About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

18 Aug 1993: Maharaj, Mac

POM     Mac, if you were to take a review of the last 18 months what key turning points would you point to moving the process either backwards or forwards?

MM     Well over the last 18 months the first major turning point, and it falls precisely within the last 18 months, is the realisation of the preparations which culminated in the preparatory meeting of CODESA. It was a turning point because in my view Nelson Mandela, having prevailed on the South African government that it was necessary for them to engage in discussion and negotiation with the ANC to finding a negotiated resolution to the South African conflict, had gone further to argue against a proposal of Mr de Klerk that Mr de Klerk, Mr Mandela and Mr Buthelezi as a trio should sit down and resolve the problems, whilst Mr Mandela took the position that in moving from apartheid to a legitimate and credible system of change you would have to go through a multi-party process. History may judge us differently for the positions we took but what was important to bringing CODESA about was the success in Mandela persuading De Klerk that the transformation process could not be something achieved in a bilateral or trilateral level, that this was a conflict-ridden society and we needed to pull all the political formations that existed in the country whether they were legitimate or illegitimate in people's eyes, but to pull them all together into the process and CODESA was the result of that view, the result of taking on board that view. Of course, now looking back over the 18 months we can see where the form in which the negotiation process has taken has also had in it the seeds of disillusionment amongst the people in that while I fully support the need for calling all these parties, many of them perceived to be illegitimate, many of them arising from vested interests that were created by the apartheid order, it necessarily had a component in it where the person in the street would become disillusioned with the process, but the positive side of it was and remains that we want to maximise the amount of support in the public and the political formations for the transformation process. So that's the first turning point.

     The second was the breakdown at CODESA. I think it was an immense achievement for CODESA to kick off with the Declaration of Intent but it is clear that hardly had the participants in CODESA signed the Declaration that they woke up to realise that what they had signed was not what they meant. The idea of the unity of South Africa, whether under a unitary system or a federal system, necessarily excluded the idea of a confederation and we see this problem surfacing today. Secondly, the Declaration embodied in it implicitly the view that we cannot build a new South Africa by simply taking the vested interests and the ethnic groupings that apartheid had tried to solidify and use them as the building blocks for the new South Africa. Again we are seeing that precisely because of its composition many parties who actually grew up under apartheid are now trying their best to pull back the processto an ethnic formation. It is not without significance that the COSAG group, while on one side calling for the cessation of negotiations in the multi-party process, have also been entertaining the idea of setting up another forum and that forum which is built on some degree of understanding between the IFP and the Conservative Party necessarily moves back to the PW type of thinking which says, yes, negotiations but through the ethnic leaders, authentic ethnic leaders, which therefore denies the unity of South Africa. So I think this disillusionment arises from many sides and impatience with the process also arises from many sides but some of the elements of it are present in the very composition of its structure. I am saying that the Declaration of Intent was an historic milestone, it held out a tremendous hope for the country and for the process but I think that many parties had a rethink as the process was going on when they looked at the implications of what they had signed.

     Similarly the next turning point was the breakdown in CODESA. The entire process of negotiations has been bedevilled by arguments as to whether De Klerk or the South African government can be trusted or not trusted. There have even been propositions put forward that to find a negotiated solution parties must first develop trust in each other. I personally think that the record shows that that is putting the issue the wrong way round. Trust is an important element but develops in a process. It's not a starting point. It can be seen as a culminating point in negotiations and I think that this issue has bedevilled the process. In CODESA the breakdown, specifically while it arose from the Boipatong massacre, was the bursting into public limelight of the agenda that the National Party government had followed. Those who argued around the question of trust and said, "You can't trust him", and even those who said, "Trust him", had to live with the reality that the South African government strategy had been changing and from the time that it released Nelson Mandela and unbanned the ANC and other organisations to the breakdown at CODESA it had been following a double agenda and when the breakdown came –

POM     With the talks on the one hand and destabilising on the other.

