Speaker: Frederik Willem de Klerk, former president of the Republic of South Africa
Moderator: Richard Stengel, president & CEO, National Constitution Center
Council on Foreign Relations
New York, N.Y.
June 8, 2004
RICHARD STENGEL: [In progress] and Im here today in part because I worked with Nelson Mandela on his autobiography. And I want to welcome you all to the Councils History Makers series, sponsored by HBO.
And we are very, very fortunate to have President F.W. De Klerk here today. He is a former president of the Republic of South Africa, a co-winner with Nelson Mandela of the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize, and the man who initiated a seminal, earth-shattering change in South Africa. After the election of 1994, he briefly served in the government of national unity [the government formed in 1994 comprising the African National Congress (ANC), the National Party— headed by de Klerk— and the Inkatha Freedom Party]. Then the National Party left that government, and he basically left politics. He has created a new foundation called the Global Leadership Foundation, which he will talk about a little bit today. And were just very fortunate to have him because he was at a critical hinge in 20th century history. History made the man, and the man made history. Welcome, F.W. De Klerk. [Applause.]
Now before I ask the first questions, there are a few ground rules. And they are: the interview is on the record, as you know. Cell phones have to be turned off. No one should leave early, before the Q&A is over. Well go to questions from the audience in about 25 minutes, and you should stand up, grab the microphone, state your name and identification. And this is also [to] be teleconferenced, Im told, so there may be perhaps some questions from not even in this room.
So let me start out, to go back to a very dramatic moment in time, the 2nd of February, 1990. Youd been president less than a year. You gave that extraordinary speech [repudiating apartheid] in which the whole world was watching. You unbanned the ANC. You talked about the release of Nelson Mandela. You ended, for the most part, petty apartheid. If you take your mind back to that day and you look at South Africa today in 2004, is this what you envisioned? Did the country turn out the way you thought it would when you made those changes in 1990?
F.W. DE KLERK: My answer to that would be, by and large, yes. There are a number of imperfections in the new South Africa where I would have hoped that things would be better, but on balance I think we have basically achieved what we set out to achieve. And if I were to draw balance sheets on where South Africa stands now, I would say that the positive outweighs the negative by far.
There is a tendency by commentators across the world to focus on the few negatives which are quite negative, like how are we handling AIDS, like our role vis-a-vis Zimbabwe. But the positives— the stability in South Africa, the adherence to well-balanced economic policies, fighting inflation, doing all the right things in order to lay the basis and the foundation for sustained economic growth— its in place. The constitutional certainty, the adherence to the constitution, but most important of all, what is in place is an underlying goodwill between all the people of South Africa, a sort of a commitment to make the new South Africa work, to take each others hands and in an optimistic way to reach out to the future and [see that] we can become a winning country. I think this characterizes the spirit of South Africa, and I couldnt have hoped for more.
STENGEL: The nature of these conversations is to look backward and forward. And to look backward for a second again, that was an extraordinary time. Shortly after you became president [in September 1989], the Berlin Wall fell. Im curious how the fall of communism affected your calculations about changing the dispensation in South Africa. How critical was that?
DE KLERK: It was of very, very critical importance to me. Fact is that until the Berlin Wall came down, we were facing in South Africa a very real military and political threat from the U.S.S.R. They had a strategy, and it wasnt dreamed up by the National Party or by my predecessor, [President] P.W. Botha.
They had a strategy of really directly or indirectly gaining control over the whole of southern Africa with its mineral riches, with its strategic position. We had to face in the decade or so before I could take the initiatives that I took: hundreds of thousands of Cuban troops in southern Africa, Russian pilots involved in the war in Angola. So there was a very real strategy amongst some from the communist bloc to gain control over southern Africa.
And the ANC, being an organization of South Africans asking for full political rights but being in close alliance— getting all their money, all their weapons, all their training, everything from the U.S.S.R.--posed part of that threat. When the Berlin Wall came down, when communism imploded and lost its sting, suddenly the ANC was an organization of South Africans saying, We want full political rights, something which I and my party have already decided they should have, and we could negotiate with them. We were not negotiating then with an extension of a world power with expansionist policies, but we were negotiating with a group of South Africans representing, as we already then realized, the majority of all black South Africans to work out a peaceful transition and a peaceful future and a new democracy.
