Professor H. W. van der Merwe
former Director of the Centre for Intergroup Studies
interview with Rupert Taylor
23 November 1999, 6 Cambridge Road, Observatory, Cape Town,
Taylor: What we’re doing, I mean these are - we’ll talk about it in a minute, but the project has focussed on ten peace and conflict resolution organizations, which are very hard to define in the South African context, as you know. And for many years I think your Centre was probably the only one that could actually outrightly call themselves concerned with conflict resolution.
HW: In the early stages, yes. Yeah.
Taylor: And basically what we’ve done is looked at these ten organizations and how they interact with each other. And then look at how they interact with a broader range of anti-apartheid NGOs and then how they all interact with the mass based movement, and the ANC, and the SACP. I mean part of the argument is to try and weigh up the impact of these organizations.
Taylor: But I’ve - and our team - have come to the conclusion that it’s not really very good methodology to say to try and weigh up the impact of an individual organization because it was a cumulative…
Taylor: …effect. I don’t know if you’d agree with that kind of…
HW: Oh yeah, sure.
Taylor: Even though some organizations tended to keep to themselves, like Idasa, I think tended to - when I interviewed van Zyl Slabbert and Alex Boraine you know they didn’t see this network. Other people I’ve interviewed have said yeah we were very consciously part of this network.
Taylor: And I mean this is a list of the organizations - these are the organizations which we’ve studied in detail, which includes the Centre for Intergroup Studies, Centre for Conflict Resolution. And then more broadly based anti-apartheid movements. It’s been difficult, but basically we choose these organizations here, and saw them as being concerned with peace and justice.
Taylor: Being concerned with trying to maintain a position of impartiality, or objectivity, whereas these organizations were more clearly aligned with the broader mass based movements - although it’s very difficult maybe, it’s a generalization I know.
HW: Yeah, mmm.
Taylor: So the interview is very semi-structured. And given your involvement in many of these organizations it’s difficult to know where to begin. Maybe it would be nice to hear how you, your motivation for, and the reasons for setting up and getting engaged in, how you saw the role of the Centre for Intergroup Studies.
HW: Very good. Well I’ve never conceived of this kind of diagram so I’ll have to be, give it some thought, but the easiest would be for me to answer questions you have.
HW: I don’t know how much you’ve read about what I’ve done, but I have here a few (items) - I’ve moved to the country and I’m just here this week for radiotherapy because I have a new growth in my eye. And so my, what I have here is a little bit disorganized, but I’m happy to answer questions, so if you would direct me.
Taylor: Okay. It would be interesting to begin with your own organization- your own development in terms of how you, well how you moved into the Centre for Intergroup Studies. You became Director in…
Taylor: 1968. And when you became Director did you have, you had the freedom to push the institute in the direction that you wanted to? or to what extent where you constrained by an academic board of control?
HW: I got the job because the university and the trust, which they call it a Board of Governors for this new institute, they were looking somebody who would have a good academic background, but also with an interest in actually promoting better relations, and it was then called the Abe Bailey Institute of Interracial Studies. And whereas in the will of Sir Abe Bailey he really meant Afrikaner and English races, he didn’t consider the blacks…
HW: The Board decided that the times have changed since, today we also take into account the black people. And so race for us meant the same as with the Institute of Race Relations: black and white races. But within five years I changed the name to Centre for Intergroup Studies, and that allowed me the freedom to discuss any groups among which there is conflict. And so in a sense you could say that I anticipated the fact that we should move beyond race relations and at that time, you may say what kind of influence there was; I would say on the bonus side give the Marxists the credit. Because I think it was in the early seventies that I became aware of the fact that economics is an important part of our struggle. And there is also this other influence, and that comes from the concern in the United States about the military-industrial-complex and the fact there is a strong capitalist motivation behind much of apartheid. So we shifted the emphasis from, in the first place in Sir Abe Bailey’s time Afrikaner/English races to then the, in the sixties when the centre was founded, white and blacks, to in the seventies any kind of interest group that is in conflict, and there we included - very soon we moved into the field of labour relations and also church relations, university conflict, and so on.
Taylor: I mean was that at your own initiative, or was that a kind of collective, or how..?
HW: Yeah, that’s a, I’ll try and answer it with reference to this whole diagram. In a sense it’s my own initiative because it has been pointed out very often that the Centre for Intergroup Studies centred very much around me as a person, and until I retired, partly because I did not have very influential senior staff - except in later years, but in the beginning there wasn’t funds for senior staff so I was the only person who really conducted the work and gave direction. But the other side of the picture is also that I’m a very much a committee man, I’m not authoritarian person, I’m not autocratic, I’m not high-handed, and so the one thing that brought the Centre for more national, international attention was our workshops, of which the first one was the one with Steve Biko.
HW: And in all the workshops I always had partners whom I invited to work with me. First to organize the workshop, and second to publish a book. And like the one with Steve Biko, with David Welsh. And then that was followed six years later by a workshop on the role of universities. The first one was on students and the next one, 1976, 75 or 6, was on the role of universities. And there again I asked David Welsh to join me. And so then also whenever I undertook something like a workshop or a project I would look for partners - either in any of these organizations, or in other universities or academic departments. So the one workshop I did with Connie Groenewald of the University of the Western Cape and then later the University of Stellenbosch, another one Wolfgang Thomas who was at the University of the Western Cape, and so therefore much of what I did was in cooperation with other academics or with other institutions. But the direction of the Centre was very much my own.
HW: The major thing that happened was that we developed into a centre for conflict resolution, and that was entirely my direction I gave it. I had a Board of Governors that met twice a year, and they certainly showed a great interest but I can’t remember of any major initiative ever taken by the Board.
HW: But they - it’s also not true to say they merely rubber-stamped what I did. All I can say is that they supported me very whole-heartedly. And I had a very good relationship with them. The relationship with the University was the major issue; it was meant - when the Abe Bailey trust gave the money to the university it was supposed to be part of the university. But for two major reasons it was established outside, non-profit company. The one was that there was a famous Professor of Sociology, Edward Bateson, at the University of Cape Town, he was an empire builder and he was trying to get hold of this new institute under his own auspices, and the only way they could keep him out of it was to set up as a separate organization - and they did not make him a member of the Board of Governors.
HW: With the result that he refused to see me when I started at the University of Cape Town. That situation changed eventually, I lectured in his department, but it took about a year before he actually even agreed to see me.
HW: The other reason was that race relations was a hot potato and the many conservative people in the University wouldn’t touch it. At the same time the Maurice Webb Trust made a grant to the University of Natal - also with a very much the same much the same idea of setting-up such an institute, and under Horwood who was then the vice-chancellor, they turned it down, and that money went to the University of Rhodesia, and Marshall Murphee was appointed the first director of what was then called the Centre for Interracial Studies and but in Cape Town, yeah, there was a similar situation that there was controversy; is it wise to have such a topic in an university that is supposed to be neutral and value-detached. And so the solution was found in setting-up a non-profit company with university support and so, with the result that I and also the staff were never part of the university. But in my case what the did was to make me an honorary professor of the university so it gave the Centre a moral status, and we were usually seen by the public as part of the university, and many people within the university didn’t even know that I was not the real professor and that we were not part - because we usually had our, we always had our offices on campus.
Taylor: Was the Institute, do you think the Institute generally at the time you were director was seen to be objective and impartial? Or was it seen to be an anti-apartheid based Institute?
HW: I would say that it was seen as both. In liberal circles we were certainly not seen as anti-apartheid, we were seen as neutral, and we were are often in certain anti-apartheid circles seen as being you know being pro-government in the sense that we did not, we were not anti-apartheid, but in government circles we were certainly seen as… the Kremlin on the Hill - things like that, so we seen as communists, because we connived with the enemy, and even in the University I had problems, also in my Board of Governors with the conservative businessmen, there was then one very powerful businessman - Clive Corder - who was I think chairman of the big newspaper groups like the Cape Times, morning papers, and also chairman of the Council of the University, so he was very conservative and very powerful, and on several occasions he was unhappy about the fact that I visited the ANC in exile and that I brought, I obtained visas to visit South Africa for people like Gwendolyn Carter, who had been forbidden, who had been refused visas for twelve or fifteen years, and my intervention with the cabinet ministers in that case it was Connie Mulder, I got them visas, and so there are a few cases like that where people like Clive Corder were uncomfortable, but I think this is the true for any mediating group that - to the extent that you link up with the other party, with the enemy, you are seen as, if you’re not with us then you’re against us. And so in that sense I was seen by liberals as being too conservative, and vice versa.
Taylor: You - earlier you mentioned the role of the input of Marxism into an understanding of the South African conflict, but in terms of the work of the Institute what were the kind of intellectual influences around the issue of peace and conflict resolution? I mean where there key academic writers that you would look to, or was it simply more of a practical approach that you took? I mean would you say that work of John Burton, for example, had an influence on what you were doing? or Johan Galtung?
Taylor: I mean to what extent were you influenced by academic work within peace and conflict resolution?
HW: I would say that I’m a pragmatist, and the - especially if you look at my writings…
Taylor: Mmm, mmm.
HW: …there’s nothing theoretical. I’ve never developed anything or any project on the basis of what I read about conflict resolution.
Taylor: Mmm, mmm.
HW: And that’s, one reason for this is that I am a slow reader, and I have never really studied any of these great thinkers properly. What happens that whenever I came across either a person - travelling abroad, or who I brought out a number of people here, or I read their books, I would certainly be very open to learn from others, but virtually everything I’ve written was an analysis of what I had done myself or what I experienced.
HW: And then in - to mention one example, in the case of Burton, I used to bring academics or other people - trade union leaders and so on - from abroad every year to come to participate in a workshop, and then on one occasion the British Council agreed to sponsor two people and I asked the Joseph Rowntree Trust in England - who supported me over the years - to give me the name of somebody in conflict resolution, which was in those days not even the word that you heard about much. Anyway they said there’s a man called John Burton who was seen a leading pioneer in this field, and I traced him at the University of Maryland where he was at that time teaching, and he agreed to come. And I had never seen his name, I had never read any books by him, but I had interest… I submitted it to the British Council and they said okay. Then he came back to England, via London to stop over there because they had their son there, and he visited the British Council offices and it turned out that he was an Australian citizen. Of course he’s from Australia but he’d never changed his citizenship, and the British Council could not support any non-British citizen, so John Burton walked out of the office and came back half-a-day later with a British passport.
HW: Because he was such an influential person.
HW: So he came out and so he gave a paper at the workshop and we went around visiting people - academics, politicians and so on. And I would say that he certainly influenced me in the sense that I was inspired by him. Since then I’ve read - and I’ve forgotten who it was but either in America or the States somebody referred to me as a ‘Burtonian’ and as the most successful of all Burtonians, because I have actually achieved to bring groups-enemies together, the ANC and the government, and many other, other various groups who otherwise didn’t meet. And I brought them together in what Burton would call workshops.
Taylor: Mmm, mmm.
HW: Well I’ve called them workshops long before I heard of Burton himself. But I do remember when we had the first workshop in 71 with Steve Biko, even the word workshop was not common, and certainly in Afrikaans we’ve never, we still have not got another word, so even in Afrikaans I used the word workshop. So it was just the only word that we could think of at that time.
Taylor: Mmm, mmm.
HW: The same was when in 1973 we changed the name of Abe Bailey Institute of Interracial Studies to Centre for Intergroup Studies. I also searched the literature, the names of institutions around the world and the one that appealed to me the most was actually - I forgot the man’s name - but it was an American scholar who had a joint appointment in Paris, I think at the Sorbonne, and it was called the Centre for something, Interracial Studies, and I decided ah the word Centre is the one I’ll use instead of Institute.
HW: But it was all, yeah, looking around, getting ideas, and then deciding what applies to our own situation.