MM     Destabilise you, in fact even the destabilising had different elements in it. I think that there were members of the security forces and the state structures whose concept of destabilising was the effective destruction of the ANC. I think this was even present when P W Botha was talking to Nelson Mandela. I think his initial starting point was to respond to Mandela's overtures from prison but in a direction which would split him and the ANC, split him off from the ANC or at least split the ANC as the basis for the ANC's destruction. They realised later that that was an unachievable object. I think they only realised that with my detention because it is in my detention that they picked up evidence that Nelson was in communication with Oliver Tambo from Victor Verster Prison whereas he had conducted himself with them on the basis that he and he alone was talking to them but on a principled position that at some point he has to report to the ANC. But they thought that at Victor Verster they had effectively sealed him off and the fact that he had co-operated in his removal from Pollsmoor to Victor Verster, in the sense that he had not raised any major objection, led them to believe that their strategy of dividing the ANC would work and it is around the evidence that they accumulated which led to my detention that they found that things were not the way they saw it, that in fact Nelson was in regular communication and in fairly exhaustive communication with OR that gave these different formations within the security forces and the state strategy of talk and destabilise a sense now that you could not trust Nelson Mandela, that the strategy of dividing him from the ANC or dividing the ANC into two wings could not work and it could not work because they woke up with the shock that he was at one with OR.

POM     Would those two wings be a wing on the left and a wing on the centre?

MM     I think the South African government has always made the mistake of trying to look at the splitting of the ANC in terms of wings such as left and nationalist, moderate and militant. The history of the ANC does not show any evidence that splits, where they have occurred in the past, occurred in that way. Yes, factions like the group that tried to appropriate the badge of nationalism, tried to raise questions of anti-communism. The PAC split over the Freedom Charter and tried to taint the ANC with the communist label but those are never the basis on which the ANC can be split but at least they hoped that Nelson was talking to them and agreeing to negotiations and Tambo leading an all round sort of people's war from outside would result in a cleavage in the ANC around negotiate or not negotiate. There was enough evidence to suggest that that tactic would not work because the South African government, while it had agreed and was talking to Nelson in prison believing that nothing was coming out of those discussions to OR, was also making overtures to the ANC outside but it was therefore sitting in a position where it thought it was having two sets of confidential discussions or more with different people in the ANC and that none of it was being co-ordinated in the ANC while it was being co-ordinated on the government side.

     Now when the breakdown arose the significance of that breakdown is that this dual strategy was now thoroughly nailed. My claim that we nailed it is the Record of Understanding because the Record of Understanding is part of that breakdown process and the repairing of the process and the repairing had nothing to do with trust or not trust. The repairing had to do with the central question of the balance of forces in this country that the point had been reached where De Klerk could not in any way close his eyes and pretend that his government was not following a dual strategy. What was left after the Record of Understanding is the argument that if there are any persons in the state security forces or state structures who are pursuing that strategy it's not an official strategy and that he is not aware of it. That was what was the aftermath of the Record of Understanding. The Record of Understanding, of course, was very important in that it settled a key issue that arose from the concept of a troika and a concept of a multi-party process. In advocating a multi-party process Nelson was saying, "Take on board everybody, whether they are apartheid puppets or not, into the process so that we get the maximum unity." But as yet the issue of legitimate process for constitution making had not yet gone to the question of what is the legitimate and credible constitution making process. The Record of Understanding committed the South African government to the idea of a Constituent Assembly, an elected body that would write the constitution and therefore raised the scenario that emanates from CODESA times but now is the basis on which this process is moving ahead. The important thing is that government agreed that, yes, you are right, we can write whatever it is for the transition here but for the thoroughly legitimate and credible process it must lead to a stage where an elected body writes and adopts the constitution, and that's one of the first clauses of the Record of Understanding. In addition it dealt with causes of violence, etc.

     But looking back now over this period it is clear to me that it also marks the point at which De Klerk actually acknowledges that his term of rule has reached the point where alone he cannot rule this country any more. He may have hopes, ambitions that he can survive into the future but it is now clear that from talking and destabilising he can only move into the future South Africa through some understanding and relationship with the ANC. So that's the Record of Understanding and the breakdown of CODESA also underlined the gap between the people's lives and the negotiating process.

POM     I wanted to ask you about that specifically, from the question of the majorities where essentially at the end of it the ANC offered the government a 70% veto threshold for the inclusion of items in the constitution and 75% for a Bill of Rights and then because of the deadlock breaking mechanism that was attached the National Party said no, talks stopped, then Boipatong. There are two reasons to this, one, when you ask people, "Was that the best deal probably the government ever got offered", what do you think?

