About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

09 Feb 1999: Jones, Colin

Click here for more information on the Interviewee

POM. Colin, the last time we talked was out in almost a rural area in Stellenbosch where you were on the wine farm.

CJ. At Spier, yes.

POM. Give me a bit of what has happened since. You were in charge there, your son was out there. I remember very vividly that he sat down beside us and talked for a while before, like all young teenagers, he disappeared.

CJ. He went hamburger hunting I think, that's what he did. Much has happened since then. Since November, well actually before November of last year, I've been involved in the setting up of the Spier Festival of the Arts which is a festival which runs –

POM. That's the company that you were associated with?

CJ. Yes, with Spier.

POM. So this is a spin-off.

CJ. It's a spin-off, it's a very big part of the life of Spier which seeks to touch on the arts and good living, good wining, good dining and many other attendant experiences of excellence. At the moment we're reaching the peak of the festival. We have two performances coming off this month of Beethoven's Fidelio and Richard Strauss' Salome and it's very, very exciting. The arts have always been a great part of my life. I was trained as an actor and as a violinist and it's lovely to be back in the world of music and theatre and opera.

POM. I can't imagine you failing at anything.

CJ. Well I've failed at plenty of things I think, but these things excite me and I've learnt as I've got older to try to stick to the things that I really enjoy.

POM. Translate that for me.

CJ. The arts, as I say, have always been a big part of my life and I think also I've tried to be true to the more reflective part of my nature despite the fact that the church is a very public job and so is Spier. Being Executive Director of Spier is a very public job. I still have a very great need to attend to my personal, private, meditative and reflective space and the arts have a space for me. There's an opportunity there to go away and think, to go away and create. Similarly with fly fishing, it provides the same sort of reflective space for me in aesthetic surroundings and I find that's very important. As I get older I need that more and more.

POM. So, you made an off the hand half funny remark that sounded almost like thank God I got out of the Anglican church.

CJ. Well I'm not entirely out, I still on occasion celebrate mass. In fact last week I celebrated mass twice, early morning masses. I get involved in the occasional wedding and occasional christening and funeral and so on.

POM. Is it theology or bureaucracy?

CJ. Well I've got out of the bureaucracy. I think that's quite an important distinction. In fact I would phrase the distinction somewhat differently. I think I've got out of the bureaucracy and got more into the spirituality. I still have a very great interest in theology and I am very interested to see how it develops and how it deals with a rapidly changing world. But part of my frustration in the church was that that isn't happening, I don't think, in the church at all. The church seems to be becoming more and more parochial, more and more self-preserving, more and more institutionalised and I worry about the fact that it's becoming more and more inward looking, more out of a kind of defence mechanism because of its inability to deal with a rapidly changing world. For me the opportunities for expanding the scope of religion and of faith and of spirituality is growing rather than diminishing and because within the church I wasn't able to explore the growth I've moved outside of the institution in order to do that.

POM. Was that because in the decision making structures of the church there was no opportunity, not for your voice to be heard, I'm not trying to plant the question and if I do I'll tell you why, but that if the hierarchy had made its mind up that debate was irrelevant, you could give it but it wouldn't influence the way the outcome of the decision would be?

CJ. I'd like to describe it in this way, the church is one of the oldest institutions on the planet, it's been going for close to 2000 years.

POM. That's my church, we're the longest running. We hold the record.

CJ. Yes absolutely. In one form or another it's being going. The church has always been, I think, in a sense it's been a step or two or three even behind progress. It's been slow to change, it's been slow to adapt, it's been very slow to adjust and there's a strength in that and there's a wisdom which goes along with not being in the forefront of change and so it's been able to be reflective, it's been able to digest what's happening and then pronounce on that. But we live in a world of such rapid change that the church no longer, I believe, has the luxury to operate at the pace at which it has become accustomed and there is a sense in which the gap between a rapidly changing world and a rather slow moving church is now being exacerbated to such an extent that the church is almost irrelevant very often.

POM. You're talking about the Anglican church but you may as well be talking about the Catholic church or the Presbyterian, mainstream Presbyterian church.

CJ. Absolutely. I think I'm talking about the mainline churches, established churches world-wide.

