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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
30 Mar 1995: Van Der Merwe, Koos
POM Let me begin first Koos with asking you about your duties as Whip in the IFP. First, how it came about and, two, what your duties and responsibilities are and, three, do you find any resistance with the IFP to a white person being in a senior position?
KVM Firstly, I'm the Chief Whip. It means there are about five or six, how many are we? We are six Whips. I'm the Chief Whip. It means the duties and functions of Whips are that we make parliament run. Parliament is there, it's been constituted to make laws and to govern the country but how does it work in practical terms? There have to be meetings of committees. There have to be offices, there have to be parking areas, there have to be houses for the members, salaries, leave, committees, libraries, refreshments, etc., etc. We make that work. We're also involved with discipline and primarily, or shall I say a very important part of it is to run the debates. When a debate is called we negotiate the Whips of the various parties to get sufficient time and when you have your time allotment, suppose I have 34 minutes or 27 minutes or seven minutes, then I decide as Chief Whip who of my members will speak and then I advise parliament that they will be speaking. So we make the machine operate.
POM So when you say there are five or six Whips and you're Chief Whip, does that mean you're Whip of Whips?
KVM Yes. In England I think, or in other parliaments, they call the Chief Whip the parliamentary leader which doesn't mean that he has anything really to do about policy and these things but he makes the party work in parliament. A very senior position.
PAT Are the other five the Chief Whips of the other parties or are they all IFP?
KVM No the other five are IFP Whips. They are Whips, I'm Chief Whip. That's the word.
POM There are five or six IFP Whips?
KVM There are six IFP Whips of which I am one but I am the Chief Whip, so I'm the commander of about five.
POM Some troops are better than no troops.
KVM One Chief, five Indians.
POM Let me begin maybe at this point in time and then move back some. In your view, and since this won't be published until 1998 or whatever, how serious is the threat of the IFP to pull out of the Constitutional Assembly?
KVM Totally. Absolutely serious. But there was another question that I wanted to answer. In the beginning, you also asked how am I accepted in the IFP which is largely a black party, how do they accept a white person is such a position of authority. If you look at the leadership of the IFP you will see that it's largely black. In parliament here we have three Cabinet ministers and one deputy minister and we have the Chief Whip and the chairman of our caucus. Those six positions are the most senior ones here. Five of them are black. I'm the only white. I am accepted as a normal person but it took me, personally, time to adapt to the cultural ways of my colleagues and possibly they because of mine. They have their ways of doing things and I have mine and you have to learn to adapt. I am to a large extent through that adaptation period and things are going well now.
POM Do you think yourself that you have made, I won't say a conversion, but that your politics have moved from what they were when I interviewed you first in 1989 to your politics of today?
KVM No. You see I didn't really move because you will recall that my aim and ambition and my - so at the time, the way I remember, I have always formulated my aim as follows; namely that we want the best for the Afrikaner people and if possible the first prize is an own state for the Afrikaner in which we are in the majority, in which we live in terms of our own value system, where our language is prevalent and where there is no apartheid and we live in a normal volkstaat as, for instance, the French and all the other nation states in the world. But what has happened since we first started to talk five, six, seven years ago, is that I have realised that the first prize is not available at this stage. For many reasons it is practically impossible to achieve an Afrikaner volkstaat at this stage. So what do you do then? The adaptation, as far as I am concerned, came in that I realised that first prize I will not get, what about second prize or third prize? Which one is attainable? Then looking carefully at the political scenario I saw that the ANC has a policy of strong centralisation, a move away from ethnicity, the building of a new South Africa, a new common citizenship which to my mind is a pie in the sky. It is an attempt at a melting pot procedure which I don't think will work in your or my lifetime put together. What I was saying is that the change, I think, in my outlook is more on a realisation that we have to adapt to try to attain the best. If the first prize is not attainable then the second or third prize.
Now in examining I saw that the ANC is very far removed from what I want. They want centralised power at the top. They move away from ethnicity, as I said, and they want a new South African citizenship which is too far removed from my Afrikaner sentiments. The National Party I seriously considered, I seriously considered to join the National Party but the National Party I discovered is making the same fundamental mistake as the Conservative Party did, namely to emphasise and articulate philosophy without the ability to concretise it. The Conservative Party continuously emphasised and preached the philosophy of self-determination but they never get to the point where they could concretise it and put it into operation and say, now here is the area which we want, here are the rules and regulations, this is the practical position with citizenship and with this, this and that. They could never get to the concretisation stage.
