in your question.
POM - that you acted surprised, as though you were taken aback.
NM It was the first time for me to get that information and of course I was shocked but then I called Joe Slovo, the chairman of the plot, and put this to him. He explained to me that it was not true. He explained so convincingly that I rejected the story of De Klerk. You must remember that Joe Slovo and I were together at university, we were colleagues, and I knew him very well and when he told me that it was not true I accepted that.
POM Was De Klerk referring in his autobiography to Tongaat where they seized the minutes of Tongaat and there were minutes signed by Joe?
NM I don't know what he was referring to.
POM You don't?
NM But what he conveyed to me was that Vula was against negotiations. That's what shocked me.
NM But once I had called Joe Slovo and he explained to me that it was not so I accepted his word without reservation. I went back to De Klerk and told him that he was misinformed.
POM I am going to read you a passage from a book by Patti Waldmeir who wrote Anatomy of a Miracle. She says: -
"Vula had never flourished and by early 1990 when Pretoria uncovered the operation and arrested Maharaj and other Vula leaders it existed more powerfully in Maharaj's mind than in fact. Mandela was furious, not at De Klerk but at his own people. The ANC could not afford to create the impression that it had a secret agenda to overthrow the state. The incident highlighted divisions within the ANC that would bedevil negotiations for years to come between those who wanted to talk and fight and those who saw the two as mutually exclusive. The two groups, the strugglers and diplomats, had been battling for control of the ANC for years. The ANC had only publicly committed itself to negotiations for six scant months before Mandela was released from jail."
NM That is totally incorrect.
POM That is totally incorrect?
NM The ANC right from the beginning wanted negotiations. That's why they sent numerous delegations to the government to say let's sit down and talk and it is untrue to say that they believed in negotiations only six months after I was released. Of course because the government did not want to talk to us that's how we took up the armed struggle, that even when we did so we made it clear that our purpose was not to defeat the apartheid army in the battle for it because we were not in that position, it was to ensure that they sit down with us for negotiations. So that is quite false to say that we believed in negotiations six months before I was released. And secondly, Vula did not just exist in the mind of Mac Maharaj. It was there. You could come in physical contact with it. It was active until we suspended the armed struggle.
POM Again, when you were in prison and you were talking to government between 1986 until the time you were released, did the communications system that was in place allow you to convey the substance of what you were talking to the government representatives about to Oliver Tambo in Lusaka?
NM Firstly there were men who were leaving prison and we gave them instructions to convey to the leadership in Lusaka, but during my latter days in Victor Verster I was allowed to phone Oliver Tambo and Alfred Nzo, the Secretary General, so I was in contact with them and exchanging views with them.
POM So whenever you had a conversation with Niel Barnard and Fanie van der Merwe and Kobie Coetsee you could pick up the phone afterwards, call Oliver Tambo in Lusaka and say ?
NM I would ask for permission to speak to Oliver Tambo.
POM And you could do so?
NM Because in my letter which I addressed to PW Botha I said to him in the ordinary course the organisation would decide when to approach the government for negotiation but in my special position I could not get the authority of the organisation. I was taking this move on my own in the hope that the organisation would then endorse what I did, and this is exactly what they did. When I was in Victor Verster Oliver Tambo informed me that the organisation had decided to authorise me to go on with the talks.
POM In the same vein, I want to go back to when you were released. In my interviews with Chief Buthelezi and King Goodwill Zwelithini they both make the point that you had rung them both and that you had promised to pay a visit and to go to the grave of King Shaka, and in fact King Goodwill even said that you were going to lay a wreath, which I am told, according to Zulu custom is very unusual, that wreaths are not laid at graves. Chief Buthelezi in particular felt very hurt that you had not kept that promise.
NM It was not the grave of King Shaka, it was the grave of King Cetshwayo, the man who defeated the English. I wanted to go and pay my respects to that grave, but the King and Buthelezi made a mistake because a few days before I went to see the King they said I must come alone and I rejected that.
POM Do you think in hindsight that stopping the violence among Africans, between the IFP and the ANC particularly in KwaZulu-Natal, was a first priority, that 15,000 people may have been killed in that awful war and why did you not exercise the same level of leadership that you did in prison when you took your decision to contact the government and say, "This must be done because this violence among our own people must stop and it is the duty of Chief Buthelezi and myself to make sure that that violence stops"?
