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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

20 Mar 1997: Moosa, Mohammed Valli

Click here for more information on the Interviewee

POM. Let me begin first with a question about behaviour. A lot of people have criticised Dullah Omar for making a public pronouncement of support for Allan Boesak and suggest that as a Minister for Justice that he should not take such a public stand on the issue, such a public stand of solidarity and support while the matter is before the courts. Do you think this is a superficial argument being put forward or that it has merit, that again things could be handled better and differently?

VM. What would the critics have said had Dullah Omar not been the Minister of Justice?  The fact of the matter is that he is Minister of Justice but at the same time he is leader of the ANC in the province so I think that one must bear that in mind also. As leader of the ANC in the province he has certain party responsibilities. He has, particularly during the eighties, worked very closely with Allan Boesak who is also from the Western Cape. The general sentiment in the ANC is that one should value contributions that people have made in the course of the struggle. One should always value that. By the way I have not had a discussion with Dullah Omar on this matter, like you I have been following the media reports and I have not seen in the media him commenting directly on the merits of the case, on the merits of the charges against Allan Boesak. All he has said is that Allan Boesak is one of us. He's been away, he's come back and we would like to express our solidarity with  him. I think it's just a kind of warmth which we're all about.

POM. So you find the criticism misguided and kind of quibbling, it's like making an issue where there is not really an issue?

VM. I think so, that you would always find opposition parties finding a reason to criticise and that's what it's all about, it's just party politics if the ANC did not say anything, the ANC is completely silent it could well have been that some of those in the opposition would have said that, well, the ANC abandons its leaders and abandons its comrades when they're in moments of need.

POM. Talking about opposition, your former colleague Roelf Meyer is sitting there in a room some place with a blank piece of paper in front of him and he is supposed to come up between now and the end of the year with the outlines for a new movement. I've a couple of questions. One, is this fantasy on the part of the National Party that it can broker some kind of new movement, fold the NP into that and attract large numbers of Africans to vote for them. or do they simply not get it, that the legacy of the past means that those associated with the NP are for ever blemished among black people and black people may not go out and vote for Africans, may not go out and vote in such large numbers for the ANC in the next election if they are disillusioned but they are certainly not going to turn to a party whose main elements incorporate the former leadership of the NP even if they put black faces up front?

VM. I don't think this is part necessarily of a profound strategic analysis of the South African political scene that has led the NP towards trying to spearhead the formation of some new movement, non-racial movement. I think it's simply out of real necessity. What does the NP do? It is quite clear that in its present form all that would happen is that it would continue to shrink and possibly disappear somewhere down the line. Its support base is shrinking, the morale within the party is shrinking. In the next elections in the present form and with their present policies they are unlikely to make any major inroads or improve on their performance and therefore they have one of two options, either to close shop or to find something else to do and that's what they're trying to do. They have realised that in the name of the NP they would not be able to broaden their base at all so the next logical thing then to do is to say, fine, we're happy to abandon our name, and they are looking around for somebody, I don't know who, to join them. It's a shot in the dark, let me say, it's a shot in the dark. I think some of the people who are trying to do it are brave because it's an uphill battle and it's unlikely that they would  be able to create any formidable political movement, certainly not in the near future.

POM. I've talked to both FW and to Roelf about this whole thing.

VM. I'm sure they have a lot of time to grant you interviews now.

POM. They've lots of time, no problem. I don't get cancelled there or rescheduled! It's like the old days with you. I look at their statements before the TRC, I still hear De Klerk saying apartheid was a noble experiment that failed but it was conceived in the right spirit and it got out of hand and bad things happened and we're sorry the bad things happened, but it wasn't intended, that was not the intended sequence of events that we had anticipated. You have Roelf saying petty apartheid was wrong but grand apartheid was in fact, we were trying to give liberation to blacks while blacks in other countries were fighting against colonial power to get free of them, we were actually saying here we'll give you land to become free. Their apologies are always associated with a 'but', a defensive truculence of self-justification and that they have no sense of what they did, no real sense of the brutality, the dehumanisation and the oppression that they subjected millions of people to for forty years. They just don't get it. In your conversations with, say, members of their party or whatever, what's your feeling?

