About this site

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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.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 1994: De Beer, Zach

Click here for more information on the Interviewee

Click here for Overview of the year

POM     First of all, I suppose the obvious question to ask is what happened to the Democratic Party in the elections in April?

ZDB     Well it is a very good question and I'm not sure I have a fair reply. It would appear, well I think I should start by saying we were up to a point optimistic largely because we thought that the brown people, the coloured and the Indian people, would have an abiding grievance against the Nationalists because of apartheid and would, to put it rather bluntly and crudely, be scared of the ANC because of the frightening size of the black majority and that the solution would be for those people to vote heavily for us. Well they didn't at all. A portion of them, I would think a fairly small minority, voted for the ANC because they identified with the struggle and they thought of themselves as black people and would get rid of the whites, but the majority voted Nationalist because they perceived the Nationalists as more likely than we to protect them against a black onslaught. Certainly I was here in the Cape for much of the campaign and I have never seen racism as bad as it was among the coloured voters here. That was one, not so much something we lost because we never had it, but something we expected to get and didn't get. And then among our white supporters there can't be much doubt that a high proportion, a substantial proportion voted Nat more frequently at national level than at provincial level. That's clear from the statistics because there again they felt that the Nats were a stronger bulwark against a potentially oppressive ANC.

     There was of course the fact that the Nationalists had, since the election of 1989, adopted the whole of our policy and the ANC between its liberation in about 1991 and the elections in 1994 had largely dropped it's militant socialism, had entirely down pedalled the black nationalism in its programme and also made noises in effect like the Liberal Party. So the others were offering what we were offering and in so far as fear played a part, it worked against us. Fear played a part, fear of the black majority played a part. It worked against us. And those are my hypotheses. There may have been other things. We had always been well known for pretty good organisation in the old constituencies. We didn't have any constituencies. There was no real organisation in this election. The media were the only channels that were open and the media concentrated exclusively on the leaders and obviously one conclusion would be that I showed up very badly as a leader. It's possible. I and my friends would like to say that we didn't get any substantial share of media time. I don't know, but there are a number of ideas.

POM     We lived here last year for eight months, but coming back, going through newspaper files and talking to people one found an increased level of crime, a crime every 17 seconds, people are preoccupied by the question of safety, taxi wars, the MK in rebellion, the SDUs roaming the townships, they were acting more as gangsters than protectors, random strikes and huge wage demands. One gets the feeling that the country was going into anarchy. Mandela accusing the SAP of declaring war on the ANC.

ZDB     I think that the danger of anarchy even now is sufficient that you should always bear it in mind. The situation has not deteriorated since the election as fast as some people feared. I think there is a complete consensus that Mandela himself has performed superbly, he has made himself respected and even loved by all sections of the population other than the lunatic fringe element. There is a general feeling that the administration under him is very dicey, rickety.

POM     Rickety in terms of the alliance?

ZDB     No, the alliance is a funny thing too but I don't have that in mind for the moment. I have the civil service in mind and the police force and the army and so on. None of these things are very effectively managed and led. They were not before the election either but before the election you were dealing with our minority government to keep itself dominant. Now you're dealing with a different question which you've just summed up. I would say that the police are trying and importantly the police are now seen by the public as being to some extent legitimate and acceptable. You are beginning to get a cooperation between the public and the police which you didn't have for ten or twenty years. But even so the police are inadequate for the massive crime wave and for the obvious instability that you must expect where you've got 50% unemployment. Everybody has spoken about the economy, it's going to pick up and investment is going to flow in. Precious little has actually happened up to now.

POM     Last year I spoke with Derek Keys and he said that the best the country could expect was to increase employment by 1% a year until the end of the decade.

