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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Towards Democracy 2nd Quarter 1994

Fair comment

The Independent Electoral Commission made a lot of mistakes, but also delivered the election.

Carmel Rickard asks commissioners what lessons were learnt for the future

Carmel Rickard is a freelance journalist and broadcaster, based in Durban. She currently writes for the Sunday Times on legal affairs.

Substantially free and fair but far from perfect. That seems to be a widely shared consensus about the April elections. The government ushered in by the country's first non-racial poll has yet to decide on the mechanics of the next one. Details such as what body should oversee the election and whether the Independent Electoral Commission, which administered the April poll, should be revived or replaced with another body must all still be considered.

However, a number of people who played key roles in the last election have strong views about what can be learnt from the experience, and applied in the case of the next.

Looking back, the man with the final responsibility for deciding whether the polls made the grade, IEC chairman Judge Johann Kriegler, says it all worked well. 'There was no violence. People accepted the authority of the IEC. We started as total strangers to the people of the country. But the parties and electorate accepted ourintegrity and impartiality. When we began, we expected a participation of 70 per cent at best. But we ended with as close to 100 per cent as you could find.'

Kriegler said a lot of things went right, and a lot went wrong. The flexibility of the IEC was one of its strong points, for example, enabling the commission to accommodate the Inkatha Freedom Party less than a week before the elections. At the same time, Kriegler says he did not learn anything fundamental from the experience. 'I knew in advance that you cannot start an election like this from scratch, just three months before polling day, and that you cannot decentralise an operation of this kind in the time available. There was no time for a single trial run. We were training voting officers the morning of the election; instead of training them years in advance, we were selecting them just the week before.'

There were lessons, however: 'When we started off so late, we were obliged to have a strongly centralised organisation. But ideally the operation should have been strongly decentralised. We also learnt that you cannot run a ballot system in Mount Currie in the same way you would in Berea.'

He says the IEC doesn't blame the politicians. 'They did a great job to get everything done by mid-December. It was an outstanding achievement, starting from a position of complete confrontation six months before. By and large, it was a bloody miracle.'

Some critics have suggested that business people should have been given a stronger role in the elections, since they understand distribution and how to get the right people for the job. Kriegler acknowledges the important role representatives of big business played: 'Our deputy director in charge of provisions came from SA Breweries, for example, and we are extremely grateful for the help they gave us.'

But he is just as adamant that the role of big business could only be a limited one. We used private enterprise a great deal,but if we had farmed it all out to big business it would not have worked. It had to be the people's election. The name of the game was not to have the thing go like clockwork, but to get the people to accept the outcome. We could easily have got bank tellers to count the results, instead of the local school teacher. But the impact would not have been the same.'

In an interview shortly before the election, Kriegler said a spin-off from the decision to staff the election with local people would be the exposure of many more South Africans to the democratic process. Now that the poll is over, he is sure it was the correct decision. 'We have given more than a quarter of a million people first-hand experience of and exposure to democratic practice. Some learnt nothing. The majority had a great experience as I did.' He concludes: 'I hate to sound clever after the event, but at the very first news conference I said it was not going to be a perfect election. And I was right.'

Piet Colyn, director-general of Home Affairs, who served as chief director: election administration, isolates three lessons. Most important of all, he says, is that one cannot start preparing too early. 'You need time; I cannot say this too often. For a national election you need at least two years' preparation. This allows time to train staff and arrange details. It also allows the public to find out well in advance where the polling stations are, and who the candidates are.'

The second lesson is that all decisions relating to the elections must be taken well ahead of the election date. 'You cannot change the rules during the preparation stage, as we did with the double ballot and allowing late entries to the race.' His third point is the need for a voters' roll, to avoid the chaos of last-minute identity card problems.

Like Colyn, UCT politics professor Robert Schrire says the flexibility of the election process, which proved a mixed blessing in the April polls, will be a serious problem if it continues in another. Schrire, a close observer of the elections, comments: 'We must be rigid in ensuring that deadlines are respected. The major problem with the last elections came from endorsing the double ballot system at the last minute. That can't be allowed to happen again.'

He lists other lesson which should have been learnt from the April experience. For one thing, he believes the country needs a 'permanent electoral body' to run elections. 'We cannot have amateurs, however well-meaning, to conduct the next election.' He also suggests that the plethora of smaller political parties be discouraged. Schrire speculates that they may have made voting more difficult for uneducated voters. In any case, the served little purpose other than 'publicity for certain individual would-be politicians. They had no support, and it just complicated things to have such a huge range ofparties without real backing.'

Says Shire: 'During the last election the aim was to make the process as inclusive as possible, and part of the price was the shambles we saw. In the next election, inclusivity might well be taken for granted and very different criteria could emerge, such as efficiency, for example. If cutting back on the number of small parties is seen as one way of promoting efficiency, we might ask a significant deposit R100 000, for instance. And if efficiency became the key criterion, a highly efficient, permanent body would be essential.'

He suggests that in the light of the last election experience, the authorities should reconsider political advertising on radio and television (during the April campaign, party adverts were allowed on radio but not on TV). 'It was not allowed because the aim was to level the playing fields and give all the parties a fair chance. This policy may have made sense for a first election, but it disadvantages the more efficient and more popular parties. They may well have strong feelings about changing the rules or advertising for the next campaign.'