MM     I think that was a pretty good deal that the government was being offered but I think the question of whether they were prepared to accept it or not actually can only be answered in terms of the fact that key government negotiators were party to the dual strategy and were still clinging to that dual strategy. I don't think that they would have accepted that deal. They had been following a negotiating strategy of brinkmanship. If we gave on one thing they would raise something else because at that point they still thought that somehow or other they were in control of the situation and that they were still intent on undermining the ANC.

     I have often referred to two statements made by Nelson and FW. When Nelson Mandela came out of prison one of the most remarkable statements he made, and a statement which required immense courage, was one where he called on white South Africans to support the National Party of F W de Klerk. It was a statement fraught with immense political dangers for him but embedded in that statement was the recognition that the negotiating process should be conducted in such a way that no party should try to weaken the other one and strengthen itself at the expense of the other. If you did that then the process itself was in trouble and De Klerk responded to that statement when Nelson made his first trip out and went to West Africa, De Klerk responded to that by calling on the international community to support the ANC financially.

     Now these two statements have been completely forgotten in the process and the conduct in CODESA of the government delegation steadily and systematically removed the significance of these two statements. In particular over this deal that was on the table the National Party negotiator, Tertius Delport, was conducting himself on the basis that I have driven him to the last minute, to the brink of time, and now the ANC will have no option but to buy the deal that we ask, we can now impose our conditions. And he took that Working Group 2 meeting right through sitting while CODESA Plenary was sitting. It collapsed when the ANC delegation, recognising the strategy that he was following then, the 70% with the deadlock breaking, and Delport then threw up his hands because he realised he had been exposed for what he was trying. And he had driven himself to the point where he had no option but to say in that case, "Complete deadlock." He had no space left for himself in the negotiating process to say, "OK, you've linked to a deadlock breaking, now let's look if we can find a more effective, more agreeable deadlock breaking mechanism." He had fixed his mind in such a way that once the ANC threw in that deadlock breaker he was completely thrown and he realised, at least the government delegation realised, that they had now driven him to the point where there was no way out.

     And then Delport completely misreading Nelson Mandela. What happened at CODESA 2 they had not been able to handle because they cannot understand the capacity with which Nelson can be absolutely firm, unshakeable, and yet how he can be ready to keep the process moving. And this happened at CODESA 2. So I think that's where the problem is. It's not the figures, it's not just figures. The figures only acquire significance when you look at and locate it within the strategy that Delport was following and Delport has followed that strategy repeatedly. I think at the moment he's now less in the public eye but you see it in what is right now happening in local government, that he negotiates a deal with the local government structures and the moment he has to implement that deal and 89 white municipalities rise and indicate that they are going to rebel, Delport gets cold feet when the right stands up because his innate sympathy is with the right. He still would like to put in place a strategy which says let the government and IFP come into an alliance. That way they will be able to crush the ANC. He has not completely come to terms with negotiation strategy.

POM     So what would you summarise as being the lessons learned from CODESA by all participants which could be applied to this negotiating forum?

MM     The lesson has been learnt by the government, National Party and the ANC that in the negotiation process don't try to position yourself so that you appear to strengthen yourself at the expense of the other. But this lesson has not been learnt by all. In particular it has not been learnt by the IFP, Inkatha. Inkatha shows itself completely blinkered in looking at the process to distil lessons. Inkatha only looks at the matters in raw power terms and tries to distil from it what I consider to be the wrong lesson. It thinks that over the breakdown in CODESA and the resultant Record of Understanding what was simply at play there was a power one and that by virtue of the collapse of CODESA and the re-instatement of the multi-party process what had happened with that whole period was that the ANC emerged through its tactics as the stronger party.

     Now Inkatha thinks that it can emulate that power with the result that it will become a stronger party. I think that Inkatha does see violence, and a number of Inkatha people have made those statements, and since you say you are publishing in 1997 I can say it now without concern as to whether it would jeopardise the negotiating process. Felgate has said that Inkatha is a beneficiary of the violence and he has argued that even the violence confined into the black communities results in a psychosis of fear and therefore leaves those IFP forces that it can command through the structure of the traditional leaders in KwaZulu to show resilience and some growth, but more important he believes that even a bomb in a white disco today has the capacity to drive whites into the IFP ranks. He says it is growing. So he says they directly benefit from violence. They feel they directly benefit from stalling the process and holding it up and to a certain extent it is true that the National Party is losing support in the whites, substantial support. That support is going to the Conservative Party and to a lesser extent to Inkatha and to the ultra-right white right wing. What I am saying is that the lesson that I was pointing to is that they haven't learnt. They think that they must weaken the NP, weaken the ANC and ipso facto it leads to strengthening them and that I would say is the wrong lesson in negotiations in this country.