NM You must understand that I am a disciplined and loyal member of the ANC. I did not take a unilateral decision which was not endorsed by my organisation.
POM But you took one
NM Just a moment please. When I came out the first thing I did was to get in touch with my organisation and to indicate to them that the King had invited me to come and see him. They gave their permission to see him but when the King said, "Please come alone", I rejected that because there were some of our people inside the country who did not agree that I must go and see the King even with a delegation, but when the King said come alone he was disappointed and I could not accept that condition. So they were to blame for me not going to Natal.
Secondly, the question of stopping violence is not just one of a meeting between Buthelezi, King Zwelithini and Mandela. It's a question of negotiations between the organisations that were involved in this violence. So my going to see Buthelezi and King Zwelithini alone would not have stopped the violence. What would stop the violence is that the two organisations must sit down, as they did subsequently, and negotiate for the stoppage of violence. If you follow our literature when I came out of jail one of the biggest meetings I addressed was in Durban, the press said there were more than 120,000 people. I then said to them, "Throw your weapons of death into the sea, and I am going to go and see Buthelezi." I was booed by my people but I was determined that this was the correct thing to do and I insisted that those weapons of death must be thrown into the sea. So I took the initiative when I came out on the question of violence.
POM The other day when I was talking to Mac, after he had a breakfast meeting with you, and he said, "Madiba said to me, who is this man O'Malley who says that CODESA failed?" I took my references, one quote from Frene Ginwala in an interview that she did with Patti Waldmeir where she says: -
"We knew CODESA 2 was going to fail and we had to find a way of ending it that was not going to show the ANC in a bad light."
She talks about a group of them coming to your home, throwing pebbles at the windows, where you thought somebody was trying to shoot you. You came down in your pyjamas, you met with a group of them, and they explained the problem about the deadlock over the percentages and you said, she quotes you as saying : -
"Mandela came down, they explained the problem. 'Postpone CODESA 2', he told them. The embarrassed negotiators explained that with the plenary due to open in a few hours this was not possible."
You, in your own book, refer to differences that had arisen at CODESA 2 that were irreconcilable and you talked about postponing and moving the date. But why would Frene say that, "We knew CODESA 2 was going to fail"?
NM Well you must ask her. My own view is that CODESA succeeded. It was CODESA that brought together former enemies to sit down and talk. It was CODESA that made it possible for us to draw up a new constitution for the country which has been hailed by the entire world as one of the best constitutions that we have. It was CODESA that led to a settlement between former enemies, the apartheid government and the liberation movement. I don't see how anybody could have said CODESA failed. We are in this situation today because of CODESA. Of course in the course of the negotiations there were difficulties which is to be expected when two former enemies sit down for the first time to try and bring about a peaceful solution to their problems. It would have been unrealistic to imagine that we would just sail through smoothly without any difficulties. There were difficulties but the total picture is that CODESA was a success.
POM Again, Cyril Ramaphosa but you wanted a postponement at that time? You wanted a breathing space. Was your instruction to them that night to postpone negotiations because it was the following day that Cyril Ramaphosa engineered a deadlock and Cyril later publicly said, and said in an interview with me, that he brought CODESA 2 to an end?
NM What actually happened is that I was insistent that three prisoners who had been sentenced to death must be released and that De Klerk was not prepared for that. It was a Friday, we were supposed to meet on Monday and I said, "Unless you release those three prisoners there is no meeting." Eventually they had to climb down, they decided to release those prisoners and he appealed to me that, "Look, this is a Friday, we can't release them today but we will release them on Monday." I accepted his word and that's what happened. The reason for saying there should be no meeting was to force them to release those three prisoners.
POM But when Cyril says, "I engineered a situation where I stopped CODESA in order to teach the National Party government that it had to bargain in better faith"?
NM There is nothing wrong with that. Cyril led our delegation and whatever decision we took as an organisation it was in many cases expressed through him. So when we said to De Klerk that there is no meeting on Monday between the National Party and the ANC unless there is a release of prisoners, we instructed Cyril to convey that message. I also suspended a meeting of the National Executive, went to my office, phoned De Klerk and I said to him, "You must release those prisoners if you want a meeting." And I told our fellows that the National Party wanted us more than we wanted them so we could twist their arm and that's what happened and we succeeded.
POM Now this is CODESA, not the Record of Understanding you're talking about?