His final suggestion is that national and provincial voting should not take place on the same day. Instead, elections should be staggered, perhaps three to six months apart. This would allow the electorate to have a voice between elections. 'It gives people a chance to express their views. It also allows voters to focus more clearly on regional issues which are otherwise ignored and lost under the national issues. If you stagger the elections, as they do in the United States, regional issues get the proper attention they need, and regional parties can make their claims better heard.'

For IEC commissioner advocate Zac Yacoob, SC, the primary lesson of the April poll is that elections cannot be detached from the history of the country and its regions. 'In the sophisticated areas, the elections were conducted extremely well. In areas where people were victims of the Bantu Education policy, things got worse and worse.'

According to Yacoob, the April elections taught that a national poll will be as good and fair and democratic as the country will allow at the time. In those parts of the country where 'corrupt homelands governments' had developed, it was difficult to run a fair and democratic election

He warns that in those areas still suffering from the legacy of homeland corruption, even drawing up a voter's roll so essential to the proper functioning of any future election will be very difficult. Yacoob also believes that the double ballot system was too complicated for the country's voters 'at this time'.

Like others in top positions overseeing the poll, Yacoob has some reflections on the people employed to conduct the elections. Many of those who were asked to help made news headlines during the elections and afterwards with their demands for more money, their strikes, and refusal to begin counting voters until certain grievances had been met.

Policy during the April election was to hire people who were unemployed, and give them jobs for the duration of the campaign. Yacoob thinks this might have been a mistake. He believes these people were encouraged to hold on to those jobs and to spin out the work as long as possible, making unwarranted demands and adding greatly to the strain of those responsible for running the elections. 'I believe that in the long run it would be better to find people who already have work, and second them to work for the duration of the election. This creates a stable, accountable factor in the election period. It is a controversial view, I know, but I don't see that you gain anything by these ad hoc appointments.'

On the other hand, he also feels that it would not have been possible simply to hand over the elections to people employed by the state. 'Many of those who were employed from the state bureaucracy found themselves thoroughly inadequate. All they knew was how to conduct elections for a few million sophisticated people. This was something very different, and they didn't know how to cope. If it hadn't been for the business sector, which seconded very senior people at a moment's notice to help with the process, we would never have got by, because the state officials were just too limited. They were not used to thinking creatively, or taking initiatives. The kind of approach we needed from them was incompatible with the bureaucratic style they had always followed.'

Dr Oscar Dhlomo, MPD executive chair-man and an (EC commmissioner, also believes a number of valuable lessons emerged from the elections as they were run this time round. 'No one had any prior experience of running such an election. And those who thought they did because of their experience of apartheid elections in the past soon found this background was quite inadequate.'

Dhlomo approves of the idea of removing the staging of elections from the Department of Home Affairs. 'This is a good idea, and should continue in future elections. There were problems in the April poll, but they could be dealt with by having a permanent electoral directorate with proper staff who would organise the election in good time.'

He suggests a body such as the IEC should play a different role, such as setting overall policy, handle certification and adjudication, and so on. 'But it should certainly not oversee the administration of the whole election. That should be the role of the permanent electoral body. This directorate must be independent of government, and not subject to the whims of the government or cabinet. It should, however, be funded by the state.'

Dhlomo believes the IEC-type body should be far smaller, and not permanent. It should convene every time an election is held, and set up general policy guidelines, arrange for the adjudication of disputes, and set in place mechanisms for certification. 'But it should not get involved in administrative functions such as designating voting stations or printing ballot papers,' he says.

The work begins

South Africa's government of national unity faces some formidable challenges. Paulus Zulu assesses its chances of meeting them successfully

Professor Paulus Zulu is director of the Centre for Social and Development Studies at the University of Natal, Durban.


Some three months have elapsed since a new government took over control of South Africa. The main question that lingers in the minds of a number of South Africans is: will the transition from government by the National Party to that of a government of national unity usher in uhuru, as many hoped it would? And if so, what prospects are there for success, and what obstacles lie on the way to that goal?

Theoretically, ruling regimes may negotiate themselves out of office, but history does not abound in instances where they negotiate themselves out of power. The South African situation is, however, different, for although the National Party government may be said to have negotiated itself out of power, specific conditions which obtained during the latter part of the 1980s compelled the two principal actors in the negotiation process, ie the NP government and the ANC, to seek negotiations, albeit from positions of unequal power.

On the part of the government, reform had failed, and governing the country was becoming increasingly problematic, given both the internal and external pressures. Negotiations were forced onto the government and the ANC by an unusual stalemate. As the regime in office, the NP did not suffer any military defeat although the 'revolution of the masses' together with increasing international pressure had rendered government almost impossible.

On the other hand, the ANC controlled the legitimation process, but had neither the capacity to win a war, nor to govern effectively. Deprived of a direct military victory, the ANC was conscious of its weakness and had thus proposed a government of national unity under its leadership as both a compromise and a mechanism for increasing its power base as the future government.

