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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
10 Dec 2001: General Constand Viljoen
POM What I want to do first is to run through an account, General, with a quote from an interview I did with Mac Maharaj. In the course of it he says that what really happened was that the right gathered forces to move into Bophuthatswana on the grounds that the Mangope government was threatened by a spontaneous uprising in Bophuthatswana, at Mafikeng, so they saw this militarily and politically as an opportunity to move in, bolster Mangope and consolidate Mangope against the negotiating process.
"What did we see?" he is just talking. "Personally I saw a great threat to the transition in military terms but I said how do we checkmate this? Two strengths: the population of Bophuthatswana has spontaneously risen in revolt, the white right has moved in there and embedded itself and the white right is racist. Viljoen could not argue with me that the commandos that he was commanding were now stripped of racism. No way. Were he to do so he would be closing his eyes to the politics of the problem. Each of them thought we are now (he means the AWB) each of them thought we are now going to rule this country, we are going to stop the democratic process, we are going to overthrow de Klerk and we are going to rule. I asked the AWB, 'Does the AWB, the right wing and even the commandos because look at the commando leaders, the difference is 'we will do it with a different face'. When this revolt took place and the AWB moved a sense developed amongst us at Kempton Park in the ANC that this was an opportunity that would either be a setback or you had to exploit it fully. The Management Committee of the TEC agreed to allow Fanie van der Merwe and me, because they were dithering about what to do and I was frantic, sometimes I may have spoken out of turn, but I said to Cyril, 'Cyril, you had better move the TEC to Bophuthatswana". He said, "It's not working?' I said, "Well then send Fanie and me on an urgent mission to go and bring a report on the ground on what is the reality there.' The Management Committee of the TEC supported that. Fanie and I prepared to go. Fanie had to do the logistics. I think Roelf and them were pretty confident that they were in charge. Fanie comes and says a helicopter will take the two of us to Mafikeng.
When we got to the airstrip there was a military helicopter, not a problem, but when I got into the helicopter who was sitting there? General Meiring and General van der Merwe (that's the Police). Clearly they were not part of our mission and I wondered what was happening. We get to Bophuthatswana and we listened to the reports. General Meiring called the meeting and then he has the General in charge of the Bophuthatswana forces with him, I forget his name, to give a report. So we are sitting at this meeting and the South African High Commissioner is there, a whole set of military brass and Police are sitting there, the Commander of the Bophuthatswana army is sitting there and he gives a report and in his report essentially he says, 'Our forces have lost control. The Bophuthatswana army has lost control. The Police Force has collapsed.'
General Meiring behaves like he's chairing this meeting and he says, 'Right, number one, the SADF now goes out to stabilise the situation. Number two, to restore law and order and, number three, to reinstate Mangope and assist the defence force of Bophuthatswana. I said (that's Mac) 'No you can't do that. You just had a report that the administration has collapsed, that the Police Force has collapsed, the defence force of Bophuthatswana is not in control, the civil service has collapsed and Mangope is hiding out. We have not come here to reinstate Mangope. We have come here, Fanie and I, to get a reading of the situation and give a report to FW and Madiba meeting in the Union Buildings. They are meeting there right now and our job is to give a report.' I see there are tanks, SADF tanks under the trees on the SA High Commissioner's property so they have moved in the tanks also to support stabilisation. To me that's reinstating Mangope.
So we have a stand-off. It's the same day. The first thing that happened was that when I got out I went to the phone with Fanie. I said, 'Let's rush to the phone to give a report to Union Buildings.' Meiring is clearly saying I can't give him orders, he only takes orders from FW de Klerk and his orders are clear – he has the power to stabilise and reinstate. We go to the High Commissioner's office in the same yard. Now I get through. We phone, we call for Cyril and I give a report to Cyril in Fanie's presence. I give him my reading and I say, 'General Meiring wants to go out and do this. You have to get a countermand from Madiba and FW to stop him.' Then I hand the phone to Fanie, call for Roelf and I decide to leave the office. I've gave my report in the presence of Fanie but I decided he's got to report to Roelf and I must leave. Fanie says, 'No Mac, don't leave the room. I've heard the report you presented and I want you to hear my report.' Foreign Affairs was present in the form of Rusty Evans and Rusty can see there's a huge tussle going on between the army, Meiring and myself. Fanie gives a report in his own words but fundamentally is in alignment with my assessment. Rusty Evans disappears.
Fanie and I leave to go to the High Commissioner's house and we see a helicopter. What's that? It's got no markings, it's not military but it's flying over the SA High Commission office. Then from the sound it lands nearby so I said, "What helicopter is this? No marking.' Fanie says, 'I don't know.' We go into the High Commissioner's residence, there's no Meiring. If I remember correctly Fanie disappears and later Fanie comes back and says, 'Mac, now I have to meet Rusty Evans and he's got something to say.' So Rusty meets the two of us. He says, 'Gentlemen, I don't know what is happening but I feel obliged to tell you people, the two of you, you're from the TEC, that helicopter has just brought in Constand Viljoen.' Yes. Constand Viljoen and General Meiring are having a meeting on the premises of the High Commission. The helicopter has landed in the High Commission territory and in another cottage the two of them are meeting and Rusty says, 'I've been sitting in on the meeting. They are planning to fly to the palace of Mangope to engage in discussions with Mangope.' I said (Mac), "Thank you very much'. I said to Rusty, 'Who else is there with Constand?' He said, 'Colonel Jan Breytenbach.'
CV Who asked him?
POM This is Mac saying, 'Who else is there with Constand?' And Rusty said, 'Colonel Jan Breytenbach. Breytenbach, former leader of the REC unit and he's aligned to Constand.' So I said, 'Has Breytenbach been here?' Rusty said, 'Yes, he's here, he's on the ground.' This is right in Mmabatho. Jan Breytenbach is there. He hasn't come in in the helicopter, he's on the territory, on the ground like a Field Commando. I said, 'OK, I want to see General Meiring.' This was about five or six in the afternoon just before it was getting dark and I told Rusty and Fanie I had to see Meiring. 'I've got to see Meiring, don't tell him why.' At about six, half six, Meiring walks into the lounge and he says simply, 'We've got to leave now it's getting dark. The helicopter is not equipped to take off in darkness, we've got to leave now.' I said, 'No, sit, we need a meeting.' He reluctantly sits and I said to him, 'You have been doing work behind our backs. We have phoned Union Buildings for instructions from FW and Mandela and the steps that you are taking are impermissible. I am not prepared to fly back. I am going to sit here on the ground reporting to Union Buildings and right now I am saying if that helicopter is to take off it must wait until I go and make a call to Union Buildings.' Meiring is taken aback but Fanie is openly, quietly supporting me. I go to the High Commissioner's house, phone Union Buildings, I get Cyril on the line and I say, 'Cyril, this is what's happening. Unless you get FW and Madiba to countermand I'm sitting here, I'm not moving.' Cyril comes back, puts Roelf on the phone and Roelf asks for Meiring. Meiring goes to the phone in the foyer, makes sure I don't hear what he's talking about, comes back furious and he says, 'Let's fly back.' I say, 'Have you got your instructions?' He says to me that's his business. I said, 'No.' Then I say, 'I'm not going to the room and I want to hear what instructions you've been given.' He said, 'I don't have to obey you.' I said, 'No. The instructions that you are receiving from FW can only be your instructions from the point of view of the TEC. They are instructions agreed to by Mandela sitting with FW at Union Buildings.' Fanie pulls him to one side, comes back and he says, 'Mac, please cool it. The instructions have been given.' I say, 'Are the SADF prohibited from going out of this compound with their tanks to reinstate Mangope?' He says, 'Yes, they can't'. Good. I say 'We'll fly.'
That was Friday. Got back late that night. Cyril and Madiba were not at Union Buildings, they had left that night. Contacted Cyril on the phone. He said the TEC Management Committee is meeting tomorrow, the Saturday morning. So we went to the TEC offices and I tell Cyril and I tell Joe Slovo. I say, 'Chaps, it's touch and go.' Joe Slovo said, 'What do you want?' I said, 'Adjourn the meeting of the TEC from Pretoria to be held today in the High Commissioner's premises.' 'What's your aim?' I said, 'Chaps, we haven't got the military power but if we were on the ground, all of the Management Committee including Colin Eglin and Roelf, we would be able to countermand actions. This is in our power. It's there, we can do it.' Cyril walked out of the meeting, has a one-on-one with Roelf and every now and then I'm being called out. Joe Slovo is being called out by Cyril and I said, 'What are you doing, Cyril?' He says, 'I'm sitting on Roelf, I'm sitting hard on him and I'm saying we overthrow Mangope.' Roelf comes back and he says to Cyril, 'It's agreed, we remove Mangope.' Cyril says, 'How?You're saying we adjourn the Management Committee meeting, we will fly by helicopter immediately to Mmabatho.' Roelf says, 'What will happen with Colin Eglin and the others, they don't know what is happening?' So Roelf comes back and he says, 'FW is saying that if Mangope is out it is the job of Pik Botha to handle it and they say Pik is on his way.' They called him wherever he was in the country so Pik is flying to Pretoria. I say, 'Roelf, it's a deal. Now that we are going in there, you are going in there to overthrow Mangope, to depose him.' He says, 'Yes, it's a deal.'