NM No, no, I'm talking about CODESA. I am refuting the statement that CODESA failed. I don't know how anybody could say that. We are in this position because of CODESA.
POM And there was never a situation in the ANC of what she refers to as the 'diplomats and the strugglers'?
NM That's one thing that existed in their mind not in fact. In the organisation, especially like the ANC where democratic discussions were entrenched, there would be differences of opinion not necessarily between the so-called strugglers and diplomats but because people had different opinions. We have always taken decisions by consensus after sometimes a lengthy argument. But it is the first time for me to know that there were differences between diplomats and strugglers.
POM So when writers, a number of writers operate on this theory of there being deep divisions in the ANC which had to be balanced, it really exists more in their mind than in reality?
NM The ANC has always been a democratic organisation where you reach a decision by persuading one another on an issue and when approaching any topic we normally start from different ends but as a result of debate find a way eventually to reach a consensus. It is the first time for me to hear that there were differences between diplomats and strugglers. You must remember that that decision to wage the armed struggle was only in 1961 and the ANC had had a lot of differences before that simply on the merit of the issue that was under discussion.
POM I want to refer to Boipatong which you write about very eloquently in your autobiography and where you use some of your harshest language when you went to the stadium and the people were saying, "We are the lambs that are being led to the slaughter", and you attacked De Klerk in the harshest language, attacked the state and the government in the harshest language, said they had made no efforts to investigate, that you talked about police involvement. Yet last November after 17 Zulus had been convicted of the crime, all of them made applications for amnesty saying there had been no police involvement, after an amnesty hearing that lasted the better part of two years, the Amnesty Committee came out with the finding that they could find no evidence whatsoever of any police involvement. Your comment, everyone, even the TRC in its initial report said the police organised this, the police orchestrated this, the police were involved in every aspect of this, yet the Amnesty Committee with the much deeper investigation found no evidence whatsoever of police involvement yet the ANC in 1992 began with the assumption that the police were involved and had indeed been part of the orchestration of the massacre. A long question.
NM There is no doubt that there was a third force in this country. When we made that allegation the media said prove it. We couldn't find proof. It's only after the investigations which were conducted by the TRC that we eventually found evidence that there was a third force in this country and that third force was composed very largely by the intelligence services, by the police and so on. But you don't make an allegation if you do not have evidence. The difficulty was for us to establish through concrete and incontrovertible evidence that the police were involved and that was not easy.
POM But at Boipatong the Amnesty Committee found there was no police involvement.
NM That is a body that we set up ourselves and we have to respect its decisions. They went out to investigate to try and find concrete evidence to support that allegation. They didn't find any and you come across many cases where you know who the culprit is but there is no evidence.
POM So when you talk about the third force and the dual strategy of the NP, the belief in the ANC that the government was following a dual strategy of on the one hand negotiating with you and on the other hand trying to undermine you by orchestrated violence, do you believe that that was officially sanctioned government policy?
NM I do not know that, whether the NP itself has sanctioned it but there was a lot of evidence that the government during the negotiations they wanted a solution under which even if we won the election they would continue to rule. For example, power sharing, the argument of the NP was that if the ANC during an election polled 75% of the votes and the NP 25%, the ANC should not be able to take any decisions until the 25% agreed. And we rejected that and we put forward the idea of a government of national unity. That's how the government of national unity came into being. We rejected the proposal of the NP and that proposal therefore showed that amongst the negotiators of the NP this dual strategy was there. Whether it was backed up by the NP itself or the government I do not know.
POM Just to backtrack on one thing and that was that Mac said to me that through the communications system that existed that you were able to get a copy or a draft of the Harare Declaration and go through it and have your comments passed back to Lusaka. Is that correct?
NM Yes absolutely.
POM I am going to switch and ask you probably a tough question and that is on taking office the government was provided with information that an HIV/Aids crisis was looming yet somehow the issue got lost in all the other issues involving transition to a new government. What happened? How did it slip through the cracks?