POM. The established 'church', they differ on things that ultimately to the ordinary human being –

CJ. I think I made this point in our previous discussion that whereas before one talked about loving one's neighbour, and one's neighbour was clearly those in one's immediate community and maybe a little bit beyond that, it takes on a very different meaning, it's more than a nuance, it's a quantum difference when you realise that your neighbour is now the global family, it's no longer the parochial setting it's the global community in which you have to find the meaning of neighbourliness and what it means to be part of the human family in a way which we have not had to deal with before. Technology has been at the heart of so much of that and the church I think is afraid of the rapid change and rather than trying to understand it and move along with it, it has become rather reactionary and is by and large denouncing globalisation, it sees it as a threat, sees it as being a negative energy. And I don't believe that it is, personally I don't believe it is. I'm very excited by what it means to be part of a global family. I'm very excited by what it means to be part of a world in which the ecology of that world in its widest sense, of how we fit in, not just in terms of our relationships with fellow human beings but to the environment and everything else, is now becoming critical and the church is not saying anything meaningful there because its theology doesn't allow it to. A theology based on a kind of human centred premise doesn't help us to relate in the way that we should be relating to the rapidly changing nature of the world.

POM. Now I've got 300 pages in my bag here which almost entirely deal with globalisation and the consequences for SA.  This is not what I really want to talk about, I want to talk about the TRC and reconciliation and what must be done in the aftermath which is far more interesting to me now than the economics of globalisation. But I want to keep them in perspective that number one, no matter how good your economic policies are, your environmental policies or any other policy for that matter, they are subject to the whim of this all-powerful capital market which means that the government may be doing its best in all its programmes and end up in a mess not through any fault of its own, just because it has no control over extraneous circumstances. So rather than asking you the obvious question, this is the question I am going to ask you: as SA enters (I always hate the phrase the 'new millennium', the millennium is new therefore the word 'new' is redundant – sorry about that, that's one of my - )

CJ. I share that with you. It's so trite.

POM. I'm tired of it. Anyway, that's personal. How does a country that has just discovered national sovereignty operate in a world where national sovereignty is on its way out, which means that what governments promise or anybody else promises are subject to many forces, some exogenous and some endogenous. If you look at the future, let's say from now to the year 2020, what would you look at as the exogenous variables, i.e. the variables over which SA has very limited or no control in terms of its policies, and what are the endogenous variables over which it has control in trying to rearrange its society?

CJ. Well that's an extraordinarily difficult question.

POM. That's why I asked you. You're the first person that I actually articulated it to, I think, correctly.

CJ. There's one very obvious exogenous influence which we already are experiencing and that's the vagaries of the world markets. I think that's clearly there, we have felt the impact of the demise of the Asian, we've been affected by the Asian contagion clearly and that will, I think, become increasingly a factor, not just the Asian contagion but what happens in every other part of the world. We still haven't begun to see the impact of the Chinese economy on the world market I don't think.

POM. And the Brazilian real, what is it going to do? It is going to collapse, Brazil is going to go to hell and go all the way down to America, then America may wake up and say suddenly, "Guess what? There's a world outside of our little comfortable - "

CJ. Absolutely. It's been a very American world up till now I think but that is changing, clearly, and the effects of the Asian markets on the American economy – no-one is unaffected by what happens elsewhere on the planet and whereas before that wasn't true I think we're seeing more and more of the impact of even small markets. The emerging markets, for instance, are impacting on the first world.

POM. The market system. The markets have got that as extraneous, exogenous, to use the nice phrase by economists when they write up prescriptions to destroy countries.

CJ. Well that's one, that's certainly one. I think the impact of the age of knowledge which we are all becoming part of, SA is rapidly entering into the world in which knowledge is the commodity more and more, it's actually, I would call it not just a commodity, knowledge is the capital of our new society, of the world society. We need as South Africans I think to realise that in order to be part of the global knowledge market system we need to know what our own knowledge base is, what our own capital in knowledge is and what it is that we have to share with the world and what it is that we can learn from the world. It's very interesting, as part of that knowledge thing I would include the ability to communicate. SA is one of the fastest growing cell phone using nations in the world, mobile phones. It's extraordinary how many people have access to cell phones, how many people use it, and increasingly I'm finding people who are using the Internet more and more in SA. Admittedly it's still a very economic related feature of our society in that people who can afford a computer can now get onto the Internet. I have access to the Internet in my home. Increasingly more and more middle class people are having access to the Internet in their homes.

POM. And your children are like - they know how to move everywhere.

