About this site

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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

06 Dec 1996: Moseneke, Dikgang Ernest

Click here for more information on the Interviewee

Click here for Overview of the year

POM. Advocate, you've been out of politics now for a number of years and got into the grimmer politics the business world, of the capitalistic business world. Maybe you could give me an overview first of the state of the country as you would see it first of all politically, then economically, then in terms of nation building, and finally in terms of its capacity to attract the kind of foreign investment that seems to be so elusive and yet so much hope was placed in it at the beginning of Mr Mandela's presidency.

DM. That's saying almost everything about the last three years isn't it? Maybe more. Let's just clear the deck, let me start with the first one. I never saw myself as anything but a freedom fighter, yes a freedom fighter. I wanted to change the political and socio-economic system of the country and that I started when I was 15 when I went to jail. I understood that that was going to be a primary part of my life. And once we were sufficiently close to the elections and when, in my judgement, I was satisfied that in fact there was going to be a settlement, a negotiated settlement, it made sense to re-position. It didn't make sense to try and take a position, a stance, that would be consistent with military conflict, within the context of a political uprising against an illegitimate regime. The regime was conceding, it was giving way and it could be done faster, more efficiently by using one's legal brains than by bullets.

. So clearly what did I do when I resigned from the PAC? I resigned from the PAC leadership, I am still Africanist to the core. I believe in most of the things that the PAC has propounded and they are very much in my bloodstream and they constitute a very important part of my core values. I think the problems of Africa must be resolved primarily by indigenous African people. There is no question about that. They are the guys who must arrest the coups, they are the guys who must arrest poverty, they are the people who must make an extra effort to gain education, to eradicate poor health services, to create modern states that will live side by side with other states right around the world. So you can't shed that responsibility, you can't pass it on to anybody else. African people themselves, and I mean indigenous African people, and I make the distinction because they have been the worst hit, they have been most hard hit by the consequences of our colonial period, they have had the worst end of it. So, hey, they have got to rise from the ashes. So we need a creed, we need a new credo that helps to elevate the spirit of the African people from the doldrums, from the bottom end of their being to the top end of their being. I am an Africanist to the core. I believe that life starts with African people themselves in recognising who they are and dealing with that identity and basing their view of the world from who or what they believe they are. If you lack that then you're going nowhere.

. So that's my starting point. I can't compare, the most modern technology, ISDN, in my position as Chief of Telkom I can't deal with it without saying what does it mean to Africa? Otherwise it becomes meaningless. Multimedia, what does that mean? Conveying data, voice, image, text, all the same medium. What does it mean for Africa? So I have to find the meaning within the context of what Africa needs at a particular time. It's very important. So I'm not quite an internationalist.

POM. Just a side bar on that, I've noticed, not that I've watched that much of it, but on the SABC the sheer volume of American programmes, rejects, that are on is just mind boggling. We live in a house where there's a little 3-year old African girl and she sits in front of that television and she gazes up there and all she's hearing are these stupid American comedies or cop shows or crime shows. Your view of what you're saying is not really reflected in a meaningful way in which at least the SABC appears to conduct itself.

DM. I'm not yet in government. Yes, well that's what's lacking in the ANC. The ANC is a great mobiliser, they know how to - Mr Mandela is going to sign the constitution in Sharpeville, so they are great at symbolic things. Some of my colleagues and my business partners would eat me alive but the ANC lacks that central core, that's what they lack badly. They lack an Africanist foundation that allows them to get a view of life that just fires them on because you need something to clutch to, that tends to stabilise and hold your life. So I would hate to think that all African children should only dream about the African bushveld and elephants and lions. I would want them to dream about satellites and ISDN and Internet and all of the good things of the modern world. I would like them to dream about some parts of French music and wines but also about who they are, what all that means in relation to them and above all one of the things that Africans should be doing now to change their lives.

POM. Just to take you up on a point regarding the ANC. A number of people have suggested to me that part of the reason for all this internal wobbling, if one wants to call it that, is that with the end of apartheid essentially this broad church, or whatever they want to call it, that was the glue that held it together and with the abandonment of socialism the ideological base has gone out of the window too and that you now have a party that embraces everybody from a squatter camp dweller on the one hand to a millionaire capitalist on the other, to a communist in the middle, and that it has no core value system.

DM. That's true.

POM. It has no internal sense of self-identity.

