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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
07 Nov 2001: Pik Botha
POM Pik, I want to begin with your recollections of events surrounding the fall, overthrow or displacement of Lucas Mangope. What I'm going to do, the account I want to verify is the account that was provided to me by Mac Maharaj and has been verified in its detail by Fanie van der Merwe who was also involved in it. I'm going to do a bit of reading to you, then it will come to you and your role or whatever and you can then say it's essentially correct, you can add to it, you can say it's all wrong, that didn't happen at all, I never saw that or whatever. You know what I mean?
It's like things were falling apart. 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 (he was having a Management Committee) 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 is the reality there." The Management Committee agreed, 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. Fanie comes and says the helicopter will take the two of us to Mafikeng. When I got to the airstrip it was a military helicopter, not a problem, but when I get into the helicopter who was 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 called a meeting and then he has the General in charge of the Bophuthatswana forces with him, I forget his name, to give a report. So we are sitting in this office, the South African High Commissioner is there, a whole set of military brass and Police are sitting there, the Commander of the Bophuthatswana army is sitting there and he gives a report and in his report essentially he says, 'Our forces have lost control. The Bophuthatswana army has lost control. The Police Force has collapsed.'
General Meiring behaves like he's chairing this 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 force of Bophuthatswana. I said (that's Mac) 'No you can't do that. You just had a report that the administration has collapsed, that the Police Force has collapsed, the defence force of Bophuthatswana 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 Buildings. They are meeting there right now and our job is 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 reinforcing 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 clearly 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. We go to the High Commissioner's office in the same yard. Now I get through. We phone, we call for Cyril and I give a report to Cyril in Fanie's presence. I give him my reading and I say, 'General Meiring wants to go out and do this. You have to get a countermand from Madiba and FW to stop him.' Then I hand the phone to Fanie, call for Roelf and I decide to leave the office. I've gave my report in the presence of Fanie but I decided he's got to report to Roelf and I must leave. Fanie says, 'No Mac, don't leave the room. I've heard the report you presented and I want you to hear my report.' Foreign Affairs was present in the form of Rusty Evans and Rusty can see there's a huge tussle going on between the army, Meiring and myself. Fanie gives a report which in his own words is the same as mine, is in alignment with mine. 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 it lands nearby so I said, "What helicopter is this? No marking.' 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 have to meet Rusty Evans and 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 obliged to tell you people, the two of you, you're from the TEC, that helicopter has just brought in Constand Viljoen.' Yes. Constand Viljoen and General Meiring are having a meeting on the premises of the High Commission. The helicopter has landed in the High Commission territory and in another cottage the two of them are meeting and Rusty says, 'I've been sitting in on the meeting. They are planning to fly to the palace of Mangope to engage in discussions with Mangope.' I said (Mac), "Thank you very much'. I said to Rusty, 'Who else is there with Constand?' He said, 'Colonel Jan Breytenbach.' (Breytenbach was a former leader of the Recce Unit and he's aligned to Constand.)
So I said, 'Has Breytenbach been here?' Rusty said, 'Yes, he's here, he's on the ground.' This is right in Mmabatho. Jan Breytenbach is there. He had to come in by helicopter, he's been on the ground, on the territory like a Field Commando. I said, 'OK, I want to see General Meiring.' This was about five or six in the afternoon just before it starts getting dark and I told Rusty and Fanie I had to see Meiring. 'I've got to see Meiring, don't tell him why.' At about six, half past six, Meiring walks into the lounge and he simply says, 'We've got to leave now it's getting dark. The helicopter is not equipped to take off in darkness, we've got to leave now.' I said, 'No, 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 but Fanie is quietly supporting me.
I go to the foyer of the High Commissioner's office and phone Union Buildings and I get Cyril on the line. I say, 'Cyril, this is what's happening. Unless you get FW and Madiba to countermand I'm 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 I don't hear what he's talking about, comes back furious and he says, 'Let's fly back.' I say, 'Have you got your instructions?' He says to me that's his business. I said, 'No.' Then I say, 'I'm not going to the room and I want to hear what instructions you've been given.' He said, 'I don't have to obey you.' I said, 'No. The instructions that you are receiving from FW can only be your instructions from the point of view of the TEC. They are instructions agreed to by Mandela sitting with FW at Union Buildings.' Fanie pulled him to one side, comes back to me and says, 'Mac, please, cool it. Their instructions have been given.' I say, ''Are the SADF prohibited from going out of this compound with their tanks to reinstate Mangope?' He says, 'Yes, they can't'. Good. I say 'We'll fly.'
That was Friday. Got back late that night. Cyril and Madiba were not at the Union Buildings, they had left late at night. Contacted Cyril on the phone and he said the TEC Management Committee is meeting tomorrow. It was Friday night, Saturday morning. So we went to the TEC office and I tell Cyril and I tell Joe Slovo. I say, 'Chaps, it's touch and go.' Joe Slovo said, 'What do you want?' I said, 'Adjourn the meeting of the TEC from Pretoria to be held in the High Commissioner's premises.' 'What's your aim?' I said, 'Chaps, we haven't got the military power but if we were on the ground, all of the Management Committee including Colin Eglin and Roelf, we would be able to countermand actions. This is in our power. It's there, we can do it.' Cyril walked out of the meeting, has to go some place, goes and talks one-on-one with Roelf and every now and then I'm being called out, Joe Slovo is being called out by Cyril. I said, 'What's going on Cyril?' He said, 'I am sitting with Roelf, I am sitting hard on him and I am saying we overthrow Mangope.' Roelf comes back and he says to Cyril, 'Now it's agreed, we remove Mangope'. He says, 'How? You're saying we adjourn the Management Committee meeting, we will fly by helicopter immediately to Mmabatho.' Roelf says, 'What will happen with Colin Eglin and the others, they don't know what is 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 was in the country so Pik is flying to Pretoria. I say, 'Roelf, is it 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. This is happening outside the TEC Management room. I said, 'Send Fanie and me with Pik Botha and with 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 go and be 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 says, 'Don't tell them you're going to overthrow Mangope.' I said, 'OK, it's a deal.' Then I say, 'Are you giving that instruction also to General Meiring?' He says, 'Yes.'
So Pik Botha arrives at Wonderboom in his plane. Meiring, Fanie and I board his plane and we flew to Mmabatho and I can see Meiring is uncomfortable. We get to Mafikeng Airport and we go into the VIP lounge and I look at the airport and I can see that the right wing is already controlling part of the airstrip. Constand's right wing are already controlling the airstrip. 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 do we do that? Suddenly I realise, hey wait a minute, is Meiring playing some trick here? It's getting to be night again so I say to Pik Botha, I say, '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 got at the palace.' And Pik says, 'What do you mean?' I say, 'Look, we're going to fly in there, three of us, what happens when we land there and Mangope's elite guard, which in my estimate is about 120 strong, and they are fully armed, camped at his site, what happens if they take us hostage?' And Pik of course screamed and he says, 'You mean to say we could die?' I say, 'Why not? How are we trying to go in there, I haven't heard any of the logistics.' Pik called Meiring and he said 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 a military man should know that. Anyway Meiring goes away, comes back and says there are at least sixty. Pik says, 'How heavily armed are they?' He said, 'They are fully armed.' 'Who are they?' 'They are the elite forces trained by the SADF.'
It's dark now. 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 two or three in the morning.' So Pik says, 'When do we fly?' Meiring says, 'Not until I've got my forces in position.' I say, 'No, no, that's not good enough. We've been sitting here for two to three hours already. By now you could have gotten three or four helicopters fully loaded with soldiers all ready to fly in, land before us, securing the ground and ensuring our helicopter can land.'
So we did that. We flew to Mmabatho at about ten 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 to 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. Mangope tried to buy time. He said, 'Look, I need time, I am prepared to change my views about the elections but I need to discuss it with the IEC.' Pik was virtually agreeing but 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, he was planning to do a radio broadcast and he said, '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 that you are now out of power. You're out, no more talks, no meetings of the Legislative Assembly, no radio addresses or whatever.' Mangope turned bitterly to Pik Botha and attacked 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 ensure his safety which was a way of saying, 'You're now under house arrest'. 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, you've got to put your forces, you've got to disarm his guard.'
We fly off to the High Commissioner's place leaving Meiring behind. When we get in the Management Committee has been sitting there waiting for us. The TEC meeting starts and we report that we came in advance, that we found a situation, that we had to take action immediately but it had been delayed, that we had just come back from the palace of Mangope having removed him from power with Pik Botha, having placed him effectively under house arrest.
My question was, 'So it is your belief that Meiring at that point was playing a double game?' 'Oh yes, Meiring was ready to put the SADF into deployment to reinstate Mangope to power.' 'And was he working with Viljoen?' my question. Mac's answer, 'He was in very close … with Jan Breytenbach and Constand Viljoen. Breytenbach was part of the SADF Commandos and he had 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 said, 'It appears to me then, judging from what you said, that General Meiring was preparing to commit an act of treason.' He interrupted and said, 'He would explain his position as an all-way mandate, as a general mandate of the SA Defence Force to keep the integrity of the territory of Bophuthatswana safe. Previously Mangope had been overthrown, the SADF had flown into the stadium, rescued Mangope in his pyjamas and reinstated him. This had happened before so he would say that was his mandate. 'I saw law and order collapse and I saw my mandate as restoring law and order. The lawful government in my view was Mangope and I therefore saw that mandate as restoring Mangope.' He would say that was not treason. He was operating in the old paradigm of SA and he would then argue that he neutralised the right wing by working together with them.'
That's the whole account.
PB There are quite a few statements which do not reflect the events correctly. I think at this stage, just give me a minute or two –
POM Fine, I'll turn this off and you think. OK Pik, you're starting. You said there were a couple of things.
PB I believe the best version of how President Mangope was deposed, if that is the right word, was written by Mr Roland Darroll. He was my press media liaison officer. He accompanied me on that visit.
POM So he was on that plane?
PB He was on that plane, he was with me.
POM And Mac, Meiring, yourself. Roland was on that plane as well.
PB All the time.
POM Was there anyone else who was on that plane?
PB General Meiring was on the plane and the others he mentioned plus I think my private secretary as well and their version was published in the Sunday Times on 20th March 1994. That has been regarded generally in the country as the correct record of the events that took place there and this is what was reported and no-one, not even Mr Mac Maharaj, ever contradicted one single word in this article.
The first call came at 3.30pm on Saturday. Now that must have been Saturday, March 19th 1994. 'Get ready, we could be off to Mmabatho.' This is now my call to Darroll. After a shower and shave I throw a fresh shirt and toothbrush in my briefcase in case of an overnight stay. At 4pm comes the confirmation, Waterkloof Air Base by 5pm. At the airport a defence force helicopter and Cessna light aircraft stand on the tarmac. All the VIPs are there, Roelf Meyer, Cyril Ramaphosa, Joe Slovo, Mac Maharaj, General Georg Meiring. Pik Botha arrives and the contingent departs in two groups. Mr Botha and General Meiring leave with TEC Executive members Mac Maharaj and Fanie van der Merwe in the Cessna and head for Mmabatho Air Base. The rest are due to fly direct to the SA Embassy by helicopter. Ambassador Chart van der Walt, not High Commissioner, Ambassador Chart van der Walt – there was no High Commissioner there to start with, Ambassador Chart van der Walt awaits the Botha plane on the tarmac at Mmabatho. He makes a vital phone call to the ill-fated President, 'Would he receive Minister Botha?' The reply is positive. So far so good.
There are 100 or so loyal Bophuthatswana Defence Force troops surrounding the house. No-one can predict their mood or their intentions. Contingency plans are made in the event of a shoot-out. It would hardly do for the party to be taken hostage. General Meiring is reassuring. 'I am responsible for your safety, I am taking no chances.' As becomes apparent –
POM Not that I'm interrupting but did you say to General Meiring at one point, 'Do you know what forces Mangope has at his disposal? Have you done anything to ensure our – '
PB Yes, but that is an initiative that came from me, with all respect, and from no-one else. I was in charge of the operation and all the others merely accompanied me and when I was told by Ambassador van der Walt that Mangope would have a guard or troops of his own I then immediately raised the matter and said, 'But how safe are we then if we go there without an escort?'
As becomes apparent the half hour journey to President Mangope's lavish country home at Motsuede, near Zeerust, has been planned with precision. We take off this time in a helicopter which is sitting on its belly with light out at the request of our military protectors. In the last glimmers of the day Mac Maharaj sits opposite in a striped shirt and light track suit borrowed for the hastily arranged occasion. General Meiring is in contact with the two escorting helicopters via mike and headphones. Next to him the craggy outlines of Pik Botha's profile are visible as he gazes into the gathering darkness. What are they thinking? The helicopter pitches forward as we prepare to land. The leading chopper is already on the ground, our troops speedily deployed. Perhaps melodramatically I understand as never before the feelings that must run through young and lean fighting men before they launch themselves into unknown dangers.
After we settle in a rising cloud of dust the real helicopter lowers itself alongside us, a blinding front light gives the impression of an unidentified flying object come to all. Crouched and scurrying figures disgorge from the craft and scatter to the perimeters of the pitch. No shot is fired. We arrived at the President's home at 9pm to be met by a reception committee of three family members, Mr Mangope's son, Kwena(?) wearing shorts and sandals, he is surly. His wife, Rosemary, is attractive in a dress but sombre in expression. Present too is Mr Eddie Mangope head of the Bophuthatswana Broadcasting Corporation. Days before at an encounter there he had dismissed the Ambassador by saying, 'Get out of my sight. You're a pain in the neck.'
President Mangope enters the heavily draped room immediately after our arrival. No time is wasted. He is only slightly less informal than his family in safari suit and patent leather house slippers. The doleful eyes and jowls are more doleful than usual. He shakes our hands. We all sit down. Mr Mangope has Kwena to his left and Eddie on his right. Mr Botha expresses appreciation for our host's willingness to receive us. He begins intoning the last rites. There is a genuine distress at this distressful, albeit essential, task. The Bophuthatswana President had indicated he was not prepared to comply with the requirements of a free and fair election in his territory. A large number of people have died and many more have been wounded.
POM You were saying this?
PB No, the President of Bophuthatswana. A large number of people have died – no, no sorry, I'm saying this to him now. I'm saying to him, I'll repeat it. The Bophuthatswana President had indicated (that's President Mangope) he was not prepared to comply with the requirements of a free and fair election in his territory. A large number of people have died and many more have been wounded. Property has been destroyed. President Mangope is no longer in control. My words. The time has come to ensure law and order. Accordingly it is Mr Botha's painful duty, now me, to inform President Mangope that his government is no longer recognised. Clearly, therefore, he can no longer continue as head of government.
