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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
07 Aug 1998: Jordan, Pallo
POM. Dr Jordan, I have been interviewing you now for seven or eight years.
PJ. That long?
POM. This is either our final or next to final interview before I get down to the task of trying to put all this together. If you took a broad view of those eight years what are the key differences in the South Africa that you live in today compared to the SA that you came back to seven or eight years ago?
PJ. Well the key difference of course is democracy and the existence of democratic institutions. I would say that was the key difference and that finds expression in a whole host of fields, just what's happening outside even is an expression of that. But in addition to that I would say the other key differences are that we are moving in the direction of entrenching certain democratic values and practices in this society and we are also in a situation in which South Africans have increasingly begun to accept (a) that the ordinary citizen is ultimately responsible for the future of the country, that it is not the responsibility of government, (b) that that being the case ordinary citizens have to assume responsibility for themselves, for their own lives, for the future of the country and that government is actually answerable to the ordinary citizen. That has been assisted by a host of institutional arrangements ranging from a Constitutional Court through to various commissions of human rights. I think the most recent commission we set up was the Gender Commission and our Ombuds office, known as the Public Protector and all that, and there are all these institutional arrangements which gave the ordinary citizen recourse against government at all levels.
. The other big difference, I would say, is the turning around of the South African economy which had really plummeted and was in very dire straits when one came back in 1990. The economy is on the mend. I think although we might not have realised all the targets government set for itself, we have turned the corner and the economy is on the mend and there are of course the ebbs and flows and the ups and downs some of which I suppose we are responsible for, others which are a function of the larger global economy which invariably impacts on us. But we no longer have a negative growth rate and I think in these first four years of democratic governance a great deal more has been done in terms of addressing the basic needs of ordinary people than has been done in many, many decades before that.
. We have had to compress into four years what should have been done over decades. Take just one little example like the provision of clean water for people which if you grow up with hot and cold running water in your home you take it for granted, it's no big deal, but if every time you think about water it means a couple of kilometres hike with buckets on your head, etc., from an unreliable source which is not even necessarily safe and all that, it's a huge, huge difference to the quality of your life to have clean drinking water within walking distance of your home or in your yard or inside your home, it's a huge, huge difference. Provision of electricity, for example, also. Many people grew up without ever knowing electricity in their homes whether for lighting or for heating or anything else and that makes a huge difference in the quality of people's lives having electricity in your home. You talk, for example, even about the provision of food for kids at school, I have been now to a whole host of extremely poor communities as part of my duties as minister, poor squatter communities in informal settlements, and what struck one was that kids of six or seven weren't nodding off to sleep in class because they were hungry and sometimes it was the middle of winter suffering from colds and so on because they were underfed, undernourished, they were all alert and obviously had had a meal that morning meagre as it might have been, a sandwich and glass of milk but they had something in their bellies so they could actually pay attention to their lessons, which again if you grow up with those things and you take them for granted doesn't seem like a great deal but if you never had them before it does make a big difference.
. So there are those sorts of changes that have taken place which I think have changed the quality of people's lives for the better. A great deal still needs to be done, there is no doubt about that.
POM. Let me go back and take you up on the first point, on the introduction of democratic institutions and democracy both broadening and deepening itself. There seems to be a kind of anomaly at work insofar as you had the Deputy President on 4th June talking about the collapse of morals and calling for a Moral Summit. Yesterday I talked with George Fivaz and he said the root of the problem of crime was that there had to be the establishment of norms and values and the country was in absence of norms and values. You had the churches yesterday coming out saying there has been a collapse in the social fabric, also calling for a summit on the moral condition of the country. Why has that situation arisen or has it accelerated in the last four years and how do you balance that off against what you said about the increasing freedoms and people having their greater sense of accountability and responsibility?
PJ. I wouldn't necessarily agree with the view that there has been a moral collapse in the country, especially not with the views of the churchmen. I would be very interested to know which particular churchmen said that because I know there are quite wide disparities, in my view, about morality and those of certain churchmen. But be that as it may -
POM. It would be Bishop Zuma Dadala -
PJ. Yes, of the Methodist Church.
POM. And Dr Louw Alberts.
PJ. Yes, but that's a consensus statement. Anyway, the point being, I don't necessarily subscribe to that particular view.
POM. But do you subscribe to the view of the Deputy President?