DM. That's very true, that's the point I'm making, entirely true. Very little beyond party discipline, whatever that means, keeps it together. Step out of line you get thrown out of a moving train, like some of these Premiers that you've seen, but beyond Mr Mandela's authority, his enormous moral authority, and the fact that they are in government and have to try and formulate - policy making has been quite helpful. It actually allows the ANC to spend some time generating white papers and blue papers and whatever else, at least it helped them to try and formulate policy. But none of that sprung from clear ideological or identifiable values. There are none. Former Afrikaner activists are within the ANC, communists or former socialists are in there, free marketeers and everybody else is in there. So there is no time where you can articulate, short of 'we need houses for people'.

POM. The list of things, the value system.

DM. A list of things. Well the Freedom Charter was not much more than that, it was a list of things but it never had the ability and the depth to be able to put together a consistent position that would help to guide it. But on the other hand what the PAC lacked was an organisational ability which the ANC had in abundance. It never had the ability to set up an organisational structure that worked, where people paid their dues, when they came to meetings, worked out plans and followed them very closely and executed them, measured their performance. That the PAC lacked. To elect consequently PR, it just never knew how to appeal to people other than themselves. They always backfired and scared their potential supporters, so it didn't quite work. At some point, as I say, it's a total digression as I was trying to answer the one initial question which really is I left politics at a time when I thought that the political struggle, which was probably the most vicious, had been won and I went in there.

. I am one of the eight guys who wrote the text of the constitution, the interim constitution, so I immediately volunteered my services, I was asked by Mr Mandela, and I agreed to go and be one of the eight guys, the Technical Committee with Arthur Chaskalson, with quite a number of lawyers, I was one of the eight who actually sat down there to write the constitution line by line. As Cyril, Roelf and those guys negotiated something they came to us and said, "We have a deal", and we said, "What's the deal?" And we are the guys who are going to write it in legalese. So in that sense we provided some glue to the whole process. Each time they came back, "We have a deal on the army." "You do? What is going to happen to the army?" "Well we'll call it South African National Defence Force." That was an end to the old acronym but that's great. And then SAPS, we added an S to the end, so it's a new creature, and yet I know that very little changed up until now. So in fact, yes, I decided to join the guys who were really getting on with having a negotiated settlement. It wasn't a political role, I fell back on to my lawyering skills and used them and quit any pretensions for political office, because I never really wanted to. I wanted to provide leadership when it was crucial just before the transition.

POM. I want to take you up on two points and they are related. One is the constitution provides for multiparty governance and the question there is, do you have a viable multiparty democracy and if so what do you mean by it? Are there indispensable features you see that must be part of it? The second part is, are you worried about the direction in which the ANC appears to be going in terms of at least it's internal workings, this emphasis on party loyalty? You had Jacob Zuma saying two weeks ago in Durban that anyone in the ANC who thought the constitution was more important than the ANC was in trouble, and no-one even took him up on it, that you don't talk to the press, keep every dispute in the family. There's lack of transparency within the party whereas they preach transparency in government and one wonders, and we talked to one of their senior ministers this morning who effectively said that the government is responsible to the party not to the people.

DM. Well democratic centralism which has emerged basically as part of Lenin's very important tool, as you know, in keeping the party together. The party is supposed to supersede, obviously, the state because in it lay the vanguard role. The gatekeepers in the party primarily, within a Marxist/Leninist or in a Stalinist concept of a party for that matter, maybe a Leninist concept of a party, you had to have the vanguard and the vanguard had to protect the vital interests of the people and they would know what the people wanted, postulate what the people want and would defend what the people want. So it smacks of that, there's no doubt about that. It's very sad but actually we have lost that. I thought the ANC had a better chance of being able to have a much more open democracy and be able to debate party differences internally. I thought they had a better chance because they are such a motley crowd. You know they came just from everywhere and I really thought that they would therefore understand. They have Tutu in their midst, they have ministers and everything.

. But think about it, imposing a Premier on a province, it doesn't matter how much they say they're consulting. If Lekota falls by the wayside you would expect some grassroots process which would lead to the appointment of a Premier, election of a Premier. I mean the way it was done, you saw that, it was very Machiavellian. Mhlaba, it was whispered to him, "You have to go now, it's time, sorry we can't tolerate this any more." And he did it in a very grand old way which was fine, you know, "I'm tired, I'm old, I'm going." So it's very unfortunate. I don't think, Cyril himself thinks that it's an overly democratic party in which he is. I don't think so. But his PR has been great and many people's PR, the ANC has got a very good PR stance on many issues but they are falling apart unfortunately on those issues.