NM I do not accept that. The government has always regarded HIV as a serious matter and took steps to ensure that we attended to the matter. One of the first things I did when I came out of jail, I called a meeting in Mpumalanga of parents, students and I addressed them on HIV and I was very careful because in our culture you don't talk about sex no matter what you do, but you say if a child, for example, asks, "Mummy, where do I come from?" the answer is a hard slap in the face. So I was elaborate in this meeting that although we do not talk about sex we have an epidemic that is going to wipe out our population and then I went on to say try and get your children to resist having sex as much as possible. When they do they must have one partner, they must use condoms. You know, I made no contact whatsoever with the people. At the end of the meeting they walked up to me and said, "Mr President", meaning president of the ANC at that time, "How can you talk like that? Do you think we can tell our children that they must get these things of yours, the condoms?" They were really revolted. Then secondly, I was invited to Bloemfontein to address a high school there on a certain topic. The principle was a lady, a graduate, and I said to her, bearing in mind the experience I had in Mpumalanga, "Do you mind if I also add and talk about Aids?" She said, "Please don't, otherwise you'll lose the election." I was prepared to win the election and I didn't talk about Aids.
But we had been going up and down the country in order to warn our people about Aids. In fact when Princess Diana came to the country and came to pay a courtesy visit to me in my official residence here in Cape Town I asked her to come back so that she can accompany me as I go round the country talking to our people about Aids. She agreed to do that but before she came back she died. So it is not correct to say there was any time when we did not warn the country about HIV.
POM There has been a lot of talk in the last year or two years about the need for moral regeneration, about moral decay, about this spate of child rapes, about hijackings. In fact just last week I was held up in my house by four armed gunmen who took everything out of the whole house.
NM Oh, I didn't know that.
POM Four of us were tied up, thrust guns to our heads and I was afraid the women in the house and the child would be raped above all else. But what has happened, what happened to the value system that this kind of, almost we would call it disease, particularly with regard to child rape, gang rape, where people are hijacked, they're shot rather than just their car being taken? What's happened?
NM You know for the Olympic Bid I went to Switzerland and I was sitting at table with the Prime Minister and cabinet ministers. In the course of the conversation the Prime Minister told me that two days before SF40 million had been robbed, a bank had been robbed of 40 million, and I asked instinctively, "Is it in the papers?" He actually dropped his voice and he said, "No, we don't do that because if we publish such facts it would affect our investments. We don't do that." Then a man who is now a Prime Minister visited our country, he repeated something similar when I was saying to him that we are worried about the crime in this country. He says, "Crime in my country is no different from yours. The only difference is that we have a patriotic press that takes into account the interests of the country." That drew a contrast between our own media which for a long time has been trying to prove that Africans cannot govern, blacks cannot govern a country, and that they have been publishing everything adverse about our country.
It is true that the level of crime is high but no government in the history of this country has ever done as much as we did when we came into power to fight corruption and crime. Insofar as corruption is concerned we set up a unit under an experienced judge to investigate corruption in government and in many respects we have brought down the level of crime in this country. So I do not understand what moral regeneration means, what losing values means, because I do not think that we have done worse than the apartheid government in this country. In fact by passing a democratic constitution, having a bill of rights which is not just a piece of paper but a living document, where a citizen if his rights are threatened or violated can go to these independent institutions, the Public Protector, the Human Rights Commission, the Constitutional Court, and all these are there to make sure that that bill of rights is a living document which actually protects the rights of citizens. I don't understand, therefore, what is meant by saying that we want a moral regeneration. Crime and corruption you find throughout the world.
POM Vice President Zuma used the phrase just a week ago in a speech after one more child rape. He said there is a moral decay in this country in part occasioned by the past but something we must face. He used the phrase, it's not my phrase, it's his phrase.
NM There is no doubt that as far as abuse of children the incidence is on the rise and now we must understand this from the fact that HIV is increasing and there is a perception that if you have HIV/Aids and you sleep with a virgin or a child you will be cured. There is that perception which we are trying to fight and to eliminate but it's related to a specific incident, the increase in the rate of HIV.
POM So you see the increase in child rape as being directly related to the increase in HIV and the myth that if you have sex with a virgin you will be cured somehow?
NM No, that is my view. Of course there has always been abuse of children and it's one of the most difficult things for the police to investigate because in many cases the children are abused by their relatives, a relative who is a breadwinner and people although the family know that this man is abusing their children because he's a breadwinner they're not prepared to go to the law enforcement agency and report what this man is doing. So it's very difficult for the police to produce evidence in order to charge and convict a person.
POM Do you think that since you left office that the race card in politics is played too often? That rather than there being serious and honest discussion between groups that it is too easy, it has become almost the thing just to call your opponent a racist?
