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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

12 Mar 1997: General Constand Viljoen in Cape Town

POM     When I talked to you six months ago I asked you how far you thought the Freedom Front had come in advancing its agenda and at that point you put the figure at about six out of ten. Six months later where would you put the figure and what developments have occurred since then that either encourage you or discourage you in terms of the direction in which the Freedom Front is going?

CV     I think the situation has improved and I would put this a bit higher, seven, maybe seven and a half out of ten, and the reason why I say that is internationally I found very good acceptability for the concept of self-determination. The case of the Afrikaner people is very well understood internationally and so far I have yet to find international people who would not agree with me on the principle. Many of them say, yes the principle is right but will you succeed in the position inside the new South Africa? On that I say, yes I think we are going to succeed. Firstly we had the situation of Mr de Klerk admitting that he has now sacrificed self-determination. We have seen the reaction from the press, even the more National Party orientated papers and so on, how they have gone for Mr de Klerk in this regard. So this is a clear indication that it was an unforgivable act of Mr de Klerk to tackle the whole idea of transition without caring for not only Afrikaner people but also some other national groups too. So Mr de Klerk has received a very cold shoulder from the press and also from his people in this regard. Secondly, the second reason why I say that I am pushing this up to seven to seven and a half, is the action of the National Party which is disintegrating and as the NP disintegrates I expect the political direction or the political division lines in South Africa as far as the Afrikaners but also the English speaking and some other of the previous constituencies, the previous regime constituencies, I regard them to move in the direction of on the one side republican conservatism, on the other side liberal democracy. It is the idea of individual rights vis-à-vis the idea of collective rights and we have succeeded in convincing all the Afrikaners to conserve the following ... to Afrikaners about the need for self-determination and now that there has been this reaction and now that the NP is disintegrating a lot of the NP supporters will come our way which will increase the demand for self-determination and the more Afrikaners we get to agree on the idea of self-determination the greater the opportunity because there is no doubt that what we have entered in the constitution makes self-determination possible provided it is claimed in strong enough fashion by the community involved, which is the Afrikaner people. That's another reason why I say this is the case. Then a further reason why I slightly push this up is the Freedom Front has so far succeeded with its policy of constructive engagement unlike the NP which created all the expectations in the world and thereafter opted out of their hopes for the future which was sharing power. Unlike them we have taken a specific line and we have stuck to our principles. We have not shown any signs of working together with an anti group against the ANC. We still believe that the politics of South Africa need to be sorted out and I therefore feel that we have been successful in the line that we have followed as an opposition. We said it's no sense to run after the utopias of expecting to be able to take over power in the 1999 election. If that is the case then let us not hunt for votes, let us stick to principles and this is what we have been following up to now and I think it has been very acceptable. So internationally I've said it's more acceptable day by day. Internally also it becomes more acceptable day by day. Then the last question, I think I have also mentioned that before, is the fact that in all situations where you have the concept of totalitarian regimes disappearing the first reaction is to move back towards nationalism and the ANC themselves in their Freedom Charter had already accepted the principle in 1956 saying all national groups shall have equal rights and I determined that by national groups they then meant ethnic groups. So at the moment there is still in South Africa an aversion towards the concept of ethnicity, linking it too much with apartheid. It is a fact that in a very short time from now onwards we will find that nationalism will rise. Amongst the people I have, for example, seen, the Griquas which is a tribe in the Northern Cape, recently and they themselves feel very much left out. So I expect this to take place inside South Africa. The Zulus will want to be Zulus and the Peddies would like to be Peddies and Xhosas would like to be Xhosas and Afrikaners would like to be Afrikaners. This is the direction that we have been taking so we are in the business of the future.

POM     Do you see, before the transition there was this whole debate about collective rights versus individual rights with the ANC in particular putting emphasis on individual rights -

CV     The ANC and the NP.

POM     And the NP. Do you now see a swing away from that towards an acknowledgement that collective rights are as important as individual rights?

CV     The swing is really reluctant at the moment but it's there, make no mistake. During the negotiations when we spoke about the collective rights idea Mr Mbeki said to me personally, he referred to this principle that I've mentioned from their Freedom Charter in 1956, and he said to me 'General, for national groups read ethnic groups'. I think slowly but certainly the ANC is starting to grasp reality. You must bear in mind that the ANC has been in exile for too long and in fact they became de-tribalised in the environment of their exile conditions. Now that they are back they are all of a sudden faced with the problems of traditional leadership which is slowly but certainly picking up and I promise you this year the concept of traditional leadership will come stronger and stronger to the fore which is in line with our thinking. We say there's no way that you can just brush aside the cultural differences in the country, not between the Afrikaners and the rest, also not between the Zulus and Xhosas, those differences are there. I realise that there is also a danger, if I refer to the Hutus and Tutsis situation in the Great Lakes area but what is important in the circumstances like that is it must be managed. Now the best way of managing that is through the constitution and we have painfully worked for two years, it's a slow process, but eventually I am pretty satisfied with what we have in the constitution regarding the idea of group rights. The concept of group rights will come and we will have to manage it and what is also important to realise, and I think this is maybe another reason that one can say why I push my figure up to seven to seven and half out of ten, is the Freedom Front has been very responsible and fundamental on our approach to this idea. We have not been emotional and we have studied the international use of the words 'self-determination', we have gone through all the case studies in the world and what we suggest cannot be faulted. The point is being correct, it's very difficult to say no to the Afrikaner people and if the Afrikaner people are accommodated in this way surely the other groups will also follow. So there is no doubt in my mind that the present constitution, the 1996 constitution will not be the final constitution. There will be some changes in this direction in future.