VM. You know, Padraig, in the recent period you would have noticed that the relationship between the ANC and the NP has just continued to deteriorate day after day after day. This party with which we've been able to negotiate a political settlement, a party with whom we've agreed that we would set up a government of national unity, work in partnership for the period of the transition, at least for five years etc., that in a very short space of time after the elections the relationships had begun to deteriorate and I think that says something. If you look at the dynamics in parliament, all of the parties of course are in rivalry and competition and criticise each other and attack each other, but all of the parties now have developed a very special hostility towards the NP, the ANC certainly, also the IFP, the Democratic Party, which of course they were the traditional opposition party of the NP, the Freedom Front for that matter, the PAC which you would expect anyway. And this stems from the question which you are asking, that the conduct of the NP since the 1994 elections has been such that they continue to fight just for white privilege, that's what they stand for, they stand for white privilege, oppose any kind of re-distributive measures, oppose any measures that will bring about equity be it in health, be it in education, in the public service, in employment generally, all of those measures have consistently been opposed by the NP. On the one hand you find that.

. On the other hand there is an arrogance which they continue to display which stems from their refusal to come to terms with their past, to come to terms with the past of this country. Many of them, the sense that you get when you speak to many of the NP members or when you observe their conduct, the sense that you get is deep down they do yearn for the past, they do yearn for the good old days of apartheid and I am quite convinced that when they are on their own amongst themselves they probably speak about that quite openly. Of course not all of them, there may well be individuals who don't, and even those like FW who one may have thought was one of the more sophisticated leaders of the NP, in my view he has failed to really become part of the new nation-building project, to become part of the reconstruction and development of this country and unless he does that and unless the NP does that I don't think that there is any hope that they would make any progress whatsoever.

POM. On the one hand I have been told, in fact something that his brother subscribes to, is that he is all for a new movement as long as it doesn't bring about a split in the NP. But a split may be inevitable.  You can't reform something that has to be abolished and you can't reform the NP, you simply have to abolish it and if you refuse to abolish it you get caught in this dichotomy of trying to hang on to what you were and trying to recreate yourself at the same time and they are contradictory.

VM. If you look at it the NP since has said that they are the New National Party, it's not about seven or eight years since they are the New National Party. They said they are not the NP which implemented apartheid policies, that they believe in democracy and non-racialism. This New National Party since it became new up to now has failed to look like a new party, it's still a party that is dominated at leadership level, and at middle leadership level for that matter, by white male Afrikaners and people who have always been in the NP. That's essentially what you find so there has been an inability to do that. I'm not sure what's in their minds with this new movement, that they are starting off from the base of the NP and in many of their minds they may not see it, even if they don't admit to themselves, the formation of a completely new political movement that has policies that are significantly different from the ANC or that has an ideological orientation that is significantly different from the ANC, that they perceive a need in society for a political voice to articulate the interests of a sentiment in the populace that is against the present policies of the ANC. I don't think they really see it in that way. Their starting point really is that the NP is too white, the NP has got a bad name,  it's associated with apartheid, Verwoerd was a leader of the NP, PW Botha was a leader of the NP, John Vorster was a leader of the NP, the TRC, all of the stuff coming out through the TRC daily exposes the crimes of the NP and therefore we cannot progress, we cannot make any electoral progress in the form in which we are and therefore we need to change our form. I think that's how they really see it. We need to get black faces in the leadership, we need to find a new name, we need to change the colours of the party. That's really where they are at, they are trying to find a better face, they're not really changing themselves as such.

POM. It's like the wolf in sheep's clothing.

