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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
31 Aug 1998: Maduna, Penuell
POM. You were saying that when you bring in people?
PM. Yes, when we bring in anybody it shouldn't be purely on the basis of some ill-defined notion of affirmative action. It's got to take into account merit, and at least the person must be armed with the potential to develop and develop fast. So you look at the basic qualifications that it would take ordinarily to join a department such as ours and we have been able to bring in quite a number of blacks at senior levels. The Director General, for instance, since February this year, 1998, he's a black fellow, highly qualified, he holds a Master of Laws degree from Warwick University in the United Kingdom. The Deputy Director General responsible for energy, Dr Gordon Siphiya, holds a PhD in Nuclear Physics. He is also the holder of a Masters degree in Electrical Engineering and he ran his own consultancy for quite some time before we persuaded him to join us.
POM. He ran it here in SA?
PM. In SA, yes, before we persuaded him to join us in government. So there are quite a few people also at the level of Chief Director who hold anything upwards of a Bachelors degree.
POM. It would seem to me, and I hadn't intended talking to you about this but since it just came up, that this must be one of the departments that requires a very high proportion of people with professional degrees, like in Engineering or in Science or in spheres like that.
PM. Well it was to some extent yes, but you see we have other entities, state entities which are focusing specifically on areas which would require those types of qualifications, for instance the Council for Geo-Science. There you would have to know something about geology.
POM. That would be independent would it? It wouldn't come under your department?
PM. No it's not independent, it's a government entity for which I am politically responsible. Another one is the Council for Nuclear Science. You've got to know something about -
POM. How to bomb people to death!
PM. Yes. And the Atomic Energy Corporation itself is also one of my political responsibilities so specialists would basically be channelled to those. There's also the Central Energy Fund which deals with liquid fuels, a whole group of companies under it like Mossgas, etc. So when you then come across persons with the right qualifications the tendency is to channel them into those entities. In the department, because you see this is a department like other government departments, there is nothing extraordinary about it, you want people who can run an administration so we've been able to attract quite a good number of suitably qualified blacks, males and females, to those levels. I am personally quite satisfied with the way things have tended to go. We haven't lost many whites with the necessary qualifications in the process but as they were leaving the system through natural attrition openings were becoming available. We have never gone out of our way to say we want X number of whites to leave in order to bring in Y number of blacks. It's never been done that way.
POM. It's just a natural process.
PM. Natural attrition, natural process, yes.
POM. I would be remiss if I didn't refer to what might be called some of your recent political troubles. So let me run through the way I've grasped them, as they have been reported in the media, and then you give me your full response. First of all your troubles with parliament regarding the accusations you made against the Auditor General, Henry Cluver, whom you accused last year of failing to disclose a R170 million loss from the Strategic Fuel Fund. A parliamentary committee set up to look into the matter found you guilty of making inappropriate remarks about the Auditor General on 18th June last year thereby contravening Rule 99 which requires that criticism in parliament of institutions such as the Auditor General's office and the courts can only be by way of substantive motions. On 18th August a committee found that you indeed did contravene Rule 99 and recommended that you withdraw the remarks. After the committee hearing you refused to accept that you had made a mistake in attacking Cluver and you said that you discussed the matter with the ANC and your lawyers before agreeing to withdraw the statements. You said, "I have nothing to withdraw, the documents speak for themselves." You have handed the documents in question over to the Public Prosecutor, Selby Baqwa. On August 20th President Mandela issued a statement saying that an apology from you to parliament for breaking the House Rules would be sufficient to close the matter. On August 27th a report appeared in Business Day indicating that the special parliamentary committee looking into the matter had unanimously adopted a decision that Speaker Frene Ginwala should order you to withdraw the statements you had made against Cluver.
. Questions: (i) is that a fairly accurate, factual description?
PM. It's not, it's not. You see the media in SA unfortunately have a very bad tendency, a very bad tendency. Rule 99 is about manner and form, it's not about substance.
POM. I was going to get to that.
PM. It's about manner and form. This committee which was not looking at the veracity of the remarks could not -
POM. OK, then let me run through the questions I have. One was, do you still stand by the allegations you made against Cluver?
PM. Oh yes.
POM. Two, the special parliamentary committee did not investigate the veracity of your allegations.
PM. This is it.
POM. But rather whether you had violated a specific parliamentary rule relating to procedure?
PM. Yes, by not in fact following the proper procedure. You get the point? So for me that's a very simple matter. I accepted the finding that the rule indeed might have been broken but you see when you then say that that finding relates to the substance of the matter, I dispute that. The substance of the matter -
POM. They haven't said that have they?
PM. No they haven't said so but it's the media who are saying it. It's the media people who are saying, no, no, once you've actually apologised, whatever they mean by that, the matter is settled once and for all time. It can't be. Let me just tell you, what the documents say, for instance - I'm not going to bother you with the detail - one of the documents dated 1992 is a set of minutes of a meeting which was held between the office of the Auditor General and the management of the Central Energy Fund. The fellow who is suspended as the General Manager, SJ van Zyl, also known as Kobus van Zyl, says, according to those minutes, at times (I'm just paraphrasing it) the CEF incurs unnecessary expenditure or futile expenditure (it's in Afrikaans so it can be unnecessary or futile). He also says at other times the CEF pays what in Afrikaans is called omkoopgeld. Now you know what that means? Bribery.
POM. He says this in the minutes?
PM. He says that, it's in the minutes, it's recorded. Now that immediately raises a whole lot of questions in the mind of anybody. For instance, I don't think he would lie that they were paying bribery money. He had no reason to lie against himself because he was the General Manager. He wouldn't say 'we pay bribery' when they don't pay them. So, who are the recipients of those bribery moneys? What are the bribery moneys being paid for? It's two of the questions that relate to him. The third question may be, how much are we talking about in each instance? What instances are we talking about? Bribery in our law, as it is in the law of any civilised nation, is a crime. So here is a person who says 'we commit crime' admitting openly to corruption. With regard to the office of the Auditor General it raises this question, how do you deal with that? How do you deal with it? Immediately you know that part of the moneys that you are supposed to be auditing go towards bribery. What do you do? And what do you do by way of reporting to parliament that there is corruption here, there is bribery being paid here? Surely the country does deserve answers to those questions and many similar questions.
. There are other matters as well. As I said, I don't want to bore you with the details but, again, with specific regard to the R170 million it's very interesting. I'm not an accountant, I'm not an auditor, I've never pretended to anybody that I am one, but I can read books. I see that there are two documents before me. The first document is the report to the Auditor General, copies of course to the then Minister of Minerals and Energy, my predecessor.
POM. Pik, Pik Botha?
PM. Well I assume so. I think it could either have been Bartlett or Pik Botha but whoever it was that document from Price Waterhouse reflects that there is a loss of R170 million. Well of course they argue that it was not an actual loss and we have conceded that we will not be able to prove that there was an actual heist of money. OK. But the second document which is the Auditor General's report to parliament doesn't reflect this amount. So I ask myself, what has happened to the amount? A bit of digging shows the following: (i) that two days after the Price Waterhouse document had been given to the Auditor General, that is now on 9th February 1994, a meeting is held, incidentally by the same people whose names are reflected in the minutes that I've referred to basically, one of two of them may not have been at the earlier meeting but I don't have the documents in front of me so I am not able to say who was there except that I know that the key characters were there. That meeting of 9th February 1994 decides that CEF should either give the office of the Auditor General reasons why the relevant financial statements of the Strategy Fuels Fund Association should not be published at all, in other words suppressed, or an alternative set of financial statements which can then be published. It's there in writing. They won't be able to deny it, it's their own documents that I'm relying on. Not mine, I never created them. In any event in February 1994 we were not yet voters in this country.