It offered a window of opportunity. And the lesson weve learned is that leadership is about seeing the window of opportunity when it opens up and using it, because quite often it closes down. If I look at some other situations in the rest of the world at the moment, then unfortunately one has to say that some windows of opportunities have been missed by the leadership in some of the trouble spots and theyve closed down, and therefore the situation is deteriorating instead of improving.
STENGEL: In your autobiography, The Last Trek, I believe its called, you talk about the economic implications of excluding the majority of the population of South Africa. And to skip from talking about communism to talking about capitalism, how did that factor into your calculation, that basically the economics of apartheid couldnt really continue?
DE KLERK: Well, if you ask me why apartheid failed, lets start at that point.
DE KLERK: If we go back, what did I support when I was a young man? I supported what the whole world now supports for Israel and Palestine as the right— as the correct solution: partitioning, creating nation states on an ethnic basis, and getting those ethnic states, in our case, to work together in some sort of confederation, something like the European Union, a Southern African union.
It failed. Why did it fail? It failed for demographic reasons. More and more, people were not living in the parts of South Africa historically where they came from, but they were becoming more and more cosmopolitan in our cities, where the job opportunities were being created. It failed because the more we wanted to separate, the more economically integrated and interdependent we became. It failed because my old party, the National Party, wanted to retain too much land. It wasnt imaginative and creative enough in saying if we want to build nation-states, we have to make bigger sacrifices.
It failed. And we reached the stage where we had to admit to ourselves that we had failed to bring justice to the majority of all South Africans through the route of building a little Europe there, through the nation-state route, and that we have reached the point of no return. It was failure. We could either cling to power, more and more moving into a situation where we are, with our military might, protecting an unjust society— or we could make a quantum leap and say we were wrong and make an apology and say— but were not only going to say, Were sorry, we apologize, we failed to bring to justice, but take an initiative to really change things and to really bring about a just society, offering full opportunity to everybody and full and equal rights to everybody, within the framework of tolerance, because of our diversity.
I wonder whether people realize that we have 11 official languages in South Africa, none of which can be spoken, is understood, or can be read by all South Africans. We are really a little Europe, but a Europe with no borders, a Europe where we all share a common destiny, where we have to build a nation. And the challenge is to build that nation, to identify that which brings us together, without destroying the building blocks, because once you start making different— each of the 11 language groups feeling unsure of themselves, at that moment, you start to sow the seeds again of new dissension, new tensions, new fears, and therefore also conflicting aspirations.
This is our challenge. Economically speaking, we need each other. Weve one economy. On a day-to-day basis, notwithstanding the efforts to enforce segregation, we move closer and closer. And may I close this answer by saying, in that sense, sanctions was a failure vis-a-vis South Africa.
STENGEL: Talk some more about sanctions, because I know you feel that they were not successful, and I know Nelson Mandela feels that they were not successful. Americans tend to, I think, overestimate the power and importance of sanctions.
DE KLERK: Yeah. I fully agree with that statement. Sanctions, in our case, succeeded in twisting our economy, in making us channel funds into ventures which were basically uneconomical. But we have bypassed sanctions very, very successfully.
When I was a young minister of mineral and energy affairs— I dont know why Id been made it, because Im a lawyer by training— but I had about one-third of all the portfolios you could have in South Africa. We had enough oil bunkered in old mines, et cetera, coupled with our new oil from gold project, which was initiated by sanctions. And the fate of sanctions: to last four years on end without bringing in one new drop of oil into South Africa. Later on we sold off the oil which we bought at cheap prices at profits— [laughter]--and we could use the funds raised for good purposes. Sanctions, yes, twisted our economy, but in the end it hurt the people it was intended to help.
In the end, it didnt make us change. If you were to ask me what was the driving force in the 80s which could bring me to the point of making a 180-degree turn, of taking the quantum leap which I took, it was inner conviction that we can only build the future on the basis of justice to all, that we have failed to bring justice, that we were in the wrong road, that we were in a cul-de-sac which could only end into spiraling violence, into a downward spiral of conflict which would end in a sort of an Armageddon, a catastrophe. And we stepped back from that precipice.
Sanctions kept us on our toes. Im not saying it didnt have any influence whatsoever. But at times it was used so effectively, by, for instance, John Vorster, a former prime minister, to foster support. He won the biggest National Party election ever on the basis of an anti-American platform of, Who the hell are they to tell us what to do? [Laughter.]