De Klerk and his party are making exactly the same error. They say we stand for power sharing, we stand for co-operation and the improvement of life and all those clittering generalities but they do not succeed in concretising it. It's the same error.
I then looked at the IFP and I detected two very strong points, namely federation and secondly pluralism. Federation on the basis of the bottom up approach which you know is that a province retains all the competencies it has except those that they voluntarily surrendered to the central government. And pluralism means that you have to find ways and means of securing or, shall I say, of protecting ethnicity so that, in the words of Buthelezi on 9th July 1994, he said that within the parameters of internationally accepted norms we will protect and defend ethnicity so that an Afrikaner can remain an Afrikaner, a Zulu a Zulu, a Xhosa a Xhosa and those who don't want to be ethnically bound that they can be what they want to. This is the movement that you have within pluralism. I therefore said to myself, this is not going to lead to the establishment of an Afrikaner state, my first prize, but it's the best I can get and it is a vehicle that the Afrikaner could use to get him closer to his objective. This is why I joined the IFP.
POM Down to today when you say their absolute sincerity in ...?
KVM Yes, that was the other point.
POM On April 4th. Are there moves on the way with the ANC and the National Party to try to find a way to mediate the situation?
KVM Yes, the IFP parliamentary caucus has no discretion in the matter. The Congress met and passed a resolution which says that if within thirty days steps are not taken to implement it doesn't mean that international mediation must be finished by now, steps taken to implement. If it's not taken by the 4th April then we will automatically suspend our participation in the Constitutional Assembly. If there are no positive steps then we will simply walk out, that is a fact. I may inform you, if you don't know yet, that tomorrow morning at nine o'clock there is a snap debate in parliament for one hour on the very subject and I think tomorrow there is a strong chance that the matter could be resolved. I also wish to say that the issue is shifting from one of international mediation, it's shifting away from that, to one of integrity. The real issue is becoming one of integrity, namely the integrity of the State President and the Deputy State President de Klerk because they not only gave their words but they also signed on the 19 April 1994 that, "As soon as possible after the election international mediation will be undertaken", and it's now almost a year and no steps have been taken. So now it becomes a question of integrity.
If the President makes such a faithful promise to a party leader who brings in over two million people into the process and he just reneges on that, he just turns his back on that, how could the country trust this person? That is becoming the issue. It will probably be resolved tomorrow. I think so. If not, the question is, how serious is Buthelezi? He is very serious and I have discovered a difference between the modern Afrikaner and the Zulu. Whereas the Afrikaner has become, I wouldn't say become known as, maybe has earned himself a reputation in the last few years that he rather barks than bites, the Zulus bite, they bite. And Buthelezi is one that will certainly bite.
POM The ANC say there's nothing to mediate that can't be mediated between the parties.
KVM OK let's take that point. That's irrelevant, that's totally irrelevant. They are trying to find an excuse to motivate the fact that they are reneging on the word of the State President. Whether there is something to mediate or not is irrelevant, there was a promise, a faithful promise that there will be mediation. But secondly, of course there's a lot to mediate upon. The document says that two matters will be mediated. Firstly, the position of the Zulu monarch, the monarchy, and secondly all outstanding issues, this the document says, 19 April, all outstanding issues in respect of the 1993 constitution, all outstanding aspects. We have drawn up a list of those outstanding aspects that we want to submit to international mediation. We've done that at the time. Before 19 April we had already done it. We had submitted that to the ANC who had accepted it as a basis for mediation at Skukuza, I think, on 9 April. So we say that just read the document, the document says that mediation will be inter alia in respect of all outstanding issues of the 1993 constitution.
Now what is it we really want? Let me go into it for a moment, what is it that we are really negotiating? I'll try to phrase it as follows. The only question is where will power be in the new South Africa? Will it be with the central government or will it be with the provinces? That's what it's all about. If the power is going to vest mainly in the central government then it would mean that the central government effectively has power over KwaZulu/Natal, over the Zulus. Therefore, Buthelezi cannot accept that because then he hands the ANC on a plate power over the Zulus. The ANC also realises that if the power shifts to the provinces they lose control over the provinces and this is what it's about, the shifting of the power between central and the provinces. That's what the whole debate is about.
POM Now the document which the ANC is using for debate this weekend at its constitutional conference stresses very much the centralisation of the state apparatus and no more competencies to go to the provinces than they already have. That I assume is unacceptable to the IFP.