. A bit of further digging shows that indeed the CEF did comply with the request that they either give reasons why the statements should not be published at all or provide an alternative set which should then be published. On 17th February Sarel Cilliers, who then was the Deputy General Manager responsible for finance, sends the Auditor General's office, as per their request, the alternative which is minus this amount, this R170 million.
POM. So they prepared a second set of statements?
PM. Yes, yes, yes. He sends it to them and as luck would have it he also sends the same set of documents to Price Waterhouse Meyer Nel. Now Price Waterhouse Meyer Nel writes to the Auditor General and says this is irregular (I'm just paraphrasing it, it's a long letter in Afrikaans which says why this should not be done). But then the Auditor General with minor amendments takes what CEF has given him and sends it to parliament and says to parliament, everything is fine. So I have presented all those documents to the Public Protector. Surely common sense would indicate that there is something fundamentally wrong in the way these books were handled. Whether or not there was theft of R170 million is not the issue. The issue is how they were handled and how these matters were reported to parliament. So the Public Protector is going to go into that kind of detail. He's got the documents before him. He will come to his own conclusion. If he comes to the conclusion that I should not have raised questions about bribery and matters like that I will accept it, humbly so. Maybe this is how the new political system works and should work. Ministers must never ask questions about matters which they don't understand. Theirs was to make me understand why they were doing all manner of things and they've got to tell the Public Protector why they did what they did. They said to me in writing in a letter dated 11th June 1997 that in fact the amount disappears because they were trying to summarise the whole thing for parliament.
POM. Who said this now?
PM. The Auditor General, "We were summarising this and that's why this amount is not reflected." So in other words you summarise it by removing it, by expunging it completely or subsuming it in another figure, because that is what had happened so that therefore by a process of convoluted accounting you summarise it for parliament. Why? Because you think they can't read it correctly? But I also know that in fact it was the work of CEF and not his own work, Central Energy Fund, because this is exactly what the documents show. They would have to cross that bridge and show the Public Protector that this is not the work of the CEF. We are all appearing before the Public Protector in this regard. I will also give my own evidence. These are the documents I was looking at.
POM. Why do you think, for example taking a headline in the Business Day, it had a photograph of you on the front page and it said, "Another set back for Penuell Maduna"?
PM. That does not concern me at all. Let me tell you I'm no friend of the South African media, I am no friend of Jim Jones. He has said all manner of things about me, 'sack this man, let him go, incompetent', etc. I would want him to come to my office and check me on competence. He has never even interviewed me - check me on competence. He will find that in fact not a single matter is outstanding right now. From my office in Pretoria I have gone through all files that have been given to me, given all manner of licences, etc., etc., as required. I know, so he can't say that's a reflection of incompetence because he would have to say, this one has been lying on your desk for all these years, etc., etc., that's incompetence. You can't come to that conclusion unless you have actually dealt with facts but they are not pre-occupied with facts. So should I concern myself about him? I don't, honestly. I don't even spend sleepless nights over Jim Jones and the likes of him. I don't.
POM. Was this matter discussed in the NEC?
PM. No. It's not an NEC matter, it's a government matter.
POM. Was it discussed in cabinet?
PM. No. Why should it be?
POM. Just a departmental - ?
PM. This is it. It's a question of a minister saying, "For God's sake check my books." It's not a minister who has been accused of doing a fidget with his own books, it's a minister who is actually saying, "But bribery is a crime, surely somebody should have been punished for paying a bribe and for receiving a bribe." And surely these matters ought to have been reported to parliament. That's my feeling. I should have said, no, we uncovered bribery to this extent, etc., etc.
POM. So are you going to make the apology that the committee demanded?
PM. I have already done that. I wrote a letter to Frene Ginwala the following day. I said, look I apologise for not following that strict procedure.
POM. Then there was another mistaken statement in The Sunday Times which said, "Ten days have passed and it hasn't - "
PM. Let me tell you, you chat with the office of the Speaker. I gave the letter to her the following day, it's dated 19th. I didn't have to run to Jim Jones and The Sunday Times, etc., and say to them this is what I'm sending to the Speaker. I don't work that way. If they don't want to check facts before they write, the rubbish that they write about me, I don't care. Honestly. I sent her that, in fact even before last week, because by the time they had finalised their report to the Speaker I had already sent her the letter. If you could switch this off I'll get it for you now and you can read it.
. Honestly, look, so for me this is not an important matter at all.
POM. I suppose the question I was getting at goes back to really the media question. Why is so much attention being paid by the media to this question? Is it a vendetta against you personally, or you as the personification of the government, an attempt to distort issues so that the fact that you may have violated a mere procedure of rules -
PM. It's a minor role.
POM. - becomes the headline whereas the real question as to whether or not the charges you made are true or untrue are almost swept under the table?
PM. Precisely. Why don't you - let me answer that question. I think it's not about me personally. Long after I've left government and politics they will still be doing this.
POM. 'They' being?
PM. The media. As far as the media is concerned there is nothing good the ANC government is doing for this country. We are bad on combating crime, we are bad on dealing with corruption, we are bad in every sense of the word. Read everything about us. It's as though in fact, look, the country could have been happier with a National Party with its apartheid. So in other words it's not about me personally. They have said the same thing about all sorts of other ministers. And of course I committed a cardinal sin by challenging a white man, Cluver, and asking these questions. I can tell you, once Mr Baqwa has finished his work I will be vindicated because the documents, for God's sake, are there and they can never be hidden. In fact when they asked him, I don't know why you're not referring to him, when they asked Cluver the same day what he thought of my statement that the documents speak for themselves, you know what he said? "If you read the documents only and you don't know the background you may come to the same conclusion, but deal with the background and you'll then understand the situation." That's the best he can say about those documents. That's the best he can say. I would have expected him to say that's nonsense, I've checked them, they are not authentic, they are fakes, etc., etc., we will deal with that before Baqwa. In other words when he goes before Baqwa he will be talking about background circumstances, etc., etc. We deal only with the law, we look at the law. Bribery is bribery. You can't say we satisfied ourselves that this bribery was paid in these circumstances so it ceased being a crime and therefore we said to you everything was fine. Because, let me tell you, the problem I was always facing as minister is that these amounts were continuing being paid. So in other words the recipients of these amounts, which nobody could explain to me, were continuing to get the money. That's part of the reason why Baqwa is going into this. Baqwa is also determining why these amounts were paid. I can tell you we have already established before Baqwa that there were not even contracts on the basis of which these were paid.
POM. So those moneys would be paid even when you became minister?
POM. Paid, unknown to you, the same kind of system just percolates along in the usual way?
PM. That's it. So, let me tell you, I said to them you had better stop and pay only when you can satisfy me that it is right to pay. That's how I end this bad name. But let me just show you what one journalist said after reading the documents.
POM. This is from FM Focus, edited by Sharon Wood.
PM. That's Financial Mail.