ZDB     Well, he's a very clever man and somebody you can't ignore. I think there are people who predict better figures than that but it's incontestable that in the modern world the improvement of production efficiency, productivity, generally entails the deployment of more machinery, not more people and I would guess that's what Derek actually means. And it's certainly true of that. The big economic projects that are on the go, I understand a steel plant, ALUSAF Aluminium, a couple of big mining projects, all these are capital intensive, not labour intensive. Everybody says tourism is the great job creator. There I am getting it from the Estate Agents here in Cape Town that we're going to have the best season we've ever had.

POM     We tried to make reservations last week.

ZDB     So the tourism may be going to look up and that is welcome and then nobody quite knows the significance of the informal sector. You've only got to walk down the street in any of our cities and see it going on on the pavement. We don't know how many people make a living out of that or what sort of a living they make. I was noticing one chap in Sea Point yesterday, he was selling vegetables on the pavement and smoking a cigar.

POM     What were you saying before the interruption?

ZDB     I rather lost my thread. We were talking apropos of your statement about Derek or did we go back further than that?

POM     Anarchy.

ZDB     Anarchy.

POM     You were saying the government is kind of rickety.

ZDB     That's right. We think its administrative potential, and by this we mean mainly civil servants but also governments, now we've got these nine provincial parliaments, in some of them I'm told there is in effect nobody at all with any knowledge how to run anything. In Northern Transvaal in particular, which is the poorest area of the whole country, it's the blackest area of the whole country, 97% black or something and I think the parliament consists of X number of ANCs plus two members of the Freedom Front.

PAT     Where is the parliament, in Pietersburg?

ZDB     Pietersburg, yes. I am told that the Prime Minister is quite a decent chap and he's trying but he's just got nobody who can do anything and this is of great concern.

POM     The problem there would be if the civil service was in place but there was no civil service to begin with.

ZDB     Yes. So largely they will have taken over the civil services of Lebowa and Gazankulu which were riddled with corruption and incompetence. The last major row I had with De Klerk in parliament was because he wouldn't close down the Bantustans a year or so before events closed them down.

POM     How do you rate the performance of the government on a scale of one to ten, where one represents very unsatisfactory and ten is very satisfactory?

ZDB     Six.

POM     And on the same scale where would Mandela come out?

ZDB     Eight or nine. What's wrong with Mandela is he also doesn't follow through, but then can you expect the President personally to see that the administrative steps are taken to follow up his decisions? I mean he sent for me, I was going to England for family reasons in late August and his secretary knew this and she pushed and pushed and pushed, and eventually I was summoned to have lunch with him in his bedroom because he was ill on the day I was leaving for Britain and that was when he got me to agree in principle to be an Ambassador. I said, "I hope you're not going to send me to Burkino Faso", and he said, "No, and I won't send you to Albania either or any of those Russian republics." And he said, "How long are you going to be away?" I said, "Three and a half weeks", and he said, "Well I hope we'll have it fixed up by the time you come back." Well I didn't hear anything for five weeks after I got back. Now that sort of thing goes on everywhere.

POM     Is that more due to the fact that he's not surrounding himself with really competent people who can get things done?

ZDB     Yes, and yet in his immediate circle there are some competent people, but I think as anything goes down the line it just tends to die out. The white civil servants who always were there were not great shakes even under the Nats and a lot of them are now rather disaffected, they're not sure what's going to happen to them and they're not really making a real effort as I'm finding out with the 101 things that I've got to do with the Department of Foreign Affairs, and all that worries one. But the attitudes, the human relationships, what people think of each other and feel for each other, is extraordinarily good. Your ordinary whitey, who didn't even vote Democratic Party, probably voted as a kind of mild Nat, is now falling over his feet to make friends with as many black people as possible. It's not venal but they've decided this is the way things go and they actually like their new situation. Some of them even try to sing Nkosi.

POM     Is Mandela the glue that's holding the whole thing together?

ZDB     I'm afraid so to a large extent. No whitey, that's an exaggeration, but only a very few whiteys, most of them aficionados, experts in the government, really know any other black people but they all know and love Mandela.

