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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

18 Nov 1999: Ngubane, Ben

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POM. Dr Ngubane, first of all thank you for all your co-operation over the years and taking time out of your schedule to accommodate me. You've come full circle from Arts & Technology to Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, back to Arts & Technology. Are you pleased with the change or would you have preferred to finish the job, so to speak, in KZN?

BN. If you believe in reincarnation I must be happy with that, returning to the former state.

POM. Using IT.

BN. I am quite happy because it was a tremendous honour to have been the first minister founding a new department which had not existed and really making it work and so I am happy that I am back because we can in a way see through the many things that were conceived in terms of white papers, ideas, consultations and then legislation. Now it's time to put into practice all these concerns and developments in terms of policy and see it work and it's beginning to work now. As a government we have adopted through the study we did what we call a Cultural Industries Growth Strategy which sees film, video, music, publishing, crafts as all empowering people in terms of jobs and incomes so that culture becomes a leverage for social development and economy growth apart from the entertainment, apart from the basic philosophical purpose itself in society. This is now becoming a major drive in government in its job creation strategies and I am happy at the same time that Wolfson of the World Bank has also perceived the essential role culture can play in economic development through social development. So it's nice to be back here because science is reaching out to us. It's exciting and it's working with excellent people all round.

POM. You're dealing on the one hand with people who are making arts and crafts in tribal villages and on the other hand you're dealing with highly developed degrees of technology that are available on the planet, so it covers the whole spectrum.

BN. Absolutely.

POM. Is this in terms of job creation, is there any special emphasis like on the informal sector where you have people making crafts and selling them at the roadside or whatever to get them more organised and more systematic development towards that particularly with the growth of the tourist industry?

BN. Well the roadside selling is survivalist economics, very informal. We are organising this into creating marketing agencies for the same people, creating stalls along the roadsides so that they can sell more decently, that they are not subject to sun and rain, creating arts centres where they can have access to Internet, they can have access to libraries, they can have access to instructors. We have built 42 community art centres so far and we are continuing with this programme to bring these services to the people, the very, very poor, and try and produce quality control in their work through training and also even Internet digitisation of their products, so that they can be seen in the US and elsewhere. It's a whole range of activities with the aim of picking up that informal survivalist craft into real western, modern markets.

POM. I know people who come here as just tourists and buy up as much material as they can along the roadside, stuff it in their case and walk through Customs in the US and sell it to their friends for – here you'd pay like $2, they sell it for $10, $12, $15 and they pay for their entire vacation out of one suitcase.

BN. Well it's good because it gives incomes but there should be equity in the whole thing, there should be a balance.

POM. Let me back up a little bit. I will begin with a question that goes back to 1990 and that is you may recall that when Mandela was released from prison he called Dr Buthelezi and thanked him for the support he had given him throughout his years in jail saying he wouldn't negotiate with the government until the ANC was unbanned and Mandela released and he asked could he see Buthelezi and the King, and the Chief consulted with the King and they arranged a date, I think it was the 10th, 11th or 12th May 1990, and he wanted to lay a wreath at the grave of King Shaka, which I understand would be a particular honour since I've been told by Joe Matthews that Zulus do not lay wreaths at graves, that's a European tradition. I had to go back to my notes and find the interview in 1990 and I sent him e-mail saying, "Joe, this is what he said, this is in the words of the King himself." After first of all going to Lusaka the ANC NEC turned it down and then a further invitation to jointly appear with Buthelezi in Pietermaritzburg was also turned down by the ANC in KZN.  Harry Gwala was supposed to have said, or Mandela said if he had gone there they would have throttled him.

. My question is, Mr Mandela must have been aware that the biggest problem facing the black community was the war going on between the ANC and the IFP and that his first priority before any negotiations with the government should be to solidify the support of all blacks on a common front in their negotiations with the government. One, why do you think he did not make it his top priority? Two, why do you think he so easily, as I would put it, gave in to what the NEC wanted him to do, particularly when he takes pride in saying, or has said in his autobiography when he initiated his opening to the government that 'sometimes a leader must be in front of his people', do the thing that needs to be done? Three, most importantly, do you think it would have made a difference if they had gotten together at that point, they had resolved their differences, they had both gone around KZN from corner to corner together saying the war between us is over, we are now brothers, comrades, now fighting in a common struggle against the government for our freedom and negotiating for it we must stand together? Do you think it would have had an impact on the level of violence in KZN or had violence at that point reached such a level and had such a momentum of its own that even their visits might have made very little difference? And finally, if they had been successful in some way in quelling that violence or bringing it down, had worked together, do you think that the outcomes of the negotiations might in some way have been different? That's a long question.

BN. Well I think you answer the questions in many ways yourself. The violence was of such a nature that it was a very bitter civil war although it has now been categorised like that. It was fighting for turf, it was fighting for political hegemony, it was the KwaZulu government through Buthelezi and the IFP who were trying to survive in an atmosphere which was easily annihilating them. So it was a very complex period and don't forget that he, Mandela, had not really met most of the ANC leaders. Some didn't even know him at that stage, particularly grassroots local leaders of the ANC, they didn't know him. Although he had moral authority he had not yet built personal contacts so it was quite easy for him to be overruled at that stage because although he is such a giant of a man – I think he just understood the pragmatic issues of the time, the reality of the situation that however strong a leader you still need to have your constituency, take them along with you. At that time the war in KZN was wrought with incredible bitterness and being stoked, you remember, by the De Kocks and by all these people who wanted the conflict to continue. So some people were gaining out of this war and obviously would have never wanted to – there are people who could never have had political clout other than because of the war. As I say, it was a very complex issue.