KVM Absolutely. It proves that this is the debate. We can talk about a million peripheral matters but the debate is about where the power will be. Now the ANC is showing it's hand. It says nothing more than you have in the interim constitution. The IFP now knows, and let me elaborate a little around the subject of mediation. The IFP knows if we take our chances in the Constitutional Assembly in this parliament and we just debate there, then of course the ANC will say no to our demands for more competencies to the province. They will bar that, they will say no and they will use their 62% majority to bar that. Now what do we do? Where do we get a big brother, where do we get some leverage to enable us to devolve more competencies to the provinces? Where do we get it? The answer is there is a golden opportunity of international mediation. Now if we could enforce the international mediation, then what will happen? You will have an American there, a German and others who are federalists and when the international mediation takes place we will tell the American and the German and the Canadian, "Gentlemen, all the IFP wants is what you are practising in your country. We want the American model. We want the German model. Please talk sense into the ANC's head. We want what you want. Surely you will know what is best. Help us." We think will generate some support in that way and understanding and if they would make favourable noises then, the mediators, if they would say, "Well all the IFP demands are not acceptable obviously, but hell, these few", and if we do get something, suppose we get five extra competencies then it means it is a profit because we would never have had them without international mediation. I think this is the philosophy.
POM What if in the current Constitutional Assembly the ANC and the NP make a deal and the deal is essentially that the ANC will agree to another five years of power sharing with the NP, in response to which the NP will join with the ANC in voting on constitutional matters so that they all will have more than 662/3%.
KVM It is a scenario but I think it is unlikely. Why is it unlikely? Because Colin Eglin gave notice this week of a Private Member's Bill, he wants to amend the constitution and it's going to be interesting, maybe the constitution will in fact be amended to remove that clause that a member is bound to vacate his seat if he no longer is a member of a political party. Do you know of that clause? OK. Now if that is removed and the National Party does what you say, they will certainly split, they will certainly split. One of the things I'm told by National Party MPs that is keeping them together is just that sword over people's heads. That's the first reaction. The second is I just don't have a feeling that the National Party can afford to do that.
POM They seem, as you suggested, only to be caught in this vacuum. I've asked in the last couple of days a number of their senior people, "How do you function both as a member of the government of national unity and on the other hand as an opposition party?"
KVM Well that's what I call the political hermaphrodite. You're both sexes. You are government and you are opposition. How does that political hermaphrodite operate? I think one of the basic reasons why the GNU exists is to try to get the country out of the instability and into something better from where we can practise our opposition politics better. It's a sort of loyalty to the country. I do think that the IFP is at this stage practising more of an opposition role than the National Party and this is getting us a lot of marks with the electorate. I have very little faith in that scenario of yours, I don't think it has the capacity to run.
POM On a more speculative basis, what if the ANC are able to push through the kind of constitution they want, i.e. most powers lying with the centre. Will the IFP accept that outcome?
KVM I think we should ask whether that is with or without international mediation. Let's take both. If there's no international mediation we are going to withdraw from the constitution making and there will be an escalation into a worsening situation. So my prediction is that there will be international mediation. If there is international mediation then my scenario is that we will get more competencies.
POM That only applies to the 1993 constitution, not to the constitution that will be drawn up?
KVM I am talking about the new one that will be drawn up. In other words what will be in the final constitution. I think if there is international mediation then in the final constitution there will be more competencies for the provinces.
POM Let's just reverse that. Say, if you do have international mediation, if you do get four or five more competencies, that applies to the 1993 constitution?
KVM No, no, that applies to the final constitution then.
POM Why would it, because it said "all outstanding matters with regard to the 1993 constitution."
KVM Yes, but ...
POM It had nothing to do with the new constitution.
KVM But it's the same thing. It simply means the constitution. So what will happen is those competencies already in the interim constitution will automatically be transferred into the new one. That is in terms of the interim constitution.
POM What if the ANC rejected that and said that under the new constitution ...?
KVM No they can't.
POM They would say, as you said yourself, that the international mediation was to be in respect of issues outstanding with regard to the 1993 interim constitution. It made no mention at all of international mediation for the new constitution.
KVM No, no, no, that's not a good argument. The whole intention, and I don't think anybody would dispute that, the whole intention was that we now go into the election and then before we actually start to make the final constitution we resolve the 1993 outstanding matters so that we now have a basis on which to build the final constitution.
