DATE: 18:00 – 19:00 – Monday 14th May 2018
VENUE: The Henry Jackson Society, Millbank Tower
SPEAKER: Lord Renwick of Clifton KCMG, Former British Ambassador to South Africa and author of How to Steal a Country
EVENT CHAIR: James Rogers, Director, Global Britain Programme
Good evening everyone to this HJS book review event and it is my great honour to welcome here tonight Lord Renwick, who has a very long and distinguished career within the diplomatic service. He entered the foreign service in 1963. He’s had an extensive experience in relation to Zimbabwe and also as British Ambassador to South Africa between 1987 and 1991 during the periods surrounding the release of Nelson Mandela. He’s also been the British Ambassador to the United States in the early 1990’s and he has authored this book, How to Steal a Country, which looks at the role of South Africa and the development of South Africa domestically since the end of the Apartheid era and he will, for the next ten, twenty minutes, give a presentation in relation to the content of his book. Then that will allow us to have the remaining period for questions and answers. So without further ado, I shall handover to you and we’re looking forward to hearing your thoughts, thank you.
James, thank you very much indeed for the nice introduction. Thank you all for coming this evening. I’m very pleased to talk through the Henry Jackson Society because Senator Scoop Jackson was a really major figure in US politics for 30 years and he helped to stiffen the resolve, and even the spine actually of his — and not only his — in dealing with the Soviet Union at the time. It was thanks to the Jackson-Vanik amendment that a lot of Jewish dissidents were able to leave Russia and move to Israel. So he made a big contribution and some of his key assistants then played a distinguished role in the Reagan administration. So he made a contribution to winning the Cold War actually.
The reason I wrote this book was because I was in South Africa when Mandela was released from jail. Margaret Thatcher used to get a bad press for supposedly protecting South Africa and resisting sanctions even though we had imposed all sorts of sanctions. But she didn’t believe in isolating the place completely or in imposing sanctions that would’ve brought neighbouring countries to their knees long before South Africa. But what she did was-typical of her- she campaigned extremely hard for the release of Mandela and she did so, much more directly, with the South African government than other leaders did. Other leaders would have a press conference saying release Mandela and get back to whatever else they were doing. She was really very actively engaged in trying to persuade them to actually do it. Now, one person who did understand this was none other than Nelson Mandela because we had various ways of getting through to him in jail. One of my friends was a great anti-Apartheid campaigner- Helen Suzman. She occasionally was allowed to see him and he knew, the efforts she was making to try to help get him out.
So when he was released from jail, we found ourselves in a position where he actually wanted our help, needed our help in dealing with the South African government because most other people had barely any relationship with the South African government which by then was led by F.W. de Klerk. I got to know de Klerk before he became President and it’s always a big advantage when you’re in that position because you form a personal friendship so when he is President, you have a much closer relationship. And people forget that Apartheid wasn’t abolished by Nelson Mandela it was abolished by F. W. de Klerk. Every single Apartheid law was repealed by de Klerk and he then released Mandela and engaged in a negotiation with Mandela. Mandela needed a lot of help- quite practical help- he asked us to train his bodyguards, we got the SAS to train his bodyguards. We trained them, in particular, on how to shoot people, not to be trigger-happy. He needed security for his house and the place he was moving into and he needed help in the negotiation with de Klerk. While the rest of the ANC wanted to continue the fighting with Thatcher on sanctions even after he’d been released, he had a very different point of view I remember before he met her, he asked me to go see him and – typical of Mandela- what he wanted to know was how do I get her on my side. So I said to him, look let’s have a dress rehearsal for this meeting, you can be Mandela and I’ll be Mrs. Thatcher, who I had got to know quite well by then. So he went on for quite a while about- all he’d been fighting for was One Person-One Vote, it had been impossible to deal with the government, there’d been no way. And he ended up beginning 27 years in jail but what he wanted was a decent constitution including protection for minority rights. And I said, well that’s all fine Mr. Mandela but stop all this nonsense about nationalising the banks and the mines.