. And that leads me to your next question. I think there is going to be a greater fragmentation, initially smaller parties which nobody trusts, and I think that will lead to a much more consolidated position in time. So, yes, it's sad that has happened but I think you're going to have a fragmentation. I think just shortly before 1999, I think you're going to have a resurgence of the PAC but it won't be to a level that will turn the tables, but you're going to have more MPs coming out of the PAC ranks than you had. They are going through a major leadership struggle. Makoba, Bishop Makoba may take leadership and bring on the table a large followership of probably the largest church in South Africa, the Methodist church, and the many, many hundreds of thousands and couple of million of PAC supporters who just felt that there was no leadership in the party. So that will be the one factor. I think the Nats will retain their level of support, they won't lose to the ANC because it's well cut out. It's basically a clear coloured constituency, some bits of Indians and the bulk of the white voters I think will rally behind the NP.

POM. Let me just take you up on that. I've interviewed Mr de Klerk and Roelf Meyer on a number of occasions and particularly tried to take them to task over this new National Party where they are going to attract millions of African voters and they say that they accept the inevitability of the leadership of the NP becoming African, that's the only way that it's going to happen.

DM. Business leaders adapted to that particular dynamic faster than political leaders.

POM. Do you think that given its past, its history, that to believe that in the space of ten or twelve years even that Africans are going to forget 300 years of oppression, 50 years of apartheid, and turn round and vote in some way for the party that is associated with their former oppressors?

DM. The answer is a clear no, it won't happen. You see what's going to happen, some bright young sparks, African, are going to see another vehicle in it, it might even be coloured for that matter, they are going to shove out most of the old leaders. I think De Klerk has lost his vision. He will hope that the ANC government will falter so badly that he will become the natural choice, bring back the good old past. That's not going to happen. The ANC government fared far better than most people gave it, far, far better. Despite what I've said I think they've done a reasonably good job and I'll come back to that in a moment. So De Klerk's plan did not quite work, it's not going to work. The army stayed far more stable than most people thought but at this point in time the army is fairly, there are a large majority of black soldiers now, so even if you're in the leadership it will be damned risky to try and use the army because in fact it has a majority of black soldiers, foot soldiers, so it would be bloody dangerous to try and use the army in a way that will destabilise government. So that bit has been got right. The police are mad, they are inefficient, incompetent, they have no loyalty.

POM. Some people, again, have suggested to me that this police force, the security forces in the apartheid days were supposed to be one of the most feared and efficient and efficacious security apparatuses in the world, that they would always track down their person and get their person, and it turned into what appears to be a motley crew that can't catch a carjacker at Jeppe Street and Bree. Some people suggest that's because there are still elements of the third force operating within the police. The lack of solving crime is not because you can't solve it, it's a way of showing that South Africa is going the way of the rest of Africa.

DM. It's part of a grander plan albeit playing itself out very clumsily. I think De Klerk hoped that the ANC would botch up things so badly that he would have another shot at presidency. I really thought that he laid down believing that South Africans will not tolerate five years of incompetence and he would be called back and he would be seen as a redeemer. I think some police thought that this is the short spell of black rule and it will die down. There are a number of theories in any event. The first is the bulk of the efficient guys are on trial, they are on the run, the Truth Commission, they are settling statements to say what the hell they did or did not do. Is it not true? Malan and company have just gone through a trial for their bloody work, nine months, eighteen months? That was gruelling stuff to be on trial for that long time. So the sharpshooters are on trial, are on the run, they are hiding, they are working out lies how to meet the situation. And there is just this moral pressure on them to come clean and it's an implicit threat that one must understand that really reconciliation is premised on the truth and if you don't quite tell the truth, it's not quite said, but it means there will be no reconciliation. That is the rider, that's a corollary that comes with it. Tell the truth please but if you don't tell the truth we're going to charge you, we're going to arrest you, we're going to put you on trial like Malan. So that's implicit.

POM. Just, I know we're wandering, but we're touching the important points, at least from my point of view.

DM. I'm sorry I keep on jumping to another point but I'm trying to give you complete answers.

POM. On the Truth Commission, there appears to be one that was either the HSRC poll or an IDASA poll that shows 64% of whites either thought it was a witch-hunt, were uninterested or disapproving and families that we've talked to readily admit that they don't follow the proceedings of it, at cocktail parties the axing of Francois Pienaar is far more a topic of conversation than what went on at Vlakplaas. This time we sense, at least I do, an anger among whites, a resentment that wasn't there a year ago as though they are being put on trial, they don't feel guilty, they don't feel remorse. You see those guys standing up on television when they give their statements, you feel they are just saying enough to get amnesty but they don't feel one damn thing about any of the atrocities they committed and in a peculiar way that the Truth Commission, at least as it is, is adding to a kind of - and then you have blacks resenting in a way that whites aren't being apologetic, that's all they're being asked to do, and there is a resentment there that so little is asked for and even less is given and it's led to a kind of racial polarisation that I hadn't noticed before.