Again my words: Accordingly it is mine, Mr Botha's painful duty to inform President Mangope that his government is no longer recognised. Clearly, therefore, he can no longer continue as head of government. The administration of Bophuthatswana is to be placed under the control of Ambassador van der Walt. The SA government has no other choice. The decision has also been taken for the President's own safety. When Mr Botha finishes Mr Mangope requests permission to respond. His hands tremble slightly, there is the merest trace of a tremor in his voice, his eyes are moist. Quote, President Mangope, "I have done nothing unlawful. I have followed the constitution to the letter", he says quietly. Even the air in the high ceilinged room seems to have ceased breathing. "The ANC is responsible for the unrest", he adds. It has long been their aim to make his country ungovernable. It is strange that we have come two days before parliament would meet. On his recommendation it would have satisfied all election requirements but this is how the mighty deal with the weak.
He has two requests, he glances at his notes prepared beforehand indicating that he had expected something of this kind. Give him a chance until Tuesday to see whether parliament will accede to what is required. Secondly, give him an opportunity to address his people. Of course if we refuse there is nothing he can do. His resigned desperation seems to show that for all his attempts at protest he knows the game is up. "You suggest retirement?" he says, "But I might enter your elections as an individual." He stresses the last word striking his chest with open hands. "To stand for principles I believe in, to expose what has been done to me", he adds. He does not want to debate with us, he merely wants the Foreign Minister to consider. Mr Botha in turn stresses that he never suggested illegality nor anything unconstitutional. He is not a court of law investigating irregularities nor has he come to criticise. He is the bearer of a decision not taken by one person only, a decision which has weighed the deposing of one person against the death of many and the destruction of much.
A debate follows on whether Mr Mangope had insisted on international mediation at his meeting on free electoral activity with the Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission, Judge Johann Kriegler. The deposed President cannot resist a personal bark at Pik Botha. He says, "Judge Kriegler is a friend of mine. I would much rather receive him than you." "Strange", Mr Mangope continues, "that your troops have come here apparently to restore order and now you are taking over unconstitutionally. But does this serve any purpose?" he asks rhetorically. "Perhaps", he sighs, "it does not matter any more." Mac Maharaj enters the solemn ritual, a picador to prepare the bull for the slaughter. "There is no effective control, Mr President, no hospitals, no TV, no radio, no transport, no functioning civil service and divided security forces with arms being stolen and commands being defied. The TEC has been petitioned by 53 senior civil servants from the territory, all of them want re-incorporation, free political activity, security salaries and pensions and security force control." Mr Mangope feebly tries to deflect this spear thrust. "Arms stealing must be investigated", he murmurs, but can he not address parliament?
Eddie Mangope has all the while lounged alongside his father in his New Orleans T-shirt and casual slacks with a mask-like half smile which has played permanently about his lips, he speaks in Setswana to his father who listens attentively. The older man then addresses his visitors in acceptance of what he has just heard. Eventually Mr Botha rises, "Convening parliament will not serve any purpose", Mr Botha says but he will convey Mr Mangope's request to President de Klerk. We each solemnly shake the President's hand. When my turn comes I engage his eyes, I see the haunted look that a hunter sees when he arrives at an antelope that has just been downed. The requiem mass has lasted fifty minutes.
We walk back to the helicopters and return the way we came. This time we head for the Embassy, not the air base. In the Ambassador's dining room we find the TEC Executive Committee waiting. Roelf Meyer looks dapper in his fresh shirt and tie with only a slight redness around the eyes betraying his tiredness. Joe Slovo is there, slightly awry as he munches chips and appears to be only half listening. "This is the first time I've ever been involved in planning a coup", he quips incongruously.
POM Joe Slovo says that?
PB Yes. Cyril Ramaphosa's cool countenance suddenly breaks out into a rare smile. General Meiring, tall and greying like a latter day de Gaulle sits at the end of the table and mutters about the vagaries of politicians. Colin Eglin's benign and balding presence is somehow comforting as if a kind old uncle is present to ensure that no nastiness ensues. Mac Maharaj grasps a brandy goblet. Pik Botha, the only one still wearing a jacket relates what he explained to Mr Mangope. He expresses regret at the toppling of the throne but says the President had brought his present plight upon himself by alienating his people. Apart from the overwhelming need to stem the loss of life and destruction of property the legal basis is well established in international law – a lack of effective control. Mac Maharaj agrees, it was painful exercise but still Mr Mangope had been most coherent. He is a wily opponent and makes much of appeals to human sentiment. He will do anything to buy time. In the meantime he is looking for an opportunity to create resistance. Parliament should not be allowed to reconvene. The broadcasting services should resume so that the public an be informed about the new situation.
Others dismissed the possibility of resistance. Mr Mangope has no cards left. It would be impossible to organise the Bophuthatswana Defence Force or to call the right wing back. These weekend combatants have learned that war is not a hunting expedition -
POM Who is speaking? Is this Darroll?
PB Darroll, but this is also what is happening. – a happy diversion before going back to their farms. Besides the SADF is in control now. The deposed President is an old man with spoilt children on either side urging him to hang on to power, as with another leader in South African history.
The discussion turns to the task at hand, running the territory. The Ambassador will be in command of the administration until the Tuesday meeting of the TEC, then maybe a Council of State can be set up. The new Administrator will need to meet with the secretaries of the government departments to get the state machinery functioning on the ground. Lines of authority from President de Klerk and the TEC downwards are determined. Will it be a good or bad thing if Mr Mandela visits early next week? Since the area is in a state of flux it might be difficult to foresee an unexpected threat to his safety. On the other hand a carefully organised public meeting with the right appeal for calm could help matters. Attention is then given to the draft joint declaration by the SA government and the TEC. Then we leave.
In the aircraft everyone is strangely still. Perhaps the enormity of the night's events, it is 3.30am, is sinking in. Although it will be a footnote to history it is not every night that a Foreign Minister communicates a decision to topple a head of state from his position of power. Another step has been taken in the implacable march towards the new South Africa.
That, my friend, is the version, an abridged version of what took place there that evening. There are many more but this one, in my opinion, is the best. This is the best.
POM The Citizen – if you could give me the dates?
PB 24th March 1994.
POM I can check out their archives unless there's something specific.
PB It is all here, all over. I also found 'Men Of The Right', Sunday Times 20th March 1994, extremely interesting because of this. It is of great importance because this is the version of what took place and with the figures, etc. Col. Jan Breytenbach was chosen by so-and-so to lead the force, mostly farmers. When General Viljoen informed the AVF, now the AVF stands for Afrikaner Vreiheidsfront. It later became just the Freedom Front. Let's carry on.
When General Viljoen informed the AVF Executive, AWB leader Eugene Terre'Blanche sent an aide to Radio Pretoria to broadcast a call for all who were Wen Commandos (that is Winning Commando – that's what they called themselves, the Winning Commando) for all Winning Commando members to report to Ventersdorp. The message is now being investigated by the Independent Broadcasting Authority. Mr Terre'Blanche said he contacted Mr Mangope who asked for help. An hour later they spoke again after the AVF had told Mr Terre'Blanche that Bop Defence Minister, Rowan Cronje, had requested that the AWB stay out. This time Mr Mangope told him the AWB was welcome.
At 2.30pm Mr Mangope's fear that the Police would crack was realised. About 300 Bop Police joined teachers demonstrating at the SA Embassy. On Wednesday SADF headquarters approved a stand-by order for the army's north west region. At 11am the first elements understood to be parabats on a rapid deployment exercise near (it's a town) were moved forward to Klip Pan(?) off the Zeerust road 30 minutes from the border. On Thursday stand-by was reduced to six to two hours and at 7pm elements including two special services battalions were deployed from Zeerust to Klip Pan.
President FW de Klerk met Foreign Minister Pik Botha at Waterkloof Air Base at 10.30pm. They finally agreed to heed calls for intervention around midnight. Within 10 minutes Brigadier Johan Coetzee, the Officer Commanding the army's north west region, had ordered units in Potchefstroom to head for Mmabatho. The first SADF convoy of about 15 vehicles, including troop carries, armoured jeeps and supply lorries, crossed the border at 4.30am on Friday arriving at the Embassy at 5.20am. A total of about 1400 SA Defence Force members were involved in the move into Bophuthatswana, including South African Medical Services staff who took over care of neglected patients in deserted hospitals and SADF transport crews.
The SAP (South African Police) also began moving on Thursday. As Bop Police officers informed the SAP of increasing desertions, Commissioner Johan van der Merwe ordered Internal Stability Division Commanders, General Adrian de la Rosa and Major General Wynand van der Merwe to over-fly Mmabatho in an unmarked helicopter. That is the reason why it was unmarked, it was because of fear that they would be shot at from the ground. They returned shocked and … a Pretoria based national reaction group was ordered to the border at Rooisand, (it's a farm – red soil), together with I & D Sections from Rustenburg, Lichtenberg and Potchefstroom the unit numbered 200 men. Meanwhile the AVF and the AWB were massing at Mmabatho Airport. Estimates of their maximum strength in Bophuthatswana vary from 1300 to more than 3000. Mr Terre'Blanche said that during the night he was taken to BDF headquarters (that's Bophuthatswana Defence Force headquarters) where General Turner asked him to leave as the 3000 AVF men were enough. Mr Terre'Blanche resisted and a call to Mr Cronje resolved that the AWB could stay if they removed their insignia and accepted joint command of the AVF and BDF.
Here was unity. All it needed was equipment to go and stiffen the resolve of the BDF, have the combined forces restored some sort of order there would have been no excuse to deploy the SADF. The right wing would have gained its foothold in its own geographic area however briefly but the weapons did not arrive. Bophuthatswana Defence Force soldiers angered by their white officers collaborating with the invaders disobeyed orders to load the guns. Shortly before 5am on Friday General Turner again insisted that the AWB pull out. The AWB ignored him and that morning convoys of ten or more vehicles headed into Mafikeng shooting and terrorising innocents. AVF soldiers blamed AWB hooliganism for spoiling the operation. Colonel Breytenbach and AWB General Alec Cruywagen began a furious slanging match. When the AWB moved out in ragtag order they shot up villages before running into a BDF security force roadblock outside Mafikeng where the soldiers and Police had opened up on the convoy. Two wounded men were later publicly executed in Police custody.
The bulk of the AVF force began pulling out. By dusk only 150 remained. General Viljoen flew in and ordered them not to hand over the airport to anyone other than the SADF which arrived at 6.30pm and escorted the last remnants out of Bophuthatswana. Machine gun fire and the thump of mortars could be heard across Mmabatho as the right wingers were ambushed in four places. The only shot fired in anger by the SADF was at a looter who was hit in the shoulder. By midnight the SADF had full control of the streets. The quiet professionalism of the SADF soldiers answered a major question, in a crisis the SADF can be counted on to be loyal and to be able to use minimum force. By Friday this week the SA Police had recovered looted property worth R2 million excluding 15 … and computers worth R400 000-00 found in a house with no beds.
The final death toll including five from the AVF stands at 29. The policemen who executed the wounded AWB men have been identified but can't be found. The AVF army has melted away, it's members now back at work. They are invisible until next time.
This is what happened before. So I would really be very, very wary. Here is The Sowetan, 14th March.
POM Who wrote the article in The Sunday Times that you were just reading from?
PB Sunday Times, just a second. Peter Deionno, Dirk van Eeden and Ray Hartley. Ray Hartley is still a very senior political analyst and contributor to papers in this country. It is very, very interesting. This is The Sowetan report from their own reporters and SAPA, 14th March.
President Lucas Mangope was finally ousted yesterday but over 60 people lost their lives in a week of drama and high tension that changed the face of the Western Transvaal region. As tensions eased yesterday Mangope was said by his former confidante, Mr Rowan Cronje, to have accepted his removal from office. Mangope was removed from office by South African Minister Mr Pik Botha and Transitional Executive Council member Mr Mac Maharaj following a late night flight into the capital Mmabatho on Saturday. Anger grew among residents as the immensity of the loss of black lives partly through random shootings by ultra right wingers on Friday came to the fore.
They then go on and quote the new Administrator, Mr Chart van der Walt. He told a media briefing in Mmabatho that schools and government offices were expected to be opening normally from today. He said the Commissioner of Police, General P J Seleki, had been removed from office – and so on.
… takes over. Van der Walt new Administrator in Bop. This comes from Cape Times it seems to be. Citizen, Star – that's Beeld, Tuesday, 'The Fall of Lucas Mangope'. Can we just look here for a moment. Sunday March 13th - SA Foreign Minister Pik Botha announces that Mangope has been deposed and replaced by van der Walt. End of the story.
There was just no way with all respect that Mr Mac Maharaj had at that moment any power to oust Mangope. He agreed with me –
POM Oh sorry, I don't think he's saying that. The point I think he was making was that before you arrived on the scene, having been instructed by President de Klerk –
PB No, no, no, what happened was Mr de Klerk phoned me that Sunday at about 10, 11, 12 o'clock and he said to me that Mr Mandela was very concerned about the events and he too, Mr de Klerk. I was of course also concerned because Ambassador van der Walt fell under my jurisdiction, he was my ambassador, and at the deteriorating situation since these right wingers went in there and shot up just about everything there. So there you see Mr de Klerk and I met earlier. I think that Friday, whenever, as we read here, and decided to send in troops. It was our decision. I strongly recommended it. I then warned him, I said to him it might become necessary.
POM Now just under the TEC structures, is that a decision that would also – the TEC would be informed of?
PB At least Mr Mandela. The moment Mr Mandela was informed then it's OK, then it was all right. The moment Mr de Klerk and Mandela agreed on any point then there was agreement, although both very often said I must consult my committee or my caucus or whatever. Yes, that is also true and it is also true that surely sometimes when they did this consultation they listened to, what shall we call them, their subordinates and followed their advice. But once you deal with a situation of this nature you do not really have much time for committees to have agendas and notes and minutes, you must act. You just had a week of shooting there and burning and destruction and here comes the weekend now.