This is between two and three in the afternoon. How are we going to do it? This is happening outside the TEC Management room. I said, 'Send Fanie and me with Pik Botha and with General Meiring to unseat Mangope. In the meantime let's take a resolution at the TEC Management Committee that the Management Committee will adjourn to Mmabatho. Why? To go and be on the spot. Then the question arises, what happened to Mac and Fanie? We say, no, describe to the Management Committee that Mac and Fanie are being sent in advance on an earlier flight to create the facilities for the TEC to meet. 'Don't tell them', Roelf says, 'Don't tell them we're going to overthrow Mangope.' I said, 'OK, it's a deal.' Then I say, 'Are you giving that instruction also to General Meiring?' He says, 'Yes.'
So Pik Botha arrives at Wonderboom in his plane. Meiring, Fanie and I board his plane and we flew to Mmabatho and I can see Meiring is uncomfortable. We get to Mafikeng Airport and we go into the VIP lounge and I look at the airport and I can see that the right wing is already controlling part of the airstrip. Constand's right wing are controlling the airstrip.
CV What time is this now? What date is this?
POM This is Saturday.
CV Saturday? No, we were all gone by then.
POM We'll go back to make your comments. That's why I want you to make note and come back. I'm reading the whole thing to you and then you can comment on each bit. So Pik arrived at Wonderboom in his plane on Saturday.
"Meiring, Fanie and I boarded his plane and we flew to Mmabatho and I could see Meiring is uncomfortable. We get to Mafikeng Airport and we go into the VIP lounge and I look at the airport and I can see that the right wing is already controlling part of the airstrip. Mac – 'Constand's right wing are controlling the air strip'. I sat in the VIP room and Meiring is running around. I say to Pik and Fanie, 'What's happening?' Meiring is arranging for us to go to Mangope's royal palace.
So we do that but suddenly I realise, hey, wait a minute, is Meiring playing some tricks here? It's getting night. So I say to Pik, 'Pik, I have to hand in a report. You're in charge here but I haven't heard a report from Meiring to say how heavily armed Mangope's guards are, how many guards are in his house.' And Pik says, 'What do you mean?' I say, 'Look, we're flying in there, we're going to land where Mangope has an elite guard which in my estimate are about 120 strong. They are fully armed, they are camped on his site. What happens if they take us hostage?' And Pik, of course, screamed and said, 'You mean to say we can all die?' I said, 'Why not? How are you planning to get there? I haven't heard any of the logistics.' Pik calls Meiring, says to Meiring, 'General, what's the strength of Mangope's force?' And he goes on and they go to Mangope and tell him that his term is up."
CV What I want to comment on is –
POM You've given me an account before of your landing at the airport, seeing the AWB that were there and saying, "I told Mangope if they're there I'm out of here." You told Mangope that if the AWB were there, and you saw –
CV No, no, let us start at the beginning. I'm in no position to comment on Mac Maharaj's version of what happened between him and Pik and FW and Cyril and Roelf and those people. All I want to say about this is this is proof to me how weak the NP government shaped within the TEC situation. The only strong man seemed to be Meiring and Meiring was quite right because Meiring was in charge at that stage. So I cannot give any comment on the way they have decided to - The second point I want to make about this, what Mac Maharaj has said proves the point that they used this opportunity, they were opportunistic enough (they the ANC) to see this opportunity and to take the gap to initiate the axing of Mangope and Pik Botha and FW and all those people were too weak to really oppose this idea. Mac Maharaj was quick, he immediately saw this position, he said it himself, he said, "I could see that this is the opportunity and why don't we make use of this opportunity." That's what he said in his evidence. So I have little argue about that.
I have a few comments to make. Firstly, on the points that he made about the beginning of the – why we and the farmers went to Bophuthatswana. Secondly, I want to speak about the idea as to what happened at the Embassy and thirdly I would like to speak about withdrawal because by Friday evening we had withdrawn all the people. There were no people left after that.
Let us start at the beginning. Mac Maharaj has said that this was an opportunity grabbed by the so-called right wing in order to cause destabilisation between the TEC process and so on. This is completely untrue. I have said it before, maybe I've said it to you –
POM He was saying that the right wing were moving in to make sure that Mangope was kept in power.
CV You see this is completely untrue. Do you remember that at that stage Mangope was still undecided as to whether he would participate in the 27 April election. Everybody was applying pressure to Mangope. I saw Mangope the Tuesday before that Friday and I had a discussion with Mangope and he requested me to assist him in order to maintain his position over the weekend so that by the Tuesday he could call together his parliament in order to make the final decision as to whether to participate in the election or not.
POM So he saw things were falling apart - ?
CV The whole situation in Bophuthatswana was manipulated by the ANC and they carried through a mini revolution there. They started off with a lot of nurses and public service people, etc., starting with a sort of resistance movement. That was followed up with a later phase which I call the 'burning' phase. They started to burn Mmabatho. When I landed on that Tuesday I was invited by Mangope to come to him and I went there by plane and I landed on the Mmabatho airfield and I could already see smoke coming out from the Mmabatho town. So it was confirmed to me not only by Mangope and his Security Council, it was confirmed to me by the Bophuthatswana officers who were all seconded from the SADF and whom I knew personally. They said to me that the situation in Bophuthatswana is being forced towards a final revolution and they had evidence that the burning phase, which was that Tuesday, would be followed up by what they called a final violent phase that weekend and the idea of the ANC was to carry through this mini revolution in order to get rid of Mangope. So that is why they came to me.
Then I said to them, 'Now look here, I don't want to get involved in this whole situation unless it is absolutely necessary. First make sure', (you know Rowan Cronje?)
POM Yes, he was the chief negotiator.
CV Now Rowan Cronje also confirmed to me that they had this intelligence and I said, 'No, look here, we'd better get this intelligence first confirmed.' That was the Tuesday. So I saw Mangope, I saw his Security Council. I saw his Defence Force and I saw his Police Commissioner and the Police Commissioner to me sounded very, very dubious. In that Tuesday meeting Mangope had requested some assistance from me and he said in his very simple way, 'You know, we Afrikaners and the Tswanas used to help each other when we are in trouble.' And he referred to some time earlier on in history when the farmers of that specific area stood together with Mangope (sic) against some marauding tribes, I think it was Mzilikazi that went through that area, and he then came with this request that we should bolster him. I then asked the Security Council and I also asked Mangope to first confirm the evidence and I would go back to Pretoria and in the meantime plan assistance of a few thousand farmers to go to Mangope in case it is necessary but only if we have confirmation about the violent attacks, or the violent phase of the mini revolution in that weekend. I asked him to let me know by Thursday evening what the situation is.
I then went back to Pretoria and I called together my people. When I say 'my people' I say the military part of the Volksfront, and I explained to them what the request of Mangope was. Now you will remember that Mangope was part of the Freedom Alliance. He was one leg of the Freedom Alliance, which consisted of the Conservative Party, Afrikaner Volksfront, the Ciskei, Bophuthatswana and KwaZulu, Buthelezi. Now I explained to them that one of our partners in this alliance has asked for some possible assistance and I explained the whole idea for them. I saw this opportunity in order to –
POM You explained this to the Alliance?
CV To me Volksfront military people, not the AWB, the military people. Oh yes, I left out one important point and that is when Mangope put his request to me and especially the Police Commissioner they explained to me and they said to me that the AWB must please not come in any way to Bophuthatswana because should the AWB come there might be an uprising and that might overturn the apple cart. And they explained this very carefully to me and so I went back to my people in Pretoria and I had with me in Bophuthatswana some of my main planners within the military potential of the Volksfront. So I then started planning how to –
POM Was Jan Breytenbach there?
CV No Jan was not there. Herman Vercuil was there and somebody else but Jan was not there. I then went back to Pretoria and I started planning in case the evidence by Thursday evening would prove that there would be some violent action against Mangope that specific weekend. We then planned, or then we put into action all our plans which were very, very excellently carried out by the farmers. In order to satisfy Mangope's request that the AWB should be left out of this Ferdi Hartzenberg in my office phoned Terre'Blanche and he spoke to Terre'Blanche on my insistence saying to him, 'Look here, we are going to give some assistance to Mangope but we warn you that Mangope has asked the AWB to stay out of this because the AWB has no stance within the Bophuthatswana situation and we could have big problems.' So that was carried over to Terre'Blanche, probably that Wednesday I think.
