This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
Leon Wessels: The Good Boer
Leon Wessels is a big man. Big, but not burly. Not quite the makings of a scrum half, but in the running. Tall and broad-shouldered, but without the beefiness one associates with the Afrikaner physique. He exudes confidence, charm, openness, and most beguilingly, a disarming smile. A good-looking man, without the little idiosyncrasies that suggest artifice. One would never associate him with playing a key role in the maintenance of the apartheid state, and, more importantly, a crucial role in its dismantling. Not perhaps that he would see it that way. That is for you to judge.
The son of a policeman, he was born in Kroonstad in the Orange Free State, the heartland of Afrikanerdom, in 1946. The family moved to Johannesburg, where he started school, but soon moved to Vryburg where he attended the Stellaland Laeterskool. He completed his primary at Port Natal School, Durban, the bastion of the English settlement, and in 1963 matriculated from the Monument Hoerskool in Krugersdorp once again back in the heartland of the Afrikaner people.
Wessels attended the South African Police College from 1964 to 1996, serving as an instructor and member of the mounted police. In 1997, he enrolled at Potchefsroom University, the alma mater of FW de Klerk and many other eminence grise of the Afrikaner establishment. Where he completed a BJur and BCom degree in 1970 and his LLB in 1972. In 197,1 he was awarded an Abe Bailey scholarship to the UK.
While at university he was awarded a medallion for leadership, academic achievement and service to the student community. He was chairman of the Students' representative Council and president of the Afrikaner Studentebond, from 1971 to1973. In the latter capacity, he testified before the Schlesbusch Commission of Inquiry into the Christian Institute, National Union of South African Students, the South African Institute of Race Relations and the University Christian Institute to explain how the ASB was organized and run.1 A key issue for white students at the time involved contact with black students organized into the black consciousness South Africans' Organization (SASO), which was dominant on black campuses.
Wessels was part of a Potchefstroom student delegation, which held an official contact with the Students/ Representative Council of the University the north. There he met Abraham Ongeposte Tiro and Aubrey Mokoena, both leading black consciousness exponents, and the meeting had a great influence on Wessels' views of the South Africa situation (Tiro was subsequently assassinated in a bomb-blast widely believed to be the work of South African agents.)
While in college, Wessels came in touch with senior figures in Afrikaner circles. Including Wimpie de Klerk all of whom were in the vanguard of the verligte movement and had an influence on Wessels' political philosophy having worked as a prosecutor during university holidays, Wessels joined the Johannesburg as an advocate in 1973. In 1974, he was elected a member of the Transvaal Provincial for Krugersdorp, and in the same year served on the Federation of the Federation of Junior Rapportryers. From 1971 to 1974 he was leader of the Nasionale Juegbond in the Transvaal and served as an ex-officio member of the Transvaal executive and head committees of the National Party (NP).
On 30 November 1977 Wessels was elected as a member of parliament for Krugersdorp.
As an MP he chaired the NP's caucus group on law and order and was secretary of the foreign affairs group. In addition he was a member of the NP's Transvaal organization committee and its youth committee.
In April 1988, he was appointed Deputy Minister of Law and Order, and in the cabinet reshuffle after the September 1989 elections he became Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.2
On 6 September 1989, South Africa held its last white-only election. With FW de Klerk at the helm, the National Party presented the electorate with what de Klerk would call "a straightforward reform platform."3 The party's manifesto highlighted six goals: a clear mandate to normalize the political process; to remove racial discrimination; to negotiate a new constitutional dispensation; to promote economic effectiveness; to maintain law and order; and to remove distrust by building bridges between communities.
The party's five-year program outlined on 29 June was suitably vague in detail, couched in terms of generalizations such as a bill of rights that would provide for group rights, engaging in dialogue with "recognized leaders of all groups;" the promotion of "self determination for 'own affairs;'" joint-decision-making on general affairs, and a vote for black people within five years. Whom the 'recognized leaders of all groups" should be was obviously going to be the government's prerogative to decide, but the inclusion of a provision that blacks would have a vote within five or before the next election brought home to whites that "the old days," however they chose to interpret it were over.
The world around South Africa was changing. The collapse of communism, the fall of the Berlin wall, the looming prospects of far reaching changes in the Soviet Union, were changing the prism through which white South Africans had viewed the world, and was compelling them to face new realities, whether they liked them or not.
Black leaders rejected the plan, demanding that all apartheid structures had to be dismantled in their entirety before one could even talk of a climate conducive to negotiations. The Conservative Party (CP) cried sell-out, that the NP was opening the floodgates to black majority rule. Which, unknowing to itself, the NP was.
The Star, which liked to think of itself as among the more enlightened newspapers in the country, expressed a view, neither widely held nor widely rejected:
The Nationalist government is chasing a train that already left the station. Where it intends to be five years from now, is where it should have been five years ago. [but the] plan [does] envisage negotiations with blacks, and it offers black people a vote at national level within five years. This is an encouraging shift, especially following years of oppressive apartheid and erosion of the rule of law.4
The NP won the election, albeit with a reduced majority, being squeezed on the right by the CP, with its dire warnings of a South Africa on its way to becoming one more African basket-case with hordes of blacks swamping whites, usurping all before them, running the economy into the ground ( conveniently overlooking the fact that the economy was already buried in quicksand and sinking rapidly), and on the left by the Democratic Party (DP), accusing the NP of appropriating all its positions.
On 2 February 1990, de Klerk irrevocably changed the course of South African history when he announced during his address to the new Parliament that he was unbanning the ANC, the SACP and 19 other banned organizations, and releasing Nelson Mandela. The political genie was out of the bottle and there was no putting it back. On 11 February Mandela walks out of Victor Vester prison, a free man.
Months after Mandela's release, the government and the ANC held their first formal meeting at Groote Schuur on 2 May 1990, which lasted three days. The meeting produced an agreement: The Groote Schuur Minute, hailed at the time as a major breakthrough. The ANC committed itself to reviewing its position on the armed struggle; a joint working committee was set up to define what constituted a 'political offense,' so as to facilitate the release of political prisoners and the granting of immunity; and the government agreed to review security laws, lift the state of emergency, and enable exiles to return to the country.5 A working group was set up to start sorting out the details.
In one sense, the significance of the meeting lay more in it having happened than in the agreements reached. National euphoria greeted the agreement reached at the meeting's conclusion. These black chaps were, it appeared, reasonable fellows; if all meetings that were to follow could be conducted in a spirit of mutual fellowship, God only knew what might be possible minimum disruption to the country. Thus the Sunday Times in a lead editorial gushed:
Who but incurable bigots or escapist clingers ton apartheid myths could failed to be moved by the television images? The youngish, imperturbably calm and sure-footed State President, and the tall, dignified and articulate black leader sitting side by side, making history together. True, there was much differed. True, grinding months of hard talks lie ahead. True, angry people still need persuading that there is a peaceful way out of our crisis.
But the sign were evident as much in the body language as in their calm, measured speech. Two South Africans. Two generations and from separate poled of the political spectrum, had begun to discover each other as humans. More, there was a dawning recognition that our future lies in the same diversity, which by making victory impossible for any party, makes compromise inescapable for all parties.6
Little noted at the time was the fact that the meeting had been postponed for over two months because of the violence wracking the country and the failure of the government to put a stop to it. For white South Africans, Groote Schuur encouraged expectations that change would be painless; that de Klerk had the measure of the situation a view he went out of his way to encourage.
But in the black community the Groote Schuur Minute was received with a caution bordering on misgiving. In some quarters, fears were once again being expressed that the ANC was selling out on objectives such as majority rule.7 Others argued that negotiation is not a good strategy for liberation, that "any oppressed people who were fighting for liberation had to bargain against the oppressor from s position of strength a position which could only be achieved if fundamental liberatory (sic) programmes were embarked upon by black people."8 And among some, the old question lingered: Had Mandela lost his touch with the grassroots after 27 years in prison.
My first interview with Wessels takes place on ?? July 1990 in the Union Buildings, the seat of the Executive. The room in which the interview takes place is ornate, well -appointed with the appropriate antique furniture, deep, comfortable couches, draped windows, and oil paintings of a miscellany of portraits of former Afrikaner notables and a sprinkle of Boer war heroes presidents of the former Boer republics. The carpets are thick, well chosen to match the surroundings and muffle sound. Above all, the room is neat, nothing out of place, nothing stirring, resonant of calm far removed from the deadly mayhem that engulfs much of the country.
Wessels is cordial by nature, I would learn is a cordial and most affable of people. We are both a bit awkward, since he knew I wanted to interview him on a continuing basis, while I was all too aware that too much aggressiveness at an early stage would probably present a problem as far as further interviews were concerned. Hence the need to balance inquisitiveness with a requisite not to push things too far too quickly. It would be a dilemma that would persist for couple of years with all of my interviewees for a number of years. After all, who was I, and why should they be divulging information regarding their analyses of the situation they were confronting at any point in time? What was I doing with the information? To whom was it being passed on? The closer players were to the political action, the more close-mouthed they tended to be at least initially, until many saw that their comments appeared nowhere and I did not appear to be working for the CIA (how widespread its reputation for the little it gleans!) From the start I took refuge in the fact that I was Irish, held Irish citizenship, and with Afrikaners would tell them my Sean McBride story.9 Of Irish nationalists' support of the Boers during the Boer wars, even to the point of sending brigades to fight on their side. " The enemy of my enemy is my friend" etc. Most often few of them knew what I was talking about, and displayed little more than cursory curiosity. Nevertheless, it proved, on many occasions to be a useful icebreaker. When in doubt, blame it on the Brits! Nothing elicits such immediate bonding!
We began with the most obvious: what had motivated de Klerk to move so quickly and so dramatically; it wasn't as if he was known as a high -profile risk taker; indeed that he was a verkrampte rather than a verligte ?
To understand de Klerk and to understand the 1989 election campaign, one had to go back to the previous election in 1987, and to 1986. At that time, a good decision was made. South Africa was going to be an undivided South Africa with one citizenship. That policy, however, was not implemented in a very vigorous or imaginative way. Ever since that policy phrase or concept had been mooted in National Party circles, people like de Klerk and myself and others, had been looking forward to the opportunity to implement that policy, to evolve strategies that would give substance to the concept.
Unlike other prime ministers or heads of state de Klerk had had about six months to prepare himself for the actual moment when he would assume office. The process of reform had stalled some. But when de Klerk came out of the starting blocks, he came out with a flash. Yes, he did take everyone by surprise and he shared in that surprise.
It is a response I would hear over and over again. De Klerk took everyone by response. Cabinet had no say in the matter. He just flummoxed everybody.10
But does his overtures to the ANC, the Groote Schuur Minute, and the follow -up meeting scheduled to take place in the near future, after the working group has completed its work, does this mean that de Klerk has more or less conceded on the issue of majority rule, or is he still holding out for some system in which no group would be in a position to dominate another group?
"I don't want to duck the issue," says Wessels. " De Klerk came to the conclusion over and over again that the old policies were not working, which led him to tho realize that he would have to start de novo."
Once you start with a clean slate, you can move rapidly. De Klerk changed his framework completely. And, he also had a hard look at the moral basis of the whole policy [of apartheid]. And in that respect one could now look afresh at such issues as majority rule, the entrenchment of minority rights, one group not being in a position to dominate another, etc., etc. I believe that as we proceed and develop, we will be able to bring greater clarity to all of these concepts, because the fact is we have not been used to thinking in terms of a unified South Africa. At present, the NP's policy would be that a minority form of domination should not be changed for one in which there is another form of domination, only this time it being one in which the minorities are subject to the tyranny of the majority. In that respect we are looking at entrenchment of rights. We are looking at ways in which one group would not be in a position to dominate another.
Does that mean that you would be for majority rule where there would be instruments that would put restraints on the way in which the majority could exercise that rule?
Absolutely, because if you look at Western democracies and you look at look at minorities a liberal minority in Britain and a liberal minority in Germany do not have the same influence on the people in power.
Which means that you are not for simple majority rule a first past the post system? "I believe that a Westminster type of democracy will not suit our needs."
In that case could you envisage a type of democracy in which you had a black majority government, but there would be a second chamber or some other governance instrument that would put checks on the manner in which the power of the majority could be exercised?
Absolutely. Absolutely. I guess the kind of democracy that would suit us is where people really adhere to democratic principles. Democratic principles would enshrine a multi-party state, sovereignty of the judiciary, regular elections, and certain rights, such as cultural rights or linguistic rights would be taken care of. I'm sure there are precedents for that kind of democracy.
How does this relate to power sharing? You often hear government or NP spokespersons here talking about power sharing. What are they talking about? Power sharing at the executive level?
I can relate to power sharing in an African context as a result of the experiences that I've had. But I think it's important to keep in mind the environment in which people say things. That the political or international environment that exists at the time should have a bearing on how you interpret what's being said. For example if you read the Freedom Charter, you should read it against the heyday of apartheid and socialism.11 And you cannot really interpret it unless you remember that it was a document that was written in the mid-fifties.
Power sharing was coined in 1982 by the National Party when it believed that this country should be a partitioned, divided South Africa. At the time whites had all the power on the executive, legislative and administrative levels, the idea was first mooted not to embrace the political aspirations of blacks but only those of the Coloured and Indian communities. And, it definitely had in mind power sharing on an executive and legislative level. And when that concept was broadened to embrace black South Africans, it included broadening the scope of power sharing. In other words, we were not talking about relinquishing power-and may I say that at that very time the concept dominating ANC rhetoric was the seizure of power.
We said we were not prepared to give up power, and would not allow people to wrestle power from our hands, but we would be prepared to sit down and discuss and work out a constitutional framework in which we could share power with all South Africans, and as things have developed, most recently, we are saying louder and louder, that inn itself does not mean that we want to cheat anybody in any particular manner. It is a sincere approach in which we want everybody to have a stake in decisions that affect their lives.
And in what regard does that complement President de Klerk's promise that any new political dispensation would be placed before the white electorate for its approval before being endorsed? Doesn't this give whites a veto power over whatever new political dispensation that will be put forward, no matter what the opinion of the majority is?
It depends on the nuances. What President de Klerk has clearly said is that he has a mandate to negotiate a new dispensation. He has a mandate to negotiate that certain principles must be incorporated into a constitutional dispensation. If there should be a new constitution and the present dispensation should be changed for the new one, he would seek the opportunity to do that. And anyone else who wants to do that could do that. But de Klerk himself does not feel that it is within his mandate tom implement a new constitution. And one should not look at that, I believe in a whites-only framework, because the Mandelas of the world, the ANCs of the world are also seeking ways and means to be mandated, and to be sure that they are representing the views of their constituents. This is the beginning of a long debate. How will people be mandated to implement the new phase?
But what happens, if the white population turns down the new political dispensation and the black population overwhelmingly endorses it?
That in itself is the art of negotiation is that you reach a settlement and agreement that does not meet with all of the demands you have set, but that it meets with the majority of the demands of everybody. We have always said that you will not have peace and tranquility in this country unless you have in harmony the aspirations of South Africa's citizens but have also instilled a sense of security among the people, whoever they are, that that need that form of security.
You won't get peace and tranquility if you have a dispensation, which is not endorsed by the majority of South Africans, and a majority of whites, for that matter. There's no question about that. I have no doubts in my mind about that.
We move on to the question of the government and the government as one of the parties "among:
"equals" around the negotiating table.
We have drawn a distinction by saying that while you are negotiating the government must proceed. The needs of the people have to be taken care of. What will the negotiating table look like? That is something that has still has to be trashed out, not only on our own circles, but also in the broader South African context. My own belief is that you will probably find that the National Party will participate in negotiations, and not the government as such. In other words, the people who are representing the NP may be government leaders, but they will not be have the authority and sanction of the government. They will be mandated by the NP to negotiate on behalf of the NP not the government.
Does that mean that the two the NP and the government will work in concert with each other?
Wessels ponders for a moment, finally coming down on the side of it being "an interesting question."
Will Chris Hani take his place in the ANC camp or the ANC camp? I don't know. These questions, have to be raised, but I must confess that there is no clarity at the moment whether there will be a rectangular table or an oval one or a round one, who will sit as chairman, and who will sit where."
In short, these matters haven't yet even surfaced. Shades of the Vietnam peace talks!!
As regards the government's role:
The government is definitely in charge of the process at the moment, but it doesn't want to hijack the process. It wants it to become the process of the participants, not the government's process. For example, the government has stated over and over again that it does not fall within the government's prerogative to decide who will sit at the table, that will be the prerogative of the participants. Would -be participants will say, ' we have a voice out there, and we would like to be present at the negotiating table,' and it will then be for the participants or the ad hoc committees of the negotiating forum who would decide who would be there.
Which leads to the obvious question: Will the government and the ANC be the ones to will decide which parties represent "legitimate voices?"
No, Wessels replies, "That's not the way we see it."
We have said in the past that there are more players than only the NP and the ANC, and the ANV itself has conceded that point by saying initially at least that there is a place for Buthelezi, and for the PAC. The parliamentary parties will also have to find a position. We believe that the ANC's position on this is not the correct one: The ANC wants anyone represented in any form of government to be represented on the NP side or the Government's side of the table, and it would be the ANC versus the rest, so to speak. I think that is a premature and simplistic approach.
But the ANC has said that it's the sole representative of the black population. And although it has not said so in public, in private, it is quite adamant in private that while Buthelezi is welcome at the negotiating table, he will be there as part of the government's delegation, not as part of his own delegation or even as an independent delegation. What's the government's take on this?
Would they also object to the presence of other homeland chiefs, seeing them as illegitimate? Some of the self-governing states will be represented at the negotiating table, not as homeland leaders, but as leaders of people or as leaders of political parties. For example, Mabusa12 one may argue whether he would arrive at a table as part of an ANC delegation or as part of the delegation representing his particular political party constituency. For a fact, he will not arrive there as Chief Minister of Kangwane.
The independent states are another matter:
Leaders in the Transkei, Ciskei, Venda, and Boputhatswana have expressed very interesting comments to me personally where at least two out of the four have said, among other things, that they don't want to be part of the negotiations. The third one has said he would like to be part of the negotiations, and the fourth has said he does not want to participate. He will not recognize the negotiating process. Two of them have said that negotiations will take place between political leaders, but since they are not political leaders, they will view the negotiating process with interest but don't have a particular wish to be part of that process. The third has said he would like to be part of the process because he would like to influence the process. The fourth Boputhatswana-has stated that his territory is independent, and, therefore, he will not recognize the process as such.
But when you said that the ANC would concede a role for Buthelezi, with whom would he be sitting -- with the government? That suggests that the ANC is seeing this process as one between parties sitting across a table. Does the government see it that way? No, says Wessels. He believes that "the negotiating partners should not look on one another as adversaries. They may not agree on all the issues, but they will find many they do agree on, and many that they don't. The consensus may go from one to the other." He doesn't think it would be in the interests of the process, "if we arrive as adversaries who are sitting across a table from one another."
How would he like to see things develop, once the government and the ANC have gotten rid of the obstacles getting in the way of substantive negotiations? Wessels:
Contrary to what other people have said, the process, I believe, is irreversible. It is not a question of us having arrived at a point where it will just develop smoothly and rapidly and without a lot of exciting moments, and moments when we will have doubts whether it will be successful.
Right now one will find a consolidation, not a polarization of positions. The NP and the ANC will have to go back to their supporters, go back to their roots, explain what they have been doing and intend to do, and give greater clarity to certain constitutional principles, The NP will have to explain what precisely it means when it talks about the entrenchment of minority rights; what sorts of rights do we want entrenched etc. etc.; what sort of economic dispensation are we looking at; looking at the obstacles that have to be addressed. I'm sure this process will take the rest of the year, and hopefully we'll get going in 1991 by engaging ourselves in debates surrounding constitutional principles. I don't think we will come up with a constitutional model this year.
Who will draw up the new constitution? Two scenarios are discussed. The first envisages a situation in which the parties at the table, after discussions among themselves and consultation with their constituencies, reach a settlement and from that draw up a constitution. The second envisages a situation in which a point is reached where there is an election for a constituent assembly, and the assembly draws up the constitution. The government opposes the second route. If the ANC doesn't back down on its demand that the constitution must be drawn up by an elected constituent assembly, what forms of leverage can the ANC weigh in with?
The South Africans the NP and the ANC in particular have not really engaged at great lengths in a debate with regards to a constituent assembly or the particular form of a negotiating table. This is something that will be high on the agenda in a post-obstacles-to-negotiations era when the obstacles have been removed. Part of the negotiating process is trying to put yourself in the other man's shoes.
The ANC has two cards, namely the armed struggle and international pressure. The rhetoric of the armed struggle will play a part. They will have to play that card where they feel it is safe to play that card, where they feel secure enough to play it, and that the moment is opportune for them to play the card and not lose face in any way. Mr. Chris Hani said yesterday that the ANC should be positioned in such a manner that if the government hesitated to carry through this whole process of democratization that Umkhontho weSiswe 13 should wrestle power from the government I've not read it so I'm not sure that my context is correct. But that's what I've always understood their position to be.
What credence does he give to the suggestions that Mr. Mandela would, perhaps, be in a position to renounce the use of violence if agreement was reached on the release of political prisoners and amnesty for exiles, especially when he seems to see the resumption of the armed struggle as one of the few cards the ANC has left to play if things turn sour?
I'm not suggesting that that is what they should do. I did try to understand their rhetoric because I was present at their press conference and I saw Mr. Mandela and his body language. He was uncomfortable when people pushed him on the question of the armed struggle, because if you read the small print of the Groote Schuur Minute, it virtually says that this is the end of the armed struggle, without saying we are now disbanding the armed struggle. I saw that there were many people grappling with this issue, because how can you commit yourself to a peace process and committed to not destabilizing then country, and yet at the same time embrace the armed struggle. When Mr. Mandela was pushed on the armed struggle, contrary to what he had said yesterday, and abroad, he was really trying to move away from it.
But if they were to renounce the armed struggle after the release of all political prisoners and the return of the exiles, then the only card they have left to play, in your estimation is international pressure. So if you reached a point where the government said 'we can't negotiate any further, the only card they have to play is outside pressure in the real sense?
That's true. At the moment they do not find themselves on the moral high ground when it comes to the armed struggle. Mr. Mandela is very emotional when it comes to these issues -- and I'm not saying that I agree with him but I try and understand what he is doing when he explains to people that they should still support international sanctions and the isolation of the country.
I'm not agreeing with it, but I am trying to understand what he is saying. He is successful because he is projecting the issue in a very emotional manner by saying "well, I went to jail 27 years ago without the vote and we still don't have the vote."
But that is what negotiation is all about. Twenty seven years ago we said 'Nelson Mandela there is no way you will have the vote in South Africa. You may have the vote in the Transkei where you come from.' Now, we are saying, 'Mr. Mandela we agree. You are a South African citizen as much as we are, and, therefore, you should have the vote, but we are not sure what the constitutional framework or dispensation should look like.
I heard over the radio this morning that the concentration span of Americans is very short. I believe whoever said that is right. Because six months from now will Mr. Mandela in his plea for isolation and sanctions still be on the moral high ground, as he is right now, given a possible scenario that a de Klerk administration keeps on moving forward with the process of negotiation, reaching out, nation-building, reconciliation and democratization? His position may also change, and in that respect, the call for armed struggle and international pressure may just only be rhetoric.
But, perhaps part of what Mandela achieved by his visits abroad was the selling of his personality so that if he were to walk away from the table it would be seen a s a condemnation of the whole process, and reinforce international pressure?
A valid point [Wessels says], and yes, during his over seas tour Nelson Mandela has successfully sold Nelson Mandela as a reasonable, moderate, wise, statesman-like figure with dignity etc. In the whole process he has never knocked de Klerk. He ha said that de Klerk has not done enough, but he's always said de Klerk is a man of integrity, I respect de Klerk, I want to go back and talk with him, contrary to what other liberation movements' leaders have said. They've all said 'we want to fight the government tooth and nail etc. But we shouldn't forget that de Klerk's image has also grown.
Mandela may be saying that de Klerk is not going far enough, fast enough, but there seems to be increasing apprehension in the white community that is translating itself into support, at least for the moment, for the Conservative Party (CP). How seriously does the government take this swing to the right? How does it propose to deal with it?
It boils down to blacks being more excited about the reform politics than whites, but that does not necessarily mean that they do not support de Klerk. I've been in the most awkward areas of this country, rural areas where whites have said to me, 'emotionally I don't feel too excited about what's happening, but mentally I realize that de Klerk doesn't have an alternative. So although people may not be standing on the sidewalks and clapping their hands at what he's doing and may have wished for another option, the majority of them realize that there is only one way out and that is the road of negotiation.
That may well be, but every indicator shows that whites are supporting the CP in larger numbers than ever before. Does the government see this as less than an enthusiastic endorsement of its performance since the 1989 election?
The government takes the shift to the right among the white electorate pretty seriously, but against the background that I've given you, whites also realize that there is no alternative. You're talking about two right wings. You're dealing with right-wingers who want to embark on an armed struggle, and you're dealing with right-wingers who say, 'I don't like what this man [de Klerk] is doing but maybe he has no alternative.' But we do take the armed-struggle right-wingers pretty seriously.
In last Sunday's paper TerreBlanche14 wrote that over 50 per cent of the Afrikaner vote in the last election was cast for the CP, and that the CP was becoming the authentic voice of Afrikaner nationalism. Is Afrikaner nationalism a threat?
I don't believe, to start with, that that the CP represents more Afrikaners than the NP. I come from a constituency that is heavily Afrikaner. The people know what I think, and the way I've changed, and yet, I've won two elections in situations where every single newspaper predicted that I would not win a seat. The first one I won with a margin of 55 votes over a Roman Catholic Englishman with an Australian wife Clive Derby -Lewis(??), and in the second against the same opponent, you had the second biggest swing away from the CP towards the NP in the country, and once again, there was not a single paper that predicted an NP victory in that constituency. It's too early to say who represents the majority of Afrikaners. But we do take the CP pretty seriously. They are a major political force, but I don't for a minute believe that they have the potential to run the country, never mind lead the white electorate.
And what are whites so apprehensive about? "In no particular order of priority: the economic system. Law and order. Security, and in general the quality of services rendered by the government":
Looking at the economic ones: the fear is that South Africa will quickly degenerate into a third world country with unemployment continuing to rise; the ANC and COSATU have advocated socialist and Marxist ideologies of economic restructuring; today you have talk about nationalization and all of these things strike fear into the heart of a lot of white people and the business community.
In view of these concerns, will it be a necessary part of the negotiating process to get agreement not just on a constitution for a political dispensation, but a consensus on the economic framework in which the business of the country will be conducted?
That, he says, would be the ideal situation: "I have no doubt about that. Normally one would say that you need a constitutional framework in which political parties operate and they sell their economic policies to the country. But in this country I think you need more than that. You need agreement on basic economic principles, on security."
Should these principles be embodied in the constitution? Or do you think that would give the ANC a real problem because on the one hand, you have COSATU and the more militant unions, and on the other hand, the moderate elements in the ANC who look at the economy, at what' happening around them and would be more amenable to make accommodations. Will this be a source of division within the ANC?
Definitely. The fascinating thing about the South African situation right now is that everyone who claims to be a player in the political field will have to examine its own positions very deeply. [policies that were writ in stone 20 years ago are obsolete in the changed circumstances of today's world. There is nobody with a model or a policy framework that will not come under pressure both from within its own ranks and from without.
In this broad context, what do you see as the main stumbling blocks that the government may face as the process unfolds. And what, do you think are the problems that the ANC may run into?
Once real negotiations begin, the ANC will have a problem in convincing their supporters that in trying to instill a feeling of security among whites, that they are not settling for a sham democracy or a second-rate constitution. Where will they strike that balance between meeting then aspirations of their people and instilling that sense of security among whites?It will have to be a genuine balance and both sides will have to explain without qualification why they are supporting it. It's no use if it favors one side or the other. That is a major problem.
The second problem is in the field of the economy. A lot of people [blacks] have expectations that cannot be substantiated and supported in terms of real economic principles. If you look at the problems the West Germans15 have at the moment with East Germans coming across and after two days they're complaining that they have to work too hard. If they are experiencing that kind of problem in Germany, can you imagine what kinds of problems we will experience with regards to jobs, bonuses, salaries, services, houses etc.
Assume that tomorrow you have a black-dominated government in which the white electorate has a share of power. What difference will that make in the life of the ordinary black living in Soweto or in a squatters' camp?
If de Klerk moves out of Libertas and the Union Buildings tomorrow and Mandela moves in, they would presumably hope that they would have access to fresh water, education, health clinics etc. We all know that will not happen overnight. The benefit would be that they would be properly represented and consulted on issue because we [the NP government] have made mistakes in that field.
In another portfolio that I held, I experienced first hand that the government would, for example, build a golf course in a black township and people would not use it because they had no use for it. Maybe, if they'd built a soccer field that would have helped things. Bad decisions like that were taken because the people involved were not consulted.
From my point of view, my white selfish point of view, I cannot explain to black children why we do not have enough money to build them proper schools right now, but if a black government or a black member of parliament sits in the budgeting committee and he goes back to them, maybe they will understand it better than they do right now.