POM     In a since it would seem that the collapse of CODESA 2 was inevitable.

MM     Yes. Inevitable is a very strong term. I don't know what would have happened if Gerrit Viljoen didn't have his breakdown. I don't know. I think that Delport got prominence at a moment which coincided with Gerrit having a breakdown. I'm not so sure that I would say that Gerrit would have been prepared to drive it to that point. Gerrit might have had a little more finesse about him, that while he may have supported the Delport line he may have shown some finesse to keep the door open. I would generally say yes, inevitable, because the basic equations of the approach was not yet settled.

POM     There is an irony to this too because numerous people I talked to last year in the NEC, the National Working Group, said that had the government accepted that deal that the ANC would have had a really hard time trying to sell it to the grassroots.

MM     I'm not particularly attached to that explanation. I think it has a large element of convenience to it because by using that argument it also enhances the moral high ground that we hold. Would it really have been difficult to sell? I think that the ANC, particularly through Nelson and during the time of OR, has been able to sell very difficult packages. The importance in selling the package is that the political explanation must be very simple and clean, must not be complicated and larded with all sorts of theoretical formulations. The people on the ground want to understand very clearly how do we go. I believe that an explanation even now which says, as happened on the debate during strategic perspectives, which says OK, along this route and this scenario effective majority rule is realised in five years from 1994. Now you may not like different elements of the package but here it is, can you now critique this package to show whether it has built in blockages of such a nature that could prevent that five years realisation of democracy? If it does then let's see how we improve the package. Having done that we now have to address the question, is there another strategy available to realise the same objective in a shorter time and at a lesser price?

     I believe that such a concrete debate will end up by saying that the five years is worth it. The only time that debate becomes unproductive is if it is wrapped up and discussed in pure theoretical terms. I believe that Nelson has a very, very sharp feel of presenting issues whatever the theory that informs his thinking, but he has a very good feel of addressing the problems in concrete terms rather than in theoretical terms when he faces the people. So I am not very enamoured by that argument. It's a useful argument that it was the best deal that was on the table for the Nats, had they bought it the ANC would have had difficulty in selling the package. There may be some elements of truth in that but I don't think it is sufficient as an explanation. I think that the process is a bit more complex than that.

POM     I want to get back to Buthelezi in a few minutes. If you look at where the government and the ANC were when CODESA 2 collapsed and you look at where they are today, what would you point to as the major compromises or concessions made by each side in that time period?

MM     Again it's very tempting for me to try and explain it in terms of compromises and concessions. I prefer to think of the problem slightly differently. Compromises and concessions are very interesting for selling a package. In the council here I would stand up in order to persuade the other participants by demonstrating the amount of concessions we've made, to urge them into a framework which says you now have to make a shift. Good line, good persuasion, useful negotiating tactic. Then I go outside and I take our package and say this is what we had agreed as an ANC package and approach and look we haven't deviated. So that's inevitable in the analysis in terms of concession and compromise.

MM     I prefer to look at the negotiating process as antagonists who have come around that table, driven by the force of circumstances that they had to go the negotiating route and are now actually learning in that negotiating process. I am sure that if you spoke to many government spokesmen around a bottle of whisky rather than a cup of coffee and by the time you reached the end of the bottle of whisky they would admit to you they have learnt a hell of a lot. And I think they would even be prepared to go so far at the end of that bottle to say they are learning about what democracy means. Over the cup of coffee they will tell you that they are democrats through and through but they would have to say they are learning something about democracy. They would also have to say they are learning something about their own fellow citizens in this country. They started this process thinking they had all the cards up their sleeves, they knew exactly, they could read us as clear as daylight and they were enigmas to us. I think they have learnt differently now. But so have we. We've learnt something and I think we've learnt a hell of a lot.

     I'll give you an example. I am sure that many ANC comrades will say we have made concessions on regionalism, regional government, etc., etc., exclusive powers, concurrent powers, you name it. What did we have in our policy positions when we reached the Harare Declaration? Unitary state, democracy and when we tried to articulate democracy, a government that is close to the people and accountable. How accountable, how do you make government close to the people? None of those issues had been elaborated in our eyes. You assessed it, you read it in journals and publications of the ANC whether it's Mayibuye , you search in the alliance publications, the African Communist, nothing like that is there. There's no writing on that. It's assumed that as soon as we get to power because of our commitment to democracy we will have the answers.

