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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
25 Aug 1993: Cronin, Jeremy
POM I suppose, Jeremy, a good place to start would be with the assassination of Chris Hani. What impact has it had on the SACP itself and what impact it has had or would be likely to have on the greater political process?
JC Well beginning with the SACP first, unquestionably a huge impact, traumatic, dramatic. The public face increasingly of the SACP after his election as General Secretary at the end of 1991 was Chris Hani and he, I think more than any other alliance leader, moved tirelessly through mass meeting after mass meeting, small village meetings, activists' meeting and so forth week after week, more of that, more mobilisational work than anyone and it clearly redounded hugely to the credit of the SACP in the first place but to the movement more broadly. And it wasn't just that he was energetic and good at connecting with meetings whether they were small meetings of peasants discussing a problem with the tax or large rally type meetings on the East Rand or wherever, he came with credentials which made people listen to him. He just had a unique combination of solid credentials, the revolutionary track record and a credibility which few have. So the party is very much in an internal regrouping phase which it needed to do in any case and maybe the other side of what I am saying now comes out and that is that some of Chris's personality was masking some of our own organisational weaknesses or things that we haven't thought through properly and so forth in the drama of the new situation and in the complexity of the new situation. We have just had a Central Committee meeting this past weekend, the 21st/22nd August and it was all about consolidating the party and that has to do with the aftermath of the assassination of our General Secretary. It would have had to happen in any case but we might not have noticed it perhaps as quickly. Individually he is irreplaceable, we all know that, and how we replace him is collectively with well thought through strategic interventions and so on but it's difficult.
But on the positive side, so far as one can extract positive things from something as terrible as that, the events immediately following his assassination confirmed certain things which we had been saying but which became publicly, nationally and internationally evident and that was that the SACP is an integral component of the political culture of South Africa. Like it or not that was affirmed by the kind of response that was given to the assassination which I think to be honest one would have to say was a response first of all to the individual and what he meant and millions of people, 42 million workers came out on strike for two days, one on the Wednesday following the Saturday assassination and then again on the day of the funeral which, according to COSATU, amounted to the largest stayaway ever in South Africa. An enormous range of different currents of thought, personalities and so on not only internationally but locally significantly came out and said more than just that they were sorry or that it was bad timing or something like that, but actually said and one way or another put themselves on sides with the broad vision that Chris would have and that was very important. The Chief Rabbi didn't just say sorry, he said it's a tragedy for South Africa and what Chris represented is a valid current of thought and in a way it affirmed the legitimacy of the SACP in a very wide way. The Catholic Church was very prominent in the funeral for instance and there were Catholic priests saying 'Amandla' and 'Long live communism' and things like this and there are little ripples occurring inside the Church currently around those events still.
I think a sort of benchmark was laid down which said that in the coming election campaign we will see an anti-Communist campaign run by the Conservative Party clearly, but also by the National Party but I think it's going to be a little bit more balanced, sadly as a result of this assassination but that's a fact. Something has happened within the chemistry of South African politics. We've had another major influx of recruits into the party since the death of about 10,000 so we've gone from 40,000 to nearly 50,000. But I come back to the first point I was making, our ability to actually process and digest that intake is not so sure. Frankly it's an embarrassment of riches really that we are confronted with in terms of organisational consolidation. So that's the challenge for us.
Then maybe shifting to the second leg. I think the impact on the broader liberation forces, I think also a very significant impact. Something that has been said by a lot of commentators from various directions, that the character of the current situation for the broad liberation movement, it's a difficult moment at the present and it has been for the last year at least, and that is that progress has been very slow. If you talk to negotiators they will tell you they have done magnificently and the scenario has won through and all of that is basically true, but you talk to someone living in a squatter camp and all of this dramatic progress is not that obvious at all. If anything joblessness has increased, the violence has surged, the education crisis is deeper than it was a few years ago. There's nothing to show for this new South Africa that we are supposed to be living in. A lot of those frustrations, confusions and demoralisations are pointed against the movements, the ANC in the first place, hence the negotiators against the leadership. What in many ways is a health development in one sense is that at the beginning of 1990 the ANC was like a Protestant guard, distant and perfect, it's sometimes cruel maybe but perfect essentially in its distance. It was in exile, it was in prison and what all of the rest of us were, we were the B team for this distant A team so the trade union struggles and the civic struggles and the youth struggles and women's struggles, all of which had really been the cutting edge of the struggle. I think the self-consciousness of people inside of those formations was of a B team - we're in a civic but we're really the ANC in drag basically but the ANC is not here. The real ANC is somewhere in Lusaka or on Robben Island.