So when it came to the meeting with Thatcher, I had to go see her before the meeting and I said to her before the meeting- please remember he’s waited 27 years to tell you his side of the story- which got me a sort of glare from the clear blue eyes and she said- you mean I mustn’t interrupt? And I said, not for the first half hour please, try to understand. And when he got there, she didn’t interrupt for an hour which as Charles [inaudible], who was her assistant, said was undoubtedly a record. He told her his story and she then said, stop all this nonsense about nationalising the banks and mines, to which he burst out laughing. She couldn’t understand why he burst out laughing but he was looking at me and the rehearsal. But they then got on perfectly well because it was difficult not to be immensely impressed by Mandela. He had natural charisma- tall, dignified, courteous-old-fashioned courtesy and so on. She was impressed by him and once they got past ‘we’re going to help you with the negotiations’, she proceeded to give him a lecture of basic economics- Economics 101- which was followed up by me. I had many discussions with Mandela about how nationalisation will never work, it’s never worked anywhere else of course, and he ended up dropping it.
The thing about Mandela was that, after 27 years in jail, was the lack of bitterness. He didn’t feel resentful as almost anybody else would about what had happened to him and his colleagues. He was colour-blind- he regarded white South Africans as South Africans, fellow South Africans, and he was genuine about that. He was a great sports fan, and he regarded sport as very important a unifying factor and as some of you will remember when he adopted the Springbok Rugby team even though it consisted of 14 whites and one coloured South African. He understood very well- he was extremely shrewd- that the country couldn’t prosper without the economic contribution of the white community. So, you know, when Mandela acted as President- when he as President- there was pretty much unanimous [inaudible] including from the Afrikaaner community, you know when he put on a Springbok Captain’s jersey playing the all-Blacks, the stadium was full of 70,000 Afrikaaners and there wasn’t a dry vile on them. So this is what they started with- they started with two extraordinary leaders because without de Klerk, it wouldn’t have happened. Both won the Nobel prize, both deserved to win the Nobel prize. You had extraordinary people like Desmond Tutu as well, and Helen Suzman. So they started with politics at a high level and with people buying into this vision of-inclusive vision- of the future of the country. All our Marxist friends, and not only our Marxist friends, will tell you that history is shaped by historical forces and so. But it’s also shaped by individuals in a really nature way and I’ve seen it happen with Reagan and Thatcher and other cases too.
And when Mandela handed over, he actually wanted to hand over to the person who is President today- he wanted to hand over to Cyril Ramaphosa, who had negotiated the Constitution which included safeguards for the minorities, because he thought he was the right kind of guy to follow him. But the exiles who had come back, of the ANC leadership from outside the country wanted Thabo Mbeki. Mbeki was tragically an extremely, and still is, an extremely intelligent person, and he did many good things as President. In particular, he completely ditched very left-wing economic policies and he actually bonafide declared ‘We are all Thatcherites now’. He established a very good economic policy framework which was successful triggering the very rapid expansion of the black South African middle class which is now bigger and has more purchasing power than the whites. But, he did suffer from some character flaws- one character flaw, strangely, was a resentment of Mandela. He felt overshadowed by Mandela, and Mandela used to say to me: ‘If I could ring up any President in the world, I could get through to him except for my own’. Mbeki felt too insecure to take his call and they fell out on AIDS because Mbeki, a very peculiar individual, convinced himself that AIDS didn’t cause people to die. They died of other things like pneumonia and such, which of course is technically true because it destroys your immune system so you then die — to something else, but he became an AIDS denialist and there was a huge falling-out with Mandela because of that. Also, he did absolutely nothing about Mugabe’s behaviour in Zimbabwe, and Mandela wasn’t keen on that either. So you had, with Mbeki, a good economic performance but some really serious character flaws. And one of his character flaws was that he was totally incapable of addressing a mass audience or anything like that- he was very, sort of, academically-inclined or whatever you’d like to call it, and he isolated himself.
So there was then a populist revoke within the ANC and Jacob Zuma took over and this was another tragedy because I knew Jacob Zuma when he was in the armed struggle- he didn’t have a penny to his name and when it came to the negotiations he played quite a positive role, and when it came to the fighting in Natal between the ANC and [inaudible], he also helped to try and damp that down as well. But all these people when they came back from exile, had nothing- they had no car or no house, no secretary and no job or salary etc. and they all were helped by local businessmen who provided them with houses or secretaries or whatever. And some of the businessmen did so with good intentions, and some of them did so with very bad intentions. In Zuma’s case, he fell into the hands of two Indian families, first of all, called Sheikh brothers who paid for everything for him and of course expected contracts in return.