Taylor: Yeah. I mean many people I’ve interviewed when they look back at the eighties they tell me that their practice was ahead of theory - what they were doing, their practical engagement, was ahead of any kind of theoretical or reflective thinking.
HW: In my case certainly.
Taylor: I mean I read this interview you had - I don’t know if you’ve seen this, in the book The Heart of Whiteness…
HW: Mmm, mmm.
Taylor: Where they (Goodwin and Schiff), where you say, they say HW believes it’s experience rather than argument that moves people to change…
HW: Mmm, mmm.
Taylor: And you would say that is really your methodology - that through experience…
Taylor: So, initially the Centre did a lot of research publications, had workshops, but in terms of your influence, your view about the importance of experience, you moved towards putting an emphasis on bringing people together? and contact, encounters?
Taylor: And dialogue, and also you moved - I guess it would have been in the late seventies - towards conflict resolution. Would that be about the time that you moved the Centre towards dealing with mediation and..?
HW: We started using the word conflict, we called it conflict and peace studies in the early eighties, not even the seventies.
Taylor: In the eighties, aha.
HW: And that, I got these ideas in the States, I was on sabbatical in the States in 1980. And then I remember coming back I wrote a paper on my experiences and then I pointed out that they counted something like 122 organizations in America concerned with conflict resolution…
Taylor: And in South Africa how many! - None?
HW: South Africa none. And then I started making a case for it.
HW: And then I started looking at the Centre for Intergroup Studies and then I said look here this, what we’re doing is really conflict resolution.
HW: And this is our focus. In the seventies, I think late seventies, there was, we launched what we called the constructive programme for sound intergroup relations, and that’s the closest we came to conflict resolution.
HW: I need some water, would you like…
Taylor: I’m okay. (Pause.) So in the eighties you would say well you were virtually the only organization dealing with conflict resolution? It’s only really in the later eighties when you had, well again you’re associated with the Quaker Peace Centre, but also maybe with the Independent Mediation Service for South Africa and the trade union movement, maybe some of the work of the Institute of Race Relations were doing - but apart from that, that would be the extent of conflict resolution in South Africa under apartheid?
HW: Well I’ll add one or two, because I think it’s fine, it’s okay to call me a pioneer in the history of it, but I am very much aware of the fact that there were many influences at work that one can, one would not be aware of, or would not acknowledge as such.
HW: In the same way that I’m for instance surprised when I read the Allister Sparks book and he doesn’t mention my name.
HW: I must be careful for the same thing, that I don’t think I was the only one in the field when there actually were other people in the field. So I want to, I think it’s clear to say that certainly in the early eighties…
Taylor: …as an organization, yeah.
HW: As an organization, and in the writing…
HW: I mean I’ve searched the field and I’ve tried to acknowledge and to bring together and to - I can say mobilize is the right word - mobilize all groups, other organizations in this field.
HW: And so the very first work we did in the field of community conflict resolution I did with the Council of Churches - because I saw it in America in the eighties, 1980, organizations, community organizations working in this field, and then I thought well that’s exactly what we should do. And so I then decided that I have to do it, I have to involve a certain field of activity it must not be just academic, and then I thought well the two obvious groups with whom I should do it would be the trade union movement or the churches. But that was, the trade union movement at that time was so divided that I couldn’t choose one without estranging the other, and so I choose the churches. And I took the Western Province Council of Churches, so we set-up the first, well I believe was the first activity in community conflict resolution and to train community leaders.
HW: But I must say the first person who really did work in this field was Richard Salem, whom I brought out from the Community Relations Services of the Department of Justice in America, and I met him in Chicago in 1978 - and I think he came out in 79. So we did have some work in this field, but it was more of an ad hoc thing. The man came out who’s very competent I always regarded Dick Salem as the most successful trainer I’ve ever brought in from abroad.
HW: But it was a kind of an ad hoc training. He helped us resolve several conflicts here in the Cape flats, and we started training, but it was only in 1980 that we started to gear the whole Centre in this situation. And then in 1984 I think I can say I took as my model IMSSA, which is new, because I had a lot of contact with Lout Louws-Dekker and also Charles Nupen, more with Lout, and so I officially asked Lout to be my consultant or advisor in setting-up what I thought would be something like IMSSA. Now that never worked because I couldn’t get, we had several national conferences, workshops and discussions, to discuss setting-up a national mediation service, but I couldn’t get support for it - there was no general support to set-up something like IMSSA for community and political conflict. And so it remained the functions of the Centre and other organizations to develop it - and of course also IMSSA then branched into community work.
Taylor: Is it true that throughout the seventies and eighties funding was a big problem? Was it very difficult to get funding for the Institute and for the Centre?
HW: Ah, I would - I don’t know if I would say it was difficult, it was always a struggle to raise funds. And I, yeah well I think that’s the best way I can answer it - that it required a lot of hard work.
Taylor: And the majority came from overseas or..?
HW: Oh yes definitely, from overseas.
Taylor: And your Quaker connection was important… Rowntree?
HW: Rowntree Trust, yes. But also various other call it Quaker connections helped.
Taylor: Mmm, mmm.
HW: I never received substantial grants from any other of the Quaker trusts - Cadbury and so on. But they were not necessarily for projects run by the Centre. I was often involved in the work of the Quakers, which were I mean running - call it parallel - with the Centre work, and then there we sometimes had other Quaker funds. And then I also traveled extensively abroad under Quaker funding, but the Joseph Rowntree was our major sponsor. I, it started before I was really a Quaker, I got to know the Quakers through the Quaker Service Fund, and became active in their welfare and development work, and then I, and I got to know Quakers overseas, and then on one occasion when I was in London I met David Jebsom, and I remember I was up at the Dingle small conference and then this man came over and said he’d heard about me and what I’m doing and his Trust would like to support me and…
HW: So he asked me to submit a proposal, which I did and I got money. And the, so we had funding from them over a number of years. Then other later funders were Ford Foundation, Carnegie Corporation, and then in a few cases Embassy’s, but not much. But the biggest single grant we ever had over a number of years was from Shell, and that started in about seven- in the eighties, when we developed- wanted to develop a programme for a national level for the training of black community leaders in how to handle conflict.
HW: And that was with Lout Lowes-Dekker, Gumpe Molote was two key people, let’s say… did much more than anyone else. So we developed a programme for a one week course, what I think three days we started with, to train community leaders. And then we went to seven companies; Lout proposed the names and I wrote to them saying will you give us R5,000 each, and then we would develop this programme. And then Shell said oh but this sounds like a good programme why don’t you develop it. So eventually instead of, they offered 7,000, eventually they offered 70,000. And we made it a national programme, and then once we brought in a consultancy group called Kontact, with whom I’d lost touch, but they’re very well known, they were then in the early stages, and they became our consultants, and then they did it more professionally - with slides and so on - so we made a proposal to the Shell board to expand the programme, and they gave us 700,000.
HW: And eventually altogether they finally amounted to one-and-a-half million. And for the eighties this was a lot of money.
Taylor: What impact do you think that project had? What impact would you..?
HW: Well it became our, we called it negotiated skills programme, we appointed Eziekehel Zikewale, a man in Soweto to run it. But a lot of things went wrong, we tried to encourage it to become an autonomous body because it was run from Soweto offices - we had honest intentions, and then at that time I brought in Ronald Kraybill, an American, who was certainly at that time the best qualified trainer in this field in the whole country. And he when Azzie came down to give a course here in the townships he sat in on one day session and wrote me a confidential report and said that half the people fell asleep most of the time because Azzie’s a terrible lecturer - and unfortunately Azzie got ahold of that Report…
HW: And he used it to, as proof that we really want to get rid of him, or fire him - which was absolutely unfounded. But anyway there was a lot of tension and so by the time I retired from my job this tension was not resolved - I don’t even know how it was resolved after my retirement, and I don’t know what happened to that programme.
HW: But the point is that this programme was entirely financed by Shell to the tune of one-and-a-half million Rand. So that was the biggest single contribution at that time that we received. And again I think that this is also an example that I was not an empire builder, and so as soon as we saw we had here a good solid unit in Soweto with Transvaal people to help run it - like Lout Louws-Dekker and such people - I really wanted to withdraw from it, but then it turned out that not even Shell was willing to finance a separate group of people, especially with a number of blacks on it that had no experience, they didn’t trust their money would be well handled - I think that’s basically what it amounted to. So they, this groups, any attempts they made to raise funds on their own behalf, without Centre backing, failed. And so the tension remained and it was, yeah, I said an unresolved issue by the time I retired.
Taylor: In your day the number of staff at the Centre was always very small, unlike now where there’s about what 30 people employed…
HW: Yeah. We had probably up to 16 at the time when I retired; now there are about 30.
HW: Yeah, our budget when I retired was about a million Rand a year, now I think three million. And there certainly came a very big change with Laurie being half my age and twice my energy.
Taylor: Were you involved in the change of name yet again in 94? Or was that Laurie?
HW: You mean the Centre for Conflict Resolution?
HW: Yeah, we proposed it before I retired.
HW: It came up in our kind of retreats you know - annual retreat where we look at what we’ve achieved and so on. I would say in about 91 already, that we said we must consider changing the name to Centre for Conflict Resolution, as it goes with this kind of thing of course it takes time and it was - I retired as director in 92, I asked the Board to retire in 1990 already, after de Klerk…
Taylor: …made the speech, yeah.
HW: …made the change. And then I thought well now I can sit back, because until 1990 it was so important to advocate what I did, and after 1990 suddenly everybody wanted to mediate. Laugh.
HW: And negotiate, so I thought well I would like to sit back and look back and analyze it, and also consult with the media.
HW: But I don’t need to be an advocate of this direction.
HW: And so in 1990 I wrote to my Board to ask them to look for a successor and they just dismissed it, in fact I raised it twice and they just dismissed it. And at that time - oh they just said there is no other person.
Taylor: Mmm, mmm.
HW: There’s nobody with a reputation in this field, with that kind of attitude. And so in 92 they agreed - oh yes they asked me I must first raise funds because that would mean an additional job. Because I would stay on until I was 65, I mean in 94, and so we had funds available because I made the rule, oh many years before, that every time when we have unearmarked funds - and most of our funds are for projects, very seldom you get funds for Board administration.
HW: But whenever there are funds available that had not been allocated to a project we put it in reserve; so by the time I retired we had 500,000...
HW: …Rand in reserve.
HW: Unmarked for anything, and so then I could step back, so they advertised and appointed Laurie, and I - because the Board at that time thought, that then because of my long association with the Centre that it might be embarrassing for a new young person to work with me present, breathing into his neck, they asked me that when I retire to work from home.
HW: And that suited Laurie very well because there was no - he took my office, there was no office for me.
HW: So on the 6 September 92 the Board informed me that they had appointed Laurie to assume duties as from 1 September and I had five days to vacate my office. So I moved to my house here.
HW: And I liked it, and I - Laurie then of course, I mean he has ten times more confidence than I have, then he told me I don’t need to withdraw from anything, I’m welcome to come. So I went to their staff meetings, and usually, because I enjoyed so much to see how well Laurie can handle the situation.
Taylor: Yes, he’s brilliant.
HW: And I just thought that look here, yeah, I thought he was so much better than I was. And it was a wonderful feeling that I felt, yeah - I just withdrew from the whole thing.
Taylor: Mmm, mmm.
HW: And I never had any further activity in the Centre; I mean I go there and I have contact but I… but I’m not involved in any (end of tape).
Taylor: To what extent did you see your role as a third party mediator in terms of National Party - ANC, to what extent did you see that role as being clearly within and under the work of the Centre for Intergroup Studies - or was that more of your own initiative? I mean to what extent would you like the meeting you arranged in 84 in Lusaka - to what extent would that be discussed with the Board, with the Institute, or would it be you, did you see them as running together or did you operate with the idea that your work in the area as a third party intervenor was somewhat separate from the conflict resolution and the publications the Centre was doing or not?
