This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
13 Dec 1999: Pik Botha in Pretoria
POM I had just put a series of questions to you Mr Botha on the issue of amnesty which you had started to address.
PB Yes. As I said this is a very sensitive issue, perhaps the most important one in the aftermath of what happened in SA since the elections in 1994 and it is an issue that at times almost explodes into heated debates and certainly gives rise to acrimonious debates in virtually all our media and in political circles in this country. I do not know whether your information that Mr Fanie van der Merwe and Dr Niel Barnard and certain ANC leaders or representatives ever drafted what I would call general, blanket, but I would prefer the word general amnesty to all sides. It's the first time that I hear of such a document. I have not seen it ever and I do believe –
POM Well it was torn up. Kobie wouldn't –
PB Yes but then that is merely an allegation. What I do know and it is strange to me that they should have drafted such a document because of my personal involvement in this issue, Mr Cyrus Vance came to this country, we must just check the exact date which will be relatively easy, but he came to SA round about 1991, round about that, as representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations to see to what extent he could not so much reconcile the opposing parties here, we were then still in a process of negotiations, but the negotiations on occasion tended to get out of hand. At one stage the ANC walked out of them –
POM After Boipatong.
PB - and so on and then we got them going again. Then a very difficult issue at the time was security, how to ensure that there would be offices where people could come and complain if they are threatened and that sort of thing.
POM Sorry, so people could come and complain?
PB You know offices, proper offices, not like Police offices, where you would have, say, United Nations offices and other offices where people will feel free and could go unhindered and without fear of being killed by the other side and how could you create a security situation around this because you had UN observers here and their safety was also in danger on occasion. That type of subject together with others Mr Cyrus Vance came to discuss with me soon after his arrival. I was then Foreign Minister of this country. He went to several others, not just me. Naturally he went to Mr Mandela also and to Thabo Mbeki and other leaders in this country. That was his way of doing things. He would first go and find out and listen – what are the pitfalls here? In which respects can I be helpful? That was his style, his manner, not to come and impose or direct but rather to listen and then see whether he could from his experience of the past, he had found himself in very difficult situations in the past. He wrote a book 'Hard Choices' which is a very interesting book. In that book he devotes quite a number, a whole chapter I think, to his negotiations with us on the Namibian issue and how America was on the point of supporting sanctions, all embracing sanctions against SA as a result of the Namibian issue. Eventually we escaped it because of the role that Vance and I then played to avoid it, but that is now a different subject. I'm just giving you the background of my relationship with Mr Cyrus Vance. We got to know each other during the Namibian negotiations which was perhaps one of the most intractable problems ever faced by this country internationally and was eventually resolved only in 1988 during the last term of President Reagan. But in President Carter's days Cyrus Vance was his man, they did their best, the Carter Administration, to try and resolve this issue with personalities like Andrew Young and Don McHendrie, Cyrus Vance and others. We regularly met, we had long difficult discussions, we made headway to some extent and then a thing would happen somehow – cross border raid by SA security forces or a SWAPO raid and we would have to go back to the negotiating table. In the meantime the whole world was clamouring and insisting on SA's withdrawal from the territory of SWA. So we were heading for a dénouement, for a very, very difficult situation internationally. When Reagan came to power Chester Crocker was his Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. The two of us for eight years, eight years, struggled with this issue and only resolved it in December 1988.
So I am just giving you some background now to understand that Mr Cyrus Vance and I had a good relationship, we differed but trusted one another. I had full faith and confidence in Mr Vance's integrity, his intellectual capacity and his way of doing things was the way of a calm, composed intellectual but also a man who could see the practical consequences of recommendations and proposals. We got on well together so when he was despatched here as the Secretary General's Representative on a special mission he, of course, came to see the Foreign Minister who happened to be me at the time and wanted to know from me how do I see the scene ahead of us, what were the pitfalls? That was the kind of thing he was interested in and how could he play a role in reconciling, opposing views or in moving the whole negotiating proposals forward faster and we had a long discussion in my office in the Union Buildings, which I remember quite well because of the importance of that discussion, and the two of us discussed fully the issue of amnesty on that occasion. It was my view then based on similar processes, events elsewhere in the world, particularly Namibia, was then behind me. It had become independent in the meantime in a peaceful manner. I was personally present at the celebrations on its independence in March 1990, I think it was. I was well received there, we gave a big reception in Windhoek that evening and in the case of Namibia I played a direct role in the amnesty issue because I was Foreign Minister and managed the negotiations in the case of Namibia. There we took that Norwegian Professor (principles) -
PB Norgard, and I said let's stick to the Norgard ideas and principles. It was acceptable to all parties in Namibia and Namibia never had except for a few, except for a few hard core cases where it was abundantly clear to any person, not just a legal brain, that the persons concerned could not possibly have committed the deeds they did commit with a political motive or could have been inspired by a political objective which might have clouded their sense of morality, that only a few – I wonder whether those cases amounted to more than you can count on the fingers of your two hands. I think it's less. The result is that in Namibia you never had, after its independence, this long drawn out, painful, I would say, process of prosecuting people or threatening them with prosecution or whatever and the result in my opinion further is that Namibia settled down fast. The opposition was allowed to function as an opposition. It achieved stability very soon, the prices of properties rose and Namibia economically speaking, it is not a country with much natural resources but with what it had it did make headway and is still making headway. Now it was with that experience fresh in my mind that I very strongly suggested to Mr Cyrus Vance, "Yes, you could play a role in many areas", which I pointed out to him but we are now dealing with amnesty. I said, "But try and concentrate on this one because I foresee", I said to him, "That this could become a very thorny issue not only in negotiations". Remember at that stage we had not yet achieved a settlement with the ANC and the other parties and the negotiations were difficult enough and there were quite enough subjects that could derail the negotiations and they did derail the negotiations. So why have another one looming on the horizon if you could avoid it in good time? That was my approach and against that background I explained to him and said to him, "Cy, help us to eliminate at least this one. If the ANC is in favour of it and the PAC and others I am sure on our side we will be and then at least we have removed this one as a potential obstacle impeding progress in the negotiating process."
He agreed with it, he fully agreed with it and then went to see Mr Thabo Mbeki. He either came back to me or phoned me to say, "Yes, there was a positive response on the side of Mr Mbeki but we will have to do it quickly, we must fast track this issue." I then invited Mr Mbeki, I think Mr Vance actually arranged the meeting, to my office in the Union Buildings and he came along with Mr Matthews Phosa, the two of them. We had a meeting in my office from about 6 o'clock in the afternoon until about 10.30/11 o'clock in the evening. We spent at least 3 ½ hours to 4 hours on this issue and ended the meeting that evening with an informal understanding between them and me that they would support the idea.
I then went to Mr de Klerk who was the President of this country and said to him, "Here is a chance to achieve something positive", and I had no doubt that if it could or would become known that the two sides had come to an arrangement or an agreement on this important matter that that by itself psychologically would have had a salutary beneficial effect on the rest of the negotiations. Success breeds success and Mr de Klerk, to my surprise, was not enthusiastic about this idea. His response in short was that, look, Mr Kobie Coetsee deals with this and that I should hand it over to Mr Coetsee and request him to take it further or take it up then with his negotiating partners in the ANC and the other parties. But at that stage it was the ANC and us. I cannot recollect that we involved any other party in this issue. I then reported my conversation with Mr de Klerk to Mr Kobie Coetsee, my colleague, and urged him to move fast on this issue because just as in the case of myself I did not know to what extent Mr Mbeki and Mr Matthews Phosa had the backing and support of the rank and file in the ANC Executive Committee or top hierarchy. But I had no doubt that because Mr Mbeki supported the idea that he would have been able to persuade Mr Mandela. To my dismay, almost shock, Mr Coetsee's response was negative. I did not tape the conversation but the resumé would be, I think a fair resumé would be more or less as follows, "But, Pik, we cannot do this, then people like McBride and that Strydom man who shot a lot of black people here in Pretoria in daylight at the Strydom Square, and similar persons would then have to go free." He said he could not stomach that. He did not think that we would be able to justify that to the public of this country. We did not define 'the public', we did not discuss what the public of SA was then.
I differed from him strongly and I said to him, "But look, yes, if you give general amnesty that is correct, both Mr McBride and Mr Strydom would have to go free. But the price, what you gain overall, is far greater, the advantage of the gain is far greater in terms of cementing relations between us and the ANC. You will give an impetus, a positive impetus to the further negotiations. You will make us and the ANC more amenable to make concessions to one another and in general you would create a psychological atmosphere, more amenable than one where this issue becomes an acrimonious, revengeful subject of discussion, or give rise to feelings of revenge and so on." He said, "No, no, no, I am sorry, I don't think I could support this. What we will have to do is we'll have to think of giving amnesty in stages, in phases. There will have to be definitions, there will have to be categories of deeds committed, crimes committed, or whatever you want to call it, and categories of perpetrators and deeds and this will have to go through a sifting process, legislation or proclamations will have to be drafted for the President to bridge each phase and stage. We must take a very cautious approach to this whole issue, Mr Pik Botha, dear colleague, not plunge into it the way you want to do it and just give general amnesty." I said to him, "But look, Mr de Klerk, the President, did say, you can check it with him, that that I must report this to you and ask you to go into this properly and seriously and hear other views as well." He said no, alright, he will do so. Then I said to him, "But why don't you just start, just have a discussion with Mr Mbeki, invite him for a meeting and let the two of you discuss this very serious problem?" His response to that was, "OK I will see what I can do". That was the response.
About five days to a week after Mr Mbeki and Mr Matthews Phosa came to see me in the Union Buildings I received a call from Mr Mbeki who was then in New York. He phoned me and he said to me, "Look, Pik", we were on a first name relationship in those days and still are, except now of course I refer to him as President and Mr President. He said to me, "Look, I hear nothing from you people. You are not responding and the pressure is increasing in my ranks not even to consider general amnesty and I am afraid I will not be able to carry this idea forward if much more time lapses, is allowed to pass." I again phoned Kobie Coetsee and said to him, "Kobie, Thabo finds himself in a predicament here now, can't you just phone him and invite him? He's returning to SA I think in a few days time." Again Coetsee said he would see what he could do, whatever that phrase means. Today it's clear to me that what the phrase meant for Mr Coetsee was, "No, I'm not interested in the suggestion at all".