And I think when the real ANC came back it proved to be human like the rest of us, sometimes good, sometimes OK, sometimes pathetic, not perfect certainly. I think that that impacted on the psychological political level quite heavily on people and it coincided then with high expectations and then there was nothing tangible to show after over three years now of negotiations. It's also part of a deliberate strategy from the other side. We actually know that explicitly from documentation that has since come across to us from the National Intelligence Service and places like that, their sort of position papers that were being developed in the late 1980s which said, "We're not defeating the ANC militarily or politically on this track. We need to switch tracks, unban them, engage them in negotiations and then prolong the negotiations in order to deprive the ANC of its principle weapon which is its mass support, to sow confusion, to divide the negotiating leadership from a mass base." And it's worked reasonably well. I'll come back to say that it has not worked so well for them but it's worked on us to a degree.
Now all of that is by way of saying that what Chris represented, and increasingly so in my view in the last months, there are all sorts of versions of what his last months consisted of, deathbed conversion type versions of Chris, but in my view and I'm fairly sure I'm right, is that he had this legitimacy which came from being number two in MK but also the most popular of the people in MK, the person who had done the fighting, who had been in and out of the country, in the underground, had always been in the trenches, in the front-line of things. He had that reputation. He was also one of the few returnees who easily and quickly connected with the mass democratic movement type culture which a lot of the other people coming into South Africa with diplomatic or soldier in an army camp kind of mentality, who were administrators in Lusaka, found difficult to adapt to, the new political culture. Chris revelled in it. He found his feet very quickly in that. But he didn't find his feet politically all at once and I think that he often - he left the ANC and came to the party in terms of full time commitment out of kind of irritation with the ANC and what he saw as the ANC moving from resistance movement to impatient government in waiting, bureaucracy in the making. All of that irritated him deeply which is why he came, offered himself, to many people's surprise, full time to the party. And those irritations sometimes showed, sometimes in a slightly demagogic or, in my view, irresponsible way.
I share the irritations but clearly politically the way in which one intervenes into preventing the ANC simply congealing into nothing more than a bureaucracy is complex. I think that what increasingly he was doing, initially his irritations were directed against negotiations in general and although he supported the decision to suspend the armed struggle he didn't do it very enthusiastically and mass audiences could associate with his lack of deep enthusiasm for it. But I think increasingly he did come to understand that we were on a negotiating terrain. He couldn't run away from that and that the problem was not that we were negotiating or that we had suspended the armed struggle but that a correct balance needed to be found between negotiating, preparing for government, and maintaining the traditions of mass democratic struggle. Increasingly his interventions became of that kind so that he became an irritation for lots of forces but above all the other side because he was not easily demonised as a Peter Mokaba or as a Harry Gwala. Chris could have gone that way, he could have become demagogic in his interventions but by and large he wasn't. He was saying, "I support the negotiators. We must negotiate it's the only way forward but that isn't all that we must be doing. We must reinforce those negotiations with building of mass structures, strengthening of our trade unions, strengthening of our civics. We must make our negotiators more and more answerable to the mass base and so on but they must negotiate." We formed self-defence units but he was the first to be in there helping them to develop and he was the first to say some of them have gone off the tracks. So he always had the courage to both do the difficult things as well as when things went wrong to say publicly that a whole series of self-defence units have become infiltrated, have become circles of gangsters, not factors for stability in townships but the very opposite, that kind of thing.
In short, sorry it's a long spiel, but I think that in a sense what he represented increasingly was a revolutionary voice talking intelligently into the present situation rather than a revolutionary voice just becoming irrelevant, demagogically.
POM What connection would that have had with the youth? It's been said over and over again that he had a special rapport with the youth and in that sense could keep them under a lid whereas there was no other leader of comparable stature who could do so.
JC I think he didn't see his task as keeping them under a lid but rather ...
JC Yes, that's precisely the point. In other words, and that's the point I'm trying to make, he understood that to be revolutionary didn't mean to say, "Kill boers, kill farmers" rhetoric, and if you look at his speeches in the last months you will see that this was a constant theme, a critique of demagogy in fact, a critique of rhetorical revolutionism which in fact is usually all sorts of other things, careerism, whatever. So he was committed to revolutionary change not in the sense of the armed seizure of power but a thorough going, deep-seated democratisation of South Africa. That he remained absolutely firm on and for mass involvement in that process as being critical, therefore youth but not just youth because, again, I would question the lid notion, which he would certainly have done, and I would also question the narrow focus on youth. He was certainly connected with youth but it's not just the youth who are feeling demoralised and confused, it's organised workers, it's old people, it's women in the rural areas, all of those constituencies he was connecting with. The youth tend to be on people's lips because they are visible and they come and throw a few petrol bombs or whatever but the disaster of old people just retreating from the heroic struggles of a few years ago or women in the rural areas just feeling that everything has collapsed again and so forth. Those are equally great tragedies and perhaps less visible and Chris was connecting with all of those constituencies I would insist, not just the youth constituency. The youth is the one that worries liberal commentators in The Star and therefore they are suddenly sorry that Chris is gone because maybe he might have been able to do something about that. They were worried about that. Chris was worried about a lot of other constituencies as well.