DM. That's true. I was personally, and I have been around here living through all these tensions in the last thirty years, certainly, of my conscious life, but, yes, the week when all these revelations came out: I killed so-and-so, I did so-and-so, blew up young guys in a van, took a few and gave them hand grenades and these exploded in their hands, playing people's brains with a simulated CD and record player or whatever it is. There was a week, two weeks, three weeks where I just met a lot of people, very moderate well-balanced black South Africans who were just angry. They more they heard the more angry they became. We thought this was it, we thought this is what happened. We always knew there was no black on black violence in that sense of the word. We always knew this. We always knew that people who died in detention actually did for the reasons that we thought they did. But we always knew that lots of activists were killed, abducted, they were maimed, they were shot, we knew that, and Vlakplaas we knew was there. But as you hear it, and guys sit there, no remorse no nothing, you can actually see it, you can sense it. The victims are crying harder than the bloody perpetrators and they tend to look bloody damn stupid. Most people say stop crying for God damn sake, these guys owe you a bloody apology. The weak ones, you should be the people sitting up there to say how wrong it was and not screaming and moaning and crying.

. So, in short, yes, I think it's unfortunate that the white community, or some people in the white community, should think that it's witch-hunt. It's a mid way between trials, Nuremberg style trials and just trying to get the bloody truth out of them, admit it, fifty years, awful fifty years and longer. So that mid way must cause tension. I would be surprised if it did not and I will be truly deeply disappointed if it did not. In fact it would show a high level of intolerance I think on the part of whites if they would understand that the compromise that we have made was, "Let's be reconciliatory for any number of good and bad reasons and in time let's just get something sorted out." And one of these is it's a very, not just an African thing, it's a human thing for people to want to get to what they think is the bottom of some evil thing that happened and then they feel better and they believe that that's the way to start afresh.

POM. But that isn't there, at least I haven't seen it in the segments of the white community that I've talked to over the years. There may be a generalised recognition that apartheid was wrong and we were never, it's like we never knew the real things that were going on during apartheid and we certainly never knew about the Vlakplaases and the security policy and things like that and, of course, we would have objected, therefore we are not responsible, therefore why should we be made to feel responsible for things which we genuinely don't feel responsible for?

DM. Actually nobody is trying to make individual white South Africans feel responsible for the larger picture. I think we've been careful and succeeded to break that perception. Frankly, in all fairness, there is no generalised hatred for white people in South Africa, there is no such. We have done very well. Short of crime there is no generalised attempt to cause discomfort for people just purely because they're white. If you think about, if you think of the numbers, whites are 15% now in the latest statistics, 15% or 12%, it's a small percentage in relation to the vast numbers, it's getting smaller, the vast number are African people and they wield enormous power. That's what they never factor into the relationships we are having now. And I said to the guys who work for me at Telkom, I said all the time that we are ready to get on with it, to accommodate you within these structures and to live all together. It's because in fact we accept that you're South Africans, two, we accept that you are entitled to be where you are, unlike you, you didn't accept that we had to be there, you really thought that we were non-human beings, but we take an entirely different position. And despite enormous power I can substitute the top layer of Telkom tomorrow, I can get ten sharp Americans, I will pay them, you buy skills. I can pay them and put them in the position and get rid of the ten Afrikaner guys in those same positions. I can get ten Germans to do it for me, ten Swedes. I can do it tomorrow but it's not about that. In fact we have tried to move from retribution, we have created a conscious exit point so that we can be able to move on and it's important too.

. Whites have enormous power in proportion to their numbers, enormous. They own 98% of the economy. NAIL ... and this is 2%, teeny weeny two, calculating from the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. So we should not get confused about the power roles. The political power is firmly in African hands, there is no doubt about that, it has shifted nearly completely. The power in the civil service is gradually shifting, it is gradually shifting. To sink it down takes a little longer. At the bottom there are a lot of blacks, at the top there are a lot of blacks, in the middle there are a lot of whites who still make most things work. And great, this is part of the things that they should do, it's lovely. And that is an enormous protection also for them, their skills which they acquired in an unequal society. It's an enormous protection. Having said all that we have been most magnanimous in accepting our countrymen and women and most people mean it, they genuinely would like to see a South Africa that is rainbow, that represents all of us and what you require is just the same level of understanding.