POM     If he were to die do you think there will be a bitter battle for the succession?

ZDB     Not noticeably a bitter battle. At the moment all the pointers are to Thabo Mbeki, but everybody is saying, does Thabo work hard enough, has he got enough strength, determination? Charm we all know he has but has he got charisma in the grand sense as Mandela has it? I think the probability is that the ANC would close ranks and put Thabo in. He is their chairman, he is clearly the successor.

POM     You think Ramaphosa would make a better President?

ZDB     He would make a more efficient one, but he is not liked in the same way that Thabo is. That's my judgement and there are doubts about Cyril at the moment. How long have you been here?

POM     A month.

ZDB     Well it was just dying down when you came but there was a newspaper story a week or two ago that he had been offered a major job in business which he might be going to take and I thought privately that there was truth in this. He surfaced after about three days and denied it, said it was just the papers and so on. But he's doing two jobs at the moment. He's chairman of the Constitutional Council, I don't have to explain that, and that carries a Cabinet minister's salary. It's a very demanding, full time job. He's also head of the ANC organisation, Secretary General. The ANC organisation has been decimated because all the people who were running it have become members of parliament, so it's falling to bits and Cyril should be fixing that up too. Colin Eglin, who goes to him every day, says it's just out of the question that the man can do the two jobs. It cannot be done and Cyril knows it, he's also had a row with Colin about it and Colin says something's going to give.

POM     And within the alliance itself are there different relationships beginning to develop?

ZDB     No I don't think so. You would get this much more directly from Colin or one of the MPs, but as I understand it the Nats really don't ...

POM     I think we stopped at Cyril being able to do two jobs at once. One is, were the elections, in a broad sense, rigged, by that I mean there have been allegations from the IFP, as you did from the ANC, as you did from the Nats, those three parties, in the way the results turned out, Buthelezi got Natal and a big job.

ZDB     Who got a big job?

POM     A very important ministership, Cabinet post. The NP gets the Western Cape and everybody comes out a winner, so it's an outcome that's accepted by the people because the alternative could have been a blood bath.

ZDB     You phrase your question in the form, was it in a broad sense a rigged election? Well in the broad sense it wasn't. I didn't detect any evidence of a grand plan on anybody's part to rig the election, I don't think anybody approached it in that way. I think that what happened on a vast scale was in localities, at polling booths, there was a lot of rigging. I have no doubt at all because I have this from my own close colleagues, ballot papers in very large numbers were carried to the counting centres in plastic bags, literally. The British television actually had pictures of ballot papers which when opened presented the papers lying flat one on top of the other, not folded. Now if you don't fold the ballot you can't put it through the slot on the top of the box, so they had simply stuffed the ballot box and that was largely in the Inkatha areas. Nobody knows how many votes were counted in the election. We think something between 60% and 70%. Where the other figures came from we don't know. Now this is based on the fact, if you go back and it will all be in the newspaper files, but the count went on for something like seven days and at that stage something between 50% and 60% had been counted. The following day the result was announced.

     I can't in the nature of things tell you everything that I was involved in, but I can tell you that we were close to a very serious high level quarrel between the Nats and the ANC. I can tell you that I had legal advice that if I went to court and asked for an order declaring the election null and void I would get it. No court could refuse to give it in the face of the proven irregularities which have taken place. The Nats apparently threatened to do the same. I said I would not do it. It was clear that my party was in no position anyway and to go and fight like a tiger to get yourself up from 1% to 2% is ludicrous. But looking at it in the broader national sense, we had to complete that election, we had to get it going which in the end we did very satisfactorily.

POM     Was that the reason why the Nats didn't go to court either?

ZDB     I don't know why the Nats, in the end they were threatening to go to court but then they didn't. Yes, I would think that De Klerk in the end probably said that I've started this process, I really consider it something important, I knew damn well the ANC would win the election, which it did. And where I said why should I fight for the difference between 1% and 2%, why should he fight for the difference of whatever it was, 28% and 33%?