CJ. My daughter got through her three years at university doing her degree by hardly ever having to sit in the university library, she was accessing the libraries of universities around the world in order to do assignments. My son is in constant communication, I allow him one hour every evening five days a week to go on line, and he has conversations with young people around the world. So he has friends now who are global rather than just the friends who are in his neighbourhood and I think that's impacting on our nations, impacting on the way we view ourselves as South Africans. So that's another exogenous thing.

POM. Well I would call that endogenous because it's the emerging middle class which comes from within, they avail themselves of an outward –

CJ. It's both isn't it? The fact that the outward is there and available to them, they are able to tie in to it.

POM. You have to have the resources.

CJ. You do have to have the resources.

POM. You have to be at a certain point. There are not many families in many townships that could give a child, say, an hour on the Internet.

CJ. I was really fascinated to hear Jay Naidoo who was speaking at a function just last week in which he talked about expanding the accessibility of the Internet to communities. Now this is something we talked about three years ago. The government has suddenly woken up to the power of knowledge available to communities using it, for instance, in medicine so that a clinic in the rural areas if they have access to the Internet could, for instance, be drawing down information from around the world, not just local information, regarding health care and so on.

POM. Well let me play Devils' Advocate. That's a rosy, what I would call very South African, very self-confident about its ability to do and achieve and to lock into first world or whatever you want to call it. My first question would be, if that's the way the economy wants to go, that means the destruction of jobs, not the creation of jobs.

CJ. Yes.

POM. So in a social way how does this country want to see itself? To me, now you've talked like somebody from a thorough first world country about what can be done with technology where, by the way, it's laying off thousands and millions of jobs all the time, and if the major problem here is the creation of jobs from an uneducated base which is going to continue in that way for quite a while, should economic policy not be oriented – how would you if you were a minister, say if I'm State President or whatever and I said, your views, how are we going to create jobs? And you said well Mr President, we're in a technology era and our access to information is so fantastic, we're going to grow in the future. I say, well how many jobs will that cost in the economy? You say, well probably about half a million. And I say, how are you going to create jobs? Your task is to create jobs because around 25%, 30%, 40% of our people don't have jobs, it's the biggest issue that shows up in every survey among blacks, whites, every race, what are you doing to create jobs, not technology?

CJ. I think we're at very, very difficult crossroads and it seems to me that the challenge is one which while acknowledging the very, very real problem of joblessness, the way to address it seems to me to be very affected by the fact that we have this giant of technology which is challenging us. We can't avoid it and we're somehow going to have to factor it in.

POM. Now I'm president and you're minister so let's just play the role for a minute. So far you're not impressing me, I know that.

CJ. And I know that too.

POM. And you know that, so we both know that and we know the problem is we've got to employ more people on a large scale. Which comes first, Mr Minister, which comes first? The transfer of skills and technology or skills through technology or the creation of jobs where the primary school educational system is still in one hell of a mess?

CJ. The challenge in this situation is to take technology into the equation. We can't unsay it, we can't ignore it. We must see it as an opportunity, not as a threat. In a sense it is a threat but it's not just a threat. The potential for creating jobs through technology also exists and we need to explore that. Now let me give you an example.

POM. In the last four years how many jobs have we created through technology?

CJ. Not sufficient because we've not really looked at the opportunities in that technology.

POM. How many jobs have we lost because of technology?

CJ. I don't know exactly.

POM. Five hundred, half a million, in the formal sector?

CJ. Are those actual figures?

POM. That's another thing. Let's move into that area. Whose figures are those figures?

CJ. Let me give you an example of how to acknowledge that you can in fact create jobs and not just diminish jobs. I am not saying that technology is the answer but I am saying that there is opportunity within technology to begin to address some job creation potential. Now rural communities, for instance, I will give you an example of when I was at the IDT, I may well have mentioned this to you, a rural community in the Northern Province growing tomatoes and growing tomatoes mostly for local use and some for a larger market. That community gets access through technology to a global market and begins to market itself globally now so that they begin to turn what was first initially almost a subsistence level of farming into a global opportunity of marketing their tomatoes. Now that in fact has happened in this country. People now export tomatoes rather than just grow them for their own consumption. And rather than individual people now beginning to benefit, entire communities begin to benefit from that. Now that's just one example. We still have the challenge of making jobs available to people but you can't divorce that, for instance, from education. The only way in which people are going to be able to get jobs which enable them to progress and improve on their opportunities for better jobs is through education and I am afraid that one of the things that we're going to have to do in this country is for a moment turn the focus away from job creation to education. There is no instant answer here, there is no way in which we can suddenly create jobs for a mass of people who are not educated and who have no opportunity to progress within those jobs.