Hence, although uhuru came about as a result of a negotiated settlement resulting from a process where adversaries engaged each other from positions of unequal power, a combination of peculiar circumstances determined the inevitability of the outcome. On 27 April the ANC achieved a political victory as the people's party. The remaining question was and still is whether political power equals the power to govern. On the positive side, the breaking of the apartheid impasse started a process of democratisation, and to stem the tide is almost impossible. The questions, therefore, change to whether the new government of national unity has sufficient resources and power to usher in the promises of uhuru, or whether elements of the ancient regime are still lingering strongly enough to provide sufficient obstacles to progress.

Critics of the change process argue that actual power, that is the capacity to govern, still remains largely in the hands of the abdicating regime, or within strong elements of that regime. The main reason advanced is that the ancient regime or extensions of the old order still control the vital tools of power, ie the security apparatus and economic power. Success of this strategy will largely be determined by developments in the interim period of five years. The rest of this presentation will address opportunities and constraints during this period, in order to assess the prospects of a government of national unity.

A government of national unity

Probably the greatest blessing this country has is that the transformation from a white racial oligarchy has not immediately led to a majority take-over of power. For five years the country has to be managed by a government of national unity, which should facilitate first the development of co-responsibility in government, and secondly a process of healing old wounds. In president Nelson Mandela and the ANC, South Africa is fortunate to have a majority that demonstrates great magnanimity in victory.

Symbolically, at the presidential inauguration ceremony, Mandela was flanked by generals of the defence force, a signal of his willingness to include them in the new government, and their respect for the new office. Further, judging by the allocation of responsibilities in the various ministries, the government of national unity has been translated into a meaningful concept and an institution representing almost all the elements in a plural society.

Secondly, the country has sufficient resources, if managed appropriately, to deliver a fair amount of the promised goods to the majority of the electorate. The announcement of the comprehensive nation-al health plan and commitments made with regard to education and housing will address some of the most fundamental and critical needs of the poor. The reconstruction and development programme is the official white paper intended to carry out 'promises' long awaited by the masses who waged the 'struggle' against exclusion from the country's resources.

Commentators on the RDP have questioned the capacity of the new government to deliver on its promises, given the extent of expectations versus the country's resources. Admittedly there are great expectations, but human beings have the capacity for patience and the ability to appreciate effort and goodwill where these exist. The problem with the ancient regime in all its manifestations, be these in the central state or the surrogate homelands, was that it had neither the goodwill nor the intention to remedy the lot of the poor. What the new government will have to embark on, and on a vigorous scale for that matter, is a system of queues that move, giving hope first that everyone has a chance to the queue, and secondly that they reach the point of service. That has strong psycho-logical implications, and the capacity to legitimise the process of transition.

Old wine in new bottles?

However, these are tremendous obstacles to the normalisation of South African society in all facets of life. In the first instance, actual government, that is the daily function of delivering services, is through the bureaucracy. The relationship between government as the executive arm of the new state and the bureaucracy as the administrative arm will greatly determine the capacity of the government of national unity to fulfil its main objectives.

The achievement of a political settlement at the end of April did not necessarily imply an end to the competing clusters of interest within the bureaucracy. This is particularly so given the historical incompatibilities between the various ethnic bureaucracies homelands, provincial administrations and the central state; and the ideological chasm between the old and the new. The principal challenge facing the government of national unity will be trans-forming the apartheid bureaucracy both in the central state and in the homelands into an efficient machine.

At this level, problems relate to both capacity and ideology. Immediate before the elections, civil servants embarked on mass actions which brought down the administrative machinery in Lebowa, Ciskei and Bophuthatswana, while in KwaZulu education and health services came to a near collapse in the townships and a number of rural areas. However, mass action was only the visible tip of the iceberg; underneath lay a culture of non-compliance and a fundamentally poor work ethic. Part of this was the outcome of years of nepotism and political favouritism, partof it a product of ethnic Africanisation, and part inherited from Afrikaner affirmative action, another brand of ethnic preferential treatment. The quasi-federal constitution of the new government of national unity will exacerbate the position particularly where recalcitrant regimes like in KwaZulu/Natal are carried over into the new state.

Institutional building

There are competing ideological interests in the constituent parts of the new South Africa. The burning question of how federal the constitution was has not been buried under in the new dispensation. For instance, there are murmurs already trying to tie the success of the Reconstruction and Development Programme to the devolution of power in KwaZulu/Natal (Business Day, 13/6/94). It has taken more than a month to settle the feud over the allocation of ministries in the region, and the contest over the capital is far from settled. Sectional interests are already in play, demonstrating the problem of institutional building where ideologically divergent constituent parts exist.

The probable outcome is that this might stall programmes, particularly given the fact that delivery of services was hardly part of the culture in the now constitutionally defunct KwaZulu regime. A carry-over of that culture would be disastrous to the government of national unity, whose success lies mainly in the ability to build new institutions and a new culture of accountability to the electorate.

The relationship between government as the executive arm of the new state and the bureaucracy as the administrative arm will greatly determine the capacity of the government of national unity to fulfil its main objectives.