But then when he became President he, for the first three or four years, corruption was bad but it wasn’t so spectacular. But then three India brothers from [inaudible] city in central India, Uttar Pradesh, appeared in South Africa and started organizing corruption on an unparalleled scale. And I say at the beginning of this book, that Sherlock Holmes’ old nemesis professor Moriarty, would have been really proud of these guys at the sheer scale of the amount they stole, the speed at which they did it and the impunity with which they got away with it. And because in the last five years, these 200 billion Rand- so close to 20 billion dollars- was stolen from the South African state by these people and their political patrons. Anyone who tried to stop them was immediately removed from office. The way this was exercised, carried out was through a surreptitious coup d’etat. What Zuma did instead of changing the Constitution, which is difficult, was he appointed as the Chief Prosecutor somebody who was then paid not to prosecute any of the evil doers but to actually try to prosecute those who were trying to stop the evil doers. When it came to the investigative agency, it was the same- they were not allowed to investigate any of Zuma and his friends but they were allowed to investigate those who were looking into Zuma and his friends. It was the world upside-down. Wilbur Smith is an old friend of mine and he, unfortunately, has sold 130 million more copies of his books than I have done but he describes this reading of the novel like a crime novel, which it does because it explains in some detail how these people got away with it. But it was the world upside down- the crime investigative division, for instance, was run by criminals and I’m absolutely serious. These people were criminals. One chap who was convicted of a murder didn’t bother to turn himself in to go to prison. Instead, he joined the crime intelligence division of the policy, and became a senior figure in the crime intelligence division, and you’ll find him in here with a lot of other picturesque characters as well.
Anyhow, what was happening was that there was a lot of resistance to all of this and the resistance was led by two people really. One was the Finance Minister who was called Pravin Gordon and he tried to put a stop to this courageously and of course, ended up being removed from office. But the other person, they had an [inaudible] in South Africa- she’s called Public Protector. They had this extraordinary lady called Thuli Madonsela, who grew up in Soweto from a very poor family. She got a scholarship to a school in Swaziland, she got a degree in Law, she worked on the Constitution in a very junior position under Mandela. She then became the Ombudsman- they couldn’t stop her writing reports on these huge scandals and the first, Zuma spent 250 million Rand on his homestead in one of the poorest villages in the world and she wrote a report on that. He claimed that these were security upgrades- she wrote a report ‘Secure in Comfort’ which demonstrated that most of it weren’t security upgrades. Then just before she was due to be- her term was ending- she decided I’ve really got to do more about this. She wrote an amazing report entitled ‘State of Capture’ about how the state-owned enterprises were being exploited and milked by Zuma and these people for their own benefit. She was threatened, she was denounced as a CIA agent and she was threatened physically, and she’ll be coming to London. If any of you are interested, there’ll be a meeting which she’ll address- extraordinarily impressive women, you know, because she did this, she is very charismatic too. She’s deeply Christian- she couldn’t believe, she told me, that all these people would look her straight in the eye and lie under oath- she takes Oath seriously, the Law seriously, the Constitution seriously.
Anyhow, this came to a showdown as it was bound to do in December between the Zuma camp, including his ex-wife who is supporting him and is due to succeed him. Not many of our ex-wives would be well-disposed to us, she was to him even though they had a pretty torrid marriage but she was more of the same, unfortunately. And on the other side there was Ramaphosa who helped to write the Constitution, and the Constitution is a very good Constitution because it’s a genuinely liberal Constitution. It does provide all sorts of protections for everybody’s rights and the courts kept striking down government measures and so on. So it wasn’t just these two- Gordon and Madonsela. You know, this is quite an uplifting story in the sense that South Africa has a genuinely free press and they are very tough. The black journalists are just as feisty as the white journalists- believe me- in that country. They also have a fearless judiciary- the courts kept striking down government decisions. And they also had civil society better organized and more effective than I’ve seen pretty well anywhere else but it was galvanized by these reports by Madonsela, which show people what’s going on. So you were getting to a point where the Zuma kleptocracy couldn’t continue with the Constitution in place. So the next moves were going to have to be to try to muzzle the press and end the independence of the judiciary, which was on the agenda. So all this came down to a showdown in December within the ANC- other parties didn’t have a vote otherwise these people would’ve been thrown out immediately. But there were 9,000 ANC delegates voting for the next President of the ANC, who was going to be President of the country and Ramaphosa won by the nearest margin you can imagine- 90 votes- but he did win.