POM. You can't create jobs for a mass of people who have education. The number of people coming onto the labour market completely supersedes the number of people with job available opportunities and they're aware of that.

CJ. What is the process, I'm putting the question to you because I really need to know, what is the process by which first world nations are able to provide jobs? The kind of jobs which people have in first world nations aren't just the kind of menial jobs, there's the service sector certainly and tourism has been targeted as a potential job creation opportunity within SA.

POM. Everybody is putting their markers on tourism and it's like a casino. The board spins and tourism comes round, put your money down, but the world doesn't operate like that. I've thought a lot about this in odd moments or many moments. It took Ireland, that's the Republic, 50 years to get from a non-revolutionary revolution, that is there was a settlement where every civil servant, they didn't have sunshine clauses, they were in there for life, [accepted completely by the Irish people who didn't have any] find in the end what grudge they did have, though they have a grudge. We followed maniacally British labour and business practices both of which were the worst in the world. It was the typical case of the oppressed imitates the oppressor and it took until about 1970 before we discovered something of ourselves. That was 50 years. In the cycle of change, and now we're Europeans, now we're the first people who give in our nationality and say screw nationality, we prefer to be part of Europe after all our 800 year fight to being what we want. But modern generations say, hey, we want to be part of Europe. Where do ideas like that fit in here? I would say most European nations, and I have been through them in the last couple of months, would say your labour laws (not that I've studied them very well) are restrictive to the point of where - we don't need to go there, we can go other places.

. People like Derek Keys, who I saw earlier on today, said the problem is nobody saves in SA, mostly saying whites don't save, it's a negative saving rate. So there's no money to invest. The government has got to cut spending and that takes whatever is there or if it doesn't expand its ventures it has to borrow and the fact is people don't invest because there's no real stream of continuous confident outflow of capital coming in. This may sound long and convoluted but you will get the point. So I would say, if a journalist rang me up on the phone from wherever and said what's happening in SA? I would say it's heading to an equilibrium and the equilibrium is that the top comes down, the bottom goes up a bit, that people have gotten used to the promises not being met and accept it. More importantly what I have been working on is that people regard, which is rejected, not even considered, that people who were disenfranchised and oppressed before put a certain premium on having the dignity of their humanity restored that in a way outweighs the success of the commercial market. In a certain way they've still a value or there's a duality of a value system that doesn't depend upon I must have a TV, I must have a -

CJ. I would agree with that entirely. I would say that that certainly would be a very good diagnosis of the situation. The problem is that whilst in Ireland you had 50 years, you're in a very different kind of era. It was a different world in which the Irish nation grew up. We live now in a world of incredible change.

POM. Just to interrupt to tell you probably something you know, we were told and educated that to have material goods was a bad thing, the lack of such a world was not this world, it was the next world, which is a killer for entrepreneurship.

CJ. Absolutely. But those influences are no longer the relevant influences in the world in which we now live. Changes happen at a phenomenal rate. The influence of that kind of thinking, namely –

POM. But apply it here. I know how it applies elsewhere, apply it here. How did – well you talk, I gave a long spiel. You remark on it in more depth if you can recall it. What's gone wrong?

CJ. I think two things have gone wrong broadly speaking. One, the internal promise, the promise made to the people by the government that's come into power has not been met. Now it has not been met partly I think because of the fault of government in that I don't think that we have had the level of skills and leadership necessary to fulfil the promise. It's a very harsh criticism but I think that many of the people who came to power had more by way of good intent than they had by way of skills to deliver and we've seen that. But the blame can't be put entirely upon their shoulders. I think the exterior influences, exogenous influences, have made it difficult. We have seen the collapse of large global markets.

POM. That's one, OK. The second you identified as?

CJ. The second is that in a sense we have been overtaken by technology. Three, I think, is that South Africans still depend on miracles too much and while the language of miracles and rainbow nation and even the latest addition to that, namely renaissance, is very attractive, those words don't have a great deal of content and meaning and the point has made, I am sure you must have come across this, that to talk about renaissance, about an African renaissance, is a little bit like saying we have a tradition in SA and this tradition will start tomorrow. There's a sense in which it's nonsense to talk about renaissance before the event. Renaissance is something which you look back on and you can identify it as a moment but to try and create renaissance is a nonsense and yet we've got to create a mood and we've got to create the possibility in this country for people to begin to develop and to grow and to improve upon this situation. I am not sure that we're getting that together.

