The Presidential Years

Question - You’ve spoken about how, because the Afrikaners were divided, the generals were called to provide an umbrella organisation. But in a way that division went right through. You negotiated measures in the final constitution providing for the idea of cultural councils, but nothing seemed to come of it. Why was that? Was it that the Afrikaners had fears about the change but weren’t ready to take advantage of what was negotiated?

Constand Viljoen - No, it was Mandela. Mandela mesmerised the Afrikaners. He was so acceptable. He created such a big expectation towards a real solution in South Africa that even the Afrikaner people accepted the idea. His whole public image, his participation in the Rugby World Cup of 1995, he had the knack of speaking to the people’s rights. This is what Mandela was. Mandela has all the credit for the peaceful changeover in 1994. But I must say I don’t think even Mandela realized how shallow the reconciliation was. Our conversation is not about the woes of today, but the problem we have today on both sides is that reconciliation is not very deep.

Question - You say he mesmerized the Afrikaner people – might you have helped in a way because you set up one of the first meetings with Afrikaner organisations after the election. When you initiated that did you see that as part of the development of opinion on self-determination or part of bringing Afrikaners into the larger society?

Constand Viljoen - We could not before 1994’s election come to an agreement as to the exact type of self-determination, because there are many kinds of self-determination and the quest for self-determination must come from the people. Part of the accord was that the VolkstaatRaad would be established. The VolkstaatRaad couldn’t find clarity amongst Afrikaners about what exactly did they want. And I still believe that the solution is not a Volkstaat. I believe that there are other ways of organising this and I firmly believe that we have to find the way. I think that’s more towards cultural self-determination, not grinding all the cultures into one new grey feature, but to allow all the different cultures, Zulus, Tswanas, the Afrikaners, to practice their own self-determination but having a federal or confederal linking for the sake of national unity.

Question - That possibility was built into the provision for cultural councils and yet there seemed to be no will to use them. To ask it in a sharper way, was it perhaps that when the Afrikaners were looking for self-determinations it was more an emotion of fear and when that fear wasn’t realised, the call for self-determination diminished – the transition didn’t produce what was feared?

Constand Viljoen - You have a point, I’ll tell you why. In 1994 my support was 640 000 votes from Afrikaners, that was calculated as giving me 37.5% of the Afrikaners vote which is not a lot If you think of the Scottish election, where they were going for 50%. You must bear in mind that my 37.5% does not include many National Party members who remained loyal towards de Klerk and who all hoped for the idea of a new South Africa, a new dispensation. If you allowed them to vote again it would be completely different. Had we put the vote for a Volkstaat in 1998 the Afrikaners would not have voted for a Volkstaat, because of Mandela. He was such a hope because there was not even a white leader with the image of Mandela and in any case there was not a white leader with the support which Mandela had.