POM. That Financial Mail 3rd July 1998. It says: -
. "A Yebo minister oils well. Mineral & Energy minister Penuell Maduna made an ass of himself when he accused Auditor General Henry Cluver of covering up the 'theft' of R170 million by the Central Energy Fund. The money wasn't missing but hidden by an obtuse entry in the books. But Maduna may have been in the right company. Documents and letters in the FM's possession throw into sharp relief a close and even conniving relationship between the AG's office and the CEF. This raises serious questions about the judgement and loyalties of the AG's office. Just before the first democratic elections, on February 9th 1994 a meeting takes place in the office of the then Deputy AG, Professor JA Bertie Loots, between Loots and senior officials of the CEF. The minutes of the meeting report agreement that: in the light of the current circumstances, the end of apartheid, the CEF is requested to suggest reasons why the CEF income statements may not be published or to create alternative statements that can be published. This is interesting. Remember the AG's client here isn't the CEF but parliament yet the AG's office is assisting the CEF to find a way around the inconveniences of transparency about to be thrown up by the advent of democracy. Even more amazing, this meeting takes place two days after Price Waterhouse, agents for the AG and Auditors of the CEF, officially sign off the 1993 accounts in which R170 million is shown as a loss. A few days later on February 17th the CEF sends Price Waterhouse a revised income statement and balance sheet newly created as per understanding with the AG in which the R170 million no longer appears, let alone as a loss. Instead it has become part of an item called 'net trading income from strategic and commercial crude oil transfers' worth R660 million.
. Back to the official audit which wasn't presented to parliament by the AG and that number can be arrived at by adding trading income of R797 million and a R42 million transfer from deferred income and then subtracting the R170 million, allow for rounding out. Confused? So probably was Maduna when he decided the R170 million was missing and hit the Cluver abuse button. Where the official trading loss was later hidden remains unclear. Why Cluver presented a revised account and not Price Waterhouse official originals he has yet to explain to the Public Prosecutor's hearing on the dispute between him and Maduna. But that the relationship between the CEF and the AG's office work to the detriment of parliament seems undeniable.
. A year later in March 1995 the CEF sends a suggested 'explanation' to the AG of how the AG can get around reporting to parliament on the finances and activities of a host of CEF affiliates most of them incorporated in foreign tax havens. The document reads, "I suggest the annex to the list be changed as follows: - I was not instructed to audit the following affiliates of the CEF Group as indicated and no report from my office is therefore required. The companies are audited by external auditors and I have ascertained for myself the reasons for which the companies are used and have no reason to present any additional information regarding this issue to parliament." A subsequent report by the AG to parliament accepts this helpful suggestion almost entirely and repeats it. Maduna's intemperate outburst against Cluver has probably (spoilt) any chance of a proper investigation into the apartheid oil trade. Maduna must therefore carry responsibility for a monumental mistake.
. But is Cluver the angel we established media have made him out to be? Certainly the documents in the FM's possession which we will continue to publish reek of a patronising disrespect for parliament and the people on the part of the AG's office. The Public Prosecutor, Selby Baqwa, is right to continue his enquiry despite Maduna's team having conceded that R170 million has not been stolen."
. It says it all. But what I like, still, about the way it's written is that it makes you out to be the bad guy, just their choice of adjectives.
PM. This is it. Well I am not concerned about what it says about me. I didn't expect them to be singing praises of me. I didn't expect that. But at least this one did make an effort to look at the issues much more closely and say, no, there was something wrong here. And that's the gist of what I'm saying, that there was something fundamentally wrong in the way these matters were handled.
POM. Isn't a bit ironic that far more attention has been paid to this matter than to the contents of your white paper on minerals which would ultimately (affect) people's mineral rights? What are the main provisions of the proposals that are envisaged in this white paper. Again, Business Day says that the Departments of Finance, Water Affairs and the Environment have some problems with some aspects of the draft bill and also the Constitutional Affairs have some?
PM. Again, you see, it's because they are relying on leaks. Ministers are fully entitled to ask questions.
POM. But they should ask questions.
PM. They should ask questions. So indeed they are not opposed to the white paper but they have asked questions relating to some of the things that they are doing themselves. For instance, if you just take the case of one department, Land Affairs, the question facing us right now as this government is whether or not as we restore land to the extent we can to people who were robbed of their ownership of land, as it were, from 1913, are we restoring the land in its entirety so that then those, for instance, who get land back which has minerals get their mineral rights back or are we just returning -
POM. The land and not the minerals.
PM. - surface rights? That question is confronting that minister. So when we are talking about these issues in cabinet it's not because he's opposed to me, he is actually saying - I am happy that indeed there is this white paper because it gives us an opportunity to deal with this question. But if you get it by way of some funny little leak it will sound as though he was saying - no, no, no, I'm opposed to it. All I want to give to blacks is surface rights. Now the question he poses, and it's a correct question, is how do we deal with mineral rights? The question is quite a legitimate one because, let me tell you, if for instance you say let's give everybody who benefits from that land restoration programme everything in the land then they are creating a big problem. Those who are not going to get their mineral rights back are then going to queue up and say, no we want our mineral rights back, because though you cannot restore to us, those who then benefited from the state takings, I mean state taking from us, are keeping the mineral rights, the beneficiaries in other words of that broad daylight plundering of the majority in this country.
POM. So if you gave back the surface without the mineral rights, to whom did the mineral rights belong before?
PM. That's exactly the question that that minister, my colleague, was asking. What do we do with the mineral rights? Because in terms of current legislation the owner of the land owns everything in the land. So if then you say you are restoring surface rights only they are entitled to come back and say, no, no, we are being treated unequally under the law so it's unconstitutional to give us only surface rights, give us everything in the land. At the same time government is committed to taking all mineral rights and vesting them in the hands of the state so that then anybody who wants to participate in mining is not constrained with the obligation to go and look for some owner hiding somewhere who is holding these mineral rights, but goes, as happens the world over, to government and says - I want to prospect there for minerals, give me a concession, give me a permit, give me a licence. Here you can't do that. If the land is mine and everything in it is mine I decide what to do with those natural resources which are part of the country's patrimony, we argue, and I am glad to say that the Chamber of Mines has basically started accepting that indeed these rights are part of the national patrimony but a way then would have to be found to phase out this system.
POM. I was going to ask you that with regard to particularly gold mining.
PM. Everything, everything.
POM. But gold mining would come under the rubric of this legislation too.
PM. It's not just gold mining. This country is actually full of minerals of all types. Anything, right up to zirconium, vermiculite, etc., etc. The paper, however, is not dealing direct with the issue of expropriation of ownership, it's not, because we accept that we may not be able to do it. That brings me to the next question which is asked by another minister. When are we going to begin to expropriate these rights? It's not opposition to it. The minister says you seem to be postponing expropriation by skirting around it the way you do in the paper. So it's a genuine discussion at cabinet.
POM. If I were one of the mines, Goldfields, that's the name of one of the mining houses? And if I were operating fifteen mines, now under the new legislation -
PM. No, there is no new legislation as yet.
POM. Oh yes, but if there were.
PM. A new policy orientation, yes.
POM. If under what you are proposing, which is that the rights of ownership of minerals be vested in the state -
PM. No that's not what I'm proposing. It's an old ANC position, it's this government's position, ANC position to be found in the Freedom Charter of 1955 as well as the government's position to be found in the RDP so I'm not proposing it. What I have proposed we do for practical reasons, and I'm going to come to them, I was just taking you through that so that you can see that there is an element of mischief making on the part of a person who takes a discussion in cabinet out of context because that discussion reaches him or her by way of some funny leak. Let me tell you I respect no-one who relies on leaks because half the time those elements who are disloyal, whoever they are, are also capable of lying. They then take this thing and say, you see this was opposed by so-and-so and so-and-so. That was no opposition, we were debating it so that what comes out is not Maduna's policy but government policy on this. So I didn't feel that any minister was actually just rubbing my nose in the sand as it were in this regard. It's a discussion that we must have. I am saying to you, the Minister of Finance who is also listed there, "Minister, once you expropriate", because then there were those who were saying when are we going to expropriate, "Once you expropriate the constitution says you've got to pay compensation, follow all those procedures but the procedures lead to compensation. Do we have money in the kitty to pay compensation?" That's a practical question. It doesn't require a leak at all. The answer is we don't know till we look at our budget. So in other words I'm not going to be standing with a bucket full of money and dispensing compensation to those who are going to be affected. It's a practical question.