POM. But there's a difference between Africa and South Africa.

CJ. Yes there is. We have first world infrastructure.

POM. You have also, you can correct me right away, my perception is that people from other countries resent you a lot, resent SA for your hubris, saying we are the power, we are number one and in some way everything is like if we were like a small America in the middle of a continent.

CJ. Yes, I think that's very true.

POM. Other countries don't like it.

CJ. Other countries in Africa. Absolutely, I agree. I think that there's a very real danger of SA becoming arrogant, parochial. We see the growing xenophobia in this country and that's extremely worrying. There's a kind of selfishness here which is exacerbated by the fact that we don't really have a work ethic. It's one thing about creating jobs but somebody made the point, somebody I talked to a couple of weeks ago, who said that he had put an advertisement in the newspaper advertising, he runs a restaurant, looking for waiters, and the only people who applied were students looking for jobs to earn extra money because people look at service as being something demeaning.

POM. And they would have been white?

CJ. No, I think across the board, black and white in SA tend to look at the service industry as a demeaning industry in which people are servants. Now that has to do, I think, largely with the legacy of the past in which the servants were black and black people were less than human. At Spier, for instance, we find it very difficult to attract people to the jobs of, say, permanent waiters. We can't hold on to staff because they're always wanting to move on beyond that. So there's no sense of pride in doing the job. We've got no work ethic, no work culture.

POM. One the families that I interview is, I think I told you, from Zeerust and they were so far right that the whole family was going to take up guns to make the last stand of the Afrikaner against the take-over. Then they were 16 and now they're 23, 24 or whatever. But one of them who was sent to a German school in Pretoria so that she would be isolated from all the change, anything that ever happened, (a) went off and like a typically suppressed family, married a Lebanese drug dealer and inherits children which the father nearly had three strokes over. The marriage fell apart. She is now back in Zeerust and happy. She says she runs a restaurant, her father bought her a restaurant. Under the Open Competition Act which I pointed out to him this weekend, he was allowed to defeat Spur in a competition case because he began as a Spur outlet and then he said I want to go on my own and take the word Spur out, do what I want to, and Spur took him to court. I said, "Do you realise that the law you won under was passed by an African parliament?" "Oh it was just my good lawyer!" That's OK. She said most importantly, "Oh, I get many Africans for jobs", and in complete converse to what one would have expected she said, "Whites last about a day, blacks stick on." She began as a racist and hasn't really moved 100% beyond it but she said, "Whites won't do the dirty jobs. They want somebody else to do it", which is the same in America, they keep importing somebody who has a lower skill or a lower ability to pick up the menial jobs. She said, "Well blacks, they stay. We train them and they go through a course where they get certified as having a skill and they get a certificate and when they leave, if they want to, they leave with a certificate so they can move on to a better restaurant in a different area or whatever, but if they're going to be mobile it's something to say I have already got training in a certain area. They have no problem cleaning toilets or cleaning floors or cleaning anything." Is that the occasional thing?

CJ. I think it's more than the occasional thing. I think we're beginning to see more and more examples of that around the country.

POM. She still thinks the same about blacks. All she's changed her mind about, and maybe this is a monumental change, is that they're better employees, they're more reliable, they turn up every day, they actually do work. Whites, hm, one day –

CJ. They think they're too good for the job. That happens with some blacks too I think. I don't want to sound as if this is a scientific statement, it's not, but I think that the more educated people are the more selective they are about the kind of jobs they want. Now I speak under correction but I know, for instance, in the States, I know of a lot of people who are qualified people who have professions but if they're out of work they would consider going to pack groceries at a store or working as a waiter or going to an hotel and cleaning rooms in order to earn money. In SA there is so much of the sense of privilege that people who consider themselves above certain jobs will not apply for jobs. There are plenty of jobs around but people consider themselves educated and trained for a certain job and therefore unless they get that job they will not seek other employment and therefore they consider themselves out of work. If I didn't do what I was doing now I would pack groceries. I would have to find some way of earning a living. But that's not a very South African way of looking at work.

POM. But are you a privileged person?

CJ. I am. I would consider myself privileged now in that I have – I started off as a poor person but I have acquired skills along the way. I have done jobs which would not be considered –

POM. From the point of where you were Dean of St Georges Cathedral?

CJ. But I was also a waiter.

POM. South Africans of colour seem to think that this is unique if they do that.