The second danger is that where relationships between the constituent parts hamper the process of institutional building, collective responsibility within the executive is difficult to achieve, a further negative to progress. The ANC-led government of national unity has to demonstrate that it can deal with recalcitrant subordinate parts without risking the dismantling of the new constitutional state.

The security question

Perhaps the thorniest issue facing the government of national unity is that of security.

Since the appointment of the Harms commission into Covert Operations and later the Goldstone Commission into the Prevention of Violence and Intimidation, the alleged involvement of individuals located high up in the security structures poses thorny questions for the future stability of the government of national unity. Admittedly, some of the hot potatoes such as the status two former independent states, the Ciskei and Bophuthatswana, have been resolved, and major elements within the central state have either been removed from office or are being investigated, but a major problem still remains.

The country is still awaiting decisions regarding the existing elements where apparently no steps have been taken. For instance, there are individuals in parliament who have been singled out in the commission's reports as having been involved in planning or organising acts of violence against political opponents. Investigations into covert activities are not yet over; a number of researchers into violence, the Human Rights Commission, the Natal Monitor, the Network of Independent Monitors and others maintain that what the commission has disclosed is just the tip of the iceberg.

The security problem, particularly the police, could turn out to be South Africa's Achilles heel, not only for the government of national unity but for the country itself. For instance, the recent uprisings by prisoners in a number of major prisons is cause for concern and a challenge to the basic tenets of justice. When persons serving sentences for acts publicly committed against humanity redefine their locus standi in terms that the prison population seems to be doing, there is a fundamental challenge to the normative system qua system and not just to the mechanics of implementation.

The sudden eruption of the prison population despite the 'unfulfilled promises' was too spontaneous to be credible. One wonders if there are any 'third force' operators in play, taking advantage of the 'transition'. When the country's police union resorts to public demonstration to air grievances regarding renumeration for overtime, things are not in shape. One does not have to be over-suspicious, but the police is one department with a history of overt and covert non-co-operation with the forces of change.

Inculcating an ethos of accountability and responsibility

One of the drawbacks of the period of resistance was the conflation of means and ends. For instance, strategies designed to undermine apartheid developed into behavioural norms which might prove to be very difficult to undo.

Two complementary strategies, both of which removed the onus from the individual and located it in the collective, were adopted. The first was the boycott stance, and the second mass action. The immediate outcome of the delegitimation of the regime was the delegitimation of authority. That this was the direct outcome of an authoritarian system is not in doubt; what is a source of concern is the amount of effort required to re-inculcate a sense of an individual's locus of responsibility, particularly in young persons imbued with a culture of entitlement and a sense of collective destiny.

Reconstruction and development has a moral component which transcends the delivery of goods and services. One often wonders to what extent the removal of apartheid has robbed a number of individuals of the pretext for all types of behavioural inconsistency, where a blurring of action and consequence has become the order of the day.

For instance, have striking teachers and health workers ever considered that the immediate consequences of their actions harm fellow victims more than the system they wish to destroy? Or rather, are boycotts the only alternative left to be used when dealing with recalcitrant authorities?

Restoring credibility to the criminal justice system

The most disastrous development from political violence has been the far-reaching effects this has had on the system of criminal justice. A culture of crime developed first from the legitimation of violence to achieve political ends, and secondly from the confusion between political and criminal violence. That elements from the security apparatus at times capitalised on if not initiated the confusion further bedeviled the situation. (I refer here to the Maqina saga in the eastern Cape, and to disclosures by the Goldstone commission of similar developments in the Reef townships.)

However, despite the massive problems of legitimacy and the contentious position regarding the conceptualisation of 'crime' by the previous ruling elite, South Africa could still pride itself on the independence of its judiciary. However, the dubious if not negative role of some police persons in investigating crimes committed during acts of political violence has thrown the system of criminal justice into disrepute.


The government of national unity came out of a realisation that no political party could go it alone in the process of managing the transition from apartheid to democracy. In spite of the teething problems, in a way predictable given what sometimes appeared to be intractable positions by the parties engaged in the negotiation process, progress made so far indicates good prospects for success.

There is continuity in almost all fields of administration, a continuity which means that reconstruction does not have to start from an administrative void. Almost all sec-tors of the South African population, save for the lunatic fringes, are represented in the new state. Such signs augur well for stability.

Perhaps the most appropriate way to put it is that now that we have cleared the political impasse, opportunities for eco The security problem, particularly the police, could turn out to be South Africa's Achilles heel, not only for the government of national unity but for the country itself nomic reconstruction are favourable. One can say that for the first time after decades of a stigmatised perception, South Africa has the chance to develop a national consciousness, and harness the collective heritage of its citizens.

Almost all sectors of the South African population, save for the lunatic fringes, are represented in the new state. Such signs augur well for stability.

Footing the bill

The acronym RDP has come to dominate South African public life. But will the programme fix our problems?

Kevin Davie is editor of Business Times.

Kevin Davie takes a hard look at the financial realities behind the rhetoric

In his victory speech after the April election, president-to-be Nelson Mandela announced that the new national priorities would be reconciliation, reconstruction and development. He stressed that all people were welcome in the new South Africa, but that attempts to undermine the reconstruction and development programme, the ANC's election platform, would not be tolerated.