POM I want to go back to Bisho. I remember last year ...
JC When did we speak, just after Bisho or just before?
POM Before. There was a debate going on then about the Leipzig option. [Did Bisho represent a ...?] The ANC told us there was going to be a march on Bisho and Gqozo might be overthrown and then Ulundi perhaps would go down, Buthelezi, then Mangope. Was there any clearly thought out plan at that time in that direction or was it all kind of ad hoc, ad hockery?
JC I think there was a lot of ad hockery which had to do with strategic confusion which is exactly the contribution I was trying to make at that time in July around Leipzig option and other options related to that. I think that possibly the dominant current amongst the direct participants in the Bisho thing was a kind of Leipzig option notion, not well thought through, but this idea of falling dominoes. Gqozo would go, we would take Bisho. But within the broader movement there was no consensus on any of that and so there were different versions and in the aftermath of all of that of course a lot of reassessment and, to put it politely, maybe a reinterpretation of what motivations were knocking around. In my view there were a lot of people and certainly on a popular level part of the frustration was, "Why are we pussy-footing, why are we negotiating? Let's just overthrow these guys." At a popular level that was strong. And I think if you spoke to the leadership of the march, Ronnie Kasrils and Chris were visibly there but a lot of people forget that Cyril Ramaphosa was also there and if you put hard questions to them at the time you probably would have got slightly different answers and I think there was a lack of clarity frankly.
One doesn't want to stand up and croak but I think it was at that point and in the aftermath that some of what personally I was trying to say I think has come to be broadly accepted, at least first, second, third layer leadership level later understood. The first question is, if you took Bisho, great, but where does that get you? Rather let Gqozo have Bisho at this point in time and certainly contest what he is doing to people in the area but to sit in a few administrative buildings in the middle of the veldt with very little power doesn't make a lot of sense. I think it was born of frustration and a lack of strategic clarity essentially.
But what must also be said on the other side is that what we said at Boipatong, and I think we talked about that last time, I think that was a huge turning point in the whole current situation, it was at that time that de Klerk's fortunes began to be seriously reversed and his whole strategy started to unravel from about the time of Boipatong. But Bisho was an attempt to regroup and from their side they were playing the same strategy which was, "OK", they said, "We stalled the negotiations", but in my view they did, and the idea was, "OK, unleash your mass action, we'll turn that mass action against you so after three or four months of mass action you'll come back to negotiations but further back than you were with less of the initiative than you had previously" And Boipatong which was the very day after we launched the mass action campaign showed us, transparently in my view, the game plan which was create havoc and blame it on the mass action and if you don't quite get away with that then blame it on Inkatha and the ANC.
So you have a series of mass actions which go nowhere, which leave thousands of people dead and then the ANC will see there aren't other options, strong options, ends up at the negotiating table with a lot of blood on its hands and nothing to show for months of mass action and an even more demoralised constituency. That was their game plan in my view. And Bisho was that again, teach us a lesson because everything points to the fact that it was a carefully laid ambush which we naively walked into. So if you get mugged in a dangerous place you should also criticise yourself but the principle blame nonetheless should lie with the mugger. I think part of the problem was also that our strategic intentions were confusing and gave them the space to imagine that they could get away with an ambush and they got away with it locally in fact. Local middle ground opinion blamed the ANC. The DP, the liberal press blamed the ANC. Gqozo was hardly blamed and the complicity of military intelligence was barely noticed in the local press, but they didn't get away with it internationally which was very important. Hank Cohen at the time, the British, the Australians, all very quickly came out and didn't even bother about Gqozo, blamed Pretoria. It was a terrible experience and a tragedy to which we contributed, in my view, partly.
POM Was there a rethink after Bisho?
JC Yes. I think that some of the debate that we were talking about when we last met about what are we trying to do strategically had laid the basis for that but hadn't been accepted. The party had taken, that paper that you saw, it must have been produced about April of last year, was presented to a kind of Central Committee workshop and if we had taken a vote on it the Central Committee would have voted for saying, "Well we're negotiating now but our strategy is insurrection", in April of last year. That isn't the case any longer and I think that Bisho, from our point of view, enabled us to think through it. I don't know if you've seen The African Communist that is devoted to Bisho, an assessment? I'll give you a copy. We tried very quickly to make use of that, to learn from the experience.
Also what helped was the success of the mass action campaign so that the Record of Understanding, which was very quickly signed in the aftermath of several months of mass action last year, which then, although very little of what was agreed upon has actually been implemented, the very fact of its finding then broke the strategic alliance between Inkatha and the National Party which therefore was a profound effect of the mass action itself and it's also produced a much more willing negotiating partner in the National Party so that although the Record of Understanding agreements haven't been implemented, mainly because of Inkatha opposition, since that time there have been effective bilateral negotiations occurring right through between the government and the ANC essentially which has underpinned all of the progress at the multi-party negotiations.