STENGEL: Now, speaking of your quantum leap, not everybody, of course, wanted you to make such a leap. And after that speech in 1990 there were great spasms of violence. The talks between you and the ANC kept coming undone; it was a very unsteady road. There are those, including in Allister Sparks most recent book, who believed that the country was very close to a military coup between then and the election in 94. Is that the case?
DE KLERK: I never felt that there was a real risk of a military coup. I think we succeeded all along to keep the top brass— in the military, in the police, and so on— supportive of drastic reform and initiatives. There was a saying in the military circles that when we were sort of in a corner in the middle 80s, when there was escalating violence, that the solution would be 30 percent military and 70 percent political. There was a risk of the far white right, which would have included some of the reserve forces, people not full-time in the military, not full-time in the police, but having been trained and doing service so many— a month every year, or that sort of thing— could have been drafted, and they were led by a former chief of the defense force. But in the end, three months before the  election— two months, actually, before the election— the ANC, President Mandela took some initiatives to interact with them and convince them to come aboard, and with General Constand Viljoen [former chief of the South African Defense Force and founder of the Freedom Front Party] coming aboard and saying, Okay, we will participate in the election, it diffused that threat. But I dont agree with Allister Sparks that at any time we were very near to a real military coup. None of the information that I got as president ever tended to indicate that that was a real threat. Its an overstatement, I think.
STENGEL: I do remember when Mandela reached out to General Viljoen, and it was quite extraordinary. Now you served with him [Mandela] in a government of national unity. You have a very complex and complicated history with him through private negotiations, which you talk about in your book. I was wondering if you would for us evaluate his strengths and weaknesses as a leader. What, on the one hand, makes him extraordinary? On the other hand, what are the flaws and foibles he might have?
DE KLERK: Well, let me start by saying that all icons also have feet of clay. He doesnt have much clay in his feet. Hes really a big man. He has a dignity and a clarity of mind which I greatly admire.
His greatest contribution to South Africa was in the field— and is still in the field of reconciliation. The remarkable lack of bitterness that this man has shown is an example, I think, for anybody who has made sacrifices for a cause in which they believe. Hes a great communicator. He was never a good administrator. He wasnt a hands-on president at all. Right from the beginning, he never chaired the Cabinet. I was, for two years, together with [current President] Thabo Mbeki, executive deputy president. We chaired the Cabinet on a rotational basis. He was there, he attended all Cabinet meetings, but he more or less based his presidency on the French system. He chose just a few issues on which to concentrate, and he left the running of the government and the day to day things to the deputy presidents and to his Cabinet ministers and so on. So he didnt shine as an administrator, but hes shone as a uniting figure, cementing a tenuous, very fragile new unity within South Africa. Having been put at the top, I played a supporting role after 1994 of a new unity bringing together former enemies which were shooting at each other, which were undermining each other, which were at war with each other. I think he did a marvelous job on that.
Our fights that you refer to, our tensions, which were quite severe at times during my presidency especially, centered around, both from his side and my side, some people within our institutions and systems acting against our orders and policies, continuing undercover activities which were actually totally in conflict with the policies which we were trying to advance and the agreements which we were trying to reach. So in the end, evidence was uncovered that there were elements in the security forces who were sabotaging the very things I was trying to achieve and I was busy negotiating.
But likewise— and this is not given, maybe, enough coverage by history writers— there were elements in the ANC who were acting in conflict with what, under Mandelas leadership, the ANC was committing itself to. There is the one incident which has become public, Operation Vula, [in 1998-90], [the ANC] kept bringing in AK-47s [assault rifles] and they were still involved in some underground activities which were actually militating against what was happening in South Africa.
But Mandela is a great man and he deserves the place of honor he has in the world and in South Africa.
STENGEL: You mention him as a figure of reconciliation, and Im put in mind, of course, of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Do you feel that has been a force for good in South Africa? I know you have been criticized and have been critical of it.
