Gen. Constand Viljoen, chief of the South African Defense Forces in the early 1980s and revered as "the soldier's general" for his presence in the hottest front lines, watched the growing political struggle with increasing disquietude.
"We warned the government, we warned the politicians, that they had to come to a political accommodation," Viljoen recalled, his pale blue eyes hardening as he recalled the civilian "vacillation."
"We in the military and security forces could contain the unrest, we could continue detaining people, we could continue shooting people, we could prevent the government's violent overthrow," he said, but then added: "I had studied revolutionary wars very closely, and I was convinced, and told the government so in 1980, that a military solution was not possible. We could buy time, we could create security conditions, but that is all we could do."
Under Viljoen and Defense Minister Magnus Malan, however, the security forces grew into what South Africans came to call a "securocracy"--the National Security Management System that paralleled, increasingly directed or even supplanted the government at all levels with the aim of matching oppression with measures that would "win the hearts and minds" of blacks.
With this strategy more than the brute force of earlier years, the regime checked the campaign to make the country ungovernable and then turn those areas into "liberated zones," as envisioned by some ANC strategists.
Said Viljoen: "Never was there a possibility, let alone a danger, that the government would be overthrown."
But with equal candor Viljoen acknowledged that the white authorities failed to roll back the resistance "to point zero," as they had virtually done in the 1950s and 1960s, or to win legitimacy for an alternative system of their own.
"At least five times, we military people called the politicians together and told them that the solution lay not with us, but in a settlement that accommodated the aspirations, the political aspirations above everything else, of all the people of South Africa," Viljoen said.
"Some would squirm in their chairs because they didn't like what we were telling them; others would nod their heads, but do nothing . . . apartheid was dead, and we said, so be it . . . the struggle now was for the future of the country, and whether we would have freedom or communism."
As Constand Viljoen retired to his farm in eastern Transvaal, his twin brother, Braam, a theologian in the Dutch Reformed Church, joined liberal Afrikaners seeking reconciliation with South Africa's black majority and starting negotiations with the ANC on the country's future.
A 1987 meeting between Afrikaner intellectuals, including Braam Viljoen and ANC leaders in Dakar, Senegal, helped lay the basis for the unbanning of the organization, the release of its imprisoned leaders and ultimately, the new political system.
"When Nelson Mandela was released in February, 1990, I thought, 'Good, this is what we have been telling the government to do for 20 years,' " Constand Viljoen recalled. "We watched the negotiations between the ANC and the government. We did not see a win for the ANC as a loss for us; we thought it would be a win-win situation.
"But it all fell apart. The government lost the initiative, and it could not manage the changes it had set in motion. The South African Communist Party virtually took over the negotiations. The National Party collapsed into a pitiful, spineless heap. The ANC began to ram socialism down our throats."
Viljoen, a soldier, a farmer and now a politician, advocates a \o7 volkstaat\f7 --a homeland within South Africa for those Afrikaners wishing to preserve their way of life and culture in tight-knit communities.
"We want strong home rule under a central government to protect us from communism," Viljoen said.
"This is not a question of race or of superiority; it stems from the principle of self-determination. We want to preserve our heritage, to enjoy the benefits of a free economy and, above all, to remain a Christian people."
Dawn comes to Louis Botha's farm not with the sharp crack of an electric switch but with a gentle roll, the soft, misty light suffusing the fields and the woods, turning dark shadows back into cattle and seeping through the windows of the house.
"It's a magic time," Botha said. "Even when there is a very heavy day ahead, this is a moment to enjoy, just to look around, to be happy to be alive and free and to thank God for what he has given us."
With his brother, Coen, Botha farms 667 acres at Sterkfontein, near the town of Amsterdam in eastern Transvaal, but it is a farm that does not, and probably cannot, pay its own way.
The soil is thin and rocky, the acreage less than half what the Bothas need for economic viability; modern equipment costs more than the crops will earn at the market, and interest rates are so high that a bank loan is the first step to foreclosure.