. Now therefore what we propose is, we leave the question of ownership aside, at least for now whilst we say that the ultimate objective is to vest all mineral rights in the state. What we do is we leave that question aside. We deal with the issue of mining rights as opposed to mineral rights. Then we say, indeed, whoever the minister will be, it doesn't matter whether it's me or whatever, that minister must be armed with adequate power to intervene when mineral rights are not being used but are being hoarded. The old principle of use it or lose it is what we are proposing. That's what we're proposing in the paper. We say short of expropriation immediately, surely you can't sit back and twiddle your fingers, you've got to do something, and what we are proposing ought to be done is exactly this one. And there is no opposition to that because then the opposition must tell us, I even said, we can take them tomorrow, pass an appropriate law, we have got the right numbers in parliament, we can pass that law and take them, but then we've got to pay compensation or find creative ways of dealing with the issue of compensation.
. And again, let me tell you, and it is not my intention, by the way, to do things that are going to unnecessarily disrupt the economy. That's that. So you are looking for a smooth kind of transition from the current order to the ideal order where anybody who wants to participate in mining only goes to the appropriate organs of state and says I want a permit to prospect there and to start mining here, that kind of thing. So in other words it opens the industry to broader participation. While blacks may be my primary focus it's not about blacks only, it's about the whole range of people who want to come in and participate in mining including foreign investors who say, look the current regime is indeed not conducive to broader participation, until we know how you're going to deal with it we're not going to come in with our money. And those who want to expand their participation in the South African mining scene. Others were telling us the same thing. We've got money which we want to plough into this undertaking of ours and expand it etc., etc., but what we don't know is whether or not you can help us get into pieces of land adjacent to ours. Government can't actually say no, our hands are tied in this regard. And of course there is the old sore, old festering sore, that black grievance against the current order which you can't address either by simply saying we restore everything in the land or we restore only surface rights to you. The answers, in other words, for government, not just for one minister, are not easy but its an issue government has got to grapple with so it's not about one minister.
POM. I suppose my point is that over the tedious affair about the R170 million you get ream after ream and column after column of discussion and speculation and whatever, and over really serious issues -
PM. The conclusion is: sack him because you as government want to move in one direction and he wants you to move in the wrong direction.
POM. And here you have major issues of policy which receive no coverage at all.
PM. This is it and it's a major debate that this country must have. It's a major debate the country must have and I've initiated it. By the way, the debate is taking place whether they like it or not, it's taking place whether they like me or not. It's not about me personally, it's about government policy. Long after I've actually left the political scene personally I know that these persons will be confronting government and government will have to find answers. It's as simple as that, Padraig. It's not about one man. I wish they were because then you would simply say one man, one morning, Mandela would just one morning say - you're too much of an embarrassment, go. I will remain with those who are going to do it my way. Let things remain as they are. Because at the core of it, interestingly, are the vested interests which are going to be affected when we move the way I say we must move. That's that Padraig, it's not about one man. I wish it were honestly. So I have never said it's about me and therefore I am in trouble and this, that and the other. That's not how I look at it.
. For instance, the rand economy right now is going through a bumpy patch, real turbulence. People have lost money, including me, last week alone my unit trusts at the beginning of the week, I got into the bank I was worth R75,000. By Saturday they were worth only R55,295, a loss of R20,000 immediately. Now I may not be a true reflection of poverty, I am certainly part of the lower stratum of the elite in the country. But if it hit me that way, it hit my little savings from 1994 effectively, how much more for the ordinary person in the street? Their bonds and things like that. All of us in fact are thrown into a crazy spin as a result of this. Now it would not be proper for anybody to say that those are Trevor Manuel's problems in cabinet. Solve the rand economy or else you must go. Mandela sack him, etc., etc. Those are not his problems, they are the country's problems. And we debate them, we discuss them. He comes with ideas, etc., etc., and if you don't then sit back and say, hey look, unless they say I said something in the media, let me shut up, you participate in the discussion because it's in the interests of this country that all of us must do something to rescue the rand economy from the jaws of a real disaster. But you can't say it's one man's problem, you can't. So indeed, whilst they may be beating the drums of Maduna said, Maduna said, and thinking that they're going to solve the problem, this country is still going to be confronted with them. There is no opposition to the white paper in cabinet at all I can assure you. You can ring each one.
. Manuel says there is something you don't say about taxation of mines. Of course the argument being that taxation belongs to Finance. But you see we can't be silent on the issue. Neither can we say we leave it to research by and under Michael Katz via the Katz Commission. There is something we've got to say about taxation and the mining industry, etc., without providing the necessary detail. Now that's not opposition to it.
POM. Of course not.
PM. That's not, it's a minister contributing towards the discussion. So you can actually take each one of them and say this is what he said, I am not leaking it to you, I am answering your question. You take the Minister of Water Affairs, there are problems of underground water in our mining industry in this country, particularly the West and the East Rand. My department puts out about R30 million to pump that water in order for mining in those affected areas to continue. But it's not only my department that has an interest in that. There is the Department of Environmental Affairs & Tourism, the Department of Labour because if I don't pay that money labour sinks, the mines are closed and labour is affected, finance, etc., because I've got to get the money from the budget. So when then as ministers we were sitting and discussing this it's not because some minister is opposed to me. For God's sake that's not.
POM. These issues are inter-related to a bunch of other issues.
PM. In fact you don't have a minister's policy in our government, you have a government policy. So when we then put it out it should ideally be answering all these questions. It's not opposition to one man by the rest. I wish it were because then I would leave politics, I would leave it and say, well everybody opposes me, I am pursuing wrong positions, etc., bye-bye, thank you, I'm gone. That is not what is happening there. There is vibrant debate rather than people taking positions against one wrong man, etc., etc. That's not what is happening there. If you could check with all of them who are mentioned in the press, why did you oppose it? They would tell you exactly what I am telling you.
POM. Let me ask you, what's happened to the commodities market in the wake of the rand crisis which is not really a rand crisis, it's a global crisis?
PM. It's a global crisis. The price of gold, to take one example, is very low. This morning it was $274.
POM. When the price of gold falls how many jobs are put on the line? How many mines become marginal and go under because of the price?
PM. Many mines and thousands of jobs. Unfortunately the mining industry basically has hitherto been relying on unskilled labour so if they lose jobs they have no transferable skills. It's as simple as that. Now I can sit back and say, oh well look, it's not my problem, it's the Minister of Labour's problem. But that would never be a correct attitude to adopt. We have got to work together and he can't say it's a problem of mining either. That is why at the beginning of this year, I think in February, we then set up what we call the Gold Crisis Committee because the crisis was actually felt particularly in the area of gold. But it's true, isn't it Padraig, that countries whose economies rely on production of oil are going through a similar turbulence, if not worse. The price of oil per barrel once hit the bottom of the barrel itself, $11.50. Is it not true? Just a short while back. Now you can't then say, oh no, we have no interest in that. With us as a net importer of crude oil it would have come at the right time but for the gross devaluation of the rand which ran simultaneously with that. So in other words if there were benefits at all they are not visible because you see we have to get the dollar which is used to pay for the oil. Because we have less and less by way of the dollar we then have to devalue the rand and charge more for our oil as it's increasing by Wednesday, this coming Wednesday, and you can't say it's because of the sins of one bad minister, you can't. Let me tell you, if I felt that way I would not stay in politics for one extra day. My colleagues themselves have never made me feel I'm unwanted. No not at all, they have never.