VM. Yes. There is another problem of course they would have and that is in today's South Africa if you want to be non-racial, you want to mass based, you want to vie for power in the real sense, then you need the support of the poor in this country, you need the support of the formerly oppressed and the formerly marginalised majority. You also need support from the middle strata, you need support from the working class, certainly from the organised working class, you need some segments of the organised working class possibly to support you. You will need some support from business and industry in order to become a viable opposition. But then you need to be able to go to those people and say to them why it is that the ANC's policies are wrong, and I think that's where they are going to falter. They have up to now not come up with any alternative vision whatsoever. It would be very difficult to find out from them what are their economic policies. What is the social development programme that they have? What is it that they want to do in the field of education and human resource development? How do they understand the political programme of this country? What sort of foreign policy do they want to have? And once you begin to go down to those brass tacks either they would have an education and health policy which the majority of South Africans, especially the formerly oppressed, will want to have nothing to do with because it would favour whites, which is what they articulate presently in parliament, they articulate the policy basically in favour of whites. Either they would do that or if they don't then they would be saying exactly what the ANC says. They would be saying exactly what the ANC says and they would have problems with their own traditional base whom they haven't carried along with them into the new South Africa successfully and the masses of this country would frankly rather trust the ANC than trust them. Frankly they would rather trust Thabo Mbeki than Roelf Meyer or any other black person that Roelf Meyer finds to be side-kick, let's face it. So that's the problem they have so this new movement of theirs doesn't give me any sleepless nights. I think they may well be able to come up with something, something that looks nice. I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing if they do. Nobody is trying to stop them or prevent them from doing it. I just don't think there are going to be any big shakes about it.

POM. I want to go back to the TRC, the revelations of the last weeks with more death farms, more hit squads and the continuing insistence by everybody who was in charge of a ministry that they knew absolutely nothing about what was going on,  it's a complete surprise to them and they do not accept even the concept of ministerial accountability, that it happened under your watch, therefore if you didn't know you should have known. The example I would give you is that under the British system, I'm not a great admirer of the British system, but you may remember Lord Carrington in the early 1980s when the Argentineans invaded the Malvinas he rushed to parliament and said, "It was on my watch, I didn't keep a lookout for those Argentinean ships, I should have known where they were heading. I take responsibility. I resign." And they all said, "Hear, hear!" He did the honourable thing. But I can find nobody in the NP, and I put this to Roelf the other day, I said, "You were Deputy Minister of Law & Order under Adriaan Vlok when Vlakplaas was put into existence, did you know anything about it?" He said "Absolutely nothing." I said, "Well to what degree as a minister do you hold yourself accountable? How should you be held accountable for the fact that you knew absolutely nothing?" Do you get my point, that they can't get to -

VM. I know exactly what you're saying because what happens is that no minister can know everything that his department does. I've got a fairly small department, I don't know about everything the department does. But my responsibility as a political representative, as a minister of government, as a person accountable to parliament and accountable to the public and to cabinet of course, my responsibility is to ensure that I'm on top of all of the activities of the department and those areas of activities of the department which I know that I do not have day-to-day knowledge about, because no minister can have day-to-day knowledge about, that I am comfortable with the policy, I am comfortable with the people who are there, I know that while so-and-so is director of this particular section of the department they are doing such and such, I don't know exactly what they do but I know that the director is an honest person, I know these are the policies, the one or two checks that I've done have left me reasonably satisfied. If in that directorate they do something which is a violation of government policy I will accept  responsibility. I have got to accept responsibility. It's the least - why else do people vote for me? Why else did they put me there? Why else do I stand for it? Why else do I run for election? I run for election and I say to people, "Vote for me, I will be able to implement the policies which you want in the Department of Provincial Affairs and Constitutional Development." That's what I say and the moment I am unable to do so, whether I know about it or not I have got to take personal responsibility for that. I have got to take responsibility for that.

. One can't without evidence level the accusation that such-and-such minister in the previous NP government knew about this or did not know about that. You would never know it. I think it's actually immaterial. One, they don't take responsibility. They didn't take responsibility even at that time. Two, even at the time when all of this was going on the then President of the ANC, Mandela, constantly said to them that this is what is happening in your ranks, this is what you are doing. They constantly denied it. That actually doubles the crime. They constantly denied it. It's one thing if I don't know that one of my directors is messing around. It's another thing if you, Padraig O'Malley, come to me and say that there are problems in your department and I deny it and you repeat it year after year after year, that actually doubles the crime.