CJ. No it's not unique but I think there are lots of people in this country, a lot of white people I would say, who consider that this is not the way it should be, firstly because I'm white, therefore I should have a better job. It should be a job in which I have responsibility. Because I have a degree therefore I should have a job which pays me well. There are lots of people around the world who have degrees and are doing jobs which are not well paid.

POM. In the time we've left, Colin, I could spend hours talking to you, as you know and we have, I want to talk about the TRC. We talked about the TRC before it came into existence, if you go back in previous transcripts. So let me set it up in a way that you can respond to maybe specifics:

. (i). I found that it was faulted from the beginning in its conceptual set-up and that you can't trade truth for justice and certainly reconciliation is a bi-product of individuals not of groups of people, so I had a conceptual problem.

. (ii). That people in this country turned off against it a long time ago, that in all the people I have interviewed since I have been here there is not a single person who has said, "I read their findings", that is not that they bought the five volumes, but had just read the newspapers in which the findings were summarised at the time.

. (iii). The ANC, one could say, demonised themselves by going to court when they did. It was a magnificent example of wrong political timing in that they allowed the whole attention to be diverted from the National Party onto themselves.

. (iv). That whites have signed off a long time ago, don't read it, execute them if you want to, we don't give a fuck. It's like they're not part of us.

. (v). No reconciliation at all. No notion that reparation is still in the sense that they will say, well we did awful things but - and there's always a but. As long as the but exists you haven't arrived at a certain point of acknowledgement or self-recognition.

CJ. Your analysis is spot on I think, I would agree with it entirely.

POM. I don't want you to agree with me. I want you to get under and give me insight. Analysis is just almost looking at data and interpreting. What are the feelings, the emotions, what's going on in the psyche of Africans or coloured people and Indians and whites?

CJ. I think that there's always the temptation to be too simplistic and to try and see things, if you will pardon the expression, in a black and white way. While it is true that a very, very large number of white people have really brought the shutters down and are not able to deal with the realities and the truth which has come out and have reacted in exactly the way that you have said, there are also those who have learnt lessons from this experience and they are around. They're not the majority but they're there. It's what those people are able to do and whether those people are able to influence the future which needs to be questioned and how they're going to do that. I'm not sure how they will do that. Similarly, there are a great number of black people, I think, who have known the truth, who have experience the truth and for whom the Truth Commission isn't a revelation at all. This is what it's been, they've lived with it and they will continue to live with it and they are in a sense willing to put it in a place.

POM. We've talked about that.

CJ. So that's there also. I don't think that the Truth Commission will go down in the annals of SA history as having made possible the kind of shift to a new society which people like Desmond Tutu, for instance, hoped it would. I would suggest that there was a kind of pious hope which went along with the TRC, as you say, that reconciliation would be a natural bi-product of all this exposure to truth. I don't think that's going to happen. I think that there's going to be a far less dramatic way of dealing with the past but I have a more than niggling sense –

POM. Now if you knew that word in America you'd be fired right now, niggly –

CJ. Not 'niggerly'.

POM. Niggardly, niggling, all the same. You'd be gone. But this is a free society in the world.

CJ. Let me rephrase it. I have a fairly strong sense –

POM. No, say it the same way you said it, that's the way I prefer to record it. It's a good word.

CJ. Niggling sense, in that it niggles at you, it kind of eats away at you, that the impulse of the future is what is going to eventually be the dynamic which drives the way in which we're going to become a new nation.

POM. Where does the future lie? I said in Ireland it took 50 years.

CJ. I don't think we can afford 50 years in this country. We're either going to become part of a growing global –

POM. We're the fastest, we're the Celtic tiger, we grow at 15% a year now.

CJ. I think unless SA begins to ask questions in terms of how –

POM. They all have cell phones and if you walk through Dublin you say, my God! For the first time when I went home at Christmas, for the first time in Dublin, I spend most of my time in Belfast, when I went home to Dublin to see my family, I said I don't know where I am.

CJ. I suspect that that's happening around the world. I suspect that communities are undergoing such massive change and exposure. We are not left unexposed to those same dynamics. If you look at Johannesburg, Cape Town, you look at our big cities, and even in some of our rural areas, the fact that people are beginning to, maybe not so much in our rural areas, but certainly in our cities one is beginning to get a sense that our future and what we are becoming is not going to just be prescribed by what happens in SA but by the world.

POM. Then in that context what does African renaissance mean?

CJ. I'm not sure I know what that means.

POM. Have you read Thabo's speeches?