DE KLERK: Well, Ive been a successful litigant on twice occasions— on two occasions against them, and— because they were definitely one-sided. Firstly, the basic fault line with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was their composition. It wasnt in any way representative of the conflicts of the past. It was one-sided. When it was formed, I was deputy president. In terms of the constitution, President Mandela had to negotiate— had to consult with me before appointing the commission. I and my party supported the need for such a commission all the time. And then he sent me a list of names. And I went to him and I said, But I cant support this list of names. Cant we— we did a lot of research, cant we replace the following four names with these four? Then we will have a more well-balanced commission. And for once he was not prepared to negotiate. He said, No, this is the commission I want, and if you want to take off names, then I will want to take off other names. This is what I want to appoint. And in the end, I said, Then appoint it, but its your commission; its not a consensus commission.
And from the beginning, from what I represent in South Africa, the commission, in its composition, was flawed. This permeated through in the choice of priorities. In the end— let me just state one fact, not spending too much time on it. In the end, they never investigated [Inkatha Freedom Party leader Dr. Mangosuthu] Buthelezis complaint [that] about 400 of these top, top people in the Inkatha Freedom Party, in the Inkatha freedom movement, who had been assassinated in cold blood. Theres nothing in the report about who done it, how did it occur or anything. So— on the negative side.
But on the positive side, the Truth Commission, I think, played a crucial role on the central issue, which is an issue for every country coming out of conflict, and that is the question of amnesty— the question of applying a reasonably formulated legislative provision to say who qualifies for amnesty, which crimes were political in nature and therefore qualifies for amnesty, and which crimes do not. And they played a crucial role in that.
They played a crucial role, I think, in convincing many people to uncover, to bring to the— forth the truth about certain incidents, which help family of victims, people who just simply disappeared, to know what happened to their loved ones. And there were some emotional scenes where people who coldbloodedly murdered opponents on the other side became sort of reunited with the families of those people, and forgiveness came to the fore. So also in the emotional sphere, I think the Truth Commission made a good contribution.
But in their own report they say— because they were not just the Truth Commission; they were the Truth and Reconciliation Commission— they admitted that they did not really get to the point of successfully promoting reconciliation and expressed the hope that, on the basis of the truths which have been uncovered, the painful truths, that others would take and continue with initiatives to strengthen reconciliation and to continue on the road of reconciliation. And this is actually what Mandela, what Im trying to do, what many other people in South Africa are trying to do, and that is to say we must keep the concept of the need for reconciliation, for forgiveness, for cooperation alive. That is what the F.W. De Klerk Foundation in South Africa is about. We promote an active civil society to be on the playing field and to be part of nurturing the young and tender plant of the new South Africa.
STENGEL: Im going to ask one more question and then we will go out to all of you for questions. My last question is, to just bring us up to the present day, can you give us a report card on Thabo Mbekis administration? How has he done?
DE KLERK: Firstly, one must realize that in a sense Thabo Mbeki has been, in European terms, almost the prime minister since 1994. Because of what I said, that Nelson Mandela wasnt a hands-on president, Thabo Mbeki, with my assistance initially and thereafter on his own, was really running the day-to-day government of the country.
The big breakthrough which I think all of us must understand which has been made in South Africa is that the ANC, with its too strong democratic base. Its not healthy in any democracy to have two-thirds or more of the vote comes from a far-left, hard-line socialist background. Theyve been for many, many decades in close alliance to the South African Communist Party. And that party, as part of the transition, as part of the constitutional transition in South Africa, has decided to adopt free market principles. They moved from nationalization to privatization, and they are holding the line on well-balanced economic policies, growth-oriented economic and financial forward planning: fighting inflation, containing the money supply, really doing all the right things in order to instill investors confidence. And initially I think amongst investors there was skepticism. So on the economic side, I give them very high marks.
On the stability side and with regard to a few other important governance aspects, I think we went through a phase of trying to reinvent the wheel. There were good policies in place but, somehow or another, the new administration didnt want to be seen to take over policies from my administration and from the National Party government. Somehow or another they wanted to give it a new name. And from that was born the Reconstruction and Development Plan [which aimed to rectify imbalances in South African society created by the apartheid government] with new names, with new terminology. But in the end, we all united in the need to win the war against poverty.
So also, on the social side, within the framework of restraints and with making allowance for adaptation time, I think were doing quite well in trying to improve the quality of life, in helping the poorest of the poor, in bringing electricity to those who didnt have it. But we have some failures as well.
Thus far, we have not succeeded— and I was involved the last five years before I became president, as minister of National Education— in really, while spending one-fifth, 20 percent, of our total budget on education, in really making that money work to the best effect in the sense of putting it to the best use in upgrading the quality of education for everybody instead of having very good education for some and just, really, the minimum— crisis management, all the rest.