POM     Do you think you would find, and I'm not saying he is going to be President Mandela's successor, but if Deputy President Mbeki became President Mandela's successor do you think he would be more sympathetic to the idea of Afrikaner self-determination than President Mandela or do you think he tends more to Africanise things and would be less sympathetic?

CV     You must bear in mind that Deputy President Mbeki is a very philosophical person. He likes to analyse and he likes to theorise and he generally comes to the right discussion. I have been negotiating with him many times and I have always been impressed by his clear view and his fundamental approach to problems. So, therefore, I believe that Mr Mbeki is fundamentally much closer to the problem than President Mandela. I think President Mandela is more the charismatic figurehead and the emotional leader that will rather say, yes I agree or I don't agree, but Mr Mbeki is inclined to analyse and the moment you start analysing the concept of self-determination as a solution to the problems that there might be in the future in our country which will be Mr Mbeki's problem, then I am sure Mr Mbeki will follow the idea. There is another reason why I push up to seven and a half and that is it is often in the press reported that there is much too close co-operation between the ANC and the Freedom Front and people are even talking about the Freedom Front being led by the nose by Mr ... Now we have, as I said, we have opted for this idea of constructive engagement. We have a third part of our mission and that third part of the mission is to care for the interests of the Afrikaner people. Now this interest of the Afrikaner people cannot be divorced from the interests of the rest of the people because even if we get the volkstaat only part of our people will eventually move to the volkstaat and they will develop that area. The rest of the Afrikaners will stay within the new South Africa and in staying there it means that we have a specific role to play and our third part of the mission is about this, how to serve the interests of the Afrikaner people in the new South Africa. We have gone a long way towards working on this. We have to explore new directions for the Afrikaner people to be employed in future, away from the old public service occupation, railways, defence force, Police and so on, and that will be towards private enterprise. The Afrikaner people as a people are particularly capable of becoming the entrepreneurs in the new South Africa. In doing so we have an indispensable role to play and that role is also for the benefit of the other people in the country. So the Afrikaner people, being people of a specific quality and capable of working with the Africans, Mr Mandela in the first meeting in 1993 said to me that we must find a way of accommodating the Afrikaner and the African in peaceful co-existence. Now this is what the Freedom Front has been doing and the requirement of economic growth, the requirement of jobs, the importance of eliminating poverty, that is all on the line of the Freedom Front and it's supporters as well as on the line of the other people so I believe that this co-operation will make it also possible for Mr Mbeki and whoever comes after Mr Mandela to point out to their followers the importance of good co-operation between the Freedom Front and the rest of the country. I therefore think that this has also increased the acceptability of the idea of self-determination inside South Africa.

POM     Do you make a differentiation between Afrikaner self-determination and the volkstaat?

CV     No. The volkstaat is territorial self-determination.

POM     That is still your aim?

CV     That is part of what is generally known in the international world as internal self-determination. Internal self-determination has got two legs, territorial and cultural. Now the difference is when you go for external self-determination that is actually a kind of self-determination which means that you go through secession and you become a force by yourself, completely sovereign and so on. We don't think at this stage, this is not part of our policy, but we keep the back door open and that's one of the reasons why we have opted for the North Western Cape. If we in the future should experience a situation in South Africa where we are being suppressed, where the Afrikaner is culturally being haunted and, as I say, suppressed and deprived of the right to survive as a people, then we will go to the international world and we will claim secession and then I think it would be possible if we had the volkstaat there. So, yes, the volkstaat is certainly the Afrikaner ideal for territorial self-determination.

POM     Was Mr de Klerk's use of the word 'surrender', the surrendering of Afrikaner sovereignty, a fatal mistake on his part? Was it the use of the word 'surrender' that was the cutting edge of the failure of his negotiations, the fact that he didn't negotiate, that he 'surrendered'? I'm referring really to a debate in Parliament ... the Freedom Front leader General Constand Viljoen lashed out at NP leader F W de Klerk for refusing to allow a referendum on Afrikaner self-determination ... the ANC had been prepared to negotiate with Afrikaner groups and called for an Afrikaner Indaba which could even include the NP. Could you elaborate a little on that?