. OK what do they do now? They can't now resign as ministers because they're not ministers, they can't take any action. But what they can do, and the least I think that they owe this country, is to fully accept the horrors of the system which they were responsible for. They say that they are opposed to apartheid. They say that the ill effects of apartheid must be reversed. You never hear them saying that in the South African National Defence Force today there are just far too few black Generals, too many of the officers are people who fought in Angola, who served under apartheid. Surely, as long as they don't say that and as long as they protest in parliament - every time there are any efforts to make the officer corps or the managerial levels in any department more representative they protest about it in parliament. What are they saying? What is the message that they give? And I think that's really what it's all about.

POM. Just with regard to the defence forces, De Klerk might say in his defence - well I appointed the Goldstone Commission and gave it complete independence. I appointed General Steyn to investigate whether or not security personnel were involved in dirty tricks. As a result of that I fired 23 Generals and that's about all I could do because if I attempted to do more I might have created destabilisation within the defence forces myself and in a certain way I had to bring them along with me. So even maybe if Georg Meiring was implicated in some way I took the risk that firing him would create a backlash that maybe I wouldn't be able to control, and Mandela himself re-appointed Meiring to the position. Do you think that he was under constraints, that he had that threat from the defence forces as an institution?

VM. It may well be. For me what is more important is the present conduct. Frankly I think that the people of this country are very, very forgiving, sometimes painfully so. I think all of that would not be an issue if today FW de Klerk was championing measures for the reversal of the ill effects of apartheid, which he's not doing. You cannot point to a single issue which he and his party champions in any field of life which one can say falls in the category of issues aimed at reversing the ill effects of apartheid. All they do is that they oppose any measures to bring about equity and to transform this country and as long as they don't do that you can't be left but with a sense that actually they don't want things to change, actually not.

POM. In that sense unless they commit an act of atonement, what would be close to an act of atonement, by acknowledging that they were accountable for the evils and horrors that happened during the apartheid years and they ask for the forgiveness of black people, it would seem to me that unless they can take that step they can never attract black votes.

VM. From a moral point of view that's the least, the absolute minimum, that they owe the people of this country. Absolutely, just the absolute minimum that they owe.

POM. Even the best of them like Roelf, say Roelf Meyer, can't do it. Why do you think it is that they're trapped? Is it denial, that they can't accept that?

VM. They actually don't think that they were a bunch of bad guys. They don't think they and their colleagues and their party were really fundamentally evil. They don't believe that. They think, oh well we used a few wrong strategies, we did wrong things here, we overdid it with the state of emergency, we didn't monitor the security forces carefully enough here or there, our Bantustan policy was perhaps slightly off the mark, ever so slightly off the mark, we should have put a bit more into black education in the townships but we didn't. They don't consider themselves to have been fundamentally evil. When even Roelf Meyer, when he joined the NP many years ago as a young starry-eyed politician he was walking into a very evil castle. That's what it was at that point in time. They were killing people, they were detaining people without trial, they were invading neighbouring countries, violating international law. They were implementing all of the apartheid laws with all the vigour that they had. All of those were on the state books. That's what they were doing. When he sat in parliament as a young back-bencher and the Minister of Law & Order's budget vote came up he voted for it, he voted in favour of it. And when then the forebears of the present Democratic Party would attack them in parliament for denial of basic rights of people and detainees and all, Roelf Meyer didn't say anything in parliament. He sat there and he thought, well these guys are just politicking. Whatever the case is he didn't do anything about it. He didn't say that he is opposed to this, he didn't even say that in his party caucus, I'm quite certain of that. They actually don't think they were that bad. Some of them think that it was a necessary thing, apartheid was a necessary thing, there was no other way in which the world could be. Whites came here, they were so smart and so clever and you had these savage uncivilised blacks that they found here on the southern tip of Africa and surely people didn't expect them to eat at the same table and to work with each other. Surely nobody could have expected that they could have been granted political rights. It's just the way nature is. It just happened that sort of way. We tried to do our best - I always loved my gardener, my gardener's son played with my son.

