SPEECH BY FORMER PRESIDENT F W DE KLERK TO THE GLOBAL PEACE FORUM: TAIPEI, 15 AUGUST 2001: MAKING PEACE IN THE TAIWAN STRAIT.–
‘FROM WAR TO PEACE: THE GLOBAL EXPERIENCES AND INSPIRATIONS’
Mr President, Madam Vice President, Ladies and Gentlemen
It is a great honour for me to be able to address you this morning. I have visited Taiwan several times in the past – including an official visit when I was President. I also had the honour of attending a luncheon that was hosted by President Lee in Pretoria on 9 May 1994 – the day before our historic transition to full democracy. Your country was – and remains a loyal friend and supporter of South Africa – even though the nature of our relations has changed in recent years. I can assure you that there are many of us who will never forget their friends.
I have been invited to share with you the lessons we have learned from South Africa’s dramatic transition over the last 10 years. In doing so I want to stress at the outset that every conflict situation or potential conflict situation is different. Each one has its own history and complexities and will require its own solution.
Accordingly, I would not presume to suggest that our experience in South Africa will necessarily be applicable to the situation in the Taiwan Strait. I will leave it to you to decide what is, or is not, relevant to the situation that prevails between you and the mainland.
Eleven years ago South Africa was caught in the grip of a seemingly irresolvable conflict. Indeed, it was difficult to imagine parties that were further apart than the three biggest parties of the time – the National Party, the IFP and the ANC. All of the parties involved saw one another – not as they really were – but as the stereotypes depicted by their own propaganda:
- The ANC/SACP Alliance had a radical socialist tradition. It was committed to nationalisation and the immediate introduction of an egalitarian society. It advocated a strong central government and widespread state intervention in the economy to achieve its social purposes. It insisted that the new Constitution should be drafted by an elected constituent assembly. It viewed the National Party in terms of the stereotypes generated by its own propaganda and its own history of resistance and struggle against apartheid.
- The National Party, on other hand, strongly favoured a free enterprise economy, a federal state, and limited central government intervention. It believed that the new Constitution should be negotiated and accepted before the first election. Its views of the ANC were also based on stereotypes that had been formed during the conflict and by the ANC’s close alliance with the pro-Moscow South African Communist Party.
- The IFP, the third major party, had chosen to combat apartheid from within the system. For this reason it was distrusted by the ANC with whom it had for some time been waging a low intensity war in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. It was strongly federalist; it supported free market principles and had its main support base among the Zulus of Natal.
What enabled these parties and the other twenty-three that joined in the multi-party negotiations to bridge the enormous chasms that divided them? I should like to suggest the following. There was common acceptance that:
- whether we liked one another or not, there could be no long-term solution that did not involve all the major parties and population groups of our country;
- our problems could be solved only through negotiation – any attempt by any party to continue to impose its will on its opponents by force would simply lead to the destruction of the country and the economy;
- a successful outcome to our negotiations would often require genuine concessions and painful compromises;
- we would have to rise above the bitterness of the past and strive for genuine national reconciliation;
- we needed a strong Constitution that would provide the basic rules for our new society; that would guarantee the rights and security of all our citizens and communities.
There were also certain objective circumstances that had created a window of opportunity for us:
- the collapse of global communism in 1989 removed the major strategic concern that had dominated the thinking of the previous government for decades. For us, the prospect of Soviet expansionism was until then not just an empty propaganda exercise. During the late 80s our armed forces had been involved in serious military clashes with Soviet and Cuban led forces in Angola. The ANC /Alliance was closely allied to – and supported by – the global Soviet strategic apparatus.
- There was no longer any serious debate with regard to the economic policies that would be required to ensure economic growth in a future democratic South Africa. The devastation that central planning and statist controls had wrought on the economies of Eastern Europe was there for all to see.
- Throughout the negotiation process, all sides received strong encouragement from the international community to persevere in their difficult attempts to reach peaceful accommodation. There was a sense of reassurance in the willingness of major powers to underwrite the democratic agreements that were to emerge from the negotiating process.
It was factors such as these that enabled us, in December 1993, to reach basic agreement on our new Transitional Constitution, despite the numerous crises, boycotts and walk-outs that we experienced during the process. The key compromises that lead to our agreement are now a matter of record:
- We overcame our differences on when and how the new Constitution should be written, by accepting an historic compromise: the negotiating parties would first reach agreement on a Transitional Constitution in terms of which a new parliament would be elected. The new parliament, sitting as a Constituent Assembly, would then write our final Constitution, which we adopted in 1996. We agreed that the final Constitution would have to be adopted by a two-thirds majority and would have to comply with thirty-four immutable constitutional principles that were already included in the Transitional Constitution.