I think were beginning to win the war against crime. Once again, we lost some time. But things are improving.
The big criticism is on AIDS. We lost a lot of time. When I handed over in 94, we had some good AIDS plans prepared by a former minister of health under me. It was shelved originally. A lot of time was lost. And then there was this destructive argument about whether HIV caused AIDS. And I think President Mbeki was ill-advised on this. In the end, civil society asserted itself. And with the help of Mandela, with the help of [Bishop Desmond] Tutu, with the help of me, with the help of some civil society organizations, finally, the government has almost been forced into beginning to do what should have been done some time ago. So I give them very bad marks on handling that.
Another issue for which the Mbeki government is— and Im not an advocate for them; I didnt vote for them— but for which they are being hammered across the world is the Zimbabwe situation [a reference to the upheaval caused by controversial policies of President Robert Mugabe]. There I have more sympathy. What should we do? Isnt the world expecting too much from us vis-à-vis Zimbabwe? Should we send in our army? Should we make Zimbabwe South Africas Iraq? I dont think so, because if we really put on a scale the worst countries in Africa, terribly bad as it is, Zimbabwe isnt the worst. Should we strangle them economically? We can. We could close Beitbridge [Zimbabwean city on South African border], because we really control their lifeblood inasmuch as they have to get things out of Zimbabwe or get things into Zimbabwe. We will just make the people who are already hungry die of hunger. We wont hurt Mugabe and his cronies.
So the only really responsible alternative is pressure, and there Im critical. I think there was too much velvet in the glove so far and too little iron in the fist so far. And I think President Mbeki should, at a much earlier stage, have said, This will never happen in South Africa. I share with you it will never happen in South Africa. Its a totally different situation. But it has harmed South Africa, it has harmed southern Africa, and just maybe vocally, more should have been done and more should have been said.
STENGEL: Let me cut you off here. And youve covered a lot of the bases that people will probably ask about, so lets throw it open to questions. Right here. And identify yourself and your affiliation.
QUESTIONER: My name is Lucy Komisar. Im a journalist. Im asking this question on behalf of Africa Confidential, which is a newsletter published in London. My question is about two situations in the present that are rooted in the past. First, how do you feel about the collapse of the National Party? And second, how do you feel about the fact that ex-South Africa special forces soldiers, in companies such as Erinsys, which is known as [Iraqi politician Ahmed] Chalabis private army in Iraq, are going around the world trouble spots and being involved in attempts at destabilization and human rights abuses?
DE KLERK: Well, let me start with the last question by saying I supported the law which said that it is unlawful for South Africans to be involved as hired soldiers, or— whats the right English terminology?
DE KLERK: As mercenaries. So I think its bad for the image of South Africa. I think its part of an international problem. Im sure that these private armies are not made up just out of South Africans. But if its wrong for South Africans, its also wrong for ex-British SAS [Special Air Service] people and for people from past forces across the world. Its a tragic state of affairs internationally that there is a market for people with these skills. Im against it. But I think the medium and long-term solution lies in addressing the root causes for the conflict and not in increasing the military capacity or the fighting capacity or the killing capacity or the murdering capacity of conflicting parties.
And therefore, our attention should be focused on winning the war against poverty, on bringing better health conditions and better education to people, because its on those grievances that extremists, whether its extremists religiously speaking, or extremists from— for whatever cause, they rely on the grievances. That is where they gather their support from. And if those grievances can— while we attend to suppressing the violence, if those grievances can in a creative manner be serviced and if moderate people can get the support from international sources in order to strengthen their position vis-à-vis the extremists, then I think we will begin to make progress.
On the question of the National Party, obviously my heart is sore. I grew up in that party. My father [former Senator Jan de Klerk] was a minister under three consecutive prime ministers. I played a crucial role— not the only role; many others played crucial roles with me— in transforming an apartheid party to a visionary party, to a party which took an initiative. Without that initiative, South Africa would not have been what it is today. Im proud of the National Party as it was in the early 1990s. So its almost-demise is, on a personal basis, a tragedy.