. Had it happened obviously it would have had a tremendous impact because if it happened it would have meant that his authority right from the beginning was established and therefore he and Dr Buthelezi would have been able to really change the tide, turn the tide and bring peace but quite clearly this didn't happen because the circumstances didn't permit it. Had it happened we would have quite clearly been very strong as IFP because with free mobilisation considering that we had such extensive structures, local leadership structures, the whole hierarchy of leadership from the local community, to the constituency committee, to the district committee, to the regional committee was there and all were feeding up to the central committee of the organisation. The IFP was extremely well organised and therefore had there been peace right then it would have been able to mobilise very effectively and I think because of that the negotiations would have taken that factor into account and therefore consider a law towards federalism in our constitution.

POM. But you would have the ANC and IFP working together towards a common goal in negotiations rather than working in this peculiar, triangular relationship with –

BN. There would still have been differences as far as ideological issues are concerned. There were very serious difficulties. At that stage the ANC believed very much in a socialist type of set up and such issues like coming out of the Freedom Charter, more on the side of nationalising things. They had not yet themselves gone into the reality of this country, that it was a long standing market economy although there was extreme poverty and discrimination but ownership of land, the whole set up fitted into the market economy although people were survivalist most of the time but you had the right to your land, even though it was communally owned you could interact and trade and open businesses and so on. So the whole idea of nationalisation and command economies would not have been appropriate for the majority of the people. It was a learning period particularly for them.

. At the same time we also would have soon realised that it was impossible to have the idealism of a truly federal SA because of the nature of our society, the backlogs in our economy, the discrimination that had taken place and the lack of resources. What we are discovering now in provincial and local government is that it is very difficult because we don't have the broad base of a trained black middle class who can provide an effective civil service. So expenditure controls, management of projects becomes a huge problem. Quite clearly it could not have been an idealistic federal system such as, for instance, in Germany or even in the United States. These are the realities that have distilled themselves as they go along and we realise that it is necessary to come together and have a closer working relationship.

POM. Do you think that, in that vein, that the NEC itself in Lusaka which had sent - because everyone was then a pawn in the cold war on one side or the other, because so many of its key personnel had been trained in either Moscow or in Berlin and had developed particular mindsets and the fact that some of them hadn't been in the country for 25 or 30 years, they too were out of touch with SA, the reality of what SA was?

BN. Absolutely. I have no doubt about that. You cannot be away from the country for ten years. You go away for six months, you lose touch with the country. Clearly it was a lot of idealism and trust in the goodness of man, in the goodness of democracy that it will deliver.

POM. Utopian.

BM. Sure, that it will deliver outcomes that you desire. Until you are actually involved in the situation you cannot realise otherwise. Absolutely.

POM. These are just the quick questions, my historical ones. Do you think that at the Record of Understanding, when that was signed between the NP and the ANC in September 1992 and that opened the way for the Multi-Party Negotiating Forum at Kempton Park in 1993, do you think that the ANC achieved in that summit what it wanted to achieve which wasn't about the closing of hostels or the release of political prisoners and so forth, that it was the marginalisation of the IFP, that they said we and the government are the main actors, we are going to push this process together, everybody else can climb aboard or they can climb off but we're going ahead?

BN. I don't think that was the driving motive. I think the ANC was very, very eager to conclude this process because they knew that if FW slipped in terms of his control over the Afrikaner establishment it will be back to war and that it will even be worse in terms of atrocities, in terms of the difficulty to restart any negotiation process. So their eagerness as far as I'm concerned was just getting a settlement at whatever price, establishing the TEC to prepare for the next elections and that's it. Whoever seemed to delay that or to hinder that had to be got rid of or forgotten or left by the wayside. I think they were just as desperate for the settlement as FW was at that stage.

POM. So when Mandela said, as he said at an interview in 1995, that the NP needed this summit more desperately than we did – ?

BN. Well he was being a politician. They both needed it. Can you imagine having come out here, the Groote Schuur Minute, the Pretoria Minute, essentially demobilising and essentially losing their lines of communication as guerrilla forces and so forth, then suddenly the whole thing breaks down and they must return to the bush? It would have been absolutely impossible. So they both needed it and in the process, because we were not working with them at that stage, they just chose to leave us behind. Equally FW – I had been at meeting after meeting with the leaders of the self-governing territories where FW had been saying, "We are part of the same government system, whatever negotiations I go to I will have to come back to you or you will have to be part of the delegation." He had given these assurances over and over again. That's why Dr Buthelezi was so devastated when he subsequently learned of the Record of Understanding and FW had not even whispered a word about it. That estranged the IFP very much both from the ANC and from the NP because it perceived itself as having been ditched and done in and double crossed and so forth.

POM. When you see references to the war which was inherently a civil war in KZN, Zulu against Zulu, when you see it referred to as the ANC versus the IFP and the security forces, as though there was this continuous, ongoing, almost strategising between the security forces and the IFP, do you feel resentful, number one, that there is this kind of, I don't know what to call them, commentators, quasi-historians, whatever you want to call them, would never mention the IFP without trying to link it directly with the security forces as though the security forces were responsible for the deaths of - well between 1990 and 1994 it was 4000 people. Do you resent it?