NM We have almost destroyed racism in this country. That's why we have such a democratic constitution. That's why now everybody can vote. That's why we can say without the fear of a doubt that we have almost destroyed racism but there are certain pockets of resistance and all that they need is mopping up operations. It's not wrong for people to refer to certain incidents which indicate that racists are still operating even though they are few and far between.
POM Do you think that, how will I put this, that the ANC is beginning to accumulate too much power in the sense that you are becoming what might be called a one-party democracy, that opposition is diminishing in parliament, that you're not growing into a viable multi-party democracy but rather a one-party state?
NM There is a multi-party system in this country. Even in government we have two parties, the ANC and the IFP, and in parliament we have a number of parties which form the opposition. It is not true to say that the ANC is becoming a one-party organisation or that the government is a one-party government. The only difference is that our people appreciate the policy of the ANC which has been able to change their living conditions. That's why in 1994 we won the election by 62% and in June 1999 we won the election by 66%. The support from our people is growing but that doesn't mean to say that there are no political parties in opposition. There is no law which bans political parties in this country. But we are strong and it is not a unique case. You have found it in the Scandinavian countries where a political party has been in power for almost four decades and the point is this, that we are changing the living conditions of the majority of the people and the people appreciate that by giving us more support and more votes.
POM Just moving a little bit backwards on two things. One is the relationship that existed between yourself and FW de Klerk never seemed to have any chemistry to it after a certain point. And two, do you think that De Klerk was beholden to his Generals, that he had to look over his shoulders, that he had to consult them before he could make certain decisions, that he had to always take into account the possibility that there might be a coup if he moved too quickly in one direction or do you think the Generals were irrelevant to the process?
NM What determined my relations with De Klerk is the important role he played in making sure that we have a peaceful transformation in this country. We, the liberation movement, destroyed white supremacy supported by the international community but we could never bring about a peaceful transformation without the support of the whites. That is where De Klerk played a critical role. He was able to exercise his vision to see that that era had come to an end and he had the courage to come out publicly and to say that. If the Generals were against it then De Klerk was determined to challenge them.
I must also tell you that before, as in the run-up to the elections, I made several statements in which I emphasised that if we won the elections we would retain the commanders, the head of the army, the head of the police. We would not remove the Minister of Finance and the Governor of the Reserve Bank. That approach assured us of the support of the police and it was an approach which put everybody at rest including the army itself and the police and, of course, the financial institutions of the country. It also raised the confidence of business in our government because they realised that we are cautious, we do not want to bring about abrupt changes in the structure of the government.
Therefore, when I consider my relations with De Klerk I don't speculate as to what his position was in regard to the Generals, I concentrate on what he actually did, some things I came into physical contact with. Nobody can deny that De Klerk played an extremely important role in ensuring that he brings the whites over so that they should support this peaceful transformation. That determined my relations with him. Whatever problems we have I never forget that he played that important role. He has invited me to his place after I have stepped down. I have invited him to my house for lunch.
I was invited by Ramos Horta, a Nobel Peace Prize winner from East Timor, to join other Nobel Peace Laureates to go to Israel to try and bring about peace there. I felt that I would never make the impact which Mr de Klerk would make on the Israelis and I asked him to join Horta which he agreed to do. So that is what is important about our relations, my appreciation of the important role that he played.
POM When you look back at your presidency, and I know you must be in the middle of writing your memoirs which I hope we will see soon, when you reflect what do you see as the greatest accomplishments of your presidency and what do you see as its most notable failures?
NM We were able to bring fundamental changes in the government of this country. For the first time this country had a democratic government. That is the most important achievement that we made, a democratic constitution which is hailed by the world as one of the best examples of a peaceful solution. That constitution enshrines the hopes and aspirations of almost every South African. That's the greatest achievement, and the ability of giving our people dignity. Although one of my friends said to me the other day that you can't eat dignity but nevertheless it is some important form of delivery to our people. Those are our achievements.
About failures, a period of seven years is too short a time for us to think in terms of failure. Our achievements are those of success in everything that we do and especially when you consider that unlike you fellows where you believe and belong to families with a high level of academic qualification, our people in the government came straight from the bush or from prison without any previous training as government and look what they have done. No government compares with our government in this history of this country.