POM. Let me just take a couple of things that you said: you have, and the government is well aware of it and acting together, a country, like many other countries at the moment, facing economic crises of proportions that haven't been seen for decades.
PM. We're better than Russia!
POM. Everyone's better than Russia, God help them. And compounding that you have massive unemployment, you have problems on every side and yet tomorrow NUMSA is going to go on strike, it's looking for wage increases between 12% and 18%. You have other unions that are beginning to enjoy these sympathy strikes with workers in other sectors of the economy. You have an increase in the number of strikes this year for the first time since 1994, since the new government came into being. The workers are the privileged classes, they have jobs, and yet they're putting more pressure down your neck rather than trying to act in solidarity and consolidation with the government, at least it would seem to me, and if I was an outside investor I would say that country's crazy, it's got at least 30% unemployment, its currency is going down, it's being rocked and pushed by the global economy and the growth is going to be negative, growth has stopped, and whole sections of the economy are looking for 18% wage increases. I'm not putting my money in there, I can take my money and go any place in the world where people will say, ah welcome.
PM. You see, I wish that the answers were as easy as it might look to an outsider. But you know fortunately I am of working class background, I know what I'm talking about. We are actually reaping the whirlwind sowed in the past, basically by apartheid. If you look at our country's Gini coefficient the gap between your poor and your rich is very wide and it's not narrowing. It's a major problem. The person who goes out on strike may indeed seem to be acting recklessly, should be acting much more cautiously because jobs are scarce, etc., etc. Superficially you may be right but it goes into the very fundamentals of our country, the distortions of the economy that we have inherited. So in your country, for instance, the Gini coefficient is narrower and therefore you could easily say to workers, let's be very careful about how we handle the current circumstances which are temporary by all accounts otherwise the price is huge. But you can't go there and say to a person who earns a pittance and who risks really his life, goes into the bowels of the earth to fetch gold and things like that, no, no, don't do anything about it. So this is where the situation is, what the situation is like. Of course we are constantly engaging in discussion with workers, quietly so, most of us that is because you see you don't want to muddy the waters further by standing on a public platform and saying don't do this, don't do that, etc.
POM. Confrontation leads to nothing.
PM. But interestingly enough shrewd investors are still coming in. They are not being alienated. On Friday last week, for instance, the 28th, I was up in the north, Rio Tinto Zinc which owns quite a large percentage of Phalaborwa Mining Corporation, it's expanding its activities there and they are putting in in excess of US$400 million, over R2.02 billion, so that the life of the mine up there is extended beyond the year 2002 by another 20/25 years. It's happening. So it's not all gloom and doom therefore, it's not. You know what we ought to be doing, all of us, is just hold the line. The problems are temporary, the situation is definitely going to get better pretty soon and that would sustain us, very difficult circumstances. As I was saying to you it doesn't matter how much your bond is, you've been affected by what is happening but the solution is not therefore selling your house, running away. Where do you go? You would have to make adjustments in your consumption, etc., in order to be able to deal with these problems personally.
POM. You talked about the genie-coefficient and let me go back to that for a minute, and this goes back to comments that were made about the Deputy President's speech on there being two nations, one largely white and prosperous and one largely black and poor. This analysis of the 1995 Central Statistics Survey of households' incomes and expenditures, and that indicated that the Gini coefficient in the 12 main urban areas decreased from .63 to .55 in 1995 and that in these areas over the same period the ratio of white to black household income dropped from 5.9 : 1 to 2.4 : 1, that black household incomes increased by 140% in real terms while whites' real income dropped by 3.4%. Then the Institute of Race Relations did some research which suggested that the income ratio between the employed and unemployed blacks is 29 : 1, that the average employed black receives R1360 per month compared to R47 for an unemployed black. This, the research concludes, is the greatest division in South African society and should be contrasted with the 3.4 : 1 ration between black and white earnings in manufacturing. Therefore, they argue, these researchers argue, that the real division is not between black and white any longer but it is between the employed and the unemployed.
PM. Personally I like to deal with flesh and blood, real people, not statistics which a researcher knocks together in the comfort of some library or office. If you were to say to a person living in dire straits in Alexandra, which is a couple of kilometres from the opulence of Sandton: the gap between black and white is getting narrower and narrower, you are now living much better in your shacks than you lived prior to 1994, are you happy? They would skin you alive.
POM. But what they're saying is that even that the gap between black and white by other studies may be getting bigger, but their point is that the biggest gap is between employed blacks and unemployed blacks. That's the biggest margin that is increasing.
PM. No, no, you see - but then how many are we talking about of those blacks? I said the other day if we just take a sample of blacks who are now living in Bryanston where I live, those blacks are not a true reflection of the narrowing of the gap between black and white in this country. That's the truth. I know of no white person who lives in a shack in this country. I have never come across one. So whilst indeed in the comfort of those libraries people come to these conclusions, the truth is those of us who may be living in those better conditions now than we were living in before 1994 have just added colour, a slightly different shade to an otherwise white dominated economy. That's the truth. A few Cyril Ramaphosas, and a few Tokyo Sexwales are not going to be a true reflection of the basic changes that ought to take place in this country. Blacks still live on the periphery of this economy. You can't then say you are taking my own earnings as a minister and contrasting them with an unemployed black and then say this shows that there is a big gap between blacks and blacks now. You can't, you can't be correct when you do it that way. You would have to relate us to the entirety of the economy. Why should you want to say I am looking at blacks versus blacks, I am not looking at all blacks versus all whites? Then once you do that you then realise that the gap is still very large between black and white. Your poorest white has always had access to clean water, electricity, etc. Go to your poorest black and they will tell you that even today they are still living in the valley of the shadow of the death.
POM. Then many people say, like the report on inequality and the NGO report also said, that the gap between black and white was increasing, not decreasing.
PM. It's not.
POM. Now, and I have asked this for the last several years and I am sure I've asked you last year or the year before or whatever, that GEAR is not working, GEAR is not obtaining its objectives, GEAR rather than there being 5% rate of growth per year and the creation of 200,000 or 250,000 jobs -
PM. There's going to be a negative growth according to many people.
POM. Negative growth rate and unemployment in the formal sector is increasing rather than decreasing. My question is: don't change GEAR, everyone says the fundamentals are in place even though the fundamentals don't seem to me to be giving you any kind of results that you want to take delight in, but do COSATU and the SACP not have a point, or is there not a point, now I know they have been confrontational in the way they attack GEAR, that makes the ANC or the government get a little bit confrontational back, but given the results of the implementation of GEAR is it not time at least to say, you know what, after a couple of years there may be a case for examining some of the assumptions on which we built GEAR, to look at them again, to see were they correct assumptions, to revise them in the light of changed circumstances, not to change the structure of the thing but to say all plans are built on assumptions and assumptions sometimes turn out not always to be correct so you adjust accordingly as assumptions change. Should there not be a little bit more debate about GEAR rather than President Mandela saying GEAR is government policy and it will be government policy over my dead body, period, end of argument.
PM. You see again that's where the problem lies. Mandela has never said GEAR is cast in stone, it must never be debated, even within government. There is a constant evaluation of all sorts of policies. It's taking place all the time. You can't say because we've got GEAR it doesn't matter what's happening to the rand, it doesn't matter what's happening to the growth rate. There are debates amongst us all the time. You may not be saying we are debating this in order to abandon GEAR or change whatever assumptions it was based on, but there are constant debates and there is constant evaluation over a whole lot of our policies. It happens all the time. So you don't need a specific moment when you're going to say, now we're just going to do a review of GEAR as GEAR.