BN. Of course it's very poor, it's very superficial. It's OK for political propaganda. When you are running for elections we use this type of epithet but for any serious scholar he should realise that the security establishment was arming both sides or was turning a blind eye to the trafficking in arms and so on on both sides, no-one was being arrested for having AK47s and all that sort of thing. To then start apportioning the IFP as surrogate it's just malicious. It annoys me, absolutely, because it is not seriously looking at the whole dynamic of that era. And today the ANC doesn't mention that at all because they know the truth. The Truth Commission has revealed all sorts of things, Operation Marion and all those things. Quite clearly we were both pawns and fought one another out of disinformation, out of planting of agents within the IFP, agents of the security force establishment and Security Police. It was a very well orchestrated civil war.

POM. The security forces, the government didn't create the war, they took advantage of it?

BN. Oh absolutely. They took advantage of the fact that the relationship since 1979 broke down between the IFP and the ANC, then they took that gap obviously and then came with all sorts of funny stories that the ANC was going to destroy Ulundi, it was going to destroy Buthelezi. I'm not saying they were not going to do it but they took advantage of that.

POM. Stoked fear.

BN. Sure. To say that the IFP as a party, I have been in the Central Committee of the IFP since 1978, at no stage – we used to discuss the deaths of people, the need to increase the policing in KwaZulu because government installations had to be protected and Amakosi especially had to be protected, but it was never a War Council. We said because of this we are going to go to the police or to the army and ask them for this help or that, it was never discussed, it was never an issue. But now when it comes out it as if this was the relationship. That's absolutely annoying and untrue.

POM. As I recall you said the last time, and I probably won't be able to get it right on here, but that for ten years Dr Buthelezi and the IFP had been negotiating with the government on the terms the government would have to meet before there could be real negotiations.

BN. Absolutely.

POM. It involved that Nelson Mandela would have to be released, all the other banned parties would have to be unbanned, exiles come back. This was ongoing over a ten year period so that in a sense when Mr de Klerk made his announcement in February 1990 saying the release of Mandela would occur, saying these organisations would be unbanned, then they moved to the release of political prisoners and the return of people from exile with indemnification so they could negotiate on behalf of their respective parties, all of these would be following lines that had really been the product of negotiations between the IFP and the government?

BN. Absolutely, and the ANC accepts that, accepts our bona fides.

POM. They do?

BN. Yes absolutely.

POM. Who should I get to corroborate that? Jacob Zuma?

BN. Well yes, Jacob Zuma, the three-a-side, which is Msimang, the Secretary General of the ANC, Zuma himself.

POM. Sorry who?

BN. There's a three-a-side right now comprising three people from the ANC and three people from the IFP who are negotiating the correction of all these things of the past, the misunderstanding and all that.

POM. OK, who are they? If you can remember even some of them.

BN. Motlanthe, Jacob Zuma and Mendi Msimang on the ANC side – the former High Commissioner in London. Then on the IFP side it's Lionel Ntshali, the Premier of KZN and the chairperson of the IFP, Rev. Zondi and Rev. CJ Mtetwa.

POM. Would I be able to get numbers outside for them?

BN. You should.

POM. I'd like to write to them. They're all in KZN? Yes.

BN. Well in the province itself we had set up a ten-a-side. It started during Frank Mdlalose's time as Premier, ten-a-side led by Frank and Jacob Zuma. When I became Premier and chairman it was myself and Jacob Zuma. Ten-a-side which was dealing with the flash points, with violence, with conflict resolution jointly. The ultimate objective was having joint rallies and so forth which of course we really couldn't get there, a lot of things needed work to be done to reach that. But we used to go to flash points together like in Umlazi and some other places, say to the people, "Cool it, we are now working together." So this is going on. This ten-a-side is going to put a proper perspective on the role of Dr Buthelezi and the IFP in the liberation of SA. This is being handled.

POM. Good. Now I've got to do more interviews. It never ends. I would like to get an idea of how the cabinet has worked first of all in the period 1994-1996, during the government of national unity when Deputy President de Klerk was the second Deputy President and then how it worked after he left and how it works today. Is it a situation of, or was it ever a situation of where the views of all the different parties in the cabinet were taken into consideration and if there were disagreements an attempt made to find consensus or did the ANC listen to what other parties had to say, sometimes say we agree with you, sometimes say we will consider that, and sometimes say no, this is our decision and in the end the majority rules. So the bottom line was that if we want to go ahead with the decision we will go ahead with it because we are the majority in cabinet and that's it.

BN. Well if it worked like that, that government of national unity would not have lasted.

POM. This is in the first period.

BN. 1994 – 1996. It wouldn't have lasted because the whole thing would have just crumbled, centrifugal forces would have been too strong.

POM. Did Mr de Klerk play a more prominent role at that point because the ANC, everyone else was so new to government?

BN. It wasn't even because of that. That government of national unity was mandated by the constitution. We had to have it. Parties which got above a certain threshold had to be there.

POM. 5% percent.