I continue to believe that in a complex country like South Africa, coming out of decades of conflict and centuries of injustice, you need a cooperative, consensus-seeking model. That typical confrontational democracy— like we have in Great Britain, like we have here in the United States— is not the right recipe for us. We need to take hands. We need to lift the big challenges which we face— unemployment, poverty, the health situation, crime— out of the political arena, and we need to cooperate. In that sense, the National Partys total failure in the past election can be attributed, to a certain extent, to the fact that they said, We stand for this, whereas many voters felt, No, we want a robust opposition which takes the government by its shirtfront, which shakes it about, and which voiced our fears, instead of which works for solutions.
So maybe the National Party was ahead of its time. I hope that it will retain its identity, and I think that maybe the only viable alternative for it is what it is considering at the moment, and that is to say we will retain our identity. But we will work together with the ANC and we will try to find a formula as to how we can be accommodated in such a close cooperation relationship.
STENGEL: Right here.
QUESTIONER: [In Afrikaans.]
DE KLERK: [Responds in Afrikaans.]
QUESTIONER: My Afrikaans stops right there! [Laughter.] My name is Joe Hurd and Im with the Katama Group, a consulting firm in Washington. And as you may know, there is a South African trade delegation in the United States this week to echo all of the positives you said about the South African economy— 20 consecutive quarters of growth, net exporter of Mercedes-Benz automobiles, and so on.
My question is on Black Economic Empowerment [BEE] transactions [a program created under the Reconstruction and Development Plan]. And despite all the positives in South Africa at the moment, there still is a sense in the U.S.-European investment community that these BEE deals are fraught with risk. I was wondering whether you had any words for the investment community here in the United States about those transactions and the current spate of deal-making in South Africa.
DE KLERK: Black Economic Empowerment is something which keeps our minds very busy at the moment. It needs to take place. Weve written affirmative action into our constitution. Our constitution says there shall not be discrimination on the basis of race or color or any other reason— sex, or whatever. But for the sake of rectifying the injustices of the past, there shall be affirmative action. And these two concepts must be kept in balance with each other; not to fall back into a pattern of racial discrimination, but at the same time, distinguishing between sort of bad racial discrimination and necessary racial differentiation for some time in order to address the injustices of the past.
It is the cause of great debates and of great uncertainty. Its causing an outflow of young white, colored and Indian South Africans, which we really cant afford. But fortunately, the pendulum is swinging; many of them are coming home. As the rand has strengthened against the pound and the dollar, suddenly its not so lucrative to be elsewhere, and theyre beginning to come back, and they look for the nice climate, and it is: We have such a wonderful country. [Laughter.]
So Im not so overly concerned. And its good that youngsters get new horizons and wider experience and then come back as people with better insight into life, maybe. So I dont think its such a crisis as some people make it out.
I think black empowerment runs the risk of enriching too few, instead of bringing a better life to the masses. And I think theres a risk in South Africa of a backlash amongst the black masses against a new class of highly successful black entrepreneurs. And I think all of us, not just government, civil society must be careful to ensure that this risk doesnt develop into a real threat to sort of stability and good relations in South Africa.
But black empowerment is necessary. Can I testify, as an Afrikaner, from early history? With the Great Depression in 1933, after having lost the Anglo-Boer War a hundred years ago against the British, taking our freedom and our self-determination away from us in two republics, they suddenly developed this great conscience when we discovered gold and diamonds in certain areas. Im not anti-British, but thats [laughter]--thats the— those are the historical facts. [Laughter.]
My people were very poor, and the economy, the wealth, was really in the hands of the English business community in South Africa. And they, in the middle 30s, reached out and said, We must create a mining house next to the three, four big mining houses controlling the gold, controlling the diamonds, controlling the platinum, to empower the white Afrikaners. And thus General Mining [and Finance Corporation, later called Gencor] was born, from which really Billiton [PLC, which Gencor purchased in 1994 to be its offshore investment subsidiary,] has grown. It was a wise step.
And in many other spheres there was this acknowledgement of the need to build a middle class and to build a managerial class also amongst people who come from an agrarian background, more in agriculture, more plaatsland, you know, rural.
So I support Black Economic Empowerment. I think, however, it must be done in such a way that it doesnt deteriorate into a new form of apartheid, where there is racial discrimination again purely on the basis of color, and that we must continue to work very hard at finding and maintaining a formula which balances merit, experience and the need of doing something about the injustices of the past in the proper balance to the best interests of all South Africans.