The Wednesday evening, remember that's now one day after I've been to Mangope, I gave orders to my people and I gave orders to about 3000 of the farmers which is mainly the Boere Crisis Aksie, Farmers Crisis Action people. I gave them orders to assemble at different places in the country and be ready to move to Bophuthatswana to come under the command of the forces of Bophuthatswana for the weekend in case that might be necessary but they first have only to concentrate and mobilise and they had to wait for my order to move and that order would only come if necessary on the Thursday evening because I was first waiting for the confirmation of the intelligence.
On Wednesday we have informed Terre'Blanche so Thursday evening I received a phone call from Rowan Cronje saying that confirmation intelligence-wise had been received by the Bophuthatswana government that there will be some violent action by the ANC trying to overthrow Mangope in a violent way in the final phase of the mini revolution. I then said, 'All right, in that case I'm going to send the people.' But now you will realise that many of the people that I mobilised were members of the SADF in that they were commando members. I couldn't allow them to make use of their commando weapons because that would be an armed uprising, so then I had arranged with Mangope and his people that the farmers would come to Mmabatho unarmed or lightly armed using civilian weapons, hunting rifles and pistols and so on and they were moved from different routes to Bophuthatswana. At Bophuthatswana they were assembled and they would be armed and come under the command of the Bophuthatswana Defence Force. So it would not be under my command, it would be under their command.
I appointed Jan Breytenbach as the commander of the force and I appointed Steyn, Go Steyn (he's the chap living at the moment in Nelspruit), I appointed him as the Chief of Staff of this operation. So Go Steyn and Jan Breytenbach represented me in the whole situation. On Thursday when I had received the call I gave the clear or the signal for my troops from different positions to move on different routes to Bophuthatswana that evening, that night and they had to move in a way not to come into conflict with the SADF or the SA Police. When I say they excellently carried this out, you know I have spoken to the Police and I have spoken to the Defence Force, their intelligence could not pick up our mobilisation and our movement into Bophuthatswana until very late that Thursday evening.
But Thursday evening at eleven o'clock I received bad news from the AWB. At eleven o'clock I was phoned by officers from the Bophuthatswana Defence Force saying that according to their intelligence the AWB is mobilising at Rooidraai, it's a farm where they were mobilising and they are mobilising to come and participate in this because they are the big force of the Afrikaner Volksfront and how can we leave them [out]. So I phoned Terre'Blanche and I also asked Ferdi Hartzenberg to do so and I sent officers from the Bophuthatswana Defence Force to this farm to go and tell the AWB to stay out of this whole situation but they wouldn't listen and they just carried on and the next morning – well the first people to arrive were some farmers of the specific area, farmers. They were immediately deployed Friday morning in the, as I called it 'the burning phase' of the Mmabatho situation. They were then used to guard, for example, big business centres and government buildings, etc., and they came under command and they received about 200 rifles which were at the airport belonging to Mangope and this went exactly according to plan. That was the farmers living closest to the Mmabatho area.
In moving into Mmabatho the AWB acted with very poor discipline. As they went in they started confronting the public. I am told that they even rolled hand grenades under cars and they fired shots at people around them. And this, as the Police Commissioner had warned me, this angered the population of Mmabatho to such an extent that there was an uprising.
The main force from all over the country, as far as the Northern Cape, arrived at Mmabatho round about six, seven o'clock in the morning and they went straight as per orders to the airfield area where they were going to wait and they would then go to Mangope's stores to be fitted with rifles and then they would be operating under the command of the Bophuthatswana Defence Force.
Remember by now part of the farmers were already deployed. They have stabilised immediately the Mmabatho area where they were deployed but as the AWB moved in they destabilised the specific areas that they came in and Terre'Blanche with his lousy way of doing things came in and then Jan Breytenbach chased him away and he said, 'Bugger off, you're not welcome here.' Then eventually the AWB withdrew on the orders – that was now by the morning, round about nine, ten o'clock I think. I then gave orders to Jan Breytenbach as did …
POM Nine or ten on Saturday? Friday?
CV No, Friday, Friday morning. Remember I said that Thursday evening we moved, that night, Thursday/Friday. Jan Breytenbach and Go Steyn told Terre'Blanche to bugger off, to take his people away. They even went so far as to get some of the Bophuthatswana officers to offer a new route that would be a safe withdrawal for the AWB but the AWB wouldn't take any advice and so on, they just carried on, they went into their cars and off they went and that's where the three chaps were killed passing through the whole situation, remember? By now, of course, the uprising was full on the way and the thing spread like a veld fire, the AWB is here. The main force when they arrived at the airport were now waiting for the rifles and they were waiting to come under the command of Mangope but in the meantime this havoc was caused by Terre'Blanche and his people. The uprising then went over to the stores and –
POM The arms stores?
CV That's right and the doors were just opened up and the rifles were dished out to the general public and by the time the Volksfront people arrived there were no rifles left, everything was already dished out. That was the uprising or the mutiny within the Police Force and within the Bop army was the situation. So that left the situation in a very bad problem. We had the people on the airport, we had the first group that were armed with 200 rifles and the rest were on the airport unarmed and ready to come to the assistance of Mangope but the AWB completely buggered up the whole situation.
It was clear to me that the situation would be a very difficult one. I was going to leave Pretoria for Mmabatho by plane early in the morning, first light Friday morning but I had the two commanders, I had Jan Breytenbach there, but I was going to be personally there in order to liaise with the Defence Force and to liaise with Mangope, etc., but I couldn't do so at that stage because in the evening, in the night, that Friday night it became clear to me that we're going to have big problems with the AWB. I then stayed behind in order to save the situation with the government so that the government would not, for example, grab all the farmers and put them under arrest and put then in jail.
POM With the government you're talking about?
CV FW and those people, the FW government.
POM So when you're talking about the government you're talking about the government of - ?
CV The TEC.
POM OK. The South African government.
CV Yes, so I had two problems. I had the problem as to what would the action of the TEC be on this. They could have taken advantage of this and arrested most of the farmers there if they could surround them with the Defence Force and Police Force, etc., and that would be a major setback for me because I did not participate in this as Mac Maharaj had said in order to start a new revolution. I only came to the assistance of Mangope for a weekend so that by Tuesday he would be able to bring together his parliament in order to make the final decision to participate or not to participate.
The second problem I had, that was the first one the government, the second problem I had was of course the press in order to make sure that the right story would be reported. So I waited and at the right stage I started communicating with the press to tell them exactly what was going on after I had first gone to the Police and to the Defence Force, Meiring, in order to tell them what exactly we were doing in Bophuthatswana so that they could realise that we were not up to anything but supporting Mangope against a violent coup that would take place that specific evening.
I then contacted Rowan Cronje. Rowan Cronje came with the Bophuthatswana chopper to the Union Buildings. He asked me to come with him so I went with Rowan Cronje to the Union Buildings. I did not see de Klerk but I was available in case he wanted to see me. Rowan Cronje then had long discussions with de Klerk and Pik Botha and those people and then Rowan Cronje and myself left for Bophuthatswana in that helicopter. We went straight to –
POM This was on the Friday?
CV Yes. We went straight to Mangope.
POM At what time?
CV About three o'clock in the afternoon we left I think. We went straight to Mangope and we arrived at Mangope's palace or home round about, could have been 4.30, 5 o'clock. Mangope was very upset on this whole situation but I then said to Mangope, "Look here, with the mutiny taking place at the moment and with the instability taking place at the moment I suggest that I go to Meiring (it was know that he was at the Embassy) and I will talk to Meiring and I will say this was our aim, to assist Mangope. Now it is clear that the aim was disappearing because of the acts of the AWB." I then said to Mangope that I would request Meiring in order to use his forces available which were there, now they were having a manoeuvre around the Mmabatho area (they probably also had some intelligence about this whole thing) in order to assist the Mangope government to restore law and order. That is why I went with the helicopter to the SA Embassy. At the Embassy I did see Meiring for a short while and whilst I was seeing him he was called back and he was told to phone FW de Klerk, which is probably the phone call which Mac Maharaj was also talking about. So I knew at that stage, Meiring told me, that Mac Maharaj was also there and I realised that Mac Maharaj was part of the TEC but I never spoke to Mac Maharaj himself.
So Jan Breytenbach and myself went to the Embassy to see Meiring in order to hand over to him, to say to him that I'm going to withdraw my forces because I can do nothing in this situation here. So Meiring then said he will see what he can do from the Defence Force point of view for law and order. I didn't feel like leaving behind me chaos and that's why I went to Meiring to say please can you do something.