BN. This is a majority of South Africa, maturity of our leaders. The issues of real strength never really came into it. Quite clearly we couldn't force through cabinet our concept of the form of state. We couldn't because that wasn't the platform for that, and De Klerk couldn't either. But on the other hand the ANC did not try to drive down things that we wouldn't be able to tolerate. So GEAR was born out of shared thinking to a very large extent and their approach to labour, their approach to health was discussed openly in cabinet, it was debated. We debated the issue of abortion very, very heavily in cabinet and ultimately a consensus was accepted that it's a reasonable move, that we need to provide such a service. At the time it looked such a big thing when in fact today it's nothing. Not every woman is running to a clinic to have an abortion but the provision is there so that people don't go to the backyard abortionists but then go to a proper clinic or hospital. Obviously there were issues such as labour legislation, certain approaches to health which the ANC was convinced about but they did not harm the other parties so there was no real struggle about it.

POM. Their labour legislation certainly would have been opposed by – or was that after the NP had left?

BN. Well the movement towards it started much earlier, it wasn't just after until they have left but they were fairly heavy on it. Take the school legislation, De Klerk was there, the whole transformation, the transformative legislative pieces that Bengu was pushing. He would complain about certain aspects of it but in the end he would accept that it's got to be done. There was no point where he said if you proceed this way I'm going to pull out my delegation here and we will go away. We were all surprised when he ultimately did that and as far as I'm concerned it was for politics. He realised that his own constituency was getting confused and his party was getting diluted in a way by being there and so he pulled out to try and strengthen the Western Cape and I think it worked for him because he still retains it. The nature of the government itself was not full of intolerable strain, never.

POM. Why is it that the allegation made by the ANC against Deputy President de Klerk was that he would be part of a decision taken in cabinet, then he would go outside cabinet, take off his cabinet hat, put on his NP hat and then attack the decision of which he had been part, and say he can't have it both ways. You can't be part of a decision and then go outside and attack the very decision you've been part of making.

BN. Absolutely.

POM. So they would keep hitting him with this, you can't be doing this.

BN. And it was correct because in cabinet you wouldn't say this is intolerable, I cannot live with this, and so on.

POM. Then he would go outside and play to his constituency. Now on the other hand it would appear to me, again from readings and interviews, that Dr Buthelezi is part of the cabinet and part of the decision making process and Dr Buthelezi can go to Ulundi or wherever and kick the hell out of the ANC and the ANC kind of say, ah, that's politics. They don't say, you know Dr Buthelezi, you're part of the government.

BN. No, no, no, Buthelezi never kicks the ANC on what has been decided in cabinet. It was on the old issues, the role of traditional leaders, the powers of the provinces, the right to policing, the right to taxation. You know what I mean? It was not in terms of current working of government, it was always the old issues, he kept them alive by revisiting them. So he drew a distinction between working in a co-operative government and pursuing your political principles.

POM. Now you said something very interesting to me the last time which I've been pondering about and it was that the nature of your society, you said,

. "People don't understand opposition politics. It just doesn't exist for them. So if the IFP really wants to contribute to the improvement in the quality of life of the people it's got to be part of the government, not because we want to be subservient to the ANC, I mean we have never been subservient even now, or to be swallowed up by them but simply because we have a direct stake, a direct interest in seeing that all our people are catered for and you can only effect that if we are in government."

. Do you think that's something that the NP never understood?

BN. Up to today they have never.

POM. Or that any white party, even the DP?

BN. No, I've spoke to Tony Leon and I've said exactly this type of thing to him that here in Africa generally people don't understand debate, there are no debating societies. You quarrel, you either fight in a less damaging way or you fight in a very damaging way. This is the nature of the society. They don't understand the whole issue that you can sit and actually throw invective. In fact one of the projects for my ministry is to create debating societies in schools to train people about conflict resolution through discussion, through debate.

POM. When people talk about the difference between Eurocentric values and African values, what are they talking about?

BN. They are talking essentially about how society is conducted, what are the mores, the norms in society.

POM. I've been asking William Makgoba about this the other day but I couldn't quite follow him.

BN. Well the Eurocentric is based on a long history of statehood, of institutions, of procedures. Those great wars were followed by gradually coming to form combined governance. That's why the leader from war came with his … with his colours but at the same time agreed to sit and work with the others. Here we don't have such a tradition. The way Shaka built the Zulu nation was he had to conquer everyone and then bring them under his direct control. They may have authority where they are but directly under his control whereas that side it had moved away from that and in society you don't think of yourself as an individual, you think of yourself as community, as part of the community. Your effectiveness is only in terms of the community.

POM. Is this probably the major difference that westerners – I, I, me, me – whereas Africans it's 'we'?

BN. We, absolutely, and whatever you do is in terms of how you best leverage things for the community, for your people. So people don't understand you when you just say I went there and I agreed with them. Unless you are very powerful you can't do that, you always have to have reference to the group. Equally so with bringing up your own family, it's more the mores in the group, you don't abort in this community. If you do you are rejected. You don't have sex before marriage, if you do you are a no good, you cannot have a white wedding, whereas in the west it's up to you. You decide about your reproductive life, even your husband cannot tell you in fact and you survive all that. It's there, it's very fundamental. The issue of the chieftainship, communal tenure systems, it's there and it's transformed itself obviously into modern ways of doing things but the underlying mental set is still there.

POM. Would you say that that as an institution, that its status has stabilised, it's now that its importance and the importance of the Chiefs and what they can contribute particularly in rural areas is now far more recognised and accepted by the ANC than it was four or five years ago?