CJ. I have read his speeches.

POM. Did they disturb you?

CJ. I think they lacked content. I think they lack any kind of – I'm very worried, I am disturbed by them because I think that they're optimistic but they have no strategic plan, there's no business plan as it were as to how he's going to go about doing it. I think in SA we still appeal to emotion more than we produce strategy and plan and vision. Our vision is still a very emotional thing and we're going to have to move beyond that. We're going to have to call our leaders to account in terms of producing some hard day to day plans. Now I don't want to knock government too hard because government, as the President pointed out, has had some achievements. It has had some achievements, it's done a lot in terms of electrifying the nation. As somebody said, the government has done a great job in electrocuting the nation.

POM. Not in a dynamic sense but in a literal sense.

CJ. Yes, somebody once said we've electrocuted the nation. There have been advances there. We've seen the provision of water and we have seen the provision of housing. Those things are happening but we do not have the luxury of time. There is no sense of urgency about what we are doing and we seem to be too easily distracted by politics.

POM. Where you work is there a sense of urgency?

CJ. I think there's a sense of urgency. You see where I am at is in some ways a kind of contradiction. The reason why I've put in my lot with Spier is because I believe the only way we can achieve what we are seeking to do is to aim as high as we possibly can and to move as quickly as we possibly can and at Spier, which is a wonderful example of what SA could be, we've got some of the best minds around the place, we've got people with very good skills, we set very high standards, we provide training for our staff, we try and enunciate the vision clearly and communicate that throughout the estate with everybody who is there. We market ourselves very, very strongly and we try and be as professional about our business as we possibly can and we set for ourselves as a target excellence and we constantly seek to achieve that in everything that we do. We also try to be as broad and holistic as possible.

POM. That's not you. To me that's not you. When I read through our interviews it is that they are, and maybe this is part of the change that has occurred in your own life, the reflective, marvellously reflective, marvellous insights into what was happening and why it was happening and now you're talking more like a person who says the solution to the world is that they draw up the correct business plan.

CJ. What I am saying is that I hope that I'm still reflective but I'm also trying to be realistic in that the pressures which are mounting on us as part of a global community are tremendous and we can't ignore those pressures. It would be a fool who ignores the fact that we have to compete. If we're going to raise the standard of our expertise in this country we must do so not just to compete, it's not just a white and black competition, it's about raising our standards so that we can compete globally, white and black together. Now that puts more pressure on us as a country, not less.

POM. Always, no matter when I talk to you, I always feel we don't have enough time to talk. I've got to get a plane.

CJ. Where do you have to be now, where do you have to go now?

POM. Dunkley Square.

CJ. Do you want me to drop you off there?

POM. Could you do that? That would be a real pleasure. Let me ask you one last question. I want to make this the basis of future discussions with you because I trust you on certain issues, other issues on politics.

CJ. I'm not a politician.

POM. That's right, I take that as just an opinion. It's like on the theology of should it end now. If I have been a General in the army and I look at this whole thing and say some damn arseholes are going to go for amnesty, they wouldn't dare touch me. The result is such a backlash in the white community, it would destabilise the whole country.  So he says if they dare touch me there will be a civil war on their hands. So a lot has come out, a lot is known, is there a sufficiency point where you say OK, when you weigh the cost benefit analysis of pursuing or prosecuting further, is there a point where you say you've gone far enough and this is not Nazi Germany, to make that kind of comparison as Kader Asmal tried to do in his book? It's not even a Liberia, not even Sierra Leone, not even anything – as I raised at the beginning of our conversation. You say, we've gone far enough, close the book, people who were named if they didn't do things you kind of, like administratively suspend them from public office for life and say you're out, and say we can't drag this thing out, we don't have the resources and we will just unheal the nation every step we go and make the white minority more angry and make blacks … more and more, certainly begin to develop a better developed sense of anger. Just general amnesty, let it go. We've learnt enough. We know enough. We know where to point the finger. Now what we've got to do is make those at whom the finger was pointed acknowledge what they already know.

CJ. I think there are some very blatant cases of people who have committed atrocities and I think those people should be brought to trial by normal justice, not some fancy justice which is some politically organised process.

POM. Buthelezi. What would you say?

CJ. I think Buthelezi should –

POM. He's going to be the next Deputy President.