POM Well the ANC say that they are going to begin from scratch. That in fact they will only be referring peripherally to the interim constitution.
KVM That's OK. That's no problem. But in terms of that constitution which they cannot disregard, it's impossible to disregard it, there are certain principles and one principle and one fact is that in the final constitution there cannot be less competencies than in the 1993 one. They won't move away from that. There's no hope that they will move away from that.
POM Do you see a shift in the ANC itself on the question of ...?
KVM Yes and I'll you where it comes from, it comes from the provinces. I had an interesting discussion with some of the Premiers even before the 1994 election. I said to some of them, "You are going to become federalists", and they laughed at me. I said, "Fine, you will see what will happen. Once you taste power and you sit in your big office, you're the Premier of a province and you have a big house and big cars and staff and everybody says, 'Your Excellency', then you will sign let's say ten orders per day and every morning nine will come back and say, 'Sorry sir you can't sign that..' 'Why not?' 'Cape Town must decide on those.' And then after a while you say, 'Who the hell is Cape Town. Fuck them. This is the Transvaal, or this is Gauteng or this is this and this. We know what is best for us. We're on the ground here, we're close to the people, we understand the issues. They sit 1000 miles away, they can't tell us what to do here. Then you will cause a natural growth of federation'." I told them, and my latest information is that that is exactly what is happening at this stage. There is a growth, Matthews Phosa, Tokyo and all these, they want more powers. They don't want to keep on referring back. They want to govern their provinces. A natural growth towards federation.
POM I want to just move to the Truth Commission for a moment and what you personally think of the idea as distinct from the IFP's position. Do you think that if there is to be real healing in the country that the people must understand the past and the only way to understand the past is to reveal the truth about the past?
KVM No I don't believe that. I believe, of course, anybody believes that there must be reconciliation and where also one must obviously know the history of your country and understand all this. But when they asked Mao Tse Tung, "What do you say about the French Revolution?" he said, "It's too soon to tell." To establish the truth about what happened in a country is one hell of a challenge and it takes decades, maybe centuries to actually do that because for that truth to be credible it must be a truth that grows from the grassroots. It's not merely a matter of ascertaining the truth of a motor car collision on the corner here. This is a fundamental thing that has happened in the country, not over the last thirty years but over hundreds of years when a first world component met with third world components and they battled to get along and they took certain measures to protect standards and value systems and so on. Now there is no way that any commission can go and sit down and just establish the truth about apartheid or the struggle or all that. They are not going to succeed in doing that because people are not going to accept it. If there is this motor car collision on the corner, a man drove in his car, some people in one car, some people in another car, there was a policeman standing around, independent witnesses, the ice cream vendor and so on, and they had a collision. Then they go to court and the magistrate has all the witnesses there, he listens to all of them, cross examination and he makes a finding and some of them will not accept the finding. They will say the magistrate is out of his mind. You can't even establish the complete truth about a simple thing so how the hell are you going to establish the truth about such an enormous thing?
Secondly, the commission is politically contaminated from the beginning because as it stands now Mandela and the Cabinet, in other words the ANC, is going to appoint the commissioners. So it will be seen as an ANC commission from the beginning.
Third point. Until now the ANC has very cleverly indemnified most of its own people. It's a very interesting thing. For the last few years there has been a process of giving amnesty to people. More than 20,000 people have received amnesty. The ANC have cleverly succeeded in getting their people away, all their people basically, all of them out and what has remained is IFP supporters and the security force people. So, now, that theirs are free and these two have been isolated, they say to them, fine, although in the past there was a Curran Commission and other things who just listened to people, and without publishing any truths and without any remorse, nothing, or not remorse, without confession. What do you do if you go to a priest? You confess. Without these public confessions and all these things, those more than 20,000 ANC people have been released. We don't even know who they are, we don't know what atrocities they committed, nothing. And now that the security forces and the IFP people have been isolated, only they remain, they say, "Now we want to know about principles. Now we want very strong guidelines, very strong parameters for you to get it. We want it to be published because we want it in the newspapers day after day." So this alone is not even-handedness and it's unfair and it can't work. It is not going to lead to any form of reconciliation.
POM You say that the National Party has in a sense set itself up since when the ANC was unbanned, for members of the ANC to come back from exile they had to fill out a form in which they had to document every deed that could be classified as a terrorist act, every crime, and they were only indemnified for the specific actions that they mentioned in the indemnity form and if there were other actions that they took that they didn't record they were open to prosecutions, is not the ANC looking for more or less the same thing?
