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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
08 Nov 2001: General George Meiring in Pretoria
POM I want to talk to you first about Bophuthatswana which to me was probably one of the key events in leading up to peaceful elections and to the fact that SA today is one country. I am going to read you the account that Mac Maharaj gave to me about what he says the conversations were with you, what you said, and then I want you to say right, wrong, got the wrong idea, misperception, whatever. So I'm going to bore you by reading. We're in the middle of an interview and we've talked about Constand Viljoen and what's going on in the Ciskei and what's going on in KwaZulu-Natal and everything was in a state of flux. Then we come to Bophuthatswana and he begins by saying: -
What really happened was a major question of politics because politics is not just a science. A huge component of politics is an art and part of that art is to be able to seize a moment, others may call it opportunism. I think on that basis you would call Lenin the biggest opportunist of the 20th century. What really happened (and he's talking now about Bophuthatswana) was that the right gathered forces to move into Bophuthatswana on the grounds that the Mangope government was threatened by a spontaneous uprising in Bophuthatswana at Mafikeng so they saw this militarily and politically as an opportunity to move in both for Mangope and consolidate Mangope against the negotiating process. What did we see?
Personally I saw a great threat to the transition in military terms but I said, 'How do we checkmate this?' Two strengths. The population of Bophuthatswana has spontaneously risen in revolt, the right has moved in and embedded in the right is racist conduct. Viljoen would not argue with me that the commandos that he was commanding now stripped of racism. No way. What were we to do? He would be closing his eyes to the politics of the problem. Each of them thought we are now going to rule the country, we're going to stop the democratic process, we're going to overthrow de Klerk and we're going to rule. Speculation.
Then he goes on: The AWB, the right wing and even the commandos because look at the commando leaders. The difference, we will do it with a different face. When this revolt took place and the AWB moved in a sense developed amongst those of us at Kempton Park in the ANC that this was an opportunity that would either be a setback or you could exploit it fully. The Management Committee of the TEC agreed to allow Fanie van der Merwe and me, because we were now dithering what to do, and I was frantic and sometimes I may have spoken out of turn, but I said to Cyril, 'Cyril, you had better move the TEC to Bophuthatswana.' He said, 'It's not working out'. I said, 'Well then send Fanie and me on an urgent mission to go and bring a report on the ground of what the reality is. The Management Committee of the TEC supported that. Fanie and I prepared to go. Fanie had to do the logistics. I think Roelf and them were pretty confident that they were in charge. (I have a question mark under the word 'they', who were 'they?) Fanie comes and says a helicopter will take the two of us to Mafikeng. When I get to the airstrip it was a military helicopter. Not a problem. When I get into the helicopter who is sitting there? General Meiring and General van der Merwe. Clearly they were not part of our mission and I wondered what was happening.
We get to Bophuthatswana and we listened to the reports. General Meiring calls a meeting and then he has the General in charge of the Bophuthatswana forces, I forget his name, to give a report. So we are sitting at this meeting, the SA High Commissioner is there, a whole body of military and police brass are sitting there, the Commissioner of the Bop army is sitting there and he gives a report and his report essentially says, 'Our forces have lost control. The Bop army has lost control. The Police Force has collapsed.'
General Meiring behaves like he's chairing the meeting and he says, 'Right, number one, the SADF now goes out to stabilise the situation. Number two, to restore law and order and number three, to reinstate Mangope and assist the defence of Bophuthatswana.' I said (that's Mac) 'No you can't do that. You have just had a report that the administration has collapsed, the police has collapsed, the defence force of Bop is not in control, the civil service has collapsed and Mangope is hiding out. We have not come here to reinstate Mangope. We have come here, Fanie and I, to get a reading of the situation and give a report to FW and Madiba meeting in the Union Building. They are meeting there right now and it is our job to give a report.' I see there are tanks, SADF tanks, under the trees of the SA High Commissioner's property. So they have moved in the tanks also to support stabilisation. To me that's reinstating Mangope. So we have a stand-off.
It's the same day, the first thing that happened was that when I got out I went to the phone with Fanie. I said 'Let's rush to the phone to give a report to Union Buildings', Meiring is saying I can't give him orders. He only takes orders from FW de Klerk and his orders are clear. He has the power to stabilise and reinstate. As we go to the High Commissioner's offices in the same yard. Now I get through. We phone and we call for Cyril and I give a report to Cyril in Fanie's presence. I give him my reading of the situation and I say, 'General Meiring wants to go out to this, you have to get a countermand from Madiba and FW to stop him.' I gave my report in the presence of Fanie but I decided he's got to report to Roelf and I must leave and Fanie says, 'No, Mac, don't leave the room. I have heard the report you've presented and I want you to hear my report.' Foreign Affairs was present in the form of Rusty Evans and Rusty can see that there's a huge tussle going on here between the army, Meiring, and myself. Fanie gives a report which is in his own words but it is fundamentally in alignment with my assessment. Rusty Evans disappears.
Fanie and I leave to go to the High Commissioner's house and we see a helicopter. What's that? It's got no markings, it's not military but it's flying over the SA High Commission office. Then from the sound of it, it lands some place nearby. So I said, 'What helicopter is that? No markings.' Fanie says, 'I don't know.' We go into the High Commissioner's residence, there's no Meiring. If I remember correctly Fanie disappears and later Fanie comes back and says, 'Mac, now I had to meet Rusty Evans, he's got something to say.' So Rusty meets the two of us. He says, 'Gentlemen, I don't know what is happening but I feel I'm obliged to tell you people, the two of you, you're from the TEC, that helicopter has just brought General Constand Viljoen here.' Yes, Constant Viljoen and General Meiring are having a meeting on the premises of the High Commission. The helicopter had landed in the High Commission territory and in another cottage the two of them ( you and Viljoen) are meeting. And Rusty says, 'I've been there sitting in on this meeting. They are planning together to fly to Motsuene, the palace of Mangope, to engage in discussions with Mangope.' I said (that's Mac), 'Thank you very much', and I said to Rusty, 'Who else is here with Constand?' He said, "Colonel Jan Breytenbach,' Breytenbach was a former leader of the RUC and he's aligned to Constand, so I said, 'Has Breytenbach been here?' He said, 'Yes, he's here, he's on the ground.' This is right in Mmabatho, Jan Breytenbach is here. He hasn't come in the helicopter, he's on the territory, on the ground like a Field Commando. I said 'OK. I want to see General Meiring.' This is about five or six in the afternoon just before it starts getting dark and I told Rusty and Fanie that I had to see Meiring. 'I've got to see Meiring, don't tell him why.' At about 6 or 6.30pm Meiring walks into the lounge and he simply says, 'We've got leave now, it's getting dark. The helicopter is not equipped to take off in darkness so we've got to leave now.' I said, 'No, sit, sit, we need a meeting.' He reluctantly sits and I said to him, 'You have been doing things behind our backs. We have phoned Union Buildings for instructions from FW and Mandela and the steps that you are taking are impermissible. I am not prepared to fly back. I am going to sit here on the ground reporting to Union Buildings and right now I am saying if that helicopter is to take off it must wait until I go and make a call to Union Buildings.' Meiring is taken aback. Fanie is quietly supporting me.