Ramaphosa, I’ve known for thirty years and because he was ousted and pushed aside by Mbeki, he went into business, he benefitted from a lot of deals with white businesses and so on, but he is an effective businessman, has become quite seriously rich. But he’s a decent person and I’ve talked with him many, many times- he’s never been less than straightforward and he’s not self-interested, he doesn’t need to be and he will restore integrity where it matters at the top. But does that solve the problem- not really because it is the party itself that has become structurally corrupt. In the provinces, if you want to win a contract, you are expected to contribute to the party coffers or whatever it is, and in cities too. Now that is changing because the major cities are currently run by the opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, which is a fairly classic liberal centre-right party and they run on an anti-corruption campaign and now they’re running Cape Town and Johannesburg and Pretoria rather effectively, actually. But they don’t have nation-wide support- they’ve got support in the cities but they don’t have vast support in the rural areas, so they can’t win the next election. That isn’t going to matter as much as it would’ve done because Ramaphosa will protect the Constitution, he will win the next election because he is popular, he’s affable, and he had a meeting with the Queen during the Commonwealth conference. Meetings with the Queen of that kind are always scheduled for 15 minutes, and his went on for three-quarters of an hour, and she doesn’t do that unless she likes the person she’s talking to- who can blame her? And he is somebody who is likeable and happy in his skin and inclusive himself too.
But he’s got enormous problems and the enormous problems come more from his own party than from the opposition. The last decade under Zuma has been a lost decade- hardly any economic growth, increase in unemployment which is already close to around 30%, so he’s got a huge amount of attempted catching up to do. However, in economics, confidence is very important- so everybody in South Africa, in the business community, who were feeling extremely gloomy and pessimistic in December are feeling much more cheerful today and they’re more likely to spend money and create jobs and invest. You will see some effect of that in the economy but there is a problem over the lack of basic skills- the teaching of Maths and English in South Africa is among the lowest standards anywhere across the Commonwealth partly because of the resistance of the Teacher’s Union to any form of teacher testing and so on. So he’s going to have huge problems over that kind of issue and making a real dent in unemployment which requires a big infrastructure spending with a lot more emphasis on skills training. But he will try, and I think within limits he will succeed. But it is a remarkable story because without some quite remarkable people fighting for a better outcome, it wouldn’t have helped. So this book is dedicated to the ones who did and in particular to the press, the judges and the civil society organisation. So perhaps I could stop and we could have a discussion about what comes next if you’d like.
Of course, thank you very much for that overview of your book. So then we have around 35 minutes or so for questions and discussion. So if anyone would like to raise a question or a point, please do- if you wouldn’t mind giving your affiliation, if you have one, prior to your name. If not, then we know who you are.
Edward Ben-Nathan, member of this society. I came intending to ask this question which is- given the events with respect to the judiciary in Poland, and with respect to the media in Hungary, and with respect to both in Turkey, where they’ve ended up in prison as well, I’m just amazed really that these two aspects of it- the freedom of the press and judiciary- survived. How come?
Well, the [inaudible] if the other side won in December, what happened in Turkey was due to happen in South Africa. Apart from anything else, these people had looted the state-owned enterprises- the electricity utility in South Africa is one of the ten largest in the world. They had bankrupted it. The infrastructure company, which runs the railroads and everything else in infrastructure- again, huge company, bankrupted by these people. So those entities, no outsider was going to earn them anymore money ever again. And they understood perfectly well that they couldn’t go on doing what they were dong, which was looting the state on an unimaginable scale without muzzling the press and ending independence of the judiciary, because the judgement against Zuma over his homestead was delivered by the Constitutional Court- 13 judges, 10 of them black, in their ceremonial robes, on primetime television. Bang!