I remember Mr de Klerk phoning me that Sunday morning and saying he thought that I should go to Bophuthatswana immediately to, I think that Mr Maharaj even somewhere admits, and oversee the whole situation and see what can be done. I then made it clear to him in my telephone conversation with Mr de Klerk, I said there is no way out of this but to depose Mangope, he must get out. If he does not get out now, 'Mr President', I said, 'then we are just prolonging the agony and the problems and the fighting.' Then Mr de Klerk asked me can it be done constitutionally, legally, what is my opinion, what do we do here now in terms of the existing law? And I said to him, 'To put in bluntly, Mr President, we are in effect occupying another country by force just as you normally do in any war situation and just as the British occupied the Transvaal and Free State Republics and crushed them and took over power, that is more or less the same position in international law. Once you are in effective control of a territory that you've invaded then that's it, that's the law. Unfortunately that's how the law works'. And I said to him, 'From all my conversations with Ambassador van der Walt it is clear to me that we are reaching a situation where the SADF will have to take over full control. Mangope is not in control any more, not of his own public service, not of his Police, not of his defence force, not even of the hospitals. He has no-one supporting him.'
POM I suppose what I'm saying – in a way your accounts don't clash because in the account I read he says once you got there you were in charge and you were the thing. I suppose you can't comment on – the only person who can is General Meiring and Fanie because they were the only two there and that is Meiring, it's an earlier point, this is before you – this is when Meiring and Fanie and Mac had gone in before, on the Friday not the Saturday, OK? When Meiring said, he behaved like he's chairing the meeting. He said, '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 force of Bophuthatswana'. I suppose my point is Mac was saying to him, 'No, that's not your mandate at all.' That was on the Friday, not the Saturday. That's when they flew back, reported and you were called in.
PB Let us put it this way. What is that expression, the coup de grâce was jointly administered and as I read to you from here I was the person to announce it and to convey it but it was jointly administered by the SA government and the ANC.
POM What I am saying is that what you're not in a position to say, which I'll have to check out with the other people that you've mentioned and that he's mentioned, is that whether General Meiring actually when he got their first with Fanie and Mac who had gone ahead on the Friday with Meiring, when Meiring said, 'I see part of my mandate as to reinstate, to stabilise the situation, restore law and order and reinstate.'
PB Quite possible. I'll tell you why. In that aircraft –
POM No, this is before your going with them. This would have been on the Friday.
PB Yes but even when I went there Meiring did speak to me and appeal to me to handle Mangope in a gentle manner. I could clearly see that he was personally not in agreement with the idea to depose him but that he would obey any order from the President of this country who is the Chief Commander also of Meiring. I had no doubt in my mind, I did not always agree with Meiring and lately we had a disagreement, we can talk about it, but on that occasion I vividly remember that he acted exactly like a professional soldier and complied with every command, demand or instruction from his boss the President of the country.
POM But until he received those instructions directly from the President he might have said –
PB Well up to that time there was no decision to depose Mangope.
POM That's right, so he could have said –
PB The decision to depose Mangope was reached that Sunday morning when Mr de Klerk phoned me at about 10 o'clock. Up to that point there was no – there might have been recommendations – but the decision is taken and can only be taken by a person who has the capacity to take it.
POM So that's on the Sunday before you actually – the Sunday you and President de Klerk meet, you agree Mangope must go –
PB No, no. We decided to send in the troops, send in the SADF troops –
POM OK that was on the Sunday, to stabilise the situation.
PB Now we're very completely confused, completely. I think we must get our dates right. The first call came at 3.30 on Saturday, that Saturday is the Saturday before Sunday 20 March. So that must have been – I can give it to you exactly, 13th March.
POM The 13th of March was the Sunday on which you and President de Klerk talked and decided that troops –
PB No, no, that's when we went to Mafikeng to topple Mangope. 13th March, Sunday. All your papers on Monday 14th March reported what happened yesterday, namely Mangope was axed. He was therefore axed on Sunday 13th March.
POM So you would have flown in on Sunday?
PB Sunday, that Sunday, yes. That's correct. On that Sunday. At 5 o'clock we left.
POM Not the Saturday?
PB Sorry, sorry I'm completely wrong. Saturday, we went right through the night.
POM Yes, OK.
PB Sorry, it is that Saturday the 12th we flew in but remember we went through the night and we must have arrived at Mangope's place, here it is stated: we came back at 3.30 in the morning.
POM Sunday morning you'd be flying back. OK.
PB That's right.
POM So when you had your talk with de Klerk that would have been on the Saturday?
PB The 12th. That's quite correct.
POM But Fanie and Mac had gone their with Meiring on the 11th. Then they had come back to Pretoria and left with you on the 12th. OK?
POM So that's the conversation I'm referring to when I say he said General Meiring behaved – that would have been on the 11th.
PB Yes. But on the Thursday before that Saturday now I had a meeting with Mr de Klerk.
POM That would have been on the 10th.
PB Yes the 10th.
POM You talked with de Klerk.
PB Yes, at Waterkloof Air Base. And there we agreed that our troops must move in.
POM So when Meiring got there he could legitimately, since no instruction had been given at that point –
PB No instruction was given at that point to topple Mangope. The instruction was basically to move in and restore law and order.
POM OK. So when Mac says that Meiring behaved 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 force of Bophuthatswana, he could have said that legitimately seeing that as being his mandate.
PB Yes except it's an unfortunate choice of words to talk about reinstating Mangope because he had not been deposed at all. You can only reinstate a President if the President had been axed. You see what I mean? We must find a word which will express the correct situation, namely to support him or to make sure that he is in effective control. What was happening at that time is Mangope was losing control.
POM You mentioned in an interview we did last year, you were talking about that he was living in a different world because you said he supplied you with –
PB That whole week the whole place was in a volatile situation with shooting, destruction, looting taking place and President Mangope quite obviously on the basis of - In this volatile turbulent situation a lot of us became extremely worried. It was clear to me and Mr de Klerk that unless Mangope agreed to free and fair elections, which at that stage he didn't, and Judge Kriegler did his best also in discussions with Mr Mangope to persuade him to agree and he did not succeed. It was when Judge Kriegler told me that he couldn't succeed that I at least decided to myself there was no way that we could move forward. Now it is very interesting to see the reactions, apropos of your questions, to see the reactions of General Viljoen. Here it is according to editorial comment in The Citizen of 14th March 1994. This is what the editor wrote.
Even the ambivalent General Constand Viljoen, former chairman of the Afrikaner Volksfront and now leader of the Freedom Front, appears to be shocked saying the toppling of Mr Mangope affected hopes of an all-inclusive settlement, not even to mention participation in the election. However, General Viljoen's threats and switches in policy, he admits he is politically naïve, have not been taken seriously these past few weeks and his latest concerns are not going to be taken seriously either. The fact is that Mr Mangope has been ousted by what is tantamount virtually to a South African government/ANC coup and nothing will change this.
This was the editorial comment of The Citizen on Monday 14th March and I think it is correct. General Meiring up to the time that President de Klerk phoned him, or that we got into that aircraft at Waterkloof that Saturday, could have with a measure of justification, could have believed that these are his tasks: restore law and order, effective control, stop the looting, fighting and burning down of structures and –
POM Keep Mangope in power.
PB No not so much keep him in power, try to ensure that there is an effective government because that's what you need. You need a decision making organism, structure, whatever you want to call it. If he can do so, he's losing control it's obvious, but if through your actions of restoring law and order you can also restore efficient control for a government headed by Mangope that would have been, in my opinion, within the framework of his duties until the Saturday. That was then, for the first time it was changed, now it was depose him and he gave me his full co-operation in making the arrangements, flying out there, sending in troops in advance. They were there and after all, if you think about it, we left here because the facts can't be changed neither by me nor by Mr Maharaj, the facts are that we left here at five o'clock, or past five –
POM On Saturday.
PB On Saturday. We must have arrived there 6/6.30. We had meetings before. I had to speak to Rowan Cronje, to Chart van der Walt, the Ambassador, make sure that I have the latest facts at my disposal.
POM His name is Rowan Cronje?
PB Cronje. He had a very interesting history. He was a minister in Ian Smith's Cabinet at one stage for many, many years and then when things crashed there he was working for Lenexa Sebe who was President of Ciskei and then he got kicked out there and President Mangope appointed him minister in his Cabinet. Cronje was one of his – well I would say one of his best ministers.
POM He was the person who represented Bop at the negotiations?
PB Yes, yes, together with others.
POM But he was the main man.
PB He was virtually, I would say, the main – I won't say mean machine but the main machine behind or within the Bophuthatswana negotiating team which wasted our time over months and months. You mustn't forget that by this time in March 1994 just before the elections we had gone through two, three years of trying to persuade Mangope to take part in the elections and have his country reincorporated into the Republic of South Africa. We had meetings with them for hours and hours and hours and as Minister of Foreign Affairs I regarded it as one the biggest nuisances that I had to endure knowing that there was no way that Bophuthatswana could stay out of the elections. There was just no way, the country would have crushed by rebellion or uprisings and what have you. Hundreds and thousands of Tswana citizens were working here and were members of the ANC. It was that simple.
POM You said here the last year that his support was maybe about 4% in the country, you said he might have – he didn't, you said amazing. You talked about how he gave you numbers of – COSATU was organising their union. You said he gave you numbers that were absolutely ridiculous.
PB Completely ridiculous.
POM At best he had 3% or 4% of support in the country.
PB In the trade unions.
POM Let me move it around a bit. Look I've asked over the years, I return to questions with people, I have kind of recurring questions: what were the important turning points in the whole negotiating process and everybody mentions the usual ones, the big one that comes up is the Record of Understanding, but no-one ever mentions Bop, the fall of Bop. It's always seemed to me that that perhaps was the crucial event and I will tell you why. Number one, if the situation had not been created in which the SADF went in and Bop stayed out you would have had a country coming into being that was immediately unstable. The ANC were certainly not going to allow him to stay out, period. Number two, it might have affected the manner in which Buthelezi finally decided to come into the elections after that, not before. Then the third point is that was Terre'Blanche effective, made things happen. Did Terre'Blanche by the stupidity and the absolutely outrageous behaviour of his members create a situation that made the deposing of Mangope inevitable? That the right wing played its part in pulling Bop into South Africa and having elections there?
PB You put it very well. I think it is not realistic to say a single event in this whole process of negotiations constituted a turning point because what is your definition of a turning point? What you can say at most is that the failure of negotiations was warded off because of certain agreements that were reached or certain events that took place. I look at it rather that way, from a negative point of view. The derailing of the discussions, talks, negotiations were prevented by agreements that were reached very often in difficult circumstances and that Memorandum of Understanding is certainly one. This event in Bophuthatswana is certainly also one. It is not possible for me here today to weigh or to give points or quantify the importance. All I can say is both warded off a potential disaster, both prevented a potential disaster and this was the last one. You are quite right. Ironically the ANC owe Terre'Blanche a lot. If it was not for the mess he created there, everybody moaned about the mess, including myself as Foreign Minister because that was the last thing I needed at that stage. He made it possible for us to send in our troops with complete justification and once our troops were in and controlled the situation we could depose Mangope and by deposing him elections could take place all over Bophuthatswana.
POM So Eugene sitting wherever he is these days doesn't know his own contribution to history. Not quite the one he wanted but – He was in an odd way the instrument of elections being able to take place in a free and fair manner.
PB However much I deprecated and however much I was angered by the short-sightedness of Terre'Blanche looking back the mess up he caused did two things. The immediate one was that it enabled us to move in there with justification, deposing Mangope and opening the way for Bophuthatswana to take part in the elections and to be reincorporated into the country. Secondly, up to that stage the right wing was feared very, very much in this country. General Viljoen came to me two to three weeks before the elections, when I was still Minister of Foreign Affairs he came to see me in the Union Buildings, asking me whether I was aware and whether the government members were aware of the tremendous emotional build-up against us amongst the whites and particularly the Afrikaner, whether we were aware of the potential conflict that would ensue after the elections, mentioning in so many words civil war, rebellion. At that stage it is true that quite a number of whites were storing, were stockpiling provisions in their cupboards, tinned food, things like that, food with a long shelf life.
POM Like the Americans are doing now.
PB Yes. Each expecting a great blood bath conflict immediately before or after or during the elections. I then said to General Viljoen, 'Look, I do move around, as Minister I do not have the same freedom of movement that you might have with the ordinary people out there, but I do have friends who do so and I do meet with them and I can hardly believe that the Afrikaner will rise as a group, as a nation and take up arms against a government that is democratically elected'. He then said to me, 'Minister, please I've come to warn you and to caution you.' Those were his farewell words. And this I will say for him, about three to four weeks after the election when I was Minister of Mineral & Energy Affairs he asked to see me again and he came to see me. He came and we had a very brief discussion, merely to come and say, 'I've come to tell you I was wrong, you were right.' Those were his words. What we feared did not happen.
This brings me back to the events in Bophuthatswana. In several meetings with top ANC members, at least one including Mr Mandela himself, there was a real firm fear of the right wing and particularly the Afrikaner right wing in this country. As a matter of fact on one occasion Mr Mandela blamed me, he almost – didn't lose his temper, he was not inclined to do so – but he was a little bit upset that we the National Party at that stage should pay so much attention to Buthelezi and court Buthelezi and that we are, those were his words, 'You are driving away the dangerous right wing, people talking your language, they are part of you. You are driving [them] away and they are the danger. They can cause a lot of havoc in this country. Can't you concentrate on ways and means to draw them back, to bring them closer, to talk to them?' So when that thing happened in Bophuthatswana now I think that did destroy that fear on the part of the ANC, that they need to fear any source of potential rebellion from that source.
POM In a way you're suggesting that almost until Bop happened that even though Buthelezi was still outside of the process and saying he would not participate in elections and you had a history of an ongoing war there of 15 years, the ANC in assessing threat was still assessing a greater threat as coming from the white right wing than from what Buthelezi might do if he did not allow elections to take place?
PB That is correct because they knew at that stage also that Buthelezi did receive support in the past from the SA Security Forces so if that support was cut off or not flowing any more – there is no question in my mind that within the top ANC ranks there was a greater fear of the white right wing than there was a fear of Buthelezi.
POM Now you said and you were one of, and I can go back and find it, one of these many marked pages but God knows which one, when we were talking about Buthelezi coming in at the end, you talked about when he got something, he got the recognition of the monarchy of –
PB There was this international mediation.
POM Yes but he never got that.
PB No. Well that was very important and still is today to him. You mustn't underestimate that. That was the major thing. There was a gentleman from Kenya who came here and in the last moments saved the situation. He arrived late when he had to see Buthelezi at the airport, Buthelezi's plane had taken off and something went wrong with the engine and they turned back. Buthelezi saw in that an act of God, a pre-destined act of God and the two got on and this gentleman from Kenya (I'll find his name somewhere) then phoned me because we were working very closely together the two of us.