- We agreed that for the first five years after the election there would be a Government of National Unity that would include all parties that received more than five percent of the vote.
- We agreed that South Africa would henceforth include nine provinces with substantial powers of their own.
- We agreed that all those, from all sides, who might have committed politically motivated offences during the period of our national conflict before 6 December 1993 would have a right to amnesty.
The result of this process was the adoption in December 1993 of our new Transitional Constitution. It made provision for a fully democratic system of government based on the rule of law, with guarantees for the full range of human and civil rights.
Our new Constitution and the process of negotiation that led to its final adoption is a monument to the fact that, given the right circumstances and a serious commitment from all sides, even the most intractable disputes can be resolved in a peaceful and negotiated manner. It means that even in the most difficult situations there is an alternative to the horror and hopelessness of violence and war. However, it does not provide any room for complacency. Constitutional arrangements and delicate inter-party relationships – like any human relationships – require constant care and attention if we wish to ensure that they do not unravel.
The best contribution that we in South Africa can make will be to work day and night for the continued success of our own peaceful transition. We must continue to show the world that there is another way, that violence and conflict are not inevitable, that there is a peaceful solution to even the most complex problems and disputes.
Looking back on our experience we can identify the following key factors that contributed to the success of our negotiations:
- There must be a genuine commitment to a negotiated solution by all the main parties. The balance of forces must be such that no party should think that it can successfully impose its will on the others. Perceptions of relative power – and projections of future shifts in the balance of power – are crucial. It is such perceptions that will often determine the demands and concessions that parties will make at the negotiating table.
- It is essential for negotiators to win one another’s trust and confidence. Without trust there can be no genuine agreement.
- Timing is crucial. As Brutus said:
“Our legions are brim full, our cause is ripe.
The enemy increaseth every day:
We at the height are ready to decline.
There is tide in the affairs of men,
which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.”
It is seldom remembered that, in his own case, he badly misread the tide, and his decision did not lead to fortune but to his disastrous defeat at Philippi.
Had we started our negotiation initiative earlier – say, in the middle ‘seventies – it is doubtful that the National Party Government would have been able to take its followers with it. If we had launched our initiative too late, we might have entered the negotiation process when the balance of power had begun to shift against us – as Ian Smith did in Zimbabwe. History sometimes opens a window of opportunity, when all the forces involved are ripe for negotiation. It is the task of statesmen to recognise such windows and lead their followers through, before history once again slams the window shut.
- Negotiations that do not involve all the parties are like football matches in which one of the teams fails to appear. One of the major problems that we encountered were the boycotts of the talks that were initiated first by the ANC and then by the IFP. It was essential for us to persuade all the major parties to rejoin the process before the elections. This we ultimately managed to do with only eight days to spare!
- Support of key constituencies. It is equally important for parties to be able to take their constituencies with them. Strong and determined leadership is essential. An important, but time -consuming – factor in our negotiations was the lengthy process for participants to consult their constituencies before important decisions.
- Personalities also play an important role. The main role players from the negotiating parties must be able to develop personal relationships based on mutual trust and confidence. They must also develop a strong sense of patience and the fortitude to deal with the frequent frustrations and obstacles.
- In our negotiations at Kempton Park we found it very useful to develop special mechanisms to deal with deadlocks and problems. One such mechanism was a two-man committee of senior officials, whose task it was to suggest compromises and solutions when deadlocks and problems arose.
- Ultimately, negotiators must be prepared to take risks to assure a successful outcome to their efforts. Few agreements will ever be absolutely water-tight and at some juncture a leap of faith will usually be unavoidable.
- Win/win outcomes. The success of negotiations will depend on the ability of the negotiators to address the reasonable interests and concerns of all parties. One-sided solutions seldom last and simply make the eventual resumption of genuine negotiations more difficult.
These are among the factors and processes that enabled South Africa to reach agreement on our peaceful transition to multi-racial democracy. Some of them were developed specifically for our own complex situation. However, most of them I believe have a more universal application. I will leave it to you to decide which aspects of our experience are relevant to the search for peace in the Taiwan Strait.
In this process all the people of South Africa and I wish you success. The fruits of peace are well worth the effort, sacrifices and frustrations involved in negotiations. The price of conflict in the end becomes unaffordable. The challenge we all face at the beginning of the new millennium is to peacefully resolve ongoing conflicts and to successfully prevent the outburst of new ones.
In this modern day and age there is, except for legitimate self defence, no place for the use of violence in the pursuit of political objectives – not in South Africa – not in the Middle East – not in the Taiwan Strait – not anywhere.