CV     Yes, Mr de Klerk made the speech in London and in that speech he said the most difficult part for him was to surrender power. In other words to surrender the sovereignty and the right of his people, the Afrikaner people, to decide over themselves which is the definition of self-determination. Now there will be a tendency of Mr de Klerk to say no he actually referred to handing over governmental power, but in fact by following the lines of individual liberalism which Mr Roelf Meyer and Ramaphosa carried through in the negotiations of Kempton Park, that actually implied or meant the total abolition of the concept of self-determination of the Afrikaner people and the way the constitution was drawn up has clearly proved that originally before we came into rewriting the new constitution, the 1996 constitution, before that time it was absolutely clear that Mr de Klerk and Roelf Meyer and Ramaphosa were on the same line doing away with the concept of group rights and Mr de Klerk did that for the purpose of catching votes from the ANC. He could not at that stage dare to create the impression that he would still regard the Afrikaner people as an important group and he had to follow the line we're now all one grey nation in a one man one vote situation, we're not going to make any special arrangements for groups, etc., etc., because had he done that he stood the danger of being accused of perpetuating apartheid. So he actually sacrificed Afrikaner self-determination for an ideal of power sharing with the hopes that he would win the election and eventually he failed and he withdrew from his idea of power sharing by himself.

POM     Do you think that in terms of the politics of the NP that Mr de Klerk, that his time is over, that the schisms within the party are becoming so great that he will be required to step down or is he the only leader, is the best card he has to play that he is the only nationally known and internationally leader that the party has and that despite the divisions he can hang on so to speak?

CV     I think this is the problem. Let's face it there is a shortage of leadership in South African politics at the moment. It's not only Mr de Klerk, in many other parties you have the same problem. Yet with the image that Mr de Klerk has acquired, firstly the image I think of a weakling which is not acceptable to the black people, Mr de Klerk should realise that the black people will not vote for him nor will they vote for the NP carrying all the baggage of apartheid and of the past. So the sooner Mr de Klerk goes the better and the sooner the NP just disappears the better and if they disappear I foresee the direction of, as I said, republican conservatism on the one side which will be our direction, and liberal democracy on the other side which will be Roelf Meyer and Ramaphosa and those people's direction. Now when I say that I do not mean that my part will be purely white, it is not so. All the people wishing for national survival, wishing for national cultural emphasis, all those people will probably be on our side.

POM     Do you think that despite what you've said that Afrikaner culture, particularly with regard to language and schools and the SABC have been severely marginalised in the last couple of years, that it's been losing ground and it needs to regain ground?

CV     Yes, the reason why this happened, all that you've mentioned now, is Mr de Klerk. Had Mr de Klerk used his position of power in the Kempton Park negotiations to ensure proper self-determination for not only the Afrikaner people but for other national groups too, had he given the right direction to this, as I previously mentioned, de-tribalised ANC with their thinking of liberal democracy, had this been done by Mr de Klerk we would not have been through the same, can I say cutting on the position of the Afrikaner or sacrificing the Afrikaner's position bit by bit.

POM     When you say that Mr de Klerk refused a referendum on Afrikaner self-determination - ?

CV     Thank you for reminding me. I didn't answer that one question of yours properly. In December 1993 we in the Volksfront at that stage, with still the blessing of Ferdi Hartzenberg, we came to an agreement with the ANC on Afrikaner self-determination and that would have made possible the idea of an Afrikaner volkstaat or self-determination before 27th April 1994. But naturally because of the wording of Principle No. 34 we were supposed to give substantial proof and support for the concept of self-determination from our community which is not possible without some sort of a referendum or a plebiscite or opinion poll or so. Having arrived at this position with the ANC I personally came down from Johannesburg to Cape Town where the Parliament was sitting at that stage and I asked Mr de Klerk and Roelf Meyer to include the concept that we have agreed with the ANC. Then Mr de Klerk said to me that it will be impossible, there will be no time for a referendum. So Mr de Klerk then saw what direction we were taking and the success that we were arriving at with the negotiations with the ANC and he ditched the whole concept.

POM     So he actually sabotaged what you had achieved with the ANC?

CV     He certainly sabotaged the idea and it took me more than two years to pick up what we could have had before 27th April and the folly about the whole situation is that he at that stage had done this for the sake of power sharing which he now has sacrificed. So the NP has such a terrible history of failures, I just cannot see how Mr de Klerk or the NP can survive, whereas we in our simple way we have succeeded with what we had in mind bit by bit and we certainly do not have the hopes of forming a major part of the new government in 1999 but as long as we make progress with our concept and our principles and our fundamental approach then we will eventually succeed.

POM     Now there's a tendency among many people, especially members of the ANC that I speak with, to pooh-pooh the whole idea of a volkstaat and to say it's a pipe dream that they allow you to play along with and the R4 million dollar expenditure on the Volkstaat Council is like in a way buying you off but that it's something that's never going to happen. Do you think that if the thinking within the ANC, particularly the NEC, is along those lines that they are making a very dangerous assumption about the nature of Afrikaner nationalism and the lengths to which you would ultimately go to secure self-determination? That if you can't secure it within the constitution that you might have to consider extra-constitutional means of achieving it?

CV     Remember what I said about the ANC. They have been in exile for too long. They are in many ways strangers in the new South Africa. What is also important to realise is that within the ANC there is a lot of influence of the SACP at the moment, so until such time as they have broken up as an alliance we will have this problem. I am quite aware of the fact that the concept of a volkstaat at the moment to many of the NEC members is still very unacceptable. The proximity of apartheid is another cause of this because these people are not so well rehearsed and studied and fundamental in their approach about self-determination as we have been because we have been concentrating on this for two years now. So, yes, there needs to be more selling about the idea but I cannot see otherwise how they will eventually do otherwise than to agree with our concept, but I agree it will take some time. I am concerned about what you said about R4 million being used to buy us off and it will never happen, etc.