These are the facts. The whole matter then petered out. From within the ANC came then an insistence not even to consider general amnesty and looking back it is very difficult for me today to say whether it was a mistake or not a mistake. I leave that to others to judge. The point I want to make to you is you could have combined general amnesty with a process of finding out the truth because on all sides, on both sides, were victims and I can understand that it would be brutally cruel for anyone to suggest that victims who didn't know what happened to their loved ones, fathers, brothers, other relations, friends, children, uncles, cousins, nephews, that they must live for ever or until they die with this nagging, painful wish to know what happened to my brother, my father, my son. It would be cruel to wave that aside and say, no the advantages of general amnesty overwhelm, are more important than individual sentiment and remorse and pain. That's why I say I thought that the two could have been combined. You could have done the one without disallowing the other one. In other words you could have had a process of agreement in principle, general amnesty, except in those few, very hard, brittle, severe cases where a political motive in terms of Norgard's Principles could not really be shown or proved. For instance in my opinion it would have been extremely difficult to justify raping a woman with a political motive. Lust is your motive at that stage, aggressive domination and lust is your motive. It would have been extremely difficult to justify a vast number of criminal acts merely on the basis that you belong to a given political party. All criminals belong or vote for political parties I suppose in some election or another, also in Britain and elsewhere you'll have criminals voting Labour and you'll have criminals voting Tory. That doesn't mean that the fact that they vote for a certain political direction or movement must give them any advantage whatsoever. The same here, I thought give general amnesty irrespective of the party you belong to and then a process in line with that, running side by side with it, is one then where you voluntarily in exchange for the amnesty, comes and gives all the facts of what you did, where you did it and who was involved and who were killed and who suffered. But once a person knows, in my opinion, that at the end of the road there is amnesty already, it's there, you see now you go through the present process, quite a number of amnesties were granted already. I think altogether close to 1000, I'm not sure but close to 1000, to all the various personalities and security forces and ANC members and PAC members, etc. You could have achieved this purpose as well as the other one. In other words you could have satisfied also the desire of the victims for more information and, what was important to me, possible reparation, possible compensation. Yes, you could have done that also and it could have been done already in my opinion if you had a faster process.
POM Now you say amnesty had been given to members of the security forces?
PB Already a number, I say, I said a number given already is round about 1000 now. Now, now, already. When I looked at the numbers it seems to me that about two thirds of all the applications were approved and one third not, more or less, I might be wrong but the numbers you can get very easily from the Committee. Be that as it may that was the way my mind now worked at the time. The security forces, General Magnus Malan and I vividly recall Generals in the Defence Force as well as in the Police and other services and government departments were very unhappy. They were shocked at this turn of events and I think that you will find in general that there is a very firm perception virtually amongst all the members of the security forces that Mr Coetsee was the person who either scuttled this idea or was not interested at all in furthering it at a time when the ANC, or senior members of the ANC were indeed interested in coming to an agreement on this important issue.
POM This issue rose its head again at the time just prior to the signing of the Record of Understanding and there's an account in –
PB It came up, I will have to consult the documentation properly –
POM Let me give you the text.
PB It came up from time to time but I'm now speaking broadly, I can't speak in detail today –
POM I'm just talking, Record of Understanding, Mr Mandela just before signing that –
PB But we never, listen to me, there was never an agreement reached on general amnesty. Forget it. The closest we got to it was when Mr Thabo Mbeki and Matthews Phosa came to see me. After that interim agreements were reached between us and the ANC on, for instance, allowing now ANC members abroad to return to SA without being prosecuted for certain acts or activities. That was Mr Coetsee's concept of categories, phases, stages, etc. That was at the insistence, that's why I ask you to see the representative of the High Commissioner for Refugees. He and I conducted these talks with Mr Coetsee, so there is my witness. You need not take my word for it, you can take the representative of the High Commissioner for Refugees' word for it and he can tell you how difficult it was even to get permission for the High Commissioner for Refugees to establish his office in this country, or for that how difficult it was for me to establish the entry of the UN in this country. I had to take some of these matters three to four times to Cabinet and if the minutes are correct the minutes will reflect it how every time Mr de Klerk in the end said, 'Look, colleague Pik, we can't approve it today but you can come back to the Cabinet if you want to", and then I did go back time and time again.
POM Why would Mr de Klerk release Mandela, unban the ANC and say now we can enter into negotiations, and then start taking steps like the return of the exiles, the ANC, the people who would be involved in negotiations, take steps to delay that whole process? It's one of the conditions of the ANC for any form of negotiation that there had to be –
PB It was a difference of opinion how to do it. Should you allow the High Commissioner for Refugees to do it? Will he take over the whole show and start controlling it? It was issues like that. It's not that simple, as you put it. There was a measure of merit in their argument, I think, that we must maintain some control over this whole process and I naturally said yes. But their fear, they had a fear of the UN which I did not have because I knew the UN and I knew the people involved and I had full confidence in their integrity and I know how they had to report back to the UN where America and Britain and France and a host of other countries play a very important role. You can do nothing in the Security Council without the support of one of the five who has the veto, and so on. I'm afraid my colleagues did not understand that at all and possibly just as my 'Black President' remark in 1986, thought, "Here he is again on one of his funny expeditions and we do not know what the end of this will be. Before long the UN will conduct these elections, bring back all the ANC and rule this country virtually with the ANC until the elections". Things like that must have been, I take it, I'm speculating now. I also asked myself at the time because to take back the same matter three times to the Cabinet, which to me was elementary, to me it was so clear and simple I could not see how you could object. Perhaps the fault on my side was that I did not spend six hours on giving the Cabinet on how the UN works and functions and what role Britain plays in it and America and France and other states and so on and how it is impossible that they could suddenly turn around vis-à-vis their own public who voted them into power, get away with any turn of events that you could not morally or otherwise support.
Be that as it may, you asked me about amnesty. That is the story of amnesty as I know it. Now we then went along and it became a very awful, unpleasant, difficult exercise after that because every time the ANC came back and said, "No, there are still 200 persons in prison", what it did was amnesty then say for smaller offences, then they are not satisfied because too many remain in prison, then the next concession is, all right, say five year sentences. No, no, then there still remain too many with ten year sentences. Do you see what I'm getting at? Then another proclamation to include them and include them and include every time more categories, more categories. It was a confusing process in the end. It hindered, in my opinion, goodwill developing between the ANC and ourselves and it ensured that there would come a time after the elections that there would be a tribunal or a body or an organisation or a commission that would now have to go into this over many years and make recommendations in a difficult process where cross-examination really did not take place of witnesses, seldom if ever, only where legal representatives were present did the state place. But in many instances people testified and their testimony was either accepted or rejected without the normal, proper legal procedure as you would have in a criminal case. Now the Commission could never have handled its task if it had to do it in terms of due process of law, then we would have ended by the year 2020 and that sort of thing. So inherent in the TRC concept was this weakness.
The other weakness which Archbishop Tutu himself pointed out, namely insufficient staff or staff with insufficient legal training and background and experience in this type of work. He himself, not me, stated that publicly when weaknesses were pointed out after the publication of the report and recently a very important report came out by a lady in Johannesburg –
POM Anthea Jeffrey.
PB Yes. Very important. That report received publicity in all the major papers of the world. Of the world. New York Times, Washington Post, London Times, in the German papers, French papers. So it doesn't matter what anybody says, people believe what this lady did, they believed her findings because she does it in a legal way. She proves to you how conclusions were arrived at without any factual basis or merely by speculation or merely because a witness stated that, and so on. I am glad that report came out because that can now act in future, I would hope, as a monitoring device over the TRC report. That must actually become part of the TRC report.
POM When the Record of Understanding was being signed in September 1992 one of the conditions, I'm taking this from Mr de Klerk's autobiography, Mr Mandela demanded the release of Robert McBride and two others and Mr de Klerk says he took it back to his colleagues, he was against it, but they persuaded him that for the greater good of the process that the three should be released. So he went along with their decisions but he was opposed to it because he was a believer in the Norgard Principles and didn't believe that they met the criteria of the Norgard Principles.
PB That illustrates to you rather glowingly or effectively or pertinently the differences between us. I had the opposite opinion. I was persuaded that in terms of the Norgard Principles they would have been released or could have been released and could have been given amnesty, yes.
POM But Mr de Klerk did oppose it and had to be persuaded?
PB Yes, as he says in his book, that is correct. But his book doesn't mention which Cabinet members opposed him and I was one of them most certainly. I said to him, "Look, that's the price you must pay if you want to achieve results. You can't let a whole process of negotiation fail because of your singular tunnel vision, adherence to and your own feelings about a person who exploded a bomb somewhere. We all grieve, we all mourn at the loss of life and what the family of the victims must endure. Yes, nothing precludes you from maintaining or experiencing that grief."
POM Many people have mentioned to me how legalistic Mr de Klerk's mind was. Do you think that hampered him in being able to take the larger view?
PB Yes. Not only in this instance but in other instances before he was the State President in handling his other Cabinet portfolios and in those matters in which he opposed me in the Cabinet, issues concerning Namibia's independence and others and for that matter Mr de Klerk adopted a stringent, narrow, legalistic approach.
POM He was opposed to the negotiations for Namibia?
PB No, no, it's again an over-simplification. There were hundreds of intricate issues in those negotiations. Say, for instance, abandoning what we call the second tier government institutions in Namibia. These were, strictly speaking, ethnically composed and I want them to be abandoned so that Resolution 435 could be applied. He would then say, no, it came into being in terms of this proclamation, there's a certain way to do things, etc., etc.
I asked what would be my benefits and what is it that I would have to sacrifice. What I then did was I tried to put myself in the shoes of my opposing negotiating partner and ask myself the same question: what is it that that person can gain and what is it that that person ought to sacrifice? I found that very often this assisted me greatly in then overcoming the pebbles in the road that can bring the wagon to a standstill. A relatively small pebble can bring a big wagon to a standstill. It is as simple as that.
POM Would that account for, again, two things, I'll just raise them in general context, (i) Mr de Klerk's insistence that all the negotiations had to be done through the existing legal framework of SA and that the interim constitution had to be approved by the then Parliament of SA in accordance with the then constitution of SA, so it was a constitutional settlement arrived at within the parameters of the existing South African constitution. All the legalisms had been obeyed.
