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Changes in South Africa

Aired May 10, 2012 - 15:00:00   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

On May 10th, 1994, 18 years ago today after decades of white minority rule, Nelson Mandela became the first black president of a democratic South Africa. Mandela's partner in this historic endeavor, the peaceful end of apartheid, was President F. W. de Klerk. The two men shared a Nobel Peace Prize for their achievement.

In July of this year, Nelson Mandela will be 94 years old. In my brief tonight, South Africa has changed greatly since Mandela was president. There is now true majority rule. The economy is growing and blacks now comprise 19 percent of the highest income group.

But still there are problems, 98 percent of the worst off are black, unemployment has topped 25 percent. That's 50 percent among the young. And a devastating statistic, sexual assault has become so common that a woman in South Africa is more likely to be raped than to learn to read.

Late last year, Bishop Desmond Tutu, the moral voice of the anti- apartheid movement, said this about Mandela's successes in the African National Congress.


BISHOP DESMOND TUTU: Our thought is government, our government is worse than the apartheid government because at least you were expecting it with the apartheid government.


AMANPOUR: An extraordinary comment. F. W. de Klerk shares Mandela's legacy, although some whites still accuse him of being a traitor to their cause. And just listen to what he told me about his relationship with apartheid itself, when I spoke to him at a summit of Nobel laureates in Chicago.


AMANPOUR: Mr. President, thank you for joining us.


AMANPOUR: I want to go back a little bit to what you and Nelson Mandela wrought in the late `80s. You see that fantastic and famous picture of yourself and Nelson Mandela holding your hands aloft when you won your Nobel Peace Prize together. And yet, I don't think you're the closest of friends.

DE KLERK: Actually, we're close friends, not the closest in the sense that we see each other once a week. Also we live apart. But he's been in my home as a guest; I've been in his home as a guest. When I go to Johannesburg, my wife and I will have tea with him and Graca, his wife. No, we call each other on birthdays. There is no animosity left between us. Historically, there was.

AMANPOUR: What was the historic animosity? For instance, you've been quoted as saying that you disagree with the halography (ph) that goes around Nelson Mandela these days, that you found him quite a difficult and tough negotiator.

DE KLERK: The main cause for the tensions when there were tensions between us was the ongoing political violence. His accusations and personal attacks upon me, as if I were responsible for it, as if I were looking away and allowing it to happen, not recognizing that extensive efforts which I made to identify the culprits. So that was the main cause of the tension.

AMANPOUR: Do you remember the first time you met him?

DE KLERK: I remember it very well. He was brought under cover of darkness to my office from the Victor Verster Prison. We did not discuss that, even anything of fundamentally importance. We were just feeling each other out.

I have read, of course, everything I could read about him beforehand. I was well briefed. I was impressed, however, by how tall he was, by the ramrod straightness of his stature, and realized that this is a very special man. He had an aura around him. He still has an aura around him. He's truly a very dignified and a very admirable person.

AMANPOUR: He once said that he had to convince his colleagues to sit down with the enemy and suppress their feelings about you all.

DE KLERK: That's true, as I had to convince some of my supporters in the same vein. But can I say that from the beginning, in the negotiations, I realized that he was also a good listener, reaching out to the one speaking, trying to understand what lies behind what was being said.

I felt it that first evening. And both of us later wrote in our respective autobiographies, after that very first meeting, we could report back to our constituencies, I think I can do business with this man.

AMANPOUR: After that very first meeting, and you describe this man of dignity, did you regret, did you have regret in your heart that he had been in jail for nigh on 28 years?

DE KLERK: I felt he was in jail much too long. He was --

AMANPOUR: But was it an injustice?

DE KLERK: He was properly tried in front of a properly constituted court. He was represented by the best lawyers. And he was found guilty of what is a crime in the United States, of what is a crime in all developed countries, of treason. He had planned, as a young man, to overthrow the government in a violent way.

But life sentence in South Africa -- that's how I felt, when he was convicted as a young lawyer, when I was a young lawyer. But life sentence in South Africa at that stage meant that your release should be considered after about 20 or 21 years. I remember saying to him, the second time I met him -- again, he came to my office. It was four days before his release.

And I said, Mr. Mandela, I want to tell you you will be released on Sunday the 11th, and he said, "It's too soon."

And I said, "Why?"

He said, "We need more time for preparation," and I said, "Mr. Mandela, you've been in jail too long. You and I will negotiate about many things, but this is not negotiable. You will be released. Now let's negotiate about what time of the day and where do you want to be released." I -- he was in jail too long.

The efforts by my predecessor to release him on a conditional basis failed, and I have respect for Mandela's reasons for not saying I will renounce violence at the stage when he was asked to do so, for not saying I will accept going to live in the Transkei, which in our terms, was an independent state. He wanted to be released unconditionally. And this is what we did.