. We are asking ourselves what is to be done with the fact that we don't have the necessary level of growth, what is happening, what can be done to ensure that we turn things round? That is part of the constant discussion. What do we do here in order to change this for the good of the country? That's what government does all the time. You are not going to say, no, no, I've got GEAR, GEAR is all I need and therefore I don't do anything, we are sinking but we are sinking without GEAR. We are looking at all these all the time and as you quite correctly pointed out, GEAR emerges at about the same time when this world crisis descends upon us starting from the Far East. So indeed there may be a whole lot of other problems in the way we are doing things and in the way we are looking at a whole range of issues. We are constantly asking ourselves these questions. So you are not going to have one big seminar where GEAR is going to be reviewed because the assumptions were wrong. I don't think that we would be sending the right signals because then who have always been anti-GEAR are going to say, but we told you, your fault, now you are agreeing with us, abandon this bloody GEAR of yours.
. That's why I said to you we had better hold the line, things are never going to get completely out of hand in world terms. They are not. At some point things are going to begin to turn around and we've got to work in the direction of that point, all of us. This is not the moment to throw up your hands and say, now look let's do a review of this, seminar next week, this, that and the other, because you would cause real disruption. Once you say to people government is re-thinking its position on GEAR then the uncertainty that you are complaining about is going to become part of reality and you don't want that to happen. So you don't want to alarm people when the circumstances are not as good as they could have been. You don't. I have never come across a government which does that. By the way we haven't come across anybody who is opposed to GEAR who has come up with a better plan.
POM. It's like democracy, what did Churchill say about democracy? It may not be the best form of government but there's no better alternative.
PM. Yes. So in other words, again, you would sort of be saying to some disruptive elements, you have won, the government is re-thinking it, there is no policy position on the economy therefore and that's it. So we just drift along until another election. And you can't do that. I have no doubt that it can be established that some of the assumptions might have been wrong. The assumptions in fact were based on the world as we then understood it but there is a real economic meltdown in world terms which we need to address.
POM. The world needs to address it.
PM. Which the world needs to address.
POM. Let me ask you, finish up on a couple of political questions, one really arises out of our conversation. Most economists now and even government officials are saying the country is headed towards a recession or is in a recession depending upon how you want to see it. Recession is defined if you don't have a rate of growth in two consecutive quarters, that's the normal definition. As you approach an election year, and let's just assume it's going to take the world economy a year or so to straighten itself out and for the impact of whatever changes are made in the US or wherever to percolate down through the system, and as unemployment perhaps increases, as the rand falls further, as the economic indicators begin to slide and as interest rates go up and people have to pay more for their houses, will there not be a real temptation for government, as is the case with all governments in any democracy in an election year, to dump money into the economy in order to shore up or increase its share of the vote and that the budgetary guidelines will go by the board for a year?
PM. No that hasn't arisen.
POM. Why not? Because you would be unique if you don't do it. Every other country does it.
PM. No. I am saying that hasn't arisen so I don't even want to speculate on that. Again, that has its own cost by the way, you don't just dump money and hope that you are resolving all your problems by doing so.
POM. Well you get re-elected and then you say let's deal with the problems.
PM. Let me tell you, maybe it's because we know that we are going to be re-elected.
POM. What do you think of the decision or the statements by Mr Motlanthe, the Secretary General, that the ANC was going to aim to get more than two thirds of the vote in this election? Do you think that would be a good thing for the country?
PM. Yes it would be.
PM. No incumbent government would say we want less and less.
POM. Given the fact that it would give you the unilateral power to change the constitution, do you not think that might instil a lot of fear into people or that having that power you would be tempted to use it?
PM. No. Let me tell you something. It would be very good for the country because it would mean that the country has confidence in the incumbent government, so much so that it actually votes for it once again, overwhelmingly gives it more than they have. Look, we want more than two thirds, we are working for it, we are going to go all out to capture it.
POM. Do you not also think you need a strong opposition?
PM. Let me tell you, a strong opposition is good for democracy, no doubt about it, but you don't create it from within your own ranks. You don't go out and say, you know we want less so that you can have a strong opposition. It's never happened. You want the right numbers behind you, not because you want to be mischievous, no not at all. I don't think this country will experience the horrendous and criminal thing of apartheid any longer so the majority are not going to do that. We will work hard for that, if we don't get it because people want a strong opposition, we will accept that as well.
POM. But you're not worried about the constitutional implications?
PM. No, there are no constitutional implications. I am not going to say to a voter, don't vote ANC now because we have enough votes, vote for others. I am never going to say so. I am going to say you vote, you're ANC.
POM. Just a couple more quick ones. The ANC's decision that Premiers should be appointed by the NEC in provinces where they have control rather than by the ANC provincial legislatures, do you approve of that?
PM. Yes I do, I am part of that decision. We want to separate the party from government. We don't want a person, for instance, who clambers up to the top position in the party to then want to lay claim to the position of Premier when they are not suitably qualified for it. One journalist in fact, Thami Mazwai(?), puts it very beautifully -
POM. He was in Business Day on Friday? I read the article.
PM. Yes. He says elections turn on popularity and votes etc., and the votes may not necessarily give you the kind of person who would provide you with the necessary leadership. You see the ANC is the majority party so if I am the leader of the ANC in my province here in Gauteng even if I am not suitably qualified I would actually win the necessary members, but talking about the ANC itself saying, well we think that the most suitable candidate for Premier ought to be this one so therefore let's work on that basis.
POM. If you're separating party from government in the provinces, isn't the party at the central level in fact deciding who will be the government in the provinces?
PM. No, no. In the ANC the provinces are actually represented - the Provincial Executive Committees of the ANC are represented in the National Executive Committee.
POM. But yet Popo Molefe was told he had to choose between being a member of the NEC or being provincial chairman.
PM. No, let me tell you, you misunderstood.
POM. And he's also a Premier.
PM. Can I tell you, you misunderstood it completely. You see you can't hold membership of the NEC by direct election and at the same time be elected to a position in the province. That's what we said. Unless your province specifically asks for that to be the case.
POM. But wouldn't you be a member of the NEC anyway by virtue of the fact that you're a Premier?
PM. Take one example for instance, no, no.
POM. I thought Premiers were ex officio members of the NEC?
PM. No, no, no, no! Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri, the Premier of the Free State, was directly elected at Mafikeng just like me.
POM. To the NEC?
PM. Yes, to the NEC. So she does not even have to stand for the position of chairman of the ANC in the Free State. She doesn't. She was directly elected. But assuming that she wanted to stand for that position she would have to forego that one but then she wins that position of chairman, she becomes an ex officio member of the NEC. So you can't be an NEC in two senses, that is what we are saying, because then what happens is you are taking two positions. Right now the Free State will have the Premier who was directly elected to the NEC as well as Ace Makashule from the Free State, but if you had combined the two in one person they would then be held by one person, not so? In terms of the ANC constitution you can't do it unless -
POM. So the chairperson of the ANC in the provinces is an ex officio member?
PM. Of the NEC. Yes, with all the rights that I have as a directly elected member.
POM. But a Premier?
PM. Is not unless you are directly elected or you are elected by your province as the chairperson there or as the secretary of the ANC in your province because both the chairman and the secretary are ex officio members of the NEC.
POM. So Popo was, as chairman of - ?
PM. If he was defeated yesterday then he would not be in the NEC.
POM. OK. So as a Premier he wouldn't be in the NEC?