BN. Absolutely. Before that they were highly theoretical. You could not have such an institution in a democratic society, period. But now there is a recognition that for the stabilisation of society the communal psyche is important. Obviously you cannot supersede democratic structures and processes, quite clearly, it cannot supersede human rights quite clearly but you still allow that level of interaction and social organisation.

POM. Just coming to the election results, you had said, everyone had said the ANC wouldn't do well, everybody else said they would do better than they had done and the ANC turned around and despite the fact that a majority of people in all racial groups thought they were doing a poor job in law and order, a poor job in creating jobs, a poor job in creating housing, making a mess of education and a poor job at hounding the overall economy, they are returned to power not just with a higher percentage of the vote than they were elected with in 1994 which in western politics people say what happened that allowed them to increase their proportion and get this virtual two thirds majority while every other party, including the IFP, suffered, other than the DP?

BN. I presume all of us were reading political books and reports in the press, forgetting this very thing I've just mentioned, that although we have transformed to a very large extent from the chieftainship situation but the people are still looking out for a father figure, for a parenting organisation in terms of looking up to them to say they can deliver even if they don't do it now but at least they understand our needs. Clearly it was not a question of a score mark for the majority of people in this country, they didn't deliver enough water, they didn't build enough schools. It wasn't a score mark, it was an overall thing of saying for the black community they are the best so let's keep them there. And I think looking back Mandela has engendered this type of feeling that he cares, that things may not be right but he will look after everyone's interest. Thabo is now walking into those shoes and he is actually carrying that torch. Again, it's an Afrocentric/Eurocentric type of divide. If you think of it in Eurocentric terms you cannot grasp it and I must say we are all guilty of this from time to time. You start thinking in totally modernistic terms and forgetting the power of solidarity.

POM. Like you said, the DP will always be small because they haven't even attempted to transform themselves, they are lily white and I don't think there's any intention to change that.

BN. But the growth of the DP has not been from black votes, it's been from white votes. So I think I was correct.

POM. 12% of their support was African, but 77% was white.

BN. That little percentage will come from professionals, from middle class blacks essentially and from the youth who have moved away from the head, as it were, who are liberated, if we can call it that, in other words are individuals now and not part of the –

POM. Have lost their connection to community.

BN. You can't say how permanently as is now happening in parliament. You see a lot of, well not a lot but they have lost MPs to the ANC because although these people seem to have become individuals and therefore fit into this type of organisational structure, they are not really because their communities, their extended families, their uncles, are still there so it's not easy for them to move out almost permanently and totally cut off the umbilical cord. There will always be this drifting in and out.

POM. Some people say the NP or NNP is finished.

BN. If they lose their white base they lose it to the DP, where else are they going to get followers? They're not going to get them from blacks.

POM. They had some research conducted after the election by Robert Schrire at UCT and he presented different Africans with just policies and said which policies do you most agree with? And a majority of the Africans in the focus groups actually agreed with the policies of the NP but they didn't know whose policies they were agreeing with. Then they were told whose policies they were agreeing with and their response was that it really makes no difference, we're never going to vote for them anyway even when we agree with their policies. Has the DP put itself – are both parties in a catch-22 situation and this is what I mean, if the NP says we accept the reality that we can't break into the black African vote in particular for maybe a generation, the weight of the past is just too great, therefore if we are ever to move from where we are we will have to compete with the DP to win back the votes we lost from them. So this becomes an inter-white community battle for votes, that the DP by being so strident and so combative and confrontational has put itself in the box that it's not going to be able to expand it's base into the African community, so the African community doesn't like, as you pointed out, that kind of personalised, confrontational, combative politics. So they may have won a battle but in the longer run they may have lost the war.

BN. Well I said to them when we debated, the last debate I think we had, 'Face the Nation', I represented my party, I said to them the problem with both NP and DP is that they were creating compartments in politics in this country. They were creating a situation where there are white politics and black politics and that will replicate the Smith situation in old Rhodesia, in Zimbabwe, where they failed to become part of the mainstream. The only answer here is us shaping public opinion towards consensus politics, not that we abandon our positions as parties but we focus on what is the urgent task of government and try and be as creative as possible in finding options and alternatives with solving those issues, such as the AIDS issue, such as rural poverty, such as the speeding up of assimilation of blacks into commerce and so on through training. They have the skills, they have the ability to do that without abandoning the free market, their individual style of politics and societal – (break in recording) -  break down the walls, the compartments in politics. Then there is going to be – initially obviously there won't be much movement but gradually you'll get movements in and out of parties because it will not matter, it will be a question of addressing a common vision.

POM. What about the IFP?

BN. The IFP essentially is not going to grow stronger because until we overcome the perception that we are a KZN party –

POM. That has increased rather than diminished.

BN. Which has increased rather than diminished, absolutely. Until we can overcome that it is going to be very difficult for us to make huge inroads into other provinces which are non-Zulu and that to me is the biggest weakness we face.

POM. Even within KZN itself you lost some support.

BN. Of course, because essentially there it's all Zulus, some are IFP, some are ANC, so again it doesn't matter and again it comes back to this thing, who is the father figure, who is the paternalistic party?

POM. Well the father figure in KZN would be the dominant person who is Chief Buthelezi.