KVM No, because at that stage it was not in public. There was no truth seeking device, there was no reparation of victims, there was nothing of the sort. This is a totally different kettle of fish. One gets the impression that the ANC hastily and in private reprieved their members, got them out, yes signed forms, but do you know of any of these 22,000 forms that have been signed? Has anything been published? Anything on the radio, on the TV? Nothing. They have taken them out. Yes it's there. On the face of it they have the documents, but now in our case it will be like the O J Simpson trial, week after week the commission will, with a view to the October elections, week after week they will keep the apartheid corpse alive.
POM Let's talk about the October elections. One finds, as has been said many times, great apathy, low levels of registration, people don't know why they should vote again, the government have delivered nothing. Why should they go through the exercise all over again? They don't know what local government is, they're not registered to vote, never mind vote, and the thing appears to be a considerable mess. Do you think this will sort itself out in the next month?
KVM Very unlikely. For instance, to give you an excellent example, my wife and I haven't registered yet. We just haven't registered yet. I want to register, yes, I know I must register but I haven't done it yet. Now how the hell are they going to do it? There's twenty days left. It's simply not going to work on that basis. They will have to amend, they will have to make alternative means and I'm not so sure that the ANC is really concerned about this because they've got the power now. It's the central power that counts. Maybe there will be an escalation of enthusiasm towards the election but then, still, only those who registered can vote and that's over in twenty days. They will probably extend it and eventually they will probably extend the election also. As you put it, the mess is such that the election cannot be a true reflection of the will of the people.
POM Do you think that in KwaZulu/Natal the potential exists for considerable escalation of violence since the IFP and the ANC will in fact not be fighting a political war over an illicit system, but they will be fighting about specific pieces of territory?
KVM I just wonder whether it's that complicated. The Xhosas and the Zulus, the ANC and the IFP just don't like each other and they need a smaller excuse to fight each other than the complicated explanation that you have. The fire is there, it is still there and it could escalate at any time.
POM How does the IFP account for what seems to be at this point the defection of King Zwelithini to the ANC camp?
KVM Let's talk about the King. The IFP's concern is not so much over the incumbent Goodwill Zwelithini but the monarchy. That's the first point. Now what has happened is that the incumbent was very, very strongly with, shall I say, the IFP sentiments, very strongly until after the election. You will recall that one or two days before the election actually took place last year a special session of parliament was convened to amend the old constitution especially to make provision for the Zulu monarch, all done by the IFP. Thereafter he spiritually defected and he defected to the ANC. This is what happened. Now what does that mean?
POM Why did he do it in the first place?
KVM There are reasons that I wouldn't want to be on record on [such as because our personal opinion is that we think the King is a weakling. Yes, it's off the record. The King is a weakling, he easily cries, his nose starts to bleed and he shakes and he cries and he says, "I don't want to live, I'd rather die." He's a weakling.] But let's keep that out. Let's say personal problems, but eventually he was possibly bribed by the ANC. There are rumours of ten million rand being paid to him and so on. But in the end he went there. Let's analyse that. He is now fully an ANC man. Yes, the incumbent is now ANC. Where does the monarchy stand? For that you need to look at the monarchy itself. What does the monarchy consist of? And the strongest foundation of the monarchy is called the Amakosi, the chiefs. One is Nkosi and the plural is Amakosi. There must be around 300 of them, 300 Amakosi in KwaZulu/Natal. They are the real backbone of the monarchy. They are hereditary. They inherit the title. They are very, very powerful, make no mistake about that. They have some judicial powers. They are the liaison in some instances between the living and the dead and they control land and many people in the tribal areas will not move without seeing the Amakosi and so on, the Chief. Now of let's say 300 Amakosi maybe 99% are IFP. Now what the Amakosi have done so far is they have met, they have decided that they want to be constitutional and then the Bill was passed in KwaZulu/Natal, the Traditional Leaders Bill, with the support of the National Party. They now have a statutory body. They can dismiss the King, they can dismiss the King and it's not impossible that they will dismiss Zwelithini.
POM Is that provided for in the legislation?
KVM No, but this is traditional. There are ways and means of deposing any monarch and especially with the Zulus. They have their ways, they call it an 'imbizo' they can get together and there is a real danger of him being deposed because let's say 90% of those who count, the Amakosi, the Indunas and the Princes, there are numerous Princes, Ntwanas(?) and they are also against him. I think, therefore, what happened, or my opinion is that the incumbent defected but the monarchy is with the IFP. And in the end either Zwelithini comes back from his spiritual exile or somebody else will take over from him.