I go into the foyer in the High Commissioner's house and phone the Union Buildings and I get Cyril on the line and I say, 'Cyril, this is what's happening. Unless you get FW and Madiba to countermand I am sitting here, I'm not moving.' Cyril comes back, puts Roelf on the phone and Roelf asks for Meiring. Meiring goes to the phone in the foyer, makes sure that I don't hear what he's talking about, comes back furious and he says, 'Well, let's fly back.' I say, 'Have you got your instructions?' He says that's his business. I said, 'No'. Then I say I'm going to stay in the room and I want to hear what instructions you have been given. He said, 'I don't have to obey you' I said ( Mac) 'No, the instructions that you are receiving are from FW can only be your instructions from the point of view of the TEC if they are instructions that are agreed to by Mandela sitting with FW at the Union Buildings.' Fanie pulled me to one side, comes back and says to me, 'Mac, please, cool it. The instructions have been given.' I say, 'Are the SADF prohibited from going out of their compound with their tanks to reinstate Mangope?' He says, 'Yes, they can't.' 'Good', I say, 'We'll try that.' That was Friday.
We got back late Friday night. Cyril and Madiba were not at Union Buildings. I contacted Cyril on the phone and he said, 'The TEC Management Committee is meeting tomorrow', yes it was a Friday. We go to TEC office and I tell Cyril and I tell Joe Slovo, I say, 'Chaps it's a touch and go job. Joe Slovo said, 'What do you want?' I said, 'Adjourn the meeting of the TEC from Pretoria to be held tomorrow in the High Commissioners' premises. Move it there.' 'What's your aim?' I said, 'Chaps, we haven't got the military power but if we are on the ground, all of the Management Committee including Colin Eglin and Roelf we will be able to countermand actions. It's within our power', I say, 'We can do it.' Cyril walks out of the meeting to have a one-on-one meeting with Roelf and every now and then I'm called out. Joe Slovo is also called out but I said, 'What are you doing Cyril?' He said, 'I am sitting on Roelf. I am sitting hard on him and I am saying we overthrow Mangope'. Roelf comes back and he says to Cyril, 'It's agreed, we must remove Mangope.' He says, 'How? You're going to adjourn the Management Committee?' I say, 'We will fly back. We will fly immediately to Mmabatho.' Roelf says, 'What will happen with Colin Eglin and the others? They don't know what's happening'. So Roelf comes back and he says, 'FW is saying that if Mangope is out it is the job of Pik Botha to handle it and they say Pik is on his way. They called him wherever he is in the country, so Pik is flying to Pretoria.' I say, 'Roelf, it's a deal now that we are going in there, you are going in there to overthrow Mangope, to depose him.' He says, 'Yes, it's a deal.' This is between two and three in the afternoon. How are we going to go? This is happening outside the TEC Management room. I say, 'Send Fanie and me with Pik Botha and General Meiring to unseat Mangope. In the meantime let's take a resolution at the TEC Management Committee that the Management Committee will adjourn to Mmabatho.' Why? To be there on the spot. Then the question arises what happens to Mac and Fanie. We say no, describe to the Management Committee that Mac and Fanie are being sent in advance on an earlier flight to create the facilities for the TEC to meet. 'Don't tell them', Roelf said, 'Don't tell them you're going to overthrow Mangope.' I say, 'OK, deal'. Then I say, 'Are you giving that instruction also to General Meiring?' He says, 'Yes.
So Pik Botha arrived at Wonderboom in his plane. Meiring, Fanie and I boarded his plane and we flew off to Mmabatho and I see Meiring is uncomfortable. We get to Mafikeng Airport and we go into the VIP lounge at the airport and I can see that the right wing is already controlling part of the air strip. Constand Viljoen's right wing are controlling the air strip. I sat in the VIP room and Meiring is running around. I say to Pik and Fanie, 'What's happening?' Meiring is arranging for us to go to Mangope's royal palace. So we do that and suddenly I realise, hey wait a minute. Is Meiring playing some trick here? It's getting late. So I say to Pik, 'Pik I haven't had a report. You're in charge here but I haven't heard a report from Meiring to say how heavily armed Mangope's guards are. How many guards has he at the palace?' And Pik says, 'What do you mean?' I say, 'Look, we're flying in here, what happens when we land there and Mangope's elite guard, which in my estimate are 120 strong and they are fully armed and are camped on his site, what happens if they take us hostage?' And Pik of course screamed, he says, 'You mean to say we can die?' I said, 'Why not? How are we planning to go there? I haven't heard any of the logistics.' Pik called Meiring and he says to General Meiring? "General Meiring, what's the strength of Mangope's forces guarding him.' And Meiring says, 'I'll go and check'. I said, 'Go and check! You as the military head should know that'. Anyway Meiring goes, comes back and he says there are at least sixty. Pik says, 'How heavily are they armed?' Meiring says, 'They are fully armed.' I say, 'Who are they?' 'They are the elite forces trained by the SADF' It's now dark. Pik says, 'What are you doing General Meiring? What are you doing? Are we going to die?' And Meiring says, 'No, I'm trying to get ground forces from the SADF but they've got a long distance to travel. They're only coming at 2 or 3 in the morning.' So Pik says, 'When do we fly? Meiring says, ' Not until I've got my forces in position'. I say, 'That's not good enough, we've been sitting here for 2, 3 hours already. By now you should have gotten 3 or 4 helicopters fully loaded with soldiers ready to go fly in, landed before us, securing the ground and ensuring our helicopter can land.'
So we did that. We flew into Mmabatho at about 10 at night. Mangope was asleep, he was in his pyjamas. First another helicopter had to land with soldiers fully armed who took positions in Mangope's yard around our helicopter. We then landed and they escorted us to the door of the palace. We got into this meeting, there was Mangope, his son the Colonel, his daughter-in-law and his other son and there was Pik, Meiring, Fanie and me. And Mangope tried to buy time. He said, 'Look, I need time, I'm prepared to change my views about the elections but I need to discuss it with the IEC.' And Pik was virtually agreeing when I intervened and I said no. Mangope had planned a Legislative Assembly meeting to take place two or three days later, I think on the Tuesday, and he was planning to do a radio broadcast and Mangope says 'I want help to do that', and Pik was agreeing, but I intervened, I said, 'No way, sorry. You're not getting the message Mr Mangope. The message is you are out of power.' I said, 'You're out, no more talks, no meeting of the Legislative Assembly, no address on the radio.' And Mangope turned bitterly to Pik Botha and attacks him, he said, 'I've been your friend all these years, I never knew you would be coming here with this message'" We said, 'You're out.' We told him we're leaving forces here to secure his safety, which was a way of saying you're under house arrest and we said to General Meiring, out of the hearing of Pik Botha, 'General Meiring, this man is not to leave here. You've got to guard him day and night and you've got to get your forces and you've got to disarm his guard.'