JC So all of those things were the impact of the mass action. If we had been bloodied at Bisho and three or four months of mass action had been just a waste of time with nothing to show, one's ability to reassess and do strategic shifts is enhanced sometimes by the sense of success. It it's failure then you just fly apart very often and fortunately it was a success, it pointed a way also that mass action, mass involvement and negotiations work together. They are not opposed to each other and the strategy has to find its feet some way in that.
POM We have found, I think, a hardening of attitude among whites and blacks, increasing irritation of the slow pace of the negotiations, but before you address that could you tell me, looking at where the ANC alliance was in June of last year when CODESA collapsed and where the government was, could you outline for me the major compromises or concessions made by both sides to lead them to where they are today?
JC I think from the side of the alliance the first point, I think a greater strategic clarity. As a participant both in the ANC National Executive Committee meetings and party Political Bureau CC meetings and so forth as well as tripartite meetings, there's considerably more unity of purpose, strategic unity of purpose. It's not to say there are not debates and fights going on in all directions about all sorts of things but in terms of the strategic perspective I think there is substantial unity now, not in detail, but in a general sense of where we are going which was not present in July of last year at all. Within that we have certainly made concessions, the prime one being this whole new scenario of a power sharing arrangement for some five years after the election of the Constituent Assembly.
POM That ironically came from the paper prepared by Joe?
JC Yes, pushed by the party, by Joe and the party caucus.
POM How do you distinguish on that? The ANC refers to it as a government of national unity. The NP and the government refer to it as a power sharing government. I am wondering is this a difference of semantics or is it a difference in conception?
JC I think it is interesting that when the SACP reviewed earlier in the year, soon after the ANC had proposed the thing, the ANC proposed it in February if I'm not wrong, the ANC NEC and the party about the same time or a few days later the Central Committee looked at it and insofar as it was critical of anything it was that the ANC was not calling a spade a spade, for understandable constituency reasons. And we said in the long run it's better to be honest to the constituency than the leave it. The day after the ANC NEC met the New Nation headline was "ANC REJECTS POWER SHARING". The Star headline was "ANC ACCEPTS POWER SHARING" and both newspapers could be forgiven. It was ANC jiving that was producing those things and as a party we said it's not the power sharing that de Klerk wanted which was permanent power sharing, a constitution which entrenched power sharing for ever. In that respect it was not what he wanted. He wanted power sharing in which the first two and maybe, depending on how he was feeling about Inkatha on that particular day, the top three parties would equally share power.
POM A sort of Executive Committee above the Cabinet?
JC Yes, one for you, one for you, one for you, whereas at least this form of power sharing that we are talking about would be proportionate according to how you do in the election. So it was considerably different from the power sharing arrangement that de Klerk had put on the table to begin with, so in that sense it wasn't his power sharing. Secondly, the words 'power sharing' come out of their tradition rather than out of ours granted, but it is power sharing and that's what the party said, you must tell people because when next year they find that de Klerk is still in the Cabinet and maybe he's the Vice President they shouldn't say, "But hang on where does this come from?" We should now begin to prepare them for the reality that de Klerk and even Buthelezi might actually be in Cabinet. We've got to explain to them why it is that we thought this was a regrettable but intelligent concession to make, you can't jive around it. So it's power sharing, it's not quite their power sharing, it's largely semantics and I don't think semantic politics at the end of the day is very intelligent politics frankly because you just confuse people who after a while become unconfused and then they are bitter.
POM So power sharing was conceded by the ANC but the government didn't quite get the power sharing that they would have liked?
JC Not at all, not at all.
POM So what other major ...?
JC I think also in the area of regions that the regions are going to have considerably more powers than we had originally thought we were going to concede to them. And also the temporary constitution prior to the Constituent Assembly putting together a new constitution is also a bit more elaborate than we would have wanted. I think those are the three principle areas of concession that we are making. All with advantages I would argue as well so it's not just crumbling and giving way. I think that in terms of power sharing the main argument that we have been putting forward is that let's suppose even with this lousy arrangement, which is a concession, the ANC gets 98% of the votes for the Constituent Assembly (it won't but let's assume it does) and therefore has no obligation whatsoever to share power with anybody else, we will still be sharing power because Anglo American will still control whatever it is, 37% of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange the day after the elections, the civil service will still be the same, the SAP will still be the same, the SADF will still have half a million white males in it and so on. So what the interim constitution says and what the realities are, one mustn't get over-fixated, the fine print in the constitution is very important, we mustn't make that mistake that it's irrelevant but the realities of power are much wider, as we all know, than the way in which constitutions pretend to define them. I want to develop that thought just now around the reconstruction programme business because that's important.
So the power sharing thing is a concession, it's a concession we don't want to make but one that helps us to understand more clearly not to become over-fixated about state power, parliamentary arrangements and so on. It compels us to think about power in a more intelligent way (which I want to develop just now).