It sounds like he messed up in that he should’ve delayed some of the looting and he should’ve sorted out the press and the judges earlier and then he could’ve…
You’re right. Zuma doesn’t lack cunning, but a more sophisticated aspirant dictator would’ve tried to do exactly what you said and maximise the looting later. He got it the wrong way round. Very good question.
This gentleman was first if you don’t mind.
Euan Grant, Institute of Statecraft on ex-Customs and Excise. I’ve worked in the ex-Soviet countries so I’ve certainly seen the institutionalization and industrialisation of looting of state assets and state revenues. What’s the current situation with the Guptas? And secondly, is there any indication that, given that one holds the fight back against the corruption the damage to so many of the institutions but not all of them – is there any indication that Russia, China, India are seeking to move in on the mining companies and the natural resources on the cheap? Because I think the Chinese and Russians are in Namibia?
What has happened has been a massive setback for the Russians because Putin made huge efforts with Zuma including a very large bribe directly to Zuma. There’s an episode in this book where a Russian ex-KGB guy delivers a large consignment of so-called medical supplies to Zuma in his homestead which turned out to be also a consignment of gold bars, believe it or not. And they invested hugely in Zuma and in particular, this is sort of Soviet-style economics, they were insistent that South Africa must order nuclear power stations even though they’re unaffordable by South Africa. And South Africa’s built on coal anyway, and also has sun and wind and doesn’t need more nuclear. But the insistence on this was accompanied by the bribes to Zuma. So that opportunity has disappeared completely and so has the political relationship. They were very embedded, the Russians, in the security and apparatus around Zuma which is now all being changed. So this has been a very big setback for them. One contributing factor to this was that many of us who were very worried about all this happening- and in particular, the activities of the Guptas- all asked ourselves what could be done about them and it ended up with all the 200,000 Gupta emails being published, intercepted and published. It did make a major different because here were these people denying that they’d done anything wrong at any point ever including to the BBC etc. and here were all these emails between them and their scumbag friends. That made a big difference but this is a major setback for the Russians.
China does invest in Africa for its own reasons. Partly it’s interested in natural resources etc. They actually haven’t had all that much success with quite a few of their investments- Africa is a difficult place to make money out of, other parts of Africa. But the relationship, Chinese investment in South Africa will continue but not on any- we are by far the biggest investors in South Africa, followed by the US, followed by the rest of Europe. So what happens there does matter to us.
MEMBER OF AUDIENCE
Stewart [inaudible], I’m an AVP and I’m in touch with somebody in South Africa who’s regularly sending me updates on racial-inspired murders of the farmers. The new man coming in- is there any hope that this is going to stop? It is appalling what is happening there.
Yeah, well, the- undoubtedly, these farm violence incidents are in some, quite a few cases, probably the majority of cases, racially- motivated. And this is indisputably the case. And it’s indisputably the case that more farmers, by far have been murdered in South Africa in the last 20 years than in Zimbabwe actually, about which there was a huge fuss before. The last thing Ramaphosa wants this this kind of headline and he doesn’t want this to happen and so on. But these farms are very remote, there’s a history of antagonism around some of them. And what you do get sometimes from an organization called AfriForum is a bit of exaggeration. This is not to say that it’s not happening- it is happening. It’s not happening on quite the scale they claim it is but the really serious aspect of it which will change under Ramaphosa is that the government have been resisting publishing the statistics. They just published statistics for the violence on the farm- ’so many people killed on the farms’ without putting any racial definition to the statistics. But it’s a problem and it’s a continuing problem, and has it stopped? No.
MEMBER OF AUDIENCE
Is there any [inaudible]? Is there any attempt to recoup any of the looting, the losses [inaudible] to looting and bring the [inaudible] to justice?
Yes, you know there are asset seizures going on but they’re not going to be able to seize back more than a fraction of what’s disappeared because a lot of it has been stiffened out of the country- in particular to Dubai. Dubai is a money-laundering centre unfortunately, and that’s where the Guptas all along have operated from and some of these scams have been organized in such a way that very large transfers were made to Dubai. The Guptas are now wanted for questioning in South Africa obviously, but they’re not in South Africa. They have tax problems in India, I gather, which is all to the good. And the US Justice Department would love to interview them, so they’d better not set foot in the US. So they’re not having an easy time any longer but they personally looted, between the three of them, over 155 billion- personally, into their coffers. So they still are counting their billions of rand wherever they are- probably in Dubai.