     Here in the negotiation process, finding the package, confronted by the argument and I'll put it even crudely, by the argument that we want a federal state, here we have had to make a concession, but in the course of the concession we have learnt a hell of a lot. How do you justify your positions? How do you take government close to the people? How do you make it accountable? How do you make the different tiers of government meaningful? How do you avoid those tiers of government from becoming simple rubber stamps of central government? How do you delegate in a genuine way where you give authority to take decisions and act on it and therefore give them the necessary powers?

     And so when the debate started to the negotiation process, catch phrases became things that you clung to. You will find very quickly the ANC abandoned the use of the word 'unitary' and began to use more the word 'united' which is there in the Declaration in CODESA. It's not a unitary state in the Declaration it's a united South Africa. But then other issues kept on coming up. Government closer to the people; it was perfectly in keeping with our thinking that said democracy must be accountable and closer to the people so that you could accommodate views about regional government and local government. You could then accommodate exclusive powers but none of these were autonomously thought of by the ANC. They have been forced onto our thinking and we have been forced to think about them in the course of the negotiations. We would go out from discussions and say, "Hey, there's a gap in our entire scenario, we are vulnerable on this point", and repairing that vulnerability has meant a concession but repairing that vulnerability has also meant deepening your own conception.

     So I am saying that's the way I see it, and I may still do what you are asking me in public on concessions and compromises, I would like to present and I hope that when history is really written about this process it will say how all the participants learnt. And the test would be the participants who followed the logic of saying we want a democracy and therefore began to examine the implications and practicalities of what a democracy means. And the other participants who merely attached the word democracy but have never conducted themselves with any sense that they can learn something about it. They have remained completely trapped, "We must get the other side to give in", and therefore they have not been capable of being enriched by this process.

     So that's how I see it, but if you talk about the concessions which I would put into the enrichment category, yes the tiers of government are critical and in relation to the tiers of government, accountability and how you translate it into practice, meaningful government which has necessarily meant looking at exclusive powers, concurrent powers, over-riding powers for the different tiers of government. Yes, shifting away from debates on labels such as federalism, unitarism therefore opening a huge space where you could develop your ideas and every time the debate comes to labels it fixes your ideas, it traps. So that's the main area of concessions.

     Others will say that there are concessions on constitutional principles. Now, say, for the one dealing with regional powers the whole concept of constitutional principles that is there in the Harare Declaration and the follow up to it is that in the very nature of such a forum if we could agree on constitutional principles that would bind the constitution making body and principles that we all could be happy with as assuring the result to be democratic, starting from the premise that we are all committed now to democracy, we have different ideas of democracy, but the reassurance that agreement on constitutional principles will give us could bridge the gap between those who fear an elected body writing the constitution and those who say no self-constituted body such as this could write a legitimate constitution. So I don't regard the constitutional principles as a major concession. I think it was a major thrust to get negotiations moving and a necessary thrust.

     Other areas of compromise arise over the concept of fundamental rights in the transition. We have always felt that a Bill of Rights is a very, very critical instrument in a country's history on the road to democracy and we have felt that it must therefore be written by an elected body. But having moved into this scenario we have had to confront the argument; what happens between the elections and the constitution making body writing the final constitution? What rights do people have? And we started off with the position that basic political rights are all that we should address here and leave the rest, but in the nature of the process other participants have been saying, no, the Bill of Rights must be complete, and the result is that these fundamental rights for the transition period inevitably have had to be expanded, the list has had to be made larger. And in making the list larger we walk a very thin and tight rope because the nature of this process is such that the parties coming from the vested interest positions that they have developed from apartheid will necessarily want written into that Bill of Rights constraints which actually throttle democracy. We are saying no, but then we can't appear, it is a bit illogical to say to people that when you have a chance to write more laws as fundamental laws why are you not giving it to the people now? Again it's not a question of a give, a compromise, concession, it's the very dynamics of the process that imposes this. So I think that's another area.

