This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
01 Dec 1996: Molefe, Popo
POM. Mr Premier, I would maybe like to go right to the heart of the matter. I picked up The Sunday Independent and the first line I saw was that President Mandela is going to go to Bloemfontein today to tell the members of the legislature and all the candidates for Premier there that Dr Matsepe-Casaburri is his choice and she's going to be the next Premier of the Free State. I'm saying that as background. You yourself mentioned yesterday evening that Deputy President Mbeki was concerned about the organisation and had talked to you about perhaps running for Secretary General.
PM. No I didn't say the Deputy President. Other people.
POM. OK, that's off the record. Oh other people, sorry. There seemed recently to be a lot of disturbing trends emerging in the ANC. I begin with the Holomisa affair and the manner in which it was handled, the Sarafina affair and how that had been handled, the Sexwale/Mbeki little tit-for-tat and then Sexwale having to make a public announcement that he was not running for President or Deputy President in 1998, you had the astonishing statement by Jacob Zuma in Durban last week that anybody in the ANC who thought the constitution of the country was more important than the ANC was in for trouble, you had the public almost humiliation of Terror Lekota, the removal of himself and his entire Cabinet by the NEC which many people considered to be undemocratic. Give me your thoughts, what's happening, what's going on?
PM. Padraig, what we are dealing with here are really the problems of transition, the strains and stresses that go with transition. We are entering uncharted waters. It is entirely a new experience for all of us. We have to do a lot of realignment in respect of our traditional positions and the positions required by a new country, a new constitution that seeks to take everyone on board. Naturally one would find that these problems are there and we are not the first people to experience these problems. Bob Hawke of the Labour Party in Australia had similar problems with the party outside seeking to reassert its influence over the structures of government and in some ways they found that the tensions were so much that they bordered on creating a state of paralysis for government because if government all the time had to wait until there could be consultation or caucus of the party outside government before it moved it has an impact on how government is able to move rapidly to address problems. But certainly one cannot say that a government can run on its own without being guided by party policy because government really is based on party policy and party programmes but it means that the party needs to develop clear frameworks and guidelines well in advance and then to leave the details and the implementation to those who are in government. We seem to be having that tension now in South Africa. Quite clearly the situation of the Free State is a very unfortunate one because a democratic decision has been taken by the National Executive Committee but it is very unfortunate it is not helping the organisation.
POM. Does the constitution of the country provide for the ANC to fire the entire Cabinet and Premier of a province and to bring in somebody who is not even a member of the legislature, who wasn't even on the party list, as Premier?
PM. Well the constitution does not specifically say that any political party may dissolve the legislature or the Cabinet or withdraw the Premier. It does not say so. Nevertheless the constitution does make provision within certain time frames for the party to replenish its list in the sense that a party can add more members to its existing list because we went into parliament on a proportional list basis, so it can replenish that list but the number of names of individuals that the party brings in should not exceed 25%. There were specific time frames set. For example, the party may do so once in twelve months and I think it does so once after the first twelve months and annually thereafter, so it may well be that the party is able to remove some of the people there. But I doubt if it is permissible for us to remove ten because ten is one third of that legislature.
POM. To remove, sorry, who?
PM. To remove one third of the members of the Cabinet of the legislature because if we remove them and we intend to take them out of the province it's going to mean that we've got to remove one third and one third is 33.3% so it's far more than the 25% allowed for by the constitution. I would imagine, therefore, that perhaps the National Executive would take a lesser a number than that one. The constitution provides that the Premier may be removed from his position if there is a vote of no confidence in him by the legislature, if he is incapacitated or if he resigned himself. Those seem to be the only bases upon which he could be removed and once there is a vote of no confidence registered against the Premier, the Premier is then obliged to dissolve his Cabinet.
POM. But this did not happen in the case of Terror and it certainly didn't happen in the case of yourself.
PM. Well it did not happen in the case of Terror. Certainly the legislature has confidence in him and it is unfortunate that the matter of the views of the party went to the media even before they were handled procedurally by the legislature. So I do not know how they are going to proceed in dealing with this matter. Comrade Tito Mboweni who has been appointed to head a team that is dealing with this issue said that he is still consulting with the lawyers to make sure that he complies with the constitution so all of us are clearly baffled. We are waiting to see how this matter will proceed.
POM. Were you part of the NEC decision that this was the proper direction in which to go?
PM. Well I am part of the NEC and whether you agree or you do not agree at the end of the day certainly the democratic process takes its way, but certainly from the beginning I've never agreed with this thing and my position was made clear in the NEC. I have also made this position clear to Terror right at the outset that this is the worst precedent that I have ever seen which is going to create problems for the country.
POM. That's why I'm paying attention to it. I think it's a turning point of sorts in terms of democratic development.
PM. It has certainly created problems for us in this province alone, and I was saying so to the Deputy President yesterday. By Thursday morning we had twelve local councils which were following the precedent set by the NEC, withdrawing councillors from the council. Tensions are now beginning to develop, a vicious circle is developing, factions forming because what it now means is that you have one group forcing local councillors to resign, people in City Councils and Town Councils and District Councils, to resign.
POM. These would be members of the provincial?