POM You and the Kenyan?
PB The Kenyan man. He was brought to me, the Kenyan man, through a member of my Africa Division in the Department of Foreign Affairs. There was some official who knew him very well and so we came into contact and I said to him, 'Please, try your best. If you can get Buthelezi to agree to take part', that was after Kissinger was here and Peter Carrington, they had gone and so on and Buthelezi was holding out and so on. He was of course, I think the Bop event must have contributed also to some extent.
It's interesting just to note this one editorial here. "Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the head of KwaZulu and leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party is a likely next target."
POM This was said in The Citizen on the 14th, after Mangope.
PB "He is a homeland, not an independent state, and it will only need similar well-staged upheavals for pressure to mount on Chief Buthelezi. He has opted not to take part in the election but with or without his consent the election will be held in KwaZulu. The ANC, the government and the Independent Electoral Commission will see to that. We have urged the dissenters in the Freedom Alliance to take part in the election and register."
I think the event in Bop must have made a contribution also to Buthelezi's thinking, yes, that he'd better take part. But I was there that day, it was two, three weeks before the election, the ballot papers were printed, the NP's name appeared at the bottom and our posters were already out or rather our propaganda material "Vote at the bottom to get to the top", "If you want to get to the top vote at the bottom", and we had to relinquish our position there.
POM To him. I remember that. I want to turn to – well you said you had a bit of a dispute with General Meiring.
PB A book was published –
POM This book is called "The Generals"?
POM I have it right here.
PB And in that book he refers to me in rather unflattering terms.
POM I've marked that, it's here.
PB As I say, not so complimentary.
POM I was going to ask you to comment on what he said.
PB I think he was trapped, he and others, in saying these things to the author of that book not knowing that it was going to be used in that form. I believe that. The fact of the matter is he was – you know I suppose military people all over the world have a specific mode, manner of thinking, acting and planning. They are not politicians, very seldom do you get an Eisenhower or a Powell. They are of a different mould. In simple terms they are trained to identify a target or the enemy, then to see to it that they have the necessary men, arms, ammunition and means to attack and to destroy. Not much flexibility is left in that kind of typical military thinking, planning and way of going about things. There isn't much room for flexibility.
I remember it so well, General Malan accompanying me on most of my visits to Cairo, to Brazzaville, all over the world where we had discussions over years on the withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola and the independence of what was then called South West Africa, now Namibia. It always struck me that they had a need before leaving to have a document setting out purpose of the discussions, the pros and cons of doing this or agreeing to this or not agreeing to this, and so forth. Well I rejected this throughout. I said, 'This thing is like playing soccer or rugby, you can have the best coach and plan on the sidelines but the battle is won on the field where you must make quick decisions and you cannot be instructed and mandated beforehand on how to react. This I think, with respect, epitomises or defines the difference between typical military thinking and diplomatic foreign affairs thinking and it was also prevalent here in SA with the military establishment seeing a severe threat from the Soviet Union, 50/55000 Cuban troops in our neighbourhood supported by the Soviet Union, they saw in it a real threat.
POM I was going to ask you about that in terms of the total onslaught. Did the fear of that, was that 'manufactured' by the military and sold to the politicians who in turn sold it to the population?
PB No it is not so simple. The newspapers here extensively reported on activities in our neighbouring states, bombs that exploded inside SA killing people, the newspapers reported on that and these terrorists or freedom fighters, depending on which side you are, came from across our borders. It was a fact that there were 50 000 Cubans troops in Angola, that the Portuguese authority came to an end. In the case of Mozambique power was at least handed over in a legal manner to Samora Machel and we could therefore recognise him. In the case of Angola it was different, the warring factions eventually there did not comply with the Alvor(?) Agreement (I think) of Portugal in that they would have governed together the three parties, FNLA, MPLA and Unita. They would have governed together for a number of months and then elections were to be held. The Portuguese governor fled or went back, disappeared, and the Cuban troops were brought in and this was extensively reported on and read by the people of this country and they saw in it right across the country as a severe threat. The military definitely warned –
POM Severe threat of communism?
PB More so, more than communism. You're now dealing with – there were many whites in this country who saw us fighting now on the Orange River and not on the Kunene River any more. That is a fact and lectures were held and the military had information gathered on how many tanks there were in Angola, 300, 200, in Zimbabwe 200, 300, in Mozambique 200, 300, and how our aircraft could not really fly across the border any more without being detected by radar installations all over our borders and how a typical Russian bomber or aircraft could hit Johannesburg from air bases in our neighbouring states. All this was published, was reported and people seem to forget it.
POM What I'm getting at I suppose is this, as a child growing up in very, very Catholic Ireland communism was regarded as a satanic evil and after mass on every Sunday, at the end of every mass there would be three Hail Mary's said for the conversion of Russia. I remember as a child that there was one man who actually ran in a local election as a communist and he was a bus driver and I remember looking at every bus driver to see which one, I knew that he was damned, that if he fell dead he would go … right to hell. In America they built bomb shelters for nuclear threats, kids did all kinds of drills. There was inculcated fear of the threat of Russia. Was there among the people here, the public, that this total onslaught would invade the country, that it would be taken over, a communist regime installed and that Afrikaner values and Christian values would be emasculated and –
PB Yes there was a fear.
POM - heretical communism with everything that came with the take-over.
PB Yes, you put it very shortly, or rather you are summarising the fear quite realistically. Yes that was there, that was there.
POM I'm asking you that in the context because people who write about apartheid, oceans of books, you're probably aware of them and even the TRC kind of saw oh when separate development was not working then PW Botha came up with this idea of the total onslaught to justify all his actions –
PB It is not that simple because don't forget under President Reagan the Americans were as much anti Soviet Union as we were.
POM That's what I'm saying. Are people who say historians, or whatever, or people who write about apartheid are dismissive of the total onslaught as, 'Listen, they created that as an excuse'. They're not understanding what people really felt.
PB No, the fact of the matter is in this country apartheid was not created by a Cabinet, 18 or 20 ministers. We were bound by our conferences. Each province had to have a party conference once a year where rank and file from across the province come in and your various branches from all over the place, the rural areas, the small towns, they are there and they insist on more strict action to curb this danger. It was right through. People who tried to make this out to be a South African government invention don't know what they're talking about. It was in the Church Councils, in the Sport Councils, in the Women's Leagues, in the Agricultural Unions, everywhere.
POM Did they make a differentiation between enfranchising Africans and the total onslaught, communism, or did they see the two as the same?
PB Very much the same, the one supported by the other, and this is the biggest mistake that we ever made. This was the biggest mistake. After having lost the Anglo Boer War and 26000 women and children went through that trauma, that painful experience of very poor people living under dire circumstances, returning to their farms all scourged and burnt down, to start with what was nothing, no markets, no nothing, trying to get hold again of a few cattle somehow, somewhere, with many mining companies giving those farmers – buying their mineral rights for nothing, for a few pounds and so on. Now I have not seen anyone yet writing or analysing the trauma. I nowadays read a lot about trauma and then you get counsel to help you out of your depression. In those days there was not such a thing, you just had to suffer it alone all by yourself and out of that trauma grew not so much a bitterness against the British but rather a desire to rise to get back Afrikaner power and never to lose it ever again but to hold on to it, never to have something like the Anglo Boer War and the poverty that ensued, we do not want to experience this again. I think one must try to understand that to understand how this whole thing then came about because General Smuts of the United Party also practised apartheid. They sometimes made worse laws or equally evil and then where we made the greatest, greatest mistake ever was that the generation that followed upon the generation which participated in the Anglo Boer War, and the next one for that matter, forgot the tremendous trauma, poverty and suffering of the Boer people and what injustice can do to people, a nation. We forgot that. Instead of honouring our leaders who could tell us at any early stage in the fifties, at least as far back as then, that sooner or later we're a minority. Today they might all be farm workers and mine workers, the blacks but sooner or later they are going to demand to have rights, to have better treatment and not to be treated like this. They were here when we came here 300 years ago. That deviation, I have not seen anybody explaining that properly in South African history. Maybe it's partly due to the fact that until the second world war the whole of Europe couldn't care less about blacks in Africa in any case. The Belgian Congo didn't care, the British didn't care in their colonies. The French were the best, they took out leaders from their colonies, educated them in France and even gave them a seat in their parliament and that way ensured brotherhood and friendly relations much longer than any of the other –
POM Algeria was French.
PB Colonial power. But this idea didn't dawn, it didn't come through to the Afrikaner partly due to his trauma of the past, partly due to a whole world that couldn't care less. I remember the Belgian Ambassador speaking in the United Nations after the second world war saying that the Belgian Congo might become independent in eighty years, eight zero, eighty years. In other words that was then Belgian government thinking in 1946/47/48. That was Belgian government thinking.
Now that same thinking would have existed here. The generalisation that if the Belgian Congo could only become independent in eighty years the blacks here also need perhaps eighty years before they can get right. It was a general world type of opinion and if it wasn't for the Indian delegation, it was the Indian delegation who raised the issue of the treatment of Indians against the United Party government of Smuts after the second world war that started world action against South Africa. If it wasn't for that –
POM The Indian delegation to?
PB The United Nations.
POM OK. They raised the issue of the treatment of Indians in South Africa.
PB Yes. And SA was supported at that time by Britain and the whole commonwealth except India. So it was the Indians who started the international campaign against SA and then when Dr Malan came to power he coined the phrase apartheid. What I'm trying to say to you is, coming back to your question, it was difficult for me as Minister of Foreign Affairs on the one hand to refute military intelligence saying there are so many tanks, this is the force, 50 000 Cuban troops. What do you do in Foreign Affairs if they succeed in coming south and cross the border? Where do you want us to stop them, where?
On the other hand dealing with the Americans and the United Nations it was also clear to me as Minister of Foreign Affairs that it was highly unlikely that the Americans would in such an event sit with folded hands and not react, particularly if they invade Namibia, South West Africa, because Namibia was regarded by the UN of which the Americans were the most prominent contributor. How could they say they want SA out of Namibia and now they allow the Soviet Union into Namibia? No, I had doubts about that. Also in many conversations with Chester Crocker and others their point of view was, 'Look, you are attracting the Russians. Your policy of apartheid is causing us headaches. We share your fear of the Soviet Union stirring up regional trouble in Afghanistan, elsewhere in the world. Yes, that fear we share as a general global fear but we want to say to you South Africans, you whites, through your policy you are attracting them. You are giving them an excuse to do what they do in Angola and elsewhere in the southern African region. If you can abandon apartheid that excuse will fall away and then it will be easier to deal with it and their inclusion and creation of havoc and intrigue in various regions of the world.'
In other words it was not so easy when you lived in certain years or time on earth with the availability of the information at your disposal at such a stage, it is not always easy to determine what must now be done in order to secure an orderly, prosperous future. That is a very difficult thing to determine.
POM This probably will require – it may be a speculative question or it may not be. If there had been no association between the ANC and the SACP do you think that negotiations with the ANC to bring about the end of apartheid would have started much earlier? Or was their association with the ANC used as a convenient excuse not to do so because everything could be stated in terms of communism and not in terms of legitimate demands?
PB Can I put it to you this way? What appeared to us, the perception which was not a correct perception, that the ANC was the same as the SACP, virtually no difference, Joe Slovo and the ANC leaders were the same, they were fighting for the same cause, that cause being to introduce communism into SA and make us a satellite state of Moscow, yes. That perception was held until a very, very late stage, even virtually until just before the Soviet Union crumbled. That changed it completely then but until that stage or shortly before that stage, late eighties, it was a fact that the vast majority of whites believed there was no difference between an ANC member and a Communist Party member, they had the same purpose, which is unfortunate. This was another grave mistake we have made, namely the reliability of the information available to the government of the day was obviously (today I can see it clearly) inadequate, dangerously inadequate. We concentrated, our security services concentrated on military threats, bombs, take-overs, that they were very good at, at explaining to us for hours at sessions requiring, therefore, more money in the budget to plan and buy more arms and manufacture more arms to halt this threat.
I really blame myself today, I can't escape this criticism that I must level at myself, and I also blame to some extent the Americans and the Europeans because they had excellent, and might still have although after the attack on the Twin Towers I doubt how excellent the intelligence services of the Americans really is, but nevertheless surely they had agents here, surely they knew the ANC people. The ANC personalities and representatives were stationed all over Europe particularly in London, a major office. I cannot recall as Foreign Minister a single instance where a British Foreign Secretary or a French or German or American ever took the trouble to call me aside and say, 'Pik, look, let's have a tête-à-tête, we know you are sensitive to criticism on apartheid and things like that but don't your government realise that within the ranks of the ANC you have excellent people, brainy people, well educated people.'
POM Wasn't this the function of Niel Barnard?
PB As Intelligence but the Police had its own intelligence service, National Intelligence Service and Military Intelligence Service.
POM Were they sharing information with each other or were they all - ?
PB No. PW Botha tried to force them into a joint committee where they had to launder and come together and see whether the information they were supplying could be verified by all three and whether they agreed on what recommendations to make to the government and so on because jealousy was rife in their ranks always. That is why when Mr Mandela's Cabinet was formed and he had to take a look at the National Intelligence Service, I was then Minister of Mineral & Energy Affairs, I warned him and the Cabinet of the day, I said to the ANC Ministers that they will regret it if they do not disband the NIS, 'You must disband it and something totally new must be created but with a different purpose than this. We are not going to threatened by any conventional force for 30 or 100 years, maybe never again. Our threats will be gangsters, murder, drugs and people like that and for that purpose, yes, we need an intelligence service but if you continue to build on the intelligence service that served my government', I told them. They tapped my phone, I was a Minister in the government and they tapped my phone. These were my words, they will remember it. Mac Maharaj must have heard it.
But be that as it may the fact of the matter is this country was not informed and even our English language papers – here they are! You can page through it if you like my dear friend, you can page from the beginning to the end. Here the English language papers were far more critical of government activity or actions or policy than the Afrikaans speaking papers. Yes, yes, yes. But they also saw a real threat very often in the Cubans in Angola, a Soviet threat. Don't forget, we mustn't forget the Kennedy incident when Khrushchev had his ships sailing towards Cuba and Kennedy said, 'Well we're going to stop you on the high seas.' The whole world expected a world war within 24 or 36 hours, whenever that time limit was for the American fleet to meet with the Soviet ships.