PJ. No, no, there are problems of morality I think in this society and I would say a big part of the problem of morality in this society is that for a long time immorality was actually on the throne and that did, I think, encourage a general contempt for law, for certain values which are generally universally accepted. It did encourage also a very deep going contempt for governance, all these things. If you think about government, for example, that commissions scientists, takes public funds and the purpose is to manufacture tons and tons of drugs which drugs are then distributed as part of an anti-insurgency campaign in the community, as happened here in the Western Cape. We have a huge problem here with gangsterism which escalated in the 1980s, huge criminal syndicates and we've always had gangs. Even when I was growing up we had gangs in the Western Cape, gangs all over, but small operations, street corner lads. There was no such thing like the equivalent of organised crime. Now you have organised crime and organised crime, for example, in the United States gained its strength during the era of prohibition, producing what lots of people wanted to consume but they were denied the opportunity of doing it legally, liquor. That's what made the Mob, that's how it made its money, that's how it established itself. Here I would say a similar thing happened but the hand of the then government was in the distribution of drugs and making drugs readily available in this country, I think that needs some very close scrutiny and some of the things that have come out in the Truth Commission about the mandrax that was being produced by the state and it coincides with its ready availability in many of the communities here and then of course you had the networks to smuggle it, distribute it, etc., gaining strength, accumulating money and now you have this situation. That's one factor and I would say with immorality like that enthroned and being in government you can't have a situation in which moral behaviour takes root. You think also about the law in general being used not as an instrument of security for the lives and possessions of people but rather as a means of repression. That generates a contempt for the law. The law is not there to protect me, it's just a means of keeping me down. All those things I think have eroded certain moral values.
POM. Is there an ingrained anti-authority ethos?
PJ. Not ingrained but it becomes the thing. Then you think also about the general context in which all of this was happening especially amongst the African people because in virtually all societies the centre at which most of your socialisation and moral instruction takes place is the family. The African family was assaulted in a fashion which is almost unprecedented and for this entire century by the migrant labour system, etc., etc., etc. We all know about that. And at the end of the day well that takes its toll because when you don't have that institution for the socialisation of the individual and the moral instruction in values, etc., where then does that come from? So all those things are contributory factors to that.
. Now why I say I wouldn't be in a hurry to endorse the views of the religious leaders is because I know some of the church people, for instance, when they talk about morality, when we ran the campaign against HIV and you say make condoms readily available to young people, they say, "Ah you're encouraging immorality." I don't subscribe to that sort of morality. When you say, for instance, people should have the right to choose and determine whether or not they are going to have children and control their own fertility, "Ah-ha! You're encouraging immorality." Some of them, I know, don't subscribe to that view but others I know do subscribe to that view and it's a consensus position so isn't Dadala meaning the same thing as someone else in that group of clergymen?
POM. Say more specifically the Deputy President who referred in his speech to what he called the collapse of moral values and the need for a moral summit, was he - ?
PJ. No, no, I would say I would be a lot more comfortable with that but that collapse of morality I don't think is something which arrives with democracy. I think democracy is giving us the opportunity to even raise those issues (a), and (b) the framework in which we can actually address them. I don't think it's a function of democracy. I mean lots of people like to say so but I think that's just political point scoring.
POM. Race. He said, again, that no progress had been made towards reconciliation, that there were two nations as divided now as they were in the old era, that whites continue to enjoy all their old privileges. Has there been, in your view, any progress towards real reconciliation? Has there been yet even with all the revelations of the TRC any real acknowledgement by whites of their participation, even if through blindness in the past, that they have benefited enormously from an unjust system or is there this continued case of denial?
PJ. It's difficult to generalise and, of course, one uses very broad brush strokes when you make political statements and so on. I would say it's very difficult to generalise and if one was giving a considered view on the matter I would say what has done a disservice to the country is that amongst credible political leaders amongst whites no-one has had the moral courage to actually grasp the nettle (a) of what has come out of the TRC, (b) that two nation issue, (c) grasp the nettle in terms of making the white population face up to the fact that change is going to be had at a price and they are going to have to foot part of the bill. No credible white political leader has had the moral courage to do that, not one.