POM. I've talked to ordinary blacks who say two or three years ago they would have been quite forgiving of the past and now as they listen to this catalogue of atrocities trotted out by people who don't show the slightest degree of remorse, who in fact almost say I would do it all over again and I'm really doing this because it's going to get me off the hook, I've seen a change in attitude of where they're becoming angry that so many of these people are going to simply walk, again, without even ever saying I'm sorry. Do you get a sense of that, that your community is angry that so many people are going to really take a walk not showing the slightest bit of remorse and that their politicians take no accountability for what happened?

VM. I think there is a very deep-seated anger about that. It has always been that, it has been there, I don't think that the TRC has significantly strengthened that anger in people, perhaps it has contributed. I think that has always been there and what really the former representatives of the apartheid system owe this country if they really want to play a constructive role is that there should be demonstrable remorse on their part, demonstrable remorse and demonstrable support for a new changed democratic, non-racial South Africa. I think that is what is really needed. There is an absolute lack of leadership in that direction as such.

POM. If you say this anger is there among blacks and has been there and may have been intensified and may be being intensified by the TRC or may not be, doesn't that anger at some point have to find a point of expression? You can't contain anger within you indefinitely, it has to come out some way. How does that anger express itself?

VM. I don't know if you're suggesting that there might be some sort of explosion. That would only happen if there is a feeling of absolute helplessness and therefore I think it's important for government to be adopting policies which empower those who have been dispossessed and disenfranchised and I think that if there is a sense that there is an empowering government, an empowering system, empowering policies, that it, in my view, wouldn't lead to any sort of explosion as such.

POM. But if the anger is still there? For example, I think Allan Boesak touched on it in a very I won't say an insightful way when he came back and said, "What's on trial here is the struggle, people don't know what those days were like here."

VM. The support for Allan Boesak is in a sense an expression of that anger.

POM. Is it like the OJ case in terms of blacks and whites?

VM. I don't know enough about the OJ phenomenon but what I would say is that you have here people who committed horrific crimes just walking free and here is a man who has been a freedom fighter, who sacrificed a great deal for the struggle, great leader, admired, at a very difficult period, during the darkest period of apartheid rule he stood up and took a stand against the system, very effectively so and here he is a man who is being treated like a leper and I think there is in a sense a counter-reaction to say, wait a minute, this man was actually a freedom fighter. It's a manifestation of it.

POM. It's like proportionality, you can't have the murderers of our children walk free. People forget what it was like in those days and people didn't audit books, you didn't sit around auditing books or keeping account of every cent that came through, so in that sense when he says it's the struggle on trial it's like saying the apartheid regime is getting away with a lot and now they want to start crucifying those of us who - the remnants want to start crucifying those of us who were at the forefront of the struggle and there is an injustice in that.

VM. Well I think that's how he sees it and that's how many of his supporters would see it.

POM. How do you see it?

VM. I think on the one hand that we wouldn't want to not acknowledge constantly the fact that Allan Boesak was a great freedom fighter, that he's made a tremendous contribution to change in this country. I think that's important to do. Whether or not he gets convicted that's important to do. As far as the rest of the charges are concerned I think that it's important for the law to take its course. You obviously can't turn a blind eye to it. The law must take its course and we've got to ensure that he's not victimised in any sort of way.

POM. I found it interesting that the media here are often - there's an unhappy relationship between the media and the ANC and the continual kind of mantra is that it's a white controlled press. Let's take the Sunday Times as one now. As I understand it the Sunday Times was part of some media group that is controlled by one of the companies associated with NAIL and that it is now effectively black owned and yet when it comes out with these revelations or whatever it's still attacked as being white controlled media where a lot of the control of media has in fact shifted from white hands into black hands. Yet there seems to be no acknowledgement of that within the ANC itself which prefers to say it's the white controlled media, they make accusations, they're still trying to set the agenda, they're still trying to nail us and harm us and show that we're incompetent or whatever.