If the PAC stays out of the process, as it threatens to do, and a situation arise where after four or five years an ANC dominated government has done little to improve the conditions of life for the masses living in the townships still a housing shortage, not a lot of electrification, water still scarce, an education system still in chaos, it's easy to envisage a situation where disillusionment with the ANC would turn to an obvious alternative which said, "I told you so."
That's why it's so important that people participate in the process. The process should not be hijacked by individual groups. People should be in the process in order to feel that they have a stake in it because that is the rule of democracy the 'ins' may be out tomorrow, bit they will have so much trust in the 'outs' that they will be willing to hand over power to them. If you have that kind of situation, you will have a democratic process; it will not be the typical African process of wrestling power rather than handing over power, through the bullet of a gun rather than through the ballot box.
As regards time scales for negotiations, he prefers to think in terms of "take your time, but do not waste time;" that it's important not to 'rush over stormy and difficult issues, that it's a matter of moving forward as "quickly and rapidly" as possible," but at the same time keeping the public informed, getting them used to the process, for those in the process getting accustomed to each other. It will take two to three years to "construct a constitution" that will enjoy cross-the board support. In short, this is not going to be a smooth and easy process with a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. " We all know," he says, that a resolution of the constitutional part of the process, " will not mean the end of our problems, of our mistrust and distrust of each other; it will only mean the beginning of nation-building, and of having to face the real issues that divide the country."
Within a year, he hopes that the parties will be around the negotiating table, grappling with each other on formal issues such as economic systems, the role of the judiciary, etc.
And his assessment of Mandela's performance since his release, both on the domestic and international scenes:
Mr. Mandela, contrary to what some people believe, has really come out as a moderate, dignified person. As some of us had predicted it would take some time for him to settle down and find his level of support and develop clarity on a vast number of issues.
He has had virtually no choice but to endorse the small print and all the sentiments expressed in previous policy documents such as the Freedom Charter, the Harare Declaration etc., and to change his positions on these things overnight is a big problem.
We are very pleased that he is out of prison; because the greatest asset of all is that he is now part of the debate. He's making good statements and he's making errors as well, and that is part of the political process.
His most conspicuous error?
The one that comes to mind is his meeting with Muammar Qadaffi.16 He is underestimating the goodwill that you will find among the white electorate and so, by playing this game back and playing his cards with regard to the armed struggle he may find that the process may not be launched with as much goodwill as it could have been. I don't think it's fair to expect a conciliatory (??) speech the first day he came out of prison,17 but as things proceed it is very important that he should really try and win the support of people [whites] who can be won over.18
We still have a lot of persuading to do with our own constituency. It's as cut and dried as it may seem to outsiders. I'm not saying it' all that clear in my own mind, but it is certainly a lot clearer than in the minds of many of the people who supported me. I've been exposed to a lot of thinking in the black townships, and I've tried to read and understand a lot, and, therefore, things that irritate the white electorate don't irritate me anymore.
The usual, non- visible aide knocks gently on the door, steps inside, glances at his watch, raises his eyebrows, and disappears. Our time is up. It is a routine I will become immensely familiar with over the years.
We part cordially and he promises to see me again the following year, that is, if he is still around, he adds with a touch of gallows humor.
That evening I review my notes? Certainly, Wessels does not fit the stereo of the Afrikaner we, who have been so vociferously anti-apartheid over the years, have created. Rather here is a man who conveys the impression of being thoughtful, appears to know and accept that great changes are in store; that the days of Afrikaner dominance are over and furthermore that that is long overdue, and certainly not a bad thing. But he is, I remind myself, the first South African minister I've interviewed, and that the interview was "cleared" through official channels. Perhaps, they had chosen a minister who would represent the government in the best light. A sophisticated and polished man he is, after all, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, so why should I have expected anything less? Perhaps, I'd been too timid, non-probing in my questioning? But if that were the case, it was a carefully considered decision on my part. If I wished to interview him over a period of years, I could hardly begin by questioning his role in the abomination that apartheid is. One had to proceed slowly, gain trust, and see where things led. But at some point there had to be a limit to that accommodation, even if it meant being shown the door.
A number of things linger in my mind. First, he had always referred to Mandela as "Mr." an appellation that few Afrikaners prefixed his name with. Second, he had been generous in his assessment of Mandela. Third, he had not ruled out majority rule, subject to requisite checks and balances. He had not latched on to group rights, compulsory power-sharing or any of the shibboleths that were the "givens" in NP circles at the time. Fourth, the fact that he stressed the importance of putting yourself in the other person's shoes, coupled with his wanting to know what blacks were thinking and why for what appeared to be motives that were genuine and not for divining some counter strategic intervention impressed me, as did his emphasis on negotiations having to be non-adversarial. And fifth, he was the first person whom I had interviewed or would interview for some time who said the process was irreversible.
Also, reading between the lines, it would appear that whites were more concern with the protection of their economic rights and what ideology economic policy would be grounded together with matters of security i.e., that control over security matters should continue to lie in white hands were of more importance to whites than the actual form of the political and constitutional dispensation they would live under. In the latter sense, if the tone and content of Wessels' replies to my questions were a gauge to the prevailing sentiments among whites, they had already surrendered political power, and were more concerned with having in place constitutional provisions that would guarantee their economic futures i.e., that the free market would rein.
What struck me as odd: that he had not mentioned mass mobilization as being the single most potent "weapon" blacks could fall back on if negotiations broke down; and his misreading of Mandela's speech in Cape Town to the tens of thousands who had waited for the better part of a day to hear him speak to them for the first time in 27 years; that he was more concerned with showing them that he was unbowed and unbroken, that the struggle was only beginning rather with reaching out to whites and alleviating their fears that a "terrorist" had been let loose in their midst with god knows what consequences in store.
I wondered whether he would play a part in the negotiations, and if so, in what rule. If I were a strategist foe the ANC, I'd want him on my protagonist's team. There was no fire in the belly for the status quo. One could discern the doubts, the absence of belief in one's own position.
One meeting does not immediately erase the scars of mistrust that decades of hostility and oppression have created. At the root of the distrust was the question of violence, and the question would infest the negotiating process virtually from the onset, and count among its early casualties the relationship between Mandela and de Klerk.
Violence between supporters of the IFP and the ANC had been endemic in KwaZulu/Natal since the founding of the United Democratic Front (UDF) in 1983, an umbrella organization for at least 600 others opposed to the government's tri-cameral constitution and engaged in a "people's war to bring down the apartheid regime.
In the late 1980s its tentacles reached into the Transvaal, and in particular the Vaal Triangle, became the focus of intense rivalry between hostel dwellers, who were mainly supporters of Inkatha, and township residents, mainly supporters of the ANC. In Lusaka, a mere six months before Mandela was released, the ANC, UDF, and COSATU called for an escalation in the 'people's war,' with the intention of "firing up the imagination of the people and building up action to increasingly higher levels."19 In December 1989, the number of killings climbed to nearly 300, the highest number recorded in a single month up to that point.20 Within three months of his release Mandela accused the government of talking about peace and negotiation, "while it continues to wage war against us and against neighboring states." It was unclear, he said, whether the government was unable to control the security forces or whether the violence was a deliberate ploy.21
In September 1990,the NP announced that membership of the party was open to all races and it unveiled its proposals for a new dispensation. These included a multi-party cabinet with rotating chairpersons; a ceremonial head of state and two chambers, one a house of representatives, elected on the basis of one person one vote and a senate with ten members elected by each region and ten members elected by each group groups would be defined non-racially. There would be ten regions, each with its own parliament and regional government, and a bill of rights.22
Despite the hiccups, the ANC and the government met again in Pretoria on 6 August 1990.Obstacles to talks identified by the AC were addressed to its satisfaction and the ANC announced its intention "to suspend the armed struggle" in the interest of moving as quickly as possible towards a negotiated and peaceful settlement and in the contexts of the agreements reached." 25 Nevertheless, time and again, Mandela would reiterate that the ANC had suspension of the armed struggle did not mean that it had been terminated. As the Economist succinctly summarized the situation "The struggle ends; the struggle continues." Target dates were set for the release of political prisoners and the granting of certain types of amnesty. The process of indemnity was set to be completed by May 1991, and the government agreed to review the Internal Security Act. The Pretoria Minute did not put a damper on Chris Hani's message to the masses." He argued that what had been suspended were "armed actions," not armed struggle, and that all MK cadres should accordingly remain in the trenches.26 (The Pretoria Minute' wording refers to the ANC suspending all "armed actions;" nowhere in the minute is there a reference to "the armed struggle.")
If the government had been following Wessels admonition that one had to put oneself your opponent's shoes, it would have quickly realized that Hani' function was to reassure the youth in the townships that the ANC had not thrown in the towel, that the words "armed struggle" had assumed a symbolic significance that was out of all proportion to the results it had achieved. Likewise, the ANC should have been able to predict the government's actions in initially refusing to give amnesty to Hani; it, too, had to be perceived by its constituency not to be party to an agreement that was rubbished by the ANC as not meaning what the NP was busily telling whites what they wanted to hear: that the ANC had committed itself to a peaceful resolution of South Africa's problems; and that negotiations, not guns, would set the agenda for change.
This problem: how to "decode" agreements reached in the higher echelons of the negotiating parties and translate them into a language that their respective constituencies would understand and not feel under threat that their leaders were secretly selling them out, would remain one all sides had to grapple with throughout the process. Some were more successful than others. And some failed. The most successful decoding took place when the parties collaborated with each other in agreeing on the language the content of the message-that would most appropriately reassure their respective constituencies that no one was buckling under, that their paramount concerns were being addressed, and that for every quid there was a pro quo. Every action on the part of the ANC and the NP was scrutinized by the more hard-line elements within their parties: In the NP the question that was the barometer used to measure every concession the NP made was whether it increased the likelihood of majority rule; in the ANC the barometer was whether it decreased the likelihood of majority rule.
The immediate development after the signing of the Pretoria Minute was an upsurge of violence, especially on the Reef that superseded any prior escalation and the allegations of police collusion.
In July 1990,Buthelezi, no doubt seeing himself being marginalized by the ANC/NP axis announced the formation of the Inkatha freedom Party (IFP). " We will not allow the ANC and its SACP partner," he proclaimed, "to crush all opposition and emerge as the only viable party."27
Within months, political killings erupted in the Transvaal, especially in the urban areas enclosing Pretoria, Witwatersrand and Vereeniging (the PWV region). Three days after Mandela and de Klerk signed the Pretoria Minute, a new wave of violence swept across the Vaal, killing a thousand people in a month. Mandela held the government responsible for its failure to bring the violence under control. Increasing references were made to a 'third force' being behind the violence and that it was operating with either the implicit or explicit instructions of the government. Mandela became increasingly emphatic: "the government could not conduct negotiations and at the same time wage war against the people."28 There were rumblings about returning to the armed struggle. Mandela himself began to have second thoughts about the suspension of the armed struggle. As the violence continued to spiral, many in the ANC became restive. In September, Mandela said that the continuing violence might necessitate taking up arms once more.29 The ANC's National Executive Committee (NEC) issued a stern warning: "If we find that there is no emphatic will on the part of the government to stop this violence then we will have to take a decision that will reverse almost every thing that was done since May this year If the government does not carry out its duties we will have to consider ways and means of defending our people against these criminal attacks then we will have no alternative but to concede to the wishes of our people for arms. We are reluctant to do this because we are committed to the idea of peace. But we will not standby and see our people mown down like dogs. We will have to defend them."30 Soon afterwards, the NEC gave the go ahead to setting up self defense units (SDUs) in the townships, a decision that would come back to haunt them.
Despite the continuing escalation of violence and Mandela's increasingly vitriolic attacks on the government and his now adamant belief that a 'third force' was driving it, he, nevertheless puts hid signature along with de Klerk's to the DF Malan Accord on 12 February 1991. In this accord, the ANC undertakes to suspend all armed action which is further defined to mean that there will be no armed attacks, or threats of attacks, infiltration of personnel and material, creation of underground structures, statements inciting violence, and training inside South Africa. The accord also provides for the identification and location of illegal arms' caches. The ANC and the government further agree that membership of Umkhonto we Siswe (MK), the ANC's military wing will not be unlawful; individual weapons will be licensed in terms of existing legislation; and the right to peaceful demonstrations will be maintained.31
In April 1991, the ANC publishes its constitutional proposals in a discussion document. The proposals calls for a unitary, nonracial democratic state with a bill of rights, an elected president as head of state and an prime minister as head of cabinet. The judiciary would be independent with the power to set aside legislation that is unconstitutional. This would protect the sovereignty of the constitution. The proposals also call for a two-tier parliament composed of a national assembly and a senate, both elected on the basis of proportional representation.32 " The most striking aspect of these proposals was their similarity to those of the NP." Hassen Ebrahim would later write." While there remained major differences in approach, it became clear that there was a convergence developing between the two perspectives." 33
The government responded with some new constitutional models of its own. Although it continued to reject the idea of an interim government, it did acknowledge the need for some form of transitional mechanism that would give Africans a voice in the legislative and executive branches of government.34 But there would be no abdication of power. The government would not wield its authority to any interim structure.
Getting closer, perhaps, but it would take two and a half years to bridge the chasms.
My meeting with Wessels takes place on 20 September. And again he is cordial and forthcoming. In De Klerk's reshuffling of his cabinet following the'89 elections, Wessels had been shuffled upwards. He is now National Development Planning and Minister of Housing and a full member of the cabinet.
Housing is one of the more important portfolios in the de Klerk government. The housing shortage among blacks is acute and proliferating at an alarming rate, with the relaxation and finally the abolition of the Group Areas Act.
Squatters' camps are beginning to mushroom in the most unlikely of places; overcrowding in the townships has reached crisis proportions as the continuing influx of blacks from rural areas to the cities in search of jobs and fortune infringe on space that is simply already over-saturated. In the townships, residents wake up to find that their already constricted spaces have been "invaded" by makeshift "informal" structures, erected overnight. Residents have no legal recourse; and the availability of scarce resources, already squeezed dry, has exacerbated existing social strains and tensions. Water, garbage disposal, electricity, sewage disposal are in short or non-existent supply. "Bursting at the seams, " has taken on a new meaning. The proliferation of squatter settlements had led to dramatic increases in crime, confrontations between established residents and the hordes of newcomers often turn violent. What's left of the fragile social fabric in many townships, already wracked by crime, violence, and unemployment, is beginning to collapse or has already collapsed in many areas, making them hotbeds for the revolution they had expected in the wake of Mandela's release.
Nor is the problem one that is confined to townships only. Increasingly emboldened blacks are establishing their "informal" settlements wherever they find open space, and that space is, of course, most conspicuously available adjacent to white residential areas. Open field become squatters' camps, and whites used to looking out on the pristine landscape that surrounded their quite enclaves, now find themselves looking into the eye of what they feared most the 'black" invasion has begun in earnest. No longer willing to wait for a new dispensation to alleviate their housing needs have taken matters into their own hands. The problem has a momentum of its own, one that the next government, whatever its hue or composition, will have to deal with. Estimates put the number of people without formal housing at between seven and eight million.
Thus, the government has belatedly awoken to the realization that in a non-racial election, housing will be a major issue among impoverished blacks, and hence the government's new-found emphasis on pouring resources into building houses, equating, perhaps, the number of houses it can build before new elections with the number of black votes they can woo. It is eager to establish itself as the "can-do" government in this regard; to a disenfranchised black nothing is as indicative of change than the tangible evidence of housing even match-box houses, small and cramped though they may be, are infinitely preferable to tin and cardboard patchworks, and roofs held down by rocks and stone.
After my meeting with Wessels, I discover to my utter dismay that my tape recorder had malfunctioned, and that I had captured nary a word of our conversation. Embarrassed, I explain the problem to his aide, Chris Botha, who persuades Wessels to consent to a telephone interview, he, in Johannesburg, and, I, in Boston. Botha arranges for short interview on 18 October. Before we talk I review my notes from the September meeting to get an idea of the ground we had covered.
According to my notes, Wessels' overview of the year since we had first talked led him to make the following observations:
Things were a lot clearer than they were a year ago. At last they were coming to grips with the real issues: whether there would be power sharing or a Westminster-style government; the strengths and weaknesses of centralization versus decentralization. It was clear the ANC wanted to concentrate as much power as possible at the center. The government was more disposed to decentralization.
There was an ethnic dimension to the violence in the Transvaal. No one could reasonably doubt that a Xhosa/Zulu rivalry was playing itself out under the rubric of political competition between Inkatha and the ANC. But while ethnicity complicated an understanding of the violence, it was not the cause of it. Massive unemployment and competition for the few resources available had also to be taken into account. Yes, ethnicity was a problem, but it was not talked about. As far as the ANC was concerned whatever ethnic differences were a direct product of apartheid. Period. In its view, the government aggravated ethnic tensions to divide blacks, and promulgate the myth that blacks were incapable of governing themselves. In academic and intellectual circles ethnicity and the problems that ethnic rivalry might pose in a future South Africa were not talked about. One did not want to appear to be an apologist for apartheid. His own belief? Ethnicity preceded apartheid, but did not cause it. The passage of time would lessen the ethnic factor.
And yes, the government was acutely aware of the intensity of the perception in the ANC that the government was either behind or complicit in some way in the violence that was threatening to derail the peace process. The National Peace Accord35 should go a long way towards alleviating the ANC's perceptions in this regard. In addition to providing mechanisms for monitoring violence and keeping surveillance over violence -prone areas, the accord was a major confidence-building measure that would, he hoped, go a long way towards healing the distrust that permeated ANC/government relations. If the peace accord didn't do the job, the, it was back to the drawing board.
But even if the violence did continue at a high level, negotiations would continue. All parties knew there were no other options. At this point, the process superseded the Mandela/De Klerk relationship. Their initial "chemistry" had been instrumental perhaps in getting the process off the ground, but the process now had a momentum of its own. You cannot unleash the forces for change, and then rein them in.
In 1990 he had been over-optimistic in his belief that the parties would already around a negotiating table at this stage in 1991. But even if they had not gotten around a negotiating table, the main players had, at least, managed to gather around a table and hammer out the Peace Accord. He was convinced that this would open the way to an all-party negotiation forum.
The CP no longer posed a threat in terms of its ability to win a whites-only election. It did not even represent a majority of Afrikaners. It was an "anti" party, good at articulating what it opposed, hopeless in presenting viable alternatives. The right wing in general was splintered a not unexpected development in the light of its history, and there was no consensus among the various splinter groups as to an agreed path forward.
Now that both the armed struggle and international pressure were defunct as instruments of leverage available to the ANC, it had one option remaining: mass mobilization.
South Africa would not "go the way" of other African countries with regard to democratic elections. The South African experience did not correspond with other colonial experiences in Africa; Africa itself was changing and the swing to democratic principles had become more pronounced; and, being last out of the blocks, South Africa would learn from the experiences of other countries in Africa which had to grapple with new forms of governance, and avoid the mistakes they had made.
On the telephone, Wessels is obviously pressed for time and a little testy or is it a deadpan humor? "Mr. Chris Botha," he says, "has more sympathy with you than I have. He actually pressurized me into doing this." Somehow, I can't seriously entertain the idea of Mr. Botha browbeating his boss into doing something against his will. But it is clearly obvious that the interview will be a short one, but short is better than nothing.
My agenda is the worsening violence and its impact on the prospects for multi-party negotiations getting under way. In the month that had elapsed since we last talked, the killings had continued at an escalating level, and the tone of the ANC's denunciation of government complicity, of their turning a blind eye to the killings going on around them, doing nothing to stop them, arrest perpetrators, and even, on occasion siding with the perpetrators had become more shrill and more strident.
In Tokoza, a township on the East Rand, already one of the townships on the verge of veering out of control due to the cycle of violence that had enveloped the area, 18 mourners at the funeral of a well-known ANC figure, murdered in a shoot-by a week before this interview with Wessels, had been gunned-down, triggering one more round of killing and counter-killing. Mandela, I reminded Wessels, had said that de Klerk had "let loose his hands of war against the people". It did not, I suggested, seem to augur very well for the Peace Accord, which he had described a year ago as a confidence-building measure. If the Peace Accord could not bring the violence under control .
Wessels cuts me off:.
The Peace Accord Committees and Secretariats have not even been set up so it's completely wrong to infer that the Peace Accord is not working. The Judicial Commission that has to be set up in terms of legislation and the Peace Accord has not even been appointed yet. The Peace Accord defines rules of how you go about setting up the Secretariat and that particular Commission and that is the process everybody is busy with and so I think it's grossly unfair to conclude that the Peace Accord is not working.
No, I pointed out, I didn't say the Peace Accord wasn't working; I just said it had gotten off to a rather inauspicious start. My question would be that if the Peace Accord -
Wessels interjects: "A very fine start I would say."
But, I persist; if the Peace Accord does not bring the violence under control and if the ANC persists in charging the Government with a double agenda, my question is can substantive peace talks take place even in that atmosphere?
Well the thing is, you know, those are matters that look differently when one sits around a discussion forum and listens to accusations and counter accusations. We have repeatedly said that the ANC have not fulfilled all their obligations in terms of the Groote Schuur Minute, the Pretoria Minute, in particular the Pretoria Minute, and the D.F. Malan Agreement.36
The fact of the matter is that where you have violence you have accusations and counter accusations. For the record, there were discussions yesterday between the ANC and the Government setting up the arrangements for a Multi-Party Conference. So things are difficult but they're not hopeless.
We turn to other matters, which I am anxious to follow up on.
For the better part of a year, Mr. Mandela had carefully eschewed the use of the word "nationalization; indeed, the word itself had appeared to have been dropped from the lexicon of the ANC. But a few weeks earlier, Mandela, once again, raised the issue and it seemed to have opened a can of worms. "You said a year ago," I remind Wessels, that "we need agreement on basic economic principles." Where are you now? How far apart are the Government and the ANC on the question of economic principles?
Oh, I think there's quite a distance between us, if only because we look after different constituencies. The ANC looks after the predominantly poor without carrying the responsibility of delivering the promises and the goods. The NP looks predominantly looks after the interests of people who have vested rights, and, therefore, it cannot just idly make promises because it knows it has to deliver the goods.
When Mr. Mandela was confronted with his statements he did retract in subsequent statements by merely reiterating his previous position: namely, that they are not married to nationalization, they don't regard it as an ideology and they are open to be persuaded. I think this sort of debate will be continued.
If you look at the situation of sanctions, Mr. Mandela only yesterday conceded that sanctions have hurt the people in this country and he was therefore keen that sanctions should be lifted quickly and to a certain extent advanced the argument of lifting sanctions to the people. There's a lot of ambiguity in these statements at the moment that you cannot make and get away with if you sit around a negotiating table.
Does he think it might be far more difficult to get agreement on these basic economic principles than it might be to get agreement on political structures?
I think you're right. Simply because the constitutional debate has been going on for years now one way or the other. It may have been a debate in isolation, in other words constitutional experts from the Government, political parties and other movements have been carrying on this debate in certain circles. People have studied constitutional possibilities and governance structures for a long, long time. So it has become a very sophisticated debate amongst technocrats and amongst specialists.
The economic debate on the other hand is a very, very emotional debate and each and everybody has an opinion about that, if he has a house he has a statement that he'd like to make, if he does not have a house he also has a statement, if he has a job he has a statement to make, if he doesn't have a job he, too, has a statement to make. In other words, people are more knowledgeable about economic events. They go around the corner and buy bread and they buy milk etc. They know what the price is, they know they can afford it or they cannot afford it. So they may not be able to engage in the sophisticated economic debate-whether we should be addressing second or third generation economic rights-they're talking about it; they may not know much about inflation rates, etc., but they have an opinion about the economy. Therefore, I think it will be very time consuming to resolve the economic issues.
We turn to his portfolio -- housing. He is quick to point that addressing housing backlogs is just one of the responsibilities that fall within his ambit.
I give him the grist of what I've learned; namely, that the capacity isn't there goes to meet the need. Meanwhile, you have townships without basic infrastructures, things like electricity and water, perhaps up to 4 million shack dwellers. Can the government come up with a viable housing program that will meet the expectations of the black community?
I must say to you today, No, I cannot say that we can come up with a housing program that will satisfy expectations in the black community. I cannot simply because I don't have the answers, yet. The task is quite a daunting one and so what we are now trying to do is get a process in motion where we not only understand what the difficulties are but also involve people from all walks of life who could possibly contribute to resolving these difficulties.
It will not be solved, I believe, unless you have a national commitment from people to solve it. In other words it's no use for the Government sitting in isolation and thinking, as I'm sitting now behind my desk, and saying "Well we ought to do A, B and C." We need to involve not only Government resources, private resources, the shack dweller, the have-nots of this country, no matter where they live or where they reside, to really make a meaningful impact on this problem.
Do you, when you were designing these programs, bring in the ANC, consult the ANC, try to get a feeling from them of the difference between the expectations of their communities and the reasonable demand that can be met?
The answer is, in principle, yes. The practicalities are, however, a problem. I am not so sure that it can be overcome overnight. A lot of mistrust, a lot of divisions have to be bridged in order to achieve the principle aim that, but we are working on that problem.
Does he get the feeling that the ANC are sensitive to the fact that the expectations in the black community may be exceedingly out of line with any capacity to address the problem?
The difficulty with them is that in private there is a lot of wisdom, a lot of understanding. However, when you move out into the public eye their emotions are quite high and it's difficult to keep to the statements you made in private, to keep to them in public. It's not a matter of a public and a private morality, so to speak, or private views, it's a matter of settling down. I don't think they have really settled down with regard to all these issues. Because they don't have a clear direction they could be swayed in one or the other direction. So, yes, I do understand when we talk quietly but the rhetoric is something different.
What's said in private and what's said in public leads me back to the violence, to the ANC's insistence that the government is behind the violence. What is his analysis of what the continuing violence is due to? Is it tribal? Is it rogue elements in the security forces? Is there a 'third force' operating on behalf of some unnamed right wing interests? Is it a combination of things?
I would just like to get away by saying it is a combination of things and it's very frustrating at the moment. It certainly does not serve this country well. Not being directly involved, I do not exactly know how you arrest those suspicions, but the fact of the matter is it's in the rhetoric as well as the actions: it's causing a lot of mistrust and we simply have to nip it in the bud.
Does he think there's an acceptance by the government at this point that there are rogue elements in the security forces that could be contributing to the violence?
No I don't -- I would hesitate to say yes. One is suspicious about it but there's not an acceptance of the fact if I can qualify it like that. There's a suspicion but there's no acceptance and nobody concedes the point that that is happening.
Is it a matter -
He cuts in: "Mr. O'Malley, I promise to give you more time when you come back."
The interview is over. Damn! Just when things were about to get really interesting. I wonder whether I was getting too close to the bone. It would take me years to learn that you cannot ever get too close to the bone in South Africa, that it is a country without political marrow.
Nevertheless, his responses have been most revealing.
Who is this man, I wonder, who has spent almost all of his adult life, first as a cog, then as a wheel in the apartheid machine, a man who survived the slippery slopes of NP politics to find himself appointed Deputy Minister of Law and Order by PW Botha, the founding father of the securocratic state at the tender age of forty two? In that capacity he had chaired the National Joint Management Centre (NJMS), which managed the State of Emergency under the supervision of the Office of the State President. He had been an "insider," one of the "privileged" few within Botha's circle who sat in on State Security Council meetings, who provided advice and direction to the SSC. During his stewardship of the NJMS, the NJMS activated the Joint Management Centres (JMCs) which became the central institutions of day-to-day government on the ground.37 The securocrats the generals of the SADF and the SAP, and members of the state security establishment ran the state. Continued to stream in, implicating the ANC in violence, crime, and intimidation. The cabinet was reduced to being parliament's baby-sitter, informed of, but not always, but not party to government decisions.38
Again, I am back to deciphering. From whence did his faith in the Peace Accord come from? An act of faith or calculated political acumen? The killings were going on, with three mass shoot-outs a few days after the accord was signed.
To give some perspective to the context in which the peace accord was signed and the gyrations of the negotiating process: Three days before the agreement was signed, de Klerk had had a face-to-face showdown with Mandela, accusing "[him] of having breached every single provision of the DF Malan Accord." The ANC, he said, was still infiltrating arms into the country, still establishing underground structures manned by Umkhonto we Siswe, (MK) and Chris Hani, head of Umkhonto was still making provocative statements that irrespective of what the NEC of the ANC said the MK would, if necessary, "go back to the bush" that "the MK got its mandate from the people, not from the executive of the ANC."39
I was among the crowd thronging the Carlton Hotel in Johannesburg on the Saturday afternoon when the leaders of 24 political organizations gather to sign the Peace Accord. When you put walked outside the hotel, past the police barricades, you were confronted with hundreds of Zulu Inkatha supporters dressed for battle, faces smeared with muti, waving their "traditional weapons," clashing their shields, stumping their feet in hypnotic unison, chanting, staccato-like traditional warrior battle cries. As the chanting grew louder and louder, swelling to a crescendo, the feet moved to a quicker rhythm, until the two were fused in harmony, and a cacophony of pulsating, plangent, spine-tingling thunder cracked the air. Back inside, the chanting seeped into the conference room where the assembled dignitaries were making their speeches, reminding them even as the ink dried on the agreement they had sworn to adhere to, all was not well. The contrast could not have been greater: the balm of peace catch-phrases inside, the din of "warriors" readying themselves for battle outside.