We now fly to the High Commissioner's place leaving Meiring behind. When we get there the TEC Management Committee has been sitting for hours waiting for us. The TEC meeting starts and we report that we came in advance, we found a situation, we had to take action and this is why the meeting had been delayed. Fanie and me, we had just come back from the palace having removed Mangope formally from power with Pik Botha and having effectively placed him under house arrest.
So my question to Mac was, 'So is it your belief that Meiring at this point was playing a double game?' Mac: Oh yes, Meiring was going to put the SADF into deployment to reinstate Mangope to power. So I say, 'Was he working with Viljoen?' Mac: 'He was in very close contact with Jan Breytenbach and Constand Viljoen. Breytenbach was part of the SADF commandos and he was at the rank of Colonel, he came from the Namibian bush war and he was in my view the Operational Commander of Constand's forces.' I say, 'It appears to me from what you have said that General Meiring was prepared to commit an act of treason insofar as –.' Mac: 'He would explain his position as an all-way mandate, as the general mandate of the SADF to keep the integrity of the territory of Bophuthatswana safe. Previously Mangope had been overthrown, the SADF had thrown into the stadium, arrested Mangope in his pyjamas and reinstalled him. This has happened before so he would say that his mandate was for law and order. 'I saw my mandate as restoring law and order collapse. The lawful government in my view was Mangope and I therefore saw my mandate as restoring Mangope'. He would say that was my 'treason'. He was operating in the paradigm of the old SA and he would then argue that he neutralised the right by working together with them.'
A long statement.
GM No, it's not correct. There are many things that are correct but the essence that Mangope was –
POM I want you to comment on specific assumptions, specific phrases.
GM What I would like to do is to say to you that to my way of thinking Mac played a very much lower role than what he said, that he was a nuisance and that he sometimes said no is true, but specifically at the Mangope household the man who did the talking was Pik. If my recollection is correct –
POM I want to go back to the previous day. I want to go back to the Friday.
GM I just want to make this one point, just give you this one point. Pik said most of these things. Subsequently Mac talked a lot to Pik, what they said to one another because they talk in Tswana to one another but the one who actually said that Mangope must go was Pik and not Mac Maharaj.
The previous day, it started before the previous day, the rioting started, if I remember correctly, on the Wednesday. Either Monday or Wednesday, I'm not sure.
POM That's fine. We're talking Friday, Saturday – that Mac is talking about, the rioting had started earlier than that.
GM One should look at it from that point of view to make sense of the whole thing.
POM On the Sunday in fact.
GM I don't exactly know when. I know I was called up to go to Waterkloof late in the evening and at Waterkloof itself was FW de Klerk and Pik and Kobie Coetsee and, if I remember correctly, (Kobie was then Minister of Defence) I think Roelf was there as well but I'm not sure, and they said that there is a situation –
POM This is on the Friday?
GM I'm not sure exactly when. No it's not on the Friday, it's previous to that. It's just after the rioting started. I was called in and de Klerk said we must take steps to ensure that the rioting stops, that we create stability in Bophuthatswana. So what I then did I phoned the Officer Commanding of, at that point in time it was called Western Transvaal Command in Potchefstroom, and I said to him 'How many troops do you have available and where are they?' He said to me they are at certain places and I asked him when can he bring troops into or near enough to Bophuthatswana so that they could move in at a moment's notice. So we agreed that he move troops to various locations on the border near Mafikeng or near Mmabatho/Mafikeng area. Then I phoned the Officer Commanding of Bop forces and I said to him, 'What is going on? Give me a military account of what is going on.' He gave me his account and I asked him where is the government. He said they do not exist. He doesn't know where Mangope is, he's in hiding. The other people are not in office, the Police are starting to riot. I said to him, 'You must now request us to help you because we cannot', it's at the moment in time it's still an independent country. 'We cannot enter there unless you personally or Mangope ask either me as Chief of the SADF at the time or the President to come and stabilise the country. We cannot move in.'
POM Could you under the constitution, if Mangope has asked you to move in, could you have done that without him having consulted the President?
GM No. The President had already given me an order to stabilise the country but I cannot just go in because of the situation that it was a sovereign country at that time, SA was a sovereign country, I could move my troops to get in if Mangope either asked or if his absence his Chief of Defence asks me. This is what was in the agreement.
POM What was the name of his Chief of Defence?
GM Ngoma(?). I've got the full report in my room, you can have it if you want it. So what actually happened was that during the time the Chief of the Defence Force asked me to come and help and he also sent a telex that the area is out of control and would SA troops please assist in maintaining law and order. So I moved the troops in onto the premises of the Ambassador, as it was then called not the High Commissioner, the Ambassador of SA. He's got a big compound. We had no tanks in there among … military background and all that … because we had only armoured sighting vehicles, Ratels, in there. It's not a tank. A tank is a thing with – it's a completely different kettle of fish, this is armoured sighting vehicle, APCs. So what we have in there, we brought those people in and they were in there, about a company or two, not many troops. They were on the premises and I heard them also from the Officer Commanding's second-in-command because he then just said, 'I'm not going to do anything, the Officer Commanding. I've already asked him –
POM Sorry, the second - ?
GM No, the Officer Commanding of Bophuthatswana forces after requesting me to assist he went in limbo, he did nothing. His second-in-command then spoke to me, he was a Colonel. He gave me a report and he said that that morning Viljoen's people came in, civilian people, with Jan Breytenbach into the area but there are also AWB people. There were two groups of people. The AWB were never requested. Viljoen was requested by Mangope to assist. So when we flew in to look at what was happening on the ground I gave a full report to the President. We then went there and I had an instruction to take Mac Maharaj and Fanie van der Merwe with me. We took them with. But I was already going, I had orders to go.
POM So this was on the Friday and you had instructions to take Mac and Fanie with you on the trip.
GM When we got there I got Viljoen. He was flying in the President's helicopter, it belonged to Mangope. With him was this bloke who was this, Afrikaans name, who was at the time Minister in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe – he was also a member of Mangope's Cabinet later, I forget the name. (NB – I think it is Rowan Cronje). They two came down with the helicopter because this Minister in Mangope's Cabinet got the helicopter and got Viljoen to come and see us. So I said to Constand Viljoen, 'Please we are here now, you can withdraw your forces'. And he said, 'Where's Jan Breytenbach?' I said, 'I've got him coming as well', because I heard he was there and I had him come in. I told both of them, Viljoen and Breytenbach, I said, 'Look, this is no place to meddle. Take your people and go.' They agreed with me. I said to Jan Breytenbach, 'Look, you've been working for me a long time, I don't want to fight you.' He asked for assistance to take their people out. We gave them two companies to escort them out of town and they did that.