PM. No they are not members of the provincial, they are members of the ANC, local structures of the ANC, but the effect of that is going to be that once that group is outside it is going to try and mobilise support to force the other group that is inside to go out. So it's a vicious circle that can destabilise the ANC between now and the 1999 election and I'm worried about it because it's going to affect the performance of the ANC in those elections.
POM. You had your own case with Rocky Malebane-Metsing, you fired him and as far as my recollection goes, and it may be hazy and incorrect, you were more or less told by the NEC to reinstate him which you did before you found a better way of side-lining him, so to speak.
PM. I did not reinstate him. I refused because I had fired him in terms of the constitution and I had appointed another person in his place in terms of the provisions of the constitution and I could not remove another person who had done nothing in order to reinstate Metsing, so I couldn't. I made it clear and the NEC accepted that position that there was no way in which he could be reinstated, so what they then said was that find a way in which you can accommodate him in a relatively senior position. Of course I could not think of any other position. Then, of course, subsequent to the discussion with the committee of the NEC or senior officials we then agreed that the man needed to be sent away. He was a troublemaker we accepted that, he was destabilising the province and he had to go but we needed to help him save face and in order to do so we decided that we should say that he was going to advise me for a period of three weeks. We intended it to be three weeks although we did not say so publicly and of course Rocky being what he is he could not last for three weeks and it helped me. In many ways I think Terror in the Free State ...
POM. Did you take the position that you had as the Premier, the duly appointed Premier on a ticket elected by the people, that one of your prerogatives as a minister was to hire and fire ministers in your government as you saw fit?
PM. Well that's a position that was accepted by the NEC. Yes, they accepted that position.
POM. What's the difference then with Terror? Doesn't he have the right? The public perception among the people that I talk to that here was a Premier who spoke out against corruption whether it existed within government or within the party and was intent on exposing it and that the reward he received for his endeavours was to be effectively fired and demoted. I don't know whether you saw when he had the press conference with President Mandela and Mandela said, "Senator Terror is being re-deployed", and Terror afterwards was asked how did he like going to the Senate and he gave one of those smiles of his and he said, "Listen, if you can get used to jail you can get used to anything." He was obviously very upset with the manner in which the course of events have taken place.
PM. Well naturally anybody would have been, anybody would have been upset.
POM. But it's perceived by people as being anti-democratic.
PM. Well it's a very complex problem. The organisation's view is that the intention is to stabilise the province. Terror was unfortunate that unlike many of us he was not elected to lead the ANC there and because he is not a leader of the ANC there he found it difficult to bring that cohesion between the ANC as a party and its representatives in government. There were these continuous tensions which the party did not want played out in the media and according to the reports we received Terror and the other leaders of the ANC made a commitment, an undertaking to President Mandela that they were not going to debate these issues in the media but as soon as he left that meeting and went to his office or his house they started fighting over the media and that is really the main basis upon which Terror was removed, that he is bringing the organisation into disrepute, he has violated the decision, the agreement that he made with the officials who were sent to talk to him. Of course I still felt that the issue was not grave enough to warrant his removal but then that is just my opinion. Once a decision has been taken I can't oppose it, I have to abide by the decision of the collective. That is what democratic centralism is all about. You differ with people but if the majority of the people see ...
POM. You was saying that if a majority of the people, that's the majority of the people in the NEC, not the majority of the people on the ground. I think I was saying that if democratic centralism is that the decision is made, as in this case, at the top and then it's handed down that goes against the grain of consultation with the grassroots. It is as though the will of the party takes precedence over the preference of the people, that one's primary allegiance is to the party and not to the people.
PM. Certainly this would create problems. Clearly when we took the decision as the NEC our understanding was that the matter was going to be discussed with the structures in the province. It's difficult for a party to consult the general public. The parties don't work like that. You don't consult the general public about whether you should withdraw your member from an institution. It doesn't work like that because it's a tedious process. And the difference here also is that Premiers are not elected in the way the Presidents of the United States are elected in a general election. It is the party that is elected and once the party has been elected that party - I was saying that it is the party that gets elected and then the party decides amongst the people in the list as to who should become Premier from the people on the list.
POM. Then who rules? Is it the NEC that rules or is it, in your province is it you who rules or at the national level is it the NEC that rules or the Cabinet?
PM. Oh no, in the party there are different hierarchies of the party structures. Now in government it is the party that rules, it is the party that governs, that rules, and that party is divided into a number - or if they have the skills government does not pay enough and they will not work for less. That's a problem we have.
POM. People like Keith?
PM. That's him. He is the one who created this mess.
POM. But he's your hand-picked aide. But he doesn't seem to be up to scratch in doing a lot of the job.
PM. No you see he knew that I was going to be busy this weekend but you see when we have two important things you look at how strategic it is. You don't say the Premier must stay at a Golf Tournament when there is a World Aids Day. Let's rather be at the World Aids Day than to be at the golf.
POM. It's identifying with a major catastrophic social problem, the other is being seen to be having a good time on the golf course.
PM. Well it's promoting the province economically and so on.
POM. Does he not run a schedule by you and you can say, "I will do this, this, and this"?
PM. But I did not know anything about this one. This one was not discussed with me, the World Aids Day. I heard for the first time yesterday about it. I did not know anything about it. I sat with him in my office in the week, I said let's look at all the requests, all the engagements. This one did not appear at all.