PM. He wouldn't. Premiership is an executive position in the province. It is separate from the party but if the party wins the election it then has to say to itself, who would be the most suitable? By the way it's not only the ANC that does that. In the two provinces where the ANC is not the majority, do you think that the IFP could have just said we wanted anybody? Because we have actually won the election here we can have our own person? Ngubane, when Mdlalose was leaving that position, Ngubane was removed by Buthelezi and the party in Ulundi from the national government to KZN and the heavens did not come down crashing upon us. The NP did the same thing. Gerald Morkel accepted, replaced Kriel when Kriel was retiring from politics. Now when we say we want to do the same thing, we want to be able to give this country of our best in other words and you know it might be that indeed we don't have to tamper with it in many instances. For instance, I don't think that anybody would want to say, Popo you are not fit at the national level so though you are chairman, get out of that position. I don't think so. But we want to be able to evaluate our people.
. Let me tell you we have had problems for instance, maybe at much lower levels, with the likes of Chauke who is actually the second most wanted, in fact the most wanted criminal now because the other one died, Fingers died. Now, assuming that in fact you had a Chauke element, you know Chauke was one time a member of the Council in this thing, Shoshanguwe, and therefore I think Pretoria as well, I may be wrong about this, he was an ANC councillor because he was popular. Now assuming that you had a character of that type, rising through real popularity in the streets here, you then would have to say to yourself, no but we can't give this province, this city, this town, this kind of person. We have got to intervene and discuss it with them and say, Sir or Madam you may be popular but we want this person with this quality here. In some areas for instance, Mazwai points this out. He says, what type of mayor would pull out a knife and stab a man over a girl? We don't want that, as the ordinary people. Now you see party structures may elect Penuell Maduna even if the province does not think he is suitable as Premier and then of course, because the ANC is in the majority in Gauteng, you are fobbed off with Penuell Maduna with all his problems. So we want them to be able to say in those instances, no, no, no, let's intervene here. Have a thorough debate, a thorough discussion, no conspiracy against the individual.
POM. How about the situation where the Premier picksHow ahout the situation his cabinet, where, again, the NEC -
PM. No we don't want to intervene there.
POM. Well Jacob Zuma in the Northern Province insisted that the axed MEC for Education who had been sacked by the Premier be re-appointed.
PM. No he didn't insist. His own commission looked at the reasons for the removal.
POM. Who did?
PM. Zuma's Commission. He looked at the reasons and then said, no, look the reasons are not adequate for the removal. He didn't insist, he didn't say if you don't do it you are removed, etc. I didn't read it that way. The matter was actually thoroughly vetted and then he said we are not persuaded that these are sufficient reasons for the removal.
POM. But in other countries, say for example even in Ireland, if the Prime Minister wants to remove a minister, he wants to reshuffle his cabinet, the useless are gone.
PM. This is it, you remove him. That power is not taken away but you must remember that there was a commission to look into that and Zuma headed it because there were problems. Now let me tell you, whilst indeed I am at the mercy of the President, I hold whatever position I hold at his pleasure, I don't think that the President would want just to chop and change and destroy people, etc., he would have to have sound reasons why I should be turfed out. It can't be personal, certainly, it's got to be objective, it can't be subjective. I don't like him today so I remove him today. That's not how this world works because then you cause problems rather than solve them. You would have to have cogent reasons why you think I must be removed. So in other words you don't just sit back and say I don't like him now, let him go. That's not how it works. You would want to say, I think here we are weaker and he doesn't help to strengthen us, incompetent, this, that and the other, therefore he goes. Turfing a person out destroys people. I wouldn't want to hold a position when you no longer like me to hold it, but at the same time when you invite me to your government as head of state I develop certain legitimate expectations, namely that all things being equal I will serve the full term, unless of course there are things which you uncover or things I do or say which warrant dismissal. But as I wake up every morning I'm not looking forward to being sacked. Because if that is what was happening then people would say, no in case it happens to me let me keep away from this. Then you will never have some of your finest in the country because people are going to say too erratic, etc., etc. So, again, there Zuma merely said, no, look we recommend reinstatement here, because they look at the causes of the problems and say it looks bad and they discuss it with the Premier himself who then found a way to reinstate. But he could have said, no I'm not going to reinstate.
POM. A couple of quick last questions. Why can't the country get a proper grip on the crime problem? Statistics will say crime is going down and police will say we're slowly getting a handle on it, but the perception out there - people you talk to talk more and more about the situation getting worse and worse and it preoccupies people more and more. Why has the government been unable to guarantee the most basic right of all people not to be afraid of walking down their own street or living in their own house?
PM. But is it unable to do so? Separate fact from this thing. Right now if you walk down the streets of Johannesburg with all our major socio-economic problems, the ordinary person is walking around freely. That's the truth. Like other countries we have crime. Maybe it might be correct to concede that our crime rate is unacceptably high, but crime is unacceptable whether you're talking about the occasional rapist in some small area in Ireland called Omagh, let alone the big bomb there. So indeed, you are dealing with perceptions rather than reality. Some of us have been accosted by criminals in the past. In 1990 for instance it happened to me and maybe one year or two later it also happened to my wife but it happens to somebody in this whole world every now and then. But you see this whole thing is actually linked to people who are short of telling you, since blacks took over there is a higher crime rate, etc., etc., they are not combating it. You know with all the problems we have within the police, corruption among the police which we are actually dealing with, we have arrested quite a few of them, where we can't prove things against them we have nonetheless removed them. In one year, I think last year, we had over 800 cases of corruption being investigated, almost 1000, because we are combating it. Two, indeed, the police are under-resourced and it's a problem which we did not create in 1994, we inherited it. But more than that there is also a mal-distribution of even those scarce resources. White areas were over-resourced, over-policed, so we have got to shift resources. Now there are budgetary concerns.
POM. Are white areas still over-resourced?
PM. In some instances we have changed it.
POM. But by and large?
PM. By and large, yes. In fact when I lived in Bryanston in 1994 there was always a helicopter fluttering above our houses but we never had a major problem of crime there compared to Alexandra, Soweto to accept crime. Now because we can't provide a helicopter over Soweto we have dispensed with that service, too expensive, etc. The argument is always made that we should hire more police officers but then there is no money because we have got to pay them. They are underpaid by the way. A sergeant with some experience and matriculation takes home about R850 a month and that's no money. In other words they take less than some of the chaps who just do our gardening take home. Now it's not something that suddenly happened in 1994. On the contrary, the chances are that in fact black police officers were getting far less than that because they were black. Now there is parity but parity in poverty doesn't help much. But again, as the saying goes, you cut your garment according to the size of your cloth, there are budgetary constraints. We've got to shift money from some areas into others. But it's very interesting that indeed we are combating crime. The police, other than the shooting of Fingers which was unfortunate, did a good job by eventually arresting him. They took quite a long time but they found him, unfortunately of course.
POM. That was the thief they just shot?
PM. Well that is to be investigated. I wouldn't want to comment on it. But the very fact that they found him shows that they are doing their work. What happened to him subsequently, as I say, was unfortunate. I wish we can all eventually through thorough investigation get to know the facts and if indeed he was murdered then those who murdered him will have to pay. And they know they will have to pay. So, indeed, it's untrue to say or to conclude that nothing has been done about crime. Maybe not enough is being done.
POM. Sorry, you were saying?
PM. I was saying I don't think that Chauke walks about freely because he doesn't fear the law. If I were to see Chauke myself I would ring the police and tell them that I have Chauke in front of me now, pick him up. He knows that, that's why he's always on the run. Now the criminals are in the minority. The majority of our people, despite finding themselves in dire straits, are not criminals and they are working with us to combat crime. I am sure that the police on their own would never have found Fingers where they found him. Somebody said, "I have seen Fingers", and told the police he is hiding in such and such a place and the police went there and found him.