PB But that I must say you could not avoid. For instance Namibia's independence, I had to submit a Bill to Parliament to make it legally possible from a legal point of view otherwise you're heading for legal disaster and anarchy. Your courts here, for instance, must apply South African law. Not British law, not other law, South African law. If you don't deal with the independence of Namibia, whether the UN recognised my right to do that or not was of no relevance but what was of relevance was the relations between this country and Namibia and to provide it with a proper legal basis for business transactions, for courts of law to follow in future you had to pass a law. Many people abroad might have reacted to say this is totally irrelevant, it is going to become independent, etc., that is not the point. The point is unless you do it that way then a given person doing something in Namibia after the date of independence, trying to sue somebody here in SA or a court has to handle it, will be in an absolute total vacuum, anarchy, would not know what law must this court now apply. So the same would have applied here even to a greater extent, there was no way that you could move forward without amending very crucial and important South African legal provisions. That had to be done. I'm not referring to that. I'm referring to a legalistic approach in your negotiating process where you're not dealing with laws now or with laws that must be passed by Parliament in order to move ahead. That is the easy part. Once you have achieved agreement then the maker of the law is always more powerful than the law. I know people might not agree with me but the maker of the law is always more powerful than the law for the simple reason that the maker of the law can withdraw the law and make another law and then that is law. That has been the struggle of democracy and democracy has not resolved it because inherent in democracy is that right, a new party can come to power and withdraw all the laws made by its predecessor and pass its own laws. The other principle would be 'but no-one is above the law', but you will not find many people who will say that Parliament is not above the law because Parliament makes the laws, it is a very deep and interesting concept this.
But to return to negotiations, once you decided, as we did towards the end of 1989, that Mr Mandela must be released and other political prisoners, although we have not yet defined the political prisoners, and once you decided to legalise or remove the restrictions on the ANC to operate openly as an organisation in this country and freely, now you have immediately, or rather we have immediately then a difference of opinion, yes ANC but not PAC and not Communist Party. No, they are too rough and in any case in this country we have a law against communism, it's a crime to be a communist in this country and that law has not been repealed. So I can do this.
Now, what is the mindset of those opposed to a general unbanning and removal of restrictions and those that say let's just do it in respect of one party? That same difference in mindsets did play a role also in the negotiations. I had no doubt in my mind when this was discussed that no-one in the world outside there, or no-one inside this country would have accepted that you only unban or legalise or legitimise the ANC. With the ANC in coalition with, in partnership with the PAC and the Communist Party, you would not even have reached the point of negotiations because the ANC would simply have said, "Look, we don't come to the table unless our communist comrades are there". And then you put yourself in the awkward position that now your public has read in the papers that this is your point of view and now you make another step backwards, another concession every time. So that's why I'm trying to take you back to my original statement, I tried first to decide what is my main objective, what is my main benefit, advantage, and what are then the sacrifices or the price I must pay? Once you've done that then you must not allow yourself to be hampered or tripped by the pebbles that may not have been foreseen but they remain pebbles.
POM Were there divisions within the Cabinet, some saying …
PB On this very issue there was a division, on this very issue there was a difference of opinion, yes. On this very issue.
POM Did the seeds that that kind of division continue to mark the way in which –
PB You then have a proper debate and then eventually the President gives a decision which is the decision of the Cabinet saying there are pros and cons but "I believe the decision of the Cabinet is that all of them must be legitimised". Those who then do not agree with that decision must resign or go or they must conform and carry on, but this part of our conversation was actually started by you when you mentioned the legalistic approach of Mr de Klerk and I was merely giving you illustrations of how not only his but a legalistic approach also on the part of some of my colleagues, how we differed.
The same happened in my whole career as Minister of Foreign Affairs. I had the experience of the world out there and the UN and the results of all-embracing economic sanctions on a country's economy and I would often ask myself now what would be the eventual price SA would have to pay for this? Economic run, stagnation, poverty and incapacity then to maintain peaceful conditions in this country. It would then serve as an invitation almost to the ANC and to others to conduct a civil war on a grand, on a big scale, until a military victory was achieved against us. Now you must weigh that against the inevitable world situation that countries like the US and the Security Council and others were not now and will never agree with apartheid, will not now and will never agree to any plan to govern this country in any way unless it's based on universal adult suffrage which inevitably means black rule, the majority of blacks will rule, which in those terms meant that the ANC, I never had any doubt, would represent the majority and would rule and that the leader of that party would be a black man and would become the President and that is why I could say in 1986, "Yes, there will be a black President and I will be prepared to serve under him". For that I was not only reprimanded but nearly fired.
POM Yes you told me that.
PB Simply because the President at that stage, Mr P W Botha, and Mr de Klerk was one of those who came to him to say that steps must be taken against Pik Botha. That explains now the lack of appreciation of the world out there and what the world can do to you and what is expected of you. But more important, you must also not over-estimate your own power and that was one of the major mistakes made in this country, an assumption that we could militarily maintain ourselves for years. Maybe yes in a certain sense by producing enough guns and tanks and armoured vehicles and that sort of thing. Maybe. But not in the long term. Whether you could have done this for another ten years, eight years or even twenty to me was unimportant if I had to weigh the damage, the pain and bloodshed that will … of not resolving the issue but maintaining a precarious position, what the price would be, then the price is simply too high. It is simply too high and it's extremely difficult even to the present day.
Look at Kosovo as an example. No-one can explain to me how Milosevic could have done what he did. I have a lot of Yugoslav friends, Serbs, in SA who are close to me. They at first disliked him, never supported him. Then when NATO started to bomb them they started to feel a measure of sympathy for Milosevic. It's interesting how this works. But then again when they eventually saw the price that must now be paid by their families back home they turned again against Milosevic.
POM You've put your finger on something very important for the purposes of what I'm doing and that is that many people, among them Niel Barnard, have said to me that de Klerk was a brilliant tactician but a very poor strategist. I want to put the question to you, given what you've just said, had de Klerk worked out in his own mind that once I release Mandela and unban the ANC and the SACP, then A leads to B, there will be negotiations, and B will lead to C which will be there will be elections, and C will lead to D which will be there is going to be a majority of black people voting for a black President and that inevitably it will mean at the end of the day we're going to have black majority rule, now I understand that. Now, since I understand that I must devise a strategy to see what's the best deal I can do given this kind of inevitable outcome. What can I do within that to gain concessions, perhaps get some power, a form of power sharing or whatever, but there's an inevitability about this process. If I release Mandela that's the inevitable. Did he ever work that out for himself? Did he ever acknowledge that for himself? Did he ever know the inevitability of his own decisions but that if he went before Cabinet and said, "Listen chaps I'm releasing Mandela and let's all be clear about it, at the end of the road that means majority rule, black majority rule", that his colleagues would have said, 'Goodbye Mr de Klerk, we're electing a new leader of the party".
PB I must honestly tell you I can't answer that question because I don't know and it will be very interesting –
POM But you were one of the most senior people.
PB But Mr de Klerk did not reveal the way his mind works to us. Very few people ever reveal, you do not even reveal the way your mind works to me or to other people. You often in your life come to conclusions and decisions, as Frank Sinatra said, "your way" and most people are hesitant to explain exactly what are the factors that induce them to come to a certain decision or conclusion in life. So I think that type of question must be put to him in the first instance. I can only surmise, I can only speculate, I can only by way of example of decisions and activities come to conclusions which conclusions might be negated by the real facts or the truth. So with that precaution and cautionary remark I would say that I personally believe that Mr de Klerk hoped that he somehow could have achieved a power-sharing model.
POM Almost along the lines, not quite, as they have in Northern Ireland today – entrenched power-sharing where the proportion -
PB At least when the negotiations commenced that must have been uppermost not only in his mind but the possibility must have been in the minds of quite a number of members of the Cabinet. It wasn't in my mind. I made my mind clear already in 1986, some five years before the negotiations started so I need not try and call in witnesses. It's there.
POM To go back to question of strategy, was there a strategy in place?
PB Yes. That was the problem, there were too many, we had too many bush retreats, bosberade, meetings where we would meet for two to three days, the whole Cabinet and then fly in experts from across this country, academics, and from local government, municipal government, provincial government, throughout the whole I can say subject of government, local, provincial, regional or central, and how could this be achieved?
POM Were they all South African or did you bring in - ?
PB How can you have wards where the wards would have the right to have their own committee administering them and how do they connect up then with other wards in the municipal situation and eventually in a province? Could you perhaps have had regents in a province? The struggle was all the time with this lingering hope, this sword of Damocles having over our heads, how to avoid complete, universal adult suffrage and the inevitable results that would flow from that, how to avoid it, to make concessions yes, to make substantial concessions yes, but in the end to try and save a form of power-sharing. The problem with this approach is it never succeeds if you do not have on your side a permanent, reliable, credible power base that can persuade your opposing party that unless he gives in or makes that concession he will be worse off. We never had that power base. The military and other base was powerful but it was not to be a permanent one. As I pointed out to you it was vulnerable to the economic damages that could have been caused to this country to the point where the price would have been far larger eventually then to go for the inevitable immediately while you still have power but then use that interim power to exact the maximum benefits and advantages. You must know where is the line of division, where is the brink. You must know how far you can go there and not push it too far.
I personally believe, not believe, I've heard this from prominent ANC members that they thought we were a pushover. I believe that all these months and months of committees, of work – you know what is interesting and I predicted it at the time, no-one, but no-one is really interested in looking through those documents that were submitted at that time from 1990 to 1994. No-one, it's boring. Various attempts to be a small United Nations in being here, why? In the end, my friend, you are only so strong as you are. If you think you are stronger you are going to lose. History has shown it in all war and conflicts. That is why to me once you have accepted, listen to this, once you have accepted the inevitable result of black majority rule the only issues that remain and are of importance – how can you persuade those who want black majority rule to give you in exchange for your willingness to concede that, the maximum benefits. I'm putting it bluntly but with all respect that's what it is.