CJ. You see the die is cast. We can't now step back from what we've done. Madiba's made him Acting President on numerous occasions, he's going to be the next Deputy President. We all know that. To now go and say this man, from what we know from the TRC, the chances are that he knew what was going on, that he connived with the government and knew all about that stuff, I think we have to draw the line and we have to get on. In a sense it's all happened. We can't undo not just the past, not just the past under apartheid, we've also created a past in the last five years. We've created precedent and we're going to have to live with that precedent. We have to draw the line and say that's it, and they're going to be some scapegoats who either deserve what they're going to get and some who don't deserve but we have to draw the line and we have to now start facing reality.

POM. I'm going to give you two quick analogies before we go. Is saying prosecute Buthelezi, which could result – ?

CJ. I think that would be crazy.

POM. - result in war and death and more violence all over the goddamn place. If they don't do it it's just stupid, so he was involved but we've got to almost make a cost benefit analysis of justice.

CJ. Yes I'm afraid we have to.

POM. OK. Now I want to ask you a question which has fascinated me. When I asked you about the exogenous variables, something that you never mentioned.


POM. You never even brought it up.

CJ. No I didn't bring it up.

POM. And this to me is the most not just important but the determining factor on how sub-Saharan Africa will survive and grow or not grow and with all your magnificent intelligence and all your insight and capacity to reflect, which you have, it didn't enter your mind?

CJ. It's not that it's not there. The trouble is I think that we don't know enough. In SA even people like myself don't know enough about the impact of AIDS. It's the great unspoken and that's where we all lack education, we all lack education. I've been involved with AIDS forums through the Cathedral. I've known people who have come and gone, many, many people and I count them in scores, not just in tens but in scores of people I've known who have died of AIDS. But I take the point, you make a very salutary point that I didn't bring it up but the reason why I didn't bring it up is because I actually don't know what the impact will be and in this country we have not really, in the last few years we have been so distracted from AIDS, we've had political arguments around AIDS with the Sarafina issue.

POM. R14 million.

CJ. I take your point to heart. The thing is I don't know, I don't know what the effect will be in this country.

POM. There's an AIDS conference going in Marrakech in May, it's AIDS, tuberculosis and other spreading diseases.

. We were talking about the nub of the issue in a way, but I am frightened of you because in a certain sense I see the, not the morality that you preached because the magnificent insight that you had switching around and having the same capacity to have the same insights into semi-capitalism or whatever, so you're not the same person.

CJ. I don't think I've abandoned the morality. I think that we have to move beyond it. We have to turn our highest moral hopes and ideals into some practical realities because people can't live on morality, they can't live on ideals all the time. The problem, I think, in this country is that we've used the language of morality and we've used the language of rainbow nation and renaissance and all of this stuff without giving people any kind of practical means by which to achieve those ideals. Now we need to be pragmatic. I don't think that to be a moralist and to be a pragmatist are mutually exclusive. In fact morality without pragmatism is immorality and what I'm afraid of in this country is that we're going to go along with politicians and theologians and God knows who else all talking about the highest possible ideals all the time without ever beginning to help people to achieve those ideals. And so I'm struggling in my own life with how to make it possible for people to begin to enter into this better life and I believe that the better life is one which we have to set certain standards at and it's not mediocrity. The trouble is that we are prepared to settle for mediocrity in this country and we need to set our aims and our sights higher.  We need to say that everybody can achieve excellence. Aim high, if we don't achieve it at least we don't stay where we are.

POM. Since I met you, I will take you in for a minute so you can say hi to Patricia because she would love to just see you. It would be a highlight of her whole stay here, of her whole day.

. My question would be, is that you had a pulpit where you could preach from and where you could organise from and orchestrate things and you gave that up.

CJ. I did, but I will tell you why I gave it up. I gave it up because we had in place a government which whose job it is to now start making it possible for all those things we had preached about and sought after to happen. I believe that my role now is to support that government, to get my hands dirty and not just to stand there and make these wonderful statements. It's hard work. It's very, very hard work in SA now. There are tremendous challenges and there are incredible obstacles in our way, external and internal, as we've talked about. When I look at the rest of the church, the church I've left behind, I see them still mouthing moral statements but those statements are now falling on deaf ears. People are saying this is not enough, show us how, lead the way, and I'm trying to lead the way. I'm trying to put myself in a position where I can create jobs and that's what we're doing. We're building a new school, we're bringing into what was an exclusively white domain, we're bringing skills and bringing people in who are now learning skills and I believe that's what I have to do. I can't speak for the rest, I can't speak for anybody else.

POM. I understand. I wanted that.

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