HW: Yeah, no I would say that everything I did was Centre work.
HW: But that also I must point out that, and I don’t know, I have a few copies of publications which I dealt with some of these issues more recently…
HW: And you may have seen it or not, but I’ll give it to you.
Taylor: Thank you.
HW: I’ve now dealt with it more often; to what extent - what hat did I wear.
HW: And the only other hat I wore was that of Quaker. And then the Quaker issue again this the question of whether I did it as an individual Quaker in good standing, on my own initiative, or whether I did it on behalf of the Quakers in a more official capacity, but I would say that nothing I did was as an ind- on my own, and so in the case of the, take for example my visit to the ANC in Lusaka: my first contacts with the ANC-in-exile was 1963, when I came back from the States - I was away for five years, more than five, and the ANC was banned in that time. I was a fairly unsophisticated politician at that time, I mean I grew up on a farm, and I’m now, I’ve just written my memoirs in which I discuss in more detail…
HW: But I have, I gave a paper in America earlier this year which I called from Calvinist dissident to Quaker peacemaker, in which I trace this change from my rural background, and but I was just something of a born mediator, I mean I’m - it’s a natural inclination, so in 1963, I can’t tell you why, but I dropped in at the ANC office in London and at the Embassy. And I talked to both sides, and that I continued whenever I went overseas. And then in 1984 when I visited the ANC I went to, in Lusaka, I went with, to attend a Quaker Yearly Meeting, because I was at that time a clerk for the Quakers of South Africa and from the neighbouring countries, so in that capacity I’m supposed to attend the meeting in, of the Central Africa general meeting of the Quakers, but the, they didn’t have funds so I would not have gone had it not been that just before that I received an anonymous donation of I think a thousand pounds or something like that from England. I didn’t know where it came from - it came from a Quaker, to say it’s for me to use as I see fit. And after a lot of soul-searching I decided to use it for myself.
HW: It brought my ticket - but I consulted the man, the person who sent me the money, and he said sure of course the money is meant to promote your peacework, peacemaking. So I paid my ticket with it. And, but in those days I mean it was, travel like that was not common, and also a flight to Lusaka was expensive. So I paid it with a Quaker donation. And I went to attend the Quaker Yearly Meeting and in addition I had a letter - I was introduced to Mr. Kuanda by the head of the Quaker Service in London, and I had at that time an invitation - a standing invitation - from Gertrude Shope of whom I met in New York and she said come and visit us in Lusaka, so I went there, and I met Thabo Mbeki and Alfred Nzo and then that’s when Thabo asked me ‘Will you help us meet with the Government?’
Taylor: He asked you…
HW: So, in that case - oh yes. And then I mentioned in some of my publications that I heard then that Thabo - no not Thabo, I don’t know who it was - but their representative reported to the annual general meeting of the ANC-in-exile to say that it was an honest Quaker broker that started the talks. So, but the Quakers gave me no instruction to go there and meet with the ANC.
Taylor: Mmm. It was Mbeki asking you for…
HW: What happened is that I wrote to Gertrude Shope to say that I’ll be in Lusaka, and so I think Simon Makana who was then the head of the office there, arranged that I, they will send a person to see me at Anglo-American office. In the morning two women came to see me, and in the afternoon Thabo Mbeki and Alfred Nzo came. And it’s the first time I met them, but by that time I had very good relations with several people in London, where I visited many times, and Aziz Pahad, Solly Smith, and eventually Mending Mdisang and a number of people - with whom I had very good relations. I felt that they trusted me. Also by that time I, Winnie (Mandela) stayed here - in this home (6 Cambridge Road, Observatory) - when she came to visit Nelson in prison. And they must have heard my name. So we spent about an hour-and-a-half and they asked me ‘What’s going on?’ they said they read there’s renewal and is it true, and I said yes. And then eventually Alfred Nzo said but if this is all true that you’re telling us about the government they must be willing to talk to us. I said ‘Yes they are’. And then Thabo said will you help us to meet them. And so I started preparing for that.
Taylor: So the first trip to Lusaka was in early 1984?
HW: August 84.
Taylor: And you went back in December with Piet Muller?
HW: In December then I went with Piet, yeah.
Taylor: Then you met Thabo Mbeki and Simon Makana, or didn’t you meet..?
HW: Every visit I met Thabo Mbeki, over all the years.
HW: And then on a few occasions Simon came to see me individually. Also Jacob Zuma came to see me individually, and talked in rather more confidentially and so on. But otherwise we always had call it more formal meetings, and I took Piet Muller twice. I took Ampie Muller once with me; I took André Zaaiman, I don’t know what happened to him. And then on their part they had James Stuart, Pallo Jordan - Jacob Zuma happened to be there quite a number of times.
Taylor: When you approached the National Party, how did you do that? through people you knew in the Cabinet, and what were their reactions? in 84.
HW: I… let’s come back to the Board, because I never clarified that one. That’s where we really started.
Taylor: Mmm, mmm.
HW: I wrote, on most of these cases - unfortunately I never kept dairies, which is a sad thing because I can’t remember now the names of people and where and when we met. But I usually wrote a Report which I usually called ‘confidential’ or ‘strictly confidential’.
HW: This one I called ‘strictly confidential’, about whom I saw and the fact that they asked me to help for me to come. And that I gave to my Board of Governors, but sometimes I give it, I sent it out like a circular because it’s, it comes in the news and I don’t want them to read it in the newspaper - that I was in Lusaka. So in a case like this before it gets into the newspaper I send them a Report, otherwise I give them a Report with an agenda of our Board meeting which is usually within April and December, and then, so I said to Clive Corder usually frowned and said ‘This is dangerous stuff’, but then when I, when he hears that I talked to Cabinet Ministers and they all encouraged me, I put that in my Report too, because I - you know those times the Government really came down like a ton of bricks on Idasa…
Taylor: Mmm, mmm.
HW: On… that was 87, it was so many years later, but anybody talking to the ANC was you know fiercely attacked.
Taylor: Was that because they wanted to control the process?
HW: Well I think many of these… you yourself. I attributed the fact that in my case I’ve never had - that’s also in some of my publications - I’ve never been attacked, certainly not publicly. And I attribute it to the fact that I tried not to embarrass the government. My - unlike the case of Idasa - I was not anti-government. I was trying to build a bridge. I was trying to bring the Government and the ANC together. So therefore I don’t attack the Government, I mean I…
Taylor: You wouldn’t take one side or the other.
HW: No. I mean my views were well known. I mean I was anti-apartheid…
Taylor: Yeah, but within that you…
HW: That’s one thing I learnt from the Quakers, especially from Adam Curle who is a British Quaker…
HW: That you can distinguish between the act and the person.
HW: So I usually said I can condemn apartheid without condemning the people who practice apartheid.
Taylor: Mmm, mmm.
HW: Because, yeah…
Taylor: And that was understood by the people who did practice apartheid?
HW: I don’t know whether it was understood, but all I can say is that I think basically what amounted to much of this is that there was mutual respect.
HW: I respected the Nationalists as individuals, and they seemed to respect me. And because I saw all these attacks on everybody else on this church leaders and some of these people, and nobody attacked me, I thought well at least Andries Truernicht must be…
Taylor: Surely, yeah.
HW: …angry with me. So I made an appointment with him.
HW: And he received me, because we knew each other from earlier years. And we had a very nice talk about politics. And after twenty minutes I thought but this is getting us nowhere…
HW: …and I said ‘Dr Truernicht I actually came to hear your views of my talking to the ANC’ and he said ‘Well I don’t think it’s the right time’. And that’s all.
Taylor: Gosh. Which Cabinet Ministers did you sense were more in favour of negotiations then than others? I mean could you identify a few Ministers?
HW: No, I don’t think, I - that I will have to read the other books, by people like you and journalists who know that.
Taylor: Would PW (Botha), his view would be..?
HW: I never met PW Botha. Let me tell you an example which gives some view on this: after I took Piet Muller to Lusaka and he wrote the articles which was quite widely publicized…
HW: There was a report written by Hennie Serfontein - front page news, the major report in both the Sunday papers Rapport and The Sunday Times, which is an unusual thing that they would publish the same report from the same author.
HW: And they said that there was a secret meeting of a government representative with the ANC in Lusaka on 19 December - that was shortly after Piet’s visit. And then the National Intelligence Service came to ask me if I can tell them who it was. So I said but I mean this is impossible, you work for the president of the country how come you don’t know, and then they said there’s so much rivalry between them and the other secret services…
Taylor: Mmm, mmm.
HW: And then they said it’s because they’re all looking for a breakthrough out of the stalemate. So, to come back to your question before, what was the reason why they opposed it, on the one hand they wanted to cont- there was a wish to have a breakthrough but they want to control it and they want to get credit for it.
HW: On the other hand of course it’s a genuine conservative resistance to talk to them, that element was there too. That even people who wanted to talk to the ANC were ambivalent about it, because they knew any talks to the ANC if they’re genuine and they’re successful would lead to majority black rule.
Taylor: Mmm, mmm.
HW: And a democratic society. And very few whites liked the idea, I mean even if they would be political liberals. I always said if you can, if we get rid of the evil of apartheid, there’ll be ten other evils that we’ll have to fight once we have a genuine democratic society. And so I would say that there was, yeah, there’re different motivations at work, and there’s on the one hand a wish to have a breakthrough, to have talks, that they’re successful talks, but the wish to control it was very strong. Maybe de Klerk was the best example of that, that he thought he could control the process. And then he didn’t realize that it was not possible.
Taylor: The, you had the meeting in Lusaka in December 84, Piet Muller - ANC, and then beyond that - between that period and 87 when Idasa went to Dakar you were involved in facilitating other meetings between Lusaka and Afrikaner intellectuals and..?
HW: Only, no, I… there were a whole series of meetings and with which I had nothing to do.
HW: There were the: there were academics, there were the church leaders, there were the business leaders. I would say that in most cases I had some contact with these people; like - an example - van Zyl Slabbert, just on the plane telling me they were going to this event, and then of course I had my major contact with Anglo-American with Zach de Beer, because he was responsible for Zambia at that time, and he is the one who arranged with Vernon Webber there - the Head in Lusaka - to make an office available to me. They also paid for my hotel in Lusaka, and I remember when, after Thabo asked me to help them met with the government, I said look here how are we going to communicate and keep it quiet? So I suggested that we use diplomatic pouches of the British or the American Embassy, and they said oh no they don’t trust them, we will use Anglo-American.
HW: And that was for me, was interesting that they trusted the businessmen better than they trusted the diplomats.
Taylor: I mean in terms of the most meaningful connections you established between the ANC and the National Party or Afrikaner power elite or whatever one wants to call it - which would be, which was the meeting that was most important; you facilitated the meeting between Esterhuyse and Sampie Terreblanche? again?
HW: No, I - to come back to that. I haven’t answered your question. When I came back, who did I contact? I of course, and then I started by saying I wrote reports.
HW: These reports I sometimes gave to other people, to, yeah, to as a way of sharing. And the one person I gave it to was Ray Killen, who was then the - I don’t know if he was then already Director-General of Foreign Affairs or only head of Africa - and I suspected that he’s the one who sent the secret emissary to meet with the ANC in 19 December.
HW: Because he trusted what I said, that the ANC wanted to talk. Also at that stage I met with Johan van der Merwe who was then head of the security police, and he told me I’m playing with fire and the ANC is using me and they’re terrorists and I can’t trust them. So they were the two different reactions.
HW: But to come back to the fact that I was never attacked in public, I think it’s because in the case, like in the case of Johan van der Merwe, that I would give him this report and I had no secrets, that I think they, on the one hand they might have thought well this is, I’m so uninfluential that I can’t do any harm, on the other hand they said that they also believed that I will not do something secret, or subversary.