POM. That's amazing. So you were saying the party rules.
PM. The party rules. The party has got a number of hierarchies in terms of its structures. The highest hierarchy after conference is clearly the National Executive Committee. It is empowered by the constitution of the ANC to take decisions on behalf of the ANC. The only other body that can reverse those decisions is conference, maybe an extraordinary conference. So that's the only decision. So when the NEC therefore exercises power it does so within the mandate that it has been granted by the constitution of the ANC. Now that is so regardless of whether the decision taken is a correct one or not. It's a separate matter so you don't look at the merits and demerits of that decision, you look at whether that organ of the ANC had the necessary authority to take the decision and it has if it decides it wants to withdraw someone and so on. But obviously we need to take into account the wishes of the people on the ground and I must admit that in taking that decision it seems we did not really carefully consider the likely impact of this decision on the people and the likely reaction of the majority of the people in the province. The situation looks a bit difficult. It may well be that the person who takes over there, if that person does not come from that province, is going to find it very difficult to unite the people there and to gain their acceptance. They might not accept that person. It's a difficulty that we're faced with.
POM. But doesn't Mandela going there and saying, "This is my choice", and calling the members of the legislature and the other potential candidates together and explaining the reasons why she is there. Isn't that guaranteeing her?
PM. It won't guarantee that. All it would do, it will make people understand the argument of the President but that would not necessarily change the perceptions of the people. You see our constitution is a different one. Unlike in other countries, in other countries Premiers are hand-picked by the President or by the central government. In this country we have said we want a democratic process and therefore it becomes very difficult to ignore that process entirely. It can't be. So it's going to be a difficult process but we hope that people at some point maybe would accept it but it's going to leave a lot of bitterness in the people. It's quite clear, my observation from far suggests that there's a lot of bitterness there.
POM. I suppose the more important point I'm trying to get at, Popo, is that the ANC is always an organisation that says we are accountable to the people, yet the structures of government at both provincial and national level are accountable to party structures not to the people. Therefore if you're a member of the ANC to get ahead, as all people do in an organisation, you're more likely to want to please the leadership of the party than to state your convictions and oppositions and say we must be more open. For example the ANC talks about being a transparent organisation. There is no transparency about what happens in NEC meetings, members are told not to talk to the press, so there's a perception that there's not intra-party democracy, that decisions are made and handed down and people are told not to talk about how they were reached. Do you not think it would be far healthier ...?
PM. No, no, it's not so, it's not so Padraig. Give me any organisation in the world, any organisation whether it's a church group or a business organisation, that says to its members you can say anything about our decisions in public. They don't do that. Committees are essentially structures that deal with matters confidentially and they release what they want to release to the media. It applies to all organisations, because you see you want to build a corporate image and you can't build a corporate image if you're going to have members of your committee speaking in confusing manner, with forked tongues, giving different and conflicting signals all round outside in the name of transparency. People don't like organisations that are like that. They don't like governments that don't show a single direction. They soon come to you and say, but who must we listen to? Should we believe Mandela or should we believe Holomisa, should we believe Lekota? Who must we believe? So it is not correct to suggest that the ANC is operating differently from other organisations. The ANC is operating in the tradition of all other organisations because the ANC must also protect it's own internal unity as a party. It's very important.
. And you say that the ANC says, look we are accountable to the people, government structures are accountable to parties. It does not say so. All that it says is that party representatives who are in government need to recognise that just as much as they have to account to the public but they are there as representatives of the party, therefore they must project an image that the party wants protected and, secondly, that they must also understand that they are accountable to the party. They are mutually accountable to one another as members of the party in that government and in their party and there is a collective too, they are accountable to the party and to the public. So there is no separation between accountability to the party and accountability to the people. We understand, obviously, that the general public is much broader than the party itself. There are some of the things which might be good for members of the party but which may not be good for the general public and the party must find a balance between its interests as a party and the interests of the country. It means its representatives, therefore, must act in the interests of the country as a whole and the party must not be seen to be unaccountable.
POM. Premier, again, I don't want to belabour the point but say in Britain you had the Conservative Party, you have almost open warfare between the pro-Europeans and the anti-Europeans in the party. The public knows which people are identified with which side, the debate is quite open, the debate is in public. You had the Labour Party going through it's restructuring and it's whole relationship with the trade union movement. Again the debate was in public with certain members of the party taking one side and other members taking the other side.
PM. But that is during the debate, not so, when they were debating the issue.
POM. That's right.
PM. And they might have been debating that issue in parliament.
PM. And they might have been debating it on public platforms across the country with their constituencies or whatever. What I'm saying is that why is there not a way, rather than there being rumour, oh there are tensions within the ANC, the SACP seems very upset about some aspects of the macro-economic plan or COSATU also had some problems with it, why not get that out in front rather than it being a matter of rumours that emanate as a result of what appear to be meetings held behind closed doors?
PM. No, but these issues have been debated publicly. COSATU has made its positions clear on this, so did the SACP. I have also responded to this issue on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the Communist Party and I did say at that meeting that the Communist Party was free to make its views known on this issue. We don't expect that they should come to us every time before they make a comment on any issue. But I also said that we are members of the alliance, we have established structures where we must debate issues. We have to do that and it is correct. You must understand we are a revolutionary movement that is transforming a country, a neo-colonial country, into a democratic order and we come from a history of a society that was polarised, characterised by internecine conflict, ethnic, tribal and racial. In order for us to advance and to project a new image of South Africa and win the confidence of the investors both here and abroad it is important that South Africans must be seen to be moving together. We had to do so.