. If you take, for example, the two nations debate in parliament, because there were two of them, one occasion was when the Deputy President was speaking on reconciliation and the second occasion, which I think arose out of the first, was another debate on his notion of the two nations. The stance taken by someone who purports to be the leader of the liberal white party, Tony Leon, yes - I mean to characterise it as disgraceful is to beggar that term. Leon began this year publishing a position paper entitled 'The Death of the Rainbow Nation' in which he made - I will give him the benefit of the doubt and say he was not being dishonest, but in a fashion which betrayed a certain blindness to the realities of SA suggests that if one raises the issue that race is still an index of power and an access to power in SA you are racialising politics, that you have to be colour blind, you have to pretend that it's irrelevant that all the leading corporations in SA are run, owned, dominated by whites, you have to say and pretend it's irrelevant that the bench, even today, is still dominated by whites, you have to say it's irrelevant that the civil service whether at the national or the provincial or the local government, is dominated by whites is irrelevant. All of these things are irrelevant. That when it comes to access to finance whites have an easier time of doing that than blacks, these things are irrelevant. This is what he calls being 'colour blind' and if you mention them then you are racialising politics.
. This is how Tony Leon began this year, 1998, and they have repeated this scene throughout the year. The most recent occasion was in question time on Wednesday when the DP spokesperson on health matters, Mike Ellis, in what he considers a very challenging question and this was, "Are you going to be creating quotas, racial quotas for people to get into medical school, etc?" This is what they call being 'colour blind'. And he didn't rise to the occasion even then when the Deputy President led those debates on the issue of reconciliation and the two nations, he remained under the same tack. So, well the NP, we don't expect anything from them under the leadership of Marthinus van Schalkwyk, the Freedom Front used it to beat the drum of their Afrikaner volkstaat again and so on, so there were no credible white leaders, political leaders who were actually prepared to grasp the nettle and this unfortunately has been the case.
. Now you look also at editorial opinion, the press that is consumed by white readership. The Afrikaans press put to one side, but take the English language press, with the exception maybe of the Mail & Guardian, Sunday Independent perhaps, but the others are full of equivocation and whatnot, but no willingness to face up to the reality that this in fact is still the reality in SA. So I would say the white public have got no leadership on these issues.
POM. So when the President said at the congress in December that the white dominated media was a force opposed to the ANC, do you actually think that in the editorial rooms there are editors planning editorials?
PJ. No, no, it isn't that. The point is if you look at what has usually happened in situations in which people who have been guilty of something which they know deep down is wrong, they face up to this, there is a tendency always to deny it which is why after the second world war there wasn't a single German who knew anything about the concentration camps. Now you will look with a lantern for a white who supported apartheid in SA. People go into denial mode, so too here. It's not a question of anyone conspiring to oppose the ANC. The Deputy President's challenge before the nation says, look, we are still two nations, and then he goes on and says all right there are other situations where you've had two nations. In the case of Germany it actually crystallised into geographic separation, East Germany and West Germany. But because the Germans see themselves as occupying and living in the same moral universe when now that geographic separation was ended and they became one nation the richer section of the nation said, look we've got to do something about this poorer section and they spent massively in order to address that situation to make it one nation. That's the sort of challenge that he was posing and implicit in that example that he was making about East and West Germany was that the majority of our white citizens don't feel that their black compatriots occupy and live in the same moral universe as themselves in the way the West Germans feel about the East Germans.
POM. The same moral universe.
PJ. Yes, the same moral universe. We've got no obligations towards them, which comes back to the point I was making, that there hasn't been a single credible white leader who has been prepared to say to the whites collectively, look we want this change, we all say we accept it, it's going to cost and we as a community are going to have to foot part of that bill. No-one has had the moral courage to say that. Instead the tendency is to whinge. You name them, they're all whinging and unfortunately many of the white editors come from that same sort of social milieu so of course they reflect the moods, the opinions, the temper within the white community. No-one has to sit down and conspire. If I feel part of that and it's me who's being challenged, why don't you feel like a German citizen in Hamburg about the German citizens in Magdeburg, who don't you feel that way? Is it of introspection, puts up the defences, why should I feel that way, you're screwing up - and then a string of complaints I don't know what from, crime to the valuation of the rand. That's the response. No-one has been prepared to do that. So I think the white citizens have been done a disservice by the sort of leadership that they have been receiving.
. Now at the end of the day if you were to go, for instance, person to person to person to person, you will find that there is a variety of opinions on the matter and I am sure like, for example, there was one ordinary white citizen who was telling me about an experience she had just giving someone a lift, just moving in the direction of the Garden Route at the edge of Cape Town here, and how appalled she was at these people standing in the rain waiting for a bus and she was driving with her husband, she gave them a lift and then it was still raining when they arrived at the turn-off, so she said, look what the hell it's just two minutes let's take these people to where they live instead of dropping them out here in the rain again. They went, and the conditions, and how shocked she was and, "What can we do?" Now I hadn't asked for it, I hadn't solicited it, it just came out, a human response for another human's situation. Now there will be lots of stories like that. Now if you had a credible white political leader who was prepared to say, yes, these are the situations which our fellow citizens are in, let's do something about it, how many more people like that, who haven't had that experience individually, would be prepared to say, yes, why don't we do something about it. But no-one is prepared to do that.