My point to you is we were not informed of the quality of the enemy. This is the point I'm trying to make, of the quality of the enemy. The enemy then being the ANC cum the SA Communist Party. We knew about Joe Slovo, yes, and so on and because quite a number of whites were also communists. But within SACP was a dark, sinister organisation intent on murdering and killing and we were not informed, apart from Mr Mandela and the few on Robben Island, and even those on Robben Island very few whites would ever have told you at that time that there was a Walter Sisulu or whatever or a Mac Maharaj. Nobody knew them, didn't know they existed, and this is what I'm trying to say to you. Historically speaking I think the severest mistake – my instructions to my Ambassadors, and they can confirm it, all of them, those who are still there and those who have retired, 'You report to me not what I want to hear. You report to me from Britain or from France or from wherever the situation as it exists there and what those governments think of us and what are the dangers to us from an economic point of view, from a sanctions point of view. That I want to have raw even if it hurts, even if it burns, I want to have it.' That is why I am still proud today of the Department of Foreign Affairs that I led. They did so. My point to you is why didn't –
POM But were you listened to or were you in the end, I won't say over-ruled, but –
PB I was often over-ruled.
POM - the military –
PB No, no, but looking back, who made, with all respect, Namibia independent and got rid of the Cuban troops there? I think I played, in all humility, the major role. Who concluded the Nkomati Agreement with Samora Machel? This illustrates the difference in thinking and doing and acting.
POM But the military on the Nkomati Agreement went right over your head, they went right back and –
PB Yes they did but that didn't stop me from continuing on that road and eventually we had discussions with the ANC. Why? In my opinion because we got rid of the Cubans and we made –
POM Where are these … ?
PB Yes, they were handed to me. I flew to Mozambique and they handed to me – we came back and that evening we had a meeting with PW Botha, General Malan and Viljoen and I told Botha that we were assisting …
POM There's one statement from – this is after, Sunday September 9th –
PB They presented me –
POM 'The General recommended us not to be fooling with the schemes of Pik Botha because he was a traitor. He had agreed with Chester Crocker the idea of Frelimo offering an amnesty to Renamo members.' You must have had quite a reputation in those years in all these countries. That's a joke.
PB The Mozambicans trusted me I can assure you. They trusted me. They went so far as to take my Deputy Minister without my permission –
POM That was Louis Nel.
PB Louis Nel. When I asked Louis afterwards why the hell did you do it? He said, 'I knew you would not have agreed.' He was at least honest about it. But when I came back that evening from Mozambique with the diaries that they handed to me, or copies, I phoned PW Botha from Mozambique. He had arranged then for General Malan who was Minister of Defence, General Viljoen who was head of the defence force and myself and my Director General at the time and we met in PW Botha's residence and I told him that I believed those diaries.
PB Yes, Gorongoza.
POM But you have extracts here where you have General Viljoen –
POM We were just talking about the Gorongoza diaries or the extracts from the Gorongoza diaries. In the extract that I have it quite clearly says that Louis Nel was in a sense colluding with the continued support of military assistance to Renamo.
PB I wouldn't put it like that. He later explained to me that he saw in it an adventurous – he wanted to go and see how it looked there and even came back, I think, with two or three chickens, live chickens in the aircraft. I was extremely angry and displeased but what could you do? In the end what counted was the breakthroughs that we did achieve, particularly as regards Cuban troop withdrawal. That changed the whole atmosphere in southern Africa.
POM Yes but what I'm saying is that – you are saying the intelligence services and the Generals would come before the Cabinet and say there are X number of tanks there, there are Y number of bombs here, aircraft, blah, blah, blah, and no-one was in a position to contradict them so you relied on their information to make decisions. So in fact I won't say they were running the show but they were very close to running the show because they were feeding you information that led you to take certain decisions.
PB Yes but as I said to you before be careful again not to over-simplify. That was the concept in our media, amongst the politicians, amongst the teachers of this country, the sports clubs of this country and so on, they had the same fears. They were also told and they read in the papers that this is the position.
POM OK, but you learn that your military, despite the Nkomati Treaty, are continuing to supply arms to Renamo –
PB No they denied it. They denied it.
POM And you couldn't prove it.
PB I couldn't prove it because I had no intelligence service. That is the simple reason. But thereafter it stopped, after this clash it stopped because I insisted on a commission of enquiry which unfortunately found that, yes, they did undertake trips but it was mostly of a humanitarian nature, which I didn't believe. Of course I didn't believe it –
POM The document lists AK47s.
PB But at least it stopped the rot. This is the point I'm trying to make. In other words through mishaps and failures like this at least progress was made in the end. I must return and emphasise the point I was labouring, namely the one I said was our gravest mistake, and for that I blame myself but I blame also our hierarchy, academics, the lot, because at all universities, national institutes or institutes interested in international events and studies and constitutional events world-wide, why was a study never, a proper study never made of the top leadership of the ANC and who they were and where did they study and what kind of calibre they were, what kind of people they were and why was no effort ever made to meet with some of them way back, years back, and see what kind of person you're dealing with.
Before the election in 1994 I invited Joe Slovo and three of his colleagues in the Communist Party for a lunch which lasted from about 1 o'clock till 4 o'clock and we told each other bluntly, straightforwardly how we felt about each other but in a pleasant way, not in an angry mood. I will never forget the late Joe Slovo's remark to me, he said, 'Pik, your party's problem is that we in the Communist Party have accepted that you have changed your party but you refuse to accept that we have changed.' That was an important remark. It made me think a lot. This stereotype, this caricature in my mind through years of indoctrination or whatever, of the communists and here they were breaking down, the Berlin Wall was cracking and eventually the big giant stopped breathing. This was now the big giant that we feared so much all the years but never did we or any of my colleagues in Europe or America, why didn't they, could they not have trusted me or could they not have called me in and said, 'Look, we want to warn you, there are good people within the ranks of the ANC. If you really fear Soviet penetration and assaults on you we in our intelligence services in America, the CIA, MI5, MI6, etc., we believe that the bulk of the ANC leaders are not communists but that they have no choice but to work with them because the Soviet Union has been educating them and supplying them and sending them to their Central European satellite states and so on. But we think you really make a mistake if you believe – we have been in touch with many ANC representatives who studied in Moscow and other parts of the Soviet Union and they don't like the Russians at all. They have experienced worse forms of apartheid there than in SA and they have been ill-treated so we think, we really think you're making a mistake in not talking to some of these gentlemen.'
POM No-one ever came?
PB Never, and we were never informed. We were informed about – week by week in Cabinet meetings and committee meetings of how many stones were thrown in Soweto last week and what sabotage was committed on a farm and who was killed and whose throat was slit and cut. We were not informed of the calibre of ANC leadership and that was a mistake because I think it contributed towards the idea that we are victorious, we are strong enough, we can carry on for decades like this and need not fear anything as long as we have enough weapons and arms and a major arms industry and put enough money into developing our own arms and tanks and missiles and so on, we can hold our own. That was the fatal mistake.
POM At the dinner table you had just begun to say whether the ANC didn't understand or what the world didn't understand what it felt like, never –
PB What the world didn't understand?
PB I was referring to Meiring I think.
POM Meiring, yes, that he wanted - ?
PB I think what he said was, I read it somewhere, something to the effect that he didn't understand why we the politicians didn't make greater use of the relative power of the defence force. Maybe you could ask him and get a clarification? My own impression or conclusion was that he implied that we could have made a better deal had we used as a bargaining chip or tool or got the relative strength of the security forces of the government of the day. If that indeed is his thesis then I totally disagree with it. There was no way – uMkhonto weSizwe was not a direct military threat to us and once the Soviet Union crumbled naturally, and I would like to hear some of my ANC friends explain this to me one day or tell me about it – I personally believe that psychologically at least that must have been quite a blow to them from the point of view of their erstwhile ally and friend, although they were not communists, it doesn't matter the Soviet Union was their friend, more so than America and the others. That friend was gone and on top of it the fact that the Cuban troops were leaving Angola, Namibia was going to become independent brought about a relaxation of the tension, reduced the tension all over southern Africa so that it would have created, in my opinion, tremendous anti – from the Europeans, they would not have swallowed it, they would have gone for us in a big way because the whole world after the agreement on the independence of Namibia was simply not so much demanding but saying, 'Right, you got rid of it, now it's apartheid. The thing you dreaded most over decades, the Soviet Union has crashed, your time is over for apartheid, it's gone. You'd better do it, there's no other way. You'd better do it.' The expectation of the whole world, and those were our main trading partners which kept the economy alive, was simply, 'Look, we don't ask you, we don't demand it, we're just telling you we expect it. It must just happen otherwise you're doomed.'
Now within that atmosphere to think that you can now gain at the negotiating table by even implying vaguely or indirectly that unless you make a deal with me I'm going to use my forces or unless you play the game according to my rules or give in here or make a concession there we're back to square one. You carry on with your war, we carry on with ours and see where we get in the end. No it was not on, it was not on and I think General Meiring was referring to this possibility, make use of us. Why didn't you make use of us as a force to obtain a better deal with the ANC?
POM Three questions. One, could de Klerk at all times rely on having the security forces firmly behind him or did he have to have one eye over his shoulder? Two, when certain deals were struck between the negotiating teams and had gone to their principles did de Klerk on occasion or Roelf Meyer and whomever have to go to the Generals and say, 'This is the deal', and more or less explain it to them or get their sign-off? And three, did the SADF as such play any role in the negotiations themselves?
PB The last question first. No they didn't play any direct role but Mr de Klerk did himself, I know that shortly after assumption of the Office of President he called a meeting of all the senior military establishment officers and told them in no uncertain terms what was going to happen and what way we're heading for and that he assumed that he could rely on their integrity and loyalty which they, or their spokespersons, agreed to. He did the same with the Police, meeting with senior Police officers.
But a very unfortunate event did take place in that there was a General Pierre Steyn who drew up a report for Mr de Klerk implicating several very senior military officials who were either fired or suspended at the time. Some of them thought that no thorough investigation was ever made as to their activities or as to whatever they did warranting such drastic action on the part of Mr de Klerk.
Looking back again with the wisdom of hindsight one is always more clever than you are at the moment when a problem is facing you. I suppose if you've been brought up within the military establishment indicating clearly to you that that is the enemy and me to survive the enemy must be destroyed. Then it is hard to accept a truce, a cease-fire, particularly a cease-fire that will end in the enemy taking over the political power. I suppose it is hard to accept that if that was your whole life's training. I think some of our friends within the military establishment still to the present day find it very hard to accept majority rule and maybe quite a number of them still today believe that we should never have made a deal with the ANC or, as they put it, capitulated. They saw it as capitulation. We still had the power to carry on for years and here you come and hand over and that's a mindset. I hope it will change.
POM There's no doubt in your mind that de Klerk didn't – I mean one of the assumptions the ANC make is that de Klerk had to have one eye over his shoulder all the time watching his security forces, that he couldn't depend upon their absolute loyalty therefore he had temper –
PB No, I would be inclined to disagree with that. He was concerned on occasion. Naturally when a man like General Pierre Steyn came to him to inform him of what might be going on behind his back or how certain activities within the military establishment were being done without de Klerk's knowledge at all, yes at that moment surely he was concerned otherwise he would not have demanded their … But it wasn't a subject that was everyday in his mind that we would experience a coup or that kind of thing. No, no, but that some individuals might be disloyal and might disregard orders. Yes, he was aware of it, it was of concern to him.
POM Were decisions that were made at the Multi-Party Forum, would some of those decisions or agreements reached between negotiators if they involved military matters or security matters be taken to the Generals for … to get their imprimatur of approval?
PB No, because very little, if you look at the negotiations and the committees and the subjects that we had to deal with, it was mainly the new constitution, it was the overall umbrella under which CODESA took place that was to give the country a new constitution. Within the exercise of drafting a new constitution matters like the SA Police and the SADF were not problematical, everybody accepted that the country would continue to have a defence force and the country would continue to have a Police force. It was mainly a question of how to assimilate the MK members and that type of thing. The result is that there was very little that could be referred to them or could be discussed with them. It was political talks, it was trying to find a political solution and arguing about the provinces and their powers and things like that in the end and also forming a government of national unity for the first five years, how to do that and then a final constitution would come into being. These were the matters that exercised the minds, and then the independent states where I was a member of that committee.
POM So the ANC's assumption that the SADF, the military establishment, the securocrats were still there in the background running the show?
PB Initially yes, quite correct. I think the problem that the ANC had was very much the same I had. We didn't exactly know, as Foreign Minister I didn't exactly know, what the reaction would be. As I indicated to you from my conversation, or Constand Viljoen's conversation with me a few weeks before the election and he remained military establishment, make no mistake. I don't think anybody could at that particular time have told you that he was completely convinced that nothing untoward or irregular was not taking place. No, we all had suspicions but I never had a fear because I knew even if they would have endeavoured to support the right wing politically nothing could have come of it. I knew from my political experience that the right wing in this country did not have much support. I knew it.
POM So when he talked about having these 40 000 commandos at his disposal - ?
PB Yes, but not all of them would have joined him. Very few would have joined. The commandos consist mainly of private citizens.
POM These would have been people who would have served under him?
PB No, no, it's no that easy. A Commando has a District Commander and then you would have people serving in there – top farmers, attorneys, doctors, teachers, people who supported us, many of them, many.
POM But he would have been referring to really former people, conscripts who had left the army, former commandos who adored him as a military leader and that he had at his disposal? Was this discounted because he had to come – Max du Plessis did a series about three months ago on conversations between van Zyl Slabbert, Viljoen, Mbeki on the whole question of how much actual forces did he really have at his disposal? Then there are those who say, well, no, if there had been, if his 'commandos' did come out in support of him some middle people in the army who were sympathetic to the right might have defected.
PB Yes that is possible.
POM Was that considered, was that taken into consideration?
PB For me it was not. I discarded it, not the possibility but the danger of it because it would have come to nought. There was no way a thing like that could take root in SA at that particular stage after we won the plebiscite, the referendum handsomely. The majority of whites, the vast majority voted for us and the changes that we were going to implement and it could only have been a minority rebellion which would have petered out in my opinion.
POM What about the ANC, to this day [they] have insisted, and this is their biggest problem and perhaps Mandela's biggest problem with de Klerk, that the NP government was pursuing what they called the dual strategy, i.e. negotiate with them on the one hand and on the other hand using the security forces and Inkatha under the guise of black on black violence, weaken them in the townships, eliminate their leaders, prevent them from organising. So you had two things going on simultaneously. Yes, engage them in negotiations and, two, have an operation going that's slowly eating into their guts and undermining them. Now they believe that categorically and completely and are immovable on it.