I then went back to the airport from the Embassy and at the airport I saw Ferdi Hartzenberg and I also saw the military commanders of the people who were then still in that specific area. Before I went to the Embassy I gave a warning order to my soldiers or to my forces saying prepare to withdraw, there's no sense for us to stay here, we will have to withdraw and disappear in the same way as we arrived at Bophuthatswana. Coming back the one group, that must have been 5.30 or 6 o'clock, one group was already on its way, one convoy of the bakkies and vehicles and lorries and everything was already on its way and I only saw the real party at the back. I personally briefed them because I realised that they were running into opposition along the route. I personally briefed them on the immediate action they have to take, etc., and then they went off and I then went back by small plane as I arranged beforehand and then that evening in that plane I then said, look here, there's no way for us, we cannot with the AWB in amongst us we will not be able to make any progress regarding military forces. I then gave orders that Corné Mulder and his brother should meet me at the airport when I arrived in Pretoria and that evening we started planning the election.
So the election was the final decision that evening made on the plane, realising that with the AWB as an unstable factor in our military make-up we will not be able to do any real military operation. You know we had the experience with the World Trade Centre and they didn't listen to our order, they just went through the door and this was the second one and it became clear to me that no military operation with my forces would succeed because the AWB would never listen, they would use their own ill-disciplined way of operating. That evening I made this decision.
To come back to the next day, Saturday morning, I was surprised that they have axed Mangope because I could see no legal grounds for them to do this because Meiring was there with a considerable force and I am sure that Meiring could have stabilised the situation around Mangope but this was seen as an opportunity and in their opportunistic quick way the ANC moved in and they axed Mangope with the assistance – they actually ordered the NP government to axe Mangope which they did. Now this whole action of Mangope was actually a very important stage in the whole transition period. Had we been successful, and all the indications were that morning when the first group of 200 had arrived in Mmabatho started operating that we would have been successful because the farmers part of my forces within the Volksfront were very, very well disciplined and they were very much prepared to act in a disciplined way and to be obedient to the orders given by us but the AWB was exactly the opposite. It was a crisis also this whole Mangope situation regarding the Freedom Alliance because remember, I think it was Joe Slovo saying, "One down two to go", referring to Buthelezi and to Oupa Gqozo.
I think what I would advise you to do, I am not sure whether I still have one, but there was an enquiry, the Tebutt Commission, in this regard. He was a Judge, Judge Tebutt. I have about that size evidence that I gave him in that commission and we were questioned by about six or seven, cross-questioned by six or seven advocates. So if you can get that part, and I am sure I still have one somewhere, if I knew that it had been necessary I could have brought it with me but I just have to look for it.
POM I'll have Judy …
CV What I've given you know is a short summary of the whole situation.
POM There was an article that appeared about three months ago by Max du Preez in the Sunday Times where he refers to a party you attended along with van Zyl Slabbert, Laurence Schlemmer, Jurgen Vogl and Thabo was there too, but at which you had said (maybe Thabo wasn't there) … but at which you had said you had about 40 000 commandos at your disposal.
CV You see you can't call them commandos. Let me tell you how we did this. When I was given the task to give strategic guidance to the Afrikaner people through the transition period I devised a number of strategies. I had a military strategy, I had a diplomatic strategy, I had a negotiation strategy, I had a political strategy and I was running all these strategies and, remember, I only had about a year. I started with this round about April 1993 and in April 1994 there was going to be the election. Our military strategy consisted about the creation of a force for two reasons: (a) in case it would be necessary to go over to military action but we will be prepared, but (b) the important part is to have more bargaining power in the whole negotiation process because when I was given the request or the instruction by the Afrikaners, mainly farmers, to assist them they said, they had said to me, look here we have nobody to trust in this country, we don't trust de Klerk. The Conservative Party is pretty dead, they shout a lot but they have nothing to do and they couldn't offer any other solution. There is no political party, there was no political party at that stage in which the farmers had any trust so they said to me, "Please, come, give us the strategic direction", which I did with a number of strategies.
Now the military strategy, we had planned the creation of a force by appointing organisers which operated through the country and they worked very hard for about three months, having meetings all over the country and making sure as to who would be completely trustworthy because we were in trouble. You could never say which Afrikaans speaking people would be a NP collaborator and that could really be a danger for us. In fact even in the Conservative Party you had people and the infiltration of people such as the Security Police and so on who also posed a threat to us. So we went into a great effort in order to find out which farmers would be a number one, we called them 'number ones', number ones being the most trustworthy and the people that we can really depend upon. If you take that number of people, it's difficult to say but there might have been 30/40 000 of them. Had I decided on a war a part of the Defence Force – the Defence Force could probably have split and a part of them could have come to me. It's very difficult to say which part but from my contacts with my previous colleagues, etc., it became clear to me that they were not all very happy with this but they were very well disciplined and they were very professional in their task, especially a man such as Meiring. Meiring never gave any indication to me that he would consider turning against the government but I knew for a fact that certain units within the Defence Force would probably have turned completely around had I decided to wage a war but I would never have done so from an irresponsible opportunistic point of view. I would only have done so if that was the real last resort to do this.
Now you mentioned how many people. I would say 40/60 000 is possible. But you must bear in mind, against whom would we have to take a stand? Many of the Conservative Party people believed that when Viljoen was there and he makes this to be a war and as all the other battles that we have fought under my command we would have won the battle. But my people were armed in a very simple way, mainly rifles, pistols and so on. I had no helicopters, I had no armoured cars, I had no tanks and I would probably have had to face at least part of the Defence Force. In other words, helicopters, gun ships, fighter aircraft, tank units, armoured car units, all those people could have operated against me. Add to this the reported presence of a force of Americans round about Gaborone, I was told, we had intelligence that the Americans would be prepared in case of somebody trying to overthrow the election on 27 April to come in. After that it would be silly of me to start a war which I knew would not be successful and that's the military potential. But the military potential, remember I said that too, firstly we wanted to have a force in case it was the last resort. Secondly, more bargaining power. It's the story of the lamb and the wolf arguing with each other and so the lamb was eaten by the wolf and the moral of the story is you don't argue with a wolf if you're a lamb and you don't have a pistol in your hand. Now my military force was the pistol in the hand in order to negotiate but it was also a pistol that could really shoot because that gave me more credibility. That is also why at a certain stage we started blowing up pylons and causing some terrorist acts or some destabilisation in order to send the message of credibility. The reason why we did this was to reinforce our potential in order to gain what we had in mind on self-determination.
Now what we had in mind on self-determination for a large portion of my people was a separate volkstaat, to hell with the new South Africa, but for the majority of Afrikaners, even the farmers, it was stability in the new SA so that is why we had this military strategy. The military strategy came to a point in the Mmabatho situation where it had lost its credibility because of the ill-discipline of the AWB.
POM You must have seen the Sunday Times, Max du Preez' article about – when he talked about the moment SA nearly came apart, where you had told van Zyl Slabbert and Thabo that you had 40 000 people ready to go and that part … at that time. Was that part of the diplomatic stage that preceded Mmabatho?
CV Yes, yes, sure that was before.
POM You were playing your cards saying … turning the screw.
CV I was turning on the screw, yes.
POM Do you have a copy of that article? I'll get a copy for you.
CV I probably have read it but please send it down to me.
POM Did you have a number of meetings with Mbeki?
CV Yes, Mbeki was part of the negotiating team of the ANC. Round about May, no in June – sorry, it was later, it was July, in July 1993 the Conservative Party unilaterally had decided to withdraw from the talks in Kempton Park … and they just went out. They thought that they were very cute to do this. I said to them, "But you're very stupid. Here we have negotiations that can determine the country's fate and also our fate and you have now given up the last opportunity, diplomatic opportunity in the negotiation process. Why did you do this?" Then something else I said to them, "But the Generals can talk straight to the ANC", because I had suggested that we need to be part of some negotiation process otherwise some other people will decide for us and that is why Ferdi Hartzenberg had agreed that eventually the Generals will start the talking because it was not acceptable to the population that supported the Conservative Party that there would be talks with the ANC but Ferdi Hartzenberg saw the wisdom of this and he said, "OK, the Generals may do so".
POM The Generals being? Generals in the - ?
CV Of the Volksfront Directorate of Generals. When I was asked please give strategic direction we were actually four Generals, myself, Kobus Visser who was a Police Lieutenant General, Bischoff who was an army General and Tienie Groenewald who was the strategist amongst the few.
POM You were talking about when the Conservative Party withdrew, you saw there was a vacuum, you said there must be somebody there to fill the vacuum.