POM Is there any doubt in your mind that KwaZulu/Natal will in one way or another move towards more federalism?
KVM Yes, oh yes, definitely it will. There will be continuous pressure, continuous pressure not only from KwaZulu/Natal but from the other provinces. They are experiencing exactly the same problems, they don't have powers, they can't operate. It's an expensive big parliament with eighty members of parliament and staff and departmental heads and everything with an own provincial constitution but no powers. It won't work. It will either have to go back more to centralism or more federalism and it will be more federalism in the long run. In ten years time it will be much more of a federation than anything else. The trend is towards federalism.
POM Does the IFP, as distinct from the IFP participating in the government of national unity, endorse and fully support the RDP?
KVM Oh yes. Oh yes. Look, the RDP is a way, to put it in simple terms, it's a way to improve the lifestyle of people in the country. Obviously we're all in favour of that.
POM When I asked people around the country about it a glaze comes into people's eyes, they think you're talking about a new political party or something. Few have any idea of its contents.
KVM The whole thing, the way I see the RDP, it is simply what you Americans call a platform. Bill Clinton goes to the people with a platform and he says I want to do A, B, C and D. He gets elected then he tries to implement that platform. Now the RDP basically stands for the improvement of the way of life, the values, not the value system, the social life, etc., economic life of the inhabitants of the country and who can be against that? It's going to depend on methods employed to improve, whether they are going to take away your second car and tax your second house and so on.
POM But the government talks in terms of the importance of local government being the vehicle of delivery. But you're saying that the ANC has no great interest in local government since they have all the power really that they want?
KVM That is as far as power is concerned. What I basically intended saying or meant to say was that the power struggle is over, the ANC has the power. Now the heat is off municipal elections to get power, obviously they will still go for it but not with the ferocity that they went last year when they initially got the power. It does bring a smile when people say that the RDP is to be done more by the local authorities. It's a way of passing the buck. The ANC is caught obviously is the cleft stick of the unrealistic expectations, the expectations that they created with the people; you'll get jobs, you'll get houses, you'll have cars, you'll have A, B, C, D, E. And now as you also mentioned briefly, is that people are now asking where it is. Where are the jobs? Where are the houses? Where is this and this and that? Hell, we've been in the new South Africa for a year, we've been in heaven for a year and all we see is hell. So what's wrong with the ANC?
And Naidoo is the minister in charge of the RDP and I don't think he knows what he's doing. I don't think Naidoo has a real plan for the RDP because, hell, let's just look at the practical situation, when they were elected almost a year ago, in three, four weeks it's a year, when they were elected they had a plan that they submitted to the electorate. This is the plan we're going to carry out, the RDP plan. Now after eleven months and a week nothing has practically been carried out. Why not? Because they don't have a plan. They have a theory like the CP had a theory of self-determination and the National Party has a theory of power sharing but they can't concretise it. How the hell are they going to concretise the RDP? After eleven months and a week they couldn't really embark on it. Tokyo Sexwale is the one who said, "Before the end of 1994 I will build in Gauteng, in the old Transvaal, 150,000 houses." Only one was built I believe up to windowsill height. Now what does it mean?
They are getting caught in the same cleft stick as the Conservative Party. Where is our country? Where is the Afrikaner state, people ask? They ask of the National Party now, where is the power sharing that you talk about? Mandela goes to Namibia, he gives Sam Nujoma 1000 million, he writes it off. You've got no say in it, De Klerk, where's the power sharing? We've been telling them there's no such thing as power sharing when it comes to real power. Real power is in the ANC's hands, not in anybody else's hands, and the power sharing they have is nonsense. Now you get to the RDP. Where is the concretisation thereof? Where is the concretisation? It's talk, talk, talk, passing the buck, Naidoo will do it, this one will do it, we have 600 more million for this and this and that, but even the housing projects can't get off. They can't attend properly to the squatters who are in dire straits. It's a question of the concretisation that people can't get running.
POM The question I always ask is where will the money come from to implement this?
KVM Yes, the money must come from somewhere.
POM The estimates are from 11 billion rand to 36 billion, maybe even more and it certainly won't come from domestic savings, it certainly won't come from cut-backs.