STENGEL: We have about 10 minutes left. So lets do final questions— to use an American television term, a lightning round. Short questions, short answers.
DE KLERK: Im a bit long on my answers, I know. [Laughter.]
STENGEL: My old friend, Tom Karis.
QUESTIONER: City University. One of the major changes of the new South Africa is the establishment of a constitutional court. Like the American Supreme Court, it has the power to judge the constitutionality of the legislative and the executive. But unlike the American constitutional court, unlike the American Supreme Court, it has a mandate to be an agent of transformation toward equality. What is your evaluation of the record of the court? And how independent has it been, including independent of the ANC?
MR. DE KLERK: I think one of the most profound changes is the fact that we moved from a situation which we have in Britain, where with a majority of one any law can be made, to a constitution which contains a values system, which contains certain immutable principles, with a mechanism— namely the constitutional court— to uphold that values system. Thus far, the constitutional court has done quite well. Regionally there were fears, just looking at the political background of those on the constitutional court, that it might allow itself to be politicized. It has shown courage and independence by overruling government and overruling Parliament on certain basic principles.
I do think we have given them a difficult task by also charging them to promote transformation, but Im happy in my mind that theyre doing a good job and that they are upholding an independent view according to true juridical principles.
Im proud of our constitutional court, and I think theyre doing well— to the point that one of the projects which I have for my foundation in South Africa is I would like to establish a watchdog organization which can make better use of the constitutional court. I dont think South Africans are claiming their constitutional rights effectively. Its too expensive to go to them, and we need sort of an assisting organization to sometimes take an initiative in order to put flesh on the skeleton which is contained in our bill of rights.
STENGEL: Yes, sir. Youve been waiting a long time.
QUESTIONER: Mahesh Kotecha, Structured Credit International. My question, sir, is about the leadership that South Africa can exercise and has exercised in African affairs. That part is an initiative that was started, among others, by South Africa. And theres a [Group of Eight] meeting going on, as you know, in South— in Sea Island, where African leaders, six African leaders will be present, including South Africas. I wondered if you could give some short assessment of NEPAD [New Partnership for Africas Development], particularly in its political dimension of providing greater governance. You referred to Zimbabwe already, where it has really failed to have any effect.
DE KLERK: Im a great supporter of NEPAD. I think South Africa is destined to play a pivotal role in especially sub-Sahara Africa, in southern Africa, but on the whole continent of Africa. I think we are very conscious of the fact that we have to avoid trying to be seen to be big brother who tries to prescribe with all humility, and Im not critical. I have great sympathy with America. Its very— its very tough to be the only remaining superpower in the world. I mean, in that sense, its very tough for us in South Africa to be on the African continent, really, to be seen as really maybe the most successful, and maybe the most powerful country. In that sense of the word, we are trying to promote the concept of partnership between us and other leading countries. And that is why youll find five or six presidents trying to promote NEPAD.
I would have liked to see NEPAD start as the European Union started, as a club of countries already complying with certain minimum requirements, and then saying, You can become members of NEPAD as you make progress on democratization, on creating a human rights culture, on following well-balanced economic policies. I think it was a mistake to say, All members of the African Union are part of NEPAD, because immediately it puts the failures at the top instead of having the example to be followed, model which was built into the original European Union.
But thats water under the bridge. The leading countries of the world need to take hands with the leading countries in Africa in order to build a partnership and to devise ways and means of reaching out to the drowning countries in the developing world and, in this case, the drowning countries in Africa. The free world cant afford to turn its back on a continent sliding further and further back.
[Crosstalk - inaudible.]
QUESTIONER: Mr. de Klerk, Prudence Solomon, president of South African Tours in America. Sir, your thoughts on Mr. [Jean Bertrande] Aristide [deposed president of Haiti] being given asylum in South Africa?
DE KLERK: I have reason to believe that America would have liked us to accept him sooner than we did. [Laughter.] Good reason, by the way, to believe that. So I dont think were offending the rest of the world by doing so. I wouldnt like us to become a receptacle for rejected leaders and undemocratic leaders and so on, but from time to time I think countries have to play a role. So for me, its not high on my agenda. Im not unduly concerned, as long as we dont spend too much taxpayers money on him.
STENGEL: Okay. This gentleman back there. Youve been waiting a while.