. That's why at the World Trade Centre we did not spend time emphasising the differences. Even when we knew that there were very serious differences it was important to send positive signals out to the world and we want, therefore, even now when we deal with tensions amongst various members of the alliance, various parties in the country, we should do it in a manner that does not say to a would-be investor that, well, that country is going to be another Burundi, forget about it, there's no hope for the solution of the problems. We don't want that. The media likes sensation, it's good for the media if they can say Mandela is fighting so-and-so, the Communist Party is at war with the ANC, they like that. It makes them sell their newspapers but it's not in the interests of our country, it's not in the interests of the poor people in the rural villages. They want stability, they want investments to come into the country so we have got, therefore, to manage our tensions and differences in a responsible manner to ensure that we create the necessary conditions that would enable us to create jobs and alleviate poverty amongst the rural poor.
POM. Now there are two schools of thought, and this is related to the question of whether South Africa has a viable multi-party democratic governance system which the constitution provides, or whether it is really a one-party dominant state?
PM. What is a 'viable multi-party democracy'?
POM. It would be where competitive politics, where there is the possibility of ...
PM. What is competitive politics? Does it mean that one party should not win too many votes?
POM. It shouldn't win all the time. There should be the reasonable possibility of another government coming into power.
PM. But we can't create that. Who should create that? They must win the confidence of the people.
POM. No, my point is most people also say that if there is to be opposition it will have to be African driven, it can't be white driven, can't come from the National Party, it's a write-off most people think, the DP is irrelevant. It will have to come from new political formations now. A lot of people say that the tensions within the ANC will inevitably create a situation of where there will be a split between the pragmatists and the populists or between the Afrikaners and the pragmatists or whatever. People have any number of issues they can see divisions occurring along. Do you think this is wishful thinking of their party, that in fact the tensions are manageable and that the alliance is going to be the alliance for quite a time to come, not just through the next election but that it will stick together because it's in the interests of the country that it sticks together?
PM. I think that the tensions that exist within the ANC are manageable tensions and, secondly, I do think that certainly the alliance still has a critical role to play because it's an alliance that has been formed around a common perspective of reconstructing the country from an undemocratic system to a democratic order. That's what we want to do, restructuring the economy, restructuring society, so I do think that until such a time that we have achieved satisfactory results in that regard the alliance is going to stick together but I cannot say that the alliance will live for ever. It's a very unrealistic and unscientific statement that one because organisations review their positions from time to time when if the purpose for which the alliance has been formed is considered to be no longer existing naturally we expect that the partners in the alliance would then want to review the alliance. But I do not see that happening in the foreseeable future.
POM. So the common goal is no longer the ending of apartheid, it is bringing about the transformation of the entire economic and social structure so as to empower the poor, the unemployed and result in both economic growth, foreign investment and the redistribution of wealth, better education, better hospitals?
PM. A sound health care system, all those sorts of things.
POM. Until all those things are satisfactorily done you see the alliance continuing?
POM. Again, going to the media, I want to ask you a couple of questions about that, do the media or political commentators much exaggerate the differences within the alliance? Do they mistake tension for the potential for division, whereas tensions are normal and it doesn't mean that people are going to turn their backs on an organisation and form their own parties, it just means that people disagreed?
PM. Let me put it this way, I think they are mistaken, differences of opinion on specific issues as the beginning of the kind of tensions and contradictions that would lead to the alliance breaking apart, then I think they are over-exaggerating. Differences of opinion exist all round. You see it in the IFP, you see it in the National Party, but we don't see the same figure of the media addressing that as a question of disintegration of the party. They say it only when it happens to the ANC alliance because the media has its own agenda, it's agenda is to see to it that the ANC is weakened. It has always been its agenda over the years. That has been the agenda of the South African media for many, many years and we don't expect that simply because the ANC is leading government therefore the media will suddenly become our friends. Many of them will still continue their agenda. They have reported in this province that I was a sinking Premier, I was in trouble, people did not want me, they did not want me as a chairperson of the ANC. We went to a conference, they couldn't produce a candidate to stand against me. They couldn't even say, no we were mistaken, we made a wrong assessment. They kept quiet as if they have never said that, never mentioned it you see. Now that's the role of the media so we have decided to ignore them and we simply say, well let them dream. If they want to dream they can dream. Part of the democratic process is to allow people to dream!
POM. So do you think President Mandela was on the mark when he made his remarks about certain senior black journalists being more or less the stooges or carrying out the agenda of conservative controlled white media?
PM. I agree with him. I agree with him, I think many of them are mistaken. They mistake opposition to the apartheid system with the current situation. They think that if you are in the media your role is to look for something that you could be against all the time. They don't realise that as a country that is seeking to move forward journalism, whilst it must continue to be critical and objective, whilst the press must continue to play the watch-dog role and expose corruption and those sorts of things, mismanagement and so on, but the guiding principle of journalism in the current situation should be the priority of developing the country. It should be developmental journalism, that's what they should be doing. Therefore, when they criticise us they should criticise us in pursuit of the goals of development. That's what they should be doing so that all of us manifest the spirit of new patriotism welding the country together, projecting a new image, inspiring and motivating South Africans to work towards reconstruction of a country and so on and mobilising external forces to support the critical task that we are undertaking of reconstructing the country. That's what we think journalism should do. It does not help for journalists who are saying we want to build the economy to pick on an isolated incident of violence in one corner of the country and give it front page coverage. It doesn't help the country.