POM This was on the Friday?
GM That's on that night when we were there.
POM Fanie was there.
GM Yes, when Mac Maharaj was there. So I already arranged, I was not doing anything funny, I had already arranged for those people to get out. During that time the shooting of the AWB people occurred. You remember it was also in the newspapers.
POM In Mmabatho … important statement that you - in Mac's account he says: _
General Meiring behaved, we were all thrown in together, behaved like he's chairing the meeting. He said, 'Right, number one, the SADF now goes to stabilise the situation, number two to restore low and order -
GM That is correct.
POM - number three to reinstate Mangope -
GM I never said that.
POM - and assist the Defence Force of Bophuthatswana.
GM Our orders were, look I can't give orders like that myself. My orders were to stabilise the area because there was rioting. We did it in three hours. To stabilise the area, to assist law and order with the people of Bophuthatswana, a mixture of Police and military, we had them coming back because they fled, and then if we've done that to hand the situation back to the politicians. This is what we were going to do.
POM So within your mandate would you have seen as part of stabilising the situation to keep the government of Bop - ?
GM What we were trying to do is to get the law and order going and to get the things running. There after we will be waiting for further commands which is what we did.
POM But there was no question in your mind, at that point in time did you think that part of this operation is to ensure that Mangope as President of an independent, sovereign state retain his power?
GM What in fact it entailed was if we stabilised the area and there is a legitimate government they would continue to do so but we would not reinstate them because they were not overthrown. You see there was never a question of reinstating anything –
POM There was never question of overthrowing him?
GM No. We were never going to either overthrow or to reinstate. The orders were to stabilise the area, to maintain law and order so that the status quo could continue because they were bickering between one another whether to take part in the forthcoming elections or not. It was none of my business. My business was to see that this lawlessness, they were burning places down, they were looting, they were killing people on … What we actually did is really without firing a shot, was moving into the Mmabatho and Mafikeng areas, driving around with the military and what Mac said that I had orders not to move out is not correct because the stabilisation continued. I had my orders and I gave them. We took Breytenbach and his people out, the AWB scrambled out on their own. I had orders to arrest them, I had orders to arrest any AWB people –
POM This is on the Saturday now?
GM That is still on the Friday night.
POM Friday night. The AWB had been told to move out?
GM To move. We were not in contact with them. I said, 'If you see any AWB people either arrest them or take them out of the area'. Viljoen's people were in a group. We escorted them out of Bophuthatswana and they left. This is what actually happened. The next thing is, the next day or thereafter, the whole Saturday, we sat in limbo waiting for orders and then again I –
POM Now they flew back that night.
GM All of us flew back that night.
POM This was on Friday.
GM Yes, all of us flew back late that night.
POM Now you haven't yet gone to Mangope's –
GM No, we came back to Pretoria.
POM So you all flew back to Pretoria. What was the mood in the plane?
GM Very sour if I can remember correctly but it was dark, it's always dark inside. We flew with the helicopter, it was dark inside it so you can't see people.
POM Did you get the feeling that Mac thought that –
GM Oh I had a feeling that Mac didn't like me but what he thought I never cared. I didn't care what Mac thought about me, never, but that's beside the point.
POM But not about you but about what you were doing?
GM I didn't know what he thought we were doing but I was under no instruction what to do with him. I had my instructions and those were to stabilise the area and therefore I had to talk to the troops on the ground, to the commanders and I gave my orders. If he thought me to work behind his back, he has good reason to think so, but that's not true because I was not going with him to Bophuthatswana. I had my instructions that I had always to take him along. That was all and that was what we actually did. I know Fanie well and I took him and Fanie with us. So the next day I had orders to go with Pik and Mac Maharaj. I can't remember whether Fanie was there or not, he might be.
POM He was.
GM I can't remember. Then we landed at the airport and the arrangement was correct because we had to find out exactly (a) where is Mangope, I had to wait for my Commander to come in to tell me because I didn't know, (b) secondly, how well was he armed because what Maharaj said I already found out and I sent troops on the ground, we had only two helicopters there, only two.
POM Did Pik say to you, 'General - ?
GM No, he asked me is it safe? I said, 'Well we are not going until the area is safe.' So we safeguarded the area. I wouldn't fly with military helicopters in a place where I know there are people who can shoot at us. Military helicopters are worth much more than my life. So what we normally do we safeguard the area, then we come in with the helicopters. That is why we waited so long, to get people on the ground to safeguard the area and we also landed with a fire force, with people inside, the second helicopter landed first. They ensured that the area was safe and then we landed with Mac Maharaj and Pik and the rest is more or less correct.
POM Now, OK, I think I've covered that.
GM We have during the time or soon afterwards, I had people draw up a report about the whole matter, the issue, how and when it started, etc. I have got it somewhere. I'll make a copy and I'll send you one.
POM Please. That would be very important. What I am trying to do, as I told you, is that I don't – you said why did I come back to talk to you again, because I come back when somebody says something about somebody else and I say that's just somebody's perception, observation or whatever, or that the other person agrees saying yes that's what happened, then it moves from a perception into history.
GM That is correct. I understand what you're saying.
POM I'm not interested in collecting perceptions. I'm interesting in taking all of those perceptions and saying which of them can I turn into history.
GM I understand.
POM I'll go back, I'll switch completely from Mac, Mac is over – or not, not quite because I want to talk about Operation Vula. But before that I will –
GM He was one of the people in the ANC I didn't quite like, never. Mac Maharaj.
GM I don't know. Why does one like people, why don't you?
POM He was intelligent, he was quick.
GM I don't know, he just irritated me all the time. If you talk about some of the others, Madiba, Modise, Phosa, Cyril, we got together well but with Mac Maharaj, no.
POM That's how history is made, personal relations. I like him or I don't like him. I found our first interview, this is the one that we did in – you should have a copy.
GM Yes, somewhere.
POM This is in 1999. These are general things. I asked you about the total onslaught and you made a distinction between communism and Russian imperialism. My question was … remember the eighties you became this, this. You said, "This is basically our position, so we perceived the external threat at that point in time as Russian expansionism'. Me, 'Would it be the threat of communism?' You, 'Of communism, basically not so much communism as Russian imperialism.' How in your mind were you making the distinction between the two?
GM It was common cause of people to say the communists are our enemies. Communism is a philosophy, it's a political thought train, it is something that exists. It is not tangible, correct, to make an enemy out of it. What we said about Russian imperialism is that Russia herself said that they were going for the two powerhouses in the world, the one is the powerhouse of the oil, the Middle East, the other one – I think it was Brezhnev that said that – and the other one is the powerhouse of the minerals in southern Africa.