QUESTIONER: Mr. President, Tomas Amorim with the Council on Foreign Relations. I just would love to hear your thoughts on the new strategic partnership between South Africa, Brazil, and India, which the president of Brazil also hopes to expand to include China and Russia; the potential effectiveness of such a trade and strategic alliance.
STENGEL: This has to be really short [laughter]--and then one more question, then—
DE KLERK: I think if its good for the strong countries of the world to have strategic relationships, its good also for the middle-sized countries to develop a sort of a consensus and to represent the interests of the billions of people living in their countries, struggling to also gain more from the advantages of globalization and standing sort of with one foot in poverty and one foot in development. Were the hybrid countries of the world, and I think its good if we get organized a bit and organize ourselves in order to advance common purposes. I think it will also help the leading countries of the world— America and so on— if we can prevent further Cancuns [the World Trade Organizations ministerial conference in Cancun in 2003 where participants failed to agree on new trade rules] and the like by representing a moderate view from the developing world rather than allowing the extremists and the radicals to take charge of the debate.
STENGEL: So I want to have one more question. And Ill call on you, Frank, but before I do I want to give you a little bit of time at the end to talk about the Global Leadership Foundation, mindful of the fact that were almost done. Im sorry? Oh yes, okay. And there— okay.
DE KLERK: Ah. What is at the door? Ah, okay. So we wont talk about that. Youll get some documentation for those of you who want. I will say two sentences.
QUESTIONER: Frank Ferrari of ProVentures. Mr. De Klerk, may I go back to the beginning, when you talked about reconciliation? And I personally think, and Im sure others, that the contribution of South Africa today in this torn world is remarkably outstanding. But in that context, a hundred Afrikaners recently adopted a statement in support of Thabo Mbeki on one hand, but on the other hand in parliament, the opposition as seen by the majority is almost exclusively white in terms of the challenges that oppose the government and the questions that are asked. Its a white opposition. Are you concerned about that as a threat, in the eyes of the majority as a threat to reconciliation?
DE KLERK: In a sense, almost all parties have become nonracial parties. Im very proud that in 94, my party, who used to be the apartheid party, had more than 50 percent of our vote— of 4 million votes, more than 50 percent came from people of color and less than 50 percent from whites. Unfortunately things have deteriorated, and I would say that our politics is still much too much ethnically based and ethnically dominated instead of us being brought together around values, the same beliefs, the same policies. And I believe there will be a realignment in South African politics, breaking out of the historical ethnic patterns to value-based politics where those right of center in their political thinking, in their economic thinking, will find ways and means to cooperate irrespective of race or color. Those left of center— and Im convinced that we will [inaudible] when that realignment comes because its going to come. The ANC is going to split somewhere along the line. The cement which kept them together, namely, to end apartheid, has gone. Apartheid is gone. And you cant continue to have communists, and hard-line socialists, and pragmatists, and free-market people in the same party; there isnt cement. There has got to be a realignment. And Im sure when that comes, there will be a coalition of the center— left of center, right of center— and we will successfully marginalize radicals to the left and radicals to the right.
But at the moment, our democracy is not very healthy; its too much racially dominated, and it is too much unbalanced. If the second-biggest party in the country doesnt have 10 percent of the vote, then you dont have a healthy democracy.
STENGEL: Now, two sentences on the Global Leadership Foundation.
DE KLERK: The Global Leadership Foundation is a new initiative into which Ive been dragged in a sense by a friend. I had enough on my plate. Its a new initiative where Ive brought together a group of retired leaders— presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers— who are no longer seeking the limelight, who are prepared to give some of their time to offer quiet and confidential advice to people in government, especially in the developing world, with no political agenda of their own, with no profit-making motive at all— just to be there on specific issues to provide confidential advice, helping leaders to take courageous decisions which can take their countries forward. That is the smallest nutshell in which I can put it. [Laughter.]
STENGEL: [Chuckles.] Okay. Very good.
DE KLERK: I can impress you with the list of names. Unfortunately, some former politicians are too fond of the limelight, and although theyre highly competent, I didnt invite them to become part. [Laughter.]
STENGEL: There are some fliers about the foundation that you get on the way out. I want to thank Mr. de Klerk for participating in our HBO History Makers series. You yourself, sir, are an international icon who does not have feet of clay and saw further than your contemporaries. Thank you very much for being here. [Applause.]
DE KLERK: Thank you very much.
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