. Lastly, I don't think one can conclude without actually - I understand and appreciate apprehension amongst the white people. Young white people believe that they have no prospects. Again they are wrong. We need at least another generation to turn around the inequalities, so they are going to remain fairly more equal human beings than their counterparts of the same age because they've had that much, just that much resources to get them to the point where they are, including the work ethic, the values they have absorbed in relation to work and achievement and responsibility in institutions, in companies. So, yes, we need another generation to actually be able to turn around those power relations around economics. It takes longer than just a few years. And that's the safeguard which South African whites have.

. And lastly, the opulence in which they live they won't find anywhere else in the world. They just need to travel, they just need to get out of here to know that they are sitting in the lap of luxury. You and I know it, everybody knows it who has travelled anywhere around the world. So it's a group of very powerful people, if not themselves they have cousins and uncles who have had a horrendous past on race relations and they find themselves at a time when the patching is being done, all the healing is being done, and there are prices to be paid for that. Corporate bosses in a typical way understand that they have to protect their interests actively and so they go out to actually make alliances, they go out to find, to make space for other entrepreneurs and it's a major upsurge of black entrepreneurs who are getting in and they are finding a lot of space created by their counterparts. Anglo-American did that with Afrikaners and they are doing it now again with Africans and it's right, it's proper and it's what must happen at all levels. We must consciously understand that other people want space and if we have the wisdom to create the space we will contain a lot of conflict. It's inevitable that in the next ten years are going to be more and more black corporations. NAIL is just a front-runner so there is a lot of noise about us, unduly, but I think in time there will be, and we've got to do better than most African countries as you can see. I think a lot of people are going to redirect their energies into adding value, creating wealth and I think that is going to be inevitable here in particular because you have got a layer of people who are reasonably well educated and that layer you don't find abounding everywhere in the world when there's a colonial transition so we're lucky. And, too, we're again lucky that whites have not left, so that softens the transition.

POM. Let me go back to multipartyism and just the future of democracy in South Africa. (When the tape runs out it will be exactly an hour because it runs for exactly an hour.) Given the emphasis the ANC is putting on parties it is at least a one-party dominant state and seems to be behaving more autocratically than at the beginning of the transition. One, do you think that trend will continue? Two, do you think that too much emphasis is put by the west on developing western style democracy, western liberalism and that they tend to judge the degree of democracy in an African country by the yardsticks of western society and mature western societies very often, rather than by the indigenous democracies that exist among communities and have existed for centuries among communities? And three, do you see the alliance going down the drain after the election or do you think what I would call the aphrodisiac of power can make for very disagreeable bedfellows, that once you have the power you hang on to it even if there is a lot of disagreement, power itself becomes the cement?

DM. Sure. I think the fragmentation, as I said before, to start with the third question, after 1999 I think a whole range of factors, the economics and what else would put more pressure on Thabo Mbeki to be more strident about a number of economic policies. That will lead to, I think, a socialist or a labourite type party perhaps on the Scandinavian model, left of the ANC proper. The ANC proper will become, I think, slimmer and thinner. It will still retain quite a number of people, if Mr Mandela is still alive and well he will probably appear from rally to rally and he will probably be very valuable so the ANC will still be in power after 1999. I think the true test will be 2004. They will be much stronger, in a much stronger position. Power may be retained or lost in 2004 I think. I think, yes, the ANC will internally continue to be authoritarian because they are facing a possible splintering and I think party discipline whatever it is, and party discipline will be enunciated by party leaders, you won't see it on paper anyway, it will basically be in the judgement of the party leader; you're out of step and get off the train. Holomisa is one such example. Instead of being complimented he was thrown out for saying Stella accepted bribes a few years ago. It's the sort of thing that you should get a pat on your back for and he was thrown out and nobody has ever contested that Stella received bribes a few years ago, so where are we? But he has gone. So it will be the judgement of the party leader. Are westerners entitled to judge other democracies? No, the answer is no in my view.

POM. I'm saying do they or should they, I'm asking do they?

DM. Are they entitled or should they judge? Yes they should, they should be judging all the time, they should be applying some yardstick and they will apply the yardstick they know best. But whether or not we should place much credence on the outcome of their judgement is another matter and my answer would generally be no. But having said that, it's a slippery slope. I think actually certain norms have become globalised. I don't think you can get away with the fact that after a specified term you have got to present yourself to those who have put you in power and seek more to extend your authority. I don't think you can run away from that. I don't think you can run away from the fact that you have to have a proper judiciary. It must work efficiently, fairly. I don't think division of power, it's something that's quite entrenched now, develop arms of government. And in fact we have taken up those values in our constitution. Many of those values are enshrined there. I dare say not all of them are of western origin. Many, many of them are of African origin that are in our constitution but that's where we are. It's a melting pot and I think all those values will be subjects of contestation and people will adopt one or the other out of convenience but I would hope that certain core principles, in South Africa in particular, enshrined in the constitution I think will stay. So the west who judges that constitution, whether we are true to our constitution or not, I don't think people in Indonesia are any more entitled to execute others because they're sitting in Indonesia. I don't think you can depart from certain standards. How liberal, western they are we can debate that. I think it's just sheer human decency, you don't kill other people because you think they are guilty. I think you try and create safeguards that ensure that you preserve life as often as you can.

