The year opened on a sad note for the ANC & SACP. Joe Slovo dies. For decades demonized by the NP government as the personification of communism, a white man who had betrayed his people in pursuit of false gods and the revolutionary overthrow of the South African state died of cancer after serving eight months as Minister of Housing. "Red Joe," with his trademark red socks had, in the end, the last laugh.
The government of national unity got down to work & despite differences in personalities, style & old animosities worked well after a shaky start & some hiccups. The fact that SA was an economic basket case, drained of foreign reserves, unable to attract foreign investment, with rampant unemployment, an industrial structure for decades protected behind walls of import tariffs, a chaotic school system, dysfunctional public service, a police force which had no tradition policing in the traditional sense of protecting & serving the people, & crime beginning to run rampant, a tax base that was inept & a tax base that was too narrow to produce the revenue needed to supply basic services, a continuing influx of Africans into urban areas & subsequent proliferation of squatter camps was enough to concentrate the minds of most.
The ANC had assumed power with an expectation that the international community agog over South Africa's 'miracle' transition from apartheid to democracy & the magnanimity of a government of national unity with key members of the old order now holding ministerial positions in the new government would continue to regard South Africa as somehow "special" & funnel investment & aid into the country. At the very least SA required a 3 per cent growth rate just to thread water, a 5 per cent rate to start making inroads into backlogs of unemployment & generate revenues to address the huge social backlogs & massive inequalities between Blacks & whites. At the time SA had the highest Gini coefficient in the world – the coefficient measured the degree of income inequality using the median incomes of the top 20 per cent of income receivers & the bottom 20 per cent as barometers.
The ANC's Reconstruction & Development Program (RDP) was an ideal election manifesto, promising to both redistribute income & promote economic growth. It assumed that economic growth would be stimulated by an inflow of foreign investment & that part of the surplus from growth would be redistributed to the poor. The government's fiscal policy would also become more distributive, moving more resources into critical areas like education, housing, social services, health & welfare. But things were not that simple. The cupboard was bare. Savings were non existent. Direct foreign investment did not materialize. The economy limped.
And the public service couldn't deliver. The task of restructuring 14 different public services ranging from the fairly efficient (national) to wholly inefficient & corrupt (the homelands) was massive & not capable of resolution in the short term. The problem