POM Mac Maharaj said something to me in a similar vein, I'd like to see whether you would agree with his assessment or not. He said the difference between us and the ANC was that the ANC in all its statements and whatever was thinking of the country as a whole whilst the NP was thinking of trying to protect as best as possible it's own sectional interests and wasn't reaching out to the whole country. It wasn't thinking of what's best for the country, it was thinking of what's best for the NP.
PB For the whites.
PB I can agree with that, yes.
POM He says that was always the fundamental, that was your strategic fundamental mistake.
PB I cannot argue with that point of view.
POM Just leading on from that, I may have asked you this before some years ago but just may with the years you've a better perspective. It would seem to me obvious that when Mr de Klerk began negotiations that he would have drawn on those people in his Cabinet and government who had gone through the experience of intense hard negotiations. You had done that, you had a team of people built up who had gone through that. He appears to have side-lined you all, picked a team of Ministers who had never engaged in or had no demonstrated capacity in negotiations and put them on the front line. It doesn't make sense to me.
PB It is very difficult for me to respond to your point of departure, to the premise stated by you simply because this very same question is being put to me personally very often by my own friends inside this country with the implication that he should have asked me and because of that implication any remarks that I might make on this subject would at least imply that I might think that I could have done it better.
POM Many people have said that to me.
PB I might have done it better. So the result is that I can only reply by saying that I thought that the whole process could have been conducted in a different way, that it could have been completed much faster and the one thing that I naturally and definitely miss, the whole world wanted us to succeed at that time. Who knew it better than the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The European Union, for that matter at that stage the Soviet Union even when it became clear a little later that that big giant was disintegrating, the whole of Africa wanted us to succeed. I had contact with a substantial number of important African leaders and had built up in a confidential way good personal relations with them. They wanted us to succeed. The point I want to emphasise is that we did not make sufficient use, I think we made virtually no use of this international desire to remove not only apartheid but to see in SA a new structure which would come about peacefully and would absolve then the UN of one third of its agenda items immediately, remove one of the world's major headaches or problems immediately. We did not make sufficient use of the desire of the world for us to succeed.
What do I mean in just more ordinary terms? I remain convinced that if we had at that time, and even before negotiations started, if we had secretly gone to the leaders of about eight or nine countries, I won't mention them but you can imagine who they would have been, and tell them secretly, "Look, we're going to do this. I will realise you have Ambassadors in our country, you know what is the situation. You know we have enough power to maintain ourselves for a certain length of time but the price, I believe, that we will have to pay for that is too high. We now come to you to say to you we will do it but could we have a meeting with you and six, seven, eight others so we can discuss time scales, the extent of the change, the possible results and the effects of such a major, monumental transformation. How can you make it easier for us to persuade the whites to accept this so that we do not lose power in the meanwhile and you are saddled even with the government further to the right and a certain civil war then where you might be forced eventually to intervene militarily which your own public, as you know, does not like very much at all."
That acumen, that knowledge, that experience of how not to fool or play with or trick the world but to go to them in clear terms, in definite terms, not long drawn out stuff, not legalistic stuff that we will first try this and then that. No, no, it won't work, they have had enough of us, I knew it. They were not going to buy power-sharing, forget it, forget it. You go to them, take the plunge into the cold water and say, "Right", I'm convinced that we would have received the sympathy, the assistance and the support that I at that time believe we could have received which would have changed your bargaining situation to start with. It would have been a different bargaining situation.
The way Mr de Klerk did it was not confiding in the leaders of certain important countries but rather adopting a legalistic approach, step by step approach, a phased approach in stages to try and take the whites with him. We lost Potchefstroom to the party of Dr Treurnicht and then a decision was taken to hold a white referendum. We have been accused subsequently of not having stuck to what we said in the referendum, namely power-sharing. We said power-sharing. We never spelt it out to the whites what would have been the inevitable result.
POM As I recall, and correct me, because I was here at the time, one of the posters that one would see was "Say no to majority rule, vote National Party".
PB No, no, that's not true. I can assure you that's not our posters. At the very best we left it as an issue which was doubtful and various individual Ministers interpreted the policy at that stage in a different way and tried to adapt to the audience of the night. The point I want to make is, if you could have gone to the ANC, to its leaders, actually only one, close the door and say, "Look, we've been fighting, if the fighting is to continue we will both be losers. You will inherit a devastated, scourged country with no economic prospects whatsoever. And it would take eventually years and years to rebuild and you would not have the means to rebuild it. Forget it, the world doesn't react that way. The world is not so charitable as it pretends to be in the passages of the UN. The hard reality, go and check it historically speaking is once the independence flag flies the promises of assistance evaporate." That is the reality which I was acquainted with since the days of Rhodesia and others. And then say to them, "You want to govern this country, that's your main objective, you want to have the power, you want an election in which you will beat us because you will get more votes. Democratically speaking the whole world will support that. You will be in power, we would have lost power, and you know as well as we do that in an historic, dramatic moment as we now both face that we have an electorate, a white one, and we now suggest to you that we enter into a process of what I would have preferred to call 'heads of agreement', no detail, no detail on wards and municipalities and provinces and specific powers. No, no, no. Heads of agreement. We stand ready and are prepared to do A, B, C, D, concede power, agree to universal adult suffrage, withdraw all the laws in the interim that you wish us to withdraw, sure, receive all your exiles, sure, under supervision of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees where you and us will both be represented. But at the same time we want to say to you that it is not unreasonable that we stand for the following principles, economic, cultural and otherwise. We want that entrenched. You govern but we have certain minority rights which are acceptable in most countries of the world, supported by most countries of the world, and you do this what I now do after you have done the consultations that I have told you with the West, with the major powers, not only the West, to say 'Can I rely on your backing, will you back me, will you be prepared to create under the auspices of the G7, as they were known then, or the European Union, a tribunal where even individual South Africans irrespective of his race or colour can take a violation of a basic right for adjudication and decision?'"
Maybe I was too much of a Foreign Minister, I don't know, but I thought you could have shortened this whole long drawn-out academic – CODESA was an academic excise not a negotiating process. It was an academic exercise providing emotional outlet over a period of about 3½ - 4 years. You could have short-circuited it, this whole process.
POM Would it also have been true in your estimate that after Mr Mandela was released that the sooner there was an election that the better the NP would have done –
POM - rather than opposite. That the longer the process dragged out –
PB For sure, for the simple reason that a fait accompli is a fait accompli and your white electorate in my opinion, and I think I know a little bit of the white electorate and what they stand for and stood for and what they would have supported and what they would not have supported. I found that in my experience that if I presented a white audience, and I addressed major audiences in this country, I presented them with the hard facts, almost the cruel facts, first shock them, that you then went home, that you then could persuade them. It was when you tried to hide something, when you tried to indicate change but without spelling out the inevitable result of the change that you very often picked up severe trouble. You can check this throughout my political history, I think you will find confirmation of what I've just said. If the electorate were told in blunt terms that there's going to be a black government which will rule this country, the most we can promise you is tough negotiations in an attempt to ensure as much as possible, not white privilege or laws protecting you any longer, but those principles which in my opinion also will be needed by a prosperous country to advance economic principles, private property rights, acceptance of an educational system where the parents and the community, not the race and the language groups, would have the say, freedom of association, religion, I have very little doubt that if we did it that way that we could have gained very, very large numbers of white support for that clear, shocking but true position. Yes.
POM Do you think that that is the approach that Mr de Klerk should have taken in the referendum?
POM Saying, "Listen, you can vote for the Conservative Party but – "
PB No, I am telling you that is the approach that I would have taken. He thought differently but that's the approach that I would have taken on the basis of my experience and knowledge of world affairs, of African affairs and of the tremendous challenges faced by countries which do undergo a monumental transformation, which do undergo a substantial transformation. Unless you then have a relatively strong economic basis to support the major transformation, the transformation itself can sink. This is today still a danger to the present government, it's the growth rate, job provision. They are not out of that danger, they are not out of it. Mr Mbeki has a tremendous task and challenge before him. If we had taken this independence step –
PB But we would have been much further along the way of economic advancement with the observable better results also for the black community, saying the change was good for all of us.
POM And the NP would have done better, it would have come out in the –
PB No, I still maintain the NP should have disbanded. It should have connected up or should have been one of the major role players in bringing about a completely new, a completely new alternative –
POM New alternative?
PB Political movement or party which black South Africans could feel that they could join out of inner conviction because of the principles, economic and other principles of this party, associate without the possible accusation of joining with the oppressors of the past. A programme was made on this lawn that you see here with Mr Dali Tambo who has a programme called People of the South. If you can see it one day, see it, and you will hear my views there, it's addressed to the whole country, namely that to have expected black people in any significant numbers to join or vote for the NP simply means that people who think that way must have been out of touch with reality to such an extent that one must of necessity doubt their ability to be judicious or judge any matter on a sound basis. It does not take a motor mechanic to tell you that the tyres of a car, that the wheels are flat, that the engine doesn't function any more, the gear box is finished, packed up. You will know it even if you are not a mechanic and then you get out of that car and get another one.
POM This is particularly, given the Afrikaner experience, in the Boer War, this would be like saying to an Afrikaner after the Boer War, let's turn around and vote for the British in large numbers. It's just what you said, it's like –
PB We went through it, General Smuts, but never to this extent. What General Smuts did was he had an holistic view of life and the world, he saw us as just a small part of a much larger world and he saw clearly that we could not indefinitely remain an agricultural producing country. He had a good idea that our mineral resources and others could assist us even in those days with the mines that we already had. He said to himself, General Smuts, "Look, however much I might dislike the British and what they did here in this country", and he made that abundantly clear, "In the long term in the interests of my own people I had better get out of them the maximum advantage that I can and that is economic advantage always. And the only way to do so is to forget the past, work with them and support them." That is of course if you have the necessary vision of knowing how the world might develop in ten to fifteen years, and Smuts had that. Smuts had never had any doubt that the Germans could not win the First World War and could not win the Second World War. He was correct in his assessment of how those conflicts would develop and then decided to be on the right side. That does not mean that he also did not have deep moral convictions about the wrongs done by the Germans, particularly before the Second World War. He had, of course, but he made the right choice.