POM. Would you draw distinctions between what you would envisage as indigenous African democracy vis-à-vis, say, the democracy of a Westminster or a Washington DC?

DM. It should be a subject of a PhD dissertation. I think a few people have written on that too. Yes, we mustn't undermine the way the world's values have coalesced. I think they have, many values have. Human dignity is a very important part of African values, extremely important and therefore it will be very central in the way you arrange things. Two, I think there is a very strong sense of communal conduct in African people. It's a core value. Most people have said NAIL has done well with their race, what is it doing for the people? It almost comes as a rejoinder instantly. There's a clear distinction. People look askance at western individualism, rapacious individualistic conduct is just disapproved and that is reinforced I think by years of struggle. It's not good fun to rise alone, you must try and take along as many people as possible as you go on. Worse still if you were to kick the ladder, as the guys say, once you are at the top you kick the ladder it's even a greater crime. You must keep the ladder on so that other people can come along. You don't get up and push it over. But it's a very strong African thing that food gets prepared communally and many other things. You may say that's just a characteristic of developing societies all over the world. It's a bit of that but also they are very important values. The weddings are different. It's not two people trying to hide in an idealistic spot and marrying, it's two families coming together and they create bonds for a lifetime. That still happens. Africans even sing jointly, almost spontaneously. If you collar them one guy starts a song, almost all of them can join with different levels of harmonies, sometimes polyphony, sometimes three songs are sung at the same time and people weave this into one song, a beautiful set of melodies. Yes it's a very communal society and that differs fundamentally from European values. People don't get applauded solely because they are millionaires, period. They have got skills and hard work, they are smart, tough, they are entitled to it. I don't think African people tend to do things that way, they do them rather differently. Mandela had to take R50,000 of his salary and donate it. He has to. He's expected to. He knows he must. It isn't just an act of charity, it's very deeply embedded in part of his values, set of values, core values.

POM. Could you just contrast that with, again we were out in Thokoza last night talking to one of the families we visit every six months and this man has been a member of the ANC, still is a member of the ANC, he voted ANC, and has always seen Thokoza as being one of the flash points of struggle where people suffered a lot. He went on a diatribe about the ANC and what they hadn't done and the promises they had made and still there's dirt outside his door and he thought he might have been better off under a National Party government. He could consider actually going for the National Party in the next government. And all he saw were people with their fancy clothes and their Rolex watches and their Mercedes and BMWs on what's called the gravy train. That was his perception. "Nothing has happened to me or my community and yet there are some people out there who have done very well by the struggle."

DM. That also is true. It is true in both ways. It is true that there are people who have done well out of the transition. I may be one of those, I have done well out of the transition, no doubt. And the more skills you have the greater the chance that you'll do well because it's virgin land so you would have much greater chances of doing well by applying yourself hard. But of course there are many people who did well even before the transition because of their skills and the situation permitted it. Now more than ever before though it is true. OK, it's true. Two, others have done very well in government. They are not particularly hard working but they do well, they do well, housing subsidy, this and that and they live well.

. It's also true that there are many people who have got nothing out of it. The trick of a smart political leader is how you're going to deal with just that. Now you can't be overly smart because there's no easy solution to it. There's no solution in the US or in Canada or right round the world where everybody is instantly made great. It takes 100 years, it takes 50 years, so the trick is how you actually find short deliverables that you reach and achieve and set in motion a mindset that things are rolling and in fact government and business leaders are not there just for themselves, they are setting processes that are rolling. We had to do a Johnnic where we took 50% of labour to come along. The biggest deal in the country, half of it was bought by trade unions. We found them, we sought them out, we pursued their leaders, go and find your pension fund, come and buy in. We had to do it, it was important to share firstly with them in a very, very big deal but, two, to get them to be stakeholders, to buy in, to come in.