BN. Sure there is that. A lot of ANC people respect him from that perspective but when I am talking about social delivery, that sort of thing, then people will obviously look at the ANC as the dominant force in that sphere and obviously this has got an outcome and the outcome was that they increase their votes.

POM. Do you also have the situation of where your primary electoral base is rural and it's particularly young people who move to the cities and they adapt and become supporters of the ANC. The fact is migration to the cities is continuing at an accelerating rate so that your base of support is diminishing, as it were, all the time, whereas you're not breaking into the urban areas.

BN. That's what I mean, we need to make a number of breakthroughs. We need to break out of essentially asking a KZN party whether it's to traditional leadership, whether it's to rural bases, but they seem to be in solidarity with everybody because that is what really is at the bottom of it all and being in solidarity in terms of being able to provide. Therefore we need to be in government. If we are out of government we cannot do this. But even being in government is not enough. We must create a perspective which says we can do better, you are just as safe with us. We can do better, let's show you in this province where we are running the government, by delivering where we are. It's not been possible to do that in the past government. The IFP in the province is not dealing with that because essentially all the resources are at the centre, we have had no surcharge on income tax which we always wanted, we have had no serious levies where you can raise revenue. The forests were taken away, water was taken away as national competencies. That's where you can levy some money, some funds. So as a province it was very difficult to deliver and that, I think, accounts for why people, particularly those in the urban areas, have moved to ANC.

POM. Do provinces now have powers to - ?

BN. No, it's being discussed at the moment but the principle has been accepted. It's just the mechanics of it that are still being worked out. The Katz Commission  has come out with a need for a provincial surcharge on income tax, a need for levies and so on. Obviously the SA Revenue Services does not have capacity to implement all these things.

POM. Does the concentration of power that's going on now in the President's Office, the fact that the ANC now appoint all their Premiers, the fact that Director Generals sign contracts with the presidency, the fact that the President doesn't come before parliament to answer questions so you have some ridiculous exchanges on occasions that make no sense, the fact that the Professor Corder at UCT did a study that showed that ministerial responsibility to parliament has lessened, that Portfolio Committees are less effective in their oversight responsibilities since they are mostly headed by ANC chairpeople who are not likely to haul their ministers over the coals in public and to do so is not the best way to advance your future in a party list system, the increasing emphasis on 'don't bring the party into disrepute' like the firing of the councillor in Johannesburg who marched against Egoli 2001, he was relieved of his three positions. Does even the Equity Bill defining when language is hate language, when it's not hate language, do you see this as an ominous trend in terms of the ANC's Redeployment Committee where they try to get people into every key sector of society, do you see this as a worrying trend?

BN. If you are thinking purely in Westminster terms, yes, but if you are thinking about good governance, pulling this country by its bootstraps very quickly and generally bringing blacks into effective positions in government, then it's not, then it's a strategy that will deliver that sort of thing. Of course the caveat here must be the oversight function of the committees must not be diminished and I don't think it is diminished. I still have to account to Wally Serote and his bunch about Science & Technology, Arts & Culture very, very seriously. They call me to meetings, I've got to be there. I cannot say I'm too busy elsewhere.

POM. But you're IFP.

BN. Oh even their own ministers get into trouble over portfolio committees but most of the time that's not really seen because I think the journalists themselves don't understand the levels of sanctions and how they work in this type of politics. But it's a very serious thing when a minister does not attend a portfolio committee and so the ministers go there.

POM. When you say the level of sanctions, what do you mean?

BN. Our sanctions are not so much in terms of probably being demoted as a minister, but there is a sort of communal sanction which is taking place even among parliamentarians. That sort of thing will be spoken about by everybody and that is serious for any minister. My colleague gets absolutely perplexed if there is something which is perceived as we are not caring, for instance, about artists, protecting their interests vis-à-vis Sony, EMI and all these big companies who exploit them because this is what is taken seriously in the NEC, in the portfolio committee. Right now she's heading a task team to try and look into that. If it was so easy as the white journalists attempt to portray there would be no such anxieties, people would just roll along and enjoy what they call the gravy, but it's not there, we are all working very hard. We spend two days of the week in Pretoria with our department because we have to lead the department, we have to be in the forefront. This is why we don't come to parliament now, we only come on Wednesdays for question time or to present – except if you are presenting a budget speech or any policy document. Essentially it's to build up the administration, the capacity to do things, the capacity to deliver, seeing to good governance, seeing to the reporting mechanisms for your institutions that you are responsible for. It's a lot more an administration issue that is on the table for us than politics.

POM. Like the legislative framework was put in place by the last parliament and now it's up to implement that, the laws are there, now they have to jump, get down to the ground.

BN. Absolutely. And so it's no longer a question of being in parliament for this legislation and this legislation, but it is to make the thing work. Then there is the whole issue of SADEC which is also on our shoulders. We have to carry the transformation of SADEC. We have to be very, very strong in terms of new directions, new regulatory structures and new policies for SADEC. Now we have added to us Nigeria, I'm just talking about the African continent before even I go to the Bi-National Commission with the US, the Bi-National Commission with Germany, the Joint Science & Technology Committee with the UK, shared research and servicing the whole gamut of commitments around the world which means hundreds and hundreds of documents that you as minister have to personally go through, assimilate, lead. So our not being in parliament is not because parliament is being lower in esteem than it was before, it's just that the emphasis has shifted. This is why the whole thing seems to be concentrated in the presidency as well because if he does not oversee the working of departments I don't think he reckoned with us taking his messages as seriously as we have done, all of us. I think he thought he would have to be really supervising and looking after everything from his office but it's not necessary and I think it's already being relaxed because we did the interview for our DG, I decided with the panel with which we interviewed on who should be the DG and that was just accepted.