CV Oh yes, I said, "Please, how on earth can you leave the negotiation of our fate to the NP and the ANC?" because those were the two major parties, and then it was decided and let me arrange the first meeting with Mandela. I saw Mandela on 12th August 1993 and that started the negotiation process and in that negotiation process Mandela was not the chief negotiator, Mbeki was the chief negotiator, Mbeki and Zuma together with people such as Maduna often participated, he is now the Premier of the Eastern Cape Stofile, he participated, Matthews Phosa often participated. So it was a very high level ANC negotiating team that started negotiating with us on 12th August 1993.
POM It didn't involve Cyril?
CV No Cyril was involved with the Freedom Alliance. The Freedom Alliance was established on 15th October 1993. The Freedom Alliance and the Volksfront, my people, when we were formed in October we decided that there would be only one negotiating team and that is the Freedom Alliance talking with the ANC. Then we found something strange and that is we found that the Afrikaner Volksfront with the Generals could make more progress with the ANC and we had more accord with the ANC that in the Freedom Alliance situation. The ANC was very much hating Mangosuthu Buthelezi, Oupa Gqozo, Mangope and those people. They were prepared to talk to us because I think it was also a matter of fearing us, they were not fearing their black colleagues you see.
So the Freedom Alliance then round about November had decided to split up again in negotiating allowing the Volksfront and the Generals to carry on with the Thabo Mbeki negotiating group and allowing Cyril Ramaphosa and Roelf Meyer to carry on with the Freedom Alliance group. From the Volksfront people such as Ben Ngubane and Buthelezi and Tienie Groenewald, those people, they participated in the negotiation process there whereas myself and Go Steyn and Tim Langley, a few of us carried on negotiating, Bischoff too, with the ANC. For some reason we made progress and the Freedom Alliance did not make any progress. So came December 1993, on 3rd December we had a meeting, and this is probably the meeting that you're referring to, and I remember Mbeki at that meeting throwing up his hands to say, "Well we are miles apart. We've been negotiating now ever since August and we're miles apart." Then he said, "If self-determination is what you want then we will have to address that." That was the beginning of the addressing of self-determination. Firstly, the constitutional addressing. Then in that December we arrived at the position where in Cape Town –
POM That's December 1993?
CV Yes. In Cape Town they were preparing the final Act of 1993 which was the Transitional Act to pass … I was very keen to have something about the decision of if self-determination is not on that we have to address it, get that included.
POM The elections are in April 1994, the agreement for the Interim Constitution was passed in November of 1993, 16th or 17th.
CV But the final legislation was only in December.
POM Got you, OK, December. Because it had to go through parliament.
CV It had to be taken through parliament, that's right. That August after this meeting we started working on what we called an Accord. Now you've got the Accord, I gave it to you. That Accord is now known as the unsigned Accord. I'll tell you why it was unsigned. That Accord on how do we address the issue of self-determination was an agreement between the Freedom Front, because we were now acting as the Freedom Front, ANC and the then National Party represented by Roelf Meyer.
POM The ANC represented by Mbeki?
CV Mbeki, he personally signed it and I personally signed it. We both signed it. Now that first unsigned Accord –
POM Why do you call it unsigned if as you say you both signed it?
CV No, no, we both signed the final Accord. On 18th December we were going to sign this agreement which amongst other things would address the issue of a volkstaat and everything was arranged. It would have been signed in the Carlton Hotel. We had a press meeting, the whole of them. The night before it was signed Ferdi Hartzenberg phoned me saying that look here, the Freedom Alliance, the ANC, NP negotiations had bogged down completely and we cannot sign anything this Saturday that might be detrimental to the progress of the Freedom Alliance.
POM This is on the 17th of December?
CV It was due to be signed on the 18th December which was a Saturday and on the 17th that evening I was phoned by Ferdi Hartzenberg saying that no way can we sign this because it will be bad for the Freedom Alliance and we have to care for our partners too. That put me in a rather bad predicament. Early that morning, the Saturday morning, I went to see Jacob Zuma, I'm not sure why I didn't see Mbeki, because everybody was supposed to be there, Mandela, the National Executive Council, the whole lot. I still have a letter of Mandela saying thank you very much and he assures me that the whole NEC is in agreement with that Accord which is now the unsigned Accord. So I said to Jacob Zuma I am now barred from signing this and then Zuma came with a little bit of wisdom and he said, "Now look here General, an Accord is an agreement and if the Volksfront and the ANC and the NP have agreed on this why do we then not accept this as an agreement even if it's not signed?" And that's how it became known as the unsigned agreement. So we had a meeting at the Carlton Hotel which was supposed to be a signing ceremony but it turned out to be just an explanation as to what progress we had made, etc., and to what we had agreed. Of course the bad thing was Mandela didn't come and the big shots were not there. It would have had a much greater impact.
But remember what I said, I said I wanted this included in the Transactional Act, the Act … I took this unsigned agreement and I went down to Cape Town on, I think, the 19th.
POM So Mbeki didn't attend the Carlton meeting?
CV No. Zuma attended. You can see it was no longer really a big meeting, this was in order to assist the Freedom Alliance you see. So I went down to Cape Town and I saw Cyril Ramaphosa and Roelf Meyer and I said, "This is the agreement and I want this as an annexure to this Act to be passed by parliament."
POM The agreement provided for?
CV Self-determination for the Afrikaner people, including the concept of …
POM Geographic self-determination?
CV Yes, a volkstaat. It was also agreed.
POM That was agreed?
CV Yes. Not exactly where it would be.
POM But it was agreed in principle that there would be –
CV The principle was agreed.
POM There would be a volkstaat that would be a geographical territory for the Afrikaner people who wished to go there.
CV Eventually they were only prepared, they ditched the idea, Cyril Ramaphosa and Roelf Meyer agreed, they jointly opposed this idea of having an annexure to the Act. Then they agreed only to the inclusion of Principle No. 34 which is the principle of self-determination. Principle No. 34 agreed that the new constitution relating to concepts of – or will consider, you know the Principles, there are 34 principles in drafting the new constitution, and this principle was the important one and that we achieved. So we were not bare-handed at that stage but the failure of the team that negotiated for the Freedom Alliance had caused this to be an unsigned agreement and the final agreement was only signed on 23rd April on my insistence because I said to my people that the only way of making sure that the ANC will not turn around on us would be to have a signing ceremony in the Union Buildings between the three parties attended by some of the representatives from other outside states. Eventually it was signed in the presence of the British High Commissioner and the American Ambassador, Princeton Lyman. I had a very good relationship with Princeton Lyman.
POM That was on 23rd?
CV 23rd April 1994. Now I've spoken a hell of a long way and I'm far away from Bophuthatswana.
POM No, but you're also speaking of your whole history.
CV I must ask you to get hold of that testimony in front of the Tebutt Commission because the testimony of myself, Jan Breytenbach and Go Steyn and the cross-questioning by the advocates.
POM Do you have some place a copy of it?
CV If I don't have then I'm sure Piet Uys will have, of the Freedom Front. You remember Piet Uys of the Freedom Front? He was my Staff Officer with the Freedom Front. I'll be able to get one from Joubert because he still has.
POM Where is he [Piet Uys] now? Is he still with the Freedom Front?
CV Yes, he is the Secretary of the Freedom Front, he still is the Secretary.
POM So the sequence, so I get it right, to summarise would have been that the article in the Sunday Times, Max du Preez talks about this party where you were present and van Zyl Slabbert and Larry Schlemmer and Jurgen Vogl and Thabo. It would have been before December 1993?
CV It probably was about the beginning of December 1993.
POM When you were playing your military – you were showing, "I'm playing my military card."
CV I was playing –
POM Saying I have got pressure, I can do something that will really upset you guys. Then there's a series of meetings after that between you and Thabo.
CV But now remember our whole action of preparing such a force was picked up by the Security. No ways could you organise a force countrywide without being picked up. I remember one day when van der Merwe who was the Commissioner of Police and Basie Smit asked to see me in the Volksfront offices. They came to the Volksfront offices and they sat across from me and Johan van der Merwe had said to me, "Old colleague, we have had a lot of work together but we are just here to warn you that we know what you're busy with." He then also explained to me how he gained the knowledge. He said the AWB, which was part of the Volksfront, you couldn't leave them out, he said, "What you tell them they will pass and you will know they will go to the hotel and have a couple of drinks and then start talking and then if you are there and you're programmed you get everything that you want." So the fact is the credibility of my force could not be questioned, it could not be questioned and the credibility was there until 23rd April because on 23rd April, after I had signed the agreement, the Afrikaner self-determination agreement, that day I called together my military people and I said to them, "Look here we're not going to have a war. This is the best solution now for us. We have through our efforts applied enough pressure in order to constitutionalise the issue of self-determination."