The RDP has since become pre-eminent in South African public life, and has been garnering increasing support. It is official policy of the government of national unity, and enjoys the support of all political par-ties in parliament. Public servants have queued, metaphorical cap in hand, to tell their new political masters that they will give their full loyalty and support to the RDP. The most unlikely causes, such as attempts to get a government subsidy to stage the Grand Prix at Kyalami, have been justified in the name of the RDP.

If there are critics of the RDP, they are not vocal. When people have ventured to question the programme, they have on occasion been accused of racism. Such was the case at a press briefing before the opening of parliament. A foreign journalist asked minister Jay Naidoo, who has cabinet responsibility for implementing the RDP, where in the world a similar pro-gramme had succeeded. He initially responded in a light vein, saying: We're unique', but then went into defensive mode to say that the RDP was being questioned because it was targeted at blacks.

But what is the RDP; are its aims achievable? The programme aims to redress the social backlogs caused by discrimination and neglect under apartheid. It envisages a range of government interventions in areas such as the provision of drinking water, sewerage and rubbish removal. Education and training are stressed to equip people to earn their own living, while housing provision aims to provide a secure, stable base for development.

These goals are not only noble, they're necessary if South Africa is to have sustainable growth. Government is quite right in making the goals of the RDP our number one priority. The World Bank, citing South African research, quantifies the social back-log at R46 billion. Using a sophisticated macro-economic model, it estimates that under conditions of high growth 25 per cent of the backlog can be addressed within four years. The remainder can be met during the following four years, 1998 to 2001, under such a scenario.

That's the upside. The downside is that low growth will only address 13 per cent of the backlog over a period of eight years. The World Bank does not say it, but we should shudder at the consequences. We obviously have to go for a high-growth scenario, and this is where the RDP falls down. It has almost nothing to say about where the growth will come from.

It is true that political stability will boost investor confidence, but the new South Africa inherits the economics of the old South Africa. And for all the economic reform which has been introduced during the 1980s (including the commercialisation of the parastatals, limited privatisation such as that of Iscor, competition on the air routes and deregulation in some sectors) the economy remains heavily burdened by excessive regulation and protection.

As the last government prepared to make way for the next, outgoing Finance minister Derek Keys introduced an aggressive economic reform programme aimed at improving our competitiveness by freeing up our markets. It was called the Normative Economic Model, and was heavily premised on deregulation and liberalisation. Newspaper headlines shouted: 'We must fly the Keys model', yet the last time but one it was heard of was when it was sent to be considered by government, business and labour representatives in the National Economic Forum.

The NEM appeared to die an ignominious death, but one man has been trying to save it. This man, unlike too many who cut deals to protect their own privileged position, has a better view than most of how our economy is performing. This is because he is the economy's gatekeeper: he is Reserve Minister Jay Naidoo, left, and scene in Soweto, below ... RPD needs high growth, but says almost nothing about how this must be generated.

The security problem, particularly the police, could turn out to be South Africa's Achilles heel, not only for the government of national unity but for the country itself

nomic reconstruction are favourable. One can say that for the first time after decades of a stigmatised perception, South Africa has the chance to develop a national consciousness, and harness the collective heritage of its citizens.

Bank governor Dr Chris Stals. While politicians may be live expediently from one short-term deal to the next, Stals has to take a longer-term view.

And the long view is not good. It shows an economy which grew in the 1960s at levels above those required to accommodate our growing population. But growth declined steadily during the 1970s and 1980s until we entered the recession the longest this century of recent years. We now have virtually non-existent reserves which will only cover five weeks of imports against the three months considered to be the prudent minimum.

It's not surprising that the gatekeeper wants the NEM back on the agenda. He says the socio-economic stress of the RDP should be married with the market reform emphasis of the NEM. The two complement one another rather well: the NEM was embarrassingly devoid on the need to target the poor. The RDP one analyst points out contains 400 paragraphs, mentions markets in eight, and the need to control them in five.

But to backtrack. Government can finance the RDP from savings, from borrowings, from aid, from domestic and foreign investment (including those by the World Bank), or by printing money. Outgoing Finance minister Derek Keys sold the cabinet on financing a special RDP fund from annual savings of R2,5 billion. This is good thinking, but Standard Bank economist Nico Czypionka, for one, doubts its ability to make these savings on an annual basis during the next five years.

The pressures to increase expenditure are enormous. Witness the fact that even defence spending will increase in this fiscal year, if the recurring costs of accommodating MK into the SANDF are considered. Some 58 per cent of the budget goes into paying salaries (mostly teachers, nurses, policemen and soldiers) and the interest on government's debt; that does not leave much room for savings.

Can government increase its borrowings? Its current level of borrowing, after the homeland debt has been brought onto the books and the election has been funded, already has us in a debt trap, says the Reserve Bank. Simply put, this is when government's borrowing requirement is sufficient in itself to push up interest rates. Interest rates increase faster than the growth of the economy. Government ends up chasing its own tail, borrowing more and more, pushing up the cost of borrowing all the time.

So increased borrowings are out. And no one in government former unionists and communists included believes that printing money is a solution. They know that inflation harms those who do not have assets most. Besides, the gatekeeper would never allow it.

