But he was very clear about the need for him to reach out to critical, people on the other side, assure them that he really wants an inclusive arrangement post-elections in which they will have a place and that the time to earn that place was then. Earning that place included, as people in leadership, beginning to give the people working under them the same level of comfort about the new South Africa that was coming.
That is why he would reach out to Van der Merwe and make the offer: ‘I want to appoint you as commissioner of the new police service.’ He wanted, so to speak, their being appointed to serve as an assurance that they were not going to be persecuted for things they did in the past. But he wanted to see some reciprocity.
That explains why, in the end, Van der Merwe was not appointed. Because even as we were very close to the elections in 1994 and post the elections, we continued to have very serious incidents of violence, politically motivated violence, in parts of the Reef, the East Rand in particular, and KwaZulu Natal, which suggested that the structures that were created for purposes of carrying out that violence in the past, and fomenting hostilities, had not been dismantled. You will recall that even the 1999 election, five years after 1994, was still attended by some levels of violence. The situation did improve as we went on.
In 1995 there was a big massacre in the Port Shepstone area and other incidents like that were continuing to happen. President Mandela was not satisfied that we could count on the leadership of General Van der Merwe, who was very hesitant about participating in the truth commission, which in our view was not just going to talk about who did what in the past, but actually close the space for whoever might have been thinking about continuing to carry out incidents of violence – the truth would have been known about who was in the hit squads and things like that.
President Mandela, as you would see from the speeches and notes that he used in meetings with the generals who led the SAP or police forces of the former homelands, was very forthright about what it was that we did not want to see by way of police brutality in the new South Africa. He was very forthright, but he was talking to them behind closed doors, and when he goes out he appeals to the communities to support the police as they are making an effort to embrace the new South Africa. In that way he was really a very inclusive president, he understood why people would be sceptical about the police but he understood also why elements in the police would be apprehensive about the new South Africa and he made it his duty to address both concerns in a way which created the possibility for people to have a place under the sun of the new South Africa, working together.