Taylor: Mmm, mmm.
HW: The person I then decided to approach more officially was Wynand Malan, because he started making liberal noises. I’ve heard from various people who visited him since then, later years, saying that I’m the one that was responsible for his fall from National Party.
HW: But I told him I have an invitation and I want to take politicians, but from the beginning I decided that I’m not going to take dissidents or liberals - because then I achieved nothing. I mean I could take liberals - I did arrange one meeting and that was for Barry Streak, from the morning papers, to visit the ANC, but I mean I just facilitated it, he asked me will I do it, and I did. But I, the request of the ANC to talk to the government, I, meant it, I can only take people in good standing in the government. And so Wynand Malan was a member of Parliament, even though he was a liberal, but then he said look here it will probably cost me my position in the Parliament. And then I started wondering then he’s not the right person to take. So, but then he brought in Leon Wessels, who was not a liberal at that time.
HW: They came here, to visit me here, and we started planning the visit. And they got two other people, the one was Stoffel van der Merwe, and the fourth one I’ve forgotten who it was. But they didn’t come to discuss it with me, but they are the four people. And then we started arranging to meet. But it was at that time that John Groom and Keith Webb was here, were here as my guests for a conference. And then they said look here, you can’t take these men to Lusaka because they will be, that will destroy the purpose of having a neutral meeting; you must have neutral ground. So then we tried Harare, and, but then they came up with an invitation from the University of Greenoble…
Taylor: Yeah, yeah.
HW: And they said look here, that will be neutral ground. And then these Nationalists may retain their positions, if you could say they did not, you know, if they would go to Lusaka they would be seen as sell-outs.
HW: And anyway it’s a long story, but…
Taylor: What happened to that Greenoble initiative..?
HW: Well, no, I think - of course again it’s a complicated issue - but by that time because Keith Webb and John Groom became involved, you could say I used them as consultants, and I so we had to laise with the London office and I don’t remember who of them went to see the ANC, but then the ANC just suddenly said no way we are not interested.
Taylor: So in retrospect it would have been, just gone ahead with the initial initiative of four National Party people; would that have been in retrospect a better..?
HW: Ah, I don’t know. The… I think Wynand Malan and Leon Wessels they said they would go without asking the leadership because they knew they wouldn’t get it, but they said when they come back they would report to him. And then they will suffer the consequences.
Taylor: That would have been an event. That really would have been an event.
HW: Yeah. But then as John and Keith pointed out - then you’ve not succeeded in bringing the two parties together.
Taylor: But surely one could have a longer vision of the process?
HW: Well it’s - as I’ve said - I can’t remember all the arguments, but the - in this process I went up to Lusaka myself…
HW: And had meetings with Thabo and some of his colleagues, and they of course would have, they were very keen to have the Nationalists in Lusaka, because it would be a big scoop for them.
HW: And they didn’t care very much what happened on this side.
HW: But, yeah, I think it’s for you to analyze…
Taylor: I will… You can keep this material, I don’t know if you’ve seen it, it’s from the Fort Hare Archives…
Taylor: It’s material dealing with some of your initiatives.
HW: Lovely. That’s good of you. I’ll tell you Hugo (his son) mentioned to me that you have various documents from the ANC…
Taylor: Yes, these are them.
HW: And so I actually meant to phone you and say please if you have any…
Taylor: I’ve made you copies, yes.
HW: Because I have no, I have no ANC documents, I have never seen any, and so anything would be very welcome.
Taylor: I think you will enjoy them, I mean there’s one report that finishes with, here’s the Report, it’s written by Simon Makana, about the meeting with Piet Muller…
HW: I’ve seen none of those.
Taylor: And then, I think there’s a report of the meeting you had in… finishes yes, ‘In conclusion I want to express the view that this Professor van der Merwe is a really peculiar person, but I think he should be properly evaluated or researched so he doesn’t become an enigma’.
HW: Chuckles. I’ve never seen any of this.
Taylor: You can have these.
HW: I will be very pleased, it will be very, especially now that I’m writing my memoirs it would be good to have this. There’s another one who sent, promised me Reports, and I suddenly remember now he hasn’t come yet, Mark Gevisser.
HW: He’s writing a biography on Thabo Mbeki. And he’s been travelling abroad quite a lot, and I heard from him from London and from Cairo. And he said he had a, he sent me a list, a whole page full, a list of documents which he came across, and he would sent me photocopies, and I haven’t seen that. But what interested me is that while the ANC was in Shell House, during the four years of negotiations, I visited there a few times and then on one occasion somebody - I was in the lift with somebody, and then a man greeted me as if he knew me, and that was Matthews Phosa, so I didn’t know him so I said to him ‘I’m very bad with faces’, you know, I have, as a teenager I fell from a horse and I was unconscious for a few days and I got what they call froses magnosia, magnosia for faces, I cannot remember faces because I damaged those cells in my brain that have to do with that specific thing…
HW: It’s a part of your memory, but it’s only the memory of faces. And so I said ‘Well I am sorry I don’t remember it’, and he said ‘No, we have not met, I am Matthews Phosa, but I studied you on videotape to try to assess your lotus and who you were when you came to Lusaka’.
Taylor: Laugh - there’s a video.
HW: So somewhere they photographed me or - whatever, I don’t know what sources they had. But so I know they were concerned about me.
HW: Although I mention this in my memoirs, that in 1963 when I walked into the ANC office in London I met two young black men - I’ve no idea who, I don’t know their names. And then I said well they must have wondered now who on earth is this Afrikaner...
Taylor: Yeah. Laugh.
HW: …who walks into their office. And the only conclusion they could come to is he’s a police spy.
HW: Because what other motivation would this guy have.
Taylor: So what happened after you met them? They talked to you, they said who they were and then they got back to you or..?
Taylor: When you met these two people in the London office, and you had a chat with them, and then did they channel you so someone…
HW: Oh, in 63?
HW: No, no definitely not.
Taylor: What happened?
HW: I walked in there, I had a chat, and I walked out. And I never saw them again. I never had no further contact.
Taylor: So your next contact was when you, went to Lusaka?
HW: No. That was 63, then I, the only first time I went overseas after that was 69, and I went to teach at NorthWestern University, and then I, 69, I came back in 70, did not stop in London, 72 I was, I went to a World Congress or something, and in 74 I did, and 78, and each time whenever I went I looked mostly to London, I would drop in. Then in 1980 I was at Woodward - the Quaker College in Birmingham - for one year, and in that year I visited their offices quite often.
Taylor: So you got to know people like Aziz Pahad at that time?
HW: Yeah. And the one thing that stood out in my memory at that time was the British Council of Churches had a conference on South Africa, on boycotts and so on, that’s one thing I disagreed with the ANC and I’ve always said that I think that must be the thing that the ANC referred to, on one occasion they asked the Dutch government to give me a visa to come to Holland for a conference and then they said that they differ with me in fundamental respects, I don’t know what they had in mind, but the one must have been the boycott because I’ve always argued that the economic boycott will do more harm than good in the long run, the harm will outweigh any short term benefits. And anyway at this conference we had, I certainly did not support the general mainstream of boycott - but at tea-time a man came to me and said ‘Oh yes, your for ons’ - ‘You’re one of us’, and that was Solly Smith, he was the head of the London office at that time. And he embraced me, and that was because I’m Afrikaans-speaking and he comes from the Orange Free State, his second-language - or maybe his first-language - is Afrikaans. And I think that started the more personal relationship, and they - yeah I would say they started to trust me. That was 80. And then 8-, yeah since then I have been overseas more often. And in 82 I visited Winnie Mandela the first time, and…
Taylor: This was in Brandfort?
HW: In Brandfort. And in 84 I visited (Nelson) Mandela in prison. And, but by that time she stayed at my home, every month when she comes down to see, to see Nelson.
Taylor: How did that meeting with Mandela - in prison - come about?
HW: Ah, she came home one day and said I told my husband about you, and that here is one Afrikaner you can trust.
HW: And so she said ‘He wants to meet you’.
HW: And so I wrote to Kobbie Coetsee to ask permission to visit him.
HW: And they wouldn’t, and I - I made several, I wrote several letters, eventually I even saw Wilemse who was the Director-General of prisons in Pretoria, and they said well they understand, they’re not really very much against it but they said with me having contact with the ANC-in-exile, they weren’t comfortable with me visiting Nelson Mandela. Chuckle.
Taylor: Chuckle. What did you tell them you wanted to see him for? I mean to..?
HW: Well I said he asked to see me and…
Taylor: And you didn’t know what…
HW: Well, no I think by that time he had written to, and that was to say that because… there was on the one hand the idea that I write an autobiography, in which case I would have gone through documents in more detail, but I’ve not even gone through all the letters I had from him - which is all now in the archives (at UCT). But, and I don’t know what, when at what stages he wrote, but we have - I think I have kept most of his letters. He wrote about Zinzi and because she and Zinni were in Waterford School in Swaziland, but Zinzi falsified her passport - or whatever document - and therefore was blocked at the border, she dropped out of school. And by that time she’d already had the second child from a second unmarried relationship, and also the one person you know beat her up for it and left her for dying in the bush or something, and then he said ‘Look here I’m being a prisoner, my children are without a father, and I want you to please help us to steady it’. And he used the word guardian.
Taylor: So that’s what you talked about when you met?
HW: So then I told the police and I asked Kobbie Coetsee, not the police - the prison authorities that I wanted to visit him as a family visit. So then they told me I can visit him on a family visit, but I may not discuss politics. And that happened in I think October, August or October 84 - yeah, just after I visited Thabo Mbeki in Lusaka. And then when I arrived there Gregory, the…
Taylor: Oh the prison warder.
HW: He warned me that I may not talk politics, so I said can I bring him greetings from mutual friends? He said, yes.
HW: Chuckle. So of course I told him I brought him greetings from Thabo Mbeki, from Alfred Nzo, Kenneth Kuanda, and oh - HW claps his hands - Mandela got so excited he held his hands above his head and…
HW: But anyway the, it was supposed to be a family visit and then he asked me would I please extend - well, no he told me I must arrange for Zinzi to go to university.
Taylor: Yeah, I taught her actually in 1987. She was in my class. So was Winnie (later).
HW: You. I was going to ask somebody, because I wrote in my memoirs that neither she nor Winnie completed their degrees - is that so?
Taylor: Well I know they both passed my course, but I can check. I think Zinzi might have done.
HW: You think so?
Taylor: I can check.
HW: Because the last time I was at Wits they did not complete their courses, they did not write their exams.
Taylor: Oh well, certainly they completed - they both passed my module. I know Winnie completed some of her courses, but whether it was enough to get a degree… I thought that Zinzi, she certainly got through politics, so with her other major she might have had problems but...
HW: Yeah, because I did not, I had contact with them at that time and the thing I heard, and also their explanation, was that they had to go to the Transkei several times for deaths, for funerals, and every time they go they stay away a few weeks. Chuckle. And so they couldn’t finish their assignments.
Taylor: But I’m sure that they both successfully completed their studies in politics, but I know that Winnie didn’t complete I think her courses in Anthropology; Zinzi I’m not sure - I thought she had got it, but I hadn’t looked beyond the other courses.
HW: It’s just something I thought I should be careful what I say. My manuscript is now with Mandela, because I asked him to write a foreword.
HW: And so I don’t know if he will do it, but I just thought that I must be careful - it’s just a draft. I have not, I still have to, you know, complete it.
Taylor: So how often did you see him after that first visit?
HW: I’ll answer you that, but first I think there’s something else we didn’t complete. Oh yes, let me first deal with this visit. Then he, he kind of - I forgot the words now - but he kind of told me that I must tell Zinzi so-and-so, like a father. And I remember then ‘Look here, I as a white Afrikaner am the last one she will listen to’. Chuckle.