POM Now do you have verification of that, a reference?
GM It is also quoted in Nixon's book. Nixon wrote a book –
POM He wrote many books after he tried to rehabilitate himself. So it's in Nixon's book.
GM It's in Nixon's book. It's also quoted. Where we got it from I'm not sure but I read that also in Nixon's book.
POM You read it but on what basis – you were making assumptions but what was the basis on which you were making your assumptions?
GM The basis was that we had intelligence at the time, if I'm correct, and I'm now talking from pure memory, that Russia wanted to take over southern Africa for reasons of her own, reasons among them were the minerals, were the sea route along the Cape –
POM General, this is very important because it goes to the heart of the total onslaught. Everybody tells me in general terms this is what the Soviet wanted to do, this is what their aims were, but when I ask them where is your documentation, since you were making enormous decisions you would require intelligence and you talked in our first interview on what intelligence was, particularly with regard to General Steyn about you don't make an allegation, you get it backed up by one, two, three different sources, OK? So somebody comes along and says the Russians want to take over, you don't say OK, we're going to make tremendous policy decisions on the basis of what somebody said. Where did the intelligence come from and how was that intelligence verified?
GM I don't know because I was not in that act, in a position where I could see that. I was told, our government told us first of all, the Minister told us, the intelligence briefings at the time said so. We were many times subjected to military briefs, intelligence briefs about certain things, and always it was taken –
POM But you were part of the top echelon.
GM Yes but we go back, we go back a long time. In 1984 I became Chief of the Forces in Namibia when this was already happening. At that point in time we did not argue the point. You see what I'm getting at? This happened, when did Brezhnev come into power, more or less?
GM So in the early and middle seventies. In the early and middle seventies I was a Colonel. You see what I'm getting at? At that time I was in another way, I was in Signals, so when I got to SWA at the time, Namibia, it was already taken as intelligence fact that this was true because it emanated from government, it emanated from intelligence briefings, etc., etc. I didn't query it because it was such a long time that this already was said to you. It was said to you by people from the, at that time, the Prime Minister later the President, your Ministers, the briefings to the Ministers, the briefings to you that in time, it was not considered hearsay, it was considered fact. So that was why I said I don't know. I can't give you those verifications. Later on I read Nixon's book where this was also quoted and I said, 'Ah! I heard this a long time ago', that's before Nixon wrote his book. I heard this a long time ago so there's another verification of my facts in my head, of my perception in my head, so this is why I said that. When we found in Angola, we found the Russians on the ground, we know we had Russian Generals to fight against on the other hand. When Russia invaded Afghanistan the things began to drop because why? Why did they take over Afghanistan? Because they want to get near a border in the Indian Ocean. This is the sort of reasoning behind the whole thing and that's what the Americans also said about it. So why do they want then – if the Indian Ocean, the next step is southern Africa, they control the oil, they control the movement of the oil, they control the minerals. This is how it was perceived at the time. I was not an intelligence officer at the time so I didn't query, I did not query that thing, that was already taken as fact at the time that I got into a position to start querying facts.
POM Again going back, and I'm quoting from our interview, it's me talking, I say, 'I think it was General Malan who said that the problem in SA is 80% political and 20% security, when you gave advice like that to the government how was it received'. You say, 'I think it was very well received until round about the time when Mr PW Botha left and Mr de Klerk came into being. Mr de Klerk was not fond of the military basically because he was not fond of the previous President, PW Botha. PW Botha played things very much his own way. He had the Security Council really as a super-government sitting almost above Cabinet which if you're not in that circle you're almost out of the day-to-day operations of the management of the security aspect which was then almost entirely the aspect of government's doings. So when Mr de Klerk came into power he was not a member of the Security Council at the time when he was a Minister under PW Botha. He thought that the military manoeuvred the government, which wasn't quite true.' I want to put emphasis on your use of those words 'which wasn't quite true.
GM I want to go back now to –
POM Can I just finish what you said? 'When we gave advice and we sat in and because of the fact that there were internal and external threats and upheavals and whatever, it was quite a large voice but it was never meant or tried to usurp the government of its power, but that was his perception. You can also read that in his book '.
Later on you say that the military under PW would give a weekly briefing or whatever to the Cabinet and give them your assessment of the security situation, external and internal. They relied on that to make decisions.
Now my first question would be, going back to the words 'which wasn't quite true'. My second question would be, you were supplying the government with information on all security matters, internal, external and the National Management Security System was in operation. Were you in fact giving to government, the Cabinet, the information on which they would make decisions and since they couldn't or didn't have the capacity in any way –
POM My question, the framework I'm creating is that you were providing by giving the information to the Cabinet which had no independent basis to query what you in fact told them, so they made the decisions based on the information you gave them.
GM Not quite correct.
POM OK, not quite true. Again you use the words 'not quite true'. My question would be, in effect weren't you directing, not you personally but whoever gave the briefings, the SADF Generals, whatever you want to call them, the Intelligence Services or whatever, weren't they directing the government in certain directions?
GM The intelligence was handed not to Cabinet but to the State Security Council on their weekly meeting, or bi-weekly meetings, depending how many times they met. We never briefed Cabinet as such, we briefed the Security Council on which a number of Cabinet Ministers were sitting. We did not, the military did not only give intelligence briefings. The National Intelligence, NI, or at one stage it was called the Bureau of National Security – you remember? A long time ago. They also gave intelligence briefings, also the Security Police gave intelligence briefings. So there were three independent organisations that didn't quite like one another. The bickering between intelligence over the world is still the same, it's still the same between the FBI and the CIA in certain cases where there's not very strong light. The military was responsible to give intelligence about military threats and military matters pertaining outside threat and supplement if they could the inside threat analysis which the Police were giving. NI gave the briefing on the other intelligence, not necessarily military, of the whole – in other words the political intelligence, the economic intelligence, etc., etc. So there were basically three bodies advising the State Security Council as well as the Cabinet.
POM But you never co-ordinated?
GM No, no. Tried to. There was a body that tried to co-ordinate the different intelligence. At one stage the National Security Council had four inputs, they had the co-ordinated input, then the Minister responsible for National Intelligence had his input, the Minister responsible for the Police had his input, the Minister responsible for military had his input, so there was quite a lot of bickering before a decision was taken. It was no way that you could manipulate government from one of these sources.
POM But all of you guys never got together and said, 'Do you agree on the following?'
GM Yes, but sometimes the agreement was easy, sometimes it wasn't. Very, very often there were times when people – there was very large infighting about the intelligence and who is responsible for giving this intelligence. So honestly that's why I say 'not quite', it is not possible because even the Military Intelligence boys were queried by National Intelligence, the Police Intelligence was queried by us, our intelligence was queried by the Police, so it was not an easygoing thing. It could have been easier but it wasn't.