POM. Last year you said, "We can't fast track social delivery because of the impediments we have", but isn't that just what President Mbeki has set out to do?

BN. Absolutely, fully, and there is no mercy there. I think this will be the basis on which ministers are fired.

POM. So you expect to see a lot more re-shuffling?

BN. No, no, but I am saying everyone is taking this message, every minister is working incredibly hard so even that is not going to happen because probably one or two might get that chop unless they wake up between now and probably next July which they will have to do, but by and large everyone is absolutely concerned and involved in the department.

POM. Just a few other questions and then I will let you go. What are the most important? Let me go back to three, a fairly obvious one is: if you take Dr Buthelezi out of the equation, given his identification so much with the IFP, what's left of the IFP? Where does the source of its identity come from? Where is that strong personality you talk about that particularly people in rural areas would identify with even more?

BN. Well thank goodness he's still going to be around for a long time. He's extremely healthy, he's very energetic.

POM. He's the youngest 70 year old I ever saw.

BN. Absolutely. So that solves that.

POM. But we could all die tomorrow morning, it's not good enough.

BN. No, sure, fair enough. If that happens then we are seriously in trouble as a party, quite honestly, seriously in trouble.

POM. Is anybody planning now and saying we must look to the future?

BN. No.

POM. Would you have any trouble tomorrow morning, as I said this won't be published until the year 2002 or whatever, would you have any real problem becoming a member of the ANC rather than the IFP or will you have to say, no, there are still such deep philosophical differences between us that you could never do that?

BN. I think the three a side is actually working on a scenario where whether we remain as IFP, ANC, which I think will be the case, but essentially there is a very close working together relationship. I think that is going to be the future and in that case with all the shifting that has taken place in the ANC in terms of policy, in terms of looking at federalism principles and traditional leaders and community based type of competencies it will not be a problem.

POM. Why would the ANC invite you into government now when they don't have to or didn't have to post-1999, but didn't invite any 'white' party or even the PAC or any other party?

BN. I think it's again the realisation that the whole concept of opposition does not exist in our society. We are still a major force. The fact that we got the third spot after the DP does not actually eliminate the importance of the IFP.

POM. Particularly in KZN where you remain and will remain.

BN. Absolutely, always a force.

POM. And there are those underlying tensions that are still there?

BN. Which still have to be worked through for stability to be there. This is why I am saying Buthelezi has a crucial role in the maintenance of stability and maturity of our democracy. So thank goodness he must be there because there will be no other figure that can replace him, that's what I'm trying to say and the ANC realises this. Therefore, even after – if he were to go it would be very important that a framework is in place to maintain that coalition, if you can call it that, of parties.

POM. Why isn't anybody in the IFP - not saying Dr Buthelezi we are looking forward to your demise, but to survive as a political party we must look ahead, we must have strategies in place.

BN. Because in the traditional set up of things that's never done.

POM. It's just in the tradition.

BN. Yes, sure. It's never done. You cannot –

POM. So do you find yourself, like when you make a statement kind of almost schizophrenic, that on the one hand your mind can operate in the world of hi-tech, information technology revolution, planning, need for pre-planning to planning, evaluation, feedback, processing information, that's there and on the other hand you say, no, we're not planning ahead at all, it's not in our tradition?

BN. No, there is no schizophrenia at all. I just accept both worlds. I like the western model, seriously, but I also realise there is a reality there of masses of people who are uneducated, who have not had the opportunity I have had, who still have a way of life which keeps them together functioning as efficient people at whatever level they function at. You cannot take that away and still have a stable society. So that's a reality and therefore one has got to work within that. The ideal obviously is that as more people get educated you will move into this foresight world where everything is looking ahead, five years, twenty years down the line and they themselves are going to realise that to survive in this globalised world, whether they are doing crafts along the side of the road, you will have to be looking ahead at your future markets, at the outlets, where you source your money to expand the business and so on. It's a process.

POM. Does literacy just – I remember the last time you gave this lovely vision of a computer in every classroom or whatever, but do you not think people must learn how to spell first and write and do - ?

BN. Sure. That's not difficult. A lot of them can read the newspaper, a lot of people can read the newspaper now. There's been a lot of progress. I will tell you in my case, we took a woman from the deepest rural to come and work at our home. She used to sit there and watch JR, those type of programmes.

POM. American television, soap operas, yes.

BN. You know today she speaks English, today she can write, today she can run a banking account. I am telling you, without us lifting a finger to teach her anything, just sitting there every evening watching those things. We don't have – most of our kids are at school, in fact all of them at boarding school so they only come in for holidays. She sits at home the whole year literally and has all the time in the world, keeps the house. Each time I phone home late I hear the TV – you know what I mean? She is totally transformed, totally. I am telling you, the power of modern technology.