At the televised press conference that followed the formal commitments to peace on all sides, Mandela furiously lit into de Klerk for not having the weapon -yielding Zulus dispersed, and Buthelezi refused to join in a three-way handshake with the other two.
But the peace accord was important, not because it would bring the violence under control, or even result in a de-escalation of the violence it didn't do either, but because it was a necessary step to open the way to multi-party talks. Indeed, despite the surreal circumstances in which it came into being, the ANC, Inkatha, and the government confirmed that now that there was a National Peace Accord in place, there were no further obstacles to the start of substantive peace negotiations.40
And what of Wessels optimism: that the process was unstoppable; it was no longer the "possession" of Mandela and de Klerk. One might describe them as the architects of the process, but architectural plans do not construct buildings: that was accomplished with the sweat of engineers, stonemasons, electricians, bricklayers, and competent managers. The winds of change blow in one direction, and the protagonists were at their mercy, carried along in its fierce gales, unable to escape from their overpowering velocity.
Yes, there would be violence, perhaps recurrent throughout the negotiating process, but it would wreak its havoc, parallel to the process, not run over it. Where did such certainty come from? Was his response a warning of sorts: that the pursuit of peace would trigger a dirty war, but that the orchestrators of the dirty war would win, only if those who negotiated with each other in good faith allowed those who were trying to destroy the process to have their way to manipulate violence in a manner that would corrode the trust negotiators on all sides were building among one another.
In this sense, better for the front-line negotiators to admit that there were indeed elements on the right, in the security forces, and in Inkatha who would perpetrate any act of violence, no matter what the cost in human life, if it succeeded in making the bridgeable unbridgeable; that the political rivalry between Inkatha and the ANC had spun out of control to an extent that the leadership in both organizations were powerless to control events on the ground; that bouts of killing would come in retributive cycles, that proportionality would become a victim of its own excesses; that some, perhaps many members of the police were not partial, and could hardly be expected to be so; that they would not put their own lives on the line to intervene in internecine conflict; that they would use whatever opportunity that presented itself to stoke black-on-black violence; that the ANC could not speak about violence without washing the blood off their own hands; that they were as culpable for the mayhem that reduced townships in the Vaal and villages in KwaZulu/Natal to asylums of fear and loathing as the parties they so assiduously pointed the finger of blame at; that the threat of anarchy was the lifeline of the racism and hatreds that were hell-bent on bringing the country to its knees; that the forces exploiting and carrying out acts of merciless violence were, in some cases, prepared to destroy all that they held to be sacred in the name of preserving it.
And that having admitted all of this to themselves, they should get on with their job the negotiation of a democratic dispensation.
Wessels' hesitancy on the question of a third force, operating outside the bounds of official sanction suggested evasiveness rather than the lack of a concrete opinion. Obviously, the issue was one he did not want to be pressed on, yet the measure of the man was his willingness not to dismiss the possibility out-of-hand, ANC propaganda at its best. If you read between the lines, however, the weight of your opinion would come down on the side of believing that he believed that a third force of some description does exist. If he were convinced that it wasn't, he would have categorically said so. His failure to deny that it might exist said more than his willingness to give a qualified reply. He might be out of the security loop, but not so long ago, he had occupied an important, if not pivotal role within the loop: he would know how such things happened.
His openness on housing added to added to the enigma, and highlighted once again, the complexities facing parties involved in transitions where the final outcome will be decided by the electorate. While he could involve ANC officials in discussions they would face in addressing housing needs, and while they might even accept his analysis that meeting that shortage in the short to medium term would be virtually impossible, the fact remained that once the ANC walked out of those meetings and assumed their public roles as leaders of the country's liberation movement, they had to shift gear.
No matter how cordial their relations with government ministers in private and how good their working relationships, in the public domain, the government had to be continually condemned as the oppressor trying desperately to hang on to power at all costs, chastised for its inability or unwillingness to discard its apartheid mindset, always resisting the "reasonable" proposals advanced by the ANC, always finding ways to delay or otherwise impede progress. To say anything that would suggest that the government was trying to act in a constructive way, and that it, too, had problems it had to address would have been tantamount to betraying the liberation movement.
If the government had problems, they were problems of its own making, problems that were the product of apartheid, and since apartheid had ruthlessly oppressed blacks for fifty years, one could hardly be expected to empathize with the problems the government faced in dismantling such an abomination and becoming partners, albeit reluctant ones -- a role it had to assume out of necessity because of the prevailing circumstances rather than out of real convictions, it would always be suspect. A new and more "enlightened" leadership did not purge the NP of the sins of the past. On the other hand, being part of the ANC means never having to say "sorry."
Thus, the housing crisis was seen only in terms of an apartheid context, not in the context of similar problems that afflicted every country in the Sub Sahara, and once an issue was labeled as a product of apartheid, the message conveyed to the masses was that once you removed apartheid, you removed the problems that were the outcome of apartheid. The magic wand of being on the right side of the gods would see to it.
Underlying his comments on constitutional reform appears to be the belief that agreement on the structure of the economy, the economic ideology that a new government would adhere to, the principles it would seek to implement, and the means it would use to do so would prove to be far more difficult to negotiate than the nature of the constitutional dispensation itself. Indeed, if I was reading him correctly, he was saying that certain economic principles would have to be written into the constitution itself, and that management of the economy would not be left to government to pursue whatever course it choose to. There is a certain irony to the emphasis on how an ANC dominated government would manage the economy, given the performance of the NP government in this regard during the last decade where per capita of whites steadily declined, and the country's financial coffers were all but empty.
The specter of nationalization continues to paralyze the South African business community and whites. Nationalization is intimately ties to socialism, and hence to communism in their eyes. Despite the fact that communism has "lost" the war against capitalism, as events in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union so powerfully attest to, the nagging feeling among whites in South Africa is that the SACP still harbors the discredited policies of former communist regimes, but with a human face communism without suppression and a concomitant commitment to the protection of human rights. Indeed, if the propaganda of the Total Onslaught has one "achievement" to its credit it is that it petrified white South Africa with what would be the inevitable aftermath of a communist takeover, to such an extent that the collapse of communion and the exposure of the bankruptcy of its economic basis has had little impact on the average white South African, who still adhere to the ingrained beliefs of the past. The fact that the ANC refuses to distance itself from the SACP, the fact that, to the contrary, it revels in its association with the SACP and reiterates time and again that SACP is an integral part of the tri-partite alliance, the fact that no one knows for sure which leaders of the ANC are also major players in the SACP has caused a kind of paranoia.
Hence, "nationalization" is a trigger word.
The ANC, on the other hand, has to reconcile the realities of an emerging global economy which gives short shrift to any economic doctrine that does not pay homage to the primacy of the market with the "bible" of the struggle the Freedom Charter drawn up in 1955 to provide an ideological framework for the struggle. And just as whites were inundated with the propaganda of the Total Onslaught, blacks were inundated with the principles of the Freedom Charter, which unequivocally states that " The national wealth of our country, the heritage of South Africans, shall be restored to the people; The mineral wealth beneath the soil, the Banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of he people as a whole," and that "All other industry and trade shall be controlled to assist the well-being of the people "41
But the ANC references to nationalization as they become familiar with the realities of the economic order in which the new South Africa will have to compete are more to reassure itself that it is being faithful to the principles it has espoused for close to fifty years; that it is not allowing itself to be "contaminated' by new realities, that the pursuit of a negotiated settlement does not deviate from the gospel it has preached and spread to the masses who have patiently waited for the gates to the Promised Land to be pried open or smashed down.
In October 1991, 400 delegates from some 92 organizations that had opposed or were now opposed to apartheid convened in Durban to launch the Patriotic Front.42 The Front called for an interim government to oversee the transition, but most importantly, it called for an elected constituent assembly, elected on a one-person-one vote basis, to draft and adopt the new constitution.
Following the success of the Patriotic Front, the ANC held bilaterals with every organization which had a stake in multiparty negotiations. Including the PAC, APAZO, the DP, the homeland leaders (once pariahs in the eyes of the ANC with whom they had vowed never to negotiate with), member organizations of the Mass Democratic Movement, and the NP.
According to Hassen Ebrahim, one of the key behind-the -scenes role players,43 "The establishment of the Patriotic Front had an enormous impact on negotiations, because it changed the shape of the negotiating table and the political balance of forces in favour of the ANC Its demand in favour of an interim government and a constituent assembly became unassailable .The government was obliged to concede the need for joint control over the transition, and the NP was prepared to consider amending the constitution to make this possible."44
The first multiparty constitutional talks, called the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA), took place at the World Trade Centre in Kempton Park, Johannesburg on 20 and 21 December 1991.The government was confident to promise that if sufficient progress was made in these negotiations that it call a referendum in 1992.45
Nineteen parties attended. Both the government and the National Party were represented in their separate institutional roles. Wessels was a member of the government delegation. The plenary established five working groups (WGs) to deal with specific issues: the creation of a climate for free political activity, and the role the international community might play in the transition process (WG1); constitutional principles, which would also include the question of whether South Africa should be a unitary, federal or confederal state (WG2); transitional arrangements on how to move from the old constitution to the new constitution (WG3); the future of the "independent" (TBVC)46 states, including their probable re-incorporation into the new South Africa (WG4); and time frames for the implementation of the agreements reached by the other four working Groups (WG5). Wessels was one of the two government delegates to WG5. The plenary also decided that the second plenary session should be held in March 1992. In addition, the plenary drew up and agreed on a Declaration of Intent. The Declaration committed all parties participating in CODESA to establishing a non-racial, multiparty democracy in which the government would conduct the business of the state in compliance with the constitution and regular elections were guaranteed. For South Africa, the Declaration was truly revolutionary, not for what it said most of which was taken for granted in all most "ordinary" democracies-but for the breath of its acceptance by the parties at CODESA as the blueprint for the way forward, thus marking a clean break with the constitutional processes of the past.47
Decisions would be taken by "sufficient consensus," a tool that would employed, if there was a failure to achieve general consensus with regard to a specific issue, but enough consensus from a sufficient number of parties to enable the process to continue. In practice this meant that no decision would be taken on any matter unless the government and the ANC were in agreement.
De Klerk made a speech that signaled a shift in policy NP policy. He put forward a proposal that his government would be prepared to consider, and that in his view would be a compromise that would bridge the "fundamental difference between the ANC's position that the new constitution should be drawn up by an elected constitutional assembly, and [the government's] that it should be written by a multiparty constitutional convention He proposed that the constitution should be drawn up in two stages: a new interim constitution would be drawn up by CODESA, in terms of which the first fully representative Parliament would be elected, and which in turn would draft and adopt the final constitution. The interim constitution would be ratified by the 'tricameral' parliament, with its National Party majority negotiating parties. The final constitution, drawn up by the new fully representative parliament, would have to comply with "pre-agreed, immutable constitutional principles." A new Constitutional Court would have to certify that the final constitution was in compliance with the constitutional agreed on in CODESA. "During this period, the country would be governed by an elected transitional multiparty government under the interim constitution.
The initiative according to de Klerk, "caught the ANC and the other parties "completely by surprise"48
But CODESA 1 will always be remembered for the extraordinary exchange that took place between Mandela and de Klerk:49 De Klerk, who was last to speak, finished his speech with a withering attack on the ANC for its failures to adhere to the provisions of the DF Malan Accord, its dilatory tactics, its failure to terminate the armed struggle or disclose where it concealed its arms caches. He questioned whether the ANC was honorable enough to abide by any agreement it signed. An infuriated Mandela, although he had already spoken, threw protocol to the winds, strode to the podium, and unleashed a blistering attack on de Klerk and his government. He called de Klerk the head of an illegitimate, discredited, minority regime, that he did not uphold moral standards, that de Klerk's language was unacceptable, that it was the ANC, not the government which had initiated the peace process, that the ANC would only turn in its weapons when it was part of a government collecting those weapons, that it was apparent that the government had a double agenda; that they were using the negotiations not to achieve peace, but to score their own petty political gains; that even while negotiating the government was secretly funding organizations that committed violence against the ANC. That, in point of fact, given de Klerk's disclaimer that he knew nothing of the government's funding of Inkatha, "he is not fit to be head of government."50
What perhaps was most remarkable about this exchange was the depth of distrust that existed between the government and the ANC and the depth of the enormous chasm that had to be bridged. For whites, it was a watershed: never had they heard a black man excoriate their state president in a public forum, belittle their government and his moral authority, with televisions cameras rolling, with millions of whites watching their president sit in silence and take it on the chin. The massage was clear: the old order was dead, and that whites had better get used to the fact and quickly.
And, perhaps, more remarkable still, when the tirades were finished with, CODESA settled down, went through its agenda in workmanlike fashion. IN fact when proceedings began the following morning, Mandela and Ramaphosa crossed the floor to shake de Klerk's hands, and at the end of the day when COPDESA 1recessed for Christmas, Mandela again made a point of crossing the floor to shake de Klerk's hand. These gestures, perhaps premeditated on the part of Mandela, with Ramaphosa playing his Cardinal Richelieu, were more than pro forma; they signaled to the country that the negotiating process would be difficult and confrontational, even personal, but that both men knew these explosive, acrimonious incidents were a necessary part of the teething process. That true statesmanship did not entail the unfolding of grand designs, but in getting over petty and often not so petty differences. For it is in the cultivation of petty differences that we plant the seeds of great hatreds.51
True to his word, Wessels meets with me again on 24 January 1992. He is, as I have come to expect, welcoming and ready to answer any question I throw at him. Like others, I think he is beginning to enjoy the give and take. He asks me who I am interviewing from other parties, who from his own. He suggests some names that I should add to my list. This kind of inquiry and helpful suggestions is becoming a current refrain with other interviewees. Tenacity is beginning to pay off.
That morning, de Klerk had put forward proposals for consideration by CODESA. From the incomplete information available to me, I understand that they have to do with establishing a transitional government, and hence the need for a mechanism to change the composition of Parliament to include the total population in an equitable manner. The government would present this "package: to four electorates, the three represented by the tri-cameral parliament and to the Black population so you would have four voter rolls. Mr. de Klerk, unveiling his proposals said: "I envisage a referendum in which every South African will be able to take part and in which the result may be determined globally as well as by parliamentary constituency". Does "parliamentary constituency" mean voter roll?
The point simply means that we want to have electoral support for whatever we will be doing finally. A transitional government will not be established by decree or be something that's left hanging in the air.
These proposals both to establish a transitional government and to broaden the composition of parliament to include blacks would be put to the electorate in a referendum? They would vote on that, then if they said 'yes,' then you would take go back to Parliament as presently constituted, it would pass the necessary constitutional amendments and then a transitional .
Wessels doesn't let me finish the thought but nods his head vigorously and says: "Yes, that is correct. The basic theme of it would be that one would like to have a legitimate executive and legislative authority to deal with the whole transition period ---and that's the thrust of it all.
And what if these proposals, such as they may be, were accepted in the three black constituencies, and are voted down by the white constituency? " Then you don't have a solution and then simply it will mean back to the drawing board, back to the negotiating table."
And if the proposals were accepted by the white community but rejected by the Black community? "Same thing." He says, "You won't have a winning recipe if it's only endorsed by one constituency. All must be on board before you can proceed."
Are the ANC not likely to see this as some form of co-option, since they have not wavered in their demands for the resignation of the government, and elections for an interim government and a Constituent Assembly?
No, it wouldn't be co-option because the proposals will be negotiated, ought to be negotiated, and the legitimizing of it ought to be through popular elections. So it's not co-option in the sense that you are looking for black faces just to have Blacks represented. The key words are through negotiation and elections.
The content of these proposals that would be put before the electorate would be the outcome of negotiations at CODESA?
Yes, most definitely. Because CODESA has two Working Groups dealing with these issues. Working Group 2 is charged with a responsibility to draft constitutional principles and Working Group 3 is charged with the responsibility to deal with interim arrangements and what we are proposing is certainly an interim arrangement. CODESA is based on the principle of negotiation and reaching sufficient consensus.
Would the life-span during which the transitional government the NP government would replace itself with be coterminous with the life span of the existing government or would
No, no, no, no. The thing is that what you would then have, you would have an interim government which is a legal interim government based on parliamentary democracy and the principle of consensus and that interim government will manage the whole process of transition and further constitutional development. We are being accused of being players as well as the referees and this is exactly a way to try and get around that accusation.
Have you heard the ANC's response to the government's proposals?
"No, there's been no public response yet".
Personally what do you think their response will be?
Well, let's say what I think. I think that the ANC will certainly publicly say straight away, 'This is not what we demanded'. But we are engaged in negotiations in a process which is, I believe, in many aspects unique. The principle of negotiation certainly means a give and take one where we would be giving and taking and that goes for them as well. The ANC themselves have acknowledged that principle. I believe we all come differently out of negotiations from what we entered. The ANC initially were not in favour of a multiparty conference, etc., etc. and we were not in favour of many things. I think that give and take is possible. It's possible when people sit around the way we are sitting around at CODESA.
So in a sense this is the Government's marker?
And the ANC's marker is their demand for an elected Constituent Assembly and the bargaining is to find some arrangement that will satisfy you both, somewhere between these two marker points?
Going back to the issue of housing: since the prospect of available housing increasingly appears to be the one that blacks equate with "liberation." In October, I remind Wessels, I asked you whether you could come up with a viable housing program that would meet the expectations of the Black community. And you said, and I quote you "I must say to you today, no I cannot and I cannot simply because I don't have the answers yet" Where do matters lie now?
What is important is that in meeting the demands for housing in this country, the government's point of view is that from a budgetary perspective, we simply cannot come up with solutions in isolation. We need the acceptable participation of everybody. Everybody in this case means private sector, public sector, as well as the communities at large. It's as simple as that. We're still dealing with the issue of sanctions, albeit that sanctions are just simply kept alive as a bargaining chip by the ANC, but you cannot solve this in isolation and you need barricades such as sanctions to be broken down to the last brick.
So, yes, there's progress, there's movement, there's understanding growing in that field but we cannot engage in handing out of houses. Our budget as we have it now is not sufficient and we cannot do it unilaterally.
Last week in Namibia, Minister of Housing told me the government was running into a problem with its housing program. They had one in place but that when news that the Government was building additional houses got out the inflow of people, the rate of urbanization began to increase quicker than the rate at which the government could build new houses so that in fact as they built more houses the backlog got greater, not less. Are there similar tendencies in that direction here?
The urbanization, squatting problem has grown tremendously. One of the reasons why it has grown is because many of these people were living in the backyards and shacks in the urban areas for a long, long time. They are now moving out into open spaces because of the relaxation and the repealing of certain measures. Although you didn't see them before, it simply meant that they were never housed and that is the reason for the lack of housing is so visible at the moment. It is not as if it is something that developed overnight. It was simply there but you didn't see it.
Are the expectations in the Black community exceedingly high regarding the ability of a future government to deliver housing?
That has been one of the problems of Africa for a long, long time. The resolution of socio-economic demands could not wait for the next election and that's why people took the shorter route of coup d'etats and one-party military dictatorships. That is certainly a problem for a future government - no future government will be able to produce the houses as quickly as people expect them to.
And that is when the problems will start for whatever government is in power. It will depend on how we enshrine a culture of toleration, of human rights, of democracy in the greater population. And how clearly we spell out our vision for the future. And how do we market our vision so that people know that's where we want to be. There is progress. We cannot build the houses you demand overnight, but there is progress towards that vision.
But In order to instill a culture of tolerance and the other things you talked about , you need programs of programs of civic education to try and demonstrate to the broad masses of people basic democratic principles? Yes, there is, says Wessels. It's happening on a very small scale but it is going on. "I know people in various human rights organizations who are doing this type of work."
We had talked in 1991about consultation with the ANC on housing. Had this process advanced itself. Do you consult on a more regular basis with members of the ANC?
Yes. It's a matter where there has been more progress. We meet, we talk, we ask institutions to get involved. But the ANC has a policy of not wanting to advise but to be involved in decision-making.(???) That is why the speech the President made on the 20th December 1991 was so important because there he first said that we are in favour of a transitional government in order to deal with all these matters and these difficulties.52
The ANC wants to engage us in decision making forums, and they just want the government to act as the agent of implementing those decisions. And we said 'No, that's not the correct way to do it. Let's get our house in order. Let's have an interim government where you could participate and take the decisions with us and implement it through the appropriate channels.' So we do meet. But the ANC is reluctant to sit on advisory bodies and to make themselves available to be consulted and so forth.
They will not make themselves available to be consulted?
They don't set themselves up as consultants. You can meet them informally and discuss all these issues with them, which we do; but for the ANC to come as a delegation -- as so many other interest groups do - to a Minister's office and say 'We advise you to do the following', or 'We request you to do the following'. The ANC is reluctant to do that.
But from the ANC point of view isn't this perfectly understandable? At some point in time in the not to distant future, there is going to be an election, and who gains power depends on many variables. At the moment you have a situation where the government is given a much higher profile for what it's trying to do in terms of providing social amenities in poor black areas and engage in a accelerated housing programs etc. It's more visible as you move around the country in different places. Wouldn't you think that the ANC thinks that you-the National Party are attempting to buy off part of its constituency?. That you're trying to make inroads into its constituency. Do you think this explains the reluctance on their part to advise?
Absolutely. It's much deeper than the way you've just said it, but it is part of the truth. The ANC realizes that. But they have a whole strategy towards development in which they want to engage the state, to actually set the agenda and get the state to implement their policies. They want all the juicy bits of the budget but they don't want the rough edges of the budget. In other words, they want to sit with us when we're talking about the expenditure side of the budget. When that committee meets they want to be there. But they don't want to be present when we are talking about the income side, the revenue side. In other words, they want to advise us how to hand out the money but not really to be involved in how we tax the people to get hold of the money.
But the contradictory side of that is if they have a list of demands: they want schools built, teachers provided, hospitals built, this, that and the other, do they really want to see you doing that now since that allows you to start making inroads into their constituency? Where you start reaping the political benefits? What are the political dynamics of this form of consultation?
You must distinguish between the demands they make and the resources available to the government to meet these demands, says Wessels:
It's amazing. I mean we are on a very friendly footing with each other. Just about all the top echelons of the ANC and we exchange ideas, and we talk about these things, but as I said, informally. Of course, they want us to build the schools but their demand is so great that we cannot build the schools overnight. So when we would ask them to advise us which schools should be built tomorrow and which schools should be built next year, they don't want to take that decision with us because there is an element of unpopularity hidden in that statement. So it simply boils back to my old argument: they want to be involved in the nicer part of running the country but not the more difficult.
Not the more taxing parts?
"Not the more taxing parts of it. And we are simply saying, 'Guys you don't run a country like that. Let's find a dispensation where all of us are involved in decision making, not with hidden agendas one way or the other and let's get on with the job.'
In discussions with the ANC does the government and the NP find there is often a divergence between what they would like to do but that they are constrained by what their own grassroots -?
There's no question about that. Letters have appeared in the press where people have said 'Mr Mandela, you've been out of prison for 18 months now. I still haven't got my house.' I believe it's grossly unfair and I'm not trying to score a political point in any way, but that is the kind of expectation people have, that many illiterate, poor, unprivileged people have had since he came out of jail in February 1990, and made his speech in Cape Town.
People thought they would have their houses next week and the week after that. So these matters have a bearing on the ANC and if you speak to the Namibian Government, that was one of the striking features of discussions I've had with those members when we've talked off the record, individually in private, they'd say to me 'You know it's more difficult to run a government than it is to run a freedom struggle'. And how easy it actually is to place obstacles in the road of the government, to highlight the difficulties a government has, to highlight its inefficiencies, etc., etc., but to actually deliver the goods which a government has to do is pretty difficult.
In that case, it would almost appear that. that the trick here is to lose the first election? The incoming government will be faced with such momentous problems -
That's a very interesting point. The only way a first government will successfully conduct itself is -- - and this is my view -- if it's a government of national unity. In other words, all of us have to be involved one way or the other in that government, so you will not leave a particular party with egg on its face. That's the only way because we all have constituencies and we all have to deliver our constituencies for this whole peace process to succeed.
So you would you envisage a transitional government followed by elections for a government of national unity?
"Not quite. I would envisage the transitional government as sort of a government of national unity."
Would you envisage that government as having a stipulated life-time when it is formed or ...
That is one of the issues. The ANC is arguing that it ought it have a time frame, a defined life span, and we are simply saying 'Well, let them decide. Let them decide how they manage the road forward'. In other words, let's form it, and let's form it by roughly such and such -- I'm sure a time frame for that will have to be involved-but the way we've conducted ourselves in CODESA, when you spoke to me on the telephone [October 1991] and have posed the question to me, 'Is it possible that the first multi-party meeting will follow the kind of time scales which CODESA has set itself?' I would simply have said 'No ways. Forget about it. It's not possible'. So it could be that the time frames - I sit on the Working Group that is dealing with time frames [will be more elastic than we realize] In the Working Group I'm part of, there is a spirit there makes anything possible.
Maybe I'm drawing you on a sideline and this is not really what you wanted to know. But the first day, on the 9th January, the first day after the ANC had their 80th Anniversary, that was the first time this Government, the National Party and the ANC ever met to discuss matters of local government. And we were saying to each other there, we spent four hours in each other's company, they had a delegation of about fourteen people and we had about ten people from our side, saying how unthinkable would have been twelve months ago. And although we did not agree on a wide range of issues during that discussion, none of us for one moment considered either going back to the armed struggle or going back to the old days of apartheid. And that's really what I'm trying to say to you. People -- I don't want to mention their names, but just to stick to the concept-people who were deeply involved in the armed struggle and deeply involved in the serious conflict we were engaged in, if you saw the way we are talking to one another now, you simply would not believe it.
His mention of local government, naturally raises questions that relate to proposed initiatives in this area of governance probably the most crucial one in terms of service delivery at the community level On the subject of local government: there had been moves under way in many municipalities to integrate the white municipality with an adjoining black township under. In fact, the Argus had reported that within a year Cape Town could have a "fully representative, non-racial local government in place within a year." 53 Can these efforts to create new local government structures take place outside of the new constitutional framework or must they wait until the new constitutional framework is in place?
No, they have to be dealt with simultaneously. We've resolved -- the ANC and us-and said so publicly, that the forum where future local government structures ought to be negotiated is CODESA. That's the platform. We encourage the negotiations that take place on the local level but it should not in any way derail the process that is on course on the national level. So people who negotiate on the local level should conduct themselves in a way that is in tandem with the events of CODESA.
So this would mean that people can negotiate at the local level, from a township and a white municipality, but at some point the arrangements they're coming up with must be folded in to what's going on in CODESA?
I was told this morning that that is exactly what the ANC delegation told the Town Council of Cape Town yesterday. They said to them 'Well we don't have a mandate to discuss that with you now but broadly speaking yes and yes, but we have to toe the national line and we have to consult on a national level.'
The conversation slides into the issue of the right wing and the threat of right wing violence.
In 1990, after Mandela's release and de Klerk's pledge to remove apartheid laws from the books, the threat of a right wing, especially among its more extreme elements, were taken very seriously. However, by early last winter 1991[summer, north of the equator], the threat appeared to have lost some of its potency. Nobody talked about it much - at least among the people I was was interviewing. They would give perfunctory answers, if I raised the issue, but the matter did not seem to command serious concern. But in late winter, after Ventersdorp54, it became back into the news with a resounding impact. Dr. Treurnicht55 began to make more extreme statements, almost acting in a way that you would regard the AWB and the Conservative Party as being, if not in collusion with each other, at least on a similar track.
Well the threat of the right -wing is serious enough to cause a lot of hardship, serious enough to take cognizance of, and serious enough not to be underestimated. but it's not serious enough to believe that it could derail the process. And it's not serious enough to make us channel all our energies towards that. I mean it's serious, roughly speaking the right wing and the left wing violence of late is serious enough to place a tremendous responsibility on the shoulders of those parties in favour of negotiation to ensure that we come up with a solution which is reasonable and fair to all South Africans. I think many people are aware of that. When I say many people, I'm now talking in the ambit of the negotiating parties. When you speak to the ANC they don't reconsider their position with regards to any of their policy statements because there is such a threat from the left or the right, but they would say 'Well it's serious enough to demand that we in the ANC and other negotiating parties simply should give this negotiating process our best shot to keep those movements and parties at bay'.
But does it also mean that in its public rhetoric the ANC has to take a harder line, has almost to have a tough public line?
"No it doesn't mean that. If I understood you correctly it doesn't mean that. Look at many things. Look at the Paul Simon thing.56 The ANC supported Paul Simon out of conviction. There was no comeback on the Paul Simon tour. That was their decision. That was why they supported it. They are not playing up to the left wing so to speak and therefore are pressing us harder. It's not like that."
How would he answer the question if it were put in a different context, in the context of Mr. Mandela's increasing insistence over the last twelve months that the government is behind the violence? In the townships that I visit, it's a given. It's totally accepted. One can't have a conversation on it. It's like a one sentence conversation and the answer is 'Yes, the government is'. Is this a potentially explosive question especially with the allegations more recently being made in the Weekly Mail 57 that in private, off the record, is Mandela as (???) ... insistent, it's the Government ..?
No, no. That point is a point with substance in the framework of the ANC. In other words, they are not making that point (about the government being responsible for the violence) to pacify their left wing critics. That's what I'm really trying to say. They have their line on Paul Simon because as I mentioned they have their line on Government involvement in violence in the townships. It's an independent line of thinking. It's not because they are under pressure from the extremes in their party. As you said, for them it's a given.