Will aid fix the problem? South Africa has been getting substantial amounts of aid (more than R1 billion a year, according to the United Nations Development Pro-gramme) and no doubt will get more, much of it with strings attached. Aid will make a contribution, but it won't solve a R46 billion problem.

Can we grow our way out of the problem through attracting outside investment? Foreign funds can, of course, create jobs, bring growth and new tax revenue for the RDP. In recent weeks, some of the world's best-known companies, including Coca-Cola, Nike, KFC, Sarah Lee, Apple, Reebok and Pepsi have announced their return to or arrival in SA. More than 50 uS companies have returned since US president George Bush lifted sanctions three years ago. But, sad to say, this wave of investment has perhaps had a net negative effect on the job market.

At the end of last year, The Economist reported that fewer than 100 new jobs had been created by returning US companies. This is because most of these investments involve little more than a distribution agreement or a buy-back into an existing operation. Tambrands, the makers of Tampons, bought back only to close down its South African operation at a loss of 200 jobs, the result of worldwide rationalisation caused by mismanagement at head office in the US.

The fact that the chief executive was a South African perhaps adds insult to injury.

Our foreign investment prospects are such that not only are we not getting much brick-and-mortar direct investment, we're not even getting sizeable portfolio money. The World Bank's Isaac Sam, who regularly speaks to overseas fund managers, says these billions are several years off. The JSE is just too illiquid. Foreigners can't buy shares directly, and they don't like the financial rand, even if it is at a discount to the commercial rand. They take a simple view: if your economic policies are so attractive, and your investment climate so good, why do you protect yourself with exchange controls?

Some see the World Bank as a source of immediate funds. The bank has many critics. It has accepted the view of some of them, and has changed its policies accordingly. It can play a very useful role in South Africa. But even the World Bank wants to sell us its policies, not loan us its money. Before we see its billions, we will have to show that we're keen to embrace market-friendly policies.

Missing in this discussion is domestic investment. Nedbank's Economic Unit has counted publicised in-vestment and says local companies have committed R33 billion during 1994 to capital expenditure pro-grammes. This rises to R90 billion by 1999. These numbers are big, but Reserve Bank data show that of total fixed domestic investment of R60 billion last year, new fixed investment after depreciation amounted to only R5,8 billion.

Where we are investing it is mostly in capital-intensive projects. Giant projects such as the Columbus stainless steel plant and Alusaf aluminium, made possible through generous tax concessions, stand to earn valued export dollars but create very few jobs. Columbus, for instance, with a capital cost of R3,5 billion, creates just 100 new jobs. And millions do not have wage employment.

The RDP can fund itself, some argue. The idea, popular in some South African circles for some years now, is that the large-scale building of homes will create jobs, which will lead to further demand for homes, more jobs, and so on. But like the mushroom cloud schemes (remember Kubus?) which emerge in South Africa every few years or so, this is so much non-sense. Like a mushroom cloud, there is no base to make the scheme sustainable. If home building was really a solid development strategy, it would have already been tried and tested all over the world or we would be the world leader in home building as a successful economic strategy. We have, after all, been trying to build homes for low-income earners since the late 1970s with decreasing success.

If this review is beginning to sound desperate, the situation in South Africa is far from hopeless. Rather than try and invent non-market solutions (growth through home-building) to a non-market problem(apartheid), the cheaper, sustainable way is to simply follow market-led reforms. The ANC has adopted such an approach, apparently with World Bank input, to land reform. The idea is to use deregulation to expose uncompetitive farmers to market forces. The efficient, those who feed the nation, will survive, but the inefficient will have to leave the land. Land prices will fall, reducing the cost of making land available to the formerly dispossessed for small-scale agriculture.

Such programmes with active farmer support have been very successful else-where. Indeed there are cases in South Africa where the simplest, cheapest pro-grammes have provided food security for 50 000 people. Provisional World Bank estimates suggest that such a programme in South Africa could create one million rural jobs in five years. That's food security for perhaps six million people; a completely different South Africa.

There is now considerable pressure to reform key markets. The organised meat industry has been defeated by consumer and farmer groups in its attempts to intro-duce new controls in the name of deregulation. Food groups Tiger Oats, Premier, Maizecor and Foodcorp, with a combined turnover of about R15 billion, are threatening to break organised agriculture's stranglehold on the maize price and buy directly from farmers.

Pick 'n Pay and Engen want to discount fuel. Small businessmen are banding together to mount legal challenges to South Africa's industrial councils, which they accuse of job destruction through heavy-handed bureaucracy and over-regulation. The constitutional court has not yet been formed, but cases are already being pre-pared to challenge the existing order by means of the bill of rights, which guarantees the right to free and fair economic activity.

It would be nice to believe that the RDP will fix our economic problems, but it will not in itself generate the growth which will enable us to tackle apartheid-induced back-logs. NEM would produce this growth, but too many interests are fighting a rearguard action to prevent it from surfacing. So I'm putting my money on the BOR.

Odd man out

Khehla Shubane is a senior researcher at the Centre for Policy Studies, and serves on the National Housing Forum.

Local-level organisations took the lead in fighting apartheid; today, local government institutions are lagging behind in South Africa's institutional transformation. Khehla Shubane examines the consequences.

