The Presidential Years

STENGEL: Since you’ve been out of prison, what would be the handful of the most important decisions that the ANC has made?

Negotiations milestones

MANDELA: Well, I don’t know if I can answer that question without carefully trying to remember the decisions that we have taken because what we did during the last three years flew out of the decision we had already taken to negotiate with the government. We came in, our people returned to the country and in March when there were shootings at Sebokeng we decided to postpone, to suspend talks with the government. We had already fixed a date but we decided to suspend them in protest against the shootings but then in May, on the second, third and fourth of May 1990, [make a note] our delegation, a delegation of the ANC met a delegation of the government which led to the release of political prisoners and the return of exiles and the amendment of repressive legislation. We also, at the end of the year decided to have a consultative conference and the question was to get the organisation to endorse the strategy of negotiations which was done. And that was an important decision and then in May 1991, no in July 1991, we then have our National Conference, again in which we confirmed our acceptance of negotiations as our strategy [COUGHS] but negotiations supplemented by mass action because the two are complementary

11:43 STENGEL: Can you explain why are the two complementary – mass action and negotiations?

MANDELA: Because the government is not keen to move forward swiftly and they take intransigent positions. For example as far as the release of political prisoners they decided at one time to stop you know, the process. And it, was it necessary therefore for us to keep our organisation intact. When we cannot make the forward movement through negotiation, then we must be able to use mass pressure to force the government to move forward. That has been our tactic

STENGEL: What about?

MANDELA: and that still remains our tactic. And then we had that National Conference in which a new National Executive was appointed


MANDELA: and but the mandate given for us to continue with negotiations and then in May 1992 we had a policy conference in which we reviewed our economic policy and also the question of negotiations. So these are more less the decisions that we took

13:07 STENGEL: Let me ask you about one specific one, the decision that was made to suspend the armed struggle; was that a very difficult decision to make? And what was your own role in that decision? MANDELA: Oh yes, I mean what actually happened, was that right from the time in which these negotiations started we tried to scale down our operations and then we met in July 1991, no in July 1990


MANDELA: to prepare for a summit with the government which was set down for the sixth of July, then Joe Slovo then approached me and he said it would be a good thing for us to suspend the armed struggle before we meet the government and his motivation was that that suspension would contribute towards the creation of a climate of negotiations and something which would help De Klerk to go back to his constituents and says, [sic] ‘These are the fruits of negotiations, I have been able to get the ANC suspend the negotiations [note].’ At first I was hesitant to accept this but because the Harare Declaration provided that we will suspend armed action only when the process had reached a certain stage and when elections have been held. But we felt we should review that position. But when I thought about the matter during the night I felt that Joe was right and I fully supported this. So when the matter was raised I was ready to support it. It, of course, created quite a [COUGHS] debate, a spirited debate from both sides but we eventually took the decision and conveyed to the government when we met on the 6th of August.

16:16 STENGEL: What was the argument that was made against suspending the armed struggle?

MANDELA: no the argument was simple – that it was contrary to the Harare Declaration and we are still very far from having a democratic government. Yes

STENGEL: Over the last three years what would you say have been the government’s principle compromises where they have changed their policy to suit the process?

MANDELA: Well, the very, all the things I’ve told you the suspension, the unbanning of the organisations, the lifting of the State of Emergency, to allow a climate of free political activity, the release of political prisoners, return of exiles, the amendment of repressive legislation or their repeal altogether, the declaration of intent which contained principles upon which a new South Africa will be built and the creation of Codesa where political parties which were fighting were not [sic] discussing peace and the fact that now we have agreed on elections either at the end of this year or early next year. These have been the principle compromises of the government


MANDELA: They have been among the principle compromises.

18:08 STENGEL: I want to go back one question when I was asking you about the people who objected to suspending the armed struggle. What about the fact that there are still people in the organisation who believe that mass action, along the lines of what happened in the Philippines or in Romania could still topple the government? Are there people who still wish that that was the ANC was doing? For example the march on Bisho seemed to be an example of that kind of thinking?