     There are other problems arising in the transition but they are not in the form of compromises, concessions. They are not necessarily in the form of learning. That is issues that relate to the transitional executive stage. They have been very clear that we wanted in the Harare Declaration an interim government to rule this country and De Klerk dismissed this idea. The problem was that in dismissing the idea he dismissed it on the grounds that it was undemocratic, it was going to be rule by decree and indeed it was going to be rule by decree. But the grounds that he used for dismissing the idea became for him an area where he could learn and it gave us a gap to actually develop the scenario because it is around Boipatong that we stripped his argument of what looked like a valid criticism by saying, "You are right, yes, we need elections and the first instrument after the election will be an interim government of national unity realised by the elections while the Constituent Assembly, elected through the same elections, writes the constitution." So he was trapped. I think that when he sleeps over it, this time when he is alone, not with a bottle of whisky with friends, but alone really talking to himself he must say, "I learnt something there", because a commitment to dismiss the interim government by decree on the grounds that you are now using democracy as your test inevitably trapped you to develop your ideas so that you could not resent our government of national unity. Whereas his starting point was the elections must realise a power sharing government on a permanent basis.

POM     How do you distinguish between a power sharing government and a government of national unity?

MM     Well in the current scenario that is standing government has had to drop power sharing as a principle. Yes, it will say it still wants permanent power sharing. That's an argument it will have to put at the Constituent Assembly and there is no chance in my mind before an elected body is going to win that. So leave aside the politicking. We say a government of national unity for five years from the date of the election and in constituting that government, because at the end of the five years we want the constitution written by the Constituent Assembly which will necessarily have majority rule. It will come about, majority rule will come at the end of five years. But in the meantime, during the five year period, that intervening period of five years, the arrangements must be such that there cannot be a denial of majority rule. They must be such that they lead the country towards that majority rule, an acceptance of majority rule. Accordingly De Klerk has come with propositions such as a Council of Leaders in the interim government of national unity because that proposal, and again it's interesting that the arguments are around democracy, because that proposal is undemocratic because it takes the minority parties and makes them equal to the majority party in their voice and in votes and therefore gives them a veto. He's had to back off from that one very fast. And he's backing off not because he's not committed to that. He wants that veto for the minority but he knows he can't sustain it on an argument around democracy.

POM     That's why there was a period in May/June when he gave an interview in the Financial Times of London where he said that entrenched power sharing would be a permanent part of the solution and then in the Sunday Times a couple of weeks later he set out a scenario of you'd have the Cabinet composed of all those who got over 5% of the vote but then you'd have an Executive Committee composed of the three biggest parties and they would run everything through consensus and suddenly that line fell away completely and it was never heard of again, lost in history, but what happened? How did he go from where he was to - ?

MM     Three weeks ago he was saying it was entrenched.

POM     The sequence here was no longer power sharing, we've simplified, we argued for power sharing in principle.

MM     But what I'm saying is that from my perspective I can find myself better able to approach them and deal with them even publicly and I am giving them the space because I don't want to weaken them, I do not want the ANC to be weakened. I can argue more legitimately without getting trapped into the arguments that come up around emotion by saying, 'and the test is democracy'. But now we're no longer using democracy just as a catch phrase, you are actually giving content to it and I think that he too should realise now, and I think he is committing boobs, he is doing this one over the traditional leaders. He thinks in searching for a constituency base amongst the blacks, he and his government have tried everything. They took the Matanzimas in the fifties, they nursed them, they gave them money and all the perks, corrupted them, used them as puppets and found they could not grow. They took the urban councils, they destroyed any black person who had some basis or potential for credible public service and destroyed them, made them puppets, didn't give them a base. They have gone and picked up the John Mabusos, etc. and put them in the provincial councils and as members of the Executive Committee. No growth. They have taken Indian corrupt businessmen. They have taken the Rajbansis and all, no growth potential.

     Now that we are heading for the elections they have become the champions of the traditional leaders and customary law. They have got to answer in this chamber when they say that fundamental law right of equality can be qualified to the extent that in customary law a male Chief with the right of allocating land for use can only allocate it through the male head of the family and not the woman. Worse, if the woman's husband dies she has got no right to any claim to land. How were they going to sustain these types of issues in their espousal of traditional leaders and customary law? How were they going to square that circle of saying they are now proponents of fundamental rights, equality, non-sexism and non-racialism and then suddenly say they are the champion without qualification of customary law and traditional leaders. But given that it is now also simultaneously election mode this is the next throw to try and get a constituency base amongst the blacks, but I believe they will have to answer this question in the chamber, Negotiating Council, and they will have to answer it in public and they are going to find it very rough going.