This essay attempts to explain why local government is lagging behind in the institutional transformation under way in this country. Both the nation-al and provincial tiers of government have been transformed by the election which occurred in April; however, this has not affected local government.

During the past 15 years or more, local government and specifically resistance groups located in local areas were the driving force for change. In the course of pursuing their goals, they also became anti-apartheid champions. The most innovative strategies of resistance groups were crafted in local struggles. Arguably, changes which are now under way in the country owe a fair amount to the efforts of resistance organisations operating at local level. Although many if not all radical resistance organisations were affiliated to national organisations, worked with them or operated in a context which was also rooted in national resistance politics, the basis of the resistance in the 1980s was primarily the local area. It is at this level that organisation was built, nurtured and sustained.

Campaigns which characterised the period, such as stayaways, consumer boycotts and rent boycotts, were championed and fashioned into effective instruments of resistance by locally based organisations. The ubiquitous feature of resistance in the past decade derived from a focus on the local as a major theatre of resistance. It is this strategy which should be credited with blunting apartheid's repressive armour.

Forms of organisation which proliferated in the townships in the 1980s were made possible by a locally rooted strategy of resistance. Street, block and zone committees formed in numerous townships were only possible within organisations which were based at local level. The form of organisation implied by these bodies is unlikely to have developed at other levels. Such closely knit forms of organisations relied not just on the common socio-political experiences of participants, but on a range of other shared values as well.

The mobilisation of rather large numbers of people was only possible within a strategy predicated on the crucial role of organisations at local level. Local organisations went beyond the mobilising capacity of national organisations. Although the latter had a mobilisation effect, local organisations were better able to accommodate those who were ready to go beyond mobilisation. Their focus on issues which affected peoples' day-to-day experiences rather than abstract political issues also made them organisationally responsive to local populations.

Although it is impossible to measure exactly what the contribution by various forces, strategies or sectors were in bringing down apartheid, it is difficult to resist the conclusion that apartheid was defeated once local organisations were used as building blocks of resistance. The link between the escalation of resistance and the proliferation of local struggles suggests that the way to defeating apartheid only opened up once a locally rooted organisational strategy had been adopted.

Until the early 1970s, resistance organisations always contested national issues. Local issues and organisations were subordinated to national concerns, which were thought capable of leading to the defeat of apartheid. While it is true that unco-ordinated resistance by local organisations might not have had much impact, the evidence is overwhelming that the vigour, energy and innovation which marked resistance derived from local groups.

The transformation of local government institutions might also have been put back as a result of logistical problems associated with local elections. In retrospect, it is clear that the Independent Electoral Commission faced considerable difficulties in conducting elections at first- and second-tier levels. If a third set in the form of local government elections had been added, the whole process might have broken down.

In addition, negotiations over local government were conducted by a different set of negotiators to those involved in national and regional negotiations, and there was very little time in which to mesh agreements reached. Therefore, holding local government elections earlier would have run the risk of major stakeholders not binding them-selves to crucial aspects of the outcome a dangerous possibility, given the necessity of obtaining the consent of all in negotiations.

At the conclusion of negotiations which led to the April elections, major issues related to local government remained unresolved among them the demarcation of boundaries between and the powers and functions of metropolitan and sub-metropolitan government. There were therefore political problems related to holding local government elections at the same time as national and provincial elections.

Moreover, negotiators had already assigned the responsibility of local government to provincial governments, which were non-existent at the time. Holding local government elections at a later stage ensured that the level of government with primary responsibilities to local government was first constituted. The explanation for a period of almost a year elapsing between elections of first- and second-tier institutions and those of third-tier institutions lies in part in the time it has taken to get provincial governments to function reasonably well.

Historically, apartheid was conceived, crafted and managed at the national level. Its precise origins are complex, and defy the oft-stated view that its adherents crafted it in accordance with a single master plan. Be that as it may, it is clear that apartheid polices have been managed in the first instance at national level. Lower tiers of government, although playing a crucial crafting role, have essentially functioned as funnels of policies and strategies which emerged from the centre. The destruction of apartheid must therefore imply attacking the fount from which it emanated. The starting point for fashioning a new non-racial and democratic policy framework is at the point on which apartheid rests. If this is successfully transformed, it will create a basis for resolving consequent tiers of government. Robbed of their apartheid base, lower tiers of government and a myriad of other micro institutions based on apartheid are likely to flounder. This implies that tackling transformation at local government level will be less difficult than doing so at first-tier level.

Why then, given this record of achievement by locally based groups at ushering South Africa into a democracy, has the local dimension taken a back seat in the process of transformation? Why was it possible to lay a basis for democracy at nation-al and provincial level, and not at local government level? Politically accountable incumbents have been elected at national level; local government incumbents are still functioning on the basis of mandates conferred within an apartheid framework.

There seems to be four reasons why local government is not at the cutting edge of transformation at this juncture. First, the sheer scale of the changes which needed to be introduced necessitated a focus on first-and second-tier institutions. Second, elections on all three tiers simultaneously could have been difficult to handle. For practical reasons, therefore, it might have been regarded as appropriate to hold third-tier elections at a different time. Third, al-though local groups attained prominence in resistance, their agenda remained that of national transformation and local change. And fourth, because apartheid was government policy and therefore managed from the highest possible level, it might have been thought necessary to first effect change at that level.