So when you assess our achievements you must not do so from the point of view of what happened in Ireland, in Britain or in the United States of America because we are in a totally different situation where educational facilities were very inferior. Nevertheless we have been able to bring about radical changes in this country which, as I have said so many times, are hailed by the world as a miracle.
POM Again, I was at the Robben Island ceremony, the opening of the Gateway, when you made a very strong statement about HIV/Aids. On the United Nations Human Development Index South Africa is one of five countries that slipped between 1989 and 1995 mostly because the average age was then 56. The MRC report says it will be 41 in ten years. Why is it impossible to mobilise people against Aids in the same way as they were mobilised against apartheid? Because if Aids is not brought under control in 15 years there will be very little of South Africa left to govern the average age will be so low. Why isn't nevirapine made available and drugs made available as a matter that have to be made available unless everything you stood for, the very foundations of democracy will collapse?
NM I was addressing a meeting of our regional organisation, the Southern African Development Community, I was addressing a summit, and one of the heads of state interrupted me when I said we must be very careful, Aids is not just confined to the poor and uneducated, it is also attacking the elite. He said, "In my country we have lost three cabinet ministers, one of them a medical doctor, because of Aids." And he then pointed to the ministers behind him and he said, "These are survivors." Now I understand that in that same country now, according to the media, six cabinet ministers are HIV positive. Now at least in our country you don't have that situation. No cabinet minister is known to have HIV/Aids.
The attitude of the government is a clear one that HIV causes Aids but that there has been a debate because there is a view that most of these drugs have got a toxic effect. In fact one of our people who was employed in government contracted HIV/Aids and during his last days they discharged him from hospital and said that the drugs that he was being given have affected the functioning of his kidneys. Now there is that debate however much wrong you might think the attitude of some people may be but it is something that is realistic that these drugs also are toxic but there is a view that let us leave this to the people who suffer. If a person were to take a drug he must look upon himself or herself and if the drug is toxic at least he can prolong his life and let us leave the matter to individuals.
You must also bear in mind that the cost of providing these drugs is exorbitant. There are negotiations that are going on with the pharmaceuticals because they themselves are exploiting our people. You know the concrete information that we have is that a drug that costs a certain amount in the United States of America here it costs five times more. So we have that problem of not having sufficient funds to afford these drugs but nevertheless it is something that we should do. We must negotiate with these pharmaceuticals to reduce the cost of drugs and some of them are already doing that, like Glaxo, militantly. They have cut down the cost of their drugs considerably and we should extend that to other pharmaceuticals and we should also support these programmes by the United Nations where they are calling upon the industrial world to provide funds so countries like ours which are poor, but we must not exaggerate to think that the situation in our country is worse than the rest of Africa. Actually it's much better but still you see there's enough for us to take measures to ensure that we control it.
POM How about just nevirapine itself, that so many pregnant mothers, HIV positive, have to take one injection six weeks before she delivers and the child gets an injection six weeks after it is born and that's it and that could save 35,000 lives a year? All medical science from around the world says this is safe, that the toxic effects are minimal, minimal.
NM Well there is still that argument, we have not resolved it. There are those who believe that because of the toxic effect of these drugs it is dangerous for us to supply them to HIV positive people, even to mothers. But we are debating that matter and I am sure in due course they will resolve it.
POM Just one or two last things, I know you have other appointments. Mac says that if the NP had played its cards better it could have gotten a better settlement. You have Joe Slovo who said after the Record of Understanding was signed, again in an interview with Patti Waldmeir he comes out and he says, "They caved in on everything." Do you believe in the end that the NP simply threw in their hand or do you believe that in some way you had, I won't say you co-opted, but that you had negotiators like Leon Wessels and Roelf Meyer who inherently were on your side, that they knew the inevitability of majority rule and that you in a way had charmed them?
NM I don't know what in fact you're saying that the NP could have got a better deal. We decided that every party that polled more than 5% of the votes would be in the government of national unity. They had six members of the cabinet, the IFP had three, and the rest went to the ANC. I don't know what better deal than that they would have got. They got the best deal in terms of our constitution.
POM And finally, I've forgotten the final question that I must ask. I want to thank you for all you have done for Ireland, the role you played at Arniston in 1997 when all the parties here opened the way to Sinn Fein declaring a ceasefire and getting into the negotiation process. The book you inscribed to David Trimble brought a smile to his face for, I think, the first time. It allowed for the appointment of Cyril as one of the international inspectors. You were extraordinarily helpful when Gerry Adams was here the last time and on behalf of all the people of Ireland I want to thank you. You are their hero.