POM I want to go back a bit again, this is for two verification purposes, and this is the account that ex-President de Klerk gives in his autobiography about a meeting on the eve of the opening of CODESA 1, that would have been about 14th December 1991 when you had a policy group composed of Cabinet Ministers and negotiators. He was very upset at what he considered to be ANC violations of the Pretoria Minute and the D F Malan Agreement and was even considering not attending the opening session of CODESA but that the decision of the group with which he agreed was that he would attend the meeting but that he would make a very hard hitting speech bringing attention to the ANC's failures to live up to its commitments under both of those Minutes and that Kobie Coetsee was despatched to convey the message to Mandela that he would be making this kind of speech so Mandela should expect it. Coetsee came back to the meeting and said he hadn't talked to Mandela but he had talked to Mbeki and Mbeki understood the situation and assured him that Mandela would be made aware of it. It was on that basis that de Klerk made his hard hitting speech and was totally taken aback by Mandela's response since he assumed that Mandela knew that that was the kind of speech that he was going to make. Do you have a recollection of that meeting?
PB Of the events yes, fairly well. It became obvious to me that there was this misunderstanding, a genuine misunderstanding.
POM That was afterwards now but –
PB No, there at this unpleasant, heated exchanges before the whole world and everyone – I was as a matter of fact requested to go to the podium to make a brief statement to try and lower tensions, which I did, it must be on record somewhere. It was very clear to me, it is true what you say, I did not know whether it was Kobie, but a member of the Cabinet or a General was asked to convey to the leader of the ANC, Mr Mandela, that this was going to happen. I do not believe that the verbatim text of what Mr de Klerk was going to say was delivered, rather the gist of what he intended to say. That was the first mistake. In matters of this nature you send it verbatim to your opponent or to the other party and say this is what I am going to say. That gives the other party at least a chance before a public outburst occurs to phone or come back and say, look I've read it, I don't like at all and I trust that in these circumstances you will understand that I will have no option but to rise and insist on addressing the audience to put my side of the case. If you in these circumstances still feel that it is necessary to handle this matter in this way then go ahead but I'm going ahead too. If on the other hand you feel that we can resolve this problem in a different way without upsetting the whole country and the whole world then I am prepared to meet with you. That again would have been the correct way of doing things. That's what I used to do in all my negotiations whether they were Cubans or whoever and in most cases it worked because you did not make a fool of the other party and you did not go public and put the other party in a position where that party then had no alternative but to react. It was again one of those, what I call, avoidable, it was an avoidable incident. It could have been handled differently, yes. Who defaulted I can't tell you, I can't even tell you whether the correct message was conveyed to the interlocutors, whether that person informed Mr Mandela. Mr Mandela assured me personally, because later that evening there was a reception which was not attended by Mr de Klerk or if he attended it he must have left at a very, very early stage, but Mr Mandela stayed on and I walked up to him, I remember it very well, and I said to him, "Look, this thing must be mended and we must mend it as fast as possible. I think you and Mr de Klerk misunderstood each other and all both of you need to say to each other is, sorry there was a misunderstanding but we must carry on. I am warning you the whole press, the whole world now knows about it, everyone is asking questions and before more people make more statements let us mend this." He accepted my advice.
POM But you didn't ask him whether or not he had ever received the message?
PB I did. He said, no he didn't. He said he was totally unaware of it. He said the attack came as, his words to me were, "Pik, as the biggest shock and surprise of my life, I couldn't believe it." He said, "Here I come to this meeting in good faith, I was the first speaker", which is true, "I delivered what I considered to be a moderate statement and speech and here comes your leader and the only thing he does is attack me and attack me and tear strips out of me in public, in front of the whole world." I said, "But Mr Mandela", I called him Mr President then because he was President of the ANC, "I can give you an assurance, that I can give you, that Mr de Klerk did take steps, did instruct a colleague or a person to ensure that you received the message in good time." His reaction was, "I never received it".
POM What I'm trying to verify is that Kobie says that it was Roelf Meyer who was sent out of the room to deliver the message.
PB I do not know who it was. I remember the discussion.
POM De Klerk says it was –
PB At the decision. I had severe doubts about the wisdom of using that occasion to do that and the compromise was – all right do it then but make sure that he knows beforehand because it's simply not done without the decency of giving that person before knowledge.
POM What accounts for, in your view, the lack of any kind of bonding between Mandela and de Klerk whereas Mandela appears to harbour some kind of peculiar, I won't call it affection, but affinity with P W Botha?
PB First of all there might be a number of factors. I mention them not necessarily in order of importance - age, it is a fact that age plays a role in relations of that nature. There is no question about it. Secondly, what is commonly known as chemistry. I am still waiting for experts to explain to me why is it that between two persons relations can be developed between them pretty easily because of the certain affinity … and understanding for each other's viewpoints, and then you can get one of those same persons vis-à-vis another one where the chances of getting along are better and yet because of this unknown inexplicable thing called chemistry things just don't work, they just don't work, and something comes into the minds of both that rejects both and affects then their way of talking to each other, affects their willingness to make concessions and affects your whole process of cementing relations and between the two the chemistry never worked. There's not the slightest doubt in my mind while between P W Botha and Mr Mandela – Mr Mandela once phoned me from George, the town of George which is P W Botha's home base, that's where he lives, that was his political constituency for virtually all his life, and here I get a call out of the blue, don't I have P W Botha's telephone number. And I said, "Hang on Mr President, I'll try and find it for you", I found it and I gave it to him. I was curious and I said, "Are you going to phone him, Mr President?" He said, "Yes, I am now in George (that's his home town) and in African culture it is required that if you are in the territory of another Chief, leader, even if you don't see him you must talk to him." And there is that element also because that is now – my first two points are based on assumptions, the last one is based on fact.
POM Well the fact one is very interesting and I will put it in this context. In his autobiography Mr Mandela says that while he had been in prison he had kept up a close relationship with Chief Buthelezi, they corresponded and when he was released from prison in the first couple of days after he was released he called on Buthelezi to thank him for his support for his release, for not negotiating with the government until the exiles were returned and he offered to go visit him and the King. The offer was taken up. He then goes to Lusaka for his first visit to Lusaka and meets with the ANC in Lusaka and puts forward the idea that he's going to meet with Buthelezi and it's completely axed, it's voted down. So he rings Buthelezi back and says, "I'm sorry but my colleagues in Lusaka won't hear of it". Then one moves a little bit to February the following year where an ANC delegation and IFP delegation meet in Durban and it's agreed that joint rallies which would be attended by both Mandela and Buthelezi would be useful and the first is scheduled for Kings Park in Durban. Then Harry Gwala enters and says, "Over my dead body" is he going to appear on the same platform at Buthelezi. So he doesn't, so Buthelezi shows up and no Mandela shows up. Oh yes, the second part of it was he rang the King and said my colleagues have said that I can meet with you but not alone and we are not to meet in Ulundi where you want to meet but we are to meet in Nongoma, your palace. But the King said, "I invited you, I am the King, and I invited you to meet with me in Ulundi so you should come to Ulundi". So the King kind of hung up and felt insulted. A couple of things struck me afterwards, (i) just your remark about what he said about visiting or telephoning P W Botha, (ii) while he was in prison he maintained his position as a royal counsellor to the King of the Tembu, (iii) the person puts tremendous emphasis on this kind of ritual dignity, expression of dignity and respect. He must have known that he was insulting the King. Given his knowledge of Buthelezi and how temperamental he is he must have known that Buthelezi would see this as one more –
PB No, no, you need not argue this much longer. There was at that time severe concern about Mr Mandela's safety, personal safety, his personal security and safety and he certainly had advisors and certainly even I think some of the SA Policemen warned him on more than one occasion that there were elements that would wish to assassinate him. This is not farfetched, the whole turmoil that we used to have, still have in Natal to this day. I won't attach too much importance to that particular event.
POM I suppose my question would be, do you think that had it been possible for Buthelezi and Mandela to meet soon after he came out of prison and to make joint appearances telling people the war between the IFP and the ANC was over, that it would have had any impact?
PB No. Neither of them at that stage really could change certain attitudes amongst their followers. But Mr Mandela did make a very important statement at that time on a visit to Natal by saying publicly, "Throw your spears into the sea", which is indicative of his frame of mind and opinion. The trouble there between the two factions were too deeply rooted and subsequent events proved it, makes it clear. There were warlords and there was a war. It's still not over despite how many efforts of how many leaders.
POM Do you think (i) that the manner in which this matter was dealt with by the TRC, the whole issue of KZN which was really not dealt with at all, but that the conventional spin that's put on it is that you had this quarrel between the IFP and the ANC and the security forces moved in to help the IFP and stoked the flames and manipulated the whole conflict, is just a crock? They may have stoked the same –
PB I really do not believe that the security forces at command level, at executive level, would ever have wished to stoke any fires. That's not true, simply not true. Certainly not General Malan or the Chief of Police or people like that. Whether their underlings without their knowledge had their own agendas that's a different matter. I cannot say that that might not have been the case but basically, yes it is true and evidence in court cases later brought to light that the IFP did receive training, assistance, etc. The ANC must have been aware of this. So you had an atmosphere of distrust.
POM But there's a difference between the security forces supplying them with arms or even training them and then being the cause of the conflict.
PB No, no, it's deep-rooted, it's deep-rooted. I don't want to comment on this too much but you go and ask some ethnologist to explain to you the whole history of Xhosa/Zulu relations. It is not as simple as it seems.
POM But this would have been Zulu/Zulu.
PB Well ANC Zulus, you have also non-ANC Zulus who remember things from the past and who want to take it out on their brothers because their brothers are ANC. They regard them as traitors of the Zulu cause, the whole concept of the Zulu people and monarchy and nation.
POM I suppose my question has been dealt with simplistically.
PB That's too simplistic. This is much deeper. It is much deeper, there was an incident at a coal mine here in the eastern part of this country where Zulus and Xhosas have been working for 30 – 40 years together on the same mine, with friction now and then but never outrageous or significant, then on a given night, a certain night, the Zulu workers there killed all the Xhosa workers, all of them, in the most gruesome manner, most gruesome manner. The papers were full of it. I had to mediate because Transkei fell under Foreign Affairs and I had to mediate between the Transkei leaders, Bantu Holomisa was then Transkei military leader, and the Zulu. The Zulus – I think Buthelezi was there and/or the King but very, very top Zulu delegation and the Transkei delegation because the Xhosas were killed there.