AMANPOUR: He once called you a man of integrity, and then he took that back. He is still very regretful that you yourself have never renounced the principle of apartheid, and many, for instance, on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, those who led it, regret that you did not take or seek amnesty, that you didn't take responsibility for what your party did.

DE KLERK: Well, let me first say I'm not aware that Mr. Mandela says I've never renounced apartheid. I have made the most profound apology in front of the Truth Commission and on other occasions, about the injustices which was wrought by apartheid.

What I haven't apologized for is the original concept of seeking to bring justice to all South Africans through the concept of nation states.

But in South Africa, it failed. And by the end of the `70s, we had to realize and accept and admit to ourselves that it had failed. And that is when fundamental reform started. But I have made a profound apology for the injustices caused by apartheid.

AMANPOUR: But do you believe, then, because it seems to me you're saying this, that you think it's failed simply because it was an unworkable proposition, whereas most people today believe that it was simply morally repugnant, that it could never have worked --


DE KLERK: Is it morally repugnant for Israel and Palestine?

AMANPOUR: I'm not going to go there --

DE KLERK: I don't think so.

AMANPOUR: I'm not going to go there.

DE KLERK: I don't think so. What --

AMANPOUR: But to have --


DE KLERK: -- give you the three reasons why it failed. It failed because the whites wanted to keep too much land for themselves.

AMANPOUR: But you wanted to do ethnic separation.

DE KLERK: They were selfish. It failed because we became economically totally integrated, and it failed because the majority of blacks said that is not how we want our rights. Other blacks accepted it, for so-called homelands became independent. Six others had a high degree of autonomy and self-governance. They had elections.

There is this picture that apartheid was -- used to be compared with Nazism. It's wrong, and on that, I don't apologize for saying that what drove me as a young man, before I decided we need to embrace a new vision, was a quest to bring justice for black South Africans in a way which would not -- that's what I believed then, destroy the justice to which my people were entitled, my people, whose self-determination were taken away by colonial power in the Anglo World War. That's how I was brought up.

And it was in an era when also in America and elsewhere and across the continent of Africa, there were still not this realization that we are trampling upon the human rights of people. So I'm a convert.

AMANPOUR: OK. So you're a convert. You just talked about trampling human rights. You're talking about profound injustice. So I'm offering you the opportunity as the person who helped dismantle apartheid to say whether or not you believed that it was also morally repugnant, today, in retrospect.

DE KLERK: I can only say that in a qualified way. Inasmuch as it trampled human rights, it was -- and remains -- and that I've said also publicly -- morally indefensible. There were many aspects which are morally indefensible.

But the concept of giving, as the Czechs have it now and the Slovaks have it, of saying that ethnic unities with one culture, with one language, can be happy and can fulfill their democratic aspirations in an own state, that is not repugnant.

AMANPOUR: But this was based on a profound injustice that the blacks, who you thought could have their independence, were completely disenfranchised. So, again --

DE KLERK: No, they were not disenfranchised. They voted.

AMANPOUR: Economically --

DE KLERK: They elected --

AMANPOUR: -- educationally, in terms of goods and services, putting them in homelands --

DE KLERK: Can I just say --


AMANPOUR: We've all studied it.

DE KLERK: -- the homelands were historically theirs. Secondly, if only the developed world would pour so much money into Africa, which is struggling with poverty, as we poured into those homelands to develop -- how many universities were built?

AMANPOUR: So you believe in --

DE KLERK: How many schools were built? At that stage, the goal was separate but equal, but separate but equal failed. It failed in South Africa as it failed here.

So, yes, with the advantage of hindsight, we should have started the reform much earlier. We should have gone much earlier with the flow when the winds of change blew across Africa.

But the intention was to end at a point which would ensure justice for all. And the tipping point in my mind was when I realized we can never bring justice through this route. We need to embrace a new vision of one united South Africa.

We need to abandon the concept of separateness. And we need to build a new nation with its 11 official languages, accommodating its diversity, but taking hands and moving forward together.


AMANPOUR: An extraordinary and revealing conversation.

And in a moment, we'll have more of my interview with the former South African president, his take on the state of today's South African government and some harsh words for leadership in the African National Congress, when we come back.



AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program, and more now of my conversation with the former president of South Africa, F. W. de Klerk. That was at the summit of Nobel laureates in Chicago. And we talked about the democracy that he and Nelson Mandela ushered in, and some of the biggest crises that it faces even today.


AMANPOUR: Let me first start by asking you, look at South Africa today. Are you convinced that it is a solid democracy and it will remain so?

DE KLERK: I'm convinced it's a solid democracy and it will remain so, but it's not a healthy democracy.

AMANPOUR: By which you mean?

DE KLERK: Any democracy in which one party has 65 percent of the vote and all the other parties share in the remaining 35 is not healthy. What we need is for the ANC alliance to split. They will split; I can't predict when -- and to move away from ethnically-based politics to value-based politics. I'm sure it's going to happen.