POM     What I found interesting was Patricia and I were on observer teams and it was a very moving experiencing arriving at five o'clock in the morning, the sun just coming out and seeing a line of about two miles.

ZDB     On that first day of proper votes, there was the day when they did the special votes, the first day that booths were open in the ordinary way, here in the Cape it was raining, not a nice day, and these queues, three kilometres long outside all the polling booths. I spent most of the day out on the Cape Flats and usually the geography was such that you had to park your car, walk up next to the queue in order to get to the booths, and all the way up the queue I was greeted by name in the friendliest way, leg pulling, most good humoured behaviour. At the time I thought quite a lot of people were voting for me! I realise now none of them were. That makes it all the more remarkable. They were delighted to see me. The spirit was the thing that was absolutely wonderful.

POM     Do you think the fact that the western governments and in a sense the media wanted it to work, that they were unprepared to say as when similar irregularities occurred in say the Philippines or even Pakistan, that there would not come out and say that it was not a fair and free election?

ZDB     Well you are probably better placed to answer that than I am. I think the answer resides in the first thing I said to you, whatever else went on in this country, there was no grand plan to subvert the election.

PAT     It's interesting compared to what we've heard, the areas where one expected the worst problems in Natal were obviously ... there were Zulu speaking people with us from the area. In terms of what observers are able to do with local people, we couldn't do much.

ZDB     I think the massive number of votes in the country, in the ANC areas there were no Inkatha votes and vice versa, but I think this was done by the people on the ground and I don't think a computer hacker, I don't want to be quoted on this but I see no harm in telling you, Mandela will say that the computer hacker was clearly working in the interests of the Nats and the Freedom Front and Inkatha, clearly therefore against not only the ANC but against the Democrats. It didn't make much difference to me. He was fed up about that and he, at that point, thought or was inclined to suggest to the Nats they were trying to subvert the whole election. I don't think so because if that was the game De Klerk wanted to play why embark on this whole process in the first place? Why not just have sat like PW Botha behind his army which he could certainly have done for another five years or so. I'm not a great De Klerk admirer. I used to call him Tricky Frikkie, but I don't think I could take part in this.

POM      The Truth Commission, what should be the frame of reference? Do you think that people should have the right to ask and get intelligence files, and who should be the custodian of these files?

ZDB     I have taken a position firmly in favour of the Truth Commission. It should be held. I think for us to live through the next twenty years or so, if the people involved are still alive and around with nothing but rumours to tell us what actually happened in our country, in our history, would be wrong. I think that reconciliation does require the exposure of the facts of the history or otherwise there would be always be a latent suspicion in many cases. I realise there are risks in this. One of my closest friends was here the other night, a judge of the Supreme Court, and he takes the other view. We had quite a debate and I think we ended up each recognising the value of the other man's point of view and not feeling very far apart, although marginally we were on different sides of the fence. I've been very impressed with, was very impressed with the Germans after the war, after that awful holocaust. I didn't like Nuremberg because Nuremberg to some extent was vindictive here and there but it had to be done. And then the way in which the Germans, in so far as it was possible to do so, made up to the Israelis, did what they could for them. It seemed to me to be right, it was a loss to the world. And I think on a smaller scale this is true here. Certainly I lived through all those years, I was more or less active in anti-government politics, but as you know the line that my party took was one that stuck to constitutional actions, we did not go into the armed struggle, we did not do revolutionary things and the people of the struggle used to come to us and say, "Don't you realise what's happening?" And our attitude tended to be, well, we don't really know, it isn't proven, and I don't feel happy about that any more. I think perhaps it's got to come out. So I'm in favour of it and my party is broadly in favour of it in the same sort of way and we will do what little we can.

POM     If a minister or even for that matter an MP was seriously implicated, the evidence showed him to be involved, should he have to step down?