POM. Why do you think that is?
PJ. Why hasn't there been? Because what the political leadership are forgetting, they want to play to the sort of meanest and basest emotions amongst whites, defensive ones, the ones of greed: all right, this change is good as long as it's going to cost me nothing, this change is fine as long as it's going to cost me nothing. I must continue to enjoy the life I did up to and including maybe even segregated neighbourhoods and schools. Interesting thing, there was an incident, and it was an exception mind you, even with this two nations that we've got, in the North West Province where there was a problem in a school, Afrikaner parents descended on the school with whips and guns and so on and beat up the black kids, reminiscent of Little Rock in the 1950s and so on. Not a single one of the political leaders, not the Nats, not the FF, not the DP, had anything sensible to say on the issue in terms of offering a solution or even going there and saying, look you can't behave this way, whatever your problem is you can't invade the school and sjambok and drive out kids. You can't occupy the school with rifles and guns and barricade it and terrorise people. Not even that, never mind offering a solution. And again it's the same thing and you ask yourself why. In that respect it's very bad.
. When now you then look at that whole picture and say OK there are these two nations and you want to make them one nation, you can persuade, you can cajole, you can nudge, but in the end you sometimes then have to twist arms. So to address some of these issues we are having to use the power of the law, like for instance the Employment Equity Bill and there is not a single predominantly white party that supports it. Even a simple thing, even a simple thing like this Water Bill we passed the other day, solidly against it, solidly against it. Water! Land reform measures, all of them, solidly against it. The interesting thing about the Water Bill is that the Inkatha Freedom Party which has a black constituency but has a very heavy duty and retrograde white constituency within it, couldn't make up its mind on the issue, couldn't make up its mind. The black constituents and their representatives said no, no we must support the Water Bill. The retrograde whites said, oh this is communism! Communism, schwommunism. But there you are.
POM. Let's look at the second thing you saw as one of the major improvements and that was the economy. Most people that I have talked to over the last two years or whatever have said in no uncertain terms that GEAR is not working and they would point to (i) that its targets that it set for itself were far too ambitious and haven't the slightest ability of being achieved in terms of growth, (ii) that what little growth you've had, and this year it will be close to negative, in fact per capital income will probably fall when you factor in the population growth, (iii) that inward investment is a trickle compared to what the expectations had been, (iv) that international confidence in the economy is still lacking, (v) that unemployment is increasing not decreasing and (vi) that they would say the time has come to re-examine some of the assumptions under-gearing GEAR rather than for the government to adopt a position that GEAR is government policy and, as the President said, it will remain government policy 'over my dead body'. There's no need for me to go into the differences among the alliance partners on the issue. But just given that unemployment is continuing to not just fester but to grow and that poverty is on the increase rather than on the decrease, that the distribution of income is as high now, I think 11:1 black to white, as it was in the apartheid days, isn't it time to re-examine the policy and see whether the assumptions behind that policy were correct assumptions especially since your ability to affect your economic fate is hostage to a global economy and you have limited room in which to manoeuvre? It's not as though you could say we will do A, B, C, D and E because you don't have control over a host of variables that affect all of those things.
PJ. I think that's probably true but there is a left and a right critique of GEAR and it differs according to what you want to subscribe to. The right critique, which is always offered by the DP, is that you should just privatise everything and you should have a low wage economy because I suppose even a crust of bread is - there's that sort of critique which you get from the DP and people like that. Then you've got the left critique which is that yes, the capacity of a relatively small economy in this global economy to determine its own fate is very limited and therefore you must look more to - sort of cast your bucket down where you are, look at what resources you have at home and how you can marshal all those to maximise your capacity to then manipulate the economy, etc. I think both are a little short-sighted. If you ask any captain of industry when he puts into operation, let's say, a plan to revitalise a firm, how long he would give himself to get his plan on the road and then to start actually realising objectives? He will say well if I'm lucky four years, if things just tick over as normal I will give myself six years, if I don't have good breaks well maybe even eight years. Now here you're talking about relatively - well you're talking about a country, not just one firm, which you're trying to turn around from very dire straits and GEAR is how old? Two years, three years on the outside, two years actually to tell the truth. We haven't been lucky in terms of the context in which we are operating. So I would say it's too early to say it's failed. If it was a business we wouldn't say it's failed just because in the second year of the plan it wasn't producing the results that you anticipated.