POM This was the 23rd of ?
CV April 1994. Four days before the election. I said to them that we're not going to have a war, four days before the election.
POM But Thabo in a way reneged on you. Thabo, with whom you did the initial negotiations, with whom you signed off initially, he then after cutting a more concrete thing in writing, signed by both of you, then backed away from it and the watered down version –
CV Yes there's a doubt about it. The ANC has not adhered to the spirit of this agreement.
POM Do you have a copy of what you and Thabo signed?
POM You do?
CV Yes, sure I have. You can also get that from Piet Uys. I will ask him to make it available to you.
POM What you're recounting now is untold history.
POM That's why I keep coming back because every time –
CV Everybody is applying pressure on me also to start writing a book but you know I still –
POM You tell everybody that I've got that amount of information to use that they'd better come to me.
You left politics. Why in the end did you call it a day?
CV I think because (a) my age. Considering practical problems of implementing what I successfully constitutionalised over self-determination it became clear to me that not within my lifetime with the present instability within the country and with the present … of the ANC will I really achieve much to implement that part soon. Also because of the proximity of apartheid. Apartheid still just has to disappear and when that has disappeared there will be a new willingness within the ANC and within the – because self-determination, internal self-determination, is that something that we can say this is how it will be? You have to negotiate it. So I did the negotiations on the constitutionalising this, I did the introduction of the system. I got the Accord of Afrikaner self-determination, but the practical implementation will take much longer than my span of life. So that's the reason why I eventually decided it's not for me. Another reason is I'm not for politics. I never liked politics, I never wanted to be a politician. I think I had lots of success up to 1996 when we signed it, thereafter I made very little success and I made very little progress. I then thought it would be better for me to move out and to pay more attention, if possible, to the general cohesiveness, the togetherness of the Afrikaners than to remain in a small political party, after the1999 election we were pretty small, fighting for something which has been constitutionalised and which will not be able to be implemented practically soon. So this is the reason, and of course I wanted to go back to my farm. I'm not a rich man. I love farming. The farm has always taken second priority in my life and this time I've said, no, before I die I want to finish my task on the farm too.
POM Do you feel that in any way that the ANC, maybe Mandela in particular, kind of, to use the English word, suckered you, promised you things, constitutionalised things which they never really intended to deliver? That they said, this is an honest man, he's not a politician and what we will do is we will appease him so that there will be no uprising, we will bring him into the tent – remember Lyndon Johnson had this famous phrase that it's better to have somebody in the tent pissing out than somebody outside the tent pissing in, that they would bring you into the process which from their point of view was a far more important strategic objective than having you outside. But once they got you inside, they gave you the perks of parliament, they gave you the perks of … but they had no real intention of ever delivering on self-determination …
CV The issue of self-determination when it comes to the practical implementation, all over the world poses this problem, this very same problem. When we negotiated the constitution we were all very happy. In fact all the political parties unanimously voted for the cause of self-determination and I think that was a great achievement. Now when you say is this not appeasement? Yes, it probably might be. The question is how do you change this because all over the world the problem of practical implementation of self-determination or even minority rights poses the very same problem. Secondly, I cannot blame the ANC for following the appeasement policy when within Afrikanerdom itself there was not an overwhelming support for the concepts which we tried to implement. This is the bigger problem, I would say this is a more major reason for me signing off from politics. Before the 1999 election my party came to me and they said to me, "Please, just carry on until after the 1999 election." Then came the disappointment of the 1999 election and I then carried on after 1999 just for the sake of completing an opinion poll done by Laurence Schlemmer, I showed you the opinion poll, and thereafter I said that I would now withdraw because it became clear to me that what I had in mind for the Afrikaners at this stage of the battle in SA has not received the full support of Afrikanerdom. This was a greater contribution towards the non-achievement of our goals than the appeasement policy of the ANC. I think had the Afrikaners really been strong in their demands, had we hammered the table, it could have materialised.
POM Yet in the end the Afrikaner wasn't the Afrikaner? Do you know what I mean?
CV In the end – the point I'm making is there is a big problem within Afrikanerdom that the political divisiveness and the … of political thinking within the Afrikaner at this very crucial phase is making the achievements of practically implementing what is constitutionalised very difficult and that's the reason why I decided there was no sense in me –
POM Do you have any sense among your people that the desire for self-determination, … of which the government now knows that there will be no armed uprising, that Afrikaners are so spread geographically and politically that what had once been a fundamental principle, strong principle, has now dissipated and is weakening –
CV You must bear in mind that the dissolution for it within Afrikaner ranks and the collapse of the NP which was their political party for many years, and especially the rejection of the securocrats or the influence of the army and the officers of the Defence Force by de Klerk has caused a complete collapse of Afrikaner expectations. I think this is the problem that we have at the moment and until such time as we have some form of togetherness, some form of solidarity going again, and it will come, it will come but not at the moment.
POM Do you think de Klerk ever was looking over his shoulder saying I wonder what the SADF will do, I've cut them out, I've dismantled the National Management Security System?
CV I don't think de Klerk did this from his own initiative. I think he was pressurised into this. I think the western world and the ANC had realised that the power of the Defence Force is still a very important factor and they decided to dismantle that as soon as possible and that is why they, from 1994 onwards or before that, 1989 –
POM When de Klerk took over as President.
CV When de Klerk took over as President.
POM He was negotiating with the ANC.
CV He started to break down.
POM But he's got the, he's breaking down the securocratic system, he's dismantling the National Management System. Do you think he ever feared there might be a coup?
CV De Klerk?
POM Yes, that the Generals will –
CV I always say that if you consider the composition of the SADF a coup is virtually impossible. When you take the number of permanent force units, of full time force units, of Citizen Force units, of commandos, I would have turned this country into turmoil if I really decided on a war in 1994 because that would have been a big centrifugal force blowing everything apart. The instability would have been incredible.
POM Did the ANC realise that? Did the NP realise that?
CV Sure. The ANC is very well informed, make no mistake.
POM Then you settled for an unsigned agreement that –
CV Well eventually a signed agreement.
POM A signed agreement that put self-determination as a clause in the constitution, that it's there some time to be realised but that's it. So in the end you settled for – and then they put you off for years.
CV Settled for a piece of paper which is called the constitution.
POM And they put you off for years and after that –
CV Yes but now remember what I said, I could not have foreseen – remember when I participated in the election, 640 000 Afrikaners voted for the Freedom Front. That 640 000 represents 37,5% of the Afrikaner voters which is a substantial group, there's no doubt about it. Had that group grown or had that group remained very strong in claiming what was in the constitution it would have strengthened my hand but that didn't happen. That is the main cause why eventually –
POM Why didn't that happen? What happened within the Afrikaner who one day was saying - ?
CV You must read the Schlemmer report. Schlemmer has said very clearly that the Afrikaner had all of a sudden realised that his identity politics of the past, everything is about the Afrikaner, must make way for interest politics because with the new government and the poor situation of the Afrikaner after the 1994 election the biggest problem would be to maintain the interest along the interests of the Afrikaners as a group and forget about identity, this is no longer important. It's far too close to apartheid in any case so forget about this, as long as we can maintain our property rights and make sure that we have a good standard and a good standard at universities, a good standard at that, etc. Another very important point –
POM One of the what one might call almost contradictions that the only universities that are thriving are what used to be the Afrikaner universities, the rest are in turmoil.
CV No, the bigger problem was this, when eventually we found that Afrikaans universities, traditional Afrikaans universities no longer wanted to claim Afrikaans as the predominant –
POM Sorry General, you were just saying about the university.
CV I was saying that the universities themselves because of the fear of remaining a small university saw a danger in becoming predominantly Afrikaans universities and they wanted to be part of the bigger SA so this is another reason why I say that the Afrikaners at this stage has not really made up their mind. Now I've done my job, there is a peaceful transition, we have constitutionalised what is important there. It's now up to the Afrikaner to stand up to claim what we have agreed. I was given the instruction to give strategic guidance during the transition. I did this, it gave us a peaceful transition, it gave us a constitutionalised principle of self-determination, it gave a dignified position of the Afrikaner within the new SA. What the Afrikaner now wants to do with his future is over to the people, the Afrikaners themselves and they are battling at the moment because you can see from the political parties. You have the Freedom Front which is still a pretty small political party, the Conservative Party is dying, the New National Party is in chaos and the Democratic Alliance is also fading away. So before long the pigeons are still circling, hopefully they will get direction but I've done my job.
POM Do you think that since 1994, I'm seeing President Mandela on Wednesday and this is one of the questions I'm going to put to him. I'm seeing him on Wednesday in Cape Town, I told you that's why I had to take the questions, all our computers have gone.