ZDB     It depends on the Act. The law already provides if you are convicted of certain crimes you have to leave parliament. I can't remember exactly but I think it's if it carries a jail sentence. Now the government is insisting, against some contrary views expressed by the Nats, that the Attorneys General must notify the Truth Commission of crimes and may possibly in certain cases although in other cases it's not going to be possible for them to amnesty. And again the guideline appears to be that if you did something because your boss told you to do something and if you were a professional policeman or whatever you are not going to be prosecuted. But other persons of another kind will be. So I don't think a member of parliament should be different from anybody else. If we do prosecute them then one of the consequences may be to end his parliamentary career, but if he was at the time sort of a foot soldier in the army and obeyed orders then I think he is going to be amnestised.

POM     What about the Zulu King?

ZBD     I am anything but an expert on the Zulus, it's not part of my country and they couldn't be further away. It would appear that Zulu King Zwelithini is a figure of importance to particularly the rural, uneducated Zulus and therefore if Buthelezi is at odds with Zwelithini that is bound to undermine Buthelezi's political strength to some extent. On the other hand the story goes back a long way. You probably researched this when you were in Natal so I needn't waste a lot of your time with it, but Buthelezi, first of all the government, the Nats, tried to make use of Zwelithini in a kind of a coup against Buthelezi at one time. Nothing came of that and Buthelezi asserted his authority over the King to a very considerable extent so that the King only did what Buthelezi told him. Now that has begun to change now because - (better stop it for a moment).

POM     You said the King was exerting his authority.

ZDB     Yes. Most recently the ANC have, of course, been in touch with the King and ANC Zulus of importance. What's that chap's name? Makaya Zeni(?)? He's an ANC sympathiser and there were others and it looks as though the King is now tired of being pushed around by Buthelezi. I think the answer is that it is going to weaken Buthelezi to some extent. I think there is going to be a tendency for more Zulus to turn towards the ANC with the ANC in power in the country. It's almost certain that something of that sort will happen.

POM     One thing we noticed when we were travelling around the country is that if we ever brought up the subject of the RDP, most people have no idea what we were talking about. Even spelling out programme for reconstruction and development, they still gave kind of blank stares. This existed within provincial departments, different ministers would have different interpretations of what it was all about. If this is a kind of vision of the ANC or the national government, vision of the future, it appears that a very inept job has been done marketing this procedure. Why is the situation like that, particularly since the government did a very good job selling election to the IFP?

ZDB     Well the government didn't sell the election to the people. The negotiating process sold the elections to the people and that was achieved by the parties together, and that's the ANC and the rest of us played quite a part in that one. So I don't think that's really the controversy at the moment. I would say that the RDP obviously expresses admirable intentions, development and reconstruction are things that everyone is in favour of. It wasn't really spelled out in any detail in the election. Ask me, I hope I'm a reasonably well informed South African, ask me to produce a 20 page essay on the RDP and I would make it up. I won't have anywhere to go for it. I would just think of all the desirable things that ought to happen and I would put them in the RDP. And everybody in South Africa who wants to do any kind of business, now you must have noticed that every private, profit making business says what we are proposing is a project which will fit in admirably to the RDP, and they don't know what it's about, it's extremely vague. And I think on the specific issue of housing it's on the wrong track. Slovo as Minister of Housing is the best of the bunch in that area. He is saying something which is reasonably close to reality but nobody else is. They are all talking absolute nonsense. Nobody in the third world here or in South America or south east Asia can any country afford to house its people in brick and mortar houses. They have got to live in shacks and the approach has got to be to organise your squatter townships, informal townships, so that they have got straight roads and they've got water and they've got sewage, possibly lay on electricity too. And people have got to build their own houses. Now the politicians won't see it and the politicians want to earn credit for being the people who build the houses and give them to the voters. Slovo, I think partly because he's 69 and has cancer, but also because he's intellectually superior by my estimation to the other people in the field, is telling it straight. I'm sorry, that's rather a digression but it's an example of what's wrong with the RDP. The RDP is to a very large extent a Christmas wish list.