On regions I think maybe we were wrong in some ways. We do need a strong central government obviously to reconstruct, to ensure that wealth doesn't just remain glued to where it is, that it's better distributed. Not just wealth but opportunities, access to infrastructure and so on is better distributed. But the ANC operates on a regional basis, the party operates on a regional basis and we all know that our regions have quite distinct personalities and that's what makes our organisation strong, the interplay of different regions. So I think there we are looking, we are thinking our kind of automatic strong central government, that, yes, that's important. We're not going to have a strong central government again for the same reasons whether there was power sharing or not and we're going to be strong in regions by and large. There are one, possibly two regions where ANC forces may not be the majority, one where we probably won't be and one where we'll maybe have a small majority, that will be Natal. Western Cape will be where we will probably won't have a majority. But by and large we will be strong in most regions and it will help to bring government closer to people. That argument, which is a Democratic Party argument for ulterior motives, but there is strength in that argument and I think we must look to the positive side of that concession, not just see it as a concession which we reluctantly make and abolish as soon as we have the ability.
And in regard to - what was the third thing? Oh the interim constitution. What we wanted was a clean break. We wanted adjustments to the present constitution, a Constituent Assembly and then the new constitution of South Africa and for all the obvious reasons the other side wants a prolonged, messy, confused process. The more prolonged it is the more they are able to entrench themselves, retreat slowly and so forth. So that's something of a concession but I don't think it's a huge one.
And overall, in terms of all of these, that I think we understand better than we did maybe two years ago that we are juggling with three things. We want change and there has to be real change but we want governability so it's no good having real change which blows away because you can't consolidate, you haven't got the modicum of national unity that you require and speed, that's the other ball we've got in the air. They are all important, we want real change but it can't take 500 years, it's got to start to be tangible for people. We want governability and each of those have pulls which are slightly contradictory and we've got to weigh them up and I would agree with the concessions we've made in terms of those things. In other words we want real change so any concession we make can't block the road to real change but we could sit at the negotiations for another ten years and maybe at the end of that, if there was a South Africa left, we might not have to share power, we would have negotiated something which we would have agreed but that would have been ten years down the drain and so the speed factor would have been lost and people's lives would have continued to deteriorate. So we want real change but maybe some changes in exchange for some things fairly speedily. So those are the parameters.
POM It's not very good pragmatic politics, that if you did get 98% of the vote, or the government, that it is impossible to deliver in the next four or five years what people want in respect of their expectations.
POM And that might be the last election you would ever have.
POM And on the government side?
JC I think they recouped quite well in the first couple of years. Their game plan worked quite well between the beginning of 1990 through till about Boipatong basically, middle of last year. As we all know, as they know, what they are doing is a difficult matter, to retreat and to control the process as you retreat basically is what they are doing and the Afrikaans press is full of reminders of Gorbachev, that reformers can become engulfed in their own reforms and get swept aside. I think that they were succeeding in managing the process pretty well for the first two years. Their game plan was, as I said, to negotiate with us but kick us under the table at the same time but to disguise the kick and blame it on Inkatha, black on black violence, etc. It worked, it worked internationally. I think de Klerk's international prestige climbed in that period. The white referendum consolidated considerable white support for de Klerk at the beginning of last year, 1992, and they were very arrogant in the negotiations process as a result.
I think all along they have seen the first quarter of next year as being the time at which there had to be some kind of election. That's when their current constitutional mandate runs out, so to that extent we're still hooked into their time frame. I think over the last year their political position has eroded considerably in all directions. Whereas there are problems inside the ANC alliance of the kind that I have been talking about but our support is not eroded significantly I think and several polls conducted suggest that as well. There's been a little bit of erosion in various directions but essentially it's pretty steady. There's a kind of loyal but grudging support of that kind, and that incidentally was manifested at the time of the funeral of Chris Hani. The millions of people who came out were coming out partly for Chris but partly there was a lot of, "What are you doing ANC? What are you doing SACP?" It was a kind of the masses coming back into the picture and saying, "Do something." The anger that was manifested wasn't just directed at the assassins or the regime. And that's what we've got, we've got a loyal but unhappy constituency whereas de Klerk has got a constituency that's confused and flying in all sorts of directions. So I think he's in real trouble.
POM I think one poll showed that only one in four voters who voted for them in 1989 would vote for them today. Does this pose a question, a problem for the alliance because your negotiating partner is growing weaker and weaker and it may get to the point where he can't deliver his constituency?