KVM It can only come from the haves. They won't get much from overseas because the country is not stable enough. They won't get much from overseas. And we can cut the corners. The only place where they can get money is from the haves, taxes. But clever taxes, indirect taxes. For instance, instead of saying I'm nationalising something, you indirectly do it very softly, diplomatically, for instance death duties, estate duty. At the moment I think when you die and your estate is worth over a million then you have to pay 15% tax on what you have. We believe they want to bring that down to if you die, if you've got more than R400,000, a third of that goes to the government. These are rumours. That's the only way they can do it.
Again it's a question of concretisation. How do you do it? How do you build? I have been given to understand that the Building Federation said that if you pool all individuals who have anything to do with building, you can't do that but suppose you do that and suppose you have the billions of rand for that and suppose you have the material, then you can build 85,000 houses per year. You simply can't. And the problem is they must stop making babies but then you get back to that social problem that you must first educate people before they have smaller families. But where do you start? You don't have the money to do that, it's one hell of a problem.
POM Let's go back to the constitution for a minute and I may have asked you this the last time we talked and probably did, but on a scale of one to ten, one being unsatisfactory and ten being very satisfactory, where would you rate the interim constitution?
KVM The interim constitution? Oh very low, two.
POM How would you rate the performance of the government?
KVM The government of national unity or the ANC government? Look, it's difficult. On the face of it they're doing six, but if one exposes something, namely the fact that nothing much is happening, then that six must go down to one or two. We haven't done much in the past year. We haven't devolved anything very important to the provinces. The provinces are waiting on their competencies, they are waiting on money, they are not really functioning, they are sitting around. This parliament here is basically sitting around. Nothing much has happened so that it's like a car running at 25 kms per hour so then it's doing well, but when it goes full speed, 150 kms an hour how is it going to operate then?
POM The factor was introduced, perhaps introduced by some people in the ANC, of what was called the sleaze factor. That is that people are being overpaid, official residences are being kept that are very expensive and some people pay themselves, like Peter Mokaba, pay themselves R250,000. Winnie ...
KVM Hands in the tills.
POM Is it a problem?
KVM I think that's still to be assessed. We have a big budget and it depends what percentage of the budget is really involved. I think percentage-wise it's very small and if it could be contained and eradicated it's no real problem, but if it's allowed to escalate then that can become a big problem. You know, black people have a different outlook. We are inclined to look at merit, to look at results. If we were to employ somebody we would say this is what we want a person to do, you must be able to type, to do this and this and that and we will appoint a person who can do that and if we have a person working for us who had to this and they can't do it we will say to that person, "Look, I'm sorry but you can't do what we thought you could do. Go." Now what will they do? They will say no, no, no, the person has to be helped. Then the person who can't type properly is sent on courses, is tolerated, hangs around. They aren't strict on these things, help the people. They are not so much inclined on production, on merit, they are more - see how it goes tomorrow. That will eventually have its toll on productivity.
POM If a foreign investor came to you at the moment, what kind of case could you make to him to invest in the country. I say that in what was our personal experience. We've come to Cape Town now four times in the last two months, we have never been able to get a hotel room, it's been packed. It took us three weeks to get a ticket to a movie.
KVM Where do you stay then?
POM Now we're staying in the Vineyard, that's about 20, 25 kms outside of city.
KVM What do they charge you?
POM R225-00 and then R30-00 for breakfast.
PAT We used to stay at the Townhouse.
KVM Because you should consider to rent a flat, an apartment. A friend of mine has one in the building down here, a very smart one, that he rents out for R300 and something a day. If you get stuck let me know.
POM There seems to be a lot of activity going on. You take the road from Johannesburg to Pretoria, it's full of cranes, building, more office space is being built so obviously there's a surge of confidence in some places.
KVM There's a surge not of confidence but of activity. I would rather approach the Reserve Bank and ask for the cold figures of investments. It will surprise me if there is much, it will surprise me if there is much. These may be government movements. But it is so that we have a surge of tourists. It's cheap, it's beautiful, especially Cape Town.
POM Do you see a showdown coming between the ANC and COSATU, that they are moving on different lines?