. Then thirdly, to say to them that in fact things are moving. It was very important. So, yes, the answer is true there are lots of people who have done well, there are some on the gravy train. I think political leaders could have done more on housing. I would build more houses in six months than Condor has built in 2½ years. You can do it, just brandish money before contractors. Tell them to find the land they will find it for a commission. They will find the land for you, half half, and you can build high rise, high density accommodation for lots and lots of people who are lying in the streets and in the cold. The government has seven/eight billion rand rolling over from this year to next year's budget that they haven't used. So you can do it, you just need a few basic business principles and you can actually do it. So it's true that there could have been a high level of delivery but there are certain levels of poverty which no government will reach in 2½ years, I don't care how good they are.

POM. I want to put that in the context of South Africa becoming part of the global economy, of tariffs and import duties under GATT and other trade agreements having to be reduced, of the generally uncompetitive nature of South African industry. I think, in the last six, seven months the Central Statistics Office said something like 60,000 manufacturing jobs were lost. Employment is not going up and one of the phenomena of the modern era is that you have growth without jobs and South Africa would appear to be heading in that direction with the capacity to grow but not with the capacity to create jobs because whether of technology or all these other factors business becomes more capital intensive, technology intensive not labour intensive.

DM. Sure, sure, more technology, more brain, more capital intensive. At the World Economic Forum last year I was addressing one of the sessions and I said to them if you are in a developing country you feel like screaming and saying stop the world I want to get off. You feel like saying that if you're a leader in a developing country. The reasons are simple. The globalisation trends are consistent with developed economies which can afford and which must adapt into global manufacturing, global markets. Both raw material goods and money markets they need global markets. That need has been translated into reality. I think one must understand that. And if you're sitting more likely as a recipient, as a market, we call it an emerging market, you are at the receiving end of globalisation. South African manufacturing could not be competitive at all for a number of bad reasons and we can rattle through them, you know all of them. Tariff protections, exchange controls, no competition, business by patronage, name them, there's a whole range of them and they are a small market anyway and sanctions sealed it off for them. It was hunky-dory, it was cosy, if you're going to do so much and overcharge everybody they don't even know it. They're earning so much they pay you, everybody is making money, it was OK. That's how it went on in the past.

. Now look at government over-expenditure. One of the current targets of trying to bring government over-expenditure within 4% of GDP it's crazy, it's murderous. You know what it means? You must shut down hospitals, you must fire police, well not fire police but you must demobilise the army. It's madness in a country with this level of crime where do you take the army to? You need more young people to get straight and right. You need more young people to get into the army and get trained and use them to build bridges and roads and schools and houses and clean up this bloody country. That's what you need. You need cheap labour to be able to add value. That's what you need because you can't create jobs any other way. Let the taxpayer pay a little more and that you can do by a more efficient civil service. But the minute you do that what you're actually doing, the whole macro-economic plan has great parts but the bad parts of it are to try and reduce public expenditure because when you do that those who catch the hit are the poor but it's the poor who you cannot afford to catch the hit now because you must cut all the public amenities the poor depend on, schools, health, retrench teachers. It's crazy in these schools in the country, how can you train teachers?

. So what I'm really saying to you is that coming back to the more hard-nosed economic issues, it's inevitable that South African manufacturing will have to move towards niche manufacturing. We know that 60% of jobs are generated now by neither the primary nor the secondary sectors of the economy. It's indeed the financial services, it is IT, it is telecommunications where the expansion occurs and not in mining, not in any of those areas. It's going to make it even tougher for us so we want to get off, we want to have an agrarian existence. I want to take half of the people back to the bloody rural areas and say produce your food, you'll have to starve, you'll have to sleep in the street and so produce your food. OK, a programme to try and get people to get a few heads of cattle and start their own ranches. That's really what we should be doing and not everybody all over hanging around here. So there are simpler strategies of job creation than trying to chase what is best for the UK. It's not best for us. They can't actually get people to get back to the soil and till it. We can.

POM. You can? You think you can?

DM. We can. I think you can, notionally you can. I say to them notionally they can't do it even if they want to do it and I say that we should really look at plans on whether in fact we can be able to tackle issues of globalisation a different way. I think you still need for instance communal farming. You still need, what do they call it again? There's a simple word for that, all the communal societies which farmers had over the years, you still need most of those. Without impeding competition, don't stand in its way, let the different societies compete with each other. But our escape route is not, we can't make everybody an IT fundi tomorrow so I think there must be high levels of training going on. I think public expenditure must not be curtailed too lightly. I think we must find other ways of ramping up growth and that should not necessarily be at the expense of public expenditure. I really don't think so. I think it's great to try and strive for low level single digit inflation, it's great to bitch around about the benefits of high interests rates to attract investment. None of that happened and actually, if anything, I don't think western investors have real faith in our ability to contain any political fallout and they think when Mandela goes everything will fall apart. They are wrong, hopelessly wrong. I think there is a much deeper layer of leadership than they expect both on economic as well as on political matters and we will keep them contained, that's quite clear. I don't think they are persuaded that the returns are right at this stage, two, that their money is safe. I don't think it's just forex, it's much more than forex and if anything I think there will be this pent-up demand for investment, globally for that matter, so the better performance South African enterprises are in fact going to try and diversify their portfolios by placing money everywhere else in the world except here.