On paper, we have a wonderful constitution. We've had a number of successful, free elections. We've had peaceful handover of power from one president to the other. So we really comply with the definition of a good democracy.

But the party political situation needs to be normalized.

AMANPOUR: What do you make of the young ANC leader, Julius Malema?

DE KLERK: They needed to expend him a long time ago. He's been extremely racist. They did not use that as a cause for his expulsion. They really used for his expulsion two reasons.

The one is that he was saying that they would like to overthrow the regime in Botswana and they -- and then he started attacking President Zuma (ph). He should have been disciplined also for his exorbitant attacks on a racial basis, for his very wild statements and in that sense, it took too long.

AMANPOUR: You talk about the racial basis of his attacks. Even since apartheid, where there has been 17 years of pretty steady growth, there is still a racial divide. Blacks in South Africa make up not only the majority of the population, but the majority of the poor. Huge discrepancy between the haves and the have-nots, which seems to have got wider instead of narrowing. Why is that?

DE KLERK: Well, firstly, I think we must say it's not unique. The definition you gave, the picture, the framework you picture, to a certain extent applies to America as well, although the percentages are different.

AMANPOUR: Precisely.

DE KLERK: Fact is that in South Africa, transition is taking its time.

AMANPOUR: Too long?

DE KLERK: The main failure, why we haven't made better progress, does not lie in any way whatsoever in the agreements we reached, which we negotiated between 1990 and 1994 and 1996. We agreed upon a good constitution, which is a transformational document.

It is practical policies which have failed to bring a better life to the masses, which led to the enrichment only of the few, also amongst the new black elite. The middle class is growing fast, but somehow or another, the quality of service delivery had deteriorated substantially. Education has actually moved some steps backwards and --

AMANPOUR: It is blacks who make up the bulk of the unemployed and the unemployment figure is very high. It's somewhere up around 25 percent.

DE KLERK: It's even worse amongst young blacks. Amongst young blacks between 18 and 34, it's about 50 percent.

AMANPOUR: Wow. That is -- that's almost --

DE KLERK: It's a scary figure.

AMANPOUR: That is a very scary figure.

Desmond Tutu, who's one of the great moral consciences of your country, he asked whites to pay a wealth tax in recognition of their years and generations of privilege. What do you think about that?

DE KLERK: I think already if you analyze who pays tax, the tax structure is quite stringent on high-income earners. Inasmuch as the white forms the biggest percentage of high-income earners, they pay tax comparable to what very rich people pay in other countries.

The whites in South Africa don't mind putting their hands in their pockets. They realize that all of us share a joint destiny, a common destiny, that we need to win the war against poverty. There isn't a resistance against paying tax.

There is irritation if the high taxes paid are misspent. If there is not a frugal administration of the finances, if millions and millions are spent on non-worthwhile get-togethers and on luxury cars and on this and on that. There is not a resistance against being part of the solution by putting their hands deep in their pockets.

AMANPOUR: I hear you implicitly criticizing the ruling elite right now. Another thing that Desmond Tutu said -- and it was quite surprising - - was that he called the ANC worse than the apartheid regime. Were you surprised when he said that?

DE KLERK: I was slightly surprised. He has a long history of --

AMANPOUR: What do you think he meant?

DE KLERK: I think it explains that those who say it's only the whites who are concerned about what is happening at the moment, it demolishes that assumption. It proves that moderate, well-disposed, serious black South Africans are as concerned about the loss of its moral compass by the present ANC leadership.

AMANPOUR: On that note, President De Klerk, thank you very much.

DE KLERK: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And of course, as we know, in post-apartheid South Africa, so much has changed. But the perception of African men, especially in Hollywood, remains stuck in a stereotype. We'll do our best to shatter that when we return.

And during the break, or anytime in fact, you can contact the show by email. is the address, and we read every single email you send us. Imagine that.



AMANPOUR: And now for our final thought.

With all that has changed in South Africa in the last two decades, one thing most definitely has not, and that is the way Hollywood depicts African men. Now imagine a world where those stereotypes are shattered. An organization called Mama Hope with humanitarian programs throughout Africa has made a little hit movie of its own on the Internet. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am an African man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am an African man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am an African man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am an African man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But do you know who we are?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you've only seen us in Hollywood movies, this is what you may think of us.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We shoot our machine guns from trucks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We shoot our machine guns from boats.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we run out of bullets, we shoot rocket launchers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are obsessed with violence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We hate smiling. Smiling is stupid.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are fantastic role models.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you don't really think of us that way. Do you?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are likable and friendly guys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we are even on Facebook. We are more than a stereotype.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's change the perception.


AMANPOUR: That is the changing face of Africa, and that is also our program tonight. Thank you for watching. Goodbye from New York.