POM     If you look at the current constitutional proposals on a scale of one to ten how satisfactory are they in terms of reaching new goals?

MM     How satisfactory is what?

POM     The draft constitutional proposals, drafts one and two, that are already on the table.

MM     Oh, I think that they have been very, very productive documents. They have created the space when all parties can come out winners. The bloody problem is that you've got people like the IFP who simply refuse to accept a situation where all can emerge as winners. They want that they must win.

POM     I interviewed Walter Felgate the day before yesterday. It was like a total, absolute, complete, these conditions must be met. If they want to go ahead without us let them try and see what happens. In the end they will have to come around to our way of thinking. Period. I could have done the interview in two minutes and said thank you. I kept looking around for different ways or different approaches. If they stay outside the process and link up with the Conservative Party, can they produce a situation which results in an unstable South Africa after elections were held and in other parts of the country?

MM     Yes I think that the forces that are gathering there, and I would call them the right, I think there is white ultra-right and there's a black ultra-right component, the political platform is not yet there. Presently the common platform amongst them has been block, delay, it will help them. But on the basis of hard political platform it hasn't gelled yet and that's why you see Buthelezi react so prickly when he's asked, "Are you really in cahoots with the CP which supports the return to apartheid?" He just freaks out, he's got no basis to talk. But I think that the capacity, not to arrest the change, but to introduce an element of instability in the change process is something that we cannot overlook. I have until recently been dismissing all this talk about the Savimbi option, I think it's unreal. I think the Savimbi option rose in a particular world scenario, in a particular moment of time to be feasible and in a very specific logistical situation, Zaire on one border, South Africa on the other side and the African states, the rest, unable to gel together in African unity, the Organisation of African states, the United States, Soviet Union, super power rivalry, etc. Here they don't have those logistical lines and here the world has changed. I firmly believe that the United States, however much I like or dislike what has happened in the world sphere, the fact of the matter is the United States has emerged as the power in the world. Simultaneously, it's only hope to maintain that position is not just by its might but by being the champion of democracy but denuded of the cold war scenario it is not put to the test of what it means by democracy. The way it used to justify supporting tin pot dictators who just massacred people can't go on and it finds itself in difficulty justifying that. So the situation has changed.

     But now we come to the instability. I don't accept that Buthelezi has the total command of the Zulu people. Even with state assistance the conflict in Natal has been sustained as an IFP/ANC conflict (before it was UDF). But the fact of the matter is the forces for peace and democracy without fighting against the state have been able not to allow him to sustain a position through that force to say, "I now control this area uniquely and unchallenged." I believe even in the rural areas one of the important instruments that he has is the South African government payments to each of these Bantustans to dole out the pay to the traditional leaders. Many, many traditional leaders come and say to you privately, "I am not with him", but you ask them, "Why are you supporting him?"' they say, "But he pays me and if I move on to your side I am stripped. What do I do?" So I don't accept that that instability is as great as he would like to make it but I believe it is an important place of instability.

POM     To turn around another way, say if the parties bend over backwards to accommodate him and some arrangement was arrived at which you could live with and which was acceptable to him, do you think that the nature of the conflict in Natal where the leadership, ground troops are often out of step with the national leadership, is such that they would not tolerate any outcome that would appear to make Buthelezi a winner in his brinkmanship?

MM     We have got a lot of space in these drafts to give him space but the reason why Walter Felgate is so shut is that he knows even in the election in Natal he's not ... It's a very interesting switch he made. He was the man who for years dubbed our position as majoritarian dictatorship.

POM     Felgate?