VM. I think it's a complex field. In a democracy you would always have some degree of bantering between government and the media. I think that's quite a natural phenomenon. It would be there with us all of the time. The fact of the matter is that when we came into government in 1994 the accusation that the media is white controlled was true and we were in the situation where the majority of the people had voted for a democratic government but you also had by and large those who were responsible for the communication of ideas in society represented in a sense a minority. That's the situation that we have found ourselves in and I think it's quite acceptable for government and for the ANC actually to say that, to say that this is the situation. We're not just in any other established democracy, we're in the process of transformation, a process of nation building, a process of change in this country and there is a legitimate expectation that the ANC would have that the trade unions must be part of that project, that business must be part of that project, that the opposition parties, while they may oppose us and compete with us politically, must be part of that project and certainly that the media must be part of that project and you had a situation, and in many ways I think the situation is improving, but in some ways it does continue also. Many elements in the media would in the South African context I think have not really clearly formulated their role in the present South African context.

. I have spoken to many of them and they would say, yes we go around looking for things on which the government can be criticised, things that may go wrong, things that may not be done absolutely correctly, if there is some sort of opposition to what government does somewhere we would look at that and highlight that and the question that I ask many of these people is what is the difference between your role and the role of the NP because that's what the NP does in parliament? They don't play any constructive role. The media surely must criticise government, it must play the role of exposing what is happening in the country, it should do so, and that would always irritate governments, it does so all over the world and it would irritate us too. There's nothing wrong with that, we're entitled to be irritated by that but there's a role that actually goes beyond that. How is the media supporting the process of change in this country? And that's the question that we continually ask ourselves. I think that we are beginning to see a slow change but you have had many of the white reporters who have just had no real sense of what is happening in the black community at all, no sense of the thinking of the black community and would simply reflect the views of their own social circles, people they meet at parties, people they meet at functions, their relatives and their friends all of whom happen to be privileged whites and they would say, well people are very unhappy about this or people are very unhappy about that which government is doing. They are still cordoned off from the majority of South Africans. As long as you have that sort of reporting I think that there will be a problem. There is much that I think the media still needs to be in order to come on speed. I think that there are many people in the media who are making the effort and who are trying to change. You would still find even on SABC sometimes a report, the IFP has a march, organises a march somewhere or other and they would say it's a Zulu march. The IFP says that we're opposed to something or the other and the reporter would report saying that Zulus are opposed to the Constitutional Assembly, something of that sort. What is that? Just what is that if not apartheid style reporting?

POM. A couple of quick last questions. Thank you for my hour. You owe me still one from last year!  Just quick reply statements. Local government isn't working very well, why?

VM. That's now a real generalisation. My view is that it is working very well. If you tell me that local government faces many challenges, we need to do a lot to strengthen the administration at a local government level, we need to rehabilitate the finances of local government, we need to ensure that people, especially blacks, receive an adequate level of services, I would say that those are all challenges that we have. But to say that local government isn't functioning well, I don't know. If you want to compare the newly established metropolitan councils that we have, the new municipalities in urban centres with the manner in which the City of Paris or London functions, you may well say that it's not functioning too well. But the fact of the matter is that we have created democratically elected local government with new boundaries, new voters, new councillors, a new set of rules, for the first time in November 1995. You're talking about just one and a half years ago for the first time in our history. If you expected anything more of local government then I think it would have been, frankly, a pipe-dream. I think it's functioning well. There isn't a single council in the country that has collapsed, where everything has come to a standstill, where people are not getting services, where water doesn't run through their taps or drinkable water doesn't run through their taps, where the electricity supply network isn't functioning, where the civic system isn't functioning, where there's a total breakdown even in garbage collection, although you may find a pile-up of rubbish here and there in a number of towns.