POM. Do you think in this sense that the media are obstacles to the transformation process insofar as they are not partners and they should be critical partners and criticise corruption and mismanagement and things like that, but they are not partners in the process. They are outside of it, nit-picking it to death, so to speak, rather than being advocates of its good parts and critics of its bad parts.
PM. I am the last person to complain about the media exposing corruption because I am committed to rooting out corruption. My government was the first one to appoint a commission to investigate corruption in the North West Province and we are now in the process of prosecuting people who have been identified, in instituting civil action to recover the moneys they have taken. We have instituted a second commission that is investigating corruption in all local government structures in the province and the report is ready. I will be releasing it to the media this week. Now we think that the media sometimes when dealing with issues which would affect the image of the country, they don't think of the broader strategic thrust of the country. Let's give you an example, people are marching against crime in Cape Town. That issue alone got coverage for no less than a month almost every day and it was projecting an image of a city under siege with these Muslims carrying guns and so on. Clearly it did not help South Africa much from the point of view of tourism. But of course it creates a Catch-22 situation. I can understand the thinking of the media. They think that, well, this government is not moving fast enough on the issue of crime, it is not decisive, it is too soft on criminals so we must keep on reporting on these things. In fact we must set an agenda for them to deal seriously and decisively with crime. So it's a Catch-22 situation for the media.
. But what I'm merely saying is that sometimes a projection of those things contradicts the much wider and much more fundamental objectives of the country which are those of development and reconstruction, those of issues which seek to transform the state and then move the country forward. There tend to be contradictions and tensions with that and I am merely saying, therefore, that there is a need for the South African media in particular that understands for how long we've been isolated, to bear these things in mind. It should not pursue sensationalism for the sake of it.
POM. Do you not call in, like of the local papers, do you ever call in the editors or senior reporters just for a chat, to sit around a table and informally discuss issues off the record, you putting your point of view and asking them what's their point of view?
PM. We do so, we have not done it systematically enough this year but we were doing it very well last year. This year we have done it. We have recently had just a get together with all the journalists in my province, about a month ago. So we do it and of course tomorrow we are doing a media briefing in Johannesburg. We hope that perhaps early next year or before the end of this year we will have just the kind of off the cuff and off the record briefing to them and allow them the opportunity to tell us those issues that worry them and to ask us questions about anything that they think we're not really coming out clearly on.
POM. One last question talking about the ANC and it's Jacob Zuma's statement that he made in Durban two weeks ago at the regional congress there, and I'm almost directly quoting him, when he said that anyone in the ANC who thinks that the constitution is more important than the ANC is in for trouble. It's an extraordinary statement.
PM. As far as I'm concerned that statement is unfortunate. The ANC does not need to even begin to compare itself with the constitution of the country because that constitution was drawn up by the ANC as a leading party in the multi-party forum and the ANC is obliged to respect that constitution. It is not correct for any one of us to raise issues around the constitution in a manner that may give the impression to the general public that the ANC does not respect the constitution of the country because that would go counter, would go contrary to our desire to make South Africa one of the most democratic countries in the current period of the 20th century. We can't and indeed our constitution was hailed by many countries as one of the best constitutions in the country especially our Bill of Rights and therefore the ANC cannot begin to cut its nose to spite its face. It can't do that, it is not correct. So that's why I say this statement is unfortunate, if indeed that is what he said.
POM. Does Terror understand what's happened? Does he accept it? Is he ambivalent?
PM. Well I would rather that you raise that question with him.
POM. But I'd just like to hear your perception of it.
PM. I would rather that you raise it with him. I think when it started he did not understand it. When he fully agreed to everything he did not understand the full implications and it's only now that he is realising the full implications. But I would rather that you discuss the details with him.
POM. I want to go back to the province for a minute. Half way through your administration, your first administration, what are you most proud of in terms of having been able to accomplish and what are you most disappointed in not having been able to accomplish in the first 2½ years?
PM. Well we are proud of a number of achievements. I think in the first place we are continuing to consolidate stability, political stability.
POM. Within the province?
PM. Within the province. The government is enjoying overwhelming support of all racial groups in our country including the security forces, the police and the army which is something that augurs very well. We enjoy the support of even conservative little towns of the province. We have in a sense really succeeded in engendering a sense of unity in the whole of the province and a sense of pride amongst our people, pride of belonging to this province. The levels of crime are very low. We have, however, one aspect of this which is worrying us and that is the taxi violence which is happening mainly in areas that are near Gauteng, the other province of Gauteng, in the eastern region of our province, but we are dealing with the matter very seriously. We have already arrested a number of the kingpins, the leaders of the groups that are causing violence. Of course the difficulty is that then you have a situation where the courts would release them on bail and very low amounts of bail money are asked for and that's a problem.