PB I accept that they believe it and I can even understand.
POM Why would you accept it?
PB I can understand why because that was a perception, but like all perceptions or like most perceptions they are not based on the truth or the actual facts. That was a perception and looking back I can clearly see that a lot of our difficulties in bridging the differences must have stemmed from this because it's a form of mistrust, distrust, that's what it is and they could therefore see it perhaps in many of the moves that we were making or proposals that we were tabling that we had another agenda or motive behind the words that are being placed on paper in front of them but history will undoubtedly show that this was not a correct perception. It was a perception you can understand.
POM But they use it on the basis of particularly in the Vaal Triangle, the violence that broke out in 1990, Police collusion with the IFP, supply of arms to the IFP by the Police, people like Basie Smit who were up to their eyeballs in –
PB Yes but the mistake they are making is who do they regard or who did they regard at that stage as the decision makers on our side. This is another, I think, mistake of the TRC. It is strange that so few people find it possible to believe that we as a government, as a Cabinet, simply did not know about Vlakplaas, that farm, did not know about Eugene de Kock, we did not know. It's as simple as that. That doesn't absolve us completely from responsibility in this sense that one can argue, 'But you should have known'. Yes, I would admit that. The fact of the matter is that – you mention Buthelezi, Buthelezi refused to speak to PW Botha until PW Botha resigned. It was known that Buthelezi was difficult and that he joined Bophuthatswana and that funny man Oupa Gqozo from Ciskei and the right wing here under Ferdi Hartzenberg. With all respect if you were in the ANC could you believe that we in the NP which had just gone through a referendum where our opponents were the Ferdi Hartzenberg party and now you have a situation where Ferdi Hartzenberg is an ally of Buthelezi, with all respect at least something must tell you they can't be too big friends, the friendship can't be that large. That the Police or the military establishment might in years gone by have supplied the IFP with arms or trading yes, that is common knowledge as far as I am concerned today and could have been suspected but you're talking to me about political decisions and that type of thing and double agendas. It must have been sometimes obvious to the ANC although I can see even in my conversations with Mr Mandela that he thought we were leaning over too far to please Buthelezi and driving away the right wing. The fact of the matter is that in practice it wasn't the case. Buthelezi gave us tremendous headaches, tremendous and we often urged him and others and Mandela did the same when he told both the ANC and the Buthelezi supporters, 'Throw away your arms, through them into the sea, your axes and knives and so on'.
POM But de Klerk's autobiography catalogues saying, 'Mr Mandela would come to me day after day', and in Mr Mandela's autobiography he says the same thing, 'I would go to the President day after day and say this happened in such and such a place, such and such a township yesterday. There's evidence of Police involvement, this happened here and there's evidence of Police involvement, and Mr de Klerk would always answer, 'Fine, bring me the evidence'.' Now I would say, well why should I be bringing you the evidence, I'm telling you what my people are telling me on the ground, why don't you investigate.
PB That was exactly done. There was a Judge here called Harms and he –
POM And he was taken to the cleaners. Everybody lied to him left, right and centre.
PB With all respect if a Judge can be taken to the cleaners then a government can also be taken to the cleaners.
POM Well then why should I trust anything the military would say, why would they trust any commission set up if one commission investigating a very important incident was lied to, where the lies were rehearsed, orchestrated - ?
PB Sure, I've told you at the beginning I understand it but that was not your question. You were not asking me why did the Police or the military people do what they did. You asked me whether it's true that we as a government had a double agenda and I say to you, no, we didn't.
POM But you can understand why the ANC would think that you did?
PB I told you I can understand it. I told you before that I warned them to get rid of the National Intelligence Service and I had personal experience as Minister of Foreign Affairs of being cheated on information, or being given the wrong information on cross border violence and activities. So I say to you I understand it but that, with respect, was not your question. Your question was not whether the Police and the military or within the military establishment you had these cadres and sections of which we were totally unaware. I was not aware of this civil society thing, what was it?
POM Civil Co-operation Bureau.
PB No, not even General Malan was aware of it, of its creation. The fact is someone must take the blame because we were working with budgets and they had big budgets. Now why didn't the Ministers in charge there check it? For instance, another matter just if we are talking about mal-administration and inadequate administration – let me just give you an illustration. When Mr de Klerk appointed Judge Harms he acted on the basis of complaints and allegations but he wanted to get to the truth and they purposely, and that is for sure today, misled the Judge and did it very efficiently, very, very efficiently. Of course there has been a group but now look at this situation. Recently I appeared in a television interview –
POM With van Zyl Slabbert?
PB No not that one, it was on the SABC about ex military officials who fought in the Angolan war, some badly wounded and crippled for that matter or disabled. It was a very good programme done by one of the SABC programmes. The fact of the matter is there were a Coloured and a black ex South African Defence Force officer complaining to me bitterly that they have nothing, no pension, no nothing. I take it amiss that people like General Meiring and other senior Generals did not look after – these were permanent members, members of the permanent force – they did not even take care of their own folk, of their own rank and file. Why didn't they come forward during the negotiations with the ANC and say, 'It is quite clear to us that we will have to lay off 2000, 3000, 10 000 of our permanent force members. What about them? What about their future?' They didn't do it. Ask General Meiring about it, ask him why didn't they do it. I will be very interested in his response.
What I am trying to tell you is that, yes, these things happened and it was very difficult to get proof until that General Pierre Steyn came forward and also he was instructed and asked by Mr de Klerk to go and investigate it. So what is your incontrovertible evidence? The Steyn Report, the suspension of 23 senior officers. There was a Kahn Commission, another commission, going into all the secret projects and disbanding them and stopping them and closing them down and no more money. There was Buthelezi's inhibition to work with us but rather to work with Mangope and Ferdi Hartzenberg.
POM With the SADF training at Caprivi which was used to build his army.
PB Yes. All right.
POM Buthelezi's army.
PB The problem again is that few people, including the ANC, would easily admit – they thought that we as a Cabinet sat there and decided these things. That is not true. You can say that we should have been more interested and more suspicious and we could have done more to unearth or reveal what was going on. That is a different matter. But to come and harbour the concept that we as a government, that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, I myself could have been part of this, with all respect, is just nonsense.
POM No, no, my question is in the context that the ANC conducted their entire negotiations and developed their negotiations strategy around the embedded belief that your government was following a dual strategy.
PB That's what you said. I say it is a pity that they didn't raise it in so many words with us. I can understand it today that they could have harboured those suspicions.
POM But when you were in your negotiation sessions or whatever at Kempton Park and whatever, like in either formal or informal discussions you had with everybody from Cyril down to Hassan Ebrahim or anybody did anybody ever say that we know what you guys are really up to, you're following a dual strategy, you're doing this to us on the one hand and you're doing that to us on the other. We're aware of what you're doing. Did it ever come up for discussion?
PB Not where I was present and I am sure not where Roelf Meyer was present – or maybe where he was present and he would have reported it, because you mustn't forget that at the same time a measure of trust did form slowly between us, between me, for instance, and Mr Mandela long before the elections. We could say to each other, if needs be, things like this.
POM Take Boipatong.
PB Yes well take Boipatong, but what are the latest findings on Boipatong? Go into that, go into that.
POM Yes, I have followed that, I've conducted my own investigation into Boipatong for over two years now.
PB Thank you, thank you.
POM I'm still at it. But after Boipatong you will recall that the ANC's National Executive issued a statement saying this is the de Klerk government, this is conscious government policy. Mr Mandela himself in Boipatong made speeches that under the law today would fall under hate speech. He compared the NP to the nazis and said this is what they're doing to us, they're trying to hold out the hand of negotiations to us on the one hand and on the other hand they're slaughtering us on the other. Mr de Klerk has no respect for black life and that's where their relationship fell apart.
PB I remember that very well.
POM Now wasn't this discussed, wasn't this brought up with Mr Mandela? Wasn't this kind of said, 'Well we've a real problem here. How do we disabuse the man?'
PB Of course in a case like that Roelf Meyer would discuss this with Cyril off the record and give him assurances and so on but also Cyril would probably then tell Roelf that this is our impression, we can't carry on like this, we're withdrawing from the talks. I'm not criticising the ANC for believing what they believed, you must not mix up the two. What I'm trying to respond to you is that we as a government had such a policy – that is not correct. That it happened and could have happened, yes, and that within the ranks of the military establishment and the security forces, yes, they did things which dismayed us, which shocked us I can assure you and the ANC I think would today experience what it is like to be in a government. They are picking up problems within the ranks of COSATU, which is an ally, and they are picking up problems on several other fronts amongst their own saying they are totally unaware of this man having done that or that province having done that. I would hope that being in government and having to accept responsibility over such a wide spectrum of human activity within a country that sooner or later you might just come to the conclusion that, look, we think that de Klerk and his Cabinet should have done more to acquaint themselves with what was going on behind their backs. For that I will have sympathy but really it was – I give you an assurance here today, I was not part of it, I was not part of a two-pronged policy. I knew exactly when we started it was one person one vote at the end of this road. That was it.
POM Bisho. We talked about it before but there is now in fact a trial going on in Bisho of two soldiers or two of the Generals who gave the order to shoot. There were two marches. You referred to one that you diffused, you had talked to Chris Hani.
POM And then there was a second march, the one where the shootings happened.
PB That's right.
POM Now that march was authorised by the – this is just before the Record of Understanding so you're in that period from Boipatong here, Bisho here. Record or the channel going on during those months. Almost the entire ANC leadership went on that march –
PB No, no, no.
POM Cyril was there.
PB Yes, but not Mr Mandela and Mbeki wasn't there.
POM Mbeki wasn't there but –
PB If you look at the present Cabinet that just about one or two. In the present Cabinet only Kasrils was there.
POM Was there any negotiation similar to – they said they went to the High Court and got an injunction from the High Court in Bisho that they could march as far as the stadium –
PB To a certain point.
POM Yes and then what happened was spontaneous, that Kasrils started to pull out on his own and others followed him and the Generals opened fire, but there was no prior negotiations between you, again, and the ANC - ?
PB Yes, yes, I wrote several letters for Mr de Klerk to sign and I can find mine somewhere. I drafted the letters for Mr de Klerk's signature to Mr Mandela warning him, asking for his co-operation and warning him against the unforeseen consequences of a large scale conflict there in the Ciskei. And on the other hand we put severe pressure – I had sent from here an additional senior official or my Deputy Minister at the time to be permanently stationed there or temporarily stationed in Bisho to put pressure on Oupa Gqozo. I have not the slightest doubt that the archives will prove to you that the role we played at that stage was a purely mediating role between Gqozo and the ANC and it was very difficult. They wanted to get at him. I as a matter of fact had already prepared at that time a bill because my intention –
POM To reincorporate –
PB Yes, the bill was to put it into parliament to take over the Ciskei and govern it until the elections. So far was I prepared to go to get rid of Gqozo.
POM Did Mr Mandela reply to Mr de Klerk's appeal,: please don't have this march, the consequences are fraught with danger. God knows what could happen. It's not in the best interests of furthering the channel that has gotten so far, we've already made arrangements for the meetings that will lead to the Record of Understanding, everything gets thrown up in the air, could get thrown up in the air if something bad happens.
PB I think he did reply but also on his part he must have been informed by his side that the facts on the ground were different and that this man should go and that sort of thing and citing examples of how Gqozo's Police had acted brutally against the ANC and was making it impossible for the ANC to have any peaceful operations inside. Again, it's a question of two sets of facts and the person then dealing with those facts believed these facts, not without justification. You were dealing with a very tense atmosphere at that stage. I gave full evidence on both these events to the TRC –
POM Both. That's Bisho – the two marches?
PB Both of them. I appeared before them and gave evidence and gave them all the documentation that I had at the time. What I am telling you here is fully documented and part of the record.
POM We can pull that down off the internet.
PB I remember that day that Bishop Tutu was there and he was very pleased and walked with me out of the hall that day and thanked me most heartily for my coming down. That evidence was taken in East London if I remember correctly, or in Bisho for that matter, no in Bisho I think, yes, there it was taken. Members of the TRC didn't put any nasty questions to me. I came back from Bisho with a pleasant feeling and this is all documented, it's there and was not controverted.
POM Chris Hani's killing. Again people say that that was the day on which Mr Mandela effectively became President of the country, when he went on television, told blacks to remain calm, no uprising, no looting, no anything. Everything was under control, the process was on track, that he stabilised the situation. In fact it was like Mr de Klerk saying, 'If I go on television I won't be listened to. You go on and you can do it, in fact I'm ceding, in a way, a moment of immense crisis in the country and it could snap. Please go on television and talk to your people.'
PB It's very difficult for me to comment on such a statement.
POM It's in book after book after book. That's why I'm asking you.
PB My interpretation is as follows: - in his own right Mr Mandela immediately perceived that incident as one in which the SA government had played no role whatsoever. I think what impressed Mr Mandela was that a white person followed that car and actually assisted in tracing the guilty ones. That definitely, I know, made an impression on him and as I know him I am convinced that in his own mind he had no suspicion that any structure close to the SA government had anything to do with it.
POM We accept that. My point is that –
PB And that made it possible for him and he saw it then as his duty to talk to his own people, own supporters and say to them, 'Look, calm down, the country does not need a major conflict over this one.'
POM But do you not think that symbolically when the leader of the "liberation movement" in negotiations with the government in a moment of crisis, the person who goes on television to diffuse that crisis is not the president of the country but the leader of the liberation movement?
PB Well certainly. Not only that event, there were others, but this is a very important one. It enhanced his status amongst the whites tremendously. It must have enhanced his status as a leader, as a genuine leader of substance. There is no question in my mind about that, that many whites must have been impressed by his statesmanlike appearance and attitude. No question about it. Many whites must have said to themselves – if this was a guerrilla leader and a terrorist leader he would not speak like this. He speaks like a president, he speaks like a statesman. Yes, sure, I readily see that.
POM How I want to link the two together, because I have gone back – I used to interview him (Clive Derby-Lewis) until the time he got jailed but I've gone back to jail and I've seen him in jail now about once a month. I can't record him or anything but I can go in to visit him. He gets six hours a month and while I am here now his wife Gay has conceded me one hour to talk to him. So I take notes after all our meetings and I've found out that it's very easy to walk right in to C-Max with a piece of paper in my hand and a pencil in the other and sit there and take notes while the guard is reading the newspaper. This is C-Max, OK! It's ridiculous as security. There's more at the average airport. I mean it, it's laughable. Next time I'm going to try a tape recorder and say, hell, all I can do is say is 'Oh I'm Irish, I forgot.' But that's off the record.