POM What year would this have been?
PB 1992/93 thereabouts. It was a very sad and tragic event because the evidence that was led at that meeting by the Zulus in front of the Transkei leaders was to the effect that the Xhosas there said that after the election the Zulu King would become the tea boy, the ANC would make him the tea boy, the servant who makes tea, and Buthelezi would be appointed gardener. This was just too much – it was a gruesome affair, they killed those Xhosas in a gruesome manner.
POM You've got then the factor of the Zulu culture and its militancy, on the one hand it's warrior –
PB Yes, no it's historical, it's an historic fact that's what it is. It's not gossip or speculation, it's an historic fact. But because Luthuli was President of the ANC and he was a Zulu himself many Zulus of course also belonged to the ANC, no question about it. That makes the role of the King very difficult, the King told me himself, "But look, I can't take sides really because my followers, my people, can belong to whatever political party they want to. They are my people, I am their King. I am the King of all the Zulus, of the ANC Zulus and the Inkatha Zulus. I can't really afford to choose, I can't let the monarchy be part of this struggle." I think you will find that the more traditional Zulus and older people will tend to be IFP supporters whereas the younger ones would probably tend to be ANC supporters. It presents a difficult situation which requires sensitive handling.
POM Is this one of the reasons, do you think, why the ANC find it convenient to keep the IFP in the government?
PB Certainly, certainly, not only that, the same would apply. Jacob Zuma is now Deputy President and he's a very prominent Zulu, respected man. I know him quite well, also personally I have a great respect for him. We are friends. To try and make peace should never be something to be ashamed of and if you can advance the cause of a peaceful development by appointments then there is nothing wrong with it, nothing whatsoever.
POM Did it surprise you when Buthelezi turned down the Deputy Presidency when it came with the condition that there be an ANC Premier in KZN?
PB I don't know what the facts are there. He denied some of it, publicly.
POM Well he said to me that he was offered it. He said it on tape three weeks ago.
PB Well if he said it I must accept it. Then I can say to you, no, it would not have surprised me at all. He would have incurred more damage for himself if he did.
POM Will the IFP survive Buthelezi or are the two almost indistinguishable?
PB You know that's a very difficult question because it's too speculative. I would be hesitant to speculate on that. I personally believe that it is not correct to say that Buthelezi can hold them all together. That's an oversimplification.
POM The IFP?
POM Because there's a modern faction there and a traditionalist factor. Ben Ngubane wouldn't be as ….
PB It's not just him. He symbolises a faction, a sentiment but he's simply not enforcing his will. I have attended meetings and I have had discussions with Buthelezi on many subjects where he bent over backwards to ask … that one and that one and that one, which was freely given. He might in respect of certain crucial matters like the status of the King, the monarchy, the importance of the Zulu nation as such, but Jacob Zuma will also agree with that and say that is the dividing line to be like that. Buthelezi is basically a Zulu. He is proud of the fact that he is a Zulu. His family have provided the Prime Ministers to the Zulu Kings for centuries, or advisers, whatever you call them, but basically it would have been the role more or less of a Prime Minister to a monarch. It is an important, proud family of the Zulu people. I have not experienced Buthelezi as a dictator type of person. He has a strong will, yes, disciplined and he wants people to react responsibly, a disciplined man, but I am doubtful that –
POM Do you think the ANC demonised him?
PB To some extent for some time, but not Mr Mandela. Let's face it they regarded him as the man who was almost a puppet of the white regime, many of them, rank and file. They were fighting these whites and he was talking with them.
POM But he says, "Not only was I saying that I wouldn't negotiate", or was it Roelf Meyer who said "I had a committee of obstacles that had to be overcome before he would talk to the government", and that was the release of Mandela. At one time, he said, the government even threw in what would be white KZN and said you can have Durban, if you take independence you can have Durban, we'll give you the whole of what's now KZN, the province, and he still wouldn't take it.
POM So in a way he stood his ground and stuck to his principles.
PB That's why I say he is a principled man. He made it quite clear that he wouldn't talk to PW Botha although even at that time I had an excellent relationship with him. We spoke to each other quite regularly. I sent overseas visitors to him, important visitors for him to see and impress and you must not forget he had, and still has, a good reputation abroad, in Britain, in Europe, in virtually all the country he is highly regarded, no question about it.
POM Before Mandela was released he was more …
PB Before Mandela was released he was highly regarded.
POM He was the most visible black leader who was calling for Mandela's release.
PB Exactly. He was a moderate in the eyes of Britain and all the others. They thought this was a reasonable man advocating reasonable economic policies coinciding with that of most of the European countries and Britain and making responsible public statements, but firm in his opposition to apartheid and would not assist in any way whatsoever with the independence of Natal or any part of Natal, that sort of thing. Yes, he was highly regarded and still is.
POM I have, if you have the time, three last things, all matters which you were involved in so easier the facts, no speculation. As Chief Buthelezi would say, "I don't doodle", when he's asked to speculate he always uses that word, "I don't doodle". Where he got that word from I don't know but that's his way.
PB What does doodle mean?
POM I don't know, but if I say 'if' he says "I don't doodle'.
PB He's never used it in my presence.
POM My transcripts are littered with the word 'doodle'.
PB I have an Irish friend who died recently, you might know him, in Cape Town, we served together as young diplomats in Stockholm, Sweden, where we became great friends, and Mike used to use this word. That's where I learned the word, it was from Mike Malone and to Mike it meant only one thing and that was something a man does to a woman. But I am aware of another meaning of the word as well, let's see, how the Americans know it.
POM Yankee Doodle Dandy?
PB Let's see, scribble absentmindedly.
POM What's this, a thesaurus that you have there?
PB The second one is 'picture, etc., drawn aimlessly'. Doodlebug. It's another name for you won, whatever that is.
POM What kind of thing is that? Just bang in the word and –
PB Diviner's rod. Can you believe that? I think that's what he means, it's that first meaning. He doesn't draw maps aimlessly, he doesn't act haphazardly.
POM The first thing is the fall of Mangope. I'll present it in thesis form so you can modify, accept, reject the thesis. General Viljoen said that he had had enough commandos in place and disciplined enough that he would have come to Mangope's aid and in fact was at the airport in Mafikeng but he had stipulated one condition that there was to be no involvement of the AWB whom he just regarded as an undisciplined, drunken crowd. When he got to Mmabatho he heard that the AWB was there and that they were marauding and shooting and he immediately said, "I'm getting out of here, I'm not getting involved at all" and he withdrew. But he said before he took the decision to go the political route that he had enough former disciplined commandos in place that they could have –
POM General Viljoen.
PB No, it's not true, it's not true. It's a delusion he suffers from. The SA Defence Force was there, sent in by us, the government of the day, with the approval of the ANC and that was the only force in my opinion that had anything to do there, if necessary. Viljoen should not have been there at all. I'm not even talking about the AWB. He, Viljoen, should not have been there at all. He was a former Chief of the Defence Force, how would he have felt if on occasion a private civilian army starts moving into a territory which he as the official head of the Defence Force is supposed to manage? It was from the beginning the wrong decision on his part and he must not make excuses, it was the wrong decision. There is nothing more to say about it. The whole place was falling apart, looting was done not just by the AWB but just about by everybody. Mangope's government departments were not functioning, he had no more support from anyone. His own, so-called Defence Force, were not behind him any more neither were his Police and he left for that private place of his which looks like a town some 30 kms flight by helicopter from his capital, because I went there that evening.
POM You were there with General Meiring and Mac Maharaj, and Fanie.
PB I conveyed to President Mangope his dismissal which was in effect unconstitutional of me to do except in terms of international law. It amounted virtually to an invasion. I'm telling the leader who in terms of my law was still the leader and legally elected head of state of that country that, sorry, you are no more in power, your whole country is going up in turmoil, it affects my country and the damage that I can suffer would be too great. We therefore have the unpleasant and painful duty to say to you that you are no longer President.
POM And your virtually put him under house arrest.
PB No, no, it's not true, it's not true. He was given protection, that's all. He could travel and go where he wanted to but he was given personal bodyguards who we could trust. We could not at that critical stage take the chance that he was assassinated and there were so many conflicting reports and he had so many enemies that that possibility was certainly not farfetched, it was a realistic possibility, so we said to him, "Whether you like it or not for the next few days until we've appointed an Administrator General to govern the country, you can move where you like but you will have to move with guards who will protect you." That was made abundantly clear to him.
POM Did General Viljoen have a commando force that could have seized, irrespective of Bophuthatswana, that could have seized some territory or mounted a campaign against the elections that would have been a severe disruption to things? Could he have attracted people from the Defence Force who served under him?
PB No, no. I can give you a categoric answer, under no circumstances was he in such a position. I can give you that assurance. The Chief of the Defence Force travelled with me in the same plane to Mafikeng.
POM But we're talking about ex-commandos.
PB No, no, it doesn't work in countries like this. You could have had a few but the moment you put against them the whole force of your Defence Force which were there in large numbers. I mean the AWB could think a stupid thing like that could work but certainly not your normal commando member, he's a fellow who can think for himself, he's got a wife and children, his stupidity doesn't go that far. I strongly disagree with that kind of sentiment altogether. It is an illusion. That's what it is, it's no more than an illusion. I saw Viljoen when the AWB people rammed the World Trade Centre with a truck, crashed the windows. Viljoen was running outside with a loudspeaker trying to control them. Not a single one listen to him. He was standing there like a lonely sore thumb sticking out with no-one paying any attention to him. Forget it.
POM So he was not - ?
PB He had no business there. It might be true that Mangope asked him -
POM Mangope did, yes.
PB - to come and protect him but he should have known that Mangope, this is what I have against Viljoen, it just shows me how little he knew of the position on the ground. He should have known that Mangope had no practical power left, not in government, not in the Police, not amongst the people, nowhere, not even amongst his own Cabinet Ministers. He was finished. Now that was no secret. I had a representative there and my department had a lot of people there who knew the area, knew the place and I knew it too, and all the reports, well written, well motivated, informed me that it's over, we'd better act fact and take over the government of this country before a large-scale civil war starts there and people start killing each other and burn down the whole place. That was the option. For Viljoen to tell me that he was not aware, he had no power, no authority, only a request from an outgoing, lame, non-functioning President. It is actually, I wonder whether he realises it, it is quite a bad accusation against himself and his judgement to allege that. He should not have been there, he should have known what is the true position on the ground.