. There are I think a whole number of other factors and variables, of course, which we maybe had assessed incorrectly with respect to GEAR in that I think there was a little bit of over-optimism about how the international market would respond to some of the measures that were announced. It was almost as if people were saying if you create an investor friendly climate you've got all these people just waiting for the right investors to come charging in with their cheques. It doesn't work like that, it hasn't worked like that. So I think that there was a little bit of over-optimism with respect to that but I would say myself it's far too early to say the thing has actually failed.
. The issue of jobless growth I think is not only something that's happening in SA it's happening in other economies as well. Economies like the German economy which boasted that they hadn't had any unemployment to speak of since the second world war, are having huge problems in terms of unemployment.
POM. The whole of Europe.
PJ. Yes, they are experiencing that. So it's not something that's peculiar to us, but of course we're governing this country so we've got to creatively address that. We are trying to address it, there is this Presidential Job Summit which is being looked at, which we are planning for and which requires synergies between government and the private sector and labour. Now given, of course, the debates about GEAR etc., it's been very difficult to actually get that particular show on the road because there I think on either side, the left and the right, people who want to use the Job Summit as a platform for trying to change or revise government policy. That's not what we want the summit for. There has been some consensus about that, that we're not going to use it as a platform to do that. We are going to come to the party to address one specific problem which is that of job creation, how we are going to do it, etc. The debate, of course, about GEAR, from left or right or centre can continue but not at the Job Summit.
POM. At the time of the South Korean economy collapsing you had these images on television of individual South Koreans queuing at the banks to hand in their personal jewellery and their savings and whatever all to save the country. One doesn't get any sense of a national cohesiveness here.
PJ. Yes but who has jewels in SA?
POM. I was just saying that.
PJ. No, no, I was saying who has - but there are people who have them but the people who have them are precisely the ones who I referred to who are not being given that sort of leadership like, bring your jewels and hand them in.
POM. But there's no sense of 'we're in this together'.
PJ. No there isn't.
POM. That unless we sacrifice on behalf of each other now, doing it for the next generation who will be the beneficiaries, we may not be but our kids certainly will be and in that sense we are becoming one nation. Rather you have this, and it exists in all communities, 'I'm all right Jack', if I'm doing OK -
PJ. No I wouldn't say that. That doesn't exist in all communities. You see if you would go, for example, into many of our poorer neighbourhoods which because of our apartheid past are black, you will find there a very, very different spirit animating people than an 'I'm all right Jack' spirit. Go, for instance, into an area like Khayelitsha here and you will find there a project by women who were unemployed, set up their own project to manufacture bricks in the first instance to build houses for themselves but now it's an ongoing project. It's actually creating jobs in that community and they're manufacturing bricks, they're building houses not only just for themselves. And you see that repeated all over the place, the 'I'm all right Jack' attitude isn't there. Small town, more a village than a town, on the Garden Route just off the N2 called Stilbaai, dependent for centuries on fishing, can no longer make it from fishing. They have turned themselves around. They now have made themselves a tourism destination on the Garden Route, working together they have transformed their homes from the incomes they've generated as a community from tourism, build schools for themselves, clinics for themselves. Not an 'I'm all right Jack' attitude at all. And you find examples of that amongst the poorest of the poor, that spirit of pulling together. What the English would call the 'Dunkirk' spirit. You get it there.
. Yes there is the 'I'm all right Jack' attitude and you just have to pick up a newspaper and you will get it screaming at you from the headlines and then the attitude, well since it's not a good year I am packing my clobber anyway and I'm getting out of here on the next plane to Australia or somewhere else. You get it in many of your corporate boardrooms, what the hell, we'll go to the Cayman Islands or wherever and if you want to impose certain responsibilities on us with respect to the environment and so on we will just take our marbles and leave this game. Yes, it's at the upper reaches that you get that. You don't get it down below because in a sense again no leadership is being given in that respect. That same issue which the Deputy President raises, why does a citizen of Frankfurt-am-Main feel that he has responsibility for a fellow citizen in Frankfort-an-der-Oder? You don't seem to have it just across the way here, Sandton, Alexandra Township, you don't feel that same spirit. Why? And it's the people in Sandton who have got the 'I'm all right Jack' attitude, people in Alexandra can't afford it.