Would he elaborate some more on his response, since it is very difficult to understand that you can have two parties in negotiations with one party insisting the other party is trying to wipe it out and at the same time they get along with concerns, with ..
Well, that is part of the suspicion that we haven't dealt with in this country. Simply because we still suspect them of a hidden agenda on arms caches and the suspension of the armed struggle, etc., etc. [doesn't necessarily mean that they have that agenda.] It's only a peace process that can allay those fears and suspicions. The process of understanding is growing, we're coming to grips with these problems. As we move forward in discussions and negotiations I think we understand each other's position much better and the process also demands of us not to have hidden agendas. I think that's a long, long process, and I'm not shocked because of us getting on as well as we do. For example when I would meet a person from Umkhonto, I am still suspicious about his agenda and he most definitely is about mine. But as individuals we are not dangerous to each other, and we can talk and discuss all matters relating to the political climate, the stumbling blocks in the process of coming to a normal democratic process. That is exactly why we have such a Working Group in CODESA-the Working Group that deals with creating a positive climate for the political process. And that's where we are talking about these matters.
I want to press him further on the question of violence, but in the context of ethnicity amatter we had discussed some the previous September.
Donald Horowitz, an internationally renowned scholar in the governance in deeply divide societies58 had written a book, Ethnicity in South Africa,59 arguing that it was a deeply divided society according to all the classical criteria that are used to define what constitutes a divided society.
Horowitz argued that unless governance structures took account of these ethnic differences that there would be potential for real conflict in the future. When I raised the book, and its conclusions, in discussions with the ANC, they invariably reacted as though the book was a form of white propaganda: this was the kind of stuff you would expect whites to start propagating at this point in time, that all tribal or ethnic divisions were not the result of apartheid and they preceded apartheid.
I had talked to white liberals who would say 'Yes there are problems but white liberals don't talk about them because if you bring these question up, you're regarded as being an apologist for the regime.' They were accused, in one way or another of implying that 'Yes, apartheid was wrong but there are differences between groups, the government just approached them and dealt with them in the wrong way'.
Questions: One, does he, Leon Wessels, think that the question of ethnic differences is a real and important matter of concern? And two, does he find in his conversations with members of the ANC that they are willing to talk about this in a way that's not totally dismissive of the subject? Or does the matter come up at all?
Mr. Mandela did mention that matter in public not so long ago. He said that was one of the lessons that we would have to learn. People have a need for their own culture, their own religion, etc., etc. and he did highlight the importance of the matter, albeit not as sharply as if it was a stumbling block, but simply that that was one of the mistakes that African countries and Central European and Eastern European countries had made in the past, trying to ignore those difference. Mr. Mandela was simply saying you cannot afford to repeat those mistakes by ignoring those differences.
But I believe that if you have a booming economy the whole question of ethnic differences does not play up as much as it will if there is poverty, unemployment and privileged groups. If the privileges rest in the hands of just a few people or a specific tribe or a specific ethnic group you have problems. In this country ethnicity is there -- it's widespread-and if you have favoritism you'll have problems.
In the context of that statement, would it be your view or is it the government view that a lot of the violence is in fact motivated by ethnic differences between Xhosa and Zulu?
I'll answer you to the best of my ability, but I am watching the clock and I know you have a set of lectures. I believe that the violence initially was more than just ethnicity. The violence in Natal for example, there was initially no Xhosa factor involved in that violence. It had to do with political persuasion. It had to do with urbanization. It had to do with the pressure on resources. It had to do with the lack of understanding of the authority and traditions of the Chiefs, etc. But it did play up to being ethnic and that is what the ANC preferred to ignore.
There were also flash points in Natal where it was as ethnic as anything. I was involved, I don't claim to be an expert on this field, but from what I learned and what I saw there is ample proof of the fact that it was ethnic in Natal and in the Transvaal. Agreed it was never ethnic before we had this leveling of the political field and the political competition. I could give you examples but I'm refraining. I'm trying to make my point - would you like an example?
In Natal where there was no ethnicity, there was a lack of land. The tradition demands that you report to the Chief. The Chief allocates the land. People said 'Forget about the Chief. We haven't got time. We need to settle.' And therefore they ignored his authority. There were many such instances in Natal where conflict started, and it just so happened that people who urbanized were UDF supporters ultimately and the Chiefs were Inkatha supporters.
In Natal, also, as far as the mines were concerned, when Mr. Mandela was released, I'm told that the Xhosa workers at those mines were saying 'He's going to be the Head of State one day. Buthelezi's going to be his tea- boy.' Those were the words that they used. The people on the mines were all members of COSATU, and COSATU certainly was not friendly disposed towards Buthelezi. But when the Xhosa workers made that statement they immediately brought ethnic sentiments between themselves and the Zulus to the fore. Subsequently the Xhosas, lock stock and barrel, had to leave. Just to highlight my argument I give you those two examples.
Would you associate this with what has happened, for example, in Yugoslavia? Once the lid of repression is lifted, all kinds of grievances between different groups come to the fore, and conflicts arise as groups who feel they have been disadvantaged take steps to assert themselves and make the political playing field level ?
But you also had the Serbs and the Croatians. The Serbs need the wealth of the Croatians. The Croatians want to preserve their wealth; they are in favour of a separate entity. They go for a breakaway situation, etc. etc., which also has to do with wealth and privilege and other matters.
Over the 18 months since we first talked, have things progressed more rapidly or less rapidly than he would have thought at the time?
"Yes, yes, even more rapidly than I would have thought they could."
Regarding the obstacles that lie ahead before this process starts coming to fruition: What kinds of obstacles lie in Mr. de Klerk's path, and what kinds of obstacles lie in Mr. Mandela's path, as they both try to manage their respective constituencies?
Uncertainty is Mr. De Klerk's biggest enemy. Uncertainty in the white community. What will the future entail? Will there be a carved out position for them? Not in terms of privileges but in terms of participation. Their uncertainty and their fears are the precedents of Africa. What happened to white communities, minority communities in other parts of Africa? In other words, how successful will de Klerk be at the negotiating table to allay those fears by coming up with a fair, equitable solution, but also addressing the fears of the white community. I think that's an important issue as far as he is concerned.
Mr.Mandela's difficulties are twofold. How will he successfully negotiate a dispensation, a democratic dispensation and at the same time also meet Mr. de Klerk half way without being projected as a sell-out or not meeting the central demands of universal suffrage and participation, free participation, equal participation? His second difficulty has to do with the socio-economic aspirations of his constituency. How will this process be able to live up to those aspirations and needs?
Looking at white fears, can he distinguish between white fears which you think have a basis in reality and white fears that are the product of fantasy or propaganda or mythology?
Yes. The white fears with reality or with basis or substance: I would say simply are concerned with things like what happens if you have a kind of Idi Amin result.60 I would also say the kind of Idi Amin one-track minded dictatorship, or if you have the Robert Mugabe sort of arrogance. In cases like these, whites would have a problem. I think these are fears with substance. White Fallacies? -- simply, that Blacks cannot rule, that Blacks are by nature not democrats. I mean that's an absolute fallacy, that's absolute nonsense.
Which kinds of fears does he see being expressed by his own constituents?
I would say the fear they have is that this country will blow up - some of them - that it will blow up. The people with fears, fears with substance I'm talking about, think that this country will simply blow up, and what you see on television screens over in Croatia and Serbia is what is waiting for us. But I don't think there are many people who firmly believe it will go that way.61
I can see he is getting a little bit on edge. "Yes," he says, "I have some very important people waiting for me."
OK. A few final quick questions: First, it sometimes seems that the government and the ANC are talking about two different things, that the ANC are talking about a process that will lead to a transfer of power while the government are talking about a process for the sharing of power. Do you find that dichotomy there?
Yes, yes, it's certainly there and it's certainly because of a lack of understanding from both sides. They believe what we are talking about when we're talking about the safeguards of minorities, we one way or another have apartheid in disguise in mind, and we somehow believe when they have the transfer of power in mind they simply have in mind a one person one vote, a la Westminster kind of style government. Those are issues that we have to talk about but the dichotomy yopu talk about is there.
Does the National Party accept the inevitability of black majority rule?
"More black faces in important places?"
No, let's say an ANC government that would contain some white faces but nevertheless would be -
"It depends on what model we're talking about."
Not on the majoritarian model?
"If it's a typical German model or Swiss model or American model or Australian model, I think we would go along with that."
The aide this is his third time to hint that time is up-is not so unobtrusively making his not quite so invisible presence felt. I take heed. Wessels and I part on warm terms. I want him in a room for a day.
Again, I go through the sifting process. Wessels is the first person to say to me that if the country is going to successfully deal with the monumental problems it would face when a new dispensation was put in place, it would have to have a government of national unity. I find it strange that he should accept the ANC's position on the government being responsible for the violence within the context of the ANC's suspicions of the government's real agenda without going to any length at all to say that, of course, this perception on the part of the ANC is entirely ludicrous. The fact that he goes to no lengths to defend or even trot out the government's standard denials regarding security force involvement in violence, or to mention that the government had established a commission specifically charged with looking into such matters. The fact that his definition of what would constitute an acceptable governance model embraces just about anything but a majoritarian system, defined in terms of a first-past-the-post, winner takes all model the Westminster model. His willingness to accept the German model or the American model or the Australian model of democracy suggests an openness to democratic standards accepted the world over, but ones that have been conspicuously absent in South Africa.
Can conversion be this instant? Is there a contrived element here: St. Paul being struck with lightning on the road to Damascus? Or is it part of the National Party's attempt to wish the past away and reinvent itself as the founding party of democracy and guardian of human rights in South Africa. As the self-proclaimed protector of western values in the heydays of the Cold War, does the government even the younger generation of ministers still adhere to the comfort of the old orthodoxies? Does it really believe that it upholds western democratic standards and warded off the red hordes that would lay waste in the name of an atheistic communism the Christian values they espoused so devoutly?
How do government ministers really see themselves? As the zealous, but unappreciated and misunderstood defenders of the faith, victims of the ANC's vicious war of propaganda which has resulted in the international community consigning their South Africa, mistakenly, to the status of a pariah state, or as the upholders of an unjust and inequitable dispensation which they know in their heart of hearts, once the rationalizing has been done with, is simply wrong; and that to right it , they will have to give up much of what they covet ? Or are considerations of a "just society" and the "righting of past wrongs" and "the establishment of a truly representative democracy" that brings with it the explicit corollaries ensuring checks and balances, protections for minorities, equity, and equality merely buzzwords, empty of meaning but useful in the public realm, phrases to use in the arena of the of the new discourse, but in the end, just that phrases.
Wessels' receptivity to defining a divided society in terms of the privilege of the few is an implicit acknowledgment that in a new South Africa, whites will have to give up many of their "privileges" in the interests of achieving a more equitable, and, therefore, less conflict-prone society. Is he reflecting the views of his party, or are these his own views? Did he express such views to PW Botha when he served as his Deputy Minister of Law and Order or when he was head of the NP caucus on law and order? Does de Klerk who promoted him to one of the senior ministries and made him a key member of the government's negotiation team fully understand his views, or has he made de Klerk aware of them?
From everything that Wessels says, it seems that the government wants to get the negotiating process over with as soon as possible and is anxious to have elections at the earliest feasible date. Why? What does the NP stand to gain from a quick process and a snap election? From what assumptions does it proceed? Surely, it does not believe it can out-poll the ANC on a one-on-one basis?62
Perhaps the government is buoyed by the polls. One taken by Gallup/Markinor, in September 1991 indicated that that nearly half the urban black population could be classified as potential NP voters: 6 per cent said they would "definitely" vote for the NP in an election; 22 per cent said "perhaps, and 18 per cent dais "they could feel quite good" about the NP, even if they would not vote for it.63 Given that the black urban vote constituted 60 per cent of the black vote, the NP could be forgiven for believing that if it could put together a coalition of parties it could squeak past the ANC in an election.
The poll, one among many which suggest similar trends, begs questioning and questions. How was the black sample selected and weighed for racial sub-groups, kind of residence, age, gender, education, employment status, occupation, employer? Was it conducted only among Blacks with telephones? Or on a residence -to-residence basis? What languages were used to conduct the interviews? English only? And, if English only, rather than the interviewee's native tongue, how were interviewees expected to differentiate the nuances that are embedded in phrases in choice between phrases such as "definitely," "perhaps," "could feel quite good, etc."? Who conducted the interviews Blacks or whites? How were the questions phrased? At what times of the days were the interviews conducted? How was "urban" defined? Did it take into account the tens of thousands of Africans living in squatters' camps or other forms of "informal " housing? One could go on indefinitely. But as far as I could judge, the media and "opinion" experts did not question the authenticity of the polls, but merely trotted out their results as fact without any kind of accompanying analysis.
The results of such polls simply didn't meet the simplest criteria of common sense. If the results are indeed valid, they suggest that a significant number of Blacks have simply shrugged off the impact of apartheid on their lives and will seriously consider voting back into power the very party that had denied them the voting franchise, subjected them to humiliating and oppressive laws, limited their capacity for self-development, systematically trammeled on their human rights, banned, imprisoned, or killed those who dared to demand rectification of palpable wrongs and representation in parliament, and had, often with the flick of a bureaucratic pen, determined their destinies.
Had large numbers been pacified to such an extent that the getting on with their daily lives, making ends meet, struggling to grapple with innumerable practical difficulties, financial or otherwise, had made them immune to apartheid, that they had internalized its impact on their lives to the point that it had become taken for granted, part of the grind of eking out an existence, an annoyance that they could live with, one they would like to be rid of, but one that did not constantly preoccupy them. The mass of the masses did not toi-toi, engage enthusiastically in stayaways, were not targets of detention or members of mass liberation movements. Were more involved with the fate of the Kaiser Chiefs or the Orlando Pirates than with the future of their country?
Perhaps the majority never thought in terms of country, or even of future; perhaps, if they had relatives or families living in the front line states, especially Zimbabwe, who came to visit them on occasion, the stories of deprivation and poverty these visitors brought with them left them feeling better off and more secure than their family members who lived in so-called "free" countries where Africans governed Africans, where the governing classes who had promised to liberate their fellow-country men and women appeared to be more concerned with lining their pockets than with paving the streets, where "freedom" had brought nothing but more wear and tear to their lives, where expectations of a better future had been extinguished, not by the colonial power that had exploited them but by the imposition of new forms of exploitation by their own, where one order of tyranny had been replaced with another order. Perhaps apartheid had been simply folded into their identities, that apartheid had little effect on the way they lived, and that there was therefore little incentive for the many to do much to see an end to it: that of more concern to them were the youth who terrorized them far more effectively than the security forces ever did; that the demise of petty apartheid, while making things a little easier in their lives, did not, in the overall scheme of things, make much difference.
Is the ultimate victimization that apartheid ingrains the fact that it makes lotus-like powerlessness more attractive than empowerment, the former requires no more than acquiescent compliance, the latter self-assertion, the pain of discovery of self, challenge, change and uncertainty. Perhaps the call to meet new challenges liberation would demand is to much for many who are unable to rise to the call, because they do not know how to. Perhaps the certainties that they have become accustomed to under benign oppression are preferable to the uncertainties that a new dispensation would bring, better the devil you know than the avenging angel you don't.
Nevertheless these polls raise intriguing questions. Has the ANC not established organizational structures in urban areas. Is the violence undermining support for the ANC? Are ordinary Blacks feeling more insecure now that the ANC is unbanned? Is there any visible improvement in their lives now that the ANC is speaking out on their behalf that that they can attribute to the ANC. Or do they associate physical improvements in their circumstances to the government doing more for them, and being seen to be doing more? Do Blacks make a distinction between the ANC and Mandela? Are the self defence units (SDUs),established after the ANC's National Consultative Conference held in December 1990 getting out of hands as many reports suggest?
The NP, of course, is caught in a classical Catch 22 dilemma. Having been the bad boy on the block for close on 50 years, everything they suggest is seen through one prism only : their desire to protect white privilege and power by any and all means available. No proposal they put forward is examined on its merits, but rather is taken apart to find the hidden seams that will somehow stitch the threads to keep the fabric of white minority power together. Every phrase they come up with is regarded as an euphemism for holding on rather than letting go. Yes, the protection of minority rights is essential in any democracy. But since the minority we are talking about here is white, how do you go about protecting something you are intent on dismantling? Similarly with group rights. Group is equated with white.
If one party in constitutional negotiations said it would be prepared to consider the constitutions of either the Germans or the United States as a model it could live with, it would receive plaudits for its commitment to democratic principles. Not so, in the case of the NP. Because the federal features of both require substantial devolution of power from the center, they were suspect in the eyes of the ANC; indeed, any constitutional proposal that would facilitate devolution was subject to skeptical scrutiny for the "in-built " structural configurations that might would result in pockets of power remaining in the hands of the privileged minority. IN short, anything that stopped short of ensuring majority rule, was dismissed by the ANC as being undemocratic.
Ironically, they were supported by most of the western democracies in this assessment, although most had abandoned simple majority rule in favor of more sophisticated constitutional systems, putting more controls on the executive, more complex legislative processes, the disproportionate representation of minorities, and judicial systems that were easy to access when it came to questioning the constitutionality of legislation.
For the ANC simple majority rule is democratic rule. All other models had, in their view a bias towards maintaining some traces of apartheid, of entrenching the privileges that whites enjoyed. For the NP, anything but simple majority rule was democratic rule, since simple majoritarianism, in their view, was but one step away from one-party rule and its inevitable concomitant, a one party state.
No matter how effusively the government may wax about its commitment to representative democracy with all the trappings it brings, the ANC take their declarations with a grain of salt. Even the thought of an apartheid government espousing democracy, a bill of rights, albeit with the usual caveats for the protection of group rights, is enough to make the ANC puke; what right, they will ask, does a government that has systematically violated every norm of democratic practice, have to lecture others on what a democratic dispensation entails?
On the other hand, the NP looks an the ANC and sees a party of unashamed, unbridled, unrepentant, uncompromising, undeviating, unflinching, ungodly, unregenerate communists, committed to Marxism, which is antithetical in every respect to democratic norms and principles, mouthing-off interminably about representative democratic governance and the like, when every country that had supported their "struggle" were themselves one-party, authoritarian states. Expecting one leopard to change his spots is asking for the near impossible; to ask two leopards to do so simultaneously is asking for a miracle.
Thus, neither side believes that the other knows anything about democracy, has any comprehension of the concepts it endorses, no understanding of the words and phrases it uses, and no commitment to democracy, using the word because it is the terminology of the day, especially with the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, and what the rest of the world wants to hear.
But the world expects something more: an end to white rule. And thus the inevitable: black rule. Any number of palliatives will be devised to cushion the blow for whites, but the end result will be the same. The villain must pay the price for his villainy.
Wessels conveys a sense of conviviality and bonhomie during negotiations that is strangely at odds with the mood in the streets. On the streets, there is little sense of putting yourself in the other person's shoes if a black were to do that he would probably be arrested for larceny, either that or he would walk away with an expensive pair of clodhoppers. Violence, not just political violence is on the rise; random, apparently motiveless violence on the trains than run into and out of the townships has inspired a peculiar kind of terror; if you are a black, taking a train to and from work is literally tantamount to taking your life into your own hands; random strikes bring business routinely to a halt; the economy continues its downward slide, the financial markets ratchet up one day, down the next; one begins to notice for the first time that some of the panhandlers on the streets are white; there is an unease among the people that is in striking contrast to the bonding that appears to be taking place in Kempton Park or other places where negotiations among the Working Groups are taking place. For Wessels, it would appear that they are fast approaching the point where they are all marching to the beat of the same drummer. But on the streets, the sounds of the drummer are muffled, drowned out by the cries of despair of the increasing numbers who are the victims of sinister forces.
The question of violence dominates; yet, the question is never properly addressed. None of the protagonists will own up to being part of the problem; none will admit to being perpetrator as well as victim. Finger-pointing has become endemic, but there is no hands-on attempt to deal with the matter. How can there be when each of the parties in conflict begins with the assumption that it is blameless? And whatever violence can be traced to its doorsteps is excused on the grounds of its having been committed in "self-defense." At times it appears that there is so much "self-defense" going on that it would be difficult to find whose left to play the role of perpetrator.
But Wessels' upbeat mood, if not intoxicating, is, at least, exuberant, Has to be put in the context of where it is coming from. Wessels is, after all, a senior figure in the South African government, and although he may be counted as being among the verglite, he is, nevertheless , a member of the National Party and an Afrikaner. Thus, if negotiations, appear to be going well, it is from the perspective of the NP, which may be at complete odds with the perspective of the ANC. Indeed, the belief that some form of transitional authority may be in place before the end of 1992, and an election held in 1993 reflect the NP's interpretation of the manner in which negotiations are proceeding, which is obviously to their satisfaction. But in the ordinary sense of give and take that characterizes negotiations, this would suggest that the NP believes that it is taking more than it is giving. Cause for satisfaction in the government, but, given the agenda of the ANC, perhaps cause for a lot less satisfaction in the ANC. It hardly seems possible for the NP to believe that within months of real negotiations getting off the ground, the end-view is already in sight.
On the question of white fears, he goes to the heart of what white uncertainties are all about the fears of "going the way of the rest of Africa." i.e. that a new South Africa, despite constitutional safeguards, will follow the path most African countries have, once the colonial power had been expelled or had simply withdrawn one- party states and the elevation of the head of state to super-human status, the benevolent dictator, the father figure, the despotic tyrant, the state and the president as synonyms for each other.
The frame of reference for the whites of South Africa is the rest of Africa, and it is not a very reassuring frame. Over a period of 40 years, South African states have shown a remarkable propensity to self-destruct. Independence, more often than not, has simply replaced one form of oppression with another. African states were "not forged through ethnicity, nationalism or war. They were simply bequeathed by departing imperial powers who left highly centralized , authoritarian states to a tiny group of western-educated Africans who rushed in and took over.
Independence often meant little more than a change in the color of the faces of the oppressors. The new elite invariably denounced tribalism and proclaimed national unity, but they soon found, like the imperial powers before them, that manipulating tribal affiliations was essential to preserving power. By personalizing power, African leaders undermined rather than boosted national institutions. Few had the basic structures needed to develop. African states filled the bottom places in world league tables, whether economic, social, health, industrial output, reliance on donor-aid. None were able to create environments conducive to achieving minimal rates of growth for sustainable development. Only two African presidents in 40 years had accepted defeat in an election.
Yes, there were elections in some countries, but elections had little to do with emerging democracy. Some rulers argued, and not unjustifiably, that party elections were bad for Africans because parties divide people along ethnic lines. And many would query whether democracy along western lines had much to offer Africans. Democracies, or perhaps, the shell-democracies that evolved were as susceptible to civil wars as were dictatorships. In the economic sphere, autocracies had often found it easier than democracies to meet IMF conditions for tight money control, low inflation and fewer civil servants conditions imposed by the IMF and the World Bank for assistance. African rulers found themselves trapped. They want power and control; the outside world makes demands about good governance, which weaken their positions and cost them their jobs.
Thus their resort to shell games. To meet western demands, and thus ensure the donor aid essential to their survival, they pay lip service to the trappings of democracy. On the outside they appear to be normal functioning states, with government ministries, and governments. But corruption, like an advanced form of cancer has eaten into the lymph nodes of the body politic. What is happening on the surface often offers no clue to the way the country is being run behind the scenes. Presidents and their underlings work through hidden networks."64
Whites could be forgiven for believing that blacks could not rule themselves. The evidence that they couldn't was all around them. Weather the seeming terminal inability of African states to put their houses in order was due to the legacy of colonialism, the ethnic fragmentation of the states themselves, past and present exploitation that enriched the few and impoverished the many was immaterial to whites. They equated black rule with the breakdown of law and order, the collapse of government, pervasive corruption, and endemic poverty.
IN the post independence era, white South Africans, given their frame of reference the state of the rest of Africa where post-colonial rulers solidified their grip on power by all means available and dissent ruthlessly crushed had legitimate fears and concerns regarding majority rule, given the ay they had seen it practiced for the better part of forty years. Nor was it necessarily a black/white issue or even for that matter an oppressor/oppressed outcome. If one were to rid them of their racial prejudices and racial prejudices were pervasive among whites what success stories in Sfrica could one point to? In which countries were the people doing better than they were under colonial rule? Where were the African states that "worked"? Why should they not be forgiven their perceptions , when all around them was evidence that bore out their perceptions?
And, of the African countries that were "experimenting" with democracy, how many were genuinely multi-party states, with free and fair elections, where the ruling party did not harass and intimidate opposition, where civil society was not cowed and the media an instrument of the state. How many had constitutions and an independent judiciary to ensure that legislation was in accordance with the provisions of the constitution? How many had constitutions that entrenched freedom of expression, the rule of law, human fights, checks and balances to ensure that the ruling party could not arrogate all power to itself?
In fact, during the Cold War who cared? You had ridiculous and hypocritical positions, the practice of expedience in the name of the protection of principle. The United States, apostles in its own eyes of the equality of man, no matter what his religion, creed or color, which championed the "cause" of democracy against totalitarian communism covertly helped to prop up an openly white supremacist regime that denied the majority the basic right to vote, forbade them to live in white areas or to use the same facilities as whites, who forcibly removed millions to "homelands of their ethnic origin. On the other hand, the USSR, apostles of the rights of the working classes which ruled its people with an iron fist in an iron glove, banished millions who opposed or were suspected of opposing its ruthless disregard for the lives if its citizens, crushed opposition, forbade freedom of speech or expression covertly helped the ANC during its days in the wilderness, after it had been banned in South Africa, despite the fact that the ANC was committed to establishing a multi-party democracy based on a universal franchise.
It is probably political incorrectness of the highest order to suggest that there was a positive side to apartheid. But the fact is that although it embraced and practiced a racial doctrine of separation, that 83 per cent of the country ended up in the hands of 13 per cent of the white population, and 87 per cent of the population that was Black had to forage an existence in the remaining 13 per cent of the land that could provide little more than a subsistence living the National Party governments did practice within the confines of its "whites-only" world, a much eviscerated, truncated form of democracy that "imitated" in many ways the practices of democracy in the west. There was a constitution; a judiciary that was more than nominally independent, that handed down decisions on numerous occasions that ruled against the state; that the state followed the decisions of the courts even when the courts found against it.
Opposition parties as long as they were white -- were not outlawed; they were not intimidated during elections, their leaders were not imprisoned; they did not complain that elections were unfair, other than the NP's unabashedly use of the state media to spread its political propaganda; nor did they complain that elections were rigged to conceal the real depths of opposition to apartheid among whites. The NP itself was organized on highly devolved lines with four powerful provincial structures, each autonomous in its own rights; members had to be nominated and elected to provincial structures. In fact, the ruling party split. Dissident members formed the CP in 1983 because they believed the NP had gone too-far in establishing the tri-cameral parliament, providing for representation of Indians and Coloureds in parliament. The CP in subsequent elections began to eat into the support base of the NP. But the NP did not crack down on the CP, did not try to prevent it from organizing all over the country.
The Churches were not prosecuted for their opposition to apartheid, albeit their protestations were more noticeable for silence than outright condemnation. But the churches Black and white did provide the elements of a civil society, organs of civil society white of course did speak out vociferously against the practices of the white government. Organizations such as Black Sash were at the forefront of opposition, and white it was under the constant surveillance of the state and subject to petty harassment, its leaders were not jailed, detained, and the organization which fought trenchantly for due process of law for Blacks in the courts, particularly in cases relating to the implementation of the Pass Laws and the arbitrary enforcement of provisions of the Group Areas Act. When the UDF was formed in 1983, the strength of disparate elements of civil society opposed to apartheid became apparent. Over 600 organizations representing ???? people, blacks and whites, were the nucleus for a civil society that played a crucial role in the transition process and institutional transformations in a post-apartheid South Africa.
PW Botha, the Afrikaner embodiment of the Afrikaner resistance to maintaining apartheid, the man who both as Minister of Defence and Prime Minister played a key role in the implementation of separate development, the creation of the homelands and the independent states, unleashed the most powerful tool for blacks to organize themselves against apartheid when he gave legal sanction to the organization of black trade unions in the late 1970s, and set in motion the train of mass mobilizations and industrial strikes that would cripple the economy far more effectively than sanctions ever did, and provided the backbone of the Mass Democratic Movement that slowly brought the white to the understanding that apartheid was a failure, and that as long as the state continued to implement it with any kind of rigor, they were indermining the economic well-being of whites themselves.
In short, although whites discriminated against Blacks in inexcusable, immoral , and inhumane ways, were the cause of untoward hardship, the destruction of communities and the break-up of families, their actions must be put in the comparative context of what the rest of Africa was doing to Africa at the time, and the benign benediction they were receiving from the western powers, who while opposing apartheid preferred to see a white dominated apartheid as a staunch partners the Cold War than an African-run state that aligned itself with the Soviet camp. Afrikaner rulers may have given little consideration to human rights or individual liberties or doctrines of equity and equality, but neither did they descend to the barbaric levels of Idi Amin, (get names of other chronic African despots.)