POM     It's been suggested, it's not my opinion, it's just commentary that I've read saying that this amount of money is being lavished on the Volkstaat Council so that it can travel and move about but essentially it's a way of co-opting you by keeping everybody happy and things appear to be happening because you're moving all the time and reports are being produced but in reality nothing concrete is emerging out of it all.

CV     Remember what I said about the third part of my mission. I don't think the power of the Afrikaner is within the force that you can develop let us say with another military experiment or some Irish kind of resistance movement. I think the coercion must come from the third part of our strategy and that is we are indispensable not only for South Africa but for Southern Africa. One thing about the strategy of the Freedom Front that has been to me personally very rewarding is the general reconciliation or acceptability of the Freedom Front as a party within the normal rank and file black population. When I fill up petrol at the filling stations the attendants would come and speak to me because they recognise me and many of them thank me for what I have been doing and slowly but certainly we are rebuilding for the Afrikaner people a position of more acceptability, maybe even dignity and as we do this these people will soon realise that when we ask for a volkstaat, when we insist on self-determination, it is not for a laager mentality, it's not for exclusivistic withdrawal, it will also be in the interests of all the people because we have to convince them and it's very true that the idea of self-determination, territorial self-determination and cultural self-determination, had to make South Africa more safe and more profitable and more happy for everybody and as soon as the ANC and the NEC realise this then the co-operation between the Afrikaner people and the other people will really be peaceful co-existence.

POM     I want to turn for a minute to the Tebbut Commission and the evidence you gave before it and you talked there of how the AWB, in your view, had been infiltrated by agents of the NP's intelligence services, or the state intelligence services at the time and that their role was to create confusion and generally to ensure that Mangope's government fell, that they were agents to the government falling rather than wanting to preserve it. Could you elaborate a little on that?

CV     Let me take it a bit further back. In the intelligence world we in the last few decades were faced with the problems of the cold war which was from the intelligence point of view a new battlefield. Greater and greater emphasis was placed on the idea of infiltration and the infiltration originally was for the purposes of gathering information, so they would infiltrate the organisations such as the AWB and those infiltrated agents would then report back information. In this way the ANC was infiltrated and the South African security forces were infiltrated by the ANC in this regard. So I would say that the churches, the World Council of Churches was probably infiltrated by some communists or some people trying to influence to thinking there, as I say, originally for the purpose of gathering information. But then as the cold war went on and especially in South Africa you had this new concept developing of, you could call it third force activities or you could call it some kind of propaganda, I can't get the word now.

POM     The forces that would be infiltrating would be used more not for gathering information but for purposes of destabilisation?

CV     Of destabilisation but also influencing the thinking of people because in a revolutionary war what is important is not how many people you kill because generally you kill very few people. You take the whole of the war over thirty years I don't think we've killed as many people, or I don't think as many people in South Africa were killed on both sides than for example were killed in the Anglo Boer war of three years. But what is important is it goes about the minds of people and then with their third force activity then the concept started to develop, they said why don't you influence the thinking. I've mentioned the position of the churches and the Communist Party and the communist doctrines and so on, and then the AWB was created. When the AWB was created it was created by Terre'Blanche, there were three people. Two of them came from security forces. Terre'Blanche was a member of the Police Recreation Group and Jan Groenewald was the other one who was a Security Policeman, so of the three members that established the AWB two came from this. To me that's fishy already. Then the AWB developed as a very emotional organisation. They developed a specific character. They never passed a pub, did a lot of drinking, they ran on emotions, hatred, etc., which made it a very vulnerable organisation and the few agents that you would infiltrate into that organisation could easily swing the opinion within such an organisation. Now I first came across this on 25th June 1993 when we had the position at the World Trade Centre. That was a very well planned, supposed to be peaceful, demonstration to bring to the attention of the world the demand of the Afrikaner people for self-determination which Mr de Klerk had given away. All of a sudden the AWB got out of hand, followed their own programme, burst into the World Trade Centre and caused a lot of embarrassment. To me it was really a vilifying experience. I was not used to this kind of thing, but we couldn't understand what had happened. Then came the situation on 29th January 1994 when I was explaining to a gathering of Afrikaners the fact that Mr de Klerk has refused us the right to have a plebiscite or a referendum and that the only other alternative now would be either to for war or to go for the option of the Volkstaat Council and the idea of negotiation and the idea that the referendum which Mr de Klerk had refused would then take place on 27th April by counting all the votes for the Freedom Front on the issue of self-determination. So all the provincial votes would be counted. That was an agreement. The very same thing happened there. The AWB started this shouting down and they were demanding immediate war and they wouldn't listen to any argument but the AWB is a very small portion of this big gathering of about 15000 people and they carried their emotions with and a lot of shouting and eventually they made it impossible for me to speak that day. So that was the second experience. The third experience was Bophuthatswana. Here I go to Mangope and he requests some assistance which I gave him. We really had an excellent operation. I gathered more than 2000 people in different places all over the country without the Police knowing about this, without the defence intelligence people knowing about this, and we moved those people to Mmabatho without anybody expecting this to take place. But the AWB, which was specifically asked by Mr Mangope not to come, because he knew that the AWB at that stage was part of the Volksfront, then Mr Terre'Blanche was phoned from my office by Dr Hartzenberg who was the Chairperson of the Afrikaner Volksfrontraad, and we had explained in great detail to Terre'Blanche that coming to Mmabatho might create a mutiny within the Bophuthatswana forces and that would damage the whole operation. Notwithstanding, against instructions, he came and the way they acted inside Bophuthatswana was so foolish and so far away from what we had decided as the main aim of this operation that this was another example of Terre'Blanche knowing, and his people, knowing what we have in mind but from some influence inside his organisation achieving right the opposite thereby again discrediting our whole effort. I am convinced that this had been, and this is probably still so, this had been engineered by the security people of that period in order to influence the thinking of people against the then so-called right wing, at the moment I prefer to speak of them as the more conservative thinking Afrikaners.