JC Yes I think it's a calculation that we have to make but I think correctly we are saying that he remains the major antagonist nonetheless, that hasn't changed, because the temptation, and it's one that he might even provoke, is that we should all jump into bed together against the common enemy, the CP or whatever and that would be falling into the pragmatists area and forgetting what we're about. So I think for the moment his weaknesses are by and large from our point of view a positive factor. They could get below a point at which - and our calculations are that it's good because the problem that we've encountered up till now has been a deliberate slowness in the negotiations process and a kind of filibustering going on but that's much less the case now from government. In the negotiations process, as I was saying, there is a fairly efficient bilateral process working so that what's now happening in the multi-party talks is about three months behind where the bilaterals have got to so all the breakthroughs that are constantly announced is all stuff that we chewed through very carefully about three months ago at ANC alliance/government level and it is working pretty well. It is moving. And the good thing is that now, I think for de Klerk unless he gets to elections fairly quickly, the erosion will continue. I think an election campaign will help him to begin to reconsolidate somewhat and that's why when people say, "Are you convinced that the negotiations will proceed relatively well?" and so on, with all due reservations I'm pretty sure. It's that factor. It's the factor that the speed issue is very imperative from his point of view as well. We need speed but he does too.
POM What accounts for the total erosion of his support?
JC I think a lot of things.
POM And the fragmentation that appears to be within the party?
JC I think a lot of things. I think that perhaps one of the main factors is that first of all the strategy they came into had internal contradictions and those are breaking out. Some of the components of their strategy was to consolidate a strong, what they would present as centrist, and if they could get away with it even Christian Democratic kind of thing, alliance. Obviously they couldn't quite do that because there are Muslims and so on, but a kind of centrist alliance to look like Kohl, whatever, maybe Thatcher or something. And the key other component would have been Inkatha in that alliance. To build a centrist pro-capitalist, pro-western, Cory Aquino, Violetta Chimaro kind of bloc of forces and clearly their external advisers would have been pushing them in that direction. One of the key weaknesses is the lack of credible black Violetta Chimaros and increasingly de Klerk was trying to be Cory Aquino or Violetta Chimaro because Gatsha Buthelezi wasn't coming up to scratch and when they looked around they couldn't find - they would bump into a Van Zyl Slabbert who is a white, Afrikaans-speaking male with a slightly better track record than de Klerk, but that's a weakness of that project but it was part of the political project.
The other one was to wage low intensity warfare against us, kick us under the table which has worked quite well elsewhere. Nicaragua would be a good example, Contra war at the same time as building up centrist forces and so forth, cobbling them together from a whole range of groupings. But here the problem was that those things got enmeshed because Inkatha became the main direct instrument of the low intensity warfare, but the hand, the major partner in it, was too obvious as well and that's particularly why Boipatong exploded. The complicity between the security forces and Inkatha in the Boipatong massacre, it was there all along in many instances but it became very public, very international, very focused at that time. And then of course waging low intensity warfare in South Africa is not like waging it in the rural areas of Nicaragua or in Southern Angola where it worked devastatingly well from the point of view of Pretoria because there it happened sometimes in rural area and there you get away with it, but when it happens in Boipatong it's half an hour away from the largest press contingent in Africa. It's not peasants who don't speak English and therefore who gives a damn really, it's the work force of the industrial system here who then stay away the next day. They talk to the press, the press get there quickly and the story that got put out immediately was that it was mass action that had caused it, that was the first official response to it. When that failed they began to notice that maybe it was hostel dwellers but it was a revenge attack for something that had happened the week before. So initially they tried to blame the ANC squarely, then they shifted to black on black violence, an IFP/ANC thing. But it was all just too obvious that police had escorted them, they had not arrested them after the event, there was no proper investigation and so on. So they got enmeshed in that and that then put strains on their alliance, the Inkatha. De Klerk didn't know whether just to hold them tighter and to work with them or to distance himself from them and he did both things simultaneously and it got more and more messy and the pressures mounted to the Record of Understanding where we said fence the hostels, etc., which finally broke the alliance, not absolutely, they tried to rediscover each other once more but it's a crisis-ridden alliance.
JC Trying to build a middle bloc, you can wage low intensity warfare and maybe not create too many contradictions inside that centrist bloc in Nicaragua or Southern Angola but again in South Africa, as I say, it's not peasants who don't speak English, it's workers very often or families of workers and so on, so it impacts upon productivity levels, work attendance levels and so on. You get someone like John Hall who is Chairperson of the Peace Committee whose company manufactured all the wretched arms that were bombing peasants everywhere, Southern Angola, Mozambique or whatever, he's Barlow Rand which is heavily implicated in Armscor. To do him a favour I would say he didn't notice these things were happening particularly, they were making lots of money out of Armscor and didn't particularly ask where the arms were going or what was being done with them. But when the same strategy is applied on the industrial urban terrain of South Africa suddenly these guys wake up and say, "Hang on violence is terrible", and being a liberal he blames us and he blames them and so on but he is concerned about the violence and begins to suspect that, I mean the violence has many causes and we're one of them I don't deny that, somewhere there are forces strategically planning some of this violence and he begins to notice that and so that strategy also begins to fall into disrepute.