Even the Rivonia trials are an example of a state trying to act as a legitimate state, adhering to the rule of law, even as it tried those who stood accused of trying to overthrow the state by force of arms. In the Treason Trial, an Afrikaner found that none of the accused, included nelson Mandela, were guilty of treason, that the ANC had not either acquired or adopted a po licy to overthrow the state by violence, that the state had failed to prove that that ANC was a communist organization or that the Freedom Charter envisioned a communist state. All accused were acquitted, despite the fact that the state had steadfastly pursued the case with every means at its disposal.
Mandela in his autobiography wrote that:
I did not regard the verdict as a vindication of the legal system or evidence that a black man could get a fair trial in a white man's court. It was the right verdict and a just one, but it was largely as a result of a superior defence team and the fair-mindedness of the panel of these particular judges.
The court system, however, was perhaps the only place in South Africa where an African could receive a fair hearing and where the rule of law might still apply. This was particularly true in courts presided over by enlightened judges who had been appointed by the United Party. Many of these men still stood by the rule of Law.65
That, of course, would change.
During the rest of 1992 and for much of 1993 my appointments to see Wessels get canceled, or more accurately, rescheduled and canceled and rescheduled and ..This cycle of cancellations, often at the last moment, is something I have to accustom myself to as the speed of negotiations, the ebb and flow of events, the sometimes chaotic, the sometimes unexpected, the sometimes seismic and sudden redrawing of the political landscape make tying down people constantly on the move or absorbed in negotiations, or efforts to restart stalled negotiations or trying to work, often with their opponents, to bring a halt to the exponentially escalating violence, now looming as the biggest obstacle to free and fair elections impossible. At one point the exchange rate, I calculate, is somewhere in the region of five cancellations for every interview scheduled and up to ten telephone calls to pin down the initial interview. You either adapt to it or throw in the towel.
And not having a towel to my name, my recourse is defined for me.
The period since we last talked has been a traumatic one for South Africa.
Negotiations in 1992 began on a positive note. The National Party was upbeat. The ANC was upbeat. In February, the ANC was beginning to argue that " sufficient progress had been made, constituting a major breakthrough. It seemed possible that CODESA could complete its work within six weeks.66 The government, however, did not share this optimism.67
Given the complicated dynamics that drive negotiating processes, dynamics that for all their manipulative tactics, no protagonist is able to manage and control to his own advantage -- the refusal of the Conservative Party to participate in CODESA 1 and CODESA 11 was a catastrophic mistake on its part, which worked to the advantage of the both the government and the ANC, but especially to the advantage of the NP.
In March 1982, a rupture occurred in the National Party (NP) when 16 MPs, under the leadership of Dr. Andries Treurnicht, leader of the NP in the Transvaal, abandoned the NP they saw the structures under consideration in the NP for some limited form of power-sharing with Coloureds and Indians as a fundamental betrayal of the principles of Verwoerdian apartheid68 and formed the Conservative Party (CP). In the 1997 elections for whites only -- Coloureds and Indians had their own elections, the CP increased its representation to 22 MPs. In the 1989 election, with De Klerk at the helm of the National Party, the CP further increased its representation to 39 seats and secured over 50 per cent of the Afrikaner vote.69
If an additional 600 votes in each of nine marginal NP constituencies had swung to the CP, the NP would have wound up with 82 seats, one short of an absolute majority, leaving the balance of power with the liberal anti-apartheid Democratic Party (DP). While De Klerk hailed his victory (93 seats out of 165) as an endorsement of the NP's platform, the fact that both the CP and the DP had made inroads into its constituency meant that it was being squeezed from both the right and the left., and that the results did not constitute a radical shift in white opinion, but rather that support for the right was growing, albeit at a slow rate, slower than might be expected, given the broad outline of reforms the NP had proposed.
When CODESA 1 opened, the absence of the CP gave the government more maneuvering space than it would otherwise have had. Hence the degree of consensus that was emerging in the early months of 1992 from the five working groups augured well for eventual agreement on the way forward. The negotiations were not strung out by the presence of a right-wing party that would have but an obstacle in the way of every proposal advanced by either the NP or the ANC, and stretched the concept of "sufficient consensus" for decision making to its limits.
But even though the CP were not part of the process itself, its continued barrages of criticism that the NP was selling out the Afrikaner nation began to exact a toll on the NP, which first reflected itself in the Virginia by-election. Every agreement that the NP reached with the ANC, every attempt to get negotiations under way , with the inevitable compromises that entailed, was vehemently attacked by the CP as concessions made under pressure to the ANC. In short, the relentless message of the CP: the ANC is making all the running; the NP was buckling under it simply wasn't up to the job of protecting the interests of whites, the NP were appeasers. Neither did the ongoing political violence help the NP since it was used by the CP to prey on white fears..70
Adding to the atmosphere of distrust and suspicion was the fact CODESA did little to educate the public about its work, nor did it solicit submissions from interest groups that could have make important and informed contributions. Working Groups did their work behind closed doors, there were few leaks to the media, and this, of course, triggered widespread speculation regarding what was happening, thus fueling further and more damaging speculation in an accelerating cycle.71
In February 1992, a by-election in Potchefsroom, a hitherto bastion of National Party support and de Klerk's old university town, was held. The media, especially in light of the results of the by-election in Virginia the previous December, cast the by-election as a mini-mandate on the government's performance at Kempton Park. It was hardly surprising, therefore, that the NP would go out of its way to squash any suggestion that was anywhere close to agreement with the ANC on the major constitutional issues. De Klerk, decided, too, that this by-election would provide the litmus test for the government. The National Party threw "every thing it had" into the by- election to reverse the swing away from the NP to the CP. The CP, from their side, did the same thing. The results for the NP were nothing short of a catastrophe. Its majority of almost 2000 in 1989 was reversed and the CP won with a majority of 2,140. Sine the election had been fought exclusively on the issue of the NP's constitutional proposals, the results suggested that the whites were not behind de Klerk, and that he no longer spoke for the majority of whites in the country. The CP immediately demanded an election.72
De Klerk, cleverly, opted for a referendum, and put a simple question to the white electorate: " Do you support continuation of the reform process that the state president started on 2 February and which is aimed at a new constitution through negotiations?" The wording was brilliant in its vagueness, yet so implicitly direct in the implications of a no vote that it didn't give whites a choice, rather it presented them with a subliminal ultimatum: Armageddon or else. Indeed, de Klerk was confident enough of the outcome to promise that if he lost, he would dissolve the NP government and force an election.73 And he had the support, albeit grudgingly given, of the ANC and the media indeed, of all institutional organs of opinion and influence. 74
De Klerk won the referendum convincingly75 and no longer had to look over his shoulder. The CP returned to the trenches and complained about the unfairness of it all. But the CODESA participants did not want the CP to marginalize itself, or perhaps fearing right-wing violence lurking in the hinterlands of the Transvaal and Orange free State, attempted to woo it into the process. Indeed, the Working Group dealing with constitutional principles agreed to discuss the principle of self-determination and its application in the South African context in the hope that it would alleviate the concerns of the CP and others further to the right and provide the space they needed to convince their constituency that there might be merit in joining the negotiations , if only to act as a watch guard for their interests.76
But the referendum altered the chemistry of CODESA 11: Rather than seeing both the government and the NP as being unchained from the shackles of the right, De Klerk according to a number of political observers,77 interpreted the results to mean that he could slow down the pace of negotiations and dictate the course of the transition.
"Coetzee's [Kobie] 78role changed noticeably after the referendum," says one WG1 participant. "It was as if he had decided that if the government would get the decisions it wanted in the group, or scupper it. It was probably the size of the yes vote that did it. Had the result been narrower, we would probably have made more progress. Another agrees: "The referendum sent inappropriate signals to government. A week before they were trying to resolve issues at Codesa. Thereafter, there was a perceptible change in attitude."79
After the referendum. De Klerk's standing was at its zenith. He had proved himself a master tactician, a high-risk roller of the political dice. He had crushed opposition within the white community, consolidated his power. Yet, at the moment of his greatest political triumph, he was under increasing pressure to share that power in an interim government that would symbolize the beginning of the end of 44 years of NP rule, and a step into the political unknown. De Klerk's reaching the pinnacle of political power, his emergence as the unchallengeable spokesperson for whites, were ephemeral; passing moments that would trigger the erosion of that power. Having won the battle, he now had to reconcile himself with the fact that he was going to lose the war. Little wonder that he would look for some breathing space to stave off the inevitable.
But he also had a second concern to deal with. Having campaigned on the platform that the NP was the only party that could stand up to the ANC and not rollover to meet its demands i.e. that it was the only hope whites had to ensure that their interests were being taken into account and that adequate protections would be forthcoming, the NP could not be seen to simply resume negotiations and make a series of wide-ranging concessions to the ANC. For a period, at least, it had to be seen to be playing hard-ball by whites, if only to allow them to vindicate their decision to support de Klerk when their futures were on the line. De Klerk may have thrashed the CP, but that in itself did not end the threat of a right-wing backlash. The ANC, however, which had kept its mouth shut during the whites-only referendum despite some outrageous claims made by de Klerk, and even tacitly encouraged whites to support de Klerk, had had enough of accommodating de Klerk and took his tougher negotiating positions as a confirmation of his hubris and the desire to hold on to power as long as possible rather than in a more charitable way.
De Klerk had run on the platform "Vote yes, if you're scared of majority rule.'' On the campaign stump, his unconditional guarantee was that no NP government would be party to a negotiated settlement that would mandate majority rule. Perhaps, the ANC's acquiescence to the referendum and the fact that it did not publicly repudiate de Klerk on the question of majority rule led De Klerk to think that the ANC would be less than insistent on simple majority rule, or that he could cobble together an anti-ANC coalition in a power-sharing government. The ANC were also hampered in another way. Hoping that the NP would at last rid itself of the albatross the CP had become with a convincing victory, the ANC could not afford to be seen to be at odds with the NP since that would only buttress the position of the CP that the ANC were only interested in a winner-takes-all settlement.
Less than a year earlier, the ANC's soon-to-be former Secretary General Alfred Nzo had provided delegates to the ANC's first annual congress held in South Africa in 33 years with a confidential assessment of the shape ANC was in: "We lack creativity, energy, and initiative," Nzo wrote. "We appear very happy to be pigeon-holed within the confines of populist rhetoric and cliché." Attendance at ANC rallies had plummeted. Preparations for rallies were incompetent; Rallies were poorly advertised. Organization was shoddy, and rallies frequently started hours after the time they were supposed to. Recruitment of new members was an ongoing problem. In the first year since its unbanning, the ANC had managed to sign-up a mere 200,000 members. Among many veterans of the struggle there was a joke : it had been easier to join the movement when it was banned than when it was legal. And Nzo concluded with the damning observation that "Clearly we have not utilized our full potential to mobilize millions of our people into effective action," and a warning that the ANC itself was in danger of being "removed from the leadership pedestal it now occupies."80 One can easily understand why de Klerk thought that he might, perhaps not have to surrender power at all or that if he did he could do it under circumstances highly favorable to the NP. Indeed, a number of polls, taken around the time CODESA 11 was winding up, indicated that ANC support had at that point leveled off at 45 per cent reinforced that kind of thinking.81
Or perhaps, the fact that his actions heretofore the gamble to release Mandela, unban the ANC and the SACP, his popularity in the townships, the approving receptions he received in various capitols around the world when he first ventured overseas, his even more daring gamble on the referendum had made him feel invulnerable, had him believing that his political instincts always paid off in handsome dividends, that he could still coerce the ANC into substantial compromises on basic constitutional issues.
But the working groups, except for Working Group 11, did manage to inch their way to consensus.
In Working Group 1, despite the fact that the Director of the National Peace Accord, John Hall, confirmed that the violence across the country was escalating rather than being brought under control, and the fact that the parties at CODESA11 considered that the violence had reached proportions that threatened the negotiations themselves, all parties recommitted themselves to the accord, albeit in a restructured form. But on the central question of what was required to level the playing field, all were unequivocal: without the successful implementation of the accord, it would be impossible to create a climate for free political activity and, hence, free and fair elections.
But the unanimity of the report glossed over fundamental differences with regard to the continued existence of Umhontho we Siswe (MK). De Klerk was adamant on the question: the government would not enter into any transitional arrangement as long as the ANC retained its armed wing with its caches of arms. The NP argued that the MK was a private army, that it should be disbanded and its weapons handed over to the government or otherwise verifiably destroyed. The ANC was equally adamant: the MK would only be disbanded when an interim government was in place. The NP dug in its heels and tied the continued existence of the MK to the delay in getting on with preparations for the installation of an interim government. Others attributed the delays in reaching agreements in the working groups to the NP's belief that once it had disposed of the threat posed by the CP in the referendum, it could afford to take a tougher line with the ANC.
Working Group 3 dealt with the question of an interim government. On this issue, the NP made the opening moves, proposing the formation of an elected interim government and a non-racial parliament which would subsume CODESA and be responsible for negotiating the final constitution. The interim or transitional government would submit the constitution to a referendum, followed by an election for a new parliament, elected under the new dispensation.82
The ANC, which at that point had no firm proposals regarding an interim government, nevertheless, had some firm notions of what it would be looking for: an interim government that would last no more than eighteen months, that would be broadly representative of all political parties in South Africa , both at the legislative and executive levels, that would conduct its business in accordance with the constitutional principles agreed on at CODESA, that in situations where the present constitution and the constitutional principles drawn up at CODESA were contrary to each other, the CODESA principles would prevail. 83
After weeks of discussion, the NP came up with a second model for an interim government: a guaranteed minority representation in a second house of parliament and a rotating presidency. These proposals were rejected out of hand by the ANC, which at the same time confirmed that the ANC was not adverse to forming a voluntary coalition, even if the ANC won a majority of votes.84
Thabo Mbeki elaborated the ANC's position on coalitions: they should be the result of political decisions, not entrenched provisions of the constitution. "A consequence of constitutionally compelling a coalition is that you write into that arrangement veto powers for the small parties. To ensure that minority parties are effectively part of government, decisions would have to be by consensus in cabinet This is giving veto powers to minority parties."85 Which was, of course, unacceptable to the ANC.
The ANC, however was not about to be perceived as being opposed to every proposal the NP put forward. It called for an election to a 300-400 seat constituent assembly that would take place within six months of CODESA having completed its proceedings. Parties that received more than 5 per cent of the vote would have representation on a proportional basis. The constituent assembly would draw up a new constitution within six to nine months of its coming into being. A two-thirds majority would be required to pass the new constitution. The constituent assembly would also act as an interim legislature. The ANC would also consider "sunset clauses," clauses in the constitution that would guarantee that would guarantee the position of whites in the public service for a certain period of time or otherwise make provision for entrenched seats for whites in parliament for a stipulated period of time ala the Lancaster House prescriptions for the settlement in Zimbabwe in 1980.86
The ANC found itself in the invidious position of trying to reconcile two seemingly contradictory ends: on the one hand, it wished to exercise power in whatever arrangement was agreed upon but it did not want to be part of an arrangement in which its discharge of some of the responsibilities of government would make it accountable for the actions of the government, thus allowing the apartheid-infected NP component of government to escape some of its own responsibilities. In other words, it wanted to exercise power, but did not want to be held accountable for the discharge of the responsibilities that would come with the exercise of that power since this would dilute the accountability of the NP which would probably continue to play the leading role in that government. On the other hand, such an arrangement would attractive to the NP, especially if it came into being shortly before an election. The closer the NP could be perceived to be working with the ANC on a day -to-to-day basis, the more it would be perceived as having shed its apartheid past, the more attractive would appear, especially with middle -class or conversative Christian township blacks township who had trouble reconciling the ANC' close ties with the SACP and the ANC's economic ANC's seemingly socialist orientation. Many found the ANC's loyalty to the SACP hard to understand, especially since communist parties and regimes world-wide had been so thoroughly discredited. For whites, of course, this was an issue of far greater significance.
In a sense, the ANC was looking for an arrangement that would allow it to straddle two ends of the of the political spectrum, one that would give it a share in the exercise of power, but without the concomitant responsibilities of governance.87 The NP, on the other hand, was looking for an arrangement that would provide for drawing up an interim constitution that incorporated so many immutable, constitutional principles that a subsequent elected Constituent Assembly under a new dispensation would have its hands tied, leaving it open to make minor adjustments to the interim constitution, without being able to change or add to the substance of the constitution itself.
Thus again, the poled that separated the ANC and the NP. The National Party wanted an interim constitution embedding a plethora of constitutional principles that would reduce the role of an elected Constituent Assembly to being little more than that of a rubber stamp. The ANC wanted the opposite: an interim constitution that would bind an elected Constituent Assembly in as few ways as possible, thus making the Constituent Assembly the primary instrument of constitution-making.
After months of haggling, each side trying to outdo the other in proposals that skirted over but never explicitly dealt with these issues the unspoken agendas the parties came to agree upon recommendations, after the IFP unexpectedly agreed to an elected constituent assembly, for the structure of a technical executive council [TEC] that would operate alongside, and in some cases, oversee government.88 The scope of the TEC was limited: it would operate to level the playing field until the election of a new, elected interim government. The TEC would take decisions by consensus, and failing consensus by 80 per cent of the 19 members one from each of the parties participating in CODESA. The working group also agreed that all security forces should be placed under the joint control of an interim government; in addition, the electronic media would be regulated by an independent body.89
The question that brought matters to a head leading to an irresolvable stalemate in CODESA 11 was the question of the percentages that would be required in a constituent assembly to pass the new constitution. After a great deal of haggling and compromises on both sides, WG2, which dealt with constitutional issues, agreed that the CODESA parties would write an interim constitution, and that they would also should agree on constitutional principles that would bind the elected constituent assembly, that is, principles that no party or combination of parties in the constituent assembly, no matter what proportion of delegates they represented could amend. These principles envisioned as being carved on tablets of stone, immutable, and above the constituent assembly's mandate to rewrite the interim constitution as a final constitution.
Hence, the bottom-line decision for Working Group 2: what percentage of delegates in the constituent assembly would be required to ratify the final constitution, and in the event of deadlock what deadlock-breaking mechanism would the assembly employ to break the deadlock?
Obviously, the ANC would be looking for a lowest threshold it could bargain for, the NP for the highest. And obviously, the ANC would want to see as few principles as possible, drawn up by the non-elected and unrepresentative CODESA in which De Klerk could count on as many allies, entrenched in the final constitution drawn up by the elected constituent assembly in which the ANC could reasonably expect to have a representation that would be much higher than its CODESA representation, and the smaller parties' overrepresentation at CODESA much whittled down. And obviously, the government/NP would see matters in a diametrically opposite way. The ANC wanted to agree to a set of procedures that would ensure that the final constitution unequivocally mandated the rule of the majority;90 the NP government a set of procedures that would result in a final constitution that would mandate entrenched power-sharing.
Both government and the ANC faced each other across a political chess board, each player keenly aware of what the other's thinking was, each looking at every proposal put forward by the other no matter how tempting or conciliatory from an analytical perspective that sought to determine not what was in it for themselves, but what hidden advantages might accrue to their opponent. The key to success, like in chess, was in being able to think through the implications of a permutation of moves, both on your part and your opponent's, and to discount those implications before you made your next move. And like chess there could be no trusting of your counterpart's intentions. Indeed, if you were gave in to the impulse that a gesture to accommodate did not have a hidden agenda, you had already lost. In this sense, neither side could win since whatever tenuous bonds of trust that had been established between the two in the run-up to the plenary session of CODFESA 2 had to be discounted. The fact that the continued proliferation of violence, which each side blamed on the other added to the climate of 'prudent' suspicion and wariness was not conducive to compromise emerging, especially when the deadline for reporting back to the plenary session that passed and could no longer be ignored.
Three percentage markers were put on the table during the final frenetic days and -- hours of negotiation. First, the NP (and the IFP) insisted on a 75 per cent majority for the adoption of the constitution, 80 per cent for the bill of rights, and the entrenchment of power-sharing among the immutable constitutional principles. None of these proposals were acceptable to the ANC. It countered with an offer of a two-thirds majority for the ratification of the constitution and a 75 per cent requirement for the bill of rights, and no provision for mandated power-sharing. The latter was simply out of the question. The government came back with a new offer: a two-thirds vote to pass most clauses in the new constitution and a 75 per cent majority for matters referring to a bill of rights, devolution of power and multi-part democracy. But the offer was contingent on the ANC agreeing to there being a Senate representing minorities, whose membership would be appointed by CODESA, that would also have to pass the constitution by a two thirds majority Effectively ,this would give minorities a veto over critical clauses of the constitution, meaning the adoption of a final constitution could drag on add infinitum and making amendments to the interim constitution almost impossible to achieve unless the ANC had more than 75 per cent of the votes in the assembly also almost impossible to achieve. For all intents and purposes the interim constitution would become the final constitution. Once again, the ANC rejected out of hand the government's proposals.91
At this point the ANC had come to the conclusion that CODESA 2 was going to fail, that their differences with the government over the question of the percentages that would be required to pass the final constitution had become irreconcilable, but they did not want to be seen as the spoilers, as the party that brought the process to a halt, thus damaging the image of the ANC as the party that, on the one hand, upbraided the government for not moving forward fast enough, and on the other, seemed quite prepared to pull the plug on the process.
Ramaphosa and his colleagues brought the matter to Mandela late in the evening on 14 May. Having heard their analysis, Mandela made his fateful decision: postpone CODESA 2.92
Hence Ramaphosa's machinations: make an offer to the government that it would have to refuse, thereby letting the ANC off the hook. On the morning of the last day of the plenary session, 15 May 1992, Ramaphosa agreed to accept the NP proposal that a 70 per cent threshold would be required to ratify all clauses of the constitution except for the bill of rights which would require a 75 per cent majority. In addition, the government would have to drop its demand for an appointed Senate in favor of an elected one. But he added a rider which he himself concocted without consultation with the leadership of the ANC: If, after six months, the constituent assembly failed to agree on a constitution, a referendum would he held at which point the votes of a simple majority of the electorate would suffice to pass the new constitution. The offer, of course, was rejected by the government which foresaw a situation where the ANC would sit idly by for six months, have their referendum, and get a constitution of their own choosing. Stalemate. And to mix metaphors, advantage to the ANC.93
De Klerk staunchly denies that the government was responsible for CODESA 2's collapse. On the contrary, he lays the blame squarely on the shoulders of Ramaphosa. Indeed, in one sense, the final meeting of WG2 to try and resolve its differences was a charade. Ramaphosa had his instructions, and Mandela had little doubt that Ramaphosa's not inconsiderable ingenuity would rise to the occasion. Ramaphosa himself admits to engineering the collapse of CODESA 2, saying that he wanted to show "the people of South Africa that they were dealing with an enemy that would not give in easily."94
Mandela preferred a more contextual explanation: CODESA 2 ended in stalemate because of the "National Party's continued reluctance to submit their fate to the will of the majority. They simply could not cross that hurdle." 95 "The essence of the problem is not one of percentages or arithmetic," he told an audience in Sweden less than a week later. "It is that the National Party is trying to hold on to power at all costs."96
But CODESA did not end in a bout of recriminations and invective. Agreements made would be honored; the Management Committee was instructed to make arrangements for CODESA 3.
A number of different dynamics were at work, often at cross purposes. Once De Klerk had rid himself of the threatened white backlash, he should have been able to reach accommodation with the ANC on the outstanding issues. But the context of the government's thinking had changed. It was no longer thinking in terms of securing the best deal it could from the ANC, and was no longer willing to concede an outright victory to the ANC in a non-racial election. Rather it had begun to think in terms of building an anti-ANC coalition that would defeat the ANC. Hence the need to appease the ANC was no longer essential: it now began to lay the basis for a strategy that would take more heed of the parties it hoped to "woo" into the grand coalition it envisioned parties which were already resentful of having to dance to the tune of the ANC/NP duet.
On the other hand, the ANC, having seen the NP shrug off the right wing with its help, albeit reluctantly given, no longer saw the need to make the kind of compromises they had been making in order to help the government conciliate the right. Now it could be more demanding. Moreover, to an increasing extent, it had to look to its own, to pacifying elements within the ANC who bitterly opposed the suspension of military operations -- a breach of the Harare Declaration, taken without consultation with the grass-roots, and especially ill-advised in view of the escalation of violence; elements who were not proxy to the goings-on behind closed doors and the agreements being brokered that had to accommodate the realities of realpolitics; elements who only learned of such agreements from second-hand sources which were prone to the distortions that such communication encourages; elements who believed that the opinions of people on the ground who had borne the brunt of apartheid and were at the forefront of the struggle to bring down the government were being ignored by an elite that had spent the apartheid years in exile in comparative comfort and were now negotiating their future while practically ignoring their existence.
Hence, simmering discontent had poisoned the well of the initial goodwill that had greeted the beginnings of the CODESA negotiations. The rumblings of grass-roots rebellion in many ANC strongholds began to penetrate the confines of Kemptom Park, much to the dismay of the ANC negotiators. The need for transparency in the process was exigent. This "tug of war" between factions in favor of a more aggressive, militarist approach to speed up the process and factions in favor of negotiations for the soul of the ANC had reached crisis proportions. The ANC needed to stand back and reassess where it was going, how it was going to bring its constituency along with it, what bottom-lines were simply non-negotiable, what it was willing to concede to bring negotiations to an expeditious but satisfactory conclusion and getting a grip on the spiraling violence before it developed a self-sustaining momentum that would make the holding of elections impossible and the transfer of power problematic without the further spilling of blood.
The Boipatong massacre in June 1992 collapsed the process.97
In order to maintain some conduit of connection between the government and the ANC, the two decided to establish a "channel bilateral" 98 -- a line of communication between Cyril Ramaphosa, Secretary General of the ANC and the ANC's chief negotiator, and Roelf Meyer, Minister for Constitutional Affairs in the NP government and the government's chief negotiator. As a result of their personal and professional rapport, they were able to whittle down the 14 demands the ANC had insisted on being met before negotiations could resume to three --- the release of political prisoners, the fencing of the hostels, and banning the display of "traditional weapons 99
COSATU continued throughout the winter months to mount a sustained campaign of strikes, stayaways, and boycotts, culminating in a three-day general strike at the beginning of August that was, depending on which side you talked to, either a resounding success or at best a lukewarm one.100 Whatever the case, there was little doubt that the protracted delay in getting negotiations back on track was having a devastating impact on an economy, already reeling under the lingering repercussions of economic embargoes and financial sanction. The campaign climaxed with a mass march on Pretoria, with an estimated 60,000 demonstrators taking part, according to the de Klerk,101 some 100,000 according to Mandela.102
In the world of division and conflict, perceptions of numbers, whether at demonstrations, sit-ins, rallies, or whatever occasions called for the presence of a crowd is germane to the political propaganda. IN some mysterious way, two sets of eyes can estimate the number in a given crowd and come up with tallies that are not just outside the parameters of difference, but would seem to have originated in different universes.
The ANC said that it was beginning to bring the government to its knees. The so-called "Leipzig option"103appeared to many of its militants to be the revolutionary path forward that would topple the government. Matters came to a bloody head on 7 September Events came to a head with the march on Bisho on 7 September 1992 when poorly trained homeland soldiers opened fire on an ANC led march, killing 29 people and wounding over 200.104 The massacre sobered both the ANC and the NP, and the more moderate elements in the ANC were again in a position to assert themselves. The resolve on both sides was to get back to the negotiating table as quickly as possible.
Meanwhile, Derek Keys, the avowedly apolitical Minister for Finance, had informed both principals, Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk, that the economy was tottering on the edge of bankruptcy and that unless they got their acts together, and swiftly, there would be precious little for either of them to govern.105 Ramaphosa and Meyer brokered a package that led to the signing of the Record of Understanding between the two parties on 26 September.106
The agreement established an independent body to monitor police actions, created mechanisms to fence in the hostels, and banned the display of "traditional weapons" at rallies. It also broke the constitutional deadlock. Both parties agreed to accept an elected constituent assembly that would draw up the new constitution, subject only to agreed constitutional principles, time frames, and adequate deadlock -breaking mechanisms. All parties wit more than 5 per cent of the vote would have a place in a single 400 seat legislature. There would be a bill of rights. Decisions on the constitution would require a two-thirds majority107 In the end the government acceded to the ANC demands on the understanding that there would be no more strikes, stayaways, or mass mobilizations that would further jeopardize the economy's precarious position or become an incitement to violence. In short, the quid pro quo for the government's assenting to the three demands was an undertaking by the ANC to re-examine its mass action program, while continuing to reaffirm its conducting mass action in a peaceful manner.108
The first response to the Record of Understanding came from Buthelezi who severed all ties with the NP. He interpreted the agreement to mean that a constitutional settlement could be reached without his having a key role to play. He was dispensable, and it rankled. What angered him more was the agreement between the ANC and the NP on the carrying of "cultural weapons" and the fencing of the hostels. On issues of the utmost concern to his constituency and matters involving Zulu cultural rights and traditions he had been ignored. Nothing would placate Buthelezi, and he would not forget.