POM     So do you think that with regard to Bophuthatswana that both the ANC and the NP government were really working in collusion to bring down Mangope?

CV     Yes I've no doubt about this. At that stage the Freedom Alliance was operating and we used the participation as a way to apply more pressure on the negotiating process. We threatened not to participate in the election unless some greater form of decentralisation for provinces, etc., becomes entered into the constitution. Mr Mangope was at that stage the most vulnerable, not the most vulnerable, I would say Gqozo of the Ciskei was even worse, but the ANC ever since they were released and unbanned had been working on the Mangope situation. They had been inciting the people within Bophuthatswana. They had very willing partners in, for example, the nursing, the universities, etc., and they started a classical kind of revolution within Bophuthatswana and this was, I know about many discussions also -

POM     They had strikes and unrest first.

CV     That's right, strikes and unrest first followed by burning, by some more active acts and then thereafter they usually switch over to the shooting phase. That's what I said in my Tebbut evidence in this regard. That is what I was told by the Bophuthatswana Security Council. So that is the problem. In this event had it not been for the AWB it would have been a resounding success. We would have certainly stabilised Mmabatho for a period of three days, remember it was the Friday, so we had to do Sunday, Monday and Tuesday because on Tuesday the Parliament would get to come to together, to assemble.

POM     That's the Parliament in Bophuthatswana.

CV     Bophuthatswana.

POM     And decide whether to participate in the - ?

CV     They were at that stage going to decide whether to participate and Mr Mangope had intimated to me that he would recommend to them to participate in the election. So it was a few days, so why carrying on with the act of Pik Botha and Mac Maharaj that Saturday evening? Why? They had the whole of the Defence Force which could easily have maintained peace within Bophuthatswana until the Tuesday and then if they had in mind acting against Mangope why not wait until Tuesday and had the decision then been negative, then maybe if they wanted to make a war then let them make the war. But why as Mangope had already given an undertaking to assemble his Parliament and the instructions were given, why then Saturday evening deposing Mr Mangope? I just cannot explain it. So I am absolutely sure that the then Transitional Executive Council of which the NP and the ANC were the two main partners, they had decided to do this.

POM     So the real purpose, if I'm hearing you correctly, was not so much as to bring down Mr Mangope as to destroy the AVF?

CV     The main purpose was to break up the Freedom Alliance. Remember what Slovo said after this, he said one down, two to go, which is clear that they had in aim the main members of the previous homeland governments. At that stage it was Ciskei, Bophuthatswana and KwaZulu/Natal. This was the situation. The real aim was to do away with these people and I also think to the ANC Mangope and his party was a bit of a problem in the North West Province and such an action -

POM     A problem in terms of - ?

CV     Of votes in ... yes, and I think such an election such as this had done such a lot of damage to the party and the image of Mr Mangope that it probably had a great influence on the outcome of the election in 1994.

POM     When you read Pik Botha's testimony following yours, did you find that a classic foreign affairs denial of any involvement in anything that it was all in your head and of course the South African government wasn't involved in any manner, shape or form in what went on in Bophuthatswana. Is that just counter-intuitive to you or is it more laughable than even counter-intuitive?

CV     All I can say about that is that the NP when it suits them they remember. When it doesn't suit them they forget. It is very clear within the Truth & Reconciliation Commission, they have left all the policemen in the lurch and in fact most of those operations, especially the cross-border operations were discussed with and agreed to by Mr Pik Botha because he was certainly part of this and it would be unthinkable of us to do a cross-border operation without involving Foreign Affairs because such cross-border operations invariably had some international implications so we had to give them advance warning about this and even if they hadn't agreed with this they knew about this that was taking place.

POM     Foreign Affairs knew that you were moving 2000 farmers - ?