POM But at that point he was contemplating treason against – contemplating taking up arms against the government, so the normal rules of –
PB I don't know whether he contemplated that. That I can't say. All I can say is it was a foolish thing to become involved. He should not have touched it, a man in his position should have steered clear of it and said, "Look it's a mess, there's nothing I can do about that mess, I can maybe fight the National Party and the ANC politically and otherwise and I will do so." That he could do but to go and become involved, and he should have known also that very few Afrikaans speaking people, Afrikaners, really thought much of Mangope. The whole place was cracking down. Mangope created a trade union some years before then and when the COSATU unions were threatening a strike he sent me a message to the effect I need not worry, his trade union far outnumbers the COSATU union. Totally untrue, the figures he sent me totally – I didn't know who gave him those figures. In the negotiations with them leading up to the elections I was amazed and stunned on occasions by the complete lack of insight and knowledge on the part of his Ministers and closest advisers thinking that they can do it alone, go it alone.
POM Have an independent country?
PB Yes. Amazing. Amazing. Even if he had 90% of the support of the people of the place, and he didn't, he didn't have 3% or 4% at that stage, he might have 4% now, but even if he had 90% there was no way he could make it. If SA offered for elections and independence there was no way for him to do it himself, a UDI. There was just no way he could survive it.
POM Because? Economics?
PB His total dependence on this country. Secondly –
POM Financial dependence.
PB Not only that, all his petrol, all his water, all his power, all his electricity, all his people work here. Good heavens! In any cast the majority of his people voted ANC in masses.
POM So that disposes of him.
PB Well not only of him. You see as long as Viljoen carries on with living under these illusions, Viljoen was a good militarist, he is not a politician at all, he doesn't understand politics. He never understood it in the past and will never understand it in the future. That's why his own party tried to get rid of him the other day, he won by one vote.
To sum up the whole thing, please I respect Viljoen for his military acumen, standards and discipline, I think he's a political joke and the sooner he gets out of politics the better. That decision proves to me abundantly, how on earth can you as a former head of the Defence Force knowing that that force created by your country's laws which is the legal force to be used in a situation of that nature, and here you quickly run into the show. I mean, please, you don't certainly need much of a political analyst to see the ridiculousness of that venture.
POM This goes back to Namibia. Some people that I've talked to have said that the battle for Cuito Cuanavale was the turning point in the war, that the – OK, I need go no further.
PB Well I've heard that theory, allegation. I think it's just more realistic to describe it as a face-saving device.
POM The theory you hear is?
PB A face-saving device for the Cubans and that sort of thing. It's totally untrue. I conducted all the negotiations.
POM They would say that it was a turning point for the South Africans that in the air war for Cuito Cuanavale that the Cubans were supplied with MiGs, Soviet MiGs and Cuban pilots and the South Africans had to rely on Mirages and their home product, whatever that was, and there was a shortage, because of the arms embargo, they couldn't get –
PB The only fighter plane that was ever shot down in Angola was a Soviet MiG by a South African Mirage to start with, it's the only one that ever shot down. It was a Soviet MiG by a South African Mirage. The story of Cuito Cuanavale is that when I was asked for advice I very, very strongly argued and won the argument, not to take it even if we were invited to take it because I foresaw a long drawn out administration, the provision of medical supplies, food, water, policing control which would have cost millions and millions and millions and would have served no purpose whatsoever, because I knew that sooner or later Namibia had to become independent. I argued very, very strongly not even to attempt to take it, not after the event, before the event, and I warned General Malan and several Generals and my impression was that they agreed with me. I said to them, "If you now really want to saddle yourself with one of the biggest burdens ever, take it. You will be heroes, headlines in the newspapers here for a day or two until food, electricity, water, medical supplies had to be flown in. Then within a day or two you would pray that someone must take it out of your hands immediately."
POM Regarding Bisho you were saying –
PB I wrote letters, I even had Mr de Klerk signing letters to, I think, Mr Mandela warning them against this march. I had sent down, we had then am Ambassador there, my Deputy Minister, to be there on the spot to warn all parties. I was playing a completely neutral role there of mediator trying to avoid this at all costs and pointing out both to the ANC and to the so-called little General, Oupa Gqozo, how unnecessary, how futile, here we are engaged in negotiations and that the position of Bisho would in any case be determined by the negotiations sooner or later and please let us calm ourselves, contain this and discuss any other form. I was at that stage on the point, my legal advisers had already drafted a Bill which would have incorporated Ciskei into the Republic of South Africa which would have meant that we would have had to take over the whole administration so that was how things were at that stage. I vividly remember that I was called out of a meeting to be told by my Deputy Minister, at that time I think it was a man called Hans Schoeman, and he said to me that Chris Hani was there leading the ANC march and the point was reached where this march could any moment break through now. This was the first march, there was a second one a few weeks later, this was the first one, just to bring you into the full picture. I succeeded in speaking to Chris Hani on the phone and I said to him, "Please, we're political opponents but you can save the situation, you can prevent the killing of people there today." Then he insisted that at least they must be allowed to enter into some building to present some protest. I said, "All right, I'll do my best to arrange that but first of all curtail now, curtail because also you will not be able to control the emotions once they get out of hand." He complied and we warded off a terrible disaster on that day. No sooner did I think that I've got breathing space then the news comes of a second march to be organised and again we tried our best with the second march, things got out of hand and the facts are known. Judge Goldstone at my request formed a Commission of Enquiry, please just get hold of Goldstone's Report, it's not thick, it's not voluminous. He sets out the facts as they were and believe me neither the ANC nor the security forces can quarrel with those facts and I fully agree with those facts.
POM What at that point was motivating the ANC? Was this a case of where - ?
PB They wanted to get rid of the leader there, the military leader Oupa Gqozo.
POM I know, I used to interview him.
PB Oupa, which means grandpa. In Afrikaans it's the word for – 'ou' means old, 'pa' means father – old father, grandpa. That was a nickname, a Xhosa. He staged a military coup just like Bantu Holomisa, became military leader and there it was. I had to cope with the situation as best as I could. He was emotionally an unstable man but he had the military power and, as I said to you, I had already drafted a Bill that would have robbed him of all his power in the Ciskei. The ANC wanted to get rid of him mainly, he was the main target there and Gqozo was openly hostile towards the ANC.
POM What did they think they were going to accomplish by getting rid of him? The way I hear it, the context of a domino theory, first of all Mangope goes, bump, topple over one, then you topple over Ciskei, then you topple over each of the homeland states one after the other.
PB No, no, Bantu Holomisa was on their side.
POM Well yes.
PB So they liked him and the Venda guy was also on their side so they liked him as well. It was only the two that they wanted to get rid of.
POM There was no great strategy behind what they were doing?
PB Also no, they made allegations, not without merit, to the effect that they were not allowed meetings, that Gqozo's Police arrested them, harassed them, limited their movements. In the schools – a lot of unrest in the schools, the teachers didn't like him, they were virtually revolting against him and naturally from within the Ciskei the ANC leadership would then receive complaints, a whole stream of complaints every day and saying to them, "Look you are the ANC, you are negotiating with the government, what do you do about our lot here? Here we sit, nobody is protecting us, nobody is giving us any rights. We can't hold meetings, we can't move. The Police harass us every day. What are you doing about it?" So again, beware of simplicities. But the point was there was a way to deal with it, there was a way to deal with it. The ANC was in no mood in those days to even allow the SA government to achieve too much success in any respect, if you see what I mean, because I was for the incorporation of all four territories before the election and the ANC wasn't so clearly – they thought they can virtually take over and they did take over in the Transkei and in Venda. Yes, sure they did.
POM After the election?
PB No, no, long before, long, long before. Bantu Holomisa assisted them financially, transport, with everything. He was a Deputy Minister in the ANC government.
POM I know him well.
PB He has resilience believe me, don't underestimate him. He gave me a lot of headaches that young man, a lot of headaches financially. If we tried to throttle him financially he would simply grab the pension fund, pay his salaries from there, things like that.
POM Would in one way the homelands and independent states' policy have in itself have contributed to the demise of apartheid insofar as they were slowly bankrupting the rest of SA with the amount of money you had to pay into them every year to prop them up, that they were just a drain on the –
PB It's an oversimplification, Padraig. Those countries were independent, according to us but not according to anybody else in the world. You would still have needed to build roads there and hospitals and clinics and you would still have required courts and administration. No question about that, because they would have been part of this country and you could not have just said go to hell. You would still have had administration costs. What was unnecessary was to build a capital for each and an airport for each and major buildings to make it look like an independent state. That was going too far. There was a lot of waste. Expenditure was necessary but not to the extent that we did it, there was a lot of waste.
POM But did whoever was in charge in those homelands or independent states, particularly the independent states, did they set salary levels on their own or had they got to be in line with salary levels in SA?
PB In some cases they had salary levels higher than ours.
POM But you were paying that bill?
PB Not all of it. Bophuthatswana was financially the most healthy because of its mineral resources and taxes. The others had virtually no income basis, virtually no, so we had to make good the budget deficits and we did our very best to introduce financial discipline. When things went wrong they would just turn around and say, look, you said we are as independent as any other state in the world so these countries became independent at a stage when there were not sufficient citizens of those countries who could carry on with a modern administration. And because of their relative isolation they would jump for any little offer that they could get hold of. In one case in the Transkei, for instance, they bought buses from a European country which opened on the wrong side of the road because in Europe they drive on the right side of the road, here we drive on the left side of the road. So if your bus door here opens on the right side of the vehicle, the passengers are getting out in the middle of the road and not on the sidewalk. There was a case of massive irrigation equipment, pipes, taps, sprinklers, they may still be rusting away. There was the case of Bophuthatswana, when we opened our eyes here, a power station built at an exorbitant price which could never, the power could never be fed into our grid, it was too expensive. In the case of Ciskei one Minister went to a European country and saw in the airport a snow plough, next bloody thing snow ploughs are bought for Bisho. An aircraft, well you could perhaps convert it into a restaurant for children to enjoy but I think it was the last trip that aircraft ever undertook was to Bisho. There it stood. I think it might still be there. Things like that. And then they tried to make up for it with casinos, gambling places, which did give them a little extra income but far, far short of what was needed to keep a public service going and do proper planning.