18:43 MANDELA: No, no, no, the march in Bisho, when you are talking about the homeland Bantustan leaders, that’s a totally different thing. But mass action has got the capacity to overthrow governments. Because if we can so organise that people will stay at home and have a massive prolonged industrial action, that is capable of bringing down a government. And, but we have no illusions as the leadership, we know the limitations at the present moment that we can never expect this government to fall tomorrow, just simply because of mass action. But we are using mass action because it is a form of putting pressure to ensure that negotiations succeed. And, but we are conducting mass action generally against the government and against the Bantustans. Yes.

STENGEL: Good. 20:03 I was wondering if you could tell me any anecdotes about Mr De Klerk and your relationship with him. I mean you have seen him so many times, is there any incidents or stories that stick out in your mind that reveal something about him or the way he negotiates or anything like that we could put in the book

MANDELA: No, I told you that I was impressed by De Klerk when I met him before I was released from jail. And an approach which I still have because notwithstanding the differences that we have, my respect for him is still there. And I found him to be a flexible man and very bright and flexible, because when I discussed with him for example the question of the concept of group rights and I said the publication of the National Party in the Cape had a column where they said that this concept which was part of the five-year plan of the government was actually, might be conceived as an attempt to introduce the colour bar, to introduce apartheid through the backdoor. And I say, ‘if your own mouthpiece says so, you can imagine what we think.’ And he says, ‘no I’m emphasising the point you made in your memorandum to PW Botha that one of the challenges which are going to face the government and the ANC is to assure the whites that the implementation of the demand of one person one vote will not lead to domination of the whites by the blacks. And he says, ‘that’s all I’m concerned with. But if you people are sensitive about it, we will remove it.’ 22:27 So he was very frank in his discussions and then when it came to the question of my release I saw him on the 9th of February and at about six o’clock in the evening and there he was with the Minister of Justice, the Commissioner of Police, the head of the National Intelligence Service Dr Barnard, and and Dr Roux who was the Director-General of his, of the President’s office. Then they told me that they had decided to release me on Sunday, and that they would fly me to Johannesburg. So I said, ‘no, you must give me some time, give me a week so that I can inform my people properly and they can make arrangements’. There was a conflict about this and but he adjourned the meeting twice to show how flexible he is, although he compromised as far as my being released in Cape Town, in Victor Verster, but I was released on the day they had set mainly because they had already told the press before they called me, that I’m being released on Sunday. That they had already called, told them to come for a press conference.

24:16 STENGEL: But over all this time with him negotiating would you say that you have a, have there been any gestures of friendship between the two of you, any personal?

MANDELA: Oh the friendship has been there


MANDELA: but we have not pulled punches when we believed that one person, you see, one of us had made a mistake


MANDELA: we didn’t pull punches.

24:44 STENGEL: [INTERRUPTION] You seemed in the beginning, while you were in prison to have a very good relationship with Kobie Coetsee, but it seems as though your relationship with him has soured a little bit. Has something happened between you and he?

MANDELA: I don’t know you see, I think it’s more the fact that we have not maintained the contact, rather than the relation souring. Because when we meet we show one another the same kindness, warmth as before. And I have met him towards the end of last year and I plan to meet him again. And there is no real souring of relations but we have not met for a long time and of course there have been controversial issues that have arisen in which our views have been totally different.

STENGEL: OK. 25:51 When you came out of prison you were quoted as saying at one point that when you told people in the ANC that you wanted to talk with Buthelezi that they wanted to throttle you, that they were very angry about that. Why didn’t they want you to talk to Buthelezi and why did you want to talk to him?

26:16 MANDELA: No, the National Executive of the ANC had no objection to me talking to Buthelezi. What happened was that in March 1990 I went to Pietermaritzburg and and I was received enthusiastically. It was difficult, at one time you know, my shoe came out you see, because there was no proper marshalling and people just crowded around, you know, and so on. And, but they were very enthusiastic, I found it difficult even to start my speech but when I started my speech in the course of my speech I said, ‘Well, I have to – Mr De Klerk and Mr Buthelezi and I will have to go to the trouble areas and appeal to people for peace. It was there then that people, you see, wanted to choke me. The same people who had showed me the love. Once I mentioned the name of Buthelezi they wouldn’t have that. And they said, ‘you are not going to speak to a man whose organisation has been murdering our people’

27:48 STENGEL: What, can you briefly tell me the history of your relationship with Buthelezi?