. So for the stage at which we are I think that local government should be commended for managing as well as it is managing. Frankly, I honestly do believe that. What is true is that local authorities in this country have many challenges, both political and administrative challenges, financial problems, many, many, many, and of course these are receiving ongoing attention and nobody must try to create the impression that we've got well-functioning, smoothly oiled municipalities throughout the country. That's not the case, certainly not. Depending on what the standard of your measure is, if it is a fair standard I think you wouldn't say that local government, you wouldn't make a generalisation that local government is in a crisis. It's not in a crisis. Things in fact are improving. As the days go on things are getting better and I think that's really the measure.

POM. Black/white relations have if anything perhaps become slightly more polarised than they were pre-1994?

VM. I don't know if that is necessarily true. I don't know what one bases that on. There is no manifestation of real racial hostility. One hasn't really found that. There is a lot of crime but that's not a manifestation of racial hostility, crime is crime. They will mug you in the street and try to take your tape recorder away from you whether you're Padraig O'Malley or whether you're an Afrikaner South African or whether you're a black South African. So I don't think there's any manifestation of it really in my own view. In fact I do think that more and more white people, ordinary white people, are beginning to get a sense that perhaps the ANC is not all that bad at all. The business community which is largely white controlled has spoken in very flowery terms about the budget, for example, so I think that as the real practical implications of ANC begin to manifest themselves whites are feeling more part of South Africa, so to speak.

POM. In this regard is the average white person maybe in a way ahead of the NP and their political leaders?

VM. I would certainly think so. I think that the NP certainly doesn't represent the views of ordinary white people, That's my own feeling. Again, as I say, this is not based on any sort of research but I think it would still have to be seen as such.

POM. Affirmative action, is it becoming a loaded issue? Do you think there is merit to some of the arguments that are made against the policy that affirmative action particularly in the public sector can proceed at too rapid a pace, where the need to get the figures right - ?

VM. It's not proceeding at too rapid a pace. If anything, in my view, it's proceeding far too slowly, far too slowly. Affirmative action for me is not just an ideological thing. In order for government to be able to function effectively, in order for the state to be able to perform its functions it needs to transform itself. That's what I have found even from my own person experience. It is not true that affirmative action appointments are being made in a completely blind and ideological way. By and large where black people are being given posts it's generally people who are suitable for the job. That's what I've found. I've made a number of changes in my department and in every case I've taken people who are suitable for the post and not just because they are black.

POM. Finally, three and a half years into the administration as you turn the corner to the next election, do you think the majority of Africans are better off than they were three and a half years ago or that by and large their standard and quality of living hasn't really changed that much?

VM. Firstly there hasn't been a significant improvement in job creation, in the employment figures, and I think that is probably one of the biggest factors one would take into account when making an assessment of this sort. On the other hand many more people have access to health facilities, equity in education has been moving at quite a rapid pace. Many more people have access to basic services like municipal services like water in the rural areas, availability of land. Many more people are getting access to housing now and others have a real prospect of having access to housing. A question like this one actually needs to do some proper research but just from the programmes that we have run in the past three years I would say that we can point to a number of very practical things that have been done to improve the quality of lives of people.

POM. Overall if you had to give an assessment of the government on a scale of one to ten in terms of performance, one being unsatisfactory and ten being very satisfactory, where would you place the government at this point?

VM. I am very satisfied. I would certainly give us a nine.

POM. Nine out of ten?

VM. Yes.

POM. You're near perfection already?

VM. I'm very satisfied with our performance. I'm extremely satisfied. If you take into account the conditions under which we've had to work, the challenges that we faced, having walked into government with a hostile public service, not a single person in the public service you could say without a shadow of doubt is going to be loyal to the policies of government.  Taking that as the starting point, a hostile business community, a hostile media, I think that we've done very, very well under those circumstances. I think there were very carefully crafted policies and approaches from our part.

POM. OK. Thank you.

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.