CV You have the number of Zelda for me?
POM I have it, yes.
CV Give it to me right now because I've lost my book and I have to urgently contact her. Mandela is better than Mbeki, he gathers around him efficient people. Zelda is very efficient, very loyal and Petersen too.
POM Zelda is like a tank, you don't – put your head down and almost like be a bull and she goes everywhere with him. Shireen is her assistant and any message you want to get to her will get to her and she will respond. Just going back, that's an interesting point you make. What has happened to the country under Thabo? Thabo was always seen as – like Mandela left the day-to-day running of the government to Thabo and Thabo was seen as being the efficient person, a bright person, and yet my question to Mandela is going to be: since 1994 is SA on its way to becoming what I would call a one-party democracy rather than a multi-party democracy? Is the soil for the development of multi-party democracy, is the fertiliser not being put in, is it diminishing or is it growing?
CV No, Thabo is a disappointment but I think it is exactly as it was planned. The ANC saw into Mandela the sort of charismatic leader that creates great expectations and that gets things going in the new SA. Thabo has the job of transforming, of doing the unpleasant changes. Thabo is, in my opinion, failing. I understand why he is doing this because it's politics, he has a certain support base but the biggest advantage of SA was the peaceful transition and the spirit of co-operation and the general preparedness to forget about the past and to carry on and then came the TRC and it changed the whole situation around and now we have black power and we have very much a threat towards the spirit of reconciliation and spirit of togetherness. The new patriotism which was often spoken about by Mandela in parliament that has gone now but we mustn't think that what takes place now is the final political scene in SA. The new political scene in SA will only develop after another five or ten years. Maybe we were all naïve in expecting so much to be achieved in such a short time and I think that – I don't even think in my lifetime but eventually things will, hopefully, turn out for the good.
POM But since 1994 do you see space for multi-party democracy having increased or diminished?
CV Diminished, diminished.
POM Much closer to what I say has been called not a one-party state but a one-party democracy.
CV Yes, for sure.
POM … Constitutional Court.
CV But as I said diminished because of the urge to transform, to do the unpleasant task of transforming and that's what creates the impression or the perception.
POM When I go out, and of course I live in a white area, and now regularly being robbed, when I go out at night to a restaurant or whatever they are almost still full of white people spending money. When I travel on SA Airways it's mostly white people. When I travel abroad on SAA or British Airways or whatever it's mostly white South Africans. Has even since 1994 the position of the white person or the Afrikaner been in any way seriously eroded or has it stabilised at a level?
CV I think educationally-wise yes.
POM Educationally-wise it's been eroded.
CV Yes, no doubt about it. I think economically in a way yes but not particularly Afrikaners, I think everybody in SA is finding it more difficult.
POM But that's not because there's an ANC government. This would have happened – I mean SA is at the forces of a global economy, it doesn't have control over its own economic destiny. Or do you think it has?
CV No. I think the problem with SA is economically that we don't have enough internal self-confidence that would spill over into the international scene to create external confidence in SA. You take a simple situation of people getting a package deal at the end of their career, paid their gratuity. People nowadays take the gratuity instead of creating some business or the government or jobs in SA. They spend the gratuity in overseas investment. This means that the South Africans themselves have lost confidence but did not have enough confidence and this is the problem economically. This together with the international scene which is also not very favourable as far as the economy is concerned is causing us – this is a great threat for the future of SA because we are not growing economically. This year again the economic growth rate has been disappointing.
POM It's going to be 1.2% by the end of the year.
CV That's right, terrible.
POM In fact per capital income is going to drop.
CV That means that the expectation of the black people of 1994 has not materialised. What is more the expectation of the white people economically has also not materialised. This is a terrible situation because the black people might revolt against this and eventually the ANC might split and they might form a far left, COSATU and SACP, and the more conservative. That in my opinion is the beginning of sensible politics in the new SA. At the moment our politics are still racially orientated, because of black liberation you have a black political solidarity at the moment.
POM Do you think that the average white person, again people that you come in contact with, thinks that Mbeki in particular uses the race card over and over again to such an extent that he is creating divisiveness –
CV Yes, I'm absolutely sure. The whole issue of affirmative action, for example.
POM When the arms procurement report was given to parliament members walked out because they didn't like the report, or the process of the report. They just said, "They're white racists". They didn't say, "Well, maybe we should consider what they have to say and take that into account." They said, "They're racists". Anything that happens, when anybody opens their mouth to say something, he says, "You're a racist."
CV It is a big problem. It is causing divisiveness.
POM You knew him and you've dealt with him on many occasions over the years. Do you see him as a different personality as President in the way he is running the country than when he was either Deputy President or when he was part of the ANC's top echelon of negotiators? Is he a different man?
CV You must always bear in mind Mbeki is good at theory. He's a philosopher, he's not a manager and I think this is a problem. Always bear in mind Mbeki has the unpleasant task of transformation. If you think about others in the ANC it's difficult to say who would have been better.
POM Would Cyril have been better?
CV From a management point of view yes, Cyril is a very good manager.
POM Would Cyril be even –
CV But how Cyril would have achieved good management together with transition, especially on affirmative action, it's difficult to see.
POM But would Cyril be more in touch with his own people?
CV No. No not necessarily.
POM Can you ever imagine Thabo in a T-shirt going into a township, operating naturally?
POM Can you imagine Cyril walking in and - ?
CV Cyril is much easier yes.
POM Who would have the charisma? Does SA need both a charismatic leader as well as an intelligent leader?
CV I think intelligence is very important and you cannot take away the charismatic factor for the simple reason that charisma is what you need to lead a great variety of people. Nelson Mandela has [it] and it is frightfully important in SA, that touches on the issue of confidence of the country, internal confidence, which I said is one of the problems that we're having, we don't have internal confidence.
POM When you see corporations investing their profits abroad you can hardly ask people abroad to invest in SA. The first question they'll say is, well what are South African companies doing?
POM Do you feel comfortable with the new SA, whatever you want to call it?
CV Do I feel easy?
POM Yes, comfortable, easy, do you feel at home, at peace?
CV No. I would have preferred it otherwise, but remember what I said earlier on and that is what I feel about self-determination and the way I saw this developing is not where I get support from my people but slowly but certainly it's picking up. You have many voices coming up now, first people are talking about minority rights. You have the Group of 63 working for minority rights. My thinking and that of my party has been ahead of the Afrikaner but not with the Afrikaner. This is one of the reasons why I had to leave politics, I was too far ahead of the Afrikaners.
POM Will the next generation become - ? How are you doing for time?
CV My time is running out.
POM OK, then just let's talk until – unless you want something? What are you having? Let us just then run very quickly through a few things. One is had the AWB not moved in … might everything be different in this country?
CV Yes very much so. I am convinced that had the AWB not moved in and had we had a success Mangope would have chosen to decide to participate in the election because Mangope could see from his people what their wishes were. That would have strengthened the Freedom Alliance and it would have made possible the Freedom Alliance to be part of politics in the new SA. Had the Freedom Alliance participated in the election of 1994 it would have been completely different but by axing Mangope, and that's where Mac Maharaj came in, by axing Mangope they have changed the whole scene, the whole political scene. That was a major victory. What we tried to assist Mangope, and failed because of the AWB, was the beginning of a political initiative by the ANC.
POM Let's turn it around. Let's say that the AWB had not come in, that you along with the Bop armed forces had held Mangope over the weekend, that the resolution whether to participate in elections had come before his Assembly and let's say that resolution had come out no, we won't participate, would that have strengthened your hand in the sense that you would have been one of the people who had helped him maintain power, would have given you from a military point of view an air base, would have allowed you to have a place to consolidate - ?
CV No, we had no intention of forming a sort of a form base in Bophuthatswana from where we would operate. Remember my people that went to Bophuthatswana were all farmers, business people, etc., that abandoned their specific jobs for some few days of the week. They all had to go back to work. There is no way that I could keep Mangope operating. I very clearly pointed this out to him.
POM But if you're talking about 40/60 000 commandos that you could count on countrywide, how long could you count on them for?
CV This is a very good question. When we considered the whole idea of military action, remember I said our military strategy had two legs, one to have more bargaining power and to have a real possibility of acting. In consideration of this acting Ferdi Hartzenberg started a series of investigations and we were considering grabbing or UDIing a certain area for the sake of a volkstaat.
POM Which area?
CV This is the problem, which area? We were considering using our forces in order to achieve a volkstaat in a specific area, let us say the Eastern Transvaal option or the Northern Cape option, it doesn't matter, we hadn't decided. If we had decided in 1994 to grab an area then we would have used the Afrikaner Volksfront forces to go to that area, make a stand in that area to say here we are, but the idea was not to be able to fight that area for the next ten years. It would have been a method of forcing the ANC and the NP to accept the idea of a volkstaat because we all realised that we could not indefinitely carry on a war.