. We have also achieved a lot in terms of the economy. There is a lot of development taking place here at Sun City where we are sitting now. They have just completed the building of over 200 beds for the hotel. They want to reach 300 very soon. There are enormous developments taking place just about 90 kms from where we are at Hartebeespoort Dam near Brits, a major development. Two hotels are being built there. There is a rainbow village that we are building which will allow the ordinary people to sell the pottery, curios and so on in that place. There is a lot of excitement around it.
. But our economy was the fastest growing in the whole country at the rate 3.2%. We have now put in place our own development plan, growth and development plan based on the macro-economic strategy and growth employment and redistribution plan framework of the national government and in terms of our plan we intend to at least create 40,000 jobs per annum by the year 2000. We intend at least to have been able to spend 8% of our budget in addressing approximately 40% of the most poor of the rural areas in our province. We want to sustain our economic growth at 3.1% right up to the year 2005 and we think it is possible to do so. We have several other plans in place, one of them is a mega-ecotourism project which is really going to be looking at the story of man, the story of the origin of man along the Magaliesberg mountains where we have a lot of fossils there which have been in existence some of them going as far back as 3.5 million years, we are told, that's what these fellows are saying. It's unbelievable.
POM. On the way driving up here we saw these little African art ...
PM. So we commissioned a study, commissioned a study that is looking at this and we believe that once we announce this and construction work has happened we will be able to attract half a million people which will grow annually. In this connection we hope to create exhibition centres and so on which will show what sort of equipment these people were using, show the human skulls, bones, all sorts of things and then of course also the story behind that.
POM. So the one achievement you're most proud of which you will point to later on in your life and say, "In my first term I was able to do this particular thing because it was the most important thing to get done and I got it done"?
PM. It's very difficult to pinpoint one thing but for me the most important thing was to create that stability. The second one to put in place effective administration and to stabilise the situation in education. So far we have done very well in respect of education. We have been able in these last two years to build over 1000 new classrooms.
POM. You have already done that?
PM. We have already done that. Our target is to build 3220 in the coming period by the end of the next year but we have already done more 1000 and that has helped us to create opportunities for learning for over 200,000 school kids which then makes the North West perhaps one province with the biggest population of pupils in the country, although we are small in terms of entire population of the province but children in school we probably have the biggest number.
POM. Continuing my conversation with Premier Molefe, and I won't keep you that much longer because I know you're rushing. Your biggest disappointment?
PM. Well my biggest disappointment relates mainly to the slowness in our ability to create jobs, that has been the biggest disappointment for us because we have got lots and lots of people who are poverty stricken in the country. That has been my main concern. I think the other disappointment is the stark reality that there are some villages in this province with no hope of ever being able to develop fully because people are in the wrong places, places that look like deserts, very far from centres of employment and we're going to have, at some point, to make hard decisions to move those people from where they are to other places and because these are tribal communities we expect that there will be resistance.
POM. Is ethnicity in that regard a potential problem here?
PM. Ethnicity will not be a potential problem, tribalism would be in the sense that you would have these people who are under traditional leaders, under Chiefs, and who would not want to have their people integrated with people elsewhere because they regard these people as a power base, as a constituency which provides them with the opportunity to exercise authority over them and if you remove them they have got no power base so it's going to be a problem.
POM. So how do you deal with traditional Chiefs here?
PM. So far we have been enjoying a very good relationship with them. There has never been any problem really. We have established a House of Traditional Leaders which is a body that advises government on matters of customs and tradition which affect traditional leaders. So far we have been doing very well.
POM. So you have tried to co-opt them into the systems of governance rather than opposing them and saying you're old fashioned and you're living in feudal times.
PM. We have brought them into systems of governance and many of them are really cooperative and for those who are cooperative development work takes off very fast. We have been able to connect water to the rural areas, electricity, telephones, road construction, those things are happening pretty fast. Those who are resisting quite clearly they would find their own people turning against them because people want development and development comes with cooperation amongst various partners. So that's important for us. But quite clearly I am sure that we're going to have very tough debates on issues that would require shifting around people and it will be problematic.
POM. Do you think you've enough powers devolved to you now that you can do the job you want to do or do you feel that perhaps more powers should be devolved to the provinces to give them greater room to implement their own development agendas within the broad framework of the macro-economic plan?
PM. I think provinces have got enough to undertake their development plans. Within the macro-economic development plan there is no problem. I think we are only at a half-way mark of five years of the life span of this government and I think it would be unreasonable for us to start complaining. I think we must complete this life span, see how we apply the policies in place, how we use the instruments that we have in our hands. Where we run into problems then we can start complaining. There are some delays where there is concurrency of powers between provinces and national because sometimes the province has to wait for national to move and sometimes a province moves very fast, faster than the national, and we feel frustrated when there are delays. But I don't think at this stage we should really be complaining. We want to move and we will see how these things unfold. Naturally after the first five years we will probably begin to review certain things. The new National Council of Provinces which provides for provinces to also initiate legislation is very good for us because it means we don't have to wait for a minister at national level. If we think something needs to be legislated we can start drafting.
POM. That would be the provinces as a whole, acting as a unit?
PM. Yes. One province can start the drafting and then circulate what it is drafting, win the support of other provinces and start moving, or it can even draft that legislation, pass it on to the minister, get the minister to move on it.