POM      The people themselves must assume responsibility, not wait for the government to hand out everything to them. Is this part of the dependency syndrome that has arisen during the apartheid years when they were told to do this, you can't do this, you can't do that, people don't know how to empower themselves?

ZDB     Partly, yes, I think there is a dependency syndrome and I think it is a problem. Now let's put the dependency syndrome over there for a moment. Let's start with the harsh fact that people can't afford housing unless in one way or another, directly or indirectly over some kind of period they can pay for it. And people who have not got jobs or at best are employed in the informal sector, cannot have houses. There's no way the government can give houses away to the people. The governments of Germany or Switzerland couldn't afford to do that. And people who cannot pay are being told they are going to have houses. Now let's come back to the dependency syndrome. Yes, you see in Verwoerd's day, and he was a shaper of the apartheid thing, he made it a cardinal point that under no circumstances should there be any individual ownership of land or houses. Everything must belong to the state and the state would rent these houses to the people to live in and the state would retain complete control. The rationale for this was that ultimately all these people were going to be moved out of these townships, off to the Bantustans which were going to be independent. So he made it an absolute fundamental of his policy that they should not own the houses and that everything should be on a rental basis. And that in due course led to the ANC responding with a culture of non-governability, just don't pay for anything and the whole lot will collapse and that is having enormous consequences.

POM     A lot of people are finding out that the first thing that their own government is doing for them is charging them for services performed and they have to pay up.

ZDB     Or to put it a little more cynically and from the other side, people who originally ceased to pay as a deed of political protest have become accustomed to the additional income that that liberates and they are damned if they are going to give it up.

POM     The gravy train and this whole debate over whether politicians should have accepted the recommendations of the commission, the Melamed Commission, we've got to show our people that we are on the right track?

ZDB     The question of politicians' remuneration is one of the insoluble ones. There's a strong argument that says if you pay peanuts you'll get monkeys. There's another very strong argument that says if you're going to pay attractive salaries the politicians are going to be people who are coming in just for the money and are cynical and don't give a damn about the people. Both these things are true, they just point in opposite directions. The Melamed Commission endeavoured, as I understood it, to say there must be transparency, everybody must see what the members of parliament are getting paid, therefore it sought to do away with all the tax free perks and things which we had in my time and to increase the salaries by that amount which would enable a member of parliament to buy for himself what he could buy with the spotty kind of package he had earlier. That was a great mistake because although there may be something a little bit dishonest about the fact that I could buy as many air tickets as I wanted at 20% of the cost, by and large I bought them for reasons connected with my activities as a member of parliament and I was not seen to be getting a huge salary. All sorts of other things we used to get, meals for next to nothing in the House and so on and all this now had to be changed.

     The ANC MPs, more than the white ones, are going to kick and are going to demand to be well remunerated because 90% of them have got nothing. One of the white ANC MPs, a pretty senior person, was recently telling us that in the ANC service when they all worked for the ANC up to the election, the lowest wage was R2000 a month, that was the floor cleaner. The highest wage was R4000 a month, that was Thabo or whoever at the top of the organisation. And now these people who had at most R4000 a month have all got three times that and they don't know how to manage it and they are running up huge bills. I don't think there is a satisfactory answer. I actually would say that what MPs are getting paid in South Africa at the moment is probably fairly reasonable by world standards and doesn't really amount to a gravy train.

POM     The Minister of Finance recently said, "South African business must start scoring tries. I feel like a scrum half who cannot get the ball out of the scrum because my loose forwards are not there to support me." What do you think of this?

ZDB     I mean I also played football in my time and I understand the analogies, but it's courage. This chap, Chris Liebenberg, I know him, he's very nice, I knew him when we were both in business. He's very proud of the fact that he knows nothing about politics and won't join a party, and he is just saying that the businesses have got to invest, businesses have got to create, businesses have got to put zing into the whole economic process. If you believe in free market policies and free enterprise, you believe that businesses will do all those things if you give them the right framework and that's what he's got to do.