POM. Just the last couple of ones which can be answered fairly quickly. Do you believe that there still is the existence of a third force?
PM. It's difficult to say it no longer exists at all but I think its capacity to do damage, wreak havoc on the country, has been drastically reduced because now they know that there is a price to pay, those elements for instance who set off a bomb in Worcester in December 1996 are behind bars. They know there is a price to pay.
POM. Richmond? Part of what I've always identified the ANC with is you talk, you talk, you talk, you bring people together in order in some way to reduce conflict. President Mandela is insisting upon it in the DRC, there will be a ceasefire first to bring the parties together and then you'll talk about a negotiated settlement or whatever. You did it with the IFP but in Richmond you're saying with the UDM, no we won't talk to them.
PM. We didn't say no we will never talk to the UDM. We didn't. There's never, for instance, been a NEC position on talking to the UDM but we said that the problem is much more complex and it requires the action that eventually we took, closing down the police station and removing the police officers who were involved. The place was immediately silent. Not so? Interestingly enough you hear about it only yesterday but the radio this morning were saying that there were three deaths and two chaps were already behind bars. So in other words the criminals now know that they've got to pay, so whether they are UDM or ANC is not the issue. So sitting around the table with Sifiso Nkabinde might have helped maybe create the necessary atmosphere between us and them but other than on the ground there we never said Sifiso was our headache, this, that and the other. Once the courts found him not guilty we accepted that but we had to deal with the criminals behind the situation there and some of them were traceable to the police station.
POM. I spent quite a number of days there and going around to all the different communities and the townships. It was apparent to me, again as an outsider, that everyone didn't know, blamed sinister elements and criminals and whatever, but everyone also agreed that there were a lot of tensions between supporters of the UDM and the ANC and might it not be a good idea to diffuse those tensions before they get out of hand for the two organisations to sit down and say what can we do to ensure that these tensions don't get out of hand? For example, the Methodist Bishop of Durban, George Irvine, said he went there to conduct a ceremony and he had to conduct two ceremonies, he couldn't conduct one ceremony. He was told by ANC and UDM people he had to conduct two ceremonies, one in Magoda and the other in Ndaleni. He said, "I had to do two ceremonies because people were afraid to get together in one place, and there were supporters of the two different parties." You know what I mean?
PM. I wish that sitting down with Sifiso Nkabinde would immediately reassure him that people can worship wherever they want to. It became clear to us that you were dealing with something larger than Sifiso Nkabinde. Those police officers would be saying talk to Sifiso, talk to Sifiso, but we said to them, "Assuming that you are right, talking to Sifiso is going to help, why don't you then arrest those who perpetrate the violence in the meantime? Because to you Sifiso and the ANC are the problem, why don't you then act?" We said, "We will have to act against you because we think that the problem is in your midst." Yes, those tensions will have to be dealt with, we will have to sit down and talk to them. No problem with that, but you see talking to them would never have helped if you were not dealing with the police officers and third force behind the violence and we want to believe that we have dealt with it. They were exploiting those tensions.
POM. Is it your belief or the government's belief that the elements that were perpetrating the murders came from within the police force?
PM. How else do you explain the fact that once we shut the police station and moved the police, dispersed that unit, you had peace in Richmond.
POM. My last question, and it comes in two parts but they're connected. The Deputy President referred, I think on June 4th, to the collapse of moral values in the country and the need for some kind of moral summit and last week the churches came out with the statement saying that they were going to have a conference next week [and they said the churches which claimed to ... 30% of the population] so in their statement they said that there was a perceived despair in the country and their decision to organise a conference next year was to provide a message of hope for the country and they said there was a despondency in the country among South Africans at the escalation of violence, crime, economic instability and poverty, "concern at the breakdown of the country's moral fibre is being expressed by citizens across the board", they said. One, do you agree with that? Two, if you do what went wrong?
PM. It's right, you can't just walk into a little pub and place a bomb there in peace time and expect us just to sit back and say, oh well this has happened, etc. You would expect us to act and we are surely acting. We may not have found the right characters but we are interviewing a lot of suspects and where we are satisfied that they had nothing to do with it we let them go. I think the state of decay is not something new in this country, it's not. Again I know people say no, don't blame everything on apartheid, but the truth is a whole lot of these problems derive from it. They derive from it. The massive squalor and massive poverty among blacks derives from apartheid. If in fact everybody was treated equally here I am sure that many people would be living in better circumstances. If you just take the classical example of Mandela himself, when he went into jail Mandela was living in a small house as a lawyer in this country, confined to the townships. We grew up, became lawyers and we were also confined to the townships. We had no choice. Now we were never, in other words, allowed the freedom to choose where we wanted to live, couldn't even do things you wanted to do with the money that you were earning and earning legitimately.
. So I am citing that just to say to you if that kind of thing happened to people at that level, your elite, worse things were bound to happen to people in even the lowest ranks of our society. So you've got to deal, you can't pray it out of existence, you would have to do a whole lot of things to change people's circumstances, education being one of them. Children who are now going to school in normal, calmer conditions, with electricity, with water, are not looking for the next person to pounce upon, rob, rape, etc. They are actually now saying, we have an obligation towards ourselves and this country and it is to learn so that when the right moment comes we play a much more meaningful role in the economy so we can't be thieves, petty thieves, etc. We are no longer being told, no you're black therefore you can't use this door or you can't take advantage of this opportunity.
. It's going to take time to change things so it's not as though suddenly some day it descends upon us, disrupts our lives. You are talking about people who have no hope in hell that their lives are going to be better unless something drastic happens, but their lives are changed by all of us progressively. Those are your hotbeds of crime. You may want to bomb them out the way, some elements in Pagad may be tempted to do. You may indeed want to pray them out, you may hold all sorts of seminars about why we have these problems. Eventually you have got to say what has to be done and do what has to be done, empower each person so that they can do something about their own lives, make them much more meaningful and that takes time, takes patience, takes processes to empower people. Those who live in the conditions such as you find in Alexandra, for instance, are going to produce the finest criminals. I never heard of anybody who in peace time just runs into church and wants to stab a minister of religion while he's preaching and the minister pulls out a firearm and kills him. But it happens in those conditions in Alexandra. Again they may say, what has happened in God's house, the church, let us pray it out of existence, let's exorcise this demon. The answers are not easy. We will all have to do something, pull up, roll up our sleeves, pull up our socks and work harder to transform this country.
POM. Why isn't that spirit there? I don't get that sense. When I go around and I talk to everybody, I don't get that sense of national cohesiveness that we're all in it together, we've all got to sacrifice.
PM. It will take time. We lived in different worlds in this country, in one country. It will take time. You don't just have a single election in 1994 and then get everybody to say we all want to work together. We were thoroughly polarised in this country. There are people who are doing something about it, people of real goodwill who work with a whole lot of us to change things and those in fact make us happy, those give us hope that things are going to turn for the better.
POM. That's a nice note to end on. Thank you for all the time.
PM. I am always personally hopeful, always sanguine. No this country is not going to descend to the level of a Bosnia. I have said this so many times to you, the level of Angola or Rwanda or whatever. No we're not. But we have to work harder at getting things right, sorting out the distorted lives, distorted and warped lives of ordinary people, helping them to lead much more meaningful lives.
POM. So part of the legacy of apartheid is not a physical legacy it's a psychological one.
PM. Psychological, moral, where the person says I will have to kill for a morsel of food instead of work hard for a slice of bread.