CV     No, no, no. I'm referring to the time when I was in the Defence Force. You see I had two forces within the Afrikaner Volksfront. The one force was the farmer side of it, very disciplined and very determined and very capable. The other force was to me an embarrassment and that was the AWB. We couldn't use them for anything. The would mess up anything with which they got involved. In fact they were more of a liability than an asset to the Afrikaner Volksfront. But this is the problem with this kind of war. Now you asked the question a few minutes ago as to whether this had any effect on the Afrikaner Volksfront. Yes, I think the Mmabatho situation had an effect. In fact flying back from Mmabatho to Pretoria that evening I made the final decision to participate in the election and I think I was certainly influenced by the actions of the AWB which invariably in every instance where we tackled something important would discredit it and cause the failure of the whole operation. So had I, for example, at that stage decided to grab a piece of land of South Africa and unilaterally declare that to be a volkstaat then the AWB would have been uncontrollable and I would have involved myself with such a massacre and such a poorly controlled military operation that it would have been a shame. So, yes, it certainly affected my thinking at that stage and I then only had one hurdle still ahead of me to make the final decision not to for war but to go for negotiation and that is whether I would reinforce my guarantees on the issue that the ANC would not fool me in the whole process, and that is I completed the Accord on Afrikaner self-determination with the ANC and I had this signed in the presence of some of the important foreign Ambassadors and High Commissioners. This was specifically to reinforce the general belief that the ANC would not stick to the establishment of a Volkstaat Council, towards entering into the constitution some points about self-determination, which has been proved wrong at this stage. So far they have lived up to the expectations.

POM     They have?

CV     They have, yes certainly they have.

POM     Have you found that your dealings with President Mandela and your transactions with him, have you found him to be a man of his word, that the promises he gives are promises he keeps or does he sometimes promise more than he can, are his intentions - ?

CV     Just bear in mind that they've never promised the volkstaat. We have to finish that negotiation. What I can say is I have found them more credible than de Klerk. De Klerk and the NP I think they have been so used to the Pik Botha sort of manoeuvres and swing-arounds with defending aspects such as apartheid that they got so used to this kind of propagandistic approach that I find the NP really impossible to deal with whereas the ANC, I wouldn't say that they can be trusted 100% because the ANC still have the problem of the SACP inside, and the ANC is very clever yes, Mr Mandela too is also very clever, but so far we have succeeded in building at least a mutual trust between the top structures and with the result of the Freedom Front in the political process so far this mutual trust is slowly cutting down towards the rank and file too and I think the third part of our mission will eventually convince the other people that the Afrikaner people are actually as an indigenous group indispensable and that that real solution is to work together.

POM     Just one or two more things to ask you. I noticed a report in the paper that said that when President Mandela came to open Parliament and the Members of Parliament stood to applaud him that only one member of the NP stood to applaud him, that everybody else stayed in their seats. Is that true to your recollection or do you recollect it? At the opening of the recent Parliament a couple of weeks ago.

CV     When the President speaks in Parliament and after having spoken when I get up I get up out of respect for the President. I usually get up out of respect for the President because he is an old man and it is custom in the black community, and I respect that custom, to show respect to him. You will find a man such as Buthelezi will also get up. I would not applaud at that stage unless I agree with what he has said but I will stand up and show respect to the President. The same thing when he starts to address Parliament, the general tendency is to show the respect by standing up. This is in a Westminster type of situation, it's not really happened, but this is part of the new culture in the new South Africa of which we are part and you cannot do otherwise but when you are in Rome do as the Romans do.

POM     Do you not find it interesting that, at least according to newspaper accounts, that the NP members didn't stand up, that they stayed sitting?

CV     Yes. This is not to me funny. Remember what I also previously spoke to you about, the culture of the black people in this regard and I've said that whether you agree with the President or whether you disagree with the President the way you differ with him cannot be the same as, for example, the leader of the opposition in the British Parliament would differ with Mr John Major. It's two different worlds. So the NP tends to apply the rules of the Westminster type of approach, of opposition and government, in our situation and they are wrong in doing so because we have a different situation. I think this explains also the long way that the Afrikaner people have gone towards the idea of constructive engagement towards fitting in to the new South Africa and not to try to force the new South Africa to fit into them.

POM     The other thing I wanted to ask you about is these recent revelations that senior members of the ANC, including perhaps Cabinet members, were Police informants. One, does that surprise you? Two, do you think that if the names are revealed, and there are senior members of the ANC involved, do you think that it will have a serious impact on the ANC itself, perhaps even a destabilising effect on government? And three, do you think the ANC are already beginning their counter-argument which is that this information, again, is part of the continuing third force activity, so to have Security Policemen name senior people in the ANC is a way of tarnishing their reputations and trying to divide the ANC internally against itself and to cast doubt on who was on which side and who is doing what?

CV     I wouldn't be surprised because what is taking place now with the ANC is exactly what I'm complaining about from the AWB, infiltration, and I have also explained to you the special combat field in intelligence in the kind of cold war that we are in at the moment. I also believe, I am absolutely convinced, that some senior members of the ANC would have been approached to supply information and would have been paid for the information that they supplied. So who they would be I just don't know. If this happens it will have an effect on the credibility of those people. There's no doubt about it. It will be impossible for any senior member of the ANC to carry on in a situation such as this.