POM. How about NAIL? What role does it play in this whole concept of black empowerment? How is it made to trickle down to the homeless, the unemployed, the shack dweller?

DM. I don't think any different from the way Anglo-American would try and do it for now. Let me tell you why. You build critical mass before you start distributing. You don't set up an office operation like this and start distributing. I think there's just too much noise about what NAIL is and what it can do. 30,000 shareholders, that's what NAIL has, 30,000 individual shareholders, Metlife which holds about 30%, 20% is held by Sanlam and together with control Metlife. Metropolitan Life has about three million policy holders who we really work for to grow that entity so we are using their contractual savings in order to be able to do a whole range of things, a wide variety of investments like those Asians. We have just set up a private equity fund of a billion and we provide finance for entities seeking to make investments in order of between 10 and 30 million, so you have to actually develop and grow entrepreneurs and that's what we're doing. We've actually raised money in the market place of a billion. [ and we're placing it in the hands of ...]

. You say, are we building streets or toilets or houses? The answer is no. We're running a normal business and we mean to run it with very healthy profits to make sure that in fact it continues to invest even more. You would have seen from the media a new focus would be not just on financial services which was our major thrust in the past, on to industrials. We have just bought Johnnic which is a number of industrial companies. We have enormous opportunities for young black entrepreneurs and executives to come in and manage assets. We're going to make that possible. We're going to go into mining, we made a bid for JCI as you noticed and we lost the bid and the plan was that Cyril would run mining and I would run financial services here and we have media assets as you know. We have acquired more print, electronic media than we ever dreamt of two years ago, Sunday Times, Business Day, Financial Mail, Sowetan, New Nation, name it, and all of these essentially are creating jobs and making sure that they are managed principally by South Africans and through a large component of black people in there. So we are creating jobs.

. I think the wave should grow. I want to see 1000 NAILs, a million NAILs, and the challenge is to enter manufacturing. It's early days, we're here 18 months. It has been a meteoric rise in 18 months to build what we have built in that short space of time. There must be critical mass and that critical mass will be converted into a manufacturing capacity. And the problems I've mentioned other South African companies will have even more because they will be less experienced. I think there will be global competitiveness required. There will be global financing requirements which would actually put a major challenge on us in South Africa and I think you will have to increase the number of loyal, as somebody said, the South African Communist Party said we need a loyal national bourgeoisie at this hour in our history who should be there to help generate wealth for all of us. After all governments depend on tax and tax is generated by good business people.

POM. I have one last question. There is a provision in the constitution that provides for some form of public funding of political parties that is supposed to be both proportionate and equitable, whatever that is. One, do you think that money should be made available to political parties for development purposes? Two, should more emphasis be put on giving to new political formations than existing political formations? And three, could you ever see the ANC, as the government that would be putting through the legislation, adopting a formula that would give the National Party a share of that fund that would be greater than it's share of the vote by saying the National Party only got 20% of the vote, they are a small party, they need maybe 25% of the available funds?

DM. The answer is no. Logically one should be spreading the funds in inverse proportion, inverse to their size, but I don't think that's going to happen because the lighter you are the more access to resources. In fact the ANC had quite a lot of donations during it's campaign over and above what we provided from the IEC. My second role was to be the co-Chairman of the IEC, so I had the privilege of running the elections in this country and it was a job which almost killed me. I thought I would die. It was the most onerous job I ever had to do in my life. And then too we provided money. I think that money should be provided, I think it should be provided, more must go to new parties and I think the formula must favour a multiparty democracy by loading it that way. I don't think the ANC will agree, they would just be funding their opposition, they will be unseating themselves so to speak. I don't think business in this country has a long tradition of providing money to political parties. They bitch and moan when they have to do it and there is no cult here of thanking business once you are in power, there is no such practice. The National Party simply chose their boeties and fed them and they in turn paid the party large donations. That's really how it worked in the past. But there is no sophisticated system of rewarding people who would give your party money. I think, yes, business must be kept out of it.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to theThis resource is hosted by the site.