POM. No, but I'm working with a man there named Linda Twala for years who did the same thing. With no outside help at all he went from building bricks and then to building a community centre, it took him ten years, where there's now a clinic in it, all done with the local people and they now want to move into making coffins.
PJ. Because there's so much death.
POM. All these things come out, he says those bloody Indians rip us off when we buy their coffins, we could make them at half the price and that's what I want to do next build a coffin building capacity. And in Thokoza I see the same thing of people doing exactly what you're saying. What I want to get again is, is it because there are still two nations, as it were, that one can't create this national cohesiveness?
PJ. You see if you have two nations but you have people who are willing to look at the brighter side of human nature rather than its darker side and say, look let's build on this, the spirit of generosity, the spirit of solidarity that is there amongst human beings, the spirit of co-operation, the capacity for co-operation, for collective action, let us build on that rather than the acquisitive, selfish, 'I want it all' dark side. If you had people like that, willing to do that, I am sure it would make it a lot easier. It doesn't mean you wouldn't have your foot-draggers, I mean even at Dunkirk you had people who were trying to play the angles, even during the Blitz you had it, during the finest hour you had it, there were people like that. But if you encourage and say this is the way to go people will tend to follow but we haven't had that. One of our big difficulties in SA has been that we've been building a bridge from this side of the river and there doesn't seem to be anyone from the other side to meet us half way and you can't build from the middle of the river, that can't happen. You have to start from a bank to build a bridge. There is no-one to meet us from the other side. This has been the big difficulty and it's because all the credible white political leaders have decided, no, we are going to play to the darker side of their nature.
. There was a debate now, the President in the NCOP, I sat in on his contribution and then caught part of his response to the debate on the box here just before you came in. You've got this huge problem of violence in Richmond and you've got this huge problem of violence here in the Western Cape as well. The Premier of the Western Cape in his contribution apparently suggests that why everyone in the government is up in arms about the problem in Richmond is because the people who are the victims there are Africans and here in the Western Cape they are coloureds. Again, played the dark side. That is the tendency and people do it because they think it gives them political advantage and it garners votes. But I think you could garner votes also playing to the brighter side.
POM. But do you not think that the UDM's call for the ANC and the UDM to sit down together to explore the reasons for the violence and what they can jointly do together makes eminent sense? I mean the ANC for years called on the IFP to sit down and just talk and in the end everyone sat down and did talk and that the ANC's response that everyone knows who is responsible for the violence and that such a meeting would only enhance the credibility of the UDM at the expense of the ANC is kind of a play to the darker side?
PJ. No. Unless the UDM is saying that it is responsible for the violence, unless it's saying that, we're not suggesting that they're saying that, unless they are saying that we say what is happening in Richmond is criminal violence being fomented by murderous elements with a political agenda. We're not saying it's the UDM, we're not saying it's the IFP. We have said in fact it's third force. Unless the UDM is saying they are responsible for the violence, then it makes sense to sit down. Now we are saying this is criminal violence from a third force. We're not saying that we're going to give you credibility at the expense of the ANC. We're saying this is not a solution. Now if the UDM is saying they are responsible for the violence, that they know who is responsible for the violence, well it's a different question. Let them come up front and say so. Then that's another ball game altogether.
POM. But what harm would there be in such talks taking place?
PJ. Well I don't know, what harm can there be is that you raise false hopes. This is an apparent solution when you know it is not a solution and it is in fact just a political ploy. That's the sort of damage it can cause. If they UDM is saying, "We know who is responsible for the violence", or "We are responsible for the violence", that's a different story.
POM. I'll just give you a number of statements that the President made in his speech to congress. Just your quick comment on them. I found it an extraordinarily harsh speech where he lashed out at every forum of opposition or criticism and there was almost a sense of paranoia about it that a third force was still out there operating and manipulating, controlling and everybody wanted to destroy the ANC. That was the aim of every organisation in the country. Some of the quotes are: - he said on the National Party:
. "It has not abandoned its strategic objective of the total destruction of our organisation and movement, the leopard has not changed its spots."
. Given the size of the NP, they know as well as anyone else they haven't got the slightest chance of ever returning to power or being elected government of this country again.
. "The Democratic Party has no policy difference with the National Party and has sought to position itself as an implacable enemy of the ANC and on this basis to try and convince the supporters of the NP to switch their allegiance to itself."