In October, an alliance of the most unlikely sorts was formed. Called the Concerned South Africans Group (COSAG), it brought under the same political umbrella Buthelezi, Ciskei military leader Oupa Gqozo, Bobuthatswana's Lucas Mangope, the CP, its breakaway faction, the Afrikaner Volksunie (AVU),109 and the Afrikaner Freedom Foundation i.e. white right-wing and black right-wing parties uniting on a common objectives: the scrapping of the Record of Understanding and opposition to an ANC majority government. Since the sole reason for its existence was to erect roadblocks in the way to a new dispensation, COSAG, rather than representing a formidable alliance of like-minded political interests was little more than a befuddled array of political alignments that had nothing in common; indeed, in normal circumstances, they would have nothing but loathing for each other. If nothing else, however, it gave temporary credence to the dictum that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
In December, Buthelezi upped the ante. On his instructions, the KwaZulu Legislature drew up and approved a draft constitution that provided for a federal South Africa.110 Then he escalated his campaign of brinkmanship, signaling that he was contemplating secession.111
After further meetings between the ANC and the government to iron out remaining differences, the new negotiating body, the Multi-Party Negotiating Forum (MPNF) met for the first time on 1 April 1993. The body was more inclusive than . CODESA, representing 26 parties, including the CP, the PAC, and the AVU. It set about its business at a brisk pace. But this time around, it was clear to all that both the ANC and the government, in tandem, were driving the process. The other parties could amend proposals or make suggestions of one kind or another, but they could not change the direction negotiations were taking. In CODESA they had been players; now they were bit-players.
The assassination of Chris Hani112 on 23 April almost aborted the process. A national strike resulted in 90 per cent of the workforce staying at home. Fears of further mass action drove business confidence to new lows. The Reserve Bank feared that capital flights would further deplete already depleted reserves and lead to an economic meltdown. The township youth were ready to take matters into their own hands.
At this critical point, Mandela rose to the level of leadership the situation demanded. De Klerk, who was in the Karoo at the time, in a sense , handed the baton of command to Mandela when he urged him to all that he could to calm his enraged followers. But he did so in he knowledge that Mandela's moment had arrived, that only he could prevent a general conflagration from breaking out, and he was perceptive enough to realize that if he sought to soothe the masses, he would probably make matters worse.113 In hindsight, it would seem that de Klerk was subconsciously acknowledging that the mantle of authority had changed hands.
On television, that evening addressed the nation, urging calm, assuring all that Hani's death was an incentive to all parties to speed-up the process of negotiations, that the nation owed him as much, that now was the time for "all South Africans to stand together against those, from any quarter, wish to destroy what Chris Hani gave his life for the freedom of all of us." His persona projected dignity, gravitas, empathy, authority, confidence, and the statesman-like presence the occasion called for. On that night Mandela became the de facto president of South Africa.
On 3 June 1993, the multiparty forum set a date for the country's first national ,non-racial, one -person-one-vote election: 27 April 1994.114 The NP and the ANC reached an understanding that there would be a five-year government of national unity. On 5 May, General Constand Viljoen, a highly-respected former Chief of Staff of the South African Defence Forces (SADF), and a number of other former military leaders formed the "Committee of Generals," in support of Afrikaner demands for self-determination. One of their members, General 'Tienie' Groenewald115 began to talk about a right-wing secession, backed by an army of 500,000 white army reservists, if Afrikaner demands for self-determination were not accommodated at the negotiating table. 116 Shortly thereafter, the Generals pitched into the political battle when they formed the Afrikaner Volksfront (AVF), which soon became the party that was most successful in uniting the disparate and factionalized right-wing Afrikaners.
On 15 June, the IFP and all the COSAG parties walked out to vent their opposition to the proposed election date. They returned when it was decided that the recommendations for establishing the constituent assembly would not either explicitly or implicitly preclude the assembly from deciding whether the state should be a unitary state or a federal state. At the end of June the several hundred armed members of the AWB, under the direction of Eugene Terre'Blanche117 stormed the WTC and invaded the negotiating chamber. Some delegates were injured and much property damage done. Days later, the IFP, the KwaZulu government delegation, and the CP walked out of negotiations again because of their continuing objections to the date for the elections. The IFP, despite several interventions by de Klerk and Mandela with Buthelezi would never return.
Meanwhile preparations went ahead to table four bills in parliament which would give the legal imprimatur to setting up the Transitional Executive Council (TEC). The Council would function in tandem with the NP cabinet, and in certain areas of government have an effective veto. The NP would lose its authority as the sole governing party.
We meet on 20 August 1993. Wessels is effusive in his apologies for the cancellations that have dogged our paths. A gentleman always.
There is so much ground to cover and the time is so limited that I am almost at a loss as to where to begin. I decide to begin with the situation in the hostels. During the previous year I have been spending increasing amounts of time in the hostels in Tokoza. The township is always tense; the lines of demarcation between supporters of the ANC and supporters and supporters of the IFP sharply defined. If you are an African, the boundaries are etched in your mind, a wrong turning or even the crossing of Kuamalo (?) Street can cost you your life. Some half-hearted attempts to fence in the hostels with barbed wire has been made. The job is half-done, and from all appearances will never be completed. Who, after all, wants to risk life and limb erecting these barriers, no matter what protection the security forces are supposed to provide.? Anger among the Zulu hostel dwellers is rife, on the edge of becoming uncontrollable.. They feel used; abandoned by their political masters, left to look out for themselves. The Xhosas are getting ready to overwhelm and subjugate them. They are being treated like animals. They will fight domination. They have nothing good to say about Mandela, and even less about de Klerk. Their king has been slighted, treated with condescension; the Zulu nation with contempt. They will redress the dishonor. Honor: the word crops up in every conversation; it has an attendant value we in the west are hard put to understand. It transcends the value of life itself.
I remind him that in August 1992 he had visited a number of hostels, and subsequently told the Star that an improvement in the conditions he had encountered would be evident within six months. What had happened? Inn the hostels that I visit , there isn't any visible sign of physical improvement, unless one wants to the barbed wire that encloses them as an "improvement."
that would have been in august 1992 in the build up towards the Record of Understanding. I gave evidence to the Goldstone Commission.118 We had the finances, we had budgeted for the resources but we had a problem implementing and spending the money. That was what I had in mind.
A lot of things have happened, as you are presumably aware. I left the Department of Housing and am now Minister of Manpower only.119 What we had in mind at the time was to establish a National Housing Forum, a multiparty Housing Forum, one that would be inclusive, and that did come into being. The government and the Housing Forum established a relationship, and it was decided that funds for the upliftment of the hostels would be channeled through the Housing Forum. That was what I had in mind when I then.
You came out in disagreement with the Goldstone Commission that the hostels should be fenced -
Yes. I can respond to that. I know the issues. The fact is when I had visited a particular hostel, somebody was killed on that very same day. I actually saw the poor person who had been killed and the point I was making, when I was arguing along those lines, is that at a specific moment to save lives and property you don't consult people you take the necessary action.
What we had in mind was certainly not permanent structures erected against the will of the people but to do whatever we needed to do to contain violence. There were precedents for exactly that kind of action In my evidence before the Goldstone Commission I don't believe that that point was vehemently opposed.
However, if you want to bring about a long term solution, be it the fencing in or the uplifting or upgrading of the hostels, you need the involvement and the participation of the people in the hostels. But the whole whipping up of emotions of the hostel dwellers was, I believe, political mischief because people were then saying "Look this is what the National Party and the ANC had in mind. They are not consulting the people, they are treating them like animals" and so forth. And all along -
Who's making that political mischief?
Well those were the accusations by nobody less than Chief Minister Buthelezi himself and I actually crossed swords with him on that issue in public.
Most of the hostels I have visited are in Thokoza. Despite the primitive-like conditions, there's not a huge concern about interior conditions among the Zulu residents. They would like the place to look better and water to be laid on, but they regard their homes as being back in Natal, and although they had been there for twenty years or more , they still regarded the hostel as a temporary dwelling, someplace they were staying before they would go back to their homes.
The other thing was that they always spoke about Xhosa speaking people believing that the ANC would like to set up a Xhosa speaking state that would dominate the Zulus. When they heard the authorities talking about building housing for them in the community so that they could bring their families from Natal to live with them, they saw this as a way of dispersing them into the community, and, therefore, making them more vulnerable to attack. But the larger point they make is that their families had to remain in Natal anyway because the families, particularly the wives looked after their cattle.
The hostel issue is a very complex one and to some extent I'm a little bit disappointed that I had to leave the housing portfolio, but my cabinet responsibilities were redefined when I appointed head of the NP's team in the negotiating process -- which is also wonderful.
Visiting the hostels I came to a number of conclusions that were not, I would say, completely in tandem with what government thinking was at that particular moment. First, many people from certain quarters -- government circles, Inkatha circles -- always thought that the hostel dwellers were the people that were not getting a fair deal and they were the ones that were attacked, that they were the ones who were being discriminated against, that they were the soft targets of the government and the ANC and so forth.
But in my own unscientific research, I had come to the conclusion that many hostels were actually used as launching pads for attacks on the community. I'm not sitting in judgment saying the community started this and that, but the point that came across forcefully to me was the fact that the communities and the hostel dwellers were living in conflict and under the greatest tension with one another. It's not a simple matter of saying it's the community against the hostel, or this, that and the following.
I have spoken to many hostel dwellers who conceded they were bastions for Inkatha supporters. I have seen the weapons they used. I've learned of the tactics and strategies planned in the hostels by hostel dwellers themselves, so I take that as beyond doubt.
Were these for offensive assaults on the community or defensive ones?
I would say both. We are dealing with a situation where there is fierce political rivalry between the two groups. That statement can stand any argument. I'm not really equipped to say whether attacks are defensive or pro-active or whatever but it isn't a simple matter. Furthermore, I've had experience of hostels in Natal as well where the Zulus had actually chased the hostel dwellers from the Transkei and Ciskei out of Natal and bullied them out of Natal simply on the basis of their being members of the National Union of Mine Workers, being Xhosa speaking, and also claiming that they were the people that advocated sanctions and therefore should not complain if they are left jobless and so forth.
Did you perceive the ethnic factor as being important in this, especially from the Zulus point of view?
It did become ethnic. It certainly had become ethnic because in Natal the hostels, albeit it was private hostels owned by the private sector, certainly if you were Xhosa speaking you were simply chased out of the hostels and you were driven back to the Transkei and Ciskei. That is beyond doubt. And the Zulus, but now this complicates the matter, and the Zulus who had joined the National Union of Mine Workers and become friends with the Xhosa speakers many of them fled with the Xhosas but they were definitely in the minority. In the Transvaal I would say the opposite was true. In that case the residents of the community, whatever their ethnic origins may be, had formed a group to oppose, as they perceived it to be, the Zulus in the hostels. But the funny thing - I had met persons who were Sotho speakers who had changed their allegiance from ANC to the IFP and actually joined forces with the IFP hostel dwellers although they were Sotho speakers but they were in the minority. And when you were to speak to hostel dwellers sometimes asking them where they come from just on a friendly basis, many of them would denounce the fact that they had come from Natal or from KwaZulu or whatever and outsiders would often point to me and say "But these people do not come from the Eastern Transvaal or whatever, they are really Zulus". So it was a factor. It was complicated. It was a complex issue.
Can you put that now in the context of the violence today? Is the violence that has been occurring in the last several months qualitatively different from the violence in 1990 and the violence in 1991?
Yes, I can speak on that but I'm not as deeply involved in the violence as I had been then. IN the early nineties, my conclusions came from first hand experience. In other words, if I had still been involved in housing I would have gone to the East Rand personally and spoken to a lot of people, but with this portfolio and job pressures I don't have that first hand experience so the conclusions are simply conclusions drawn from the public press and media and little discussions here and there.
I think one cannot, once again, come to the conclusion that this is an ethnic thing because in Natal it has everything to do with Zulus against Zulus, and has everything to do with the politics of the matter. That it has become pretty fierce is true. I still see some of the features of the old violence. I spoke to IFP people in a bilateral recently and they were saying to us how people were driven out of their houses simply because they were Zulu speakers. You can compare that with incidents where people were driven out of hostels simply because they were Xhosa speakers. So, outside of Natal, this whole thing has taken on ethnic tones and I think the way the Inkatha leadership tries to paint it as such is proof of that argument.
Do you think the violence now has an inner dynamic of its own and that it is getting to the point where no authority can control it?
It certainly does look like that.
Would you say that the ANC is not in control of its constituency in the townships, the IFP, Inkatha, Buthelezi are not in control of their people, and to a certain extent de Klerk is not in charge of the police, so you've got three constituencies that -
I wouldn't say that Mr. de Klerk is not in charge of the police. I would like to give you a perspective on that. But it certainly is true that many deeds are being done in the name of the ANC or in the name of the IFP by people who are simply on the fringes of those political movements. So I think your statement is correct that it has developed a dynamic of its own.
The police are a different matter. I don't see the police as having muscle, not in terms of powers, but the muscle in terms of legitimacy. In other words I'm not saying they don't have the manpower and resources to nip much of the violence in the bud. But they don't have authority in terms of legitimacy. Because they lack legitimacy they can't get the community involved to either point out perpetrators or to warn them in advance of impending trouble. That is a problem and that is why hope is actually placed and based on the so-called Peace Force.120
For me, what was different during visits to the hostels over the last year and with residents of Thokoza itself is the very thin line between the two communities. Increasingly, IFP people say its the police, it's the ANC, the Xhosa speaking people and the Police who have turned against them and that the Police were shooting at them. Then you go to ANC supporters and of course it's just the opposite. They say the police are siding with the IFP and shooting at them. But from both sides far more people were saying "The police are shooting at us".
Yes, that is a question of fact and perception. And it also relates to the legitimacy question: on whose side are the police? I'm not saying they're on anybody's side, but that's how both ANC and IFP supporters perceive them as being.
To go back a bit, since we last talked, which must be close to 18 months ago, what have been the key turning points in your view in developments since that time? CODESA had just gotten off the ground, there was a fair degree of optimism in the air, then you move to last June and the collapse of CODESA and Boipatong and the long series of bilaterals between the government and the ANC. You have the Record of Understanding, then the new negotiating forum, more parties coming into the process, old alignments breaking up, new ones being formed. What do you think were the key things that led to these crucial changes in the process?
That question is really loaded. If you could just pinpoint - crucial changes since when?
Since say January of 1992.
Since the breakdown? Since May/June 1992, since the breakdown?
No I want you to go before that.
O.K. If I'm not on target let me know. In January 1992 the Working Groups of CODESA11 were working, grappling with the issues and so forth. And there was this aura, this optimism afoot that all the outstanding issues would be solved within months. I sat on the working group dealing with time-frames and one kept on saying "But you know it's more complex than this and that." The response would be "yes, but the working groups had to be compelled to work faster.
CODESA11 simply was not the moment to settle. Looking at it from different points of view: COSATU was not ready to settle; the ANC had asked for a lot. That, I believe, was why the whole January mood changed to the nasty mood that prevailed after CODESA 11brokedown. Subsequent to that you had to have this campaign of mass action which was really Mandela's referendum -- Mandela's referendum on the streets.
Was it appreciated by the government that this mass action in a way had to happen?
Yes, and it was also understood that it was not going to last. That's why we did not clamp down on it the way we would have clamped down say in the mid eighties on actions such as those.
So there was an appreciation of Mandela's political dilemma, of his being caught between the hard liners in the Alliance and the moderates?
Sure. And that this was also a moment for the liberating movements to mature in their whole approach, because it was clear they would not muster the kind of mass turn-out they were talking about. Then you had the Bisho incident. You may have had many Bishos or you may have had many incidents where mass action simply took-over an issue.
But as things went moved into the Spring of 1992 everybody realized that we had to take the issues forward and that unless there was some form of understanding between the government and the ANC on the process that the logjam which arose at CODESA11 would not be broken. Which is why the Record of Understanding was agreed to and signed.
In retrospect, do you think that the collapse of CODESA 2 was inevitable?
I still think it was unnecessary.
To have CODESA collapse. I have an opinion on that. But even a four year embargo is insufficient for me to express that opinion. It depends on where you sat and where you were involved. If we could have had the spirit of the Record of Understanding, in other words the spirit of September 1992, going in May 1992, in the build up towards the collapse, CODESA 11 would not have collapsed. Or if we had the spirit that now exists at the World Trade Centre, CODESA 11 would not have collapsed.
I have heard a number of views on the break-up. Last year I spent a lot of time talking to people about it and two things stand out. One is a consensus on the part of the ANC and also from government people, that the government probably got offered the best offer it would ever get with that 70% - without going into the details of it, the 70% could have put the NP in the driver's seat as far as being able to put together a 30 per cent share of the vote in an alliance. The second thing was the reaction on the part of many ANC members: "Whew, thank God we got off the hook. We would have had a great deal of trouble selling that to our membership."
I think that's true. I think that's absolutely true. I've listened to a few people saying that COSATU was not ready to settle and COSATU would not have sold that agreement to its members, and that that is one of the reasons why the ANC actually got themselves off the hook.
Jay Naidoo and COSATU played the leading role in the mass action.
You see, up to that point they were very much on the outside, very much out in the cold. That's the way they perceived CODESA. They were not ready to settle with the ANC themselves and they had already had this mass action thing in the back of their minds to prove their worth and they now had the opportunity to do that during the mass action campaign, and they also had the opportunity to negotiate a pact with the ANC pertaining to reconstruction and participation in Parliament and so forth. All this took place post after CODESA 2 collapsed, which I believe is an interesting thing. I haven't thought about it in depth but the whole idea is quite attractive to me.
In the build up to mass action it was the COSATU people who were always on television. Every evening it was either Jay Naidoo or Sam Shilowa who made the statements. Cyril Ramaphosa and others in the ANC - they weren't even being mentioned in the newspapers any longer.
Yes, I think the COSATU role has not been properly investigated, certainly not by the politicians in this country. For a long time I think that COSATU were the best negotiators, that's where Cyril Ramaphosa comes from -- that does not mean that he was the only good negotiator. They had a number of good negotiators in COSATU. They had been studying the political scene for a long, long time. They had been preparing also for a long, long time how to deal with a so-called political settlement. That's why they are actually now looking ahead beyond the negotiating stage, that's why they're talking about pacts with the ANC on reconstruction and so forth.
Last December, the Star in an editorial said, "The government is discredited and divided. The military may need to meet Buthelezi once secession and APLA threatens a race war." I was also struck, coming back this year, by the degree of unanimity in virtually all circles about the incipient collapse of the National Party as a party, that it had lost a lot of its base support; that it was in disarray and very fragmented and there were also some serious divisions within the government between hawks and doves, you being referred to as a super dove on some occasions and people like Kobie Coetsee being labeled as hawks. One, are all these reports an exaggeration? Two, if there has been a decline in base support for the NP why so? And, three, are differences in the Cabinet over tactics rather than strategy?
Those are different issues. Let's look at the National Party. I think the National Party's power base and the perception that it has been eroded has very much to do with the so-called collapse of the regionalists or the federalists after CODESA 11 broke up. In the build up to the CODESA stalemate, the National Party was sailing on the referendum results, it was perceived to be a party very much in charge of a big broad grouping, of an alliance that would work in a closely-knit understanding with one another and so forth. But taking a leap from there to here, one sees the AVF, one sees Buthelezi's drift from the process, one sees the violence eroding the confidence of many people.
For many people, a settlement still seems far on the horizon and therefore people who actually voted 'Yes' in the referendum and supported the National Party are actually questioning our ability to bring about this new South Africa through a negotiated settlement which they had supported during the referendum campaign. All this adds up to a disillusionment.
I'm not despondent about that simply because many of us are tied up with tremendous responsibilities so to speak and that's why we are not on the road campaigning like Constand Viljoen is doing all the time. His main task is to make public speeches and we have other things to do. I have said to him that he should take the present time as a political honeymoon because none of us have really seriously debated these issues with you in public or campaigned against you.
So I am still hopeful that if one can work out a political agreement at the negotiating table, you could have the transitional structures in place and you would have the additional energy and time on hand to forcefully put the National Party's case. Many of the so-called undecided people who have drifted away from us could be won over to the National Party flock or cause again and hopefully one would also be able to reach better understandings with the people that have been driven away from us. That is one scenario on the power base thing.
There's another one if one looks at it really in a futuristic manner, and I'm not claiming that I have thought this whole thing through. What you are seeing now is the beginning of a completely new political alignment. I believe all of us, all of us being everybody across the negotiating table, are under pressure. All political groupings, be you from the AVF or Inkatha or whatever, some are more inclined towards a political agreement, some others want to make it a fight to the finish, and as we make progress with political agreements and build this new dispensation, I believe the pressures will simply mount on this second scenario of mine and people will have to decide on various points.
It's a completely new arena altogether because I find myself in the situation over and over again where people who in the past had been vehemently opposed to certain issues or to certain political actors have changed their stance either because they have a new understanding of what you mean or it's a re-discovering of the person.
I think I've said a lot with those few points. If you want to hear more you can ask me.
Just one variation: a number of people have suggested that apartheid was the glue that held the NP together. Take away the ideology, it's driving ideology, there's a vacuum and a tendency towards fragmentation -
I go along with that. That is putting what I'm trying to say differently. You see in the past Afrikaners were united against anybody who was not Afrikaner and not in the so-called separate development, apartheid fold. But now the one issue that is very close to my heart is the issue of human rights. The Afrikaners were fed on a diet that said human rights is not good for their politics. Now human rights have become a cornerstone of a future dispensation and you have the conviction of the converts -- in this case who are also from National Party, Afrikaner circles.
That puts a completely different approach, not only on the issue of human rights but also on your political perspective. How do you see the future? Can you be an Afrikaner in a dispensation where there is collective self-determination, the right of civil society to organize yourself, yes or no? Or do you need a special territory and a special legislature to be an Afrikaner? The arguments are not finely tuned but they're coming across very forcefully.
The day of the invasion at the World Trade Centre, I can remember people that I know well and have known since my student days who were in Afrikaner student organisations with me, being on the other side and I found myself saying to ANC supporters "Well to me it's quite clear on whose side I am" -- not meaning I am on the ANC side but simply meaning that what was happening in front of our eyes was simply an erosion of basic human rights. The distinction I draw is based on the value system, not based on the fact that we are all Afrikaners. I have not worked out completely where that new reorientation will lead to, but it's an idea that I like to play with.
Linking that to the rise of the right, last year -
Could I just interrupt you before you ask me that question. On the issue of doves, super doves and hawks, I believe that has a lot to do with how you see the political reorientation. I make up my mind not because it happens to coincide with Buthelezi's point of view. Others in the NP would argue differently and say "Well, this sounds like a good proposition but what does Buthelezi have to say about it?" They say that on the grounds that even if it is a good proposition but does not have Buthelezi's support it will not carry the day. I am simply saying that is not how you go about making up your political thinking. That, amongst others, I would say is also a difference in approach between doves and hawks on a number of matters.
But the doves and hawks issue does not relate to specific elements or points on the political agenda. It embraces a wide range of issues, negotiations, security, where do you stand with Constand Viljoen and Inkatha, are you naive in your outlook towards the ANC, do you accept what they say, and so forth. All those matters add up to a dividing line between doves and hawks but the one thing that Mr. de Klerk has been known for is that he has never been party to a political clique and he makes up his mind on how he sees the issues. On the way he looks at the issues, I think, he believes that there are two sides to this coin and that's why he judges it accordingly. If you just look at the latest debate on negotiations. Yes, the World Trade Centre negotiations must go even in the absence of an IFP presence, but then there really cannot be a final settlement if Buthelezi is not on board -- that kind of thing.
I'll get back to the Buthelezi factor. But first, how about the rise of the right. A year ago the Conservative Party was left for dead, it was demoralized, divided and really humiliated by the extent of de Klerk's victory in the March referendum. One comes back this year and finds that the right appears to be more united, more cohesive, more confident and in Constand Viljoen have a leader who gives them more respectability. Is the right a threat?
Well the right have changed their colors. Informally they have new leadership, they have new policy, they want to stay abreast of the issues. But once they come up with a clear-cut policy I believe they will go the route of the Conservative Party. The Conservative Party, I still believe, is a spent force. You have only got to look at the ratings of the leadership and of their policies. What the Conservative Party is telling us around the negotiating table are simply not the policies they put forward at their rallies.
Now if we manage to strike a deal with them, even on the basis of their proposals, there is no way that they will be a cohesive force. They are a rainbow coalition one way or another and when you really pin them down you discover that. Are you a Eugene Terre'Blanche Afrikaner? Is that your version of a boerestaat? Are you a Carel Boshoff Afrikaner, his version of a boerestaat?121 Is Constand Viljoen a completely different animal compared to Ferdi Hartzenberg? 122 Hartzenberg to Andries Beyers?123 And they all form this magic thing called the Afrikaner Volksfront. I think they are on a political honeymoon, I really believe that. They are, however, a force to be reckoned with.
If they link up with, as they have in COSAG, with Buthelezi, will they become more potent if there's a combination of the two?
Yes, it's a marriage of convenience. Buthelezi, I predict, will never accept what they tell us around the negotiating [table] pertaining to their land claims.124 What Buthelezi tells us pertaining to their racialist approach to matters, they will never accept. It's a marriage of convenience ---" we have to stop this communist take-over of the ANC". That's the way they close their arguments "There's going to be a communist take-over". That kind of emotional rhetoric, much to my surprise, is still finding favor in this part of the world.
If you look at where the ANC and government were last June when CODESA collapsed and where they are today, what would you point to as the major concessions or compromises made by each party to get to this point?
Well it has to do with the process. The Record of Understanding was the basis for all that. I was deeply involved in the Record of Understanding and even as I look back on it now I see that much clearer than I did at the time, the significance of the Record of Understanding.
Actually there are two things --- the process and the ANC moving away from the Harare Declaration a Constituent Assembly, unsupervised, uncontrolled one person one vote election.(?) Their moving towards a regional dispensation and us moving away from the position where we said everything had to be written and finalized at this stage before we entered into an election; President de Klerk opening the door for a two-step approach through a transitional phase and a final phase.
I think, by and large, although I don't know whether there is really a general acceptance of this, that the whole idea of power sharing only on the basis of a transitional arrangement is also one of our major concessions because we were thinking of power sharing for ever, and now agreed to for the transition and then making it a matter for politics and persuasion post the transition.
Yet, you had Mr. de Klerk saying as late as June or late May, in an interview he did with the Financial Times,125 that the bedrock of government policy would be the entrenchment of power sharing permanently. That was followed up by an interview he gave in Time 126 in which he envisaged how the decision-making process in the TEC would work - that while you had a Cabinet composed of parties that had more than 5% of the vote (???) , then you'd have an Executive Committee made up perhaps of the three parties that had more than 15% of the vote and these parties would all act as a super cabinet, and in effect make all the important decisions. All that seems to have suddenly gone, and there was no more talk about power sharing.
With regards to one of the interviews -- I think the Financial Times interview -- he actually subsequently claimed he was not correctly reported on and I believe he did issue a correction on certain matters.
But I think this is what is so wonderful about the present negotiating process - it offers everybody an opportunity to compromise and change their stance. If you're in there you can do that because you can say "Well I was there, I listened to all the arguments, the spirit of compromise influenced me to make this concession, this agreement." If you're outside, like Buthelezi is at the moment, you have a problem. I mean how will he justify his concessions he still will have to make? That I believe is one of the outstanding elements in this negotiating process that we will have to address and resolve.
Before we talk about Buthelezi, when you look at the constitutional proposals that are already on the table, on a scale of one to ten, how far do you find them acceptable or moving in the right direction?
I think they are moving absolutely in the right direction I'd give a 6.5 to 7.0
Turning to Buthelezi, can a stable and lasting settlement be reached without the inclusion of Buthelezi? I did an interview with Walter Felgate127 three days ago and he was so hard line, there wasn't a crack in the whole thing. Then this morning the first thing I hear on the news is Buthelezi saying "The Star says I have to come back into talks".128 Last night he did a speech in Pietermaritzburg in which he said the ANC would have to abandon the idea of a Constituent Assembly or face the consequences of civil war.129 He's painting himself into such a deep corner, how does he get out?
I don't know how he gets out. I don't know how Chief Minister Buthelezi gets out of his predicaments, how he and Mr. Felgate get out of their predicaments. My experience has always been that we find the Zulu negotiators very accessible and very accommodative. They stick to their policies but when you speak with them they often would make concessions, not in the sense of saying "we agree", but by saying "well that looks like a constructive proposal, we'll have to take it back to our principals and maybe that is a way to open the door" and so forth, and then suddenly find that the door has been slammed in your face.
But politics change quickly, they change overnight. Let me just give you a few examples. After the referendum, the Conservative Party, under Andries Treurnicht, seemed like a spent force. A few months later, Andries Treurnicht is gone from the scene130. With Constand Viljoen at the helm, the right has a new mobility altogether. Mr. Mandela looks old and grey, and then makes an appearance on television after Chris Hani's death. Many Nats say to me he suddenly looks like a statesman. That sort of thing happens. Mr. de Klerk making the 2nd February speech looks like a statesman; making the victory speech after the referendum he looks like Mr. Know-All and Mr. Be-All. Mr. de Klerk trying to get Buthelezi back into the negotiating chamber and not losing the support to the right, but also realizing that he has to maintain the understanding he has with Mr. Mandela looks like somebody who has simply got his eye on too many issues. And all this, in this process of transition, polarization, and reorientation, could change overnight.
If Buthelezi persists in staying out, will the World Trade Centre negotiations go forward anyway?, He won't bring the process to a halt?
I'm very much in favor of Buthelezi being challenged, challenged on issues in public and debated with him, and I'm very much in favor of Buthelezi being challenged at the ballot box. One way or the other, a mechanism should be devised to call his bluff. I have said in public that I believe his rhetoric does not equal his support.
