Taking Stock of a Society Mending Its Divisions
THE following are excerpts from a Monitor interview with President Mandela in his Cape Town office.
It is four months since South Africa's political landscape was transformed by a relatively peaceful election, which many regarded as a miracle. Has there been a similar transformation in the hearts of ordinary South Africans?
Whites are responding very positively. During the election campaign, my support among whites was less than 1 percent. Now we are almost neck-and-neck with [Deputy President Frederik] De Klerk. He has got 7 out of 10 and I have got 6 out of 10. That alone is an indication of how the South African public - both black and white -
is responding. In June, I went to one of the biggest congregations of the Dutch Reformed Church [main church of white Afrikaners] in Pretoria. Four years ago if I had gone there, the security forces would have had to protect me against people who wanted to kill me because of hatred. This time the security forces protected me against people who wanted to kill me out of love. The positive response of the Afrikaner community is beyond my wildest dreams.
At the recent conference of the Trade Union Federation, you told trade unionists to ``tighten their belts'' and concentrate on creating jobs for the 5 million unemployed. Do you think ... that an eventual confrontation between government and unions is inevitable?
Confrontation between government and the workers is natural. The tightening of our belts is to ensure that everyone has a job and that business is able to expand. That is going to require quite a measure of sacrifice on the part of the workers.
If we in the leadership set an example instead of having these high salaries - we should cut them to ensure that we live a style of life which is related to that of the masses.
The most-talked about moment of the transition was when the South African Air Force jets streaked across the sky at your inauguration on May 10. How did you feel at that moment?
My excitement was beyond words. I was really touched ... because now I could see that South Africans - including the security forces - had gone out to show that the new South Africa had arrived.
How do you see the role of the South African National Defense Force in the transition to democracy?
The SANDF and the South African Police Services are playing a crucial role. Whatever mistakes they have made in the past - and whatever certain elements are doing within the security forces - there is no doubt that the overwhelming majority of the security forces are behind the transformation.
By persuading the majority of Afrikaners to follow a constitutional path, Gen. Constand Viljoen, leader of the right-wing Freedom Front, appears to have played a crucial role in preventing right-wing resistance and violence in the run-up to the election. How do you see his role in the future?
General Viljoen has been remarkable. From the time that I first met him, I was impressed with his honesty and his simplicity. Everything he has done since then has justified that confidence. He has played an important role. He said on two occasions during the election campaign that he had found more sincerity and made greater progress with the African National Congress than with the [former] National Party government. His action emasculated the bad elements in the right wing, and today the [far-right] Afrikaner Resistance Movement of Eugene Terre Blanche has become a completely isolated affair.
What do you hope to achieve on your forthcoming trip to the United States at the end of this month?
I am going to address the United Nations, and from there I am going to Washington. The US has offered to train our people in various skills. We really need that. We need training as civil servants, educators, and medical practioners. We want that expertise, and we want financial support. So these are the things I will be proposing.