HW: Because I’d known her by then, you know this thing in Brandfort and also staying at my home. And then I said ‘But I will befriend her’, which I did. I invited her down, she came to visit, I took her to Stellenbosch for tests. And they advised her on what courses to take, and we agreed between her and me and Nelson that she would come to study at Cape Town, not at Wits. Because it was just at that time when she also made that famous speech when she…
Taylor: Oh yeah.
HW: He declined to forswore on the violence. And she was very much, very popular, often interviewed, in the news. And so we agreed that she would come to the University of Cape Town. We had a long process here to get special permission, because she had not finished matric. And but she got it on mature age exemption. Anyway then I went on long leave overseas, 86 to 87, and when I got back in 87, she had disappeared and went to Wits.
HW: And then I thought oh my goodness that’s probably not going to work. I visited them on occasions, and because then they told me that they could not finish their assignments because they were away so often. And then I never heard again. I mean I had an invitation to her wedding, but it arrived after the wedding. Chuckle. And I saw Winnie a few times. And I visited her in her project, KAPS, the forwarding programme, and I’m fairly, I’m a very careful - as a mediator one doesn’t like to attack people or criticize, but I do write in my memoirs that I thought that was a fake, that was, that she took me to her offices I asked to, I tried to find out where their funds came from, what they did, and I mean I’ve been in NGOs my whole life, and I just thought this is a sham. And which I was not surprised, because that is what, how I know of Winnie. Nelson I, one occasion I was in Johannesburg with my personal assistant - a woman of mature age - whose father was a judge, Hendry Eliot (?), and we finished our appointments, we were fundraising, and then we passed the Supreme Court and she said why don’t we drop in, because Winnie’s case was being heard, so I said sure. So we parked and then there were hundreds of people crowding the streets, but we managed to get through them, got to the desk and said we wanted to attend the trial, so they smiled and said no that’s impossible and it’s full - the whole building is full of people not only the hall, and I said sorry, thank you, and I turned back, and then Hilary said you’re not the kind of person to take no for an answer.
HW: And then I realized this is really, I mean, I don’t know - I see you’ve read the comments by June Goodwin…
HW: …on me, but there’s another one…
Taylor: Yeah I’ve got the other one too…
HW: Jaster, the two Jasters.
Taylor: This one, yes.
HW: They talked about my tenacity or whatever the word is. And then I said no you’re quite right, so we’re not giving up so easily. So, and we knew they were meeting on the fourth floor, so we just walked to the lift and we went, we took the lift up to the fourth floor, having no permission. And then we - as we entered the passage we were surrounded by a lot of young black people, and I thought my goodness what’s going on here, and they wanted to know who we are and what we were doing there, and we said - I introduced myself, explained who we were, and then allowed us to go through a double-door, and there was another desk with a young black, manned by young black people, so I then asked them look here explain the situation, they said well because so many people were angered by being turned away from the thing, that the police wouldn’t do that job of screening, so the Youth League took it over, and they screened and decided who could attend the thing. And so they said well we can sit down, there isn’t room, the hall is full and we can sit down (end of tape)…
…In June, in Germany, the German doctor diagnosed the… cancer right through my whole body and they sent me home to die. But I’m sticking it out longer than they thought. No I think I’m going to live for another, for a short while, a few months, maybe a year or two, longer and on, maybe even longer - I’ll see. Anyway then the man asked me, explained who I was, so I gave him my card, and then I said look here I’m, Winnie actually stayed at my home, I visited Mandela in prison, but also actually yeah - the, before his release he invited me and my first wife for lunch, and we had lunch with him in Victor Verster, and he asked my advice about how to put his Cabinet together, and he asked me about Franklin Sonn, about Jakes Gerwal - whom he’d never met, but old friends of mine, and he sent me messages to them and so on, so I just said look here I’m an old friend, and so we went in, and then Mandela came out and he let us in. And so we sat and listened to the court case.
Another occasion Inkatha asked me to intervene; they sent Harriet Magubane, the Professor of Anthropology, to ask me to intervene about the traditional weapons issue. And then I phoned Gerrit Viljoen, in her presence, as she was in my office, and asked him and he asked de Klerk whether I could intervene. And then I saw Mandela while he was on a visit in Stellenbosch, very briefly, and but I - I mean he was a different person to what he was in prison, and he was just so tough. I raised the issue with him and he just wanted to hear nothing, he just put all the blame on Inkatha and so I felt I had achieved nothing. But anyway, I did convey to de Klerk, to Gerrit Viljoen and de Klerk, the fact that Buthelezi’s argument was that he himself had no authority on this issue, it was the King’s authority. And two days later de Klerk flew to meet the King and they came to a compromise, and I think there was one or two other meetings. I don’t know. But anyway then my wife died in 92, we saw him in 1989, end of 89, and she was already then very weak, but, she was dying of cancer, and then he phoned me when she died, and then now a few weeks, months ago, when he heard I was sick he phoned me too. To assure me that this nation honours me for what I’ve done. And then the other day I had a letter from Buthelezi with this, almost the same words - saying something like this nation will always honour me. I had a similar letter from Kader Asmal, which I felt very pleased about. So, I had written to Mandela but I had never received any reply since, in all this time, since he’s out of prison. He’s just surrounded by a big secretarial barrier, so I know that - I talked to Ahmed Kathadra when he was, when he was advisor and he told me there’s a whole committee that reads letters and decides which one goes to him and which one - and then when I, after he phoned me, I phoned - oh no I wrote to thank him for the phone-call, and then I had a letter from his office administrator to say that he was very grateful that I took the trouble to write to him and so on and that he wishes me all the best. And then I phoned her and I said I want to ask him to write my foreword, but I don’t even know if it will ever, such a request will ever reach him because he gets so many letters. And then she said ‘Oh no professor, we all know of the special friendship between you and Madiba, he will certainly consider it’. So I sent it and now I’m waiting for his reply.
Taylor: Mmm. I know it’s a very difficult question really, but if you were trying to assess the impact of your meetings with Mandela, the work that you were doing through third party intervention in the 1980s, how would you assess - I mean would you say that you played an important role maybe in de-demonizing the ANC? Or you simply played an important role simply in facilitating the whole process of dialogue? How would you assess the impact of the work that you were doing, at this level?
HW: Yeah, I think that’s for other people to decide.
Taylor: Mmm, but if you were to reflect on it?
HW: I would say, I’ll just mention a few examples.
HW: The one thing I mentioned already is that I have never been publicly attacked by P.W. Botha or any of these people. And there is a lot of story - I mean I’ve had a lot of indirect contact with P.W. Botha, especially because of a long story, but where I could decide how I could share with you for instance my memoirs, where I discuss many of these, more thing, in more detail, but - the National Intelligence Service, after my visit to Mandela, after they saw my Report, they asked me to write a Memorandum on how Botha could release Mandela, and to, a positive proposal that could influence him, which I did. And so, that’s a long story which I won’t go into now, but the point is that such things I have made available, and I know that document, that first it was a confidential document with the National Intelligence Service, I don’t know whether it reached Botha or whether it reached him in a revised version, or what Niel Barnard did with it, but subsequently, long after that, when they didn’t respond, nothing happened, I made, I shared it with other people, and then it went to other government officials. And so, I would say that there were many such incidents where my views were well received in top circles. After it became known that I took Piet Muller to Lusaka, the Board, Don Vosloo as the Chairman of the Board of Nationale Pers invited me to their regular, they had lunch after Board meeting, invited me their, and that was certainly an honour and a gesture to show me they support. I remember there was one Cabinet Minister who came to me and said ‘Keep on with the good work’. Now that kind of thing happened, and then I think the - and of course there were newspaper reports, and always favourable, Afrikaans newspapers and English papers were always favourable of what I did. But then in I think about somewhere in 85, it was early 85, some months after this, my talks that I took Piet Muller, Willem de Klerk ran a programme on SABC, on television, called ‘Om veraid de sait’ - ‘To Tell the Truth’, which, in which he interviewed a prominent person in Afrikaans once a week. And I was invited for that talk, and he told me that he was going to ask me about the ANC and that he had not cleared it with P.W. Botha, but they’re also not screening it, it was taken on late afternoon and it was broadcast that same evening, there was no censorship. And in it he asked me are they devils that we think and so on, and I told him what they, whom I saw, what the kind of people they were, they asked me to help them to talk to the government. And then he asked me all these typical questions you know: don’t they just want to overthrow the country, don’t they want to kill us all…
HW: …and are they radicals and so on. So I described them as Christians and I think I used the expression I love them.
HW: And then since the interview was finished several people, senior SABC people who hung around there came to me and said this was the first time that it was said on television that the ANC only resorted to violence after they were, all other avenues were closed in 1960.
HW: They said on many occasions when we wanted to say it, we were forbidden by whoever is controlling the SABC, P.W. Botha and so on. So, yeah, I think that kind of thing - I don’t know how many people listen to that programme, but in such ways I must have influenced the public.
Taylor: But in the next day or two did you get phone-calls or letters or..?
HW: I only had, only support. I had one letter - which I have here - one letter from a man who signed his name as Wagner, and we thought he was probably German-speaking, probably Nazi, who warned me that, he used the expression that I would get it in the eye, doing the kind of thing I was doing. I think that’s the only thing I’ve ever encountered. Oh, I had phone-calls - and also at night. But that was when I was involved in more activist activity like District Six.
Taylor: Oh yes.
HW: Because I was Chairman of the Friends of District Six and we tried to stop the evictions. And then it was about that time that the postman once came to me and said, ‘Sir, I must just warn you that your mail when it, after we’ve sorted the mail your mail is always taken away by the inspector and it comes back three days later’, and that’s all he told me. And I’ve seen, sometimes they conspicuously sealed the envelope, to show that it had been opened, but other times they do it in a more discreet way. Yeah, so I would say surprisingly I’ve not had, I’ve not been aware of very negative reactions in any circle. Except the normal thing - I was on a Church Council, I was an elderly, I was oderleght, and oh the people sometimes openly in the Church Council called me a communist.
Taylor: Where you a member of the Christian Institute or..?
HW: Yes, especially because of that. I was active in Spro-Cas.
Taylor: Mmm, mmm.
HW: And so the papers reported about what we said and we did, and gave my name. And then on such occasions in the church I was, certainly it was disciplinary. But again nobody really, I didn’t have much hike with anybody, but certainly they didn’t like it. And my children suffered a little bit at school, they felt a bit strange. So my son, the younger son then switched to, then went to an English school, his last years at school; the other two finished with the Afrikaans school but they were aware of the fact that they were not always popular.
Taylor: Mmm, yeah. Um… have you read this book by Richard Rosenthal on Mission Improbable?
Taylor: And you knew of him, or you knew of his initiative? How would you assess that initiative compared to your own work?
HW: I’m inclined to say that this should be off the record.
Taylor: Oh, do you want me to turn it (the tape-recorder) off?
HW: Well, I never really, I never really do it because that means that I’ve got something negative to say that…
Taylor: Oh yeah.
HW: …I won’t say in public.
HW: That should never happen that I…
HW: I’ve always argued that I can never say anything behind somebody’s back which I am not willing to say publicly.
Taylor: That goes back to what you were saying earlier, yeah.
HW: I know Richard, he’s one of the finest men in this country - and also one of the most able lawyers. And I’ve heard that opinion from the top - from Judges. So, and he also, his wife joined the Quakers and he himself has had a lot of contact with the Quakers. When he left his firm to go into this secret activity, of course nobody knew what he was doing, and he confided in me on one occasion. I just asked a casual question, you know, ‘What are you doing now?’ And then he said only his wife knows that he was mediating between the government and the ANC, and I - because he was so secretive I did not even tell my wife. I told nobody. And I didn’t give it further thought, because - I just thought well wonderful, and I hope it works. I never heard anything more from him. I see him occasionally, I knew he came back to see… and I talked to him about legal matters, and we needed about in 95 or 96 we looked for legal opinion about the NGO, I discussed it with him, but I never asked him again.