MANDELA: We have dealt with that. You know Buthelezi was a member of the Youth League and then he got married to the, to a girl of an induna, of a place, of a mine compound where I lived and I got used to this, to his father-in-law. And this young lady grew up in front of me and then Buthelezi kept in close contact with us because when the time came for him to take over chieftaincy he consulted us whether he should take the position. Because he was already involved in the struggle. 28:58 We advised him to take the position and, and we kept close and he fought the Bantustan policy very well and got the King of the Zulus, the father of the present King to put up one of the most militant opposition to the Bantustan system and we kept consulting and exchanging views and he did remarkably well. So much so that KwaZulu only accept Bantustan when almost all the chiefs throughout the country had done so. 29:43 And so and then whilst I was in prison he wrote to me, conveyed his sentiments and sentiments of the King and and kept me informed of what was happening outside. And during my birthdays he organised meetings, celebrated my birthday, so I have this obligation to him even now. In spite of our differences, which I regret very much, I still have that respect as a man who kept me informed about developments and who sent me his good wishes when I was in jail and who refused to negotiate with the government until I, and other political prisoners had been released. So he took a remarkable stand and one of the things I regret is the fact that he should now spend his time attacking the ANC

30:50 STENGEL: How did that happen? Why is there the change

MANDELA: Well there is a long history, there is a long history to that because he did not honour arrangements which were made between Inkatha and the ANC and but I don’t want to go into that you know because it’s a messy history. But he didn’t honour the arrangements and of course our people got annoyed with him. You see Inkatha was started by the ANC to work as a legal arm of the ANC inside the country and there was an agreement to that effect. He was actually called to Lusaka by the ANC and he went and this request was made and then there were other meetings in London and that is how he formed Inkatha. And once Inkatha was now established, Buthelezi decided you see to break away from the ANC and to develop it as his own political organisation and that soured relations. Mmm, mmm, mmm


MANDELA: Well I would like us to stop, you know at eight o’clock

STENGEL: At eight o’clock?

MANDELA: Yes because I would like to phone Adelaide, I don’t know what time she wants me, Adelaide Tambo you see

STENGEL: Do you want to phone now?

MANDELA: No no, as soon as we finish at eight o’clock

STENGEL: OK, so we have five more minutes


33:34 STENGEL: Let’s move from Buthelezi to another problem. We haven’t talked much about this. Do you regard the right-wing in this country as the greatest threat to negotiations and the peaceful process

MANDELA: Undecidedly [sic]. You see, this is one thing that Mr De Klerk does not want to emphasize and I think he’s acting wrongly. He is emphasising the conflict between black political organisations, not the conflict between the National Party, his National Party and the right-wing. The right-wing is the greatest threat to South Africa because during the 1987 election they polled 400 000 votes. The Afrikaner vote was split almost equally between De Klerk and the right-wing. What saved De Klerk was the English vote which they gave to him and then during the referendum the English vote was 800 000 and that’s a big, what-you-call, support. And apart from that the right-wing is entrenched in the civil service, in the security services, the police and the army. And they have got highly trained people, both in the civil service and in the security forces. They have got support of a certain section of the business so that is the real threat to South Africa – not the Bantustans, not Buthelezi, not Mangope. If De Klerk said to Buthelezi, or to Mangope or to Qozo, from now on I withdrawing, I’m withdrawing my financial support to you, you have to pay your own bills, they’ll collapse. That would be the end of their political career. They are there simply because they are supported by De Klerk. Treurnicht, the right, the Conservative Party they are there on their own not because you see they are supported by the government. They have their own support base.

Original Source

Nelson Mandela Foundation, Johannesburg.