Given Buthelezi's propensity for saying he has been 'insulted' or "humiliated," whenever anything non-complimentary is written about him, do you think that he might know that he doesn't have a lot of support and therefore can't face the test of an election because the results might be humiliating for him, that he may be unable to face that reality and that that forces him not only to go to the brink but to go over?
Yes. Let me answer you from a different angle. I'm not responding to your question. The prospect of Buthelezi not having all the power in itself is frightening for him. He may win an election but he will not have all the power. in KwaZulu/Natal, he will have - even if he wins 50% of the vote, in the spirit of power sharing in the transition, and also on the regional level in the spirit of proportional representation he will face a lot of opposition he will have in a Legislative Assembly. He cannot stand that. I am not saying he has no support, I'm just giving you a different response and I believe that in itself is something - I'm not so sure that he's that democratic.
Does he have the capacity to destabilize the country -- the net result of this whole process will, we hope, be a South Africa that has a democratically elected government, a South Africa that is in a state of transition, but where he can cause instability and where that instability might require the government to take actions it is even contemplating now,131 or instability in the sense that foreign investors would say "Let's watch what's going to happen here"?
The whole idea of long agony and strife is not a very pleasant one and I do believe that Buthelezi has the capacity to prolong the agony, so to speak. I also doubt that Buthelezi will have the capacity to make this country an unattractive investment prospective, like Bosnia Herzegovina seems to me when I look at my television screen. You cannot keep on playing these games. This is a political game and I believe if it goes that far, as far as you have now predicted, or we have predicted - you and I have predicted, it will become a political game to arrest the democratic process on the one hand and on the other hand to cling on to power that cannot match the support of the people on the ground.
Increasingly, he's playing the Zulu 'card' talking about the Zulu nation and how it is under threat. Some people have said to me that Zulus respond to this kind of call, and that some Zulus who are ANC members will respond positively to a plea from the King for Zulus to unite because they are a nation under threat.
I don't believe that. I simply don't believe that. I'm told that the Zulu King is very restless, he's very uncomfortable because Buthelezi is hi-jacking him. The information that we have is that he who pays the piper calls the tune. We have even had advice from people saying you should not allow the KwaZulu Administration to pay the King's salary and his perks because that's why he's playing these tunes and that he's pretty unhappy about the situation. This is based on gossip and rumor. I don't know whether it's fact, but what I do know is that I have been in the presence of many Zulus who have actually expressed their disappointment about the fact that the King has been so politicized.
I have interviewed him three times since 1990 and have found him to be far more nationalistic minded, far more hard-line than Buthelezi. He makes very, very strong statements about the way in which he personally was treated by Mandela. He seems to buy into the conspiracy thesis that the ANC are essentially Xhosas who want to dominate Zulus.132
I take it you have spoken to people like Oscar Dhlomo133 on Buthelezi - and also listened to him. He would give you a different version to what one sometimes reads in the press. But something has changed. Maybe you would not have picked it up, but in the Transvaal, the Afrikaans newspaper, Beeld, has written very critical articles about Buthelezi. They have had very critical cartoons about him which simply is not what Afrikaans newspapers would have done, say 12/18 months ago.
He can cause a lot of trouble, he can make a lot of things very, very difficult but I don't believe Buthelezi has the capacity to turn this country on its head.
What about his complaint about the definition of sufficient consensus? In CODESA 2, you had two parties. You had government and allies, ANC and allies, both in rather adversarial roles so that if either the government or the ANC walked out sufficient consensus took a walk with either. This time you have government, ANC, COSAG -
I get very annoyed when they [the IFP] talk about these matters because I happen to know what was happening there and the final decisions on sufficient consensus were not pursued. In other words, the negotiators did not try to resolve the matter to the satisfaction of everybody the day of the Negotiating Forum at the World Trade Centre, the 2nd July, simply because Buthelezi's negotiators told us that this was, and I'm quoting verbatim now, "This is a put-up job. We will be back in two weeks. Don't worry about it, we will be back in two weeks."
Their chief negotiators were saying to me and Roelf Meyer, separately and collectively, we've compared our notes, we've checked it jointly and that was their position. So for the IFP to argue about sufficient consensus -- they knew the policy. One should never forget it was their official policy to employ what they called 'constructive filibustering' and they were not even prepared to withdraw that statement by qualifying it or whatever.
"Constructive filibustering" was their official policy. It was written in documents handed out at the World Trade Centre, in speeches read by nobody less than Professor Ngubane of UCT. After she read one speech, she was asked "Is this the official policy of the KwaZulu government?" and she said "Yes." In public and against the background of constructive filibustering they followed one line and behind closed doors they followed another line, made agreements that "We would be back in two weeks, don't worry, this was a put up job." I simply cannot see them playing straight-faced, approaching this whole matter of concessions, sufficient consensus, and so forth in an open minded and honest way.
Do you believe that there is a gap between what many members of the IFP would go along with and negotiate and what goes back to Ulundi and comes down as a dictatorial no.
I do believe that. They were called back to Ulundi on the Thursday night They flew out in an airplane and they were jetted back the following morning. We were told during the course of that day that we shouldn't worry, they had their instructions, they had to do this but they'd be back in two weeks time. They said they wanted to get back but were finding it very difficult. How do they justify it now because they want us to revisit the decisions taken in their absence and I cannot see us doing that.
Chris Hani's assassination. What impact did that have on the political environment?
If you study the incidents of violence, it certainly had an impact on that. Violence rose rapidly after Hani's assassination. There was a greater hardening of attitudes from the Patriotic Front in the sense that they now wanted a settlement, time was now of the essence as far as they were concerned. But the negotiators on all sides, I believe, after both Hani's assassination and post the World Trade invasion by the right wingers were more committed towards peaceful settlement than ever before.
Did the white community think the ANC did a good job in marshaling their supporters at that time to prevent - ?
No, I don't think some but not all whites thought that the ANC did a good job. But most did not have an understanding, I believe, of the pressures in the black communities.
What is the difference between a power-sharing government and a government of national unity?
I believe that is a discussion for the connoisseur.
Is it a matter of semantics?
You see at the negotiating table we have developed this approach when a concept becomes a bone of contention -- you simply write it with a stroke. You would say "Would Walvis Bay be incorporated or integrated" and they would say "Incorporated/integrated". "Are we talking about states / provinces or regions?" They would write it "States / provinces / regions."
The whole power sharing concept has a completely different connotation and I think it matured into what is now called a 'government of national unity' because a 'power-sharing government' has, in my mind, the features of something strong, of power blocs being locked into the Executive and so forth, whilst a government of national unity is much more subtle. It's the power blocs working together in this whole process of establishing peace and nation building and reconciliation and so on. But structurally and finely-defined, I don't believe that one would find differences, but I'm not into that sophisticated debate.
In that spirit of definitions, is the question whether this was a process about the transfer of power or the sharing of power? Looking beyond the five year mark, looking at the medium term, the longer term, is it a process that's really about the transfer of power?
No. The transfer of power is something which is, to my mind, comparable to the handing over of power. The way I look at the process after mandated post power sharing is over -- or in the post government of national unity years, the transitional years, is an open society where you compete for power. In the build up to an election you may form alliances on a voluntary basis but after the election you may be compelled by circumstances to form alliances not because the constitution so dictates but simply because that may be the wish and the mood of the country at that juncture, or simply because you do not have sufficient support other than to go into a forced coalition.
Two last things. One is on violence again. If the level of violence stays at its current level or it's current levels both on the Reef and in Natal, can free and fair elections take place or must the elections go ahead regardless?
Well, I think when one decides on that issue one will have to look at what the violence will be, if you don't have the elections. Will it be less or will it be worse? One can never allow anybody who actually stimulates violence to hold this process to ransom by conceding that if there is too much violence there will not be elections.
To get back to the violence and the election issue and Buthelezi. If by some way Buthelezi comes back into the process in time for the elections and wins KwaZulu/Natal, do you think that Harry Gwala and the ANC will accept the result, or that this civil war will continue? And what would the ANC as a major partner and player in government do if the ANC in Natal does not accept the results?134
I believe the leadership, the core of ANC leadership, is basically democratic. They will have a problem, but I believe they will discipline the mavericks, albeit they sometimes do not discipline them the way we would like them to. But one must not forget the ANC disciplined Winnie Mandela,135 The ANC leadership disciplined Peter Mokaba.136 And Mandela when he visited the East Rand said "We concede people have behaved out of step and they are not doing that with the sanction of the ANC.137
I firmly believe that the core of ANC leadership subscribes to those values and approaches but coming back to my old thing - they will increasingly be under pressure from the other partners [SACP and COSATU] in the alliance, and I don't believe the ANC as a liberation movement can stand the test of time and be untouched. The pressures of a post-election, post-apartheid phase will simply take its toll on them because there will not be an apartheid state to provide all the glue to keep them together.
One variant of that question is that could Buthelezi be given as much as could possibly be given to him, but the NEC of the ANC might find that the ANClin Natal saying "We're not going to tolerate this. We've been dying for 10 years to preclude this from happening. We see it as undemocratic. We see it as caving in to Buthelezi." Could an ANC-led government find itself in a position where one of its first acts would be to declare a state of emergency in Natal?
That is a very interesting point. Because the scenario in a sense also highlights the difference between the ANC and the PAC on a number of issues related to that scenario. The PAC wants to stay out as long as possible in order not to have anything to do with the mopping up of old apartheid or the old vestiges of an old order, and the ANC wants to get involved and they may well declare a state of emergency and they may well be the first people to say to the Trade Unions "This strike is not in the national interest". That may well be. That makes me excited. That's why I say to whites that there is life after the elections. There is life after the negotiating process.
The last question refers to the white community. My observations lead me to think that there has been a hardening of attitudes among whites. I'll put that the question in this context: do you think whites sufficiently accept that they did a grave wrong to black people?
That some retribution must be paid for that wrong, so that what they see as blacks being "pushy" is really blacks, they shouldn't see them as being that but in the historical context of what has been done to them?
No, I don't think there is sufficient recognition among whites of the wrongs blacks have had to live with - I don't think the debates about the past have really started properly. That is a long, long story which I have in various ways tried to articulate. But I don't think there is a complete understanding of why the old dispensation was an unjust and undemocratic dispensation, and, therefore, one needs to move to a new order, a completely new open, democratic order.
Many people still think you have to move to the new order because the old order had failed and had collapsed but it's not only because it had failed and because it had collapsed, it is also because it was an unjust order which caused a lot of hardship and hurt many people. Those second and latter qualifications, I believe, have not filtered through properly because the debates about the past. as far as I'm concerned, we have only just begun to deal with these issues. We're talking about freedom of the press about the future, but we haven't had freedom of the press about the past.
Our time is up. I thank Wessels, but he says "No, I thank you. I'm sorry we missed out - once I didn't see you."
The words "No, I thank you" stick in my mind. Again, I am struck by the thought: does de Klerk know how this man thinks? In many respects, he is more ANC than many people in the tri-partite alliance are. Yet, here we are, entering the final lap of negotiations, the elections that will almost certainly sweep the ANC into power a mere eight months away, and Wessels, chief custodian of the National Party's interests in negotiations i.e. one of the key individuals charged with ensuring that whites come out of the negotiations with their paramount domains of interest still in their hands, albeit with a somewhat weakened grip, who seems ready to toss their entrenched interests to the winds and embrace a new dispensation that will permanently relieve whites of the levers of political power. He doesn't speak the language of de Klerk, does not see the final constitution as enshrining a further period of a government of national unity, but would prefer the rough and tumble of normal politics where parties compete against each other, gang up on each other, where the taste of power makes coalitions hitherto unthinkable water the mouth.
And yet, he earned his spurs as deputy minister of law and order and chairman of the NSMC during some of the worst years of the State of Emergency. He had been an insider to many of the intrigues of the SSC and the securocrats who put down rebellion in the townships, using detention without trial, torture, whatever means it took to break a person at whim. Now, I am to believe, he is a convert to the culture of human rights? When did this metamorphous occur? Why? How? A slow maturation or a sudden shaft of light?
And, if he believes that there should be majority rule within five years if that's what the voters want, shouldn't he level with de Klerk? Shouldn't he say, "Sorry, Mr. President, but I'm the wrong man for the job. I don't believe in constitutionally enshrined power-sharing; in fact, I don't believe in much of what the National Party stands for." And if he was so in tune with ANC thinking, wasn't he automatically at a disadvantage in negotiations with the ANC since he is more sympathetic with their positions than he is with his own brief? Before a position is negotiated, is he not already predisposed, even if only subconsciously, to make concessions? Hasn't the ANC already eaten him for lunch? What's in the deserts, they must wonder as the momentum for a negotiated settlement inexorably gathers speeds?
His disdain for Buthelezi is palpable: it is clear he thinks he is a bully whose whims have been pampered by his own party, a leader who exhales much smoke but breathes little fire. Call his bluff. He is not interested in establishing a modern democratic dispensation, but in preserving his power base. Having walked out of the negotiations and finding that his absence didn't bring matters to a halt should have him realize that the IFP was no ANC, but the message appears not to have sunk in, only leading him to more grandiose gestures of defiance. His negotiators are puppets who can't commit themselves to anything, even if they think some agreements would be advance the IFP's positions. In fact, his negotiators lack the power to negotiate on behalf of their principal who remains ensconced in remote Ulundi, far from the drama of the action at Kemptom Park, not part of the intricate psychological panorama that shapes how deals are made, once immutable positions modified, the circumstances and environments that are conducive to compromises being reached, the holistic dimensions of the negotiations, that each step forward transmogrifies the process, that the process mutates itself mutates; that the camaraderie
that begins to emerge the men and women who spend long hours for days at a time locked into each other's company becomes an integral ingredient of learning to appreciate the other's position, of the constraints they have to live with, even though they would like to wish them away.
Buthelezi's negotiators are little more than messengers who scurry to and from Ulundi trying to explain why the IFP should to be party to some agreement to a man who has no understanding of the dynamic interplay of factors that led to the agreement in the first place.
Interesting even illuminating -- is Wessels' assessment that while Buthelezi plays at brinkmanship, he does so on a carefully calibrated basis, and takes no decision that irrevocably commits himself to a specific course of action. On the one hand, he will wade into the heavy surf, on the other hand, he will never go into depths that might snap an already fully stretched life-line. Thus, while the country continues to wander towards anarchy with a kind of bemused detachment, and the prophets of doom are having a field-day with their prognostications of impending civil wars, Wessels believes that all will be well; a thundersquall or two, perhaps; but no twisters. Exposed to the turbulent winds that blow in one direction one moment and another direction the next, where the only certainty one count on is more uncertainty, Wessels retains an unreasonable rationality, a passionate optimism that things will work themselves out for the better; elections will take place as scheduled. He is looking forward to the challenges a new South Africa will face.
A Buthelezi secession? He couldn't sustain it; yes, he could makes things unstable but not that unstable. Is this naiveté? Hardly, given Wessels' background. Or does he know something he is not sharing? More likely. But wars of secession do not follow the usual rules of engagement, and certainly not in Africa. They have little to do with conventional military might, everything to do with luring military might into environments it is not familiar with, allowing it to twist slowly in the wind when it has to deal with highly-mobile classic guerrilla warfare units whose members are intimately familiar with the terrain, have carved out all but inaccessible sanctuaries, and employ the most sophisticated technology customized to meet the needs of an army on the run.
Wars of secession, no matter what the outcome, are brutish and savage, and frequently barbaric affairs that acquire their own internal dynamics that are hard to bring under control and harder still to predict. One statistic, rarely used, but which conveys everything that has to be said about the way war changed in the twentith century, has lodged itself in the subterranean mind: at the beginning of the century one civilian was killed for every eight soldiers who died in war. At century's end, that figure had changed utterly: nine civilians were killed for every soldier who died in war. The planned killing of civilians now has more strategic advantages than the planned killing of one's armed opponents. Weaponry is for use against the unarmed.
De Klerk is the leader of the National Party: presumably, subordinates would jump at his behest or at least pay due regard to his leadership. One gets none of that from Wessels. Rather, he is inclined to see de Klerk as the ultimate pragmatist, a man looking for the opportune connection, unwilling to commit himself to a single course of actions when the prospects of a shift in the political winds pay higher dividends. Not that he sees him as an unprincipled man, but as one who weighs up the merits of principle against the merits of the expedient and makes decisions in terms of the relative pay-offs. Like a conjurer, he must keep his eyes on all the balls at the same time; if all balls are to be kept in the air, each acquires an equal importance; if the conjurer concentrates his attention on one ball, he looses his control over the others, inviting the collapse of the lot. From Wessels, we get the glimpse of a man who is feverishly trying to control the process to the extent that he looses sight of what the process is about.
Interesting, too, that Wessels should speak in close to dismissive terms about Buthelezi and his capacity "to prolong the agony," while treating the right wing a lot more circumspectly. Viljoen is someone who gives "respectability" to the fractious right wing, a moral standing it hitherto has lacked. But his attitude has to do with something more: with how power is yielded.
In Buthelezi's case, Wessels sees the war in Natal between supporters of the IFP and the ANC as a paradigm of the way in which Buthelezi exercises power and tries to protect his territorial base of support. For the most part, the violence of his Inkatha supporters is sporadic, spontaneous in response to some perceived slight, defensive, under the direction of local war-lords, who give more allegiance to the pursuit of their own interests than to a political cause, but who, nevertheless, are cunning enough to put the violence carried out at their instruction in a political context, thus using the cloak of communal conflict to justify actions that in other context would be regarded as strictly criminal.
Buthelezi has no army at his disposal, no control of much or perhaps most of what happens on the ground, no plan of action or sustainable capacity to seize and hold the strategic points in KwaZulu/Natal, such as Durban, Richards Bay or Port Shepstone, but given his monumental egotism, he is unable to admit that he cannot control events on the ground, done in his name, because that would expose his weakness, the fact that for rampaging warlords in the hinterlands, allegiance to Buthelezi is easy to pledge, because it provides more leeway for them to go about their own nefarious business the consolidation of their local power- bases, and the lucrative rewards that come with that. Root out the warlords, and Buthelezi's army becomes skeletal. An aspiring emperor cannot afford to be seen to have no clothes.
On the other hand, Viljoen is someone to be reckoned with because as a highly respected former head of the SADF, he commands the loyalty and support of the troops he commanded in war and the reservists who fought alongside them. All have been trained to fight, all have been indoctrinated with the threat if the Total Onslaught, many have already put their lives on the line to preserve the Afrikaner ethos, and many, perhaps, would be responsive to the call to once again rescue their South Africa from an impending communist takeover.
Now that an ANC/SACP alliance not that Afrikaners made any distinction between the two are poised to take over the government, might not many of these men, spread across the country and imbued with the propaganda NP governments and their military superiors had drilled into them, rise, robot-like, to the call to defend and serve, if a weak and rudderless NP government was perceived to be caving in to the demands of the ANC/SACP renegades?
Indeed, if one thing had caught Wessels off-guard it was COSAG's preoccupation with preventing a communist take-over. But one wonders why. Had he himself not spearheaded a state apparatus that fed the white population an unvarying diet of the perils of atheistic communism until their stomachs knotted in their guts from being over overeating? Communism may have collapsed in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union may have imploded, but in an isolated, insular South Africa, long cut-off from the rest of the world what took place in far-off places had little impact on the belief-systems of many. And if questioned about communism and the threats it posed to South Africa, given that it had been so thoroughly discredited in the rest of the world to the extent that the word "communist" was a pariah word in most countries, they would reply that if all you say is true why are they still calling themselves communists in South Africa.138 Their agenda hasn't changed. When Groenewald boasts that the generals can call on up to half a million men who will fight to preserve an Afrikaner nation, he may be exaggerating, but then again he may be making no idle boast. The problem for the government is how to make the judgment call.
There is irony, too. Viljoen is so proud of the defence force he once headed and molded into the most formidable fighting machine in the continent, that he couldn't even entertain the idea that in answer to his call on former commandos to secure the Afrikaner state current members of the SADF might defect. That, to him, would be the epitome of unprofessionalism; they had taken an oath of allegiance to serve the state and they were duty-bound to honor their oath, defection was tantamount to treason; he would not allow such defectors to join his cause.139 Again, however, Viljoen's reactions must be put in the context of whites, Afrikaners in particular seeing themselves as living in a democracy. In a democracy, the military are subject to civilian control; the military ethos is to protect and serve the interests of the state under the jurisdiction of whatever government rules the country. The military are above politics. Their military are not like the military in other African countries in which coups and counter coups are routine, where military discipline and obedience are palpably absent, where armies run amuck and slaughter the civilian populations they are supposed to protect. The Afrikaners' conception of the professionalism of their military, of their defense forces being above the petty, parochial games politicians engaged in has, of course, its roots in the Afrikaners' sense of superiority; of the volk as the chosen children of God.140
De Klerk, too, embraces this reasoning in his dealings with the military. He is confident that the military brass will carry out the instructions of the civilian authorities, even, if on occasion, they find they do not agree with them. He does not fear a coup, although he is careful in his dealings with them not to cross some unstated boundary. Pragmatist that he is, he is acutely aware that he cannot alienate his generals beyond a certain point; they are, after all, his last citadel of power. If negotiations fail they will be the only card he holds.
Even when he evidence of the military's misdeeds emerge, of subversive actions not sanctioned, of instructions not followed, he reacts not with the rage one would expect of a Commander-in-Chief who finds that his orders have been flagrantly ignored , but with an disingenuousness that borders on sentimental naiveté.141 The problem with Afrikaners, I have found, is that you have to believe what that believe before you can give credence to many of their actions or much of their thinking. Its not just a matter of trying to put yourself in their shoes, the shoes have to fit perfectly, the laces tied tightly.
If Wessels has any say in the matter, it is clear that in the government of national unity that will rule South Africa from May 1994 through May 1999 the National Party will not be making common cause with the IFP. But this begs the question: if the NP cannot engineer a constitution that entrenches permanent power-sharing or at least power-sharing for a considerable period of time, how can it develop a new identity that will broaden its appeal to a broader constituency, if it has to play little more than second fiddle to the ANC in a new government? In their apparent willingness to accept sun-set clauses and a smidgen of power for five years, is it not signing its own death certificate? In order to exercise real power in a new dispensation, the NP will have to negotiate an agreement that will ensure cabinet decision-making by consensus. One can hardly see the ANC agreeing to that. It surprises me that the question has not already been raised, because it goes to the heart of the matter.
A government of national unity, implemented in terms of parties with a certain level of representation in parliament having the right to a proportionate number of cabinet portfolios, is both conceptually different and different in practice if cabinet decisions are vested in the majority rather than in across-the-board consensus. There is no twain between the two. The difference between a government of national unity and a power-sharing government are, despite Wessels protestations that the distinctions between the two are a matter for the "connoisseur" to haggle over. The essence of power-sharing is how decisions are made; unless decisions are required to be made on the basis of an agreed upon formula that provides for a "sufficient degree of consensus," then power is not being shared, only portfolio positions.
One way or another, it appears that the National Party is facing a grim, perhaps terminal future.
Not that Wessels appears to care.
Ironic, too, that Wessels is seduced by the perception of an event, even though the reality it quite different and that he is aware of the reality being different. Many people that I have walked with refer to Mandela's TV address to the nation following the assassination of Chris Hani as one that that saved the country from descending into anarchy. Even allowing for the exaggeration that accompanies such observations, the fact is that violence increased dramatically after Hani's death.142 Indeed, assessments of this kind came mainly from well-intentioned whites or senior members of the ANC, and are made wittingly or not in the context of what one would expect to happen in a developed country. Some national disaster suddenly envelops the country, effectively bringing things to a halt; people are uncertain and confused; they need reassurance and leadership; the president goes on television, addresses the nation, provides the reassurance that everything is under control. The people heave a sigh of relief. Calm prevails, and the country survives its ordeal.
This scenario, of course, is based on one simple assumption: almost universal access to television. In South Africa, that assumption is not only wanting, but so wide of reality as to make any assumption of the impact of Mandelas's addresss to the masses ludicrous in the extreme, part of the ways in which mythologies are manufactured.143
Among the white population, there were X number of televisions among white households in 1993. Among township blacks the number was Y; and in the informal settlements the number was Z. Without access to electricity, blacks' access to television was highly limited, besides the question of the purchasing power required which put televisions beyond the income range of most families.
The audience most likely to perpetrate the violence the township and squatter camp youth was the audience most beyond the president's reach. Nor do township youth in such situations huddle around their families' television set and eagerly await the word of authority to tell them what to do. The people Mandela reached were those least likely to perpetrate violence, indeed, in the townships they were among the most likely to be its victims as roving gangs of youth set ablaze anything that crossed their paths most often property, usually a car belonging to one of their neighbors. Mandela himself had learned years earlier that his influence with the comrades was problematical at best, non-existent, at worst.144
Looting in the Cape and Natal claimed seventy lives.145 The alliance announced a six week campaign of mass action.146 According to de Klerk, "ANC demonstrations led to rioting and looting in several cities. The ANC had failed to exercise control over its followers and it seemed as though we might return to the volatile days of 1992."147 To control mass demonstrations, de Klerk deployed an additional 3,000 members of the security forces. Mandela's account of the weeks following Hani's assassination are a little different. " We adopted a strategy to deal with our constituency in the ANC. In order to forestall outbreaks of retaliatory violence, we arranged a week-long series of mass rallies and demonstrations throughout the country. This would give people a means of expressing their frustration without resorting to violence."148 In 1995, at an unveiling of Hani's tombstone President Mandela said, "Two they said that the political leadership of our people could not control 'young militants.' The political maturity of our nation has disproved them."149 In the circumstances, it was a strange claim to make, given that Hani himself had admitted that the ANC had lost control of the militant youth.150
If Mandela's TV performance had any impact it almost certainly was on the whites who clustered around their television sets and saw a Mandela who acted in a presidential manner, something most of them were unwilling to think him capable of. Ingrained prejudices only dissipate slowly, and seldom entirely.
Wessels' assessment of how the government of national unity has performed during its first six months in office:
Well given the circumstances I think they have really done quite well. Many of them have not been in government, they are inexperienced, they're dealing with big, big, big issues. They have to change their direction, they have to re-prioritize, so by and large I think they have done, in the circumstances, pretty well.
If you had to rate the performance of the government on a scale of one to ten where one is very unsatisfactory and ten is very satisfactory, what range would it lie in?
I don't like the figures - seven would be too high but six would be too low, six point five.
Two years ago Derek Keys two years ago told me very bluntly said that the best this economy could do would be to increase employment by 1% a year between now and the year 2000. I saw him two weeks ago and he said the very same thing.151 Now when one looks at the RDP or the massive development schemes that people are talking about, just where does one (a) generate the resources and (b) generate the jobs because if you can't provide the jobs how will people pay for their housing?
It's a vicious cycle. The whole issue of job creation has to do with the economy, it has to do with stability, it has to do with external investment as well as internal investment, it has to do with productivity. What one must have is a vision of where you are taking this nation to, and you need a proper accord between labour, capital and the government to do that -- to instill that vision in the people. We don't have that accord yet, but I believe that the economy will take longer to settle than we, who are not familiar with the intricacies of the economy, were prepared to predict, prior to the 27th April elections or even prior to the negotiations. This economy is not going to be kick started.
Won't this represent a problem in terms of people's expectations?
Absolutely. There's no question about that. The function of the constitution must be the improvement of the quality of life of people. It has now dawned upon people that we should expect less from the economy, but we must all prepared to work harder and give more for the economy. People still think of this economy as your economy, and we are not part of the economy. That, of course, is completely wrong.
Has the way blacks think in these matters anything to do with the kind of culture of dependency that was built up under apartheid where blacks were told what to do, when to do it, where their lives were regulated. Now the culture of dependency is reinforced by a culture of entitlement.
That may be the correct. But I would look at it differently. I would argue that South Africans have been thinking about politics for decades and not about economics. People were more concerned about the politics of the day and were taking a very simplistic view of the economy. Now that, to my mind, certainly has changed now that we at least have a legitimate government, legitimate processes in motion.
I was in New York at the weekend and everybody appeared to be focused on the economy152 -- give us our country back, give us less taxation -- and these were the things they were arguing in terms of. What amazed me was how the economic debate is always on the front burner in the United States. In this country in all the previous years everyone was focused on either liberation and civil liberties or the preservation of the Afrikaner state and what not. Right at the bottom end was the economy. So there's an education process that has to take place right across the political spectrum as far as the economy is concerned.
During the apartheid years, you had rent boycotts and electricity boycotts, so for many Africans the first impact on their lives of their government being in power is that they are now being asked to pay for services that they have taken for granted for years as being free, services for which you didn't have to pay.
You have to change the thinking pattern of the people with regard to services. You have to change the thinking pattern with regard to expectations and all that is not going to be easy.
During the last couple of weeks I've been talking to the Premiers and MECs in a number of provinces. When I mention the phrase RDP most of them looked at me with blank stares. They didn't associate it with anything, even when I would say 'Programme for Reconstruction and Development', they would say 'Oh yes?', but they didn't know much about it.
You had Ministers in different departments who had different interpretations of the same document [RDP], and in general an unfamiliarity with it. Not only that but they had no feeling that they were attached to it, that it was their program. Why has the government been so slow to market the RDP?