HW: And then came the book. As a big surprise. And I thought the book sells well because it’s well-written.
HW: Well I think it sells well. But I must say I find it, I don’t know what word to use - it’s fascinating that the people he write about - specially National Intelligence Service and so on - that he would fear that if he meets with them and they’ll tell him then that they will abduct him, that he would phone his wife, and he phones the police and tells them what room he’s meeting and at what time, that he feared for his life, and that he never met Botha, and it took him about - I don’t know - a year or two to even meet the ANC, and that when at the time when Stoffel van der Merwe gave him some kind of go ahead that he would say ‘Oh now how will I contact Oliver Tambo?’, and that was 87, about that time, and by 84 I remember, 84-85 when I have visitors, on one occasion I had Thomas Karis who is a…
Taylor: Oh yes, I know Tom.
HW: …great expert, in my office, saying he has to change his date, his appointment in Lusaka and doesn’t know who to do it. So I said ‘Let’s phone Thabo’ and I picked-up the phone…
HW: He said ‘What!’ And that’s Thomas Karis, he said how can you do that, and I said well I’ve done it so many times. Also with Piet Muller’s visit, I mean phoned Kenneth Kuanda and I phoned Thabo Mbeki or Simon Makana, and…
HW: I know. My staff said look here we want nothing to do with this, and so I’m surprised…
HW: …to read that years after all these contacts, that he write as if this is, yeah. And I don’t understand - I think it makes a nice story.
Taylor: Yeah, I mean I also found it very strange - I was never convinced exactly how much support he had from the National Party. It seems to me that he was just being strung along by Stoffel van der Merwe and then on the other hand, I got the impression of him - particularly the whole issue of, who was it who was living at the bottom of his garden in his cottage (Shirley Gunn), but I mean there was also a sense of naïveté about that whole issue as well which I found rather peculiar. And then, yes, then it was, basically the meeting with Thabo Mbeki was arranged, basically with Idasa when they were meeting in Frankfurt (Germany), so it was through - I mean it’s an interesting story but I’m not quite sure what weight one can give it at the end of the day, if any.
HW: I don’t know. Laughs. I think it’s nice reading, it’s like a thriller.
Taylor: Idasa on the other hand were serious, and how would you relate what you were doing, and to what extent did you talk to or work with Idasa on their initiatives? You knew the Dakar..?
HW: Well alright. So let’s say that in the case of Richard Rosenthal I have a very great admiration for the man.
HW: And I think it’s a nice story he wrote. But I don’t know, it’s for me quite a (interruption for dog)… for Thabo to write in the foreword ‘Thank God that Richard lives’, I don’t know what to think of that. Laugh. But I talked, we’ve submitted my manuscript to David Philip…
Taylor: Oh when will it be out?
HW: No, I don’t know - they haven’t said they will take it yet.
HW: I would hope before the end of next year. I hope so. But I then said look here if Mandela doesn’t write it, I can ask Thabo Mbeki because I had lots more to do with him than Richard Rosenthal. And if he can write that kind of foreword for Richard, surely he must write a nice forward for me.
HW: In the case of Idasa I was hiking in the High Sierras, on a long month long trail, when they met in Dakar. So I had, not even had any, not even any knowledge of it, I knew nothing about it. I don’t know, I was on long leave for one year. I don’t know if they would have invited me to join. I knew Alex Boraine very well, he’s been at my workshops, and I know van Zyl Slabbert well, he succeeded me at my job at Rhodes University when I came here, he took my job there. And I’ve always… I’ve always thought that van Zyl Slabbert in my view is the most able man to be President of this country, and I admire them. I think I probably - if they had invited me I could not have accepted, because Idasa acted as a change agent and I tried to be a mediator, and it would have done me too much harm to be associated with their efforts.
Taylor: Even though they argued that they were a non-aligned NGO?
HW: No, I mean they were certainly anti-apartheid, and they certainly - they took dissidents, they took liberals, they did not take establishment people to Dakar.
Taylor: Yes, yes.
HW: My purpose was quite different. My purpose was to try to get people in good standing to meet with the ANC. I wanted to build a bridge between the ANC and the government. They tried to change the government.
HW: I think their role was different. I mean they were both politicians.
HW: And so, but this brings us back to the point that you made earlier, that even though one is fairly impartial, the fact that you promote discussion…
Taylor: …in the context of apartheid…
HW: …puts you in a change agent category, so there is not a rigid line between these things.
Taylor: Mmm, I agree.
HW: But I would say that in general, I, in my case I could, it’s more true to say I was, I leaned more towards the neutral role than they did.
HW: And that made me different, and that’s why I think it would have done me more harm than good to have gone with them. But of course it would have been a big temptation, if I had been invited - because I would have liked to participate in that kind of activity, but it was not the nature of the work I was doing.
Taylor: What impact do you think Dakar had on the more establishment politicians?
HW: Well I’ve written and I still believe that their, what they did, that event, the Dakar event, had more influence than any other thing on public opinion in this country to, in favour of talking to the ANC. Because it - even though I’ve said I was abroad at that time - I thought it had a tremendous impact. And all for the good. I’m all in favour of it, I’m not critical of it.
Taylor: But did it have an impact, I mean it had an impact particularly in terms of white public opinion, but what impact did it have on the Afrikaner establishment?
HW: I think, I think a lot of good - in spite of the fact that there was anger and resentment and public criticism.
HW: I would put it in the same category as I put Beyers Naudé.
HW: In, I did in my research, well I did two projects, in which, where his role came up. The one is what, the study of what I call the white South African elite…
Taylor: Oh yes, I remember that book yes.
HW: And that was 68, 69, 70, 71 we did the research. And the other one is in 74 when I had a workshop on the Afrikaner today, and when I - as my contribution to the workshop I wrote one paper which I called ‘Verwandering bellig der Brandwag’ - ‘Change within the Framework’, and I picked for that survey or study twenty people - Afrikaners, top Afrikaner leaders, people of national prominence, whom I suspected had liberal leanings, but they don’t say it publicly. Or some of them have expressed liberal views but very cautiously. And I asked them specifically about the policies towards the coloured people and the Africans. And that was 74, when the whole idea of a coloured homeland was a big issue.
Taylor: Oh yes, mmm.
HW: And these people, nineteen of them - and the twentieth I am sure has, I know he changed since then - said we are moving towards a fully integrated society like we have today.
HW: But they cannot say it publicly because then they lose their influence. In fact I analyze several reasons why they couldn’t do it, but one was the fact that they wanted to keep their influence in the Afrikaners. And they always used Beyers Naudé as an example, saying if we say publicly what we believe, we’d go the same path as Beyers Naudé. And of course, I mean they thought only in terms of influence in Afrikaner circles, they did not consider the fact that they would influence the whole country if they would speak publicly.
Taylor: Right, yes.
HW: But this brings me back now to Idasa, that in spite of the fact that there’s a lot of criticism from the Afrikaner establishment I think you will find the same thing that people have told me that at that time we also believed what Beyers Naudé believes - but we can’t say it publicly.
Taylor: Agh ah.
HW: The people would have said ‘Look here, this was maybe not the right time’, or that kind of thing. But they actually deep in their hearts they supported.
Taylor: Mmm. But how would you, how would you assess or weigh up the importance of Idasa, the Dakar initiative on the one hand, with the other attempts through Esterhuyse and Terreblanche at Stellenbosch and their connections with these through Consolidated Goldfields I believe in London in the late eighties, and negotiations at that level, which seemed to be more working within.
HW: Yeah, I - in my own case of course I preferred the quiet policy, but I also, well understand if liberal people would kind of dismiss what I did, saying that it didn’t bring about change. And in a way that I tend to be dismissive of these people who were so bloody cautious, maybe I’m a little prejudiced. I admire both Esterhuyse and Terreblanche, but I’m a little prejudiced because when P.W. Botha made the public statement saying no members of his party or rather members of the Parliament could meet with the ANC, I then thought agh I would get members who are not members of parliament, but in the inner circles and I approached Sampie Terreblanche and Esterhuyse, and both of them were very excited about the idea, but they said they had to get some feeling of what their mentors will say. And Sampie was then some consultant to Henuis and Willie for P.W. Botha, and before they could do anything about it, P.W. Botha called them in - so he knew through security police or whatever that, about it. So he called them first to his office, the two of them, and then he lectured them, and he said ‘Look here, I believe or I heard or I know, van der Merwe’s trying to get you to talk to the ANC’. And he said ‘I will not allow you to talk to murderers’ (imitating PW’s stern voice).
HW: And of course the two of them… And I heard it more recently that the daughter of Sampie referred to that incident, and indicated that she didn’t respect her father for backing down on that issue. And Sampie has since then told me, kind of admitted you know we were not strong enough. But again they wanted to maintain their position, their influence, and they thought that’s the best contribution they can make. And there’s no doubt that these people played an important role in bringing about change, as I called it, within the framework. So all I can say is that just as much I asked the anti-apartheid people - especially abroad - to respect my role as a more impartial mediator, I also respect the people who believe that they could achieve more by working in the inner circles.
HW: I think it depends, it’s not only an academic issue it’s also a personality issue.
HW: Some people are born to be more confrontational and others are born to be more pacifying and kind and loving and caring, and so we all have different contributions to make.
Taylor: What was your relationship - I mean you were involved with Christian Institute, Spro-Cas - what was your relationship with Beyers Naudé during the eighties?
HW: I came back from the America in 1963, and I read already overseas about the Christian Institute being founded, and so when I get back to Grahamstown one of the first things is the Church Council made me, the Church made me a diakon in the Church, and one of the first steps I took was to join the Christian Institute. And then Beyers Naudé, yeah I saw him often, he visited me in Grahamstown, and I visited him at his home, also after his banning.
HW: And he happened to have been a close friend of my elder brother at university, in the thirties - many years ago. And we had other mutual interests, so there was a time I indicated to him in discussions that I’m not always comfortable with the Christian Institute, because I lean more towards the mediating role and they’re more confrontational. And then, not long before their banning, they had Manus Buthelezi here, who was - I don’t remember the details but he was banned or something - and he was a prominent church leader and he came to give a public lecture in Cape Town. And then Theo Kotzé asked me to chair the meeting, and all I said was ‘I’ll just consult my wife’. And I just discussed it with my wife and said, I mean I’m a member of the Institute but I’m always a little cautious, and so we said sure I would chair the meeting. And that’s about an indication of my, the tension I had in choosing whether I will play a more mediating role and try not to estrange the parties, or whether I’ll be more confrontational.
Taylor: Mmm, mmm.
HW: So I remained a member of the Institute and I - in spite of the fact that the Dutch Reformed Church synod took a decision that we may not…
Taylor: Yeah, that’s right.
HW: …belong to it, especially I was an elder in the Rondebosch congregation and I just put it to them in a letter; I said look here I’m a member of the Christian Institute and if you want to enforce that synod decision you have to charge me, so they refused.
HW: So, I remained a member of both.
Taylor: Mmm, mmm. The Institute was banned in 77…
Taylor: And in the eighties did you continue to have contact with Beyers Naudé or was he doing so much different from what you were doing that you were moving in different circles?
HW: Yeah, occasionally. No, I saw him as, I don’t know if I should call it a mentor, but I certainly saw him as one of the great men of our country.
HW: And oh I also took my wife to visit him, him and his wife. And we usually met in the backyard, in the garden, where there’s no, where they knew they couldn’t be bugged.
HW: And also because it was illegal for us, for four of us to meet together.
Taylor: The banning, yes.