POM     Do you think the economy has improved in the last several months?

ZDB     There's no lack of confidence. Actual statistics are that we're really sort of bumping along at the same rate as before. Until just yesterday or today I noticed that our foreign exchange reserves rose by about a billion last month. Now there may be some silly one-off reason for that, but if that does signify that our exports are rising then that would be significant. Inflation, as you know, came down quite well, well into single figures, but has now popped back towards 10% again which is not good. Overall, yes, the economy is better. There is going to be growth this year at least, there was no growth at all for a couple of years.

POM     What of the right? And what do you think about Professor Heyns' assassination?

ZDB     Yes. I'm very conscious of the Johan Heyns thing. My view is pretty consistent there, and I think I must have said this to you people before, as being that the right are not a really serious danger and will tend to peter out. There will be little pockets, handfuls of mad thugs here and there who will do things like the Heyns' assassination, but I don't think they are a serious threat to the stability of the whole community. I think that Constand Viljoen did a wonderful job. He simply took over the Conservative Party under the nose of its own leader and got himself a few seats in parliament and I am sure that he's very constructive in parliament and plays a much better role than the old Conservative Party did in the old days. Now obviously a real mad right won't associate with Constand, probably won't even associate with Ferdi, but I still don't see a major threat to the society from that quarter.

POM     Do you think the Conservative Party have more or less been marginalised now?

ZDB     Yes.

POM     When you look at that and then look at the local elections that are going to take place in October with registration drives not taking place, one, do you think they will take place?

ZDB     I would say all that is true. If these things are held it probably will reach the point when we all say, well they must be held as we said the national election must be held, but they will be held in a pretty unrepresentative kind of way and only victory for the ANC.

POM     Do you think in Natal that this will re-ignite the conflict, the ground is getting narrower not broader, fighting over small amounts of turf?

ZDB     Yes, but as you saw in the general election, Natal will divide itself on an ethnic basis pretty much. Parts of it will be dominated by Inkatha and parts by the ANC.

POM     ...

ZDB     It may be necessary. It's plainly got to be pressed ahead with. Affirmative action has to take place but you've got to maintain a reasonable standard of performance. I have grave doubts whether there is a sufficient number of black and even brown people available wishing to be in the civil service to make a real dent in the restructuring task. A high proportion of the black and brown people who have ability are now going to into private business, it's much more lucrative and much more attractive. I think that one's got to maintain this attitude with its high priority to blacken the civil service but it's going to be a slow task.

POM     Which means that there may be still a largely white bureaucracy that can slow down or can affect the implementation of government policies if they sabotage it at every turn.

ZDB     From the civil servants I know, how well do I know them? They probably don't trust me to tell you the truth, they certainly give me to believe that they are going to try and do a good job. They want to see fair play, they want to be reasonably confident, they've got no interest in sabotaging the country. I don't say some of them wouldn't do a Nat a favour if they could quietly but generally they will try and do their jobs.

POM     As you chose your career in politics, looking back over the years, what in particular what have been the lowest points and what the highest?

ZDB     I think the lowest was the election of 1961 when the Progressive Party which had been looking quite promising got wiped out except for Helen Suzman. From then onwards it could only go up and it did. The high point for me, in a way, was the election of 1989 because I had put together the coalition which was the Democratic Party and I was officially one of three leaders and in practice I was able to lead it to a large extent and we did well in the election and I think played a part in pushing De Klerk along the right road thereafter.

POM     OK. Good luck in your new appointment.

ZDB     By the way that is still unofficial. There are ten ambassadorial appointments hanging at the moment.

PAT     Do they have to be confirmed or is it just a Cabinet decision?

ZDB     They have to be confirmed.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.