POM So these were, except for perhaps Bophuthatswana, these were not sustainable independent countries?
PB Now you see, now recently after the events in Lesotho last year some commentators here said was Lesotho ever better off than Transkei? It is a severe questions, it is a serious question, it is a very serious question. What is Lesotho's income? What is its record? It earns more than half it's national product in this country and I think receives the major slice of its budget from the Customs pool arrangement that we have here, and the country has been plagued by internal conflict virtually ever since its independence. … South African security agents were largely responsible for the instability by intervening in elections and supporting a candidate whom they thought would be friendly disposed towards us. But we are over those days now, we are far away from those days and yet the country has not really succeeded in convincing others that it is on a stable course. Take others as well, there are some examples which I won't mention at this very moment and I need not tell you about Rwanda, Burundi, the former Congo Republic and others. It is not confined to Africa, how can anybody explain what went on in Kosovo? There's a lack of regional cohesion and an incapacity in certain regions of the world of the regional governments to form a group of solidarity in order to preserve peace and stability in that region. Clinton was right in one respect when he said that America can't act as a policeman all over the world but America was pretty quick to act in Kosovo so I personally feel that the matter could have been handled differently if you had made better use at that time of the Russian position and influence in that part of the world. You could have, you could have given Russia an opportunity to … out of its own economic dilemmas, mishaps, as a country that acts responsibly, can act as a mediator and can bring about peace in a troubled region. I do not know what the future of the Middle East is. I think it's going to be plagued by unstable situations of the future. It is to some extent an American security reserve, reservation. While I would have preferred the Gulf states – to see all of them as Gulf states, including Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran and Iraq and built on that huge basis of an almost European Union type of Gulf state market union, something worthwhile. So it's easy to criticise events in Africa, on the other hand there are equally lamentable situations in other parts of the world which prove not to be easily solvable.
POM Let me ask you two last questions, one is a reflective question and one is a question that I've asked every Minister that I've interviewed and that is: what is the greatest challenge facing this country in the next 15 – 20 years?
PB Job provision, work. I would say jobs.
POM Jobs, OK. I would say to you, why would you not say AIDS which even if it stabilised today at the rate it's at will bring life expectancy down –
PB Even if you hadn't had a single case of AIDS, without jobs exactly the same dangers that confront you now will confront you, the high crime rate, danger of instability, lack of sufficient investment and that sort of thing. In other words lamentable as this AIDS situation is, without jobs you cannot survive. With AIDS you can still survive if you have enough jobs. If you grow at a certain economic rate you will attract the necessary investment because the resources are here and there's a bit of tactical know-how here.
POM If 30% - 40% of your population in infected by AIDS you're not going to attract any investment at all, particularly if it starts moving into, as it has in other African countries, into the middle classes where the skills base is. For every rand you spend on education half of it is going down the drain, the person is dead before they get the time to exercise it. For every teacher you train after five years at a school they're dead.
PB There's validity in your argument but your question was not which were the two major challenges but one and I happen to believe that it's jobs, it's job creation. If you want to stop AIDS you still need to create jobs and income, get the living standards to have the funds and the taxes to combat AIDS.
POM And the last question is, after all your years as a pretty great Foreign Minister and all the negotiations you have been involved in what to you from your personal experience are the chief characteristics of a successful negotiating process? What mechanisms must be put in place before the process itself can hope to resolve a conflict?
PB A thorough, and when I use the word thorough I use it in the full sense of that word, a thorough knowledge and study of all the facts and circumstances surrounding the issue which is the subject of negotiation, the history of the issue, how did it come about, the options to resolve it by clinically analysed and listed, not mixed with wishful thinking, and equally important a thorough knowledge of your opponent's viewpoints, the reasons for those viewpoints, why does your opponent, the other party, adopt that point of view, why does he cling to it so tenaciously and if you were in his shoes would you not have done the same. What is it that the other party cannot afford to concede or give away? From a thorough study and analysis of all these elements that I mentioned, more or less where is the line demarcating the balance of interests? There is always a balance of interests. Where is that line more or less? I think these would be the main elements. Without that don't try and negotiate, don't get near a negotiating table, don't. You can go and sit with your arch-enemy around a table on condition that you must at least, unpleasant as it might be to some people, however much you might be against it emotionally or otherwise, why does he do what he does? Why does he adopt that attitude, that point of view? Surely it's not mere theatrics. Put yourself in his shoes first of all, you need not surrender but first put yourself in his shoes. If you do not do that a successful negotiated process is almost doomed to failure, almost doomed to failure.
There was no way that I could handle the issue of the independence of Namibia and the withdrawal of 50 – 55000 Cuban troops from Angola if I did not beforehand spend days and days of personal study not only of the available year books, Whittaker's Almanac, Statesman's Yearbook, Europa Yearbook, you name them, encyclopaedias, etc., Red Books written on Cuba, then on Fidel Castro's life, then how did it become involved in the war in Angola, why did they do it? You must study this and you must not underestimate the strength of the emotions of your opposition on the matter which is the subject of negotiation.
I suppose one or two foolhardy hotheads, inflexible, they are also needed sometimes but they are needed to advise you, not to participate in the talks. They must have one track minds to advise you not to slip off the railroad of facts and truth and so on and there it ends. Thereafter you must go for the success, the conclusion on the basis of a balance of interests where both must feel they have each gained something. It's strange, each normally loses something but no-one is concerned about that. Everybody is happy about their gains, the potential gains, the advantages.
This did not apply to Kosovo, I am sorry to say to you, I leave the judgement to historians but it did not apply. It did not apply, a thorough study was needed, more patience and the use of interlocutors and a way to approach the whole matter in such a way that a substantial number of Serbs could have said or would have said, "Look, this is not unreasonable", and that sort of thing.
In the case of … we were on the brink of a total breakdown of the negotiations in Cairo in May, June 1988 with the Cubans and the Angolans advancing and then starting the talks with a harassing, aggressive attack against SA. Not a word about points to be discussed, virulent attack. I could have broken up the meeting, it was one alternative. I said, "Look, I have not come to Cairo to waste my time with a lot of belligerents". Instead I said with a smile, "I am completely prepared to accept the implications of the statements of the honourable so-and-so, the honourable, distinguished leaders of the delegation of the People's Republic of Cuba and that … is that we should first discuss the internal policies of our respective countries. I think it's fair. We can later discuss the solution to the Namibian issue and the Cuban presence in Angola but let us first take this now. I said "There is a Tribunal in New York. We can put together another one with a mandate from all of us to investigate, let us choose and agree and discuss the following subjects in each other's countries: freedom of the press, association, religion, our education systems, our health systems, what is being done by the government with the budget on a per capita basis for the people in terms of social upliftment programmes, and then we adjourn until we get those reports on each other. There's nothing they could do, I did not attack them, but I needed time, and then we adjourned. During the adjournment we were in a pub and I offered one of the senior Cuban delegates a whisky which he accepted and then he said to me gleefully, and I realised that they are considering despatching another 15 000 troops to Angola. I said I didn't know that, it was news to me, but in that case we will arrange for another thousand or two South African troops. Then he accused me of insulting him because he said I implied that only 2000 SA troops were needed to contain and stop 15 000. I said, "But that is the practical situation on the ground today my friend. We've never had more than 3000 troops in Angola and you are now at 50 000. What is the ratio? Why don't you feel insulted by the facts as they exist on the ground? Not even the United Nations doubt these facts." Then I said to him, "But you know, instead of increasing our fighting forces we can both be winners and get out of this mess as winners." And he said to me, "How?" I said, 'Your leader withdraws your troops from Angola". "No, never, never! Do you know how many died?" da-da-da, the usual story. I said, "Wait a bit, I make Namibia independent and your leader says he did it and now he can withdraw his troops. You won. And I tell the whites in my country that I got rid of the Cubans so we can make Namibia independent …" He looked at me and he said to me, "Are you serious?" I said, "Yes". And he said, "Excuse me". He came back about an hour later and he said, "Let's talk." That formed the basis of the agreement reached which we signed in December, six months later, in the headquarters of the United Nations. A dispute that plagued the world since 1948, the subject of one litigation in the World Court, four World Court opinions, more than eighty General Assembly resolutions, forty Security Council resolutions, months and months of General Assembly and Security Council debates, expenses, … etc.
That's why I say to you, and this thing in Ireland I am not underestimating it, it can be resolved, it can be resolved. Both can be winners. That's my message to those guys, tell them.
POM OK, I will pass it on. I think I told you before that the UN Administrator for South West Africa, Sean McBride –
PB No, he was not SWA, he was the guy involved in Katanga.
POM No, that's Connor Cruise O'Brien.
PB Oh right, sorry.
POM He's still alive and well and writing. He's writing books that are …
PB What happened to this McBride guy? Say again, say again
POM Sean McBride.
PB What was he you say?
POM He was the UN for many years, from the first time it came under UN protectorate.
PB No, no, that was Martii Ahtisaari who's now the President of Finland.
POM McBride had a role –
PB A position under Ahtisaari?
POM I don't know, it could have been. But the interesting thing about him is that he was a former Chief of Staff of the IRA who then entered constitutional politics and became Minister of Foreign Affairs and got seconded to the UN and then moved up in the UN, but his father –
PB Oh, wasn't he Chairman of the Namibia Committee on the UN?
POM That's right, yes. His father was a man named John McBride and John McBride founded in Dublin in 1898 something called the Irish Transvaal Committee, he was a Republican, and he fought alongside with the Afrikaners at Ladysmith and all the other battles. He was executed by the British in 1916 when the Irish had their uprising. So how small the world is, and I am sure this Robert McBride is related in some way to the family.
PB Most probably. I'm telling you, because he operated in Natal in any case.
POM Thank you for all the time as usual. It's a pleasure for me to interview you. I'll have Judy send you on the transcript.
PB Let her send it to me, any time she can and I will attend to it.
POM And when I come back we can go through them because I want to –
PB Then I can go through it carefully you see. I won't change any substance.