MM     Buthelezi, sorry. Almost the Westminster type was a dictatorship. He made it ... by which time we had shifted to proportional representation. He's forgotten about that but hardly four months ago you will find a report where Buthelezi, after he promoted the KwaZulu/Natal constitution in December last year, suddenly comes up and says he's for majority rule, not for power sharing. And I've asked myself why did he do that? He did it for one opportunistic political reason. He thought he could dub our arrangements for an interim government of national unity as succumbing to power sharing and therefore wear the mantle of the democrat but to do that he had to get out of proportional representation into the Westminster module once more. But the second thing was the temptation that he thought when he realised that he cannot realise national ambitions was to confine himself to the region and there he said to himself, "If I get 51% it's going to be lucky but at least I can try and get 51% but provided I get a winner take all system." And then he cooled off that one too. He doesn't know which way to go. The one that he is now stuck on is the KwaZulu/Natal constitution that he put up which actually says the present Legislative Assembly writes the constitution, inputs it to a referendum. He cannot afford to open it up to an elected body now coming up and I have often wondered what happens if we go so far as to say, "Right now under independent control let's have fresh elections for KwaZulu and this time instead of boycotting we stand." I wonder what his reaction is going to be. But its only usefulness will be to spike another argument. It won't take the settlement vote.

POM     But if you look at his psychological make-up which is extremely sensitive to insult, and I don't think I've heard him speak when he hasn't mentioned that word at least once, and his own egocentric tendencies, if he's pushed to a situation where he would engage in an election in which he knows he would lose or just go for broke, which route do you think he would take?

MM     The reason why he may be tempted now to go for broke is the signs that I'm picking up of an alliance that he is building with the ultra white right. I'm not clear where he is building it internationally but I believe the ultra white right here has a linkage with certain forces internationally. To put it crudely Tienie Groenewald, ex General, is following his own agenda but I think the ultra white right is saying, "We can get access to the arsenals of Bisho and Mmabatho", and in this equation I think the South African government, because it was pursuing its dual strategy, did a very great disservice to the process last year where it actually transferred sole police control to the KwaZulu Police in KwaZulu territory. It passed a law where there are no South African Police in those areas except at the invitation of the Commissioner of Police of KwaZulu. So at a time when they needed to cut his resources they actually gave him more power. I think the real issue here is that he can go for broke thinking that the Savimbi type of option is becoming better for him because of the Generals in the ultra right, that increases the source of instability. It is what makes the situation, the potential for destabilisation, something that we have to take very seriously at the political level. It is plain in the statement that Nelson made, I think I saw it in the papers yesterday, where he said, "There are retired Generals in the white right who are interested in finding a stable solution". I felt Nelson was opening towards that side at a political level to say, "I concede that you are motivated by the stability factor and I am prepared to address that." He didn't go so far as to say that but he was positioning himself and he is constantly positioning himself to try and create some basis to interact with them on the understanding that if we interacted with them they would have to concretise their concerns and in concretising their concerns you could diminish their political platform.

     But I think that Buthelezi today if he goes for broke he's tempted by the power of the white right, at what they can give him, and they need him desperately, they need him desperately. So at present that's a factor, but I think it's a temporary factor again. I would say today the situation prevailing in spite of all his characteristics, personality characteristics, all his power play, I think that the forces internally are so ordered together with the international community and I would single out today the United States, Britain and Germany. The problem with those forces is that I understand that from the point of view of diplomacy particularly the British would be arguing that they now do not think that Buthelezi is following a constructive path, that they need to express their view to him but then they get tempted by the trappings of diplomacy to say, "We cannot say something so strongly that he, through his personality make up, would just reject it out of hand and therefore we would be forced as a foreign government to come back to him in three months time cap in hand to say please do this." So they said, "Let's not overshoot the question. Let's not go for an overkill or a course of action that is so strong that Buthelezi would resent it." I think that the time is arriving where these three countries, at the very least, need to jointly and uniformly put the position to him and they similarly have to say so to the white right.

     But I don't know where the equation will crack. Maybe it's time in spite of non-recognition of Bophuthatswana and Ciskei that the pressure should first be put on Bophuthatswana. I think Bophuthatswana is showing signs that it wants to break ranks, it realises that there is a good deal on the table. What happens tomorrow if Bophuthatswana buys into the deal? That coalescing on the ultra right starts breaking up, the arsenals of Mmabatho no longer exist. Ciskei I think we can crack much easier. And so what happens? Instead of it being an alliance of a number of blacks with the CP it becomes Buthelezi allied to the pro-apartheid forces. Can he go that far? Nobody can say with certainty at this stage but I think that if he went to that we would be able to handle that instability. Our job is to narrow down the political platform of that right wing and I think we can do it.

POM     OK. I'll leave it at that optimistic note.

MM     I'm always an optimist. You will find me next year still saying, "It's all working right, always working right for me."

POM     I'll send you on in due course a transcript.

MM     Good. Thanks very much.

POM     Thank you.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.