HW: Yeah. No, I had occasional correspondence too. I, well I admire him.
Taylor: Mmm, mmm. One of the other people that you - in this interview here - you indicate that you admire greatly is Johan Degenaar at Stellenbosch. I wonder if you could talk about his influence on you. I mean several people I’ve talked to said that he had a very important influence and primarily through his kind of Socratic method - encouraging people to question…
Taylor: I mean is that the kind of impact he had on you?
HW: Yeah. I think I’ve written - I’m not sure what’s in there - but I refer to it as he slaughtered many holy cows…
HW: …in this nice kind way…
HW: Do you know him personally?
Taylor: Yeah, well I interviewed him for this. I had a four interview with him as well actually, yes.
HW: I would think that of all my teachers he probably had the biggest influence on me.
HW: S.P. Cilliers I give credit for having drilled into me the sense of objectivity in science, in social science. But Degenaar I admired as a person, and then also - you know I keep dairies sometimes and it now, it was cleaning house and sorting things, I discovered a few diaries that I’d forgotten about. And some were written at Stellenbosch and I’d completely forgotten I actually had. He played an important role in that when we formed what we called the Kontact study group in Stellenbosch, and when we, Pieter Finander, the poet, to come to speak to us, we decided too that he should have, we should give him a meal because he came from Malmesbury and even the founder of this group - Jan Loubser - was a famous top man, he told me that I should not give the man a meal, because then it would look like integration, and so I said well you cannot forbid me to make private arrangements, and he said ‘Of course not, but it must not be associated with the group’. So I went to Degenaar and I said ‘Look here, I want to give this man a meal’. And Degenaar had never had coloured people in his house, but he invited him, him and his wife, and they had a meal with him.
HW: And then I noticed another occasion, actually the first man we asked to address the group was Dr van Heartleg, an elderly coloured man, and I took him to meet Degenaar - Degenaar asked to meet him and I took him to his home, and I noticed there that we talked until one o’clock that night it was so exciting. So I think I probably brought the first coloured people to his house.
Taylor: Mmm. So that environment of dialogue and…
Taylor: …was very formative, formative experience for you.
HW: Yeah. I would say - but again I would say that when it came to these things of contacts I probably, I took the initiative there - not Degenaar.
HW: I exposed him and several other professors.
Taylor: Ah ha.
HW: I’m surprised now when I read my diaries, how several professors, especially of the Theological School, that I influenced and I arranged their first visits and they - and how keen they were to come to the meetings and they asked to be invited, and asked to meet coloured people, because they themselves had never done it. But yeah, I think Degenaar is because he was such a loving caring person.
Taylor: Yes. I mean what I think he did so effectively is through a kind of, well very much a Socratic method where he would, his style would be gently - yeah - to plant seeds of doubt in peoples minds.
HW: Yeah, oh yeah.
Taylor: And would you say that what you were doing was somewhat similar to that? Or was it - were you trying to plant seeds of doubt amongst people or were you basically just bringing people together and then letting the dynamics unravel?
HW: Yeah, one of my best friends at university was, now became professor of philosophy in Durban, Louis Stofberg, one of the reasons he said that I was the person with the greatest influence on his change in his life. And then I was very surprised because we were friends, we were classmates, but I was five years older than the others so, and then he said it’s because I cause doubt. Yeah, that I challenged the traditional views.
Taylor: I think that’s so true of many people - whatever their ideological, I mean even when I interviewed Neville Alexander he said that his strategy was first and foremost to plant seeds of doubt, and then that would be the beginning for moving forward.
HW: Yeah. I can remember the first time when my elder brother, Jakob, who was not a Christian and not a member of the Church, he was a lecturer at Stellenbosch, the first time when he caused doubt on the Bible, and I said but, I mean he talked about the Bible like any other book, and I was about 23 and I said surely but where does it come from? He said like all other books. And that kind of changed me overnight.
HW: That I suddenly realized that the Bible was put together by a lot of people. And then again I grew up with this idea that the National Party was you know the only real party, and it’s unbelievable but when I was about 22 I literally believed that Jan Smuts was imposed on us, not elected democratically, and with his English-orientated philosophy and party. And one of my classmates, Vincent Brumer, who subsequently became professor in Holland, I remember so well talking to him about the United Party, and his father supported the United Party, professor of theology at Stellenbosch, and it was the first time that I talked to somebody whom I respect who actually supported the United Party. And for the first time I started thinking oh but maybe the National Party is not the, you know, not the real thing - what I always thought it was. So, I haven’t thought of this as a thing of causing of doubt, but there was probably an element of that, yeah.
HW: Because it was, it was other people who caused doubt in me about certain things, and surely as I’ve mentioned in this case of this professor, my classmate, I caused doubt in him. But it, in my case compared to Degenaar certainly my work was much more practical, whereas Degenaar is a philosopher - it’s a whole different role, and if I think now of also the first meeting we had between the Afrikaner Vreistifitung and the ANC, my role was really very much limited to just helping make contact - helping people to make contact. You referred earlier to, how do I see my role as between the government and the ANC and you used the word mediation - I usually emphasized the fact that I did never mediate between those, but I facilitated all the time; facilitated communication, I make a big thing of that. Very often when mediation is not possible, it wasn’t possible; they wouldn’t meet the Eminent Persons Group and all that, my argument is that when they’re not ready to mediate there is scope for facilitation.
Taylor: Mmm, mmm. Did you, in meetings and with your discussions with the ANC, to what extent did you talk about, not necessarily in your role of… potential mediation, but about the armed struggle. I mean did you touch on that issue or did you just leave it?
HW: Yeah, I think I must say that the, when you say ‘leave it’ that suggests that one doesn’t want to discuss it…
HW: There was never anything like that.
HW: So there was never as I can recall any effort to avoid the issue or to, but it’s also true that I did not discuss any specific issues - that was for me the big, was of great interest, the difference between my talks to them and then when Piet Muller came as a journalist. He had these questions, list of questions, where do you stand about the armed struggle? what do you say about the making the country ungovernable? No, I would say that my purpose was fundamentally building-up a relationships of trust so that, in that way I can promote communication. And I would say that it’s true that I - it must be true that I avoided controversial issues because the one thing that in contrast to Piet Muller I never asked to see their office or their camp outside Lusaka. One of the first things Piet asked is ‘Can we go and visit it?’ And I thought that look here the least I ask difficult questions the more they will, the least they will suspect me of being a spy.
HW: Because I did not want to ask questions which makes them suspicious or makes them think I was sent by the police or sent by the government. I wanted not to cause any such suspicion. So it is true that I probably - I’m not sure I should say I avoided these things - but I certainly didn’t probe.
Taylor: Right, you didn’t...
HW: I didn’t probe. I didn’t ask them questions which normal academics would ask, or journalists. And that is basically because I did not make a study of the ANC.
HW: I was so embarrassed when I met Alfred Nzo and Thabo Mbeki, I had heard their names but I didn’t know their positions. I had to ask them, ‘Tell me what’s your position in the organization?’
Taylor: I think that’s true of so many people in South Africa in those years…
Taylor: …very little was known about them.
HW: Yes, but I should have known. I felt embarrassed. I felt I should have known.
Taylor: Mmm. Did you have a, did you have interaction with or did you have any kind of relationship with National Intelligence and Niel Barnard? Did you fill him in on what you were doing? When I interviewed van Zyl Slabbert he said that when he got back from Dakar he went and told Barnard all about it… for many reasons… (end of tape)
Sorry you were saying you never met Niel Barnard.
HW: I never met Niel Barnard and I also don’t operate on the level that van Zyl Slabbert does - I mean he’s a national politician, I’m not. I probably have expressed a wish to meet Niel Barnard but they certainly never invited me to meet him. But I had a great deal of visits from the National Intelligence Service - whenever I came back from a visit abroad somebody would make me a visit. And later years when I started to trust them more, I give them these reports I mentioned to you that I gave to my Board and in the case of my visit to Mandela I gave to Kobbie Coetsee, but only after he called me, he asked to see me, we had discussions. But I certainly gave that report of my visit to Mandela in prison to National Intelligence Service. By that time I had a very good relationship with a man who is in Cape Town, Mulritz van Krehnan, who later was transferred to Pretoria. And I met him once in Pretoria after he was transferred. And I think he was deputy-head of the office in Cape Town, and he came to visit me quite often. Well usually he invited me for lunch, and I - yeah, what happened is that after he read the report of my visit to Mandela he came back and said Pretoria asked that I prepare a memorandum, because they thought I could make a good case for his release. And I had to write in such a way that they can convince P.W. Botha to release him. So, that’s the kind of relationship I had with them.
HW: I certainly emphasized to them that the ANC wanted to talk. And usually my argument to the Nationalists, to politicians, to the government, was that ‘Look here your information on the ANC is based on spying, and I bring you a different type of information, and you must take me seriously because I bring you a genuine message of goodwill, and it’s there’.
Taylor: To what extent were you surprised by 2nd February 1990?
HW: I was sat in my office and George Steerkman was one of our senior staff - an administrator not an academic - and he came in, because they listened to the radio, and they were all astonished. So he came into my study and said ‘What happened?’ And I said ‘Oh yes’ and carried on working.
HW: Yeah, no I was surprised that they unbanned the ANC before they released Nelson Mandela. I discussed it with Mandela in prison and I told him that also that I expected he would be released. Because he discussed with me a big party he was planning and whom he should invite to celebrate his graduation at Unisa or something. And the prison authorities agreed that he could give a big party. So he discussed with me the list of people he would invite, and then he asked me my view of Stuart Saunders, the vice-chancellor of the university…
Taylor: Oh yes.
HW: I said, he must be on your list. And then he also asked me about Franklin Sonn and these people. But - I lost my thread now…
Taylor: 1990, you were surprised that they unbanned the ANC before...
HW: So I mentioned to him that I thought he would be released soon. And I told him look here it will happen before your party. And then he said oh no he doesn’t expect to be released before - it was January I think, no we saw him in December 89, and then he said no it won’t be for a few months. My argument was that it’s easier for the government to release one person and to control the situation, than to unban the whole party. And I just thought they would, first that Mandela would come out and kind of pave the way, start negotiations, so I was surprised that de Klerk did that. But on the other hand I was not surprised that they were unbanned, because I’d been arguing with the ANC - and I remember the most skeptical was old Professor Simons…
Taylor: Oh yeah.
HW: …in Lusaka, whom I always visited, he and his wife. They always said it will not happen in their lifetime. And I always assured them and I said ‘Look here this is going to happen in the near future’. So I was not as surprised. I had met de Klerk, I knew him a little bit, but I didn’t think he would go so far.
Taylor: Yeah, I actually read in his autobiography that he was an Abe Bailey, had an Abe Bailey fellowship to go to Europe.
HW: Oh, but it was only because he was a student leader.
Taylor: I don’t know if he participated in any of the events of the Institute or the Centre?
HW: No, no, I was, I met him a few times, on other occasions.
Taylor: On other occasions?
HW: When he was - but what capacity? as a minister and then also I was on a platform with him…
HW: …under Wimpie de Klerk’s sponsorship, his brother at RAU, there were four speakers and he was one. And that was 89 - before he became president, and he just towed the party line.
Taylor: Mmm, mmm.
HW: And it was so interesting that what I said was in complete contrast to what he said; I talked a lot about progressive leanings and development and that we were moving towards an open society and the - I, it was a select group of people - invited people - for a, top people from Johannesburg, and yeah I, there was very little indication of a liberal tendency, it was a fairly conservative speech.
Taylor: Do you think he had a conversion, or is he really first and foremost a pragmatist?