When he was denied amnesty, and he was denied amnesty (i) because there was not full disclosure and (ii) because the Conservative Party repudiated him and said the use of violence against political opponents was certainly not part of their agenda. They were the two main reasons. In the case of Boipatong the 17 who applied, after the TRC completely screwed up, who applied for amnesty neither of these questions were taken into consideration if you read the amnesty finding. In fact the amnesty finding begins by saying at least 500 people were there, between the 17 of them they couldn't name another person. That certainly wasn't full disclosure, there's no way 500 people living in a hostel – they all know each other. Secondly, the IFP the day after completely dissociated itself from the event. So you have two amnesty committees looking at two events and in neither case can it be tied to a political event and in neither case was there full disclosure, one gets amnesty the other doesn't.
Now different amnesty hearings heard different cases so you didn't have – it wasn't a court that sat, so any particular amnesty committee could make any decision it liked on the basis of whatever basis it liked. But does this not point out to a fundamental inequity in the manner in which amnesties have been granted?
PB Yes. Derby-Lewis cannot be described as a great friend of Pik Botha because I appeared on one of their lists –
POM Like Nixon's enemy list.
PB - together with Chris Hani and what I found repugnant was that during the hearings they tried to say that this was just a list of people on whom they wanted to write articles or something like that. That's sheer nonsense but on the basis of what you've told me that certainly is a clear inconsistency. You take the position of Barend Strydom who shot several black people in the central part of Pretoria. He's free. He was tried by a court of law and I think was given a life sentence or close to a life sentence. He's out, he got amnesty. What political motive could Strydom have had? In my opinion none whatsoever, none whatsoever. My point to you is I was always, and I think I must have told you before, a proponent of general amnesty and I still am today, I still am today. I believed at the time when Cyrus Vance was here, he came to see me when he was the Secretary General's Special Representative here, more or less 1991 or thereabouts, he came to my office to ask me to explain to him the pitfalls that he must be wary of and things like that and what recommendations can I make to him. One of my recommendations was, 'You will be seeing the ANC, test them on the issue of general amnesty because I foresee that this can stand in the way of reconciliation in later years to come.' He came back and he said that Mr Mbeki and Matthews Phosa were in favour of it and he arranged for a meeting and Mr Mbeki and Phosa came to my office in Union Buildings and at 11 o'clock that evening we had a deal between them and me.
POM Between Matthews Phosa and you?
PB And Mbeki. So I phoned de Klerk and he said, 'But, Pik, this is not your portfolio, it's Mr Coetsee's (the Minister of Justice). You'd better discuss it with him.' So I discussed it with Coetsee and he said, 'Oh no, no, no, we can't do things on this basis. We must do it step by step, in categories', he said. I said to him, 'But here is a chance now.' And then his words to me were, "But then must we release this Strydom fellow together with McBride?' And I said, 'Yes, they will be released.' And he said no he could not recommend that. A week later Mbeki phoned me from New York and he said to me the pressure was increasing within the ranks of the ANC not to go for general amnesty and he can't hold out much longer. In that way that opportunity was lost, also to get general amnesty particularly for our security forces and get that over, and for MK, the whole lot.
I was in favour of compensation for victims and I was in favour of a tribunal to be created not to prosecute people or to find them guilty or to grant amnesty or not amnesty but to hear victims and then to summons people who were involved in the butchering and killing of … to come and give evidence but then they would have been more open about it because they had to fear nothing any more, they already received amnesty. So you could have got to the truth much easier and faster and get them to determine amounts that could perhaps be payable to victims. That was my idea, to do it the other way around, namely first grant amnesty and then have hearings which might lead to reconciliation and so on.
But this example worries me. Even if Derby-Lewis and myself have been political enemies I must acknowledge that there is a grave inconsistency here that ought to be looked at.
POM Do you think that, to move on to post-Mandela SA, (a) should there be at the outset a general amnesty? This thing can't go on for ever. There are three more volumes coming out trying to rectify or deal with the omissions or whatever. In fact I've a friend who has been given the task, since the TRC said point blank the Police were involved in Boipatong up to their necks, they planned it, they executed it, they escorted the guys in, they escorted them out, that was the TRC's finding, Police – total involvement. Then the amnesty finding, this is after the 17 people who – the context is 17 who had been convicted, in their amnesty applications have said there is no Police involvement in their applications. Then the TRC comes out and says this whole thing was planned by the Police. So that means, well, you 17 have lied in your applications because the TRC after its investigations just found that there was Police. It goes before the Amnesty Committee for 18 months and the Amnesty Committee comes out and says there was no Police involvement. So his task is to take the language of the Amnesty Committee and the language of the TRC and try to find some way to bridge them so that they make some kind of sense.
It's done whatever it can do, if you dig into the past indefinitely you can never let go of it, you never create a future. Has the time come to say amnesty for everyone, those who are in, those who've been in, we've heard enough, we know enough, we know enough about our past?
PB That's what I have been advocating all along.
POM Are you hearing voices that are listening to you?
PB Yes I think so.
POM Do you think it will come? Do you think it will happen?
PB I think so. I have reason to believe that there are talks going on still even now between government members and ex-Generals.
POM And former Generals?
PB Yes, yes, to get this thing behind us.
POM OK. There was a programme and it was brought to my attention by van Zyl Slabbert who gave me the Afrikaans video, which I have not had translated yet, but FW did an interview on his programme, two or three months ago, and he said no sooner was the programme over than the phone was ringing and on one phone was Pik and on the other phone there was Roelf saying, 'I want to be on your next programme.' De Klerk had made some statements. What had de Klerk said that - ?
PB In general he portrayed himself almost as a liberal NP member which is simply not true.
POM Yes I have that documented in our interviews.
PB It is simply not true, he was not liberal. He opposed me in many, many important matters concerning Namibia, the High Commissioner for Refugees coming here and a host of other matters. He was a minister of the white chamber of parliament for a number of years and there is no way – his speeches are recorded in Hansard, but while the Foreign Minister was trying to prevent further economic sanctions against SA he proposing steps that would have increased the sanctions against us and brought more anti-South African sentiment in the UN and elsewhere. Everybody knows it, you can ask my ex-colleagues, a person like Barend du Plessis, ex-Minister of Finance, ask him. Barend lost with a few votes against him. And suddenly when he became president he must have clearly seen the writing on the wall, namely that almost half of the caucus of the NP voted for du Plessis who was the verligte, who was the liberal and just slightly over half for him. So he must have reasoned, well, I've got my half and I won president and I will have du Plessis's half so they have no choice, they will have to support me in whatever I do and I will see to it that I drag the conservative half with me. I think this would be a correct reflection because Barend du Plessis that day in the caucus said to him, 'You need a quantum leap, a quantum one, and when you land there you will find us there. So don't worry, jump, we will be there. Just bring your worth.'
I think it's general knowledge in this country and it surprised me that he could go on television and portray himself as this liberal politician. It is, with all respect, not true. What he should have said is that up to a certain point in my career I was an apartheid man or I supported segregation and racial discrimination and separate homes and jobs and houses and racial classification. He should have said, yes, I supported it and then I saw the writing on the wall and I saw we had to change, we had no other choice, no alternative and I fell in line. That's what he should say.
POM The Mbeki era. Aids. Is Mbeki destroying his presidency and this country on the issue?
PB I don't think so. I believe it is very unfortunate that such a fuss is made of this issue. To have succeeded Mr Mandela was in itself one of the heaviest tasks that I can think of and by and large if you look at his stature today in the world wherever he goes, to America or Europe or Japan he's received well and with respect.
POM He's presiding over the genocide of his own people.
PB No, no, but this is simply not true. He is the head of a government that has an anti-AIDS programme on which they spend millions. They spend it, it's there, you can see it in the budget and he has approved it, he has approved it. He has never said that the virus cannot cause Aids. I think there's a bit of a confusion even in the minds of the general public. I'm not a medical expert but there's a difference between the virus and Aids. You can have the virus and not yet have Aids. That's how I understand it. It is only when the count of that virus reaches a certain level apparently, then you get Aids in the sense that now your body cannot withstand any longer the attacks of certain diseases like TB or 'flu or whatever hits your body. If I read Mr Mbeki on this he said there are also other forms and conditions reducing your immunity, like TB, poverty, famine –
POM But these are infections that happen on the way to full blown Aids. They're all the same.
PB I think his message was really meant to say let us concern ourselves with all the causes.
POM He has 1995 figures on which he asks, searching through the Internet he comes upon the WHO figures for 1995 when the Aids epidemic was just beginning to make itself felt and send a letter to his Minister of Health saying, 'I want you to reorganise or to re-examine our health priorities using these statistics', 1995. His Medical Council with some of the most eminent scientists in this country prepare a report that says the average life expectancy in the country will be 41 by the year 2010, there will be 7 million people cumulatively that will have been killed by Aids throughout the decade. One generation will be wiped out, skills will be wiped out, growth will be wiped out, medical costs are going to soar. The implications are just enormous. He ignores it practically by using Statistics South Africa to rubbish it before it's published. He then goes to parliament last week and makes bizarre statements about the new guidelines set out by the Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta regarding the use of anti-retrovirals, so bizarre, so untrue that the CDC itself has to issue a statement saying that the President either completely misunderstood our statistics or the way they are used but he is completely wrong. He misinformed parliament either deliberately (they didn't say that) but he did deliberately or otherwise. Nevirapine for pregnant women, it takes one injection before, one injection afterwards. Cost almost zero. 70 000 babies a year are born to Aids mothers, 35 000 die. With that one injection maybe 25 000out of that 35 000 would be saved. By not allowing one injection used all over the rest of the world he's responsible or indirectly responsible in any given year for the deaths of more people than were ever killed during the entire apartheid era. And you don't think there's something wrong?
PB No, no. On the basis of what you say there I think of course strategically and morally and scientifically I do not agree with the President, so don't misunderstand me on this call. That was not your question. Your question was whether this attitude might destroy his presidency. That was your opening ambit and my response was that no, I did not think so.
POM Let's modify it to the more specific of what I've said.
PB On the basis of what you said … attempts must be made to persuade the President to change his attitude.
POM When you travel abroad do people talk to you about Aids in South Africa?
PB Not really. I was in China just the other day, I was in Nigeria the other day.
POM Outside of Africa, say in Europe, say in America, say in Australia, in places where you are looking for foreign investment.
PB My impression is that in general governments in other parts of the world are not really interested in the larger part of Africa at all. Two and a half million persons did in this middle belt of Africa, two and a half million as a result of war and conflict and famine and I haven't seen much of a world reaction against that. It is as if the industrialised world has written off Africa, except South Africa. SA still has status and there are still expectations.
POM OK, so I'm a foreign businessman and I'm considering making an investment in –
PB Oh that's different, your investors have their own ways of securing or getting first class information on everything in the country.
POM So if my information shows me that if I set up a plant here and hire skilled workers that the odds are that one third of my skilled workers will be dead before they're 30, another third will be dead before they're 40, will I not say, 'Gee, I'll be retraining and retraining people and there are lots of other places in the world –'
PB Look, there's no question about it, it is a factor. Of course it is a factor. No, we need not argue that.
POM But I feel very strongly about it. I think he's close to –
PB Of course it is a very important factor.
POM Second, we could spend a whole session on this so I know it has been a long time and you're getting tired, this whole thing of rape which has now exploded in the last week but has been going on, child rape, but would have been general, gang rape. What does it say about the nature of the society of South Africa, what has happened to turn the country into one of where it enjoys statistically among countries the highest per capita crime rate by violence? In fact you have your President going abroad and saying on BBC, 'Most people die in our country by violence'. Where you have child rape, where you have the rape of 80 year olds by gangs of youths, where you have sons raping their mothers? It's as though the whole crime rather than decreasing is increasing, the solution to which was to publish no Police statistics, to increasing unemployment, to, despite all the economic fundamentals being in position, no economic growth, where the houses that are built (a) have succeeded in not reducing the housing backlog but that the housing backlog is increasing, in fact for the houses that are being built people are complaining that … houses that were built under apartheid were better built and bigger. What happened?
PB Of course it's dreadful, it is really dreadful. I am not too sure, the only thing, and this is no excuse for us being way down statistically, but I'm not so sure that we are the worst in the world to start with, with all respect.
POM Yes that's OK but –
PB I'm not too sure about that. In other words what I'm saying to you is perhaps under comparable circumstances, or not even comparable circumstances, you might also have other societies going through a transformation process with all the uncertainties attached to it. This is no excuse. Even my own employee here came to ask me for a loan to build his own house because the houses you can get from the government in his own words, 'are simply useless', and there's only one line of bricks and they're dilapidated and small, yes. I do find wherever I go nowadays that there's definitely an increasing number of black South Africans having second thoughts about the government they voted for. I hear open criticism in many, many areas.
POM And you're saying this as a member of the ANC?
PB No, no, I'm not a member.
POM God! Was that a myth?
PB I said at the time that we could support them but I'm not a member. I personally believe that unemployment is one of the major reasons for the state we're in. When people are really hungry –
POM Child rape?
PB Yes they do things like that also, they become mad, they simply become mad. They steal and people who commit an offence like that who, with all respect, simply cannot be normal, they cannot be normal. I can't believe that as someone pointed out, they are not aware of any animal that would ever rape his or her children. It's an abnormal situation. There's no excuse for it. We are far behind in our prosecutions, very, very far. There are inadequate legal steps being taken because of the enormity of criminal activity. Huge, sophisticated gangs, of course gangs don't play a role, your smuggling gangs, narcotic gangs and drug gangs, they don't play a role in raping of children, but it is as if more than just South Africans have descended like vultures upon this country. It's easier to come in today than it was before. I do not know now with the Twin Towers whether entry into the country would be made more difficult or more effective but there isn't an excuse and that was one of the reasons why I have advocated two years ago or more that the opposition parties of this country ought to support the government and now it has happened. The NP is indeed now making noises in –
POM I was going to ask you that, do you think - ?