The scale of transformation required in the wake of the new democracy, covering as it does legal, institutional and policy issues, might have been thought to require a top-down approach. Frameworks under-pinning the new non-racial democracy have to be fixed at a national level; it cannot be driven from the local level. To minimise the inconsistencies and duplications which were likely to arise if change was managed from below, or on too many fronts, it might have been a justified decision to start the process of such large-scale transformation at national and provincial level. The first and second tiers of government reach deeply into society; the thoroughgoing transformation of society will undoubtedly be facilitated by democratising these levels.

This does not imply that it will be easy to transform local government institutions. Processes in various forums dealing with the transformation of local government institutions attest to the difficulty of the task. New issues requiring fresh approaches to transformation at this level will no doubt arise. These will require innovation, and not answers which might have been produced elsewhere.

Even though some of the best efforts in resistance against apartheid were displayed in local struggles, this did not imply thatresistance groups sought to achieve local and not national democracy. The formation of local resistance groups and the role they played never meant that the notion of a free and democratic South Africa had been abandoned. Local level resistance was, among other things, a pragmatic response to the prevailing balance of power at the time. Apartheid was very strong at nation-al level. The fledging democratic movement would have been destroyed very easily had it chosen to challenge apartheid at a level where it was strong.

A combination of the prevailing balance of power in the period when the local level became a crucial theatre of resistance, and a pragmatic approach to appropriate levels of resistance is a plausible explanation for the proliferation of locally based resistance groups. Throughout, a focus on the primacy of resolving the problem at a national level was maintained. Establishing democratic institutions at a local level was sustainable within a broader democratic context.

Whatever the reason for holding local government elections a year later than others, the effects of this decision are clear. Local actors have been given far more latitude than is warranted. In some cases, local actors have delayed the process of trans-formation. The introduction of transitional structures at local level, an outcome pre-scribed by the law, has been held up in discussions which have had little to do with facilitating a democratic process, and a great deal with preserving the role or meeting the expectations of elites. While the law has its shortcomings, which have not assisted the process, these have been exploited by negotiating elites to stall the process.

Stand-alone towns have in the main been able to negotiate their way out of the past. They have established new structures which are working towards democratic elections. The big metropolitan areas have not made significant advances in negotiations, resulting both from the limited way in which the law provides for change to be effected, and the inflexible positions negotiators have tended to adopt.

The elections at provincial level have produced few surprises. It was anticipated that voting would result in the broad outcome which in fact occurred. A difficult issue to explain in voting patterns is why 'coloured' people voted in the way they did in the Western Cape, and not in the North-ern Cape.

The outcome also laid a basis for the dispersal of power. The ANC did not receive the large majority which would have enabled it to govern and draft a constitution on its own. The organisation has been forced by the outcome of the election to co-operate with other groups, in government as well as in the constituent assembly. This is good for democracy, as it is likely to create a basis for a larger set of interests to feel accommodated in government.

Provincial and central government relations are also evolving in ways which impose a new meaning on the abstract debate which was conducted before the interim constitution was implemented. ANC provincial governments have been far more enthusiastic in pushing central government to grant real powers to second-tier institutions than was anticipated. Initially, it was felt such pressure was more likely to emanate from provinces dominated by groups other than the ANC. In the way in which these relations have developed, the interim constitution has been given a more federal meaning than was the case in abstract debates.

This does not mean that ANC provincial governments have suddenly discovered the virtues of federalism; it has to do with the creation of government at the second- tier level. These governments are answerable to distinctly different electorates. Their argument for powers to be given to them stems more from a realisation that they will have to account to their electorates than a sudden change of view in respect of federalism. Common political views implicit in a common membership of the ANC have proved insufficient in ensuring that positions taken at one level accord with those taken at another.

The sharp disagreement over housing between National Housing minister Joe Slovo and PWV premier Tokyo Sexwale is a case in point. This is more than a disagreement on figures; it reflects deeply divergent visions of housing for the poor, and how to achieve it. If the countervailing plan pro-posed by the PWV goes ahead, the role of the national housing ministry might well be limited merely to providing funding to provincial governments, which will alone determine the content of policy. For example, subsidies which seem to be the responsibility of the national ministry will be rendered inapplicable by the scheme which the Pwv provincial government has agreed to.

Implicit in the disagreement is the question of which level of government should determine the level of provincial expenditure. Government funding required by the PWV government for its housing scheme is far more than it is possibly entitled to. The national ministry has received R2,5 billion for housing; this sum must be shared among all nine provinces, and some of it should be left in the national ministry's coffers. If the PWV were to receive R1 billion, this would amount to 40 per cent of the total housing budget for the current financial year; the other eight provinces plus the national ministry would be left with 60 per cent. Surely this is skewed spending.

Apart from the objections which have already been raised by the national ministry, other provinces are bound to raise some as well. If this occurs, it will contribute to the federal slant to the constitution already displayed by emerging relations between provincial and national government.

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.