KVM You ask all the difficult questions. It's opinions. Now, in the ANC the vast majority of people realise that their future lies in the ANC, keeping the ANC together. If the old man collapses today who is taking over? Winnie will probably be a candidate, Ramaphosa may be and Thabo Mbeki. What are they going to do? I think they are going to realise that they sat in jail for 27 years and they've struggled, as they say, for so many centuries to get the power and they are not going to let that go out of their hands, so it's very unlikely that any struggle from COSATU side or the other will upset the apple cart. They will do horse trading inside the ANC, Shilowa and others will negotiate and get more concessions from the government and vice versa, but a split in the ANC, a real split as the one that De Klerk is waiting for, I would be surprised if that would happen. I can't see this ANC thing which has grown over so many years, that has been worked up so much, that it will evaporate. I can't see that, so that split will be peripheral. If it comes it won't break the ANC. De Klerk, I believe, thinks that we need a new realignment and he is thinking that Mbeki and maybe others would move out of the ANC and form a new party.
POM Mbeki would?
KVM Mbeki for instance, yes, when Ramaphosa makes it too difficult for him, when Mandela dies. There are all sorts of scenarios that substantial breakaway from the ANC could appear.
POM I would think that the issue of succession is settled for the moment.
KVM Yes it's Mbeki, it's Mbeki.
POM What happened? Ramaphosa went from being the first person on the ANC list, widely praised for the negotiations at Kempton Park, that in fact the ANC won. As he said afterwards when asked what happened to the NP, he said, "They caved in." And yet he seems to have slipped in prestige rather than grown.
KVM This is one of the characteristics of black politics. You may have done so much and you come in in the morning and you do something small that they don't like and they see everything through the light of that slip-up of this morning.
POM What was his slip-up? Is it apparent?
KVM I don't know but to try to rephrase it, I don't think there will be a significant split in the ANC. I think they will be in power at least at the next general election also. It is possible that they may come below 50%, that's possible, because if the IFP get its act together we could get another 10% because we're the only party that cannot get less than last time because we went in without any organisation and we got two million votes. So now that we have structures all over the country, now that we are proving ourselves as an effective opposition, now that we are doing these things, we are showing some strength, we could take away 10% from them which would bring them down to just over 50% and the National Party, so what could happen is that the ANC could be weakened below 50%. That will be good for the country.
POM There has been this debate going on in the ANC between one group that says too much attention has been spent in the last year in appeasing the fears of whites and not enough attention has been paid to the delivery of basic services to their own communities. Would you find a merit in that statement?
KVM It's nonsense. The only effective way that you can address the things that they want to address is through time tested measures such as productivity and doing it yourself.
POM You mentioned Winnie Mandela, what kind of factor does she represent, the Winnie factor?
KVM Winnie is a strong woman factor and a strong poor factor, poverty factor. She has strong support with women and strong support with the really poor people. She has significant support in the ANC. If she breaks away, if the IFP does well and she breaks away there's no way the ANC can have a 50% poll again, just enough to get them down to that. But she won't move away. I think she has learnt a lesson also and she would probably find a new identity now. She will meditate and think and probably go on a world trip and so on and meditate and come back a better person because she has her ideals and she will realise that she can only realise them along the route of the ANC. And she may come back as a full minister then.
PAT What do you think of Buthelezi's immediate words of support for her?
KVM Oh I thought that was very clever. It's a way of dividing the ANC. It's basically a method to cast more doubt on the ANC. I sympathise with her and then people say it wasn't that simple hey, it wasn't a matter of her being a witch and being chased out, there must be something. Isn't Mandela wrong here? All sorts of questions are raised. It's clever from a propaganda point of view.
POM How would you rate after Mandela being ten months office, how would you rate his performance as State President?
KVM I would want to rate him high but I can't because he's a weak old man physically. He's an old uncle.
POM He does an awful lot of travelling.
KVM Yes he does all that, but if you talk to the people they admit that he's an old man. They take him around, he sleeps enough, he eats and he talks to people, but he's old. Age is catching up. He's a very old 77. He does well, he articulates well but he is not a shadow of the man of two or three years ago. He's getting old.
POM In the same vein how would you rate Chief Buthelezi?
KVM He's doing very well and I'll tell you why. I have identified his methods. He's very, very methodical. When there's something he has to do he determines what is the correct way of doing it and then he goes the long way. With the King for instance, he went the long way and at the moment the King is totally isolated. When he wants to do something he goes about it, he plans very carefully and he goes along with the planned route. He doesn't just act. I have great respect for that planning.
POM Once again you are comprehensive and a good interview. Maybe I'll just do a book on you, Koos. I've got enough material collected now. We did 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995.
KVM Is it seven years now?
POM It's really six because I started really in 1990.