The Presidential Years

We had the first Cabinet meeting on the evening after ministers were sworn in, the day after the inauguration of the president. We have never experienced a change of this nature and I suggested that the president open and ‘constitute’ the meeting. I thought it would be appropriate and nice if the two executive deputy presidents made declarations of intent.

When Mr Mandela arrived, his bodyguard stood behind him during the whole meeting at that first Cabinet meeting. It didn’t happen again after that.

Mr De Klerk made a statement and then Mr Mandela made a statement. He then declared the meeting as properly constituted. I’ve never seen it done before but it made sense to me. They then agreed when the next meeting would be and that it would be in Cape Town, ready for Parliament.

Then one of the ministers raised the issue of the two seats, Parliament as legislative capital in Cape Town and the executive capital in Pretoria. It was then agreed that it must be on the agenda for the next meetings. Two ministers, one ANC and one NP, both with Cape Town constituencies, argued that this matter should not be decided upon lightly. It then crossed my mind that the politicians may have changed but the politics on the issues leading to this compromise didn’t change. It is interesting that at that first Cabinet meeting an ANC minister and an NP minister had common ground and raised this issue.

William Smith