POM. This is what I'm getting at again, this tension, and I know we don't have time to go into it in a long way but it fascinates me, if you go into township houses, rural areas, you'll see television, you'll see Murphy Brown, JR, all these crazy American programmes and I often wonder what do they think when they look at this stuff. But are they not, just from what you said, are they not in an odd way almost subliminally accepting or becoming more accepting of Eurocentric values?

BN. Sure, sure, but that is the process. We will get there. Someone said if you want to transform rural SA give them CNN. There is no doubt about it, the power of collectivity, the power of being in touch with what's happening in the world, developing an interest, is going to change our thinking, our whole situation.

POM. I'm very near the end. At the same time the African renaissance and people like William Makgoba put great emphasis on Africanism which kind of says we must promote African values and show that we have a civilisation and not allow ourselves to be overrun by –

BN. Sure. Look, the missionaries tried to convert the African, the Zulu person, away from ancestor worship and away all that. That still remains today so it's a far more complex issue that. You cannot say African values to the exclusion of western values. It will have to be a mix and the best mix will come out, will emerge from that over time. We must accept it. You cannot force feed African values. African renaissance in terms of governance, in terms of economic competitiveness, in terms of sound educational systems, in terms of understanding our past, our heritage and valuing it, but using that at the same time to connect us to the rest of the world, creating our archives into sources of information, that is the future. So the African renaissance in terms of that is what we must strive for, not in terms of saying wearing a pair of pants is losing your social base, your cultural base, because that would be nonsense.

POM. Or a baseball cap. Last question is, as you had said last year and we had talked about, Dr Buthelezi was offered the Deputy Presidency but it was tied to the premiership of KZN and he turned that down. Why did he turn it down?

BN. It would have been too great a shock to his support base had he allowed the ANC to take over the premiership because people would have said he has traded a very important principle for his own personal gain. That's the only interpretation.

POM. So with all the talk, and again I'm saying what I've heard from the first time I came here ten years ago, about Dr Buthelezi's ego and whatever and his concern about stature, the fact is when it came to the crunch and he was offered the second highest position in the country he said, "Well I will not do it at the expense of appearing to sell out my own people."

BN. But he's always been like that. The apartheid government offered him all sorts of things. They actually offered him white Natal at one stage if he would take independence.

POM. They did? So Durban would have been?

BN. Yes, part of KwaZulu.

POM. KwaZulu-Natal really now would have been –

BN. And he refused that. He said this is not what we are about and it's not what we are talking about. We are talking about our birthright in SA. That's the whole issue of saying we will not negotiate until these conditions are met, those preconditions. It was part of that.

POM. I have to ask you one last question. I have to. It's an interest that I'm working in and it preoccupies me. AIDS, AIDS is decimating this country. It's more than a pandemic, it's plague-like.

BN. Absolutely.

POM. Yet the health budget for next year is being cut. Everybody wears their little button, there are AIDS awareness programmes but AIDS awareness programmes don't translate into behaviour change.

BN. No, no, Padraig, it's not money that's going to cure AIDS problems here. You cannot throw money at this. It's going to be a message that is credible with the people. That's why I've said to my officials, let's work out a message. Whether we go to the private sector, to advertising houses, we shall do that, so that if a person can sell you Omo and Palmolive that person should also be able to sell you a message. So we are busy now waiting for presentations from advertising houses to say how do we pack such a message. At the moment you see the message is heard by the young people but not believed. This is the problem.

POM. That's right, you can't change information awareness into behaviour change.

BN. Sure. Now we must find – the trick is to find a packaging of the message in such a way that actually it will result in a young man saying, I will date a girl but I will not sleep with her. If I do sleep with her I will always use a condom. We have not reached that point yet. So it's not money. AZT and the anti-retrovirals are good for the worst where you have got a fairly well-established infrastructure for health care. Here we still battle with compliance with TB treatment. Once the person is out of hospital and at home they simply don't go to their clinic to fetch more treatment. If you did that with AIDS you would create a super virus that will be totally out of reach of any other treatment that is available. So it is much wiser not to just play around with these drugs when you can actually not enforce compliance and the regular testing of people, the CD4 counts and so on, to actually take your dosages and so on according to those results. We are totally not ready for that type of intervention so we have concentrated on the vaccine, we are giving money, five million rands we have given to the Medical Research Council, and they are far down the line. There are other funds which have come in, the US and EU are also helping to speed up the introduction of the vaccine.

POM. I'm doing, for different work at my own university, I'm doing an anthology on – I've worked in AIDS before but I'm doing it on the Economic & Social Consequences of AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa. Is there anybody that comes to your mind that I should be talking to here who can put me in touch with other people in other countries?

BN. There's an economist in Durban.

POM. Whiteside?

BN. Yes, University of Natal.

POM. That's the man, he's been mentioned to me again.

BN. That's the man who will really set you up.

POM. OK. Thank you, over the years, for everything. I will be back again but it will be more just to say hello, see how you're doing than to conduct – this stage of the research is over but what I would like, just being IT, is an e-mail number to reach you so that I can send you the transcripts by e-mail and if there's a passage that I don't understand or something I need clarification on that I can say paragraph X, here's what you said, what did you mean? And you can just type back, this is what I meant.

BN. Sure.

POM. Or even just correct it on the screen and send it directly back to me. OK?

BN. Fine, fine. OK.

POM. Say hello to Miss Coetzee and tell her I will get her outside, and the other numbers of the guys who are working on the committee.

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.