POM So as both an army and an intelligence service were regarded around the world as being among the most efficient and professional, it turned out that your various agencies, the way you tell it, were at odds with each other. In fact there's a phrase in here where you said, 'I think that the NIA spent most of its time spying on us'.
GM It is quite true.
POM Who was spying on whom?
GM But you find this the world over unfortunately and if you speak to any of the agencies, the intelligence agencies in the world, if you speak to the National Intelligence Agency in America, the CIA, and you talk to FBI and so on you will find there's a lot of bickering going on.
POM Not only a lot of bickering, they don't share.
GM Many times they don't. We tried to.
POM When you made your presentations to the TRC on things like this do you think they understood it or inherently said these guys are lying to us, there's no way that they didn't share, one intelligence agency didn't share intelligence with another intelligence agency? Did they understand the world of intelligence or did they not?
GM No they didn't. They didn't understand the world of the military either. This is what I said to you last time. There was nobody on the TRC that had a military background, nobody. They did not even read our reports, and I gave you those reports a long time ago.
POM I have those.
GM They did not even understand or read what we actually were saying because they never came forward to say please explain what you are saying here or anything like that. So I don't think they understood intelligence. I don't think they understood military actions. If a man like Mac Maharaj can say an armoured car is a tank, anything can happen. He didn't say, 'What are these?', he immediately formed his own opinion. That's what the TRC did, they read or they heard, they formed an opinion. Without a military background it's difficult to make the correct opinion so this is why I say they did not understand, to answer that question.
POM I want to go back, and this is what I suppose intrigues me most on re-reading because sometimes I do interviews and I do them half on questions that I've prepared beforehand but mostly I end up by having conversations because the conversation gets more interesting than the questions I was going to ask and when I read back I say, 'Wow!'. It comes back to negotiations where you say that PW wasn't playing his cards quite right, that he didn't use his ace card and the ace card was –
GM You mean FW.
POM FW, sorry. The ace card was the SADF.
GM What I meant, the security forces, the Police and the SADF were his actual strong man's card which he did not play.
POM What do you mean by that?
GM Well I said that he could negotiate from a position of strength which he never did.
POM Well how do you think he could have used the SADF and the security forces as a strong card, in what way? What would he say to the ANC?
GM It's difficult at this point in time to tell you what he should have or what he could have done. My perception at the time was that I am sitting as head of government, I've got a very strong standing as far as the security of the country is concerned, I'm responsible for it. I will now declare you as not illegal any more but there are certain things which you should not do. You should not participate in the riots in Bophuthatswana, which actually was done. That was not a spontaneous riot in Bophuthatswana. You should not try to topple Ciskei, which they also tried to do.
POM 'They' being?
GM The ANC, well Kasrils led these people. You should not try and destabilise the country in ways such as Operation Vula which they planned.
POM Now you were saying that to the ANC?
GM No, I think this is what he should have said to them because if you don't I can continue with my operations against you. We've never really done it but we could. This is the sort of argument which I think could have paved the way for a more easygoing action than was actually the fact. Let us just take the actions which participate in the TRC. One could have said from the very beginning, look, we've been in antagonising forces, why don't we get together and we clean the plate. Whatever you've done is all right, whatever I've done is all right, we start afresh. It could have been done if you talked from a position of strength, you could have done it. It was never done.
POM But when you say –
GM It's difficult for me to get myself into his place what he should or shouldn't have done but he never used that.
POM But you said that he marginalised the SADF. After he took over power he dismantled the National Security Management System and you said that essentially you were sidelined, marginalised in a way during the negotiation process. My first question would be: during the process of negotiations did de Klerk consult you, the military, not you personally but you the military, on any decision being made?
POM Two, was he certain in his own mind that no matter what steps he took that he could always rely on the backing of the security forces even after the night of the Generals, or the day of the Generals? Or should he or was he looking over his shoulder and saying, well if I take certain actions perhaps there will be a military – the biggest card I have is that I have the SADF behind me? Could he rely on that with certainty?
GM Mr O'Malley, I say yes he could have. Whether it was his perception that he could or couldn't I don't know, I can't answer that question, you should have asked him. But he never moved in a position of trust with us. From the very beginning he never moved in a position of saying I trust you and that sort of thing. He marginalised us but in spite of this we didn't fight for de Klerk, we fight and we serve the country. We serve the government of the day.
POM You're an intelligent person, not you personally, and I'm an intelligent person, I'm President and you're the military establishment and I'm embarking on a far-reaching process of transformation and change where the enemy has now become the non-enemy. In fact they're being invited in and we're negotiating. The first thing I would say to myself is that I want to make sure that my military people, my, as you would call it, my ace card are fully behind what I'm doing.
GM Yes, for sure.
POM And you're saying that he never took steps to ensure that at all but he merely assumed it.
GM What he assumed I'm not sure but if we're now these two intelligent people and I'm being the President and I want now to continue with a far-reaching process, isn't it then the correct step to go to the Chief of the Defence Force and the Chief of the Police, and say, 'Look chaps I'm going to do this.'
POM He made speeches where he –
GM But he didn't say that, he didn't say what he was going to do. His speeches meant nothing.
POM Well he gave speeches in February after he took over and one to the Police and one to the … He talks about them in his biography of where he said –
GM But he never said what he's going to do. In a speech you can say anything. It is not a trustworthy thing, if you speak to 30 or 40 people in a hall it is one thing, if you take your Chief of Defence Force, Chief of Police with you and said, 'Listen, I'm going to do this. Are you with me? What do you advise me to do to get your full support?' If the bloke says, 'I don't support you', you can then fire him immediately and appoint someone who you can trust. But he never went through these steps.
POM OK. I want to go back because I still don't get a point. You believed that he could have played his strong card which was the SADF and whatever and that he could have put the ANC in a more defensive posture … another chessboard, playing defence rather than offence. Now why do you think the ANC would have taken that seriously?
GM From what we know about the ANC –
POM Who is 'we'?
GM The military. What we know about the ANC and the MK, they were very scared. They thought that the military was going to destabilise the country. They thought that the military will oppose any take-over whatsoever. They thought that the military had the strength, they even said, so many of them – I mean Cyril Ramaphosa said that, Mbeki said that and so on, they said that they cannot fight us, they haven't got the strength to fight us, so they know that they were stronger than their fighting ability was, they must use other measures to do it. So having known for sure that the ANC, MK, APLA were in no position militarily to stand up against the military threat from their point of view, from the military, it is possible to use that sort of knowledge to enforce your hand but it wasn't done.
POM OK. Now my counterpoint to that would be that's fine, militarily you are the strongest, most professional military force not just in Africa but probably one of the best in the world in terms of your ability to mobilise, fight on different fronts and do whatever. Accepted. Internally you had lost complete (not you), the government had lost complete control of the townships, the country was on the verge of ungovernability, large sections were almost no-go areas, they were under the Police not the military, sanctions were biting, biting, biting harder and harder, so how do you play the SADF as a card that you have to play when the situation has become internal, not external? The ANC admit it, we can't defeat the SADF but we have created situations in the townships, we've created situations, we have virtually made large parts of the country ungovernable, we have mobilised internationally where sanctions are biting into the economy so in a way the strength of the SADF after Angola, after the settlement in Namibia, became irrelevant. What could you do to them?