. "The Freedom Front is imprisoned in its 'narrow pursuit' of so-called Afrikaner self-determination."
. The only people he talks positively about is the IFP.
. "Roelf Meyer and Bantu Holomisa are former bedfellows and functionaries of the apartheid system and its security forces. It will inevitably draw into its ranks some of the most backward and corrupt elements of our society. The presence of criminals, gangs, at its founding conference was no accident. Some from this group will seek to promote its interests by resort to criminal violence against the people, especially supporters of the ANC, and the rest of the democratic movement; that efforts will be made to infiltrate agents of the UDM into the structures of our movement to try and destroy us from within; that elements of the third force will not hesitate to link up with members of the UDM to further a common counter-revolutionary objective; that the objectives of both the NP and the UDM converge around the one objective critical to both, the destruction of the ANC."
. For a party that will receive, by any count at this point, at least 60% of the vote, which everyone accepts if the alliance stays together in its present form, will govern this country for generations, why this total insecurity? The media are the enemy, the other parties are their enemies, everyone is out to get us. It is though any form of criticism is taken as an indication of 'we want to destroy you'.
PJ. What was being said, everyone is out to destroy, everyone is the enemy, I don't think that was what the President was saying. There was an attempt, I think, to look at what was happening in the country without any illusions, looking at some of the harsh realities imposed, some of the tough questions. There might have been instances of over-statement here and there but I think on the whole what the President had to say does reflect some of the problems we are facing. Is there a third force out there which is busy up to no good? There are lots of things that -
POM. What is the third force? Is it a definable thing?
PJ. Yes, well, if we go back to some of our earliest discussions you will remember that I told you once that during the debates about what was happening in the early nineties I said that, I'd say it in the Council of the ANC, there is no such thing as a third force, it's a first force, it isn't a third force. It's an arm of the apartheid government, a covert arm but nonetheless an arm of the government and that was my view then. Now for lack of a better term we still use the term 'third force' but is there one out there which is up to no good? Well, if you consider the fact that up to now the ministers responsible for Safety & Security, Intelligence, Defence, have not been given any access, given any information about what front companies intelligence services had set up, what their names are, where they were, are they still in existence, have they folded, what has happened to the moneys, none of that has been made available to any of those ministers.
PJ. Exactly. So where are those people, where are those moneys? Who is running them? So obviously there are some folks out there who are doing certain things.
POM. But if I were the minister of, say, Safety & Security and I asked an official who I knew had knowledge of these activities to provide me with the information and he did not do so I would fire him.
PJ. What if he says, "I don't know, I know nothing about that sir", what are you going to say? Put him to torture, put him on the rack? If we were Henry VIII we would but we've got a constitution. No, no, these are the things that are happening. So there are people out there who have got these resources, who are not accounting to anyone and what are they doing with them? You take even this outfit, this Roodeplaat outfit, this laboratory, the schlenter that was pulled there to take it out of the hands of the military into private hands, it was only a few months before transfer of power and (it was) sold off to private sector people for a song. And who are the private sector people it was sold it? Linked to some elements in the previous government, etc., etc., etc., and then after that resold again. Now what are they up to? Why was it done that way? It could just be plain corruption of course, make some money, but it could also be so that you could continue what you are doing there but now it's a private company and the government can't very well enquire as to what you're doing unless they send some sort of team of detectives with a warrant, a bench warrant to come and search you.
POM. What was the name of the company again?
PJ. Roodeplaat, this chemical laboratory. CBW Laboratories. Things like that. So there are those sorts of things that are happening out there. Yes, sure. Now are they a real danger? Are they maybe not a danger, are they just megalomaniacal characters who think that, Dr Strangelove type of characters? I don't know. But these things are there and they are happening. Do you alert people to their existence or do you keep quiet about it? Well I think we have to think about that.
POM. Just one or two more things and, as always, thank you for the time you take. This is a quote and I'll ask you to identify who made it.
. "You can actually smell authoritarian tendencies in the air in South Africa. The ANC will win the next election by default because the opposition is so unfocused. There is a lot of jargon and not much thoughtfulness coming from the government. Mugabe epitomises where we could end up. We implement austerity but when we encounter resistance we give up. There are swings between demagoguery and managerialism. It holds terrible perils for democracy."
. Who would you have thought would make a statement like that?
PJ. Someone from - one of the left critics of the ANC I think.
POM. Jeremy Cronin.