POM. One province can do that?
PM. Yes it can, provided of course the legislation will take into account the interests of the rest of the provinces and it will also embody national norms and standards.
POM. Do you think that the NCOP will empower the provinces more vis-à-vis the national government or that it's an instrument for bringing the provinces more under the control of the national parliament?
PM. No, I think it is intended to enhance, it is intended to enhance cooperative governance. It is intended to bring about more interaction and dynamic contact between the centre and the provinces but it is also making an important breakthrough for us because it enables us as provinces to influence what happens at national level, but it gives us also the opportunity to bring expertise on board because it is no longer a question of you having ten permanent members in Cape Town. We will send people there on the basis of the topic under discussion. If the topic is the economy we must choose an expert in the province to go and deal with it so we will have only I think six permanent members and then four roving members. So we will have four people who would go there on the basis of the expertise they command when they go to debate issues in parliament. In a sense, therefore, we do not see it as an attempt by the central government to bring the provinces under control but to enhance cooperative governance so that we don't look at one another as those people in Cape Town, those people in the provinces, but rather as one government operating at different levels.
POM. How about local government? Are you experiencing problems with local government structures in terms of both their capacity to do the jobs they are supposed to do, the skills at their disposal, the resources at their disposal, their relationship with the province?
PM. Certainly there are major problems in local government structures. In all of them the legacy of where we come from, the legacy of apartheid. One, the apartheid system excluded many people from skills training programmes. The result thereof is that we have councillors who do not have administrative or management skills, who are not trained sufficiently to undertake their task, neither do they have experience of having been in government, really they are tasting it for the first time. It's a problem so we need to build capacity of those local government structures. But also not only for councillors, also the administrative staff. Councils need administrative staff. They also need engineers and technicians. We don't have enough of those people. You don't have enough town planners for example, people with an understanding of things such as water purification and so on, they don't understand those things. It's a major problem and an inhibiting factor. The second problem is clearly the problem of inequalities or inequities in the allocation of resources. There are areas which are fairly rich which therefore can survive but many of the areas in this province which fell under the former Bophuthatswana which was a homeland, an apartheid backyard, have never had infrastructure for governance and we are effectively starting from scratch both in terms of office accommodation, chambers for councillors, general infrastructure and personnel, we are starting from scratch, they have nothing and they have no source of revenue. It's a very difficult question.
POM. Their source of revenue really comes from the rates, right?
PM. It has to come from the rates and services.
POM. They don't receive money from the provincial government?
PM. So far the provincial government has been giving grants but the grants are very limited, it's very little. But even when some of these grants are given to them, because of lack of capacity and experience it's very difficult for people to account for those grants and then this compels the provincial government to hold back because you don't give money to people who will not be able to account for it. It's a real problem.
POM. What is your power over local councils? If they're doing an awful job, for example, councillors are inept or whatever, can you again go before the provincial executive of the ANC and say Councillor X, Y and Z is misbehaving?
PM. I would imagine that the Local Government Transition Act would provide for some code of conduct for councillors and certainly if they engage in certain acts of misconduct then in terms of the Act they can be removed from the council. But again you see they go into the council as representatives of political parties, others of associations, or some go in as independents and so on, so it depends on how a person went in. If it is representative of a party misbehaving the party may withdraw that, but of course the Act is not very clear on these issues and as a result we as a province are now formulating guidelines which we hope to include in the amended proclamation of the province on local government structures to deal with that situation.
POM. That would be a provincial Act?
PM. Yes it would be a provincial Act. A provincial proclamation.
POM. You mentioned the lack of capacity at local level so that even if you give them funds for particular projects they don't have the capacity to execute them whether administratively or technically or whatever. Do you have the same problem at the provincial level? Is there still a lack of capacity?
PM. Well broadly in the province we have now built capacity. There is lack of that capacity perhaps in one or two departments but it is not really lack of capacity, it's lack of leadership in that department where people are not co-ordinating, there is no hands-on approach, too much laxity, and as a result of that some things are going wrong. But I have appointed an investigating team into the matter, I just received the report last weekend. I have begun the process of correcting that situation.
POM. You inherited what was essentially a homeland, or independent state, administration. Have you been able to transform that now so that you are satisfied everybody is on the one track, on the one side, or is it still a difficult slow process?
PM. Let me say we have integrated them, we have integrated them but transformation is a long process. We have not fully transformed them and that transformation is proceeding satisfactorily. We have linked transformation to a training programme, changed management to training programme which trained these people to understand the new values of a new South Africa, values of democracy, values of accountability, values of discipline and conscientiousness, values of service to the people, they must be service oriented. So in a sense the training is also seeking to re-orientate the public service. I must say that our province is amongst the only three provinces in the whole country that has embarked on the programme of training with a view to transforming the public service. There are only three of us in the whole country. As far as financial management is concerned we have been one of the top if not the top province in that regard. We have dealt with it very well.
. Thirdly, with regard to the rationalising and right-sizing of the public service, government has undertaken a programme of reducing the size of the public service and rationalising it, we are far ahead of the time frames set by the central government. So we are moving very well in that regard. We are engaging in this training programme a whole range of parties. The University of Witwatersrand is involved in this training. We have got the overseas development administration working with us, the overseas development administration of the British government. We have also received some support from USAID to a limited extent. We are also cooperating with the province of Manitoba in Canada with whom we have a strategic cooperation and one of the key issues we are addressing with them is this training programme, the capacity building and management training programme.