POM     If he is named and it is proven.

CV     Yes. I am sure that it's impossible. I think there is nothing you can do about it. It will to a certain degree destabilise because there might be good high calibre people in this regard. It's possible. Whether you should blame these people is difficult to say. I think if I was the ANC I would not accept such a man in a government position, if I was the rank and file members of the ANC I would not have accepted them.

POM     So you think it's more important that they be named, that it's more in the national interest that they be named than that they not be named despite the possible destabilising effect the country can handle the destabilising effect but that in the long run you can't have moles?

CV     When we opted for the idea of the TRC I was in favour of firstly general amnesty, secondly I said let's bury the past and let's get on with the future. I was not really in favour of the kind of character of Commission that they've gone for. Now they have applied their wishes in this regard and this has contributed to vilify a lot of people and to expose a lot of people. This is part of the truth and reconciliation process. If it must be exposed what the Security Police did in certain instances and that is to them very difficult then I think this is also part of what should be opposed. So in general I was not in favour of this. I'll tell you why. We have a problem in this country regarding leadership. From all parties we do not have an over-supply of good leaders and I don't know who is involved within the ANC but should we lose good leaders from the ANC, good potential leaders, then I would say it would be a pity that such a foolish thing for them of the past should now make them unavailable for leading towards the future. But there is nothing I can do about it. It's the decision they have taken on the TRC, it's their responsibility so having done that, yes it must be exposed.

POM     When we talked about the TRC before you said "Regarding the Truth Commission you must bear in mind that the whole exercise in my opinion is not really for reconciliation. The whole idea about the Truth Commission is to expose the past in order to build the image of the liberators and break down the image of the National Party and this is exactly what is taking place at the moment. The way to reconciliation that is followed by the Truth & Reconciliation Commission to me is not clear. I have no clarity on their strategy as to eventually what they are doing what they are doing at the moment".

CV     How does one achieve reconciliation?

POM     Yet you yourself have, as I understand it, applied for amnesty and are going to testify before the Commission. Is this a change of mind on your part or is it consistent with your thinking?

CV     It's consistent because I have opposed the TRC. Now that it has been passed through the majority in Parliament it's a law, it's an Act and I must obey the laws of the country. Secondly, this is the only door that they open for future amnesty or for preventing criminal and civil acts against many of my people. So where previously some of my people have offended, for example contravened the Explosive Acts, Acts on the license of firearms, etc., unlicensed firearms, preparation for war, sedition, all those things, if we don't make use of that we stand the opportunity of being prosecuted and convicted by the new South Africa and that would a complete new tension in the circles. If that happens then it will be a disaster so I am trying to avoid a disaster. So this is the reason why I am participating. It's the Act, I have to comply with the Act now. I can't just say for political reasons I didn't agree so I'm not going to testify. If I don't testify what's going to happen about my people and will they eventually land up in jail and who is going to care for their women and children and so on.

POM     And finally the strange case of Dr Basson. Do you find the ANC's reasoning for his re-hiring convincing or do you find the whole thing just one big strange mess that needs a lot of explanation and transparency in how it's dealt with?

CV     I think the fact that they have re-hired him means that to them what Basson researched had not been a serious thing because had this really been a serious thing, had as was stated the aims of the 7th Medium Battalion been towards murder and poison and new kinds of war gases and so on, if that had been the case then certainly they would not have re-hired Basson. There is no doubt. But now having re-hired him it is clear to me that they wanted this man for the specific reason of his ability and he is an excellent researcher, he's an excellent physician. Medically he is outstanding. I am told, according to the reports, that he was then employed as a normal physician in the military hospital. I am not sure whether they have used him in his line of further research. That you will never know because that's still part of the secret. You see we still have secrets in the country, it's not so open as people would tend to think. But I think re-hiring him proves that it was not a serious research with which he has been involved. Secondly it proves that he is regarded by these people as indispensable as a physician.

POM     This is actually my final question, you talk about a situation where it looks as though for twenty or twenty five years that a multiplicity of organisations ranging from the NP to the Conservative Party, the AWB, the ANC, PAC, the churches, whatever, that each organisation was infiltrating the other where one at some point would not know if one was the agent or a double agent or a triple agent which makes the unravelling of truth an enormously difficult and almost impossible task.

CV     Yes this is definitely so. It is one of the most unpleasant situations that one can think of. If I speak on my telephone I accept the fact that I am being listened to, even now. If somebody comes to speak to me I'm not sure whether he's not planted to find out some basic thinking. Fortunately, as I said, I'm very fundamental in my approach, I have no clandestine intentions or activities so I can speak straight and honest towards people. Just recently, just now before you came in I had an Israeli here and we were discussing about my previous relationship with certain of the Israeli Defence Force members and so on. I'm not sure whether he's not prompted here with some other idea of attacking my credibility or attacking the credibility of the relationship between Israel and South Africa. It's possible. It makes it very unpleasant. I don't know how we're going to deal with that and unfortunately the communist world is very, very much inclined to do this kind of thing. In the whole of the USSR I was told that only 3 million out of 70 million were actually communists and they kept the rest of the country under their power. Now we know about the Gestapo, in the case of the Russians we know about the KGB, and this is the kind of activity, if this is the kind of activity that is going to take place in the future of our country then I will be most disappointed.