PJ. Is it? Oh, that article that was in the whatyoucallit. There was an article like that where those sentiments, perhaps slightly watered down, were expressed. No, I know Jeremy is a very harsh critic. Anyway, what do I make of it? Look there are authoritarian tendencies I think in any government and it's only the internal vigilance of people that prevents them from taking root. I have no illusions about power and what people can do once they have power and what they can do with it. You either have ramparts to defend the citizen against those tendencies, like constitutional provisions, etc. But in the last instance it is the vigilance of the citizens that is going to thwart those tendencies. If you're not vigilant, yes, they can take root quite easily but I would have said that was an instance of hyperbole.
POM. I'll tell Jeremy.
PJ. You can tell him.
POM. Just two other things. Is black empowerment working?
PJ. It isn't working in the sense that I have always understood the term or that I would have wanted to understand the term. One of the more amusing things that Tito Mboweni said before he left cabinet was that black empowerment had become a bloody joke in Diagonal Street and places like that, it's not working. I think again that's hyperbolic. No, you see the challenge is to diversify ownership and control of the South African economy in the context of a negotiated settlement and a whole range of constitutional safeguards which means you're not going to be able to take these sorts of routes like have been taken in other places, like either expropriating people who own land, for example, which is abused for agricultural purposes. One of the tricks now that the big landowners have started using is you take farm land which is lying fallow which might otherwise be coveted for land reform measures, and turn it into a huge private game park. They say, no it was not lying fallow, look there are deer grazing on it. Now that sort of tack is constitutionally protected, he has a perfect constitutional right to do that. Once he has done that you can't very well look at his land for land reform purposes except if you are prepared to negotiate with him.
. So this is one of the things that we have to come to terms with, that you are going to have to do all these things in the context of these institutional arrangements and it's not easy. It isn't easy, it's fairly tough and of course the tension that that produces is that you have a lot of would-be, wannabe, or already are, black entrepreneurs and capitalists, etc., want a slice of the action and they want a slice of the action first. They don't want to be hanging around. Oh they take the short cuts and they take the dodgy deals, etc., which then of course make the whole thing very, very hollow.
. I would say what we need to do is to think a little bit more creatively about how you actually diversify ownership and how you can empower people. The traditional routes which people have used up to now which is you go and discuss with some big white corporation and say you unbundle, then you borrow a stack of money from a bank which is controlled by the same corporation and buy a hunk of shares and hope that the value of those shares goes up and therefore you realise a handsome profit, you can pay back your loan and so on. I don't think that route is actually going to work nor is it actually empowering. We have to think of other ways. Some of the unions now have used their pension funds to gain some leverage here and there in the economy and to buy chunks but the extent to which those sorts of sources of funding have been tapped and the sorts of alliances that I would say were possible in the context of that for black business people to arrive at, I don't think people have really explored those creatively. I'm not convinced they have.
. Then of course why should all empowerment take the form of private corporations? There are other ways of empowerment which do not necessarily take that form.
POM. Such as?
PJ. Co-operatives for one. I know we haven't made a success story of co-operatives in this country because most of them have been someone trying to pull a fast one. They haven't worked, they don't have a good track record because so many people have used them as a means of playing one angle or another. But co-operatives are an option that can be looked at. We have in the area of land reform, especially involving some of the conservation estates, come up with some innovative devices of, for example, giving people back control of land that had been seized from them during forced removals, etc., and again they have to be very careful because you create a co-operative, let's say a community co-operative, and everyone gets a slice of the pie but what happens many a time is that if you make the share or that the individual household has transferable, two or three people who can mobilise finances from some place else buy up everyone else's share and they end up owning everything because these others did it for some disposable income to do this, that and the other, pay the school fees, buy school uniforms and so on. So we're having, for example, to figure out ways to contain that because that just defeats your whole purpose because you end up everyone a tenant of one fat cat landlord, all the money accruing to him and it's supposed to be such-and-such a community co-operative. But there are creative ways that people have not even begun to explore yet. But it's a fraught area, the area of black political empowerment. We've been having arguments about it with Jeremy. I don't know if you've seen the debates.
POM. They would be in?
PJ. We used to have a column called Crossfire in the Weekly Mail & Guardian, it was an exchange between - well I had written something and Jeremy then decided well I want to make crossfire, a real debate, so I'm going to fire at Pallo Jordan to which I then responded the week after that and then he shut up.
POM. Thank you very much. I appreciate the time. Nearly there.
PJ. No, no, you're welcome.