HW: I would say it’s various things. I believed he had a conversion - like I had, but he is - he might have pitched things to emphasize that he did not have a Damascus conversion and that I understand he has to do because otherwise he loses his political credibility. I mean you politicians can’t have conversions, and that it just does not look so good. So I thought he deliberately played it down, but surely somewhere he saw the light. And I thought the best interpretation of how he changed is in his brother’s book about him; where he showed that there was a thread, all the years that showed there was some liberal inclination and I also thought that he was also most influenced by Willem, Wimpie, by what he reported to him. Because every time when Wimpie talked to the ANC - especially Thabo Mbeki - he personally visited his brother and told him. And I would say in that respect he did exactly what I did.
Taylor: Mmm, mmm.
HW: That talk to people and conveyed a message of goodwill, and so certainly in de Klerk’s case there was this conversion. On the other hand of course it’s a pragmatic thing, as a politician he realized that we were at a dead-end. It’s interesting that when we had our meetings - especially when Piet Muller was with me in Lusaka, we discussed with Piet Muller and with Thabo Mbeki, inviting the possibility that Anglo-American and with Muller and Weber, that Anglo-American or Kuanda would invite a few Cabinet Ministers, and we had in mind F.W. de Klerk and I think Pik Botha - with their wives - for a weekend.
HW: And then at dinner time Thabo Mbeki shows up, and we pursued this thing and Piet discussed it with his colleagues in Pretoria and they came up and said unfortunately de Klerk’s wife will not allow this. So then already I realized, I found out that there was tension between them, and de Klerk was moving too fast for his wife. And I genuinely belief that this is one of the major reasons for the divorce - in spite of everything she says, I think at heart she did not change, whereas he - in his heart - he changed, besides the political arguments.
Taylor: Yeah. I mean it is, in retrospect now what do you think were the main social forces that led to 1990? I mean where would you - what importance, I guess one would say, what importance would one give to these organizations in making 1990 possible?
Taylor: I mean if you look at…
HW: I’m also an academic - but I rely so much on people like you who make a better study of it.
HW: And I’m, I’m very impressed just merely by your wealth of literature, because I’ve read so little. I - as I’ve said - I wrote much of what I wrote, most of what I wrote is based on my own experience, so I must acknowledge scholarship of other people. I always argue that the one major reason why we had the transitional - a peaceful, or a fairly peaceful transition, was the fact that we have a huge infrastructure of organizations and especially this influx of foreigners during the four years of the transition. I think that had a tremendous impact on our whole process. So I give a lot of credit to organizations, institutions, groups, individuals in the whole democratic process.
Taylor: And you would see it really as being, would you - to what extent would you go along with the argument that the organizations that we’ve been talking about do form a network? And that needs to be seen in a kind of cumulative manner, in that…
Taylor: I mean if you look at - I mean I believe you were a member of the Christian Institute, you were involved in the Centre for Intergroup Studies, you were involved with the Institute of Race Relations?
HW: Oh, I was a Council member - for twenty years. Very active, very long. I was Chairman of the region, I was on the National Executive Committee for - before I became director here.
HW: I would say that the Institute of Race Relations and the Christian Institute, and then - oh many others; Qububane - which was a kind of wealthier organization, it was very much involved in political trouble; Five Freedoms Forum - oh I was very involved, I spoke at many of their conferences. So, yeah, all I can say is that I haven’t given thought to this more systematic analysis, but I acknowledge the importance of it - I think it’s very important.
Taylor: And you were a leading figure in the Quaker Peace Centre…
HW: The Quaker Peace Centre - yeah, I’m not, I wouldn’t say I’m a leading figure there. I was the - the Quaker Peace Centre started as a peace project with Rommel Roberts as a fieldworker, and I was on that committee which supervised his work - right from the beginning. And I’ve been a Board member of the Quaker Peace Centre, and then I’ve often been consulted and I was, I was involved in a number of issues. And also in selection of the directors and that kind of thing. I’ve often heard people abroad and here refer to me as the best known Quaker - that kind of thing, and also - I may have a copy - I’m giving the annual Richard Gush lecture to the Quakers next month in Waterkloof, and then next year I give, a year from now, the annual lecture for the Quakers - the Duckhouse lecture in Australia. So, yeah - and then I’ve been, international I’ve been very active. So I’m certainly what they call ‘a weighty Quaker’ - which means I’m an important Quaker, but the Quaker Peace Centre I’ve not been a major influence there.
Taylor: And you also, I mean one of your academic contributions was your book Justice and Peace in South Africa.
Taylor: Hugo told me that there’s a particular reason why you’ve put it in that order, it is Justice and Peace isn’t it, rather than Peace and Justice?
HW: Oh yeah, yeah. Chuckle.
Taylor: Could you just tell me?
HW: Yeah. I think that’s - what do you call it - self-defence. That’s because I had a very long drawn out disagreement, a fight with the American Friends Service Committee because they were - it’s a programme of the American Quakers, but while they operate under Quaker auspices their staff were 95 per cent non-Quakers and they really turned out to be just another anti-apartheid group.
HW: And I, they dismissed my work - they were very critical, they - I think you could almost say they fought me for years and years. And it was so striking that after I think it was 14 years of this disagreement I was called in by the new head of the AFSC in America, a full breakfast with - and then she said they want to know how they can help me in my mediation work, and I broke down in tears. I said how is it possible after all these years? But then it’s also because it was not the AFSC, or not the Quakers, that opposed me - it was that particular black, especially black people, black staff. And they accused me of being obsessed with peace and ignore justice. And in the book I make a case for the fact that you should have a balance, and I thought that I, yeah, I want to emphasize justice, in spite of the fact that I believed in is peace. So that’s what I did. I also, in a recent paper I gave in America now, and I think it comes out of the Richard Gush lecture too, I actually end my talks by arguing that I feel Mandela is leaning too much toward reconciliation and peace, and too little to justice.
HW: I also feel that the Truth Commission was failed. And in the case of the Truth Commission I use Winnie Mandela as my model. I refer to the fact that the separation of these two people - which of course had a big influence on me because I knew them personally - that the separation was due to the fact that as in the case of de Klerk and his wife too, that these two people have different perceptions and feelings and attitudes, and the fact that Winnie told me, that time that she told her husband here is an Afrikaner you can trust, I mean I’ve over the years, even after their separation, when I’ve visited Winnie in Johannesburg, and the bitterness - she’s filled with bitterness. And I feel there are millions like that.
HW: If I were a black person I don’t know how I would have remained so tolerant and I just think of the many occasions where blacks were treated unjustly, purely because of the racial question. I have a great sympathy for the people who feel bitter.
HW: And so I feel that the Truth Commission has not done justice.
HW: And I like to refer to Steve Biko’s widow who used the expression once ‘we want our pound of flesh’, and I’ve also written - published - in an advertisement or newsletter what I call ‘Punishment in Perspective’, that punishment is part of our religion, it’s part of our social life, it’s part of our legal code, and now suddenly we say people can get away without punishment. It’s to me, it’s going against my grain.
HW: And if I feel so indignant…
HW: …how the hell can I expect black people like Winnie to now say fine if you confess it’s all over. So I feel, I feel we’ve leaned too much to this peace, and so I feel more and more that if I talk about these two things I like to put justice first.
Taylor: Yeah, yeah.
HW: But personally I incline towards the peace notion.
Taylor: Yeah, I mean what’s interesting to me is that in the 1980s one rarely found a language or discourse around the peace. It was as if the word was contaminated, because I think many people did equate peace within the status quo…
Taylor: …as opposed to peace within a new transformed society.
HW: Yeah, we at the Centre avoided for instance the word ‘conflict resolution’, because that suggests that you resolve the conflict and as I always say it disappears into thin air.
HW: And I always said that’s not the right word. That’s one reason why we had to change the name of the Centre earlier, because we didn’t like the word ‘resolution’, because you don’t resolve a conflict, it stays there and you accommodate it, if you handle it well. The same problem I, we have with peace, that one can talk about call it superficial peace or whatever, but the, I - as I also argue in that book - I mean that we, we can talk, obsession with peace would mean that you overlook injustices.
HW: And I found that in two cases which I describe in some of my publications, the one was the Soweto unrest here in Cape Town where I started out as a mediator and ended by being an advocate, because - in the other case of Natal where I was asked to mediate between Inkatha and the UDF, and the UDF said ‘No, we don’t want peace’, and then I realized that if you would make peace, or have a cease-fire, you institutionalize inequality, because you end the struggle.
HW: And that made me aware of the need for being very careful about peace. In fact there’s another issue that came up, and that I became aware of specially in England in 1986 when I was at - was it 86 or 80, 82 - the I think the eighties already, the fact that peace studies referred to anti-nuclear activism.
Taylor: Yeah, mmm.
HW: And this was also in the American Friends Service Committee with their programme on Southern Africa, in fact their major programme leader is Jerry Cohen - an American black - he was also head of the peace studies programme, that’s what they did in Southern Africa, they called it peace studies, but actually it was a fight against the military-industrial complex, and so peace studies was - what do you call it - a campaign.
HW: It was not a studies. And on one occasion while I was in England and I’ve forgotten what period it was, the Minister of National Education in Britain declared peace studies unacceptable in schools because it was an anti-government campaign.
HW: So I always argued that in the first place that peace studies is not the right word for these things. But the second argument is that because peace studies has got a bad name I don’t want to call what I do peace studies.
Taylor: Mmm. That’s interesting because in the 1980s the closest you could get to identifying a peace movement in the kind of European-American context would be an organization like the End Conscription Campaign, where there was a constant - the focus was militarization, contesting the role of the army and the military. But beyond that…
Taylor: But you’re not happy with the word ‘conflict resolution’ or ‘conflict management’, but you would be happy with the word ‘conflict transformation’?
HW: I don’t really know transformation, I’ve never used the concept and I don’t think I understand it.
HW: No, I’m also accept while I was cautious about using ‘conflict resolution’ ten years ago, now I don’t mind - I think it’s generally accepted.
Taylor: Yes, it is.
HW: Because one must also go along with that kind of views. So I had the same experience with ‘intergroup studies’, because when we change the name to Intergroup Studies in 1973, and especially in the seventies a group was associated with National Party - with apartheid.
HW: And therefore many people objected to the word Intergroup Studies because it suggested racial groups…
HW: …and I just argued that’s the best word we can use and it’s just too bad if some people object to it.
Taylor: But I recall that the logo, the symbol that you had for the Centre for Intergroup Studies was made of four circles?
HW: Three circles.
Taylor: I thought it might have been four representing the four population groups…
Taylor: …but that wouldn’t have been the case?
HW: No. It was three circles.
HW: Two bigger circles and one small one.
Taylor: Oh it was like that? (drawing overlapping circles)
HW: No, the two circles were separate.
Taylor: Oh like this…
HW: Two circles and then a small one in-between.
Taylor: Yeah to link the two groups together.
HW: The middle group is the small one, to downplay the importance of the middle group.
Taylor: I see, yeah.
HW: But it was just this thing, German, we had a fellowship here, a John Hund - last I heard was at the University of the North, I don’t know what happened to him. I think he came with the suggestion that we use that as a logo.
Taylor: Mmm, mmm.
HW: And then, now when the, after I left they decided to have a new, to develop a new logo, and they ended up with something that looks like a backhanding…
Taylor: I can’t remember what it looks like now.
HW: Oh, it’s an absurd thing, they had a good one and they dropped it - and it was part of this whole thing of affirmative action, they brought in a new deputy-director who was a total failure but I think he’s the one who in fact imposed it. And I don’t think anybody was happy with it. I think they should go back to the withdrawn one, because it was a good one. It showed an intervening party.
Taylor: Great. Well, thank you very much indeed for your time. You mentioned a few papers that maybe I could take…
HW: Have a look, that’s what I have here.
Taylor: May I have these?
HW: You can take what you need.
Taylor: I’d like to read them all actually.
HW: Well, you can take what you want.
Taylor: Thank you.