POM     Does that worry you that you still can't trust people or that it's very difficult to develop trusting relationships? Is this still at the embryonic stage where you have the ANC continuing to insist that a third force exists and whereas once they used to blame apartheid for everything now they blame the third force or continuing elements within the third force for everything whether it's because the crime rate is high, because Police don't perform, but Police don't perform because the structure is still controlled by the old order and they are not making the effort to catch criminals. There's a whole litany of excuses.

CV     The country is in a mess. With this kind of situation the country is really in a mess. You cannot even in the public service the ANC complains about the loyalty of many of the public servants. It might be true, it might not be true and the public servants are complaining about the loyalty and the dedication of their political masters. I don't know, it will take a long time for our country and I am afraid as long as the SACP has a role to play we might not do away with this. There is no way that we think that exposing the truth of the past by the TRC will really affect us. We still work with fallible human beings and we work with people that get the sense of power and once you get the sense of power it's bound to be misused in some way.

POM     I'm going to see the TRC now so if I told them, as you probably have told them on many occasions or have said on many occasions, that you do not believe that the TRC is the way towards reconciliation, do you think that after watching the TRC in operation for the better part of, it's over a year now, do you think your opinion has been vindicated?

CV     No, in fact I've asked the TRC to explain to me their strategy or their path towards reconciliation and all that they can at this stage say is that they've given mainly from the liberation side a lot of victims the opportunity to speak up and they claim that these victims now feel relieved and happy. I say many of those victims now feel worse than what they felt before because they have more hatred in them than what they've had before. So their inability to explain to me what strategy they are really following towards reconciliation explains to me that the TRC is not quite clear but I must say I'm not attacking the present Commissioners of the TRC. I'm not attacking Tutu, I'm not attacking Boraine. What I say is that they are trying to act according to what has been put in the law and that Act has been passed by Parliament. The problem is what happened between the final agreement which is a codicil of the interim constitution, the last part which goes about unity and reconciliation, and the creation of the TRC. That's where the thing went wrong and that came from the ANC and it is actually the thought was steered by the SACP and you have mentioned it, they have seen this TRC as a very valuable instrument in consolidating the anti-apartheid feeling, consolidating the support of the ANC, even expanding the support. That's why the KwaMakutha trial was started just before the election, the election of the local government levels. That is probably what they're trying to do, to keep the whole TRC going until the 1999 election so that it can also have an influence on the 1999 election thereby giving the ANC a two thirds majority which is what they need.

POM     So they can use it as an excuse for a lack of delivery?

CV     That's right. But what I do blame the present Commissioners of the TRC about is that if I am given an Act in which they say the aim of this whole thing is reconciliation, the word truth has just entered the use of language of people. This is actually commissioned for reconciliation and unity. If I had been on such a Commission I would have really sat down and said how am I going to steer this Commission to really get to reconciliation and unity and if I ask the people they can't explain this to me. So the point is they have quickly entered into all the hearings and all the exposures of the truth, etc., and they have so far worked exactly according to the SACP's plan to vilify people, to break down what was in the past so that you can build up completely from a new foundation. I am not sure whether the Commissioners approached their task correctly. What I am saying at the moment is my community has withdrawn from the TRC, they do not attend the hearings. If I try to explain to my people that we have to go to the TRC they cross with me, they wouldn't listen to me, so I have to really convince these people about the wisdom of making use of this Amnesty Commission, not to participate with the Commission, not towards unity and reconciliation because that we won't get through the Commission, we will get that through the third part of our mission, but we think that eventually the TRC will end up in vilifying and breaking down all the pillars of the past which is actually nothing but psychological retribution I think, but what is more it is part of psychological warfare.

POM     You've talked about how over the last two years you have built up relationships particularly at the top level, trusting relationships with senior members in the ANC and how you have reached a level of mutual trust in each other, do you see a report of the TRC destroying the basis of that trust, actually being counter-productive rather than productive?

CV     There is a real danger about this. Fortunately within the ANC there are many of the very senior people agreeing with me on the TRC. As a matter of fact, can I remind you, was actually in favour of general amnesty. It was the NP that eventually decided no it shouldn't be general amnesty. So many people within the ANC agree with me in this regard but I must admit that as this thing makes progress and especially if, for example, after the TRC Commission the thing turns out to become a kind of a Nuremberg trial, tribunal, then I think I will break totally with the whole situation because that I cannot explain to my people and I cannot find it acceptable. Then certainly regarding reconciliation and unity I have been led by the nose if that happens.

POM     You would leave government? You would leave Parliament?

CV     Well I have always said that I will only remain in Parliament as long as I can play a useful role and when I say that I am looking for the Afrikaners' interests within the bigger interests of South Africa then this is a very patriotic approach because I don't concern myself only with our own interests. But if I am being fooled in a very important aspect such as reconciliation and unity then there's no sense for me to co-operate further with the ANC and I will certainly not participate.

POM     OK. Thank you ever so much for all your time.

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.