PB Why did they say it? You must ask me that, because when it comes to Aids, crime, unemployment, those three, you do need a national voice, you don't need opposition democracy to combat crime, Aids and unemployment. It's a crisis situation, it is a crisis. A national crisis ought to be a priority and a priority ought to be what the word says comes first. You must first resolve then that crisis and democracy must become less important now because these events, these threats that I mention, Aids, crime, unemployment, those three, will destroy the country in any event. You can have the strongest opposition in the world, you're still going to be destroyed. Democracy will not save you. The only thing that can now save you if you are drowning is some lifeline and part of that lifeline politically to me is, for the major part, to go to the government and say, 'All right we will still differ on education policy maybe and that policy and that policy and agricultural policy and whether you must devalue or re-value the rand and things like that or lower or increase the prime interest rate. But Mr President, the government, we here say to you now we are all threatened equally by Aids, unemployment and crime and we say to you we are prepared to fall with you and for that purpose a government of national unity or a participating government and allow us into your decision making processes. We will not be difficult, we will not make trouble, we're not going to make opposition politics out of this, we want to help you and assist you and support you in stamping out this national crisis threatening us on these three fronts.'
For me it is so important that I was prepared two years ago to say to this country, it wasn't welcomed, now it is welcomed, some papers now again write that Pik Botha was once more right in his prediction. He was right when he predicted in 1986 that there was going to be a black president. Again he was right two years ago when he said we ought to support the government in respect of these issues which can be destructive to a country. What I miss, what I do not understand, with all respect, is that in this country like other countries we think we're a normal country and when you undergo such a monumental transformation as we have undergone, it must be the most monumental in history, it is even far more awkward and had far more impact than the disintegration of the Soviet Union because it was based on colour which still exists. Now when you go through that and you do not have a very strong economic basis you're almost doomed to failure and this is why these are such crucial – I can't find the adequate word – important that government and opposition ought to close ranks on Aids, crime, unemployment, those three.
POM Do you find the overtures of alliance between the ANC and the NNP, whatever Marthinus can deliver, to be a healthy thing or - ?
PB I don't think he can, no, no, he can't. He's inexperienced and he's been shifting his position too often, too often. I can have respect for every person shifting his opinion once and then give valid reasons for it but he opposed me bitterly when I wanted to stay in the government of national unity and [he] supported de Klerk enthusiastically to take us out of the government of national unity where we did play a very substantive role. I passed more legislation as Minister of Mineral & Energy Affairs under Mr Mandela's presidency than I ever did as Minister of Foreign Affairs. I received the support of ANC Cabinet Ministers in respect of all the legislation I passed concerning the safety on mines, new rules, new regulations and that type of thing. I resisted the nationalisation of mineral rights with the assistance of ANC Ministers and Mr Mandela and Mr Mbeki. You must become … when you are dealing, when you are combating a national crisis. There is my thought. Then you ought to be part of the decision making process of that country and you must make yourself available but unfortunately I do not believe that in the person of Mr van Schalkwyk but for the rest I agree that the party should co-operate with the ANC and particularly in the fields that I have mentioned.
POM How do you interpret what's happening in the Democratic Alliance? Is it in the process of disintegration, weakening, setting back the development of multi-party democracy? Has pettiness, jealousy, looking for jobs made whatever real opposition existed - ?
PB This is not a western, European democracy. We are not Belgium or Britain or for that matter The Netherlands. Many of our forefathers did come from The Netherlands but we are not now part of a typical European democratic culture and institution. We are at the southern part of Africa, a continent south of the Sahara which is dying in effect, if you look at the statistics Africa is dying. It's being threatened by Aids, by famine, poverty, ignorance and a lack of industrial development. Situated as we are geologically to start with, geographically, and faced by the problems we are facing we must ourselves decide is it really in our interests to continue with typical Westminster opposition politics or is it now our duty and responsibility to get into the ranks of the ANC and talk to them because we are fellow citizens of this country and the death we'll die they'll die and the capacity to feed that will hit us will hit them.
I told you I think years ago about my speech to the United Nations, it's recorded. We are a zebra and it doesn't matter whether that bullet hits the white stripe or the black one, the animal as a whole will die. This has not percolated through, you cannot expect us any longer – of course you can still have a formal democracy but first of all for democracy to succeed you need a faster economic growth rate, you need to combat Aids more effectively, crime more effectively, and the way to do it is to increase jobs and the way to increase jobs, my friend, is to have stability in the first place political and economic stability.
In the old days under apartheid I met many investors from abroad who had invested here, large companies, or who were interested. Their biggest concern was not whether we were governing this country in a democratic manner. Throughout they asked me one question only, can we rely on stability here? Will there be a revolt? Will there be a civil war? Will you nationalise our property and our shares or our mineral rights or our factories? Are we assured of a judiciary that would hold up our rights if you expropriate us? Their words were, 'We want to be sure of the rules of the game. We need not agree with the rules, we might not even like your rules. We just want to be sure in our planning one year, two years, five years, ten years ahead, that you will not change the basic plan. Then we are here and we'll invest.'
So I'm not one of those, unfortunately I have seen what can happen to democratic institutions without economic growth. They come into being and they sink and I say to you today that if needs be, and this is not enforced, the ANC didn't say they will have a dictatorship and didn't say that the NNP ought to disintegrate or even integrate with the ANC, but I've now had at least two erstwhile colleagues who are now in the ANC, MPs, and we often have confidential conversations and I am convinced of the very valuable contributions they are making within the ANC caucus, standing up, the ANC listening to them and congratulating them, fine contributions they are making and saying, 'Now you see why we need you, you're welcome.' We need to go and sit back, so must Tony Leon, he must do it also. This image of representing the top layer of whites in this country is also not very good for democracy. The whites must not be seen as the upper class and the blacks as the poor class. Then you are again going to head for severe problems. The time has come to join ranks to combat unemployment, Aids, crime and to say to ourselves that we are really brothers in combating this. We are going to support each other, Mr President, with the government, please we have here expert reports for people who are confronted in Ireland with this or in Australia with this or there with this and so on, and they did this and this and they had that and that result, can we try it, would you instruct your Minister, could we form a committee, could we bring you a plan, could we submit a programme on how to do it and how to do it faster, and that sort of thing. Can we have a week together in the bush, a retreat where we put only these three items on the agenda and where everybody will be free to bring forth a plan on what to do in substance and effectively and efficiently to combat this if that is as serious a problem as we say it is. That is not being done now because parliament is still meeting like Westminster and have questions and answers and the papers report on it. It's becoming boring to most people and everyone feels the brunt of crime, Aids and unemployment. That's why I say you will see in Israel, you will see what Churchill did when the second world war broke out he took Atlee into his Cabinet. We are in no less serious position than Britain was in 1939. There is a comparison. We are even in a worse situation.
POM I agree.
PB We have less of a chance of defeating the enemy.
POM I agree.
PB And that is why I say if you are in that position join ranks, open up so that opposition politics does not then play a role any more in trying to hide, make curves, camouflage and things like this, then you'll get openness, then you will get the best steps for the best legislation, pass it through parliament, work the NNP, it does have some good brains within their ranks still, it can stand up and tell their ANC colleagues, 'Look we agree with clause A, B, C, D but here clause 66, we really want to warn you, we've made a study of it there and this happened, that happened and it was a total failure. Can we change it?' 'Yes we can change it.' Not 'To hell with you, you just want to vote against it because of your position as an opposition politician.' The seriousness, I'm frustrated at our incapacity, our lack of ability to grasp this sorry scheme of things entire – those were the words of the prophet. "Our love for thou and I with fate conspire to grasp this sorry scheme of things entire. Would not we shatter it to bits and then remould it nearer to the heart's desire."
POM It's a lovely quote.
PB It must obviously have been, I figured out, a seat of love that this prophet must have had for a lady and probably could not prosecute it or consume it and hence these very striking words, 'Could thou and I with fate conspire to grasp this sorry scheme of things entire. Would not we shatter it to bits and then remould it nearer to the heart's desire." I wish these words could become, I do not know what, our war cry in this country. Can't we shatter this to bits and remould it nearer to our wishes, our dreams? Yes, the answer is yes but not in terms of a Westminster system.
POM One final question and this arises in part from what you said but also arises because Caryl's mother, a question I asked Caryl to ask the family to come up with one question for you.
PB Hold on a minute, hold on to that, it might be very important.
POM Her mother's question was, Caryl comes from a middle class white family: What is the future of the English speaking white community in this country? Not the Afrikaner but the English speaking white community.
PB It is the same as that of the Afrikaner, there is no difference for the simple reason that the differences which separated the, let us call it, average Afrikaner from the average English speaking citizen, those differences have been resolved, it is past history, they are inter-marrying at a rate you can't believe and there is no difference. They hold the same jobs basically and wherever I come into contact with companies, not these major ones, smaller companies, I am asked to do consultancy work, wherever I go I see within the ranks of these smaller companies an English speaking woman and an Afrikaans speaking guy making love to each other or liking each other and there is not the slightest – they don't even bother about speaking Afrikaans or English, both do it to and fro all the time. You go to braaivleis, barbecues nowadays, it's all mixed up as far as I'm concerned in a very pleasant way.
You take my own son Peter, or my other son Roelof who has a doctor's degree in economics, he has now quit his senior lectureship post at the Rand Afrikaans University to do mainly consultancy work for companies who are mainly English speaking companies. No, it is the same. The future of the two groups are irrevocably bound together, tied up, inseparable now and there isn't such a thing that the one will go down and the other one not. Forget it. They will both go down together jointly or they will now.
POM Let's take them jointly. What is the future of the 'white' community in the next 15, 20 years? Caryl wasn't offered scholarships at three universities, top universities in the country, because of obvious affirmative action, they needed affirmative action, was not able to go to the one of her choice so she ended up at Wits but she had to come in from home to go there. When she applied for a job, job opportunities are more limited, (a) there are no jobs and (b) the few jobs that are there – where does she look to for her future?
PB I do not completely agree with this. There are quite a number of young white South Africans, mostly male, not so much female with all respect, you will find in all the ministerial offices. In all the important offices in this country. You will find white ladies doing the secretarial work and very responsible work. I'm acquainted with a vast number of not rich people, ordinary people who put in granite like this and building construction work on a small school, building a house a month, saying to me they simply cannot keep up, they cannot keep up with the demand. Electricians, plumbers – I have friends who are plumbers or electricians doing building repairs, that sort of thing, motor mechanics, you name them. I'll take you all around the place if you want and show it to you yourself. It is difficult nowadays, that water pipe broke. I lost over 2 million litres for which I will have to pay, I couldn't get a plumber. I couldn't get a plumber who was prepared to come out within 24 hours.
POM That's common all over the world.
PB The same with electricity, the same with mechanical work, construction work. Believe me. The whites, not all, but they do in general make money as never before. There are tremendous opportunities opening up everywhere, tremendous. The country has an important road building process already announced, the money is there. Construction work, improvement of buildings, new roads, dams, etc., which will keep a lot of companies very, very busy.
We went to China, I went to China with seven or eight major companies from SA and we were invited by a province called Ninsha(??), there near Tibet. We spent a week there and they all achieved contracts, work, in total $58 billion over the next seven/eight years from road construction right through to power station construction. Inner city renewal, the capital of Ninsha gave this one man who is building, he was there, Martin Haggar(?) he is building Century City in Cape Town, a tremendous project. He was there. From there he went to Britain to fetch the money.
What I am trying to say to you for the first time we can fly abroad, apartheid isn't there, it doesn't hinder us any more. There was a time that a white South African who tries to enter a European country that his passport was taken and trampled on on the floor. South Africans are travelling. Where do they get the money? It is not only blacks who ride cars, just look at it. You must wait in this country today two years for a Mercedes Benz. That's the waiting time. Two years! Unless you buy an imported one which costs far more because of the customs duty on it. With my contract with Mercedes I had to get, we wanted a new Mercedes and I phoned my friends and they said in this game there is no friendship any more, it's waiting list or you can buy this imported one. The imported one costs R400000, the SA manufactured one almost R300000 but it's R100000 difference. So we bought the R400000 one and driving around. We are exporting motor car spare parts for the first time, the amount that is earned is astounding, astounding, it is trebled in a few years. It is going to pass our total exports of gold one of these days.
Since the attack on the Twin Towers I think the whole world has changed. I do not think that people at the present moment, not even commentators and analysts, can grasp the real implications of what has happened to humanity after that attack. It will never be the same. Wars will never be the same again, ever. The machines, computers are not taking over but present to us such awkward and awesome challenges and that is all within the means of South Africans. They will be needed.
Look what happened now when the NNP broke away from the DA. For the first time since the 1994 election did I hear absolute positive sounds coming from the ANC almost as if they're saying, 'We really want you. We don't want to rule you but we really need you. We are making mistakes, you have the experience.'
This is confidential, I had a recent meeting with Vice President Jacob Zuma, whom I know well, asking me whether I and some of my erstwhile colleagues would be prepared to meet with him informally from time to time to give him knowledge of our experience, of the difficulties they encounter. I immediately said yes.
The world will never be the same. My one daughter Anna, who is married to a Mr Hertzog, emigrated to the United States five years ago. They came back and the other night she said to me, 'Dad, you know what I am extremely happy about?' And I said, 'No.' And she said, 'It is that I am now in SA and not in America.' That I am now in SA and not in America. Things will never be the same again but against the whole background of the new tensions that the world will experience, in my opinion this whole issue of Islam and the rest of the world – not the rest, mainly the western world – will bring about new changes in thinking. Your revolutions have not occurred in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Emirates, they must still come, Oman. There have not been the typical revolutions that will come as certainly as you and me sit here today. It will come. There is evidence for you how a people that are being given free water and medicine and school and all have jobs are still not satisfied, they want to share in the decision making processes of the country. The world has changed.
I wrote an article soon after the Twin Tower attack for the Afrikaans Sunday paper, Rapport, indicating to them exactly that. No-one knows who will next use a nuclear bomb and where, or biological means to fight wars in future. You're not going to need armies. An American General expressed it beautifully when he said, 'We are called upon to wage a war for which we have not been trained.'
I am glad that I am in SA today. I do not want to be in Europe. I saw off my present wife's late brother's daughter who has just gone to Ireland, she's married to an Irishman, and he got a job there and now she and the three little daughters went there last week. I saw at the airport what they've got to go through. It is unbelievable. Landing in Hong Kong they took from my wife, she had a little scissors that fills up that long, they took it out. You eat on the aircraft with plastic utensils but you can still crack a bottle and murder a person with it. It's not going to help. They will not continue that kind of attack. It's going to change and it's going to change the minds of the human race this thing.