POM. Do you deal with the University of Manitoba?
PM. We are dealing with the state as well as the university. We are also dealing with the University of Harvard, in particularly the Kennedy School of Government, so they are part of our training programme. We have also engaged other consultants in performance evaluation to make sure that we set criteria, benchmarks that we could use to determine performance of individuals.
POM. So overall would you say 2½ years into your administration that black people in general are better off than they were 2½ years ago?
PM. I certainly say so and let me tell you why I say so. I am saying that children who did not have classrooms to go to for their education in 1994 now have 1000 more additional classes. A hundred villages of people who had no water in the rural areas now have water since we took over. Villages which did not have clinics now have approximately thirty new clinics which have been built in the rural villages. We were able to create 21,000 new jobs through our community based public works programmes, housing construction, building of the roads, school building programmes and so on, so we created jobs for those people. Business people in this province who had no access to the economy were locked out of the economy, through our procurement policies, tendering system, we have now been able to involve them. We spent approximately R2 billion in empowering black businesses in this province in construction work, R2 billion which has remained in this province, of course about R800 million was spent outside the province. Quite clearly people are beginning to feel different. I can't give you statistics but we have connected electricity to several houses in the eastern region, in the south of the province and even in the rural villages.
. People can see tangible results of this democratic process, they really see it. The fact that in 2½ years people have never once been tear-gassed, they have never been subjected to tear-smoke, tear-gas smoke, suggests that the situation has changed. The fact that in that period no single person was killed by the police in the province suggests that there is remarkable change and remarkable respect for human rights and a human rights culture is now beginning to be entrenched in the province. We have embarked upon a programme of redistribution of the land. We are distributing 300,000 hectares of land to the people who historically did not have the land. By next year we will be distributing another 500,000 hectares of that land. Women are beginning to be empowered, to participate in the economy by means of a programme of broadening access through agricultural thrust. They are beginning to have their own plots where they are growing agricultural products, running their own bakeries and so on. There is a beehive of activity in the province, people are seeing that change.
POM. Just two last things. One is on, again, delivery. Earlier on this morning you were complaining about how your schedule had gotten screwed up and your attendance at the World Aids Day ceremonies, that it wasn't on your schedule and you wouldn't be able to meet it. Last night you mentioned that many people say to you they've been trying to get in touch with you, they rang your office and can never get a reply so you end up giving them your cell phone number, so you end up taking countless calls yourself and dealing with situations that should be dealt with by your office. This is a problem of administration, or what is the problem?
PM. Well there is a problem of administration but it's also a problem of the constraints, the tensions created by the constraints, the contradictions of our desire to keep the size of government small and desire to be effective on the one hand and, secondly, the desire to be effective and small without being willing to pay more. We want to keep the cost low because we want to tighten the belt, we want fiscal discipline. But that brings about contradictions because then you can't get the best qualified people if you're not paying the best salaries. You end up with mediocre staff, mediocre staff because you will only get those people who are prepared to work for low salaries and that's a contradiction in terms. But also I think the second point that needs to be noted is that we are different from the previous government. The previous government did not care to talk to people. We are a new government, people believe it's their government and they are coming forward all the time so we are snowed up, everybody wants to talk to you and the result is that you have all these problems with our administrative staff not coping. But certainly we do need to train these people. For example, my private secretary I had sent him to New York city to work there for three months in the office of the Mayor just to see how things are done so that he must get used to it. I am hoping to send him to one of the provincial governments of the states outside the country where he can work in the office of a Premier or a Governor to gain more experience. So we are working hard at these things.
POM. I think I could arrange that in Massachusetts with Governor Weld.
PM. Would you like to do that for me? That will be good. In fact I had wanted to go and see him when I was in the States. Unfortunately that was not properly done.
POM. He has a keen interest in South Africa and in fact I have mission in Massport, which is one of our biggest development agencies which looks after airports and all that, they have a permanent representative in Durban at the moment interested in port development. Anyway, very last question, on corruption. Is there a distinction between what one would call old corruption that's been inherited and embedded in the system of Mangope's regime and what one might call new corruption, just corruption that's emerging in the system as it develops?
PM. Well in our province we have not yet really seen serious new corruption but we are still dealing with the legacy of the past, but I am sure close investigation would show some problems. I think we need to distinguish between mismanagement and corruption. Corruption clearly is wilful wastage of resources, disrespect for policies, disrespect for discipline, disrespect of accountability and so on. Mismanagement would have to do with people who are either not supervising properly, not monitoring things and so on and as a result things go wrong. In the current situation I am sure we would find a little bit of problems of mismanagement, like the case of school books that I'm going to be investigating because I think things are not going well there. There are other problems of course. You must understand that you have people who have just come into government who are very poor, who have never worked for many years and big money-spinners would always tempt them, would say, "Look give me that contract, I will give you a kick-back", you'll get something out of it. I am sure we're going to find some officials who are doing that, but I'm satisfied that I don't have that sort of a thing with my ministers. So far I've got no complaints with my ministers and I'm pleased about that.
POM. On that note, thank you, as always, for the time.