Coupled with that strategy, of course, is also the whole of the disinformation campaign. It's very clear around Chris they were desperately trying to undermine him and demonise him and he wasn't such an easy target. Peter Mokaba is a sitting duck for that but Chris wasn't because he's more intelligent and more principled in what he was doing. But there was a massive disinformation campaign around Chris. That then also creates confusions because the white constituency which hears these horror stories about ANC and PAC combining in Transkei to launch attacks against white farmers and so on, demand law and order, states of emergency, banning of the ANC and so forth and in my view a lot of these APLA activities are Military Intelligence activities. APLA is thoroughly infiltrated and, I think some people inside APLA are stupid enough to do some of the things they do in any case, but a lot of it in my view is a disinformation agenda, definitely, and again we have documentation to suggest that the idea is to use APLA to then create a climate in which you can have a law and order regime and which you criminalize APLA but MK as well. The disinformation on Chris was to say that he was forming a black army in Zimbabwe of renegade MK and APLA forces but they were training in Transkei and so on. So they were running this APLA story and trying to implicate key people, like Chris in particular, in all of that.
Now that has consequences on us, although by and large because in our constituency, for better or for worse, it makes us more popular when people hear that Chris is forming an army in Zimbabwe they think, "Great someone is doing something." But of course in the white constituency is confuses people, worries people. They are negotiating with people like Chris Hani, he's at CODESA, he's talking at CODESA but he's doing these things. And I think that that's another source of de Klerk's present problems that a lot of that disinformation designed to weaken us has weakened our ability, which was always limited, to reach into a white middle constituency type or Coloured or Indian middle constituency, but it has begun to backfire very badly for him to the benefit of the Conservative Party, the AWB or just in terms of confusion and non-support from his natural constituency.
POM Now he seems to have moved from being a man of some decisiveness to a being a man of little decisiveness. He's hesitant and uncertain of himself. Do they have a strategy at the moment?
JC I think they are like we were last year because they had this strategy and I think that remains the strategy but the pulls of the different elements, as I've tried to suggest, are pulling them in different directions and you will find caucuses at a very high level that are more in favour of hitting the ANC harder than they are, working closer with Inkatha than they are, versus those who say, "No, no, negotiations is the main thing. A little bit of kicking but not too much under the table and the ANC is the force that we must work to. We must transform the ANC into a more of a centrist force."
POM Let's move on a talk about Buthelezi and the right. First Buthelezi. Here is a person who seems to be putting himself increasingly out on a limb and kind of sawing the limb off as he gets increasingly out. Is this a sign of desperation, high poker stake politics or what?
JC I don't know, is the honest answer and one hopes that it's a poker game and that he comes back down, he saws through the branch but not too far and we've got to try and ensure that he is able to get down the tree, that he can get off the limb that he's putting himself on increasingly. The reason why I say I don't know is that I think that with my distance, which is considerable in terms of access into what he's thinking and doing, but one gets the impression that people very, very close to him don't actually know what the hell he's going to do next. That's part of the frightening dimension. Marxists don't tend to factor in personality to their explanations but in this case it's a very large and complex personality, multiple personality disorder I think functioning and it is a factor, frankly. It's certainly desperation.
POM Can he afford an election which could show him up to be rather a marginal party which a man of his dignity ...?
JC That's a good question. If I were a kind of sober Buthelezi, which is probably an oxymoron, but the way to go clearly is to look for a centrist alliance, think about third or fourth elections, groom yourself in that kind of way because I think there's a lot of political space in that direction. The ANC is going to have enormous problems for ten, fifteen, twenty years. There are many things going for you in that project, a world that is not favourable to an ANC/SACP alliance but a world that's very favourable to a kind of political bloc that can present itself as Cory Aquino, whatever. So I think there's plenty of space provided you're not too greedy all at once and too megalomaniac all at once and so on, but the frightening thing is that he is exceptionally greedy, exceptionally arrogant and deluded.
POM Say the government and the ANC bend over backwards to accommodate him in some less than total way but in a way that is acceptable to him, do you think that people like Harry Gwala and the ANC in Natal which has spent ten years in a war situation will just suddenly roll over and say, "OK we accept that", or would there be a possibility of a direct split between the national leadership and the people in Natal?
JC I suppose one would have to say it would be a possibility but I think that increasingly one has seen intelligent pragmatism from some of the Natal regions and from much of the Natal leadership. I think, again, whereas a year or two ago any thought of talking to Inkatha, working with Inkatha and so on was simply ruled out. I think a more sophisticated and multi-faceted strategy is developing in Natal from the ANC side some even, and I don't want to suggest that there aren't enormous tensions and so forth, but I'm more optimistic about those possibilities now than I was.
POM Do you think that Buthelezi has the capacity to be a spoiler or more than a spoiler, to create great difficulties so if the country and the new constitution was to go ahead the first act of the new government would have to be to declare a state of emergency?
