‘Two big initiatives brought about the change in South Africa. One was the initiative that I took, by taking things much further than people expected, and levelling the field for negotiations. The second initiative came from the ANC, which was not negotiated, declaring they would suspend the armed struggle. I’m sure they realised power could not be won through the barrel of an AK47, and that they had to go the way of negotiation and the way of compromise.’
Frederick firmly believes that it was this situation that was reflected in the decision to award both him and Mandela the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. ‘It was a recognition of the fact that the one could not have happened without the other – that it was a joint effort from both sides, making a negotiated solution possible.’ He is quick to emphasise how this example relates to the current state of the Israel-Palestine conflict. ‘The world supports apartheid in Israel and Palestine. We failed, but they may succeed, there are many lessons to be learnt from our mistakes… I think the right way for them to go is to ask themselves, “What initiative can I take to open the door to a negotiated settlement? What will I have to do if I say I believe in the road map of two nation states? Then I’ll do it; I won’t misuse it as a negotiation pawn.”’ Frederick goes on to describe the importance of Sharon taking positive action with regards to the plans set out by the road map and to ‘stop playing games’.
It is the current failure to realise and accept the increasingly multicultural and multiracial nature of society that Frederick highlights as one of the most significant roots of present-day global conflict. ‘There is a need amongst culture groups to feel that they are being given breathing space with regard to their language, their customs and cultural particulars. It is just such provision on the part of majority groups that can reassure cultural minorities that their needs are heard and their concerns paid attention to. If the political organisations are on a cultural basis then the minorities never have a chance to get into government.’ In his opinion, we should accept that people do not necessarily want to be moulded into something that they’re not – a concept that he summarises in a simple statement loaded with complicated implications: ‘Can I be expected to ignore the language that I dream in?’ It is certainly not explicit, but there is an echo of the apartheid past in his rhetoric of ‘breathing space’ and ‘language of dreams’ that cannot be ignored.
Frederick describes the current situation in the world as ‘the post-Christian era’. We are living in a new and puzzling age: ‘Despite the progress we have made, we have never been more uncertain and confused… there has been a revolution in the value systems in which we grew up’. It is on this basis that he emphasises the importance of decision-making based on pragmatic political and economic reasoning within a moderate as opposed to fundamentalist value system: ‘The moment you make an absolute of some aspect of reality you become fundamentalist, you deny some truths to support your own, then you inevitably fall apart’. His conviction has led him to concerns over the existing nature of US foreign policy, resulting in the main from a struggle to read Bush’s religious position clearly: ‘He is voicing the religious beliefs of some specific sections within the religious community. I am worried about the fact he is being pushed by people who could also be classed as fundamentalist from the Christian side, as much as moderate leaders in the Muslim world are being pushed by elements who are fanatics in the Muslim faith, I’m worried about a clash of faiths in the future.’
In terms of the current state of South Africa, however, the question of whether the apartheid regime should be held responsible for the scale of the current AIDS epidemic, due to their alleged stigmatisation of HIV as a ‘black man’s disease’, provoked a fiery response that amounted to a defence of white South Africa: ‘I totally reject that. When I handed over power in 1994 to the government of National Unity, we had a very well thought-through action plan to fight AIDS on the table; we did not stigmatise blacks in any kind of way whatsoever. I can honestly say that the overwhelming majority of whites are not thinking of blacks in a negative sense – there is a true wish for all South Africans to work together.
‘What is taking place is a stigmatisation of whites, as if all of them are racists in their heart of hearts, which is not the South Africa I know. The 70 per cent of people who voted ‘yes’ in the referendum for me to proceed with my initiative have proved that this stigmatising of all white people as being racist at heart is unfair and wrong.’
Talking about the new proposals set out by Britain’s presidency of the G8 summit this year, Frederick spoke of hopes for a new direction in the world’s attitude towards Africa.
‘I am very supportive of it. The developed world, the European Union, America, the G8 cannot allow things to continue as they are in Africa… the G7 and G8 cannot sit idly by protecting their farmers while the third world slips further and further away… partnership is vitally important. African leaders must take initiatives and responsibility in what they do, as has been clearly stated by Mbeki and others. There has been a manifest failure in the five decades of foreign aid to the impoverished countries of Africa. If Europe not only thinks of aid and reaching out a helping hand, but also asks itself ‘What must we do in our countries, in our systems, in the European Union?’ – especially with regard to agriculture – we can remove the stumbling blocks to Africa in an honourable way.’ There are few men who can talk about ‘stumbling blocks’ with such authority.
F.W. de Klerk spoke at The Oxford Union. Photograph by Eddie Gallacher.