GM It depends on the government of the day whether they want to use the military or not, if they don't want to use it they can't.
POM We're not talking about an internal situation. You're kind of advising de Klerk, 'You have a card to play which you're not playing. We're now playing internally not externally.'
GM Internally we used the organisational ability and strength of the military to manage the National Management Councils. We really brought governance down to the outlying areas. It was basically the military who did it and de Klerk stopped us from doing that.
POM So the military in effect were a parallel government in the sense that you had the National Management Security Council running with a thread through every line function department all the way down doing things, winning the hearts and minds, creating, building, whatever, but in creating and building were you winning hearts and minds? Or is that an assumption?
GM No, it's not an assumption. There were large areas in the outlying areas which we, the military, and the state, we and the state at that time controlled. There were areas that were uncontrollable but there were not many and they moved better, if you read the history, things were much worse in 1989 than they were in 1992. So it became better along the line. That sort of co-operation was a success. Agreed that the outside pressure built up a lot, that the sanctions built up a lot, etc., etc.
POM But you're a strategic man so how did you see the card of, the strength of the SADF being played in a negotiating hand where – like poker, I put a card on the table?
GM It is now very difficult for me to try and explain to you what I think and how do I think that because I was on the edges looking into the negotiation process as it was happening in the World Trade Centre. The only time when I was directly involved was when we negotiated the military part of the new constitution. That part that described what the military should or should not do, where we had direct input in this thing. I can only relate my feelings to try and answer your question, not directly because it is difficult to do. What we found is that we sat together with people from the ANC drafting that portion of the constitution that related to the military and military aspects, etc., and it was very hard negotiations.
POM Hard in the sense of?
GM It was difficult. You couldn't easily formulate things. There was bickering about words and sentences and phrases, phraseology and things like that. We had a team and the ANC had a team and Modise and I got together and I said to him, 'Listen, man, let's solve this thing. Military people think like this', and he agreed with me and then we formulated it and we continued and we did it through. In the meantime Roelf Meyer was bickering me because we were retarding things in the whole process of getting this constitution, this interim constitution on the boards and this part of it was not forthcoming.
POM Even though you were talking to Modise and - ?
GM We got that coming and we handed it over and what we wanted, we, the military at that time, wanted in that constitution we succeeded 99% in getting. You see because we were having a strong negotiational effort. We did not see the same happening in the rest of the deliberations so if he was taking the same strong stance as in that little part where we did in negotiating our bit in the interim constitution, I think there could have been more in the transition, things like that worried later on like the TRC shouldn't have taken place if you had the correct negotiations. If de Klerk was strong enough to look into his two Ministers, Kobie Coetsee and Roelf Meyer, who were bickering among themselves about –
POM We talked about that.
GM You see that sort of thing did not happen and because we were respected militarily by our counterparts, the Modises, the Kasrils and those people, we were respected because of our strength and our abilities, we could strongly negotiate those aspects concerning us.
POM OK, now you have said and many other people have said that the MK was a myth. You never saw them in Angola, you never saw them in Namibia. In fact you never encountered anybody on the ground and that you as a professional soldier would never have regarded the MK as 'an army'. So now you're dealing with Joe Modise and Joe Modise is Commander in Chief or whatever he wants to call himself of the MK and you're looking at him and you're saying, this man represents what? He represents something that in my mind I have no regard for, never thought of as an army, so there were two things happening. One, you were negotiating as head of the SADF, or about to be head of the SADF –
GM By that time I was.
POM - with somebody who purported to be in charge of another army when you knew that other army didn't exist militarily. Two, you also knew that the ANC were going to become the new government. How did you balance those two things?
GM I never thought of it that way.
POM Well how did you think?
GM I know they were coming into being but there were certain aspects which I was responsible for for my people to have a good disposition later when the ANC came into power. I would like to see that those aspects relating to a good deal were forthcoming. I didn't care whether they came into power or not, they were going to come into power. We know that, it was a foregone conclusion, but then in the process of getting them there make sure that the people you are responsible for, looking up to you to look after them later, that they get a proper deal and that's what we did.
POM OK, well I've had a number of people say to me that you and others who were negotiating on behalf of the Defence Forces knew that the numbers in the Defence Force were going to be reduced dramatically and that those guys just got kicked out. Many of them ended up without pensions –
GM No that's not true.
POM Can you categorically say that it's not true?
GM It's not true. The deals we negotiated were never, there was nobody kicked out. The people that were asked to leave were those people who were illiterate, that came in from MK, they were Standard 2 or 3, they could not perform as a soldier. We at least want to have as a … at least have Standard 6 or 7.
POM We're talking about the – that's fine, that's a separate part.
GM We talk about the entire SANDF. What we conducted was that the military was going to go down to 70 000 people and the 70 000 –
POM This was done after the government came into power?
GM It was before, it was the plan that was laid on the ground which we negotiated before the government came into power that we had 70 000 on board and we had many of them –
POM That you had agreed in negotiations –
GM We knew that our new Defence Force should be, I'm talking about a full time Defence Force, should be round about 70 000 people. We knew that and we had them down manage it. To down manage it, and we took five years to do it, if you take the natural attrition of your military over five years you lose about between 5000 and 7000 people a year, they just go away, they go to greener pastures or wherever, so that the actual number of people that we had to ask to leave was about 5000. Those 5000 were made up of the illiterate, of the older people of the Transkei and Ciskei who were taken in not as national servicemen, as permanent force, who were 47 or that age as a Private. You couldn't have Privates that were 47 years old, he can't jump and crawl and do whatever a Private should do. Those were the sort of people, about 5000 or 6000 that we were going to ask to leave. So it was a well laid out plan which the government never actually bought because it was politically unfeasible to let the MK people go, to let the Transkei people go, to let the Ciskei people go. It was not politically feasible for them. They couldn't take that risk.
POM But this agreed on in negotiations with Joe Modise?
GM Yes. … Modise, Kasrils, everybody was present. The way in which it was to be put on the table we did but then they were under orders, they were then the Minister and the Deputy Minister, they worked under orders from their political being so it wasn't for them feasible politically to do that. They agreed, Modise agreed that people must go but he couldn't sign it, he never did. We had them by name, you had to sign them to let them leave.
POM What about Afrikaners?
GM They left by themselves. We never let people go.