POM So in a sense, by no way a military strategist at all, I'm deep into history of the first world war at the moment, you had the capacity to cause a certain degree of havoc and instability in pursuit of a volkstaat which you couldn't define?
CV No, which at that stage we hadn't defined, not we couldn't but we hadn't. I think you might be right to say we couldn't.
POM The objective wasn't clear. Like if you fight a war you say there's the enemy, I'm fighting the enemy to get from A to –
CV Let me demonstrate this, but you carry on first with your reason.
POM My reason would be that if you are fighting a war you say that's the objective. The objective is B, or maybe the objective is D, I'm at A so I go from A to B to C and then I get to D, but clearly thought out where I want to be when this war is over. It would seem to me that you had the capacity to go from A to B whereas D was completely undefined. There was no D.
CV That is what I wanted to say. Ferdi Hartzenberg ordered a number of studies about the viability of the idea of a volkstaat and the probability of us being capable of taking such an area and one of the studies was that of the financial and economic capability. Now let us say we had decided on the Eastern Transvaal area where we are at the moment. Had we grabbed this area and declared a UDI all that the government needed to do is to isolate the area, cut off the diesel supplies, switch off the electric power, stop all trains, stop farmers from marketing their produce in Johannesburg, etc., and that would have caused a hell of a lot of pressure on us. So in working this out they came to the conclusion that had we taken this military action we would have been able to sustain such an action for, let us say, six weeks.
POM Which in a sense means that all the government would have had to do is to wait you out, switch off the lights.
CV But now remember there was the great expectations of the 27th [April) election and had I done this shortly before that election date I could have applied a lot of pressure on them to back off before 27th so that the election could carry on thereby giving me more concessions. This is a new kind of war, it's not the kind of war where you win by shooting, it's a kind of war where you shoot in order to be able to negotiate or to achieve something in the negotiation phase.
POM It would seem to be that given the performance of the Freedom Front in 1999 and the way Larry Schlemmer report you talked about, is that Afrikaner politics have moved from identity politics, as you said, to interest politics. The more interest politics take over the more the –
CV No rather say the more the Afrikaner feels threatened in the field of interests the more he is seen to say forget about this thing about identity, maybe later on but at the moment we've got to watch for our properties and land occupations and affirmative action and so on.
POM Do you think you're being treated fairly in those regards? There had to be transformation.
CV The problem I have with transformation is there's no sunset clause. I felt that a young man, we are now very close to ten years, eight years, so a youngster of ten is now eighteen, a youngster in 1994 of ten years is now eighteen, that chap has been to mixed schools, they have studied at mixed universities, they live with and share each others pros and cons in life. I don't think it is fair to discriminate against the white chap of ten years in 1994 so I would have said affirmative active five years cut off date. Then let me and my group, let us pay for the sins of the past but the new young coming up generation, people that live together and they compete against each other, let them carry on after five years.
POM One of the things I have found, and this is an observation I will share with you, is that whereas in the past the Afrikaner used to go into government for the most part is now since that avenue of access has been removed by affirmative action, is what you find is that the Afrikaner is becoming the entrepreneurial class, they're going into business for themselves. It's like almost a repeat of what PW Botha said when he said, "Adapt or die", it's that the Afrikaner is adapting and replacing the English as the entrepreneurial class, they're coming up with new ideas, in the front of hi-tech.
CV Sure, but you must bear in mind that affirmative action is not only in the public service jobs. Affirmative action is also being enforced within industry. Especially when you come to, for example, the allocation of tenders this is hitting the Afrikaner hard. This is really causing big problems. Now the youngster of ten years is now eighteen years and is starting a construction firm, he is being discriminated against because of his colour which is not right.
POM Wrapping up, your assessment of the various people you have met with in your 'political' life. Who ranks high, who ranks low, who is trustworthy, who today is trustworthy, who is not to be trusted?
CV Very few politicians are trustworthy, very few. I think if I had to single out I would be prepared to say that I think Mandela did a magnificent task. Considering the number of years he spent in jail and considering the magnitude of the task he inherited in 1993/1994 I think Mandela did a lot and it is a pity – they should have carried this phase of reconciliation further. I would say the reconciliation phase in SA had they decided on fifteen years instead of five years, it was only five years then Mbeki … The whole scene economically too would have changed.
POM Would you trust Mbeki?
CV As a politician?
POM If you shook his hand over a deal would you consider it a deal done or a weak handshake?
CV I don't think Mbeki is worse than any other politician. I was just comparing Mbeki with van Schalkwyk. I think van Schalkwyk, the NNP man, can be worse than Mbeki. As I say most politicians have some sort of an instability in their make-up which is completely different from the military and that is why I could never fit into politics. I'm not a politician at all.
POM If I said to you, this is kind of wrapping up, that Mbeki because of his stand and therefore his government's stand on HIV/AIDS is in effect committing genocide on his own people, that, for example, if nevirapine, the drug you give to HIV positive women which is an injection six weeks before delivery and an injection for the child, it costs about R3-00, drugs are available free, that half of the HIV babies born per year, because about 35 000 die, it's more than during all of the apartheid era, that he is indirectly responsible for killing more of his own people than the apartheid government has been since 1948, what would you say?
CV Well the apartheid government hasn't killed many people.
POM But is he killing his people?
CV I am not scientifically well enough informed to say that he is killing his people. I think he's very foolish in this issue of AIDS. Why exactly he takes this position I don't know. If I was in his position I would have acted completely differently. The government is doing a lot in order to enhance birth control by providing contraception and so on, I think they're doing a – but why Mbeki is taking the position that he is, he is heavily criticised all over, internationally and internally and I think he's foolish.
POM The image of this country abroad because of his stand on HIV/AIDS not only means no foreign investment, because again if I'm a foreign investor and I say I'm going to go into a country where if I invest in human capital development, at least 40% of my human capital investment is going to die within ten years, I'm not going to invest.
CV I really have no idea. I'm a very fair person and I will not be harsh on Mbeki. All I say is to me he sounds stupid.
POM Isn't there a great sadness to it all?
CV There's a complete sadness about the whole idea of AIDS and why he is not prepared to do this I don't know. I don't know whether they fear the financial implications of this, it can't be that much.
POM Drug companies will make the drugs available free. He's taken a stand. You said he's a theorist, he has his theories, he's standing by his theories.
CV You see what I can't understand is in a way the ANC is a very democratically minded organisation within themselves and I can't understand how it is possible that Mbeki could keep on this position without being hammered from inside. I have no idea what –
POM That was going to be my next question.
CV I can't answer this question.
POM Who was it who told me, in fact it was Mac Maharaj told me that Mandela has taken to going back to meetings of the NEC because he wants to know what's gone wrong, where have all the voices gone. There used to be voices and there are people who went to jail for their beliefs, people who spent long times in exile for their beliefs and no-one speaks up any longer. It's like a country of silence, no-one dissents. Why doesn't a Minister resign, say 'I disagree"? I always cite the famous case of Lord Carrington when the British were caught napping when the Argentineans moved towards the Falklands and his department didn't note that Argentinean warships were heading right towards the Falklands and after they marched onto the beaches of the Falklands Carrington walked into the House of Commons and said, "I should have known, on my tour, I'm responsible. I didn't see it, I should have, I resign." You see no voice raised in this country. I think that's what saddens me the most.
CV I think Mandela is concerned about the voices within the ANC.
POM That's right.
CV It is as if Mbeki has got an iron fist on his people. I think so. Maybe this is a victim. You asked me whether democracy is changing … I think that's another reason why it's shrinking.
POM Thank you again very, very much. I will be back. I will call Piet for those documents. I will have all your interviews put together, they're all unedited but I have them all together and bound and I can send you a copy and then you can go through them.
CV It will take me weeks.
POM It will take you more than weeks but everything is in the works for everything now to be completed. Naspers are involved, Struik is involved, Penguin is involved and the new foundation that Mbeki set up, The Road to Democracy, they want to take all my stuff and I'm saying, "No, it's mine. I've gone out there and did it myself." But they say, "You've interviewed all these people over all these years while things were happening", which can never be recaptured because people have the ability always to, with hindsight one always gets a little bit wiser.
Always, thank you for your co-operation.
CV Thank you very much. I will fix this account. When do you expect - ?
POM Oh don't worry, Patricia will be back within the hour. I've enough work to keep me going.
CV Then if you will excuse me I really have to go. You have my telephone number in case you need anything and we have to arrange with Piet to give you the Accord and also that testimony in front of the Tebutt Commission.