NM Well you are very generous and I am happy that a man of your standing should appreciate the little that we have done. But sometimes we get credit for things we have not done and that's one of the things that always embarrasses me because there are men and women in this country who have done far better than I have done, one of them sits there, very humble and so on (Jakes Gerwel). But if we compared our performance he would stand head and shoulders far above me. Nevertheless as an old man and as a pensioner I am very grateful for the compliment.
POM You will never be an old man. Thank you very much Mr President.
NM OK. Thank you.
JG Have you been working a lot with Mac?
POM I've been doing Mac day and night.
NM Well Mac and Cyril Ramaphosa have done very well and Roelf Meyer as far as Ireland is concerned.
POM Yes I talked last night to Cyril.
NM I made my own humble contribution but those are the people who really were the king makers.
POM Thank you.
NM When are you returning?
POM I'm returning to Boston on Thursday then I'm returning here in January and I'll probably be here for another six months. I have now become a project of the Robben Island Museum because since 1989 I've been interviewing everybody on every side of the conflict every year for the last ten years so I have about 2000 hours of interviews. The Mott Foundation is now giving me - under the Mayibuye Centre, everything's being lodged at the Mayibuye Centre and they will digitalise all the recordings and put them on CDs and then with Struik they are going to bring out six volumes after that, one for each year on a particular theme that will embrace all the information. I have ten million words. In addition to all the political figures I've got ten families, beginning ten years ago, ranging from a family living in a shack in Orange Farm to a highly conservative right wing family living in Zeerust, coloured families, Indian families, white families, middle class African families and I interviewed them and all their children every year so there's a complete record of how they saw the transformation and how they are doing today. Some of the children I did then, interviewing at seven, they're now seventeen, some are now married with children of their own so it's a document.
Could you do me one small favour? That would be to the little girl who adores you but who had an extraordinarily traumatic experience when she had to untie all of us who had been bound and gagged and after we were able to ungag ourselves and the gunmen had left she was the person we had to scream for to come down and cut our bonds so we could call the police. If you wrote her a small note on a piece of paper just telling her that she is safe in this country and that everybody loves her. Her name is Gladwin. In African it's Mtimikaysi, I can never quite get my tongue around that. She's just eight years of age. I have become her legal guardian
Thank you very much. Oh, that's beautiful. Thank you.
POM My book. (Long Walk to Freedom)
NM Did you read this book?
POM Through and through, every word, it's all marked, every other page.
NM Do you read it?
POM Do I read it? I read it all the time, I refer to it all the time. I examine every sentence all the time.
NM I am disappointed. I would not read such cheap books.
JG I hope Mac is not abusing you to get his autobiography written by subterfuge.
POM Yes. Mac, no, it will be biography, it won't be his autobiography. But it could be a different kind of biography because it will all be based on interviews done over the years. That is why I'm going through the process of every statement that he makes about an event I go back and check with the person who he refers to to see if they verify it or can verify it.
JG It must be intriguing finding different memories of the same event?
POM Oh yes. The biggest one is over the question of the percentages at CODESA. Everyone in the room, I've interviewed everyone and they have a completely different memory of what went on in the room.
NM There was an incident on Robben Island and we then sent one of our top comrades to go and speak to him (Mac) and he failed and we sent another one. He also failed. Then I told them that you make a mistake because you go there and argue with Mac, you can never win an argument with Mac.
POM I'm seeing him tomorrow, I'll tell him that.
NM I went to him to say, look, let us assume that all your reasons are correct. Are you suggesting that all of us should behave as you are doing? He said, "No, I just want to debate my reasons." I say, "I assume that your reasons are correct but are you saying that this is what we should do?" I refused to enter into any debate because I knew I would never win or that there was any way in which I could convince him.
POM Might it be possible some time next year to see you again to check up on other statements that Mac makes?
NM Talk to the person here, if they say yes.
POM Zelda? Yes?
Zelda We can look at the schedule next year because we are already the whole of February and March is full.
POM I will be here all year.
Zelda We can look at it.
NM I can tell you she enjoys Cuban rum. If you are able to give her that she will co-operate!
POM I've learnt. I'm beginning to learn that. OK Mr President, thank you ever so much, thank you for making the time and God bless you.
NM Thank you.