GM What was instituted by government for the state, not for the Defence Force, for the civil service was a severance package that consisted of certain things: if you leave after a certain while voluntarily and you can be released, you're not in that specific position where you couldn't be released, you are eligible to obtain certain financial benefits. These were taken up by people because some of them thought it was nice thing, 'I've never had R500 000 in my hand and now all of a sudden I can have it and buy myself a new business or a new car or do whatever I wish to do'.
POM A BMW.
GM Whatever. And then all of a sudden there are people on the street that don't have work but they were never asked to leave. It was a voluntary thing and many of them I did not sign, I didn't approve because we needed them in the Defence Force but at certain times they then just resigned which then I said to them, 'Well, OK, if you are so determined to go rather take the package and go because otherwise you will end up without the financial benefit.' So it was a very uneasy time but we never let people go, never ever. Never.
POM A remark that will intrigue me to my dying day, when I came upon it I said, 'Wow! I let this go without a follow up question, I must be slipping.'
GM Let's hear it.
POM And it was you were talking about the soured relationship that had developed post the Steyn Report between FW and whatever. You were talking about inauguration day, the jets were flying over and you said, 'I was there to the end and it was a most moving sight, the new colours of SA flying over, one could not but be moved.' You said, de Klerk said to you, you were standing beside him.
GM It was at the noon meal.
POM At the afternoon meal, he said, 'But with all this we needn't have given everything away.' You said, 'But we told you long ago but you didn't listen'. Now (i) what do you mean, what do you interpret – and you go on again and you were talking about the security arrangements that had been taken all around Pretoria that nobody could have been touched, anybody who was on that stand. You say again he said, 'We needn't have given this all away'. I said to de Klerk, 'I told you a long time ago but you didn't listen'. Now (i) what do you think he meant when he said 'We didn't have to give all this away'?
GM What I had in mind what he possibly would have meant at that moment in time, and it's difficult now to think back in that specific moment in time but if I make my recollection what I thought what he might have meant was that, yes –
POM Well you knew what he meant because you replied and said 'I told you so'.
GM Let me just finish. I think he interpreted as follows: that here now we gave the entire country to the ANC on a platter without ensuring the future of the existing system in terms of people, organisations, military, police, etc., that's what I thought he said.
POM But they had been sure because you'd hammered that out in negotiations.
GM Yes but I think that time he said that we gave in too easily and I think I said, 'You shouldn't have given in too easily', as I tried to explain just now.
POM Now you said he gave in too easily and you know who would agree with you?
POM Mac would say if the Nats had played their cards a better way they could have got a much better deal. So what happened?
GM What happened? You wouldn't ask me that question –
POM Of course I have to.
GM I can't really give you the reason why I think why it happened. Look, at that time de Klerk was not interested so much in what was actually happening. I say this for a number of reasons. He was not sitting in personally in the negotiations. Secondly, the negotiations were going at times very quickly. He couldn't have had time to assert himself that what was negotiated was correct and feasible from his point of view. Thirdly, the point of fact is Roelf Meyer wanted to get the negotiations going because he had, I think, another motive in trying to establish himself as part of the new environment because he's the negotiating man. Fourthly, because of amnesty, which I told you went astray between Roelf and Kobie Coetsee, he as the President should have asserted himself to ensure that this happened and he didn't. So these things among others force me to think that he was not so much involved in the actual negotiation process details as he should have been.
POM Now, why?
GM I don't know.
POM I'm asking you to speculate. Other people have said the same thing to me that Mr Mandela was briefed every night. He didn't sit in but he was briefed every night, went over detail, said yes this, no that, do this, do that. He was totally involved. So you have one party totally involved and you have the President of the country who almost dissociates himself from the process.
GM Perhaps that is not correct but that's my perception.
POM Other people say the same thing so you're not the only person who says the same thing but my question is: why do you think that de Klerk dissociated himself, kept a distance from the process?
GM I think he was wrongly informed first of all.
POM Wrongly informed by?
GM By his advisors.
GM Like National Intelligence, for instance, like his political advisers who I don't know who they all are, but I think so because he was still President after the election, remember the few days that the old government existed and then they handed over to the new government before the inauguration. He was then still Chairman of the National Security Council which existed in his time in another different way which I sat in, which he said that he thinks that the NP would come very near to winning the election, if not a very close second. And I laughed at him and he said, 'It doesn't seem as if the Chief of the Defence Force agrees with me'. I said it's not a question of agreeing, it's a question of knowing. He said, 'What do you mean?' I said, 'No ways that the NP is going to win or come even close to it. You can just look at the ground.' He said, 'I've got information that tells me that we're going to be a very strong second partner in this thing if not an equal partner'. I think he had those notions. So it doesn't matter what we're going to do now the negotiations are over, get something running (my perception, I'm not saying it's fact). My perception is that it doesn't matter, we're going to go into a really strong coalition government and we will still play the tune. This is what my perception was about de Klerk.
POM So in a way, and I'm not putting words in your mouth because if I am correct me, but you're in a way substantiating where other people have said to me that de Klerk felt (a) that he would get 30% of the vote –
GM He said more.
POM (b) And then that because he and the NP would be such a strong partner in the government of national unity and the ANC had never been in government before, that he would still be calling the tune so that he would still really be in charge. So in effect he was living in a delusional world.
GM I think so.
POM How do you deal with a President who's living in a delusional world?
GM You don't, that's what I told you. We couldn't.
POM Let me go back to something else that just cropped into my mind.
GM Sorry, I've got another appointment at half past so if we're not –
POM OK let's stop there. But can I come back and see you again?
GM For sure. How long are you still in the country for?
POM Well I'm going back to the States on Saturday and coming back ten days later. I'm gone for ten days and will be in the country until 13th December so all of December up until that time I'll be here and I'll be back here in January for most of next year.
GM But this time we can make another arrangement. I'm sorry but I didn't know you were going to be so intensive.
POM But you see you're fascinating because (a) you speak straight, (b) where other people prevaricate around things you give it direct and what I am trying to establish is between all the accounts I've accumulated where are the commonalities or agreement and disagreement. It's like going back to your intelligence service. I'm operating as an independent intelligence service trying to say well A says this, B says that, C says this, D says that – and now I've got four accounts. How do I reconcile the accounts? So I've got to go back to each and say well B says this, who agrees, who disagrees and that's the way I'm proceeding not just to establish a record of recollections but to turn recollections into history where I can find commonalities on which everyone agrees and then I can say that is history. Other parts I can say, this is perceptions and have perceptions played off each other in the making of history. Two different things. And I really appreciate your time.
GM You're welcome but I didn't know you were going to be so intense at this point in time so otherwise we could have made it longer. I thought at 12 o'clock we will be finished.
POM I didn't mean to be that, it just developed that way. You get in a good conversation. The record you have ?
GM I'll try and get it. It is among my papers. I can't lay my hands on it now.
POM I'll make a note that you will send it to me at some point.
GM I can either send to you or when you come here next time I'll hand it to you.
POM OK. Terrific. Thank you.