MEMBER OF AUDIENCE
To continue on the farm theme which is rather even more worrying than the violence, is the threatened nationalisation where Ramaphosa appears to have conceded to the populist Malema intentions of [inaudible]. How serious do you think it is?
Well, what happened there was the conference that elected him also passed a resolution which he didn’t want, saying that they should amend the Constitution to render it possible for land to be taken over without compensation. Now, the land issue is extremely emotive in South Africa for obvious reasons. You can do different calculations here but it [inaudible] is the case that the majority of the cultivable land still is held by the white farming community, which is now down to just 35,000 people actually. Now, the threatening to do this, and amend the constitution like this, isn’t something Ramaphosa wanted and he will do as little of this as possible. And he said already that no productive farm will be taken over, and that nothing can or will be done with effect food security. So they’re likely, if they start annexing some land, to try to do it in some of the municipalities rather than the productive agricultural areas. But it’s about principle and investors don’t like it and they’re right not to like it. But is he heading into Malema territory? No, I mean I know Malema quite well and Malema is a genuine radical. He claims that all [inaudible] in the first place, they want it back. The problem of course is that South Africa is an arid country, it’s not like Kenya where you can farm a very small farm and make money from it. In South Africa, if you want to be a farmer, you need fertilizer, irrigation, bank resources and so on, and mentoring. So most of the land that’s been restituted so far- and quite a lot has- hasn’t ended up in black farmer hands. It’s been leased back by commercial farmers, or become subsistence agriculture. So it’s a huge problem and to be fair to any South African government, it is a very, very difficult problem for anybody to deal with.
Malcolm Davis, no affiliation. Looking forward, it’s often said that Ramaphosa’s freedom of action would be limited by factions inside the ANC. Are those still ideological factions in any real sense or did that stop [inaudible] and the focus became money?
The ANC as a ruling party- it’s main motivation is to remain the ruling party- I mean, that’s what it enjoys and hopes to continue doing. But within it, there are all sorts of predations. On some occasions, Mandela used to ask, invite me to join it. He would say, ‘Why don’t you join the ANC? You think like us.’ And I would say, ‘I think like you, but I don’t think like most of your colleagues.’ And as Thatcher’s envoy, she’s not going to be very interested in me joining the ANC, nor am I. But you have got a fairly wide spectrum there and Ramaphosa is, within that system, a sort of centre-rightist figure but there are leftists and there are some quite significant leftists. But the genuine leftists are in the ‘economic freedom fighters group’ led by Malema, and Malema actually is a more interesting character than he might appear. I mean he turned out in London and we said to him- ‘You need to stop all this anti-white propaganda. Without a white contribution to the economy, it would just be a disaster. And not only that, you’re facing some corruption charges yourself.’ And do you know what he said? ‘Only three’, he said. Zuma’s got 783 against him. Also, when Ramaphosa was trying to get rid of Zuma- and it was difficult to get rid of him because some people were still supporting him- Zuma said he wanted to be treated like Mandela and Malema said, ‘That’s not such a bad idea. Why don’t we start with 27 years in jail?’
If any of you decide to acquire this book, the reason to acquire it is not what I’ve written here, even though it is based on direct experience of all these guys. The world’s best cartoonist lives and works in South Africa, he’s called Zapiro and his cartoons are absolutely deadly. I mean they’re extremely funny, they’re extremely accurate, they’re devastating, and he’s a real political force there. Anyhow, this contains a dozen of his very best cartoons which are more eloquent than the author was able to be.
Alex Marsden, member of the Henry Jackson Society. What chances do you think there are of almost a complete white flight, not only from the [inaudible] of the farmers but also in general, of other people and a general brain drain?