The RDP has certainly become a household name and one has to be very, very careful at this juncture that the concept of the RDP does not become cheapened because everybody has heard of the RDP one way or the other. They may not be familiar with the substance of the RDP, but if the RDP does not deliver what it promises to, that could have very adverse effects, and I am very concerned about that. Neither the second tier of government or local government is functioning well at the moment. The delivery systems have to come through these tiers of government and it's not happening. The level of frustration may become pretty high.
You find regional Premiers saying that powers are not being devolved to them in a sufficiency that will allow them to perform their jobs and there is a resentment of the center holding on to the power, just dealing it out in drips and drabs. Is that a legitimate complaint?
Well, not from what I've heard. I've heard that they've been ineffective in marshaling the resources they have. But I do have a lot of sympathy with the Premiers in this regard because they are very important building blocks in this whole process of upliftment and of further developing the economy. In that sense, no matter what the facts may be, if that is their perception, the process is not working to anybody's gain and simply has to be rectified.
On returning to South Africa this time, I was struck by a number of things: the explosion of crime, at least as reported in the media --the Sunday Times last week reported that a serious crime is committed every 17 seconds -- levels of violence are horrific; part of the MK appears to be in rebellion; SDUs are still roaming the townships and operating more like thugs than protective of their communities;, and the President is saying that the SAP has declared war on the ANC. The war in Natal continues to simmer;, unions are making huge wage demands; random strikes are commonplace. It looks as though the country is sliding that the social fabric is, in a sense, collapsing.
One takes note of all these negative tendencies, but the exciting thing about all of this is that these are real problems -- fighting crime, getting better education, integrating the army and MK, etc. These things have nothing to do with apartheid or the illegitimacy of the government. In a way one has a legitimate government now dealing with these problems. It is not strange for countries to have a problem with violence and crime, but you now have a concerted effort -- there may not be complete harmony between the communities and the South African Police Service right now, however there is not a legitimate reason why there should not be co-operation between the police and the communities, unlike the difficulties one experienced when people were saying the police force was working for an illegitimate government, so to speak.
Do you think there is a sufficient level of political stability in the country that would warrant a foreign investor investing his money here?
Well that is the question investors ask: why should we invest in your country, and the question they pose, is this a short term investment or is it a long term investment? Who is driving who? Is Mandela driving the nation or is the nation driving Mandela?
If I were a businessman and I asked you those questions -
I believe there is money to be made on the short term but I believe that one should take a longer-term view on these matters. If you want to have a stake in the African market for your products and your investment, I believe this is the place where you should make that kind of investment. There is sufficient political stability to warrant an investment in this country.
A question on the elections last April. I had the privilege of being on an observer team. I remember the first day because I experienced one of the most moving sights of my life. We had gone to the polling station at 5.00am to make sure everything was there and in order. We came round this corner to a small schoolhouse and there was a line of people stretching for two miles we checked it on the car gauge. The sun was just coming up -- an incredible backdrop. And the there was the patience, the somberness with which everything was carried out.
Yet, everyone has made noises about cheating, that there were large scale irregularities and even the Electoral Commission said maybe about 70% of the vote was tabulated, that the rest simply got lost or wasn't counted.153 You had a result that was like a miracle result -- everyone got something. Buthelezi got KwaZulu/Natal, the National Party got the Western Cape and its vote in government, the ANC got their majority and it looked too good to be true. Many people have suggested that it was in fact a kind of brokered result, that in the end the IEC was unable to count all the votes, was unable not only to count but to account for them, and that what was necessary to produce was a government that would be regarded as being legitimate and produce stability rather than a completely free and fair election that could lead havoc in its wake in terms of civil war in KwaZulu/Natal and violence on the Reef. What's your own opinion of how that whole process worked and turned out?
The whole election process was a manifestation of a desire on the part of the people of South Africa that we should end the conflict through participation in the election process. Everybody felt that they were part of this whole process and felt the importance of being an individual who was involved in it.
But one should not forget that we come from a very polarized past and that the divisions are not only pretty deep as far as the politics of South Africa are concerned, but that there are divisions, too, about what we have to do about the economy, the society. We have to tear down the walls that we have built to keep each other out. Because of deprivation people have lost sight of the importance of the quality of life and have become pretty reckless and it is a matter that cannot be solved overnight. To revive that spirit of belonging, which you had during the election process when everybody came out to vote, to get people to work harder, to combat crime, to participate in the combating of crime, is pretty difficult.
The only thing that should not happen is that we should not forget what could have happened had this process been derailed. All of us who were involved in that process realize how precious the elections in April 1994 was. We will not only cherish them but will also keep on aspiring and working to make that the promise of the elections a reality. permanent situation.
That's fine, but it is not answering my question. Everyone knew what the alternatives to not producing a stable, legitimate government would be. The IEC by its own account was in a shambles, votes were unaccounted for, counting was going badly. At some point it became necessary to say - we must get out with a result that is acceptable to everybody. It may not reflect exactly how people voted, may be off by some points here and some points there, but everyone comes out of it with something and is perceived as a winner. We'll get the stability we require in order to be a functioning government. Was there a thought like that around where the question of stability and legitimacy became more important than the question of whether the election was free and fair in a technical sense?
During that process people and political groupings more or less had established what their power base was and were prepared to settle for that instead of drawing out the agony. The agony, I would say, of this drawn out process was more in the minds of those that worked with it than really the question of stability. I think stability was at stake, deeply at stake, when we were negotiating and some people were suggesting that the election date should be postponed. That would have been pretty serious.
I would say it was more a question of finalizing the counting process according to what people had more or less estimated their support base to be rather than a question of ensuring stability. We felt the importance of stability was of far more concern when people were suggesting postponing the election date.
That would have had far greater consequences at that point.
One thing the man-in-the -street, so to speak, talk about and the media hype about over and over again is this question of there being a " gravy train." Was the ANC politically very naive to come into office, assume office, and then to accept the findings of a Commission,154 one that had been appointed by the apartheid regime and made its recommendations before the government of national unity came into office, which gave them all large salaries, huge salaries in comparison to what MPs had been earning in the past, and unbelievable salaries in comparison to what people at the grass roots were earning? Did the ANC spent good political capital almost from the first moment by doing that, and even though there was a revision of salaries in the face of the public outcry, the damage was done. In one editorial, the Sowetan said, "The salaries of Ministers and MPs are paying themselves are extremely high when seen against what ordinary people are earning and is one of the reasons for the current wave of industrial unrest."155
Let's divorce the political salaries from the industrial unrest. One should not forget that there were representatives with trade union backgrounds serving on that Commission and granted that people are receiving much more than what they had received, but holding political office in a way also requires adjustments in lifestyle and expenditure. People suddenly find they have to maintain two houses; it's difficult to cope without a car and suddenly they find that what they are being paid now does not compare favorably with what they earned or could earn in the private sector and that, I believe, is why many politicians, members of parliament, justify the present salary scales. So given the background where they come from -
They are saying, 'well, I could leave politics, go and work in the private sector and earn more.'
Absolutely. I know two ANC politicians, very outspoken ANC politicians about all issues relating to the previous regime and the previous political set up. One, in private is saying 'Well you must realize I actually have to maintain three homes home.' The other is where he originally comes from, his political base is the PWV region and he has to maintain a house in some way in Cape Town and that actually requires that he needs transport in Cape Town as well as in the Transvaal. All these things add up. I know another politician who left the services of the ANC and actually came to parliament via the private sector and has taken a tremendous blow in salary income. I have no reason to doubt any of the two of them in this regard.
However, given the position they came from, people involved in the trade unions now want to earn the same as the politicians, but that I do not believe that is the main source of industrial controversy and unrest. I think there is a general expectation that workers are now entitled to a better pay package than they had been prior to the election, not understanding completely the way a private company may function. A private company has to function on the profits they make. People do not fully comprehend that. That could be part of it.
Wasn't it argued that skilled blacks would tend to gravitate to the private sector, since the private sector pays more than the public sector. The more ambitious and skilled blacks will tend to go into the private sector leaving the public sector with what is left over rather than having the cream of the crop?
In that sense I think the salaries paid to skilled black managers and workers are and will be inflated for a long time because the demand is so great. People will want them in their service and will simply have to pay for the opportunity of having such persons in their employ. That may all add up to unnatural inflation and possibly also further contribute to the fact that our productivity and our salary scales are not completely in tandem with one another.
Affirmative action will obviously be a big issue. It's a big issue in the United States and continues to rub many people raw, almost as much as it did 20 years ago. It rubs people raw in Northern Ireland between Catholics and Protestants, and here it looms as a large issue. Everyone in the public sector is entrenched in their jobs so that the only way you can bring black people in is through? How can you restructure a civil service if the only way you allow new entrants is through the attrition rate in the service? How can you get blacks to significant levels?
The biggest frustration in the civil service at the moment is the lack of communication. It's not the fact that blacks will have to enter the public service and also have to offer their services to the public at large. I'm talking from a white perspective between the Commission for Administration and the Ministry for Administration. White civil servants are holding jobs on a temporary scale, they do not know what their futures will be. So if you can find the black personnel I do not believe their entry in itself will cause much frustration, because people understand they will have to be guided and will have to be assisted. But it is the uncertainty about the future, what exactly is going to happen and whether skilled and trained civil servants are going to be properly utilized. That is the frustrating part of it all right now.
But the civil service, s it now stands, could, if it so wished, hinder the implementation of government programs?
I think one should not underestimate the goodwill that exists in the civil service and the willingness of the civil servants to participate and really be involved in rendering a good service but they need to be informed, they need to be spoken to, they need to be communicated with.
What would be the business community's reading be on the RDP, on the government of national unity? Has it been playing its part? At a luncheon recently, Chris Liebenberg, the current Minister of Finance, said, "I feel like a scrum-half who cannot get the ball out of the scrum because my loose forwards are not there to support me." How would you interpret that?
I do not know the context he used it in but I think that the private sector cannot really afford not to be seen to be identifying with the RDP and could really not be seen not to be identifying with the government of national unity in respect of what the government of national unity stands for reconciliation, uniting the South African public at large and the nation.
But the way I've read and understood previous statements of Chris Liebenberg along those lines have been that he found that outsiders looking at South Africa were more impressed by the miracle of April 1994 than the South African business community was. He also said that he found outsiders to be more optimistic of our chances to succeed than the South African business community. When one talks of investment one is not only thinking of external investment, one is also thinking of internal investment. In that respect I believe the South African business community is making the right noises, expressing the correct sentiments. But it is not involved enough in the RDP and the government of national unity.
Let me make a nasty remark. I cannot generalize but I certainly can think of individuals in the business community ---but this does not only go for the business community, it goes for parliament, or the churches, for the academics of this country, it goes for the Afrikaner community, the English speaking community, but we're talking now of the business community, that's why I am mentioning them.
But there are a number of individuals in the business community who fail to see the challenges and by nature of their environment have a very skeptical approach to politics and politicians Many of them being white with European backgrounds do not really identify with the plight of not only the poor but of the objectives of the RDP in the sense that the RDP is the only opportunity that we have to really be deeply involved in the development and upliftment of the poorer sections of our community.
Let me put what you've said about the RDP in a different context. For the last four or five years I've been asking blacks what are their levels of expectations and they have gone from being very, very high to still remaining high, at the beginning of this year. So you have this gap between what the government can deliver and what the expectation was of what they thought would be delivered.
Tied to that you have this culture of entitlement, people have got used to getting services for nothing and now balk at having to pay for those services doing so would effectively bring their standard of living down, take away their disposable income. Coupled with this you have a culture of dependency -- people wait for things to be done for them, they don't see themselves as being responsible for their lives and they continue to blame everything on apartheid and wait for somebody to "fix it". How do you sell the RDP to people that makes it understandable to them in a simple way so that they say, 'this is terrific, I want to be part of making this happen,' rather than them seeing it as a government program - that it's theirs not ours?
The only way you sell it to the public is with charismatic leadership. The art of democracy is persuasion and you have to keep on talking, explaining, talking and explaining to this nation, something that has not happened over decades, so if they do not respond like the literate western nations and supporters do where people have access to newspapers, the majority of people have access to newspapers, radio stations and television. That is simply the only way but you have to define clear objectives and explain them to the people and in that respect we are found wanting. You should not only tell them once in a blue moon that they have to pay for their rents and for their services. You should not only by way of a single press statement explain to them what affirmative action means in terms of employment in the public service. It is an on-on-ongoing process and one should not get tired of doing that.
Is this hindered by the fact that the list system was used in the elections, which in a sense makes an MP more responsive to the party than to the people. It's the party you want to satisfy, because your place on the list will depend upon how highly the party rates you, not how highly the constituents out there rate you.
Well we do not have the perfect system because we have many things at stake. We had stability at stake, we had to reach compromises and the list system is not the ideal system to deal with this, but had we not gone for the list system right now we still would not have had the election, and that I believe was too ghastly to contemplate.
But by and large I get the impression that even under this system MPs are prepared to work hard, are learning the trade of parliament and the parliamentary and political skills to speak quite well and react quickly. But parliament has not been utilized to its full potential, and MPs have not been utilized to their full potential. One must remember we first came to Parliament only a couple of days after the election and since then we've all had tremendous difficulties just to settle down and find offices and understand the structures. I come from a lawyer's background, and I had problems understanding what Parliament was all about when I first came here.
You imagine the problems this poses, for many of the first-time parliamentarians who had never been in any parliament before, who have been educated in the politics of the streets. That does not bother me. What does bother me is the fact that one is looking already at another election -- local government elections -- and politicians are inclined to overstate their case when they are campaigning, so they will not be explaining the difficulties to the people, they will keep on raising the expectations as they go into next year's elections and that is a bigger danger than their inability to fully explain the difficulties we are experiencing at the moment and explain the obligations and responsibilities people have to pay their rents and taxes and so forth.
Will local government elections will take place in October?
I think they will take place.
I ask because there is a fairly significant sentiment among regional premiers that they won't be ready. They haven't even begun the administrative work to prepare for them, they haven't begun to compile voters' lists, to demarcate constituencies.
Well, I've been partly involved with others in this game before. That's what people said in 1993 about the election of 1994. I think had we not opted for that sort of pressure cooker approach we would have had great difficulties. How well interim local government structures function within the next six months one will allow us to determine whether the need and the desire for elections are so genuine, as had been the wish and the desire for elections this year, that we will have to push ahead regardless. I would say the first six months of next year, maybe the first quarter of next year will be of paramount importance to determine whether elections can take place or whether they should take place.
Will they take place in a context of regional governments devolving powers to them or will they have set powers that are written in the constitution so that there will be no question of devolution of powers from regional centers.?
By and large they will have their powers mapped out. I'm not really familiar with interactions between the Department of Provincial Government and the Premiers with regard to local government, but I think they will have their powers mapped out in the sense that people will know what they are voting for when they are voting for local government councilors.
Is Mandela the glue that holds this whole thing together?
I think Mandela personifies the spirit of reconciliation and unity, and Mandela is a very, very important role-player. He certainly holds the government of national unity together in the sense that he is the symbol of a new united nation. But the spirit amongst the majority of South Africans goes beyond Mandela. Maybe the nation is not driving Mandela, but certainly Mandela is not driving the nation in the sense that he is a sole voice standing and calling out for tolerance and greater nationhood and nation building and things like that.
If he were to die suddenly would that pose a major crisis for the government? Or and this is speculation -- will you have a situation of where its between Ramaphosa and Mbeki, or has Mbeki sewn the succession up? At this point he's the heir apparent.
Leaving aside the personalities, there is obviously nobody with the stature of Mandela and in that respect he will be difficult if not impossible to replace. But the chemistry that brought us together is a chemistry that goes beyond Mandela. Now it's difficult to predict -- and I'm not facing your question head on -- but I believe that there has to be a political realignment in this country because just as much as the old politics of parliamentary and extra-parliamentary groupings was an unnatural one, albeit very much a real one, I believe that the politics we have at this moment are to a certain extent also unreal. I have said will they will not see the next decade through. People say, why so long or so short for that matter? It's just an arbitrary time frame. Ten years is not a well considered time scale. Nevertheless, during the next decade we will see some realignments, because there are many people who are not together who should be together. And although the issues are not clear who should be where, I am convinced that we have unnatural alignments at the moment.
Last thing: the Truth Commission. How far reaching do you think its powers should be? Who will come under its frame of reference and should people who are found to be implicated in crimes, particularly commissioned by the State, have to stand down from public office?156
Let me interrupt you before you ask the full question. I can always afterwards say I didn't understand your question or I didn't allow you to pose the question completely.
I have a very simple approach to this which is actually in my view quite a sad story. It's sad in the sense that I really do believe that South Africans have not come to grips with the past yet. Because they have not done so they do not completely appreciate the miracle. That's why Libenberg has this difficulty with his loose forwards and the outside and inside investment.
There are many unanswered questions and it is for public opinion to decide whether a man's discretion was a good discretion or a bad discretion. We were waging war against one another, we were killing and maiming one another. It has been said that soldiers without compassion do not win wars. Now all these atrocities from all sides have to be, as far as I'm concerned, have to be understood, and we will simply have to see whose judgment can be relied on and on whose judgment one can depend to build the future. It is as simple as that.
That is not a very popular statement I am making. I have not made this statement as forcefully in public as I have made it here but I have expressed views along these lines. I've written a book which I hope will be published eight to ten days from now.157 which is not a strong, strong story, but there is a paragraph or two on this matter where I simply say that we have to find the answers: who killed some people?
It's a novelty for me to write. Politicians don't write much but I thought, well, I had the opportunity and I had to wrestle with some of the issues and ghosts of the past and I simply just had to get it out of my system and this is what I did.
There is the related question, and that is of Intelligence records which surfaced both in Czechoslovakia and East Germany after the fall of the communist governments in these countries. Everyone was given access to all the personal files the government had kept on that individual; these records names the people who had informed on other people, and very often it was a husband who was spying on his wife, children on their parents, and rather than being a measure of conciliation it became a measure of deeper division.
It depends on how one manages this. I am a great believer in talking, explaining, but you cannot allow these things to have taken place and pass on unnoticed as if they never happened. I certainly don't have a vindictive spirit about this but I have all the reason to believe that I was spied on and it irritates the hell out of me and I haven't gone through anything comparable to what many, many members of the ANC have gone through.
If we want to be this shining democracy at the southern tip of Africa we have to realize we are all caught in this transparency trap right now and we have to deal with it, we have to explain. I think one should not underestimate the spirit of forgiveness, for understanding and the joy and the pleasure of having these new-found relationships with one another. And that is what we have to talk about. There are, of course, the tragic events of the Johan Heynses of this world that are terribly sad,158 but I think the events surrounding Johan Heyns' murder are not the spirit of the South African nation.
What I hear you saying is that if one is to forgive one must know what one is forgiving.
On that somber note, we called it a day.
What struck me after our conversation was the change in Wessels' mood. He seemed more restrained, less of the bubbly optimum that had been characteristic of our previous get-togethers. More preoccupied, too. The past, it was clear weighed heavily on him, and while it was clear that writing his book had been a cathartic experience, it had not been a complete one. He had more to say , but had not found the proper medium. Wrestling with the issues of the ghosts of the past, forgivenness, understanding. A new vocabulary for a new South Africa.
"We were waging war against one another; we were killing and maiming one another." Soldiers without compassion do not win wars. Atrocities on all sides had to exposed, explained, but most of all understood. From his position as deputy chairperson of the Constitutional Assembly, he can afford a certain detachment. No longer hamstrung with the minutiae of day-to-day governance coupled with exhausting and exhaustive negotiations, he can afford to cast a more critical eye. But the eye is jaundiced.
He wants to believe certain things. He uses the word "people" frequently, when he really means blacks, but in a society that has accorded itself the status of being non-racial, it would be improper to apply racial appellations to behavior that are clearly grounded in the racial policies of the past. Perhaps we are seeing the birth of the South African variation on political correctness. When he talks about people having to be willing to sacrifice, to work harder, to whom is he referring? In this sense, the prescriptions for "people" hardly fits the profile of blacks. How can you sacrifice, if you have nothing to sacrifice? How can you work harder, if you have no work?
A new inclusive government should not be confused with a new, inclusive society. One should not "underestimate the extent of the goodwill among whites to share their experience with young black upstarts, who have appeared from nowhere, their focus firmly fixed on using the experience you share, the training you provide, the sooner to have your job, my dear. The fact is that in dangling the enticements of sunset clauses before the NP government, the ANC created for itself a problem that would come back to haunt it.
When it agreed to guarantee whites their jobs in the public sector, the ANC closed the door for increased black representation at senior levels, other than through a policy of attrition, despite what Wessels says -- unless. Unless you increase the number of senior positions and find educated and qualified blacks who can work along their white counterparts, apprentice boys , so to speak. This, of course, inflates the size of the civil service which is in direct contradiction to your election manifesto to reduce the wage and salary component of public expenditure, which accounts for an astronomical per cent of the budget in order to free money for the provision of services.
The government, however, had one other option open to it: create openings in the civil service by offering whites retrenchment packages they couldn't refuse lump sum payments, depending on length of service and position held, plus full pensions. Many of the more entrepreneurial civil servants, some would say many of the best, grasped at the once in a life-time opportunity and happily jumped ship. Some found themselves back in the government's employ shortly thereafter, not as salaried employees but as consultants, since their successors needed effective guidance ig they were to get on top of their jobs. Life is full of ironic twists and turns.
As things stand, with the multiplicity of up to 14 departments in each sphere of governance at the national level to be integrated into single line function departments, bureaucratic sprawl threatens to overwhelm everything in its path. The size of the public service increases. More jobs for the educated disadvantaged means less resources available for services to the disadvantaged less educated and the massive conurbation of the deprived, uneducated, ever-growing masses, who wait, child-like for the great deliverance so cavalierly promised during the elections. Promises for which there was no need.
Did anyone doubt that the election would be little more than a racial headcount. ANC promises of the goodies that would be handed out probably didn't add a single vote to their tally. Had they told their people that rough times were ahead, that the country was verging on bankruptcy And that there would be little more than spare change to hand out, that the apartheid government had emptied the treasury's coffers in order to hang on to power, and that they, the people, would face an uphill battle to redress the situation, but that they could do it, if everyone was prepared to do his or her bit, that austerity was a prerequisite to prosperity, the ANC would have done as well. You didn't have to be a political guru to figure out how people would vote. Blacks turned out in droves because the exercise of the ballot for the first time would allow them to vote for their people; whites turned out in droves because they wanted to vote for their people in the hope of putting a finger in the dike of white domination that might somehow forestall the dike's being washed away under the onslaught of a black tidal wave. It is one thing to promise a chicken in every pot; another if there are no pots.
The more interesting problem is how to make the masses make the leap from thinking in terms of the country being theirs to thinking in terms of it being ours.
We underestimate the power of the impact a continuing pounding of people's mind with barrages of propaganda. In the case of whites, it is easy to dismiss their latent fears about communism, and hence their propensity to microscopically examine every government or statement to look for the vestiges of communist designs. They have been taught that they are a trick lot, that they operate best through subterfuge; hence their continuing demands to know how many cabinet in government. Indeed, matters reached a point where the government said cabinet members were under no obligation to disclose their membership in other parties, that that was their private business, that as members of the ANC they were expected to promote and implement ANC policies, or the policies of the GNU, and not to advance the agenda of parties not represented in parliament. And indeed, it would take some time before whites realized that the country was no longer theirs. A change in government, no matter how radical does not bring with it a change in the disposition of constituencies who opposed it. There is a time-lag, often considerable, before the denial of change transforms itself into acceptance, and finally the recognition that the furthering of their own interests probably lies with co-operating with the new regime , rather disparaging it at every opportunity. Disparaging your opponent's intentions or performance may be psychologically self-gratifying, but it ultimately is self-defeating.
Blacks, too, faced a constant barrage of propaganda; that the government was oppressive, that the way to liberate themselves was to oppose every action, render the government ungovernable, mobilize against the authorities, oppose -- and then oppose again. Opposition to authority became part of the social fabric; a collective disposition to face down official edicts, to connect everything connected with the institutions of the state as being suspect.
The apartheid's government campaign "to win the hearts and minds of the people" (WHAM), was perceived as a cynical opportunistic effort by the government to co-opt the people a counter-revolutionary strategy to "buy" them off with houses, social services, electrification, etc. What the liberation movements could never entertain was the idea that the government had already come to the conclusion that apartheid159 had failed, was trying, in its befuddled way to make faltering steps to remedy some of its more obvious injustices, and was in some way acknowledging the government's obligations to improve the living conditions of blacks. In this sense, the liberation movements had to confront some of its own internal contradictions: on the one hand, it cited the massive deprivation among blacks, crowded into over-crowded townships, without access to basic sanitary facilities, without water and electricity as evidence of the government's indifference to the living conditions blacks had to live under; on the other hand attempts by the government to improve the living conditions of blacks were interpreted as attempts to undermine the liberation movements by removing some of the injustices the liberation movements could exploit.
One by-product of conflict in divided societies is that protagonists are locked into zero-sum mentalities, that the fixation in mind-sets that is often a necessary prerequisite to sustain struggle over the long haul makes them slow to recognize a change in the other's mindset, and that even when such a change is acknowledged, the knee-jerk reaction is to examine it minutely for ulterior motives, for the hidden traps that will lure it into compromises that will benefit the opponent. Moreover, any hint of changes in positions long adhered to and promulgated ad nauseam only reinforce suspicions of latent intentions; but they also require something far more difficult: a re-examination of own position, of dogmas long held sacred, of the raison d'etre of life-long commitments. A chess player, whose opponent invites me to make a move that seems irresistibly to his advantage, will long hesitate, trying to foresee all the possible consequences of the move, trying to get in the mind of his opponent to fathom what would lead him to be willing to sacrifice such an important piece an unaccountable for mistake or a cunning trap -- before taking the proffered piece.
To expect that blacks' behavior authority would change inn the immediate aftermath of their being able to vote, is to ignore the disjunction between action and behavior, between awareness that things have changed and re-action to that change. When things don't change, when the universe around them is as yawningly the same as the day before the election, when the euphoria wears off, the excitement fades, and the grind of daily life remains unchanged, the rhythm of life untouched, behavior doesn't undergo a metamorphous; rather it settles back into familiar patterns, often reinforced by the feeling of having been let down. Thus, when the government, just as distant and imperious as it was before, perhaps peppered at the local level with a few more black faces to give the appearance of legitimacy, when you see white people going about their business, unaffected by what was supposed to be a seismic shift in the order of things, your old behaviors are more likely to be reinforced in the absence of an incentive to change them. Instead, you are provided with a disincentive: pay for services that you had long ceased to pay for on the instructions of the very people who now tell you to cough up or lose the service this is not what it was supposed to be about.
The RDP is a model in every respect: in the design of the framework for social and economic development; for the acknowledgment that an emphasis on redistribution without attaching a concomitant importance to growth would yield negative dividends; for pinpointing the need to attract long term capital inflows as pivotal to sustainable development and indispensable to growth rates that would not only allow for more equitable redistributions and elimination of imbalances but, crucially, to creating employment, for without cutting deeply into the endemic level of unemployment among the masses 40 per cent according to some estimates the miracle would remain the privilege of the few while the many would continue to eke out subsistence levels of living, wondering what the great miracle was all about as they occasionally caught sight of their liberators flashing by in their BMWs, with accouterments of bodyguards and hangers-on bringing up the van. Moreover, the RDP's key premise that all stake-players government, business, trade unions. community groups, NGOs -- would have to work in harmony and have on occasion to put aside their own parochial interests in the interest of the greater good was ground-breaking. Social partnerships, formed on the basis of agreed-upon principles on the way forward for South Africa, were germane to its success.
But more germane are the financial resources available to fund its ambitious programs, the capacity to implement programs, and the commitment of the social partners to carry out their obligations. All three ingredients are missing. Daily, the media carry accounts of more industrial unrest, labor unions make demands, not only excessive in the face of productivity growth, but seemingly inure to the argument that higher labor costs would lead to lay-offs, more capital -intensive investment on the part of business, reducing its dependency on labor, a less than full commitment on the part of business to see beyond the narrow bounds of the bottom-line. Moreover, globalization is beginning to transform the way in which we live, the manner in which business is conducted, the relationships between states. Competitiveness is becoming the password to the new world, and in this regard, South Africa, insulated from the rest if the world, isolated by it for decades, among the most skilled practitioners of protectionism, is woefully unprepared to compete in the new environment.
The resources are not there. Rather than being in a position to use budget deficits to create a public works program or enhance the availability of services, the new orthodoxy calls for tight fiscal policy a deficit to GDP ratio that comes within the boundaries set by the mandarins in the IMF and the World Bank. Nor is the capacity to deliver services available. Capacity, if anything, appears to be spiraling in the wrong direction. Some attribute this to the changing composition of the public service and the unfamiliarity of the government with the way huge bureaucracies work or the difficulties in the way of having them adapt; others point to the lack of experienced personnel as many white civil servants took advantage of attractive retrenchments and retired. Some others pin the greater portion of the blame on the "Old Guard," fighting a rear-guard action, trying their damnedest to make things difficult for the government to prove that whites were right when they said that running a government was something that blacks simply weren't up to scratch for doing, no matter how good their paper credentials looked.
NOTE: Leon Wessels became Deputy Chair of the Constitutional Assembly. For further interviews with him go to "O'Malley Interviews."