JC No, I recognise that. I don't think that if one's broadening it now to the right, I don't think, I'm hoping that we haven't got a sort of Pinochet type of situation, one, because the world is a bit different, there's not going to be easy international support, some but not major support, some of your Heritage Foundations or whatever would tend in that direction but generally not. Secondly, Allende nationalised everything in sight with 37% of the vote, presidential vote, so I think some of what we're laying in place now, power sharing and so on is approaching it a bit more carefully and cautiously.
The bigger challenge is to ensure that the right doesn't unite. It's a very fractured right. Zulu-speaking hostel dwellers support the IFP. I can't imagine what he or she thinks of the alliance with the AWB because the AWB is the white foreman who kicks your backside every day at work and swears at you and calls you a Kaffir. So it's a very contradictory right. It's white farmers who have interests which are somewhat different from white workers. White farmers want high prices, government subsidies and so on and white workers want jobs. It's Zulu-speaking Inkatha supporters and so on and Inkatha itself is a kind of whole lot of things. It's bizarre whites with ethnic hang ups of some kind or other. It's middle sized farmers in Natal, it's a Bantustan bureaucracy, it's very poor peasants, it's some migrant workers, it's somewhat an ethnic reality. It's a very contradictory thing which then presents possibilities also of unpicking it a bit, not in a ruthless nasty way but there are sober voices, voices that have got particular interests and so on. So that's the big challenge for us I think.
JC Which brings me to the last thing, if you'll allow me to determine what that should be and that is the whole reconstruction programme thing which I think is important. I think what has succeeded as a left inside the ANC in doing in the last several months, since I last spoke to you, is to begin to focus energies and attention away from a narrow fixation on the political negotiations. I think all the best talents of the ANC have been thrown into the World Trade Centre and I think that's been a mistake and part of why we've got constituency problems, not the only reason but one of the reasons, and someone like Chris who was one of the few people who was a talented, intelligent, ANC person outside of that process, a few more were required actually. And there are plenty who continue to lead people into battle around housing issues, women's oppression, land issues, education struggle and so on as the ANC. The ANC has been a little bit distant from the constituency in those ways over this period. All the battles and debates have been around whether there should be power sharing and sunset clauses and how much of power sharing and whether it is power sharing and so on.
As I was saying the realities of power are far wider than where a constitution defines them as being and far wider than who's in or who isn't in a Cabinet. Power obviously has to do with social and economic power, access to training, education and so on. All of those are realities. I think what's begun to happen in the last several months is a much greater sense of purpose around developing a social, economic and political reconstruction programme for the day after April 27th next year. And that also is how we must think about answering the challenge of the right as well, that if white workers, for instance, begin to see some positive changes in their lives that the galloping retrenchments, unemployment levels and so forth would begin to make some impact on that, not just for black workers but for workers. If Zulu-speaking peasants in Northern Natal begin to see the beginnings of some change in their lives, not just that there's any flag and anthem, but something is beginning to change, that there's a new clinic in an area or there's running tap water or something, that that will also deprive the hard core right of a social base. And if we fail to do that even our own constituency will become a potential social base for some kind of demagogic project of one kind or another. I think that there's more pragmatism but more around probably within our ranks and an understanding that to be revolutionary, not in the insurrectionary sense but a thorough going democratisation and real change means looking much more seriously at social, economic transformation and political transformation. It's not just a question of voting in Mandela and a few others. We've got this bloated, corrupt bureaucracy and we've got to reconstruct that bureaucracy. We've got to change it and that doesn't just mean affirmative action, putting black faces into the same corrupt system. I wouldn't want to exaggerate where we are in developing a reconstruction programme. It's very late and we are still at a fairly rudimentary stage but at least we are doing it.
POM You are having a conference on that in December?
JC Yes. Within COSATU, within the party, within Civics increasingly, with a whole range of formations, we're drafting, we're already going into our fourth draft of suggested reconstruction programme so it's beginning to happen and hopefully by November COSATU and SANCA will probably jointly convene a mass democratic movement type conference which will look at reconstruction and then in December the ANC will convene a sort of ANC but very broad conference looking also at reconstruction and at the election manifesto that the ANC will go into the elections with. The two things obviously are very much linked.
POM My last question on the way out of the door. On a scale of one to ten how would you rate the constitutional proposals that are on the negotiating table?
JC I'm not sure whether the scale we're looking at is the ideal scale or the pragmatic scale. On the pragmatic scale I would rate them relatively high. I think, I don't like to say one to ten, but I think it's pragmatically an intelligent package that we've got there so I don't have problems with it. I don't know if that rates as ten or whatever. Ideally it's not what I would like to see, so I'd rate it pretty low on an ideal scale, down at two or whatever. So, yes, that's how I'd answer your question.
POM Ten divided by two. Thanks very much for taking the time.