Well, there will continue to be some white flight and the reasons are… the main factor behind whites moving out has been crime-violent crime, South Africa still suffers from an excessive level of violent crime- and secondly, affirmative action. You know, within the banks and the building societies and the big companies these days, it’s harder for white South Africans to get a job than it is for bright young black South African to get jobs. But the Afrikaaner community are less prone to move than the English speakers, that includes the farmers by the way. What the Afrikaaner farmers have been doing have been exporting themselves to other parts of Africa where, including you will find some going to Zimbabwe because the new president of Zimbabwe, Mnangagwe, is now saying you know I’m perfectly happy for some of you guys to come on these farms because they’ve tried the alternative and seen it doesn’t work. I don’t think you’ll see much white flight with Ramaphosa- most of the whites find that pretty reassuring, I think that will slow it down. With the alternative, you would’ve seen a much more rapid thing.
The other thing is, people worry about the currency. You know, your savings are trapped in Rand. Again, that’s less of a worry with Ramaphosa than it would’ve been otherwise, but this is why I wrote the book. (inaudible) quite close to the edge of going over the edge of a cliff really, from every point of view.
Ian Holsten, Chairman of the Edmund Burke Society. How successful was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in dissolving racial animosity?
Well, I’m a big fan of Edmund Burke as well actually, even more so. It served a purpose at the time- you know, Mandela set the time because he wasn’t prepared to be vindictive. But what could’ve happened- there could’ve been a lot of trial because the Apartheid, and I was there at the time, under de Klerk’s predecessor, they were operating despots. The elements of the police and of the armed military intelligence were killing people and this is all documented, there isn’t any doubt about it. And of course, the ANC had their own triumphs as well, quite a few of them actually. So for Tutu to do this Truth and Reconciliation Commission, it was way of avoiding the thousands of trials which would’ve been very divisive at the time in that society. So I think actually, that he did a good job from that point of view but of course, did it wash away all the sins of the past? Absolutely not.
MEMBER OF AUDIENCE
[inaudible] Henry Jackson supporter and [inaudible] of various Commonwealth groups. [inaudible] target raising a hundred billion dollars of investment for South Africa. I just wonder what you thought about how that would manifest itself and what the immediate prospects are?
Well, it will take a long time to manifest itself. A hundred billion is nice to have.
Well the truth is, there was an investment strike by investors really over the last two, here years in South Africa for obvious reasons. But there will now be a resumption of investment of a moderate kind. It’s not going to be a hundred billion but you will get some inward investment flows. That’s critical because South Africa has to import capital equipment to grow and it can’t do that from just South African savings- it needs overseas savings. De Klerk understood that, de Klerk understood that he had to dismantle Apartheid for economic reasons ultimately as well. He couldn’t go on with a shrinking economy and expanding population. So would it be better now? It would. Would it be a hundred billion? Absolutely not, I’m afraid.
MEMBER OF AUDIENCE
That triggered something that reminds me to ask about de Klerk realising the consequences. What, in your opinion, was the [inaudible] the absolute and immediate cause of the dismantling of Apartheid? Speaking as one who’s very sceptical about that it had anything to do with not [inaudible] but more to do with the rollover of the [inaudible].
You’re right but it also, there were other things. In order to keep this regime going, they had to use the methods I’ve just been describing including despots and imprisoning very large numbers of people. Now I found, when I got there, that the serious leaders of the Afrikaaner community didn’t like this- they thought this was militaristic. The place was turning into a Latin American-style military junta. So the head of the reform church actually declared Apartheid a [inaudible]. The head of the Broederbond turned into a reformer- he said, ‘We can’t go on like this’. We’ve got- the head of reserve bank said ‘This is economic suicide’. And the head of the Nasionale press, which is the main Afrikaans press group- these guys were all friends of mine and of de Klerk and they were saying, ‘We can’t go on like this.’ Now when de Klerk started dismantling Apartheid, one of my Afrikaaner friends went to see him and said, ‘Why are you doing this? We could’ve held out for another twenty years’, which by the way, they could. And de Klerk said, ‘Yes, and what would we have done then?’ And he made a speech to the police and he said, ‘We’ve been asking you to solve political problems, and I’m now going to deal with the political problems and you deal with the policing because this just ends in shooting and a few thousand people get killed, the problem is going to be exactly the same as it was before the shooting started. Is it extremely rational? In the context of the time- his own people not really wanting to do this, it was a very brave performance by de Klerk.
MEMBER OF AUDIENCE
You mentioned Broederbond. Can you tell us what happened to the organization?
Yeah it still exists. Within Afrikaanerdom, they still have meetings and such. But the Broederbond when I was there, had turned into discussion of how you move one from a situation we’re in now, to protecting minority rights under a new- these guys are very intelligent guys, the head of the Broederbond, numerous degrees from Oxford not that they necessarily need as much as it should. And his successor, equally highly educated. The people were thinking ahead- my friend Peter De Lange, wrote a paper for the Broederbond saying that the greatest risk is not taking any risk, the greatest risk is staying as we are. And so de Klerk was supported by these people.
Cheeky ask, a second question and I appreciate this question is much better asked of an anthropologist than an ambassador. By continually reading the history and who was there first, as I continue reading completely different accounts [inaudible]: there was almost no one there, there was only the San people and so on, what is your understanding- I’m sure you’ve read some of it- what’s your understanding as to who was there first?
I think the best way I can describe it is the way Archbishop Tutu used to describe it to me. He said, ‘When the Dutch settlers arrived, we had the land and they had the Bibles. After a while, we found that they had the lad and we had the Bibles.’ There were quite a lot of African people living in the Cape. By quite a lot, nothing like where we are now because Africa was based on extensive agriculture. In other words, you had a herd of cows or sheep, you grazed them, you then moved on. Now because of population pressure, that can’t happen now but that’s what was happening then. And you know there were these wars in the Eastern Cape as you know of, against tribes who undoubtedly existed and not just the San. The Xhosa people actually fought quite hard on the Eastern Cape against our colonisation. When the Afrikaaners executed their [inaudible] the Zulus- there were plenty of Zulus around and plenty of [inaudible] and they fought.
We all seem to believe that there were very relatively few Xhosa people and certainly not in the Cape region and that’s what [inaudible].
Deep in the Southern cape region, no. But where the people [inaudible] and grazing was found, absolutely they were. It wasn’t empty.
And talking about the San people-the San people are almost non-existent now.
Well, the San people are the bushmen ultimately and that’s a different proposition because they’re very small guys and they’re bullied by the other tribes, they always were bullied by the other tribes and they were pushed West towards Namibia, towards what is now Namibia and the Kalahari. But they were pushed by other tribes- it wasn’t just the San who were in the South.
Hi, it’s Masato Kimura, Japanese journalist. South Africa and Zimbabwe, parallels and differences, how do they affect each other?
Well South Africa is a much more important country- it’s a highly industrialised country, it’s a very sophisticated economy, it’s got 5 million whites, it’s got 1 million Indians, it’s got 3 million coloured South Africans and so on- it’s a much more diverse population. The countries around it are critically economically dependent on South Africa, so if South Africa really does go down, the rest of Southern Africa goes down with it. The institutions are stronger there, and in Zimbabwe when Mugabe started behaving like a tyrant, there wasn’t much resistance actually while we’ve just seen this book is about how much resistance there was in South Africa and that resistance came not just from the whites. The most important chunks of resistance to what was happening came from elements of the black community, otherwise it wouldn’t have been stoppable. There are some quite big fundamental differences. I’m more hopeful about Zimbabwe now because the present guy was in Mugabe’s government for many years, but I know him well and he’s a different character- he will try to get some investment back into Zimbabwe.
Well thank you all very much indeed for coming- I enjoyed talking to you. I’d just like to say that I see that you’re having a discussion about the special relationship at some point. A few years ago I wrote a book about it- it’s called ‘Fighting with Allies’. The essence of the story is in the title because on the one hand, Churchill’s- my favourite, I must give you my two favourite Churchill quotes. About America, he said, ‘America can always be relied upon to do the right thing in the end having first exhausted the available alternatives.’ His other quote was, ‘There’s only one thing about fighting with allies, and that’s having to fight without them.’ The special relationship, in my opinion, or the specially placed relationship reasserts itself whoever the President is, whoever the Prime Minister is, it would take Jeremy Corbyn to put an end to the special relationship. Thank you all very much.
Thank you very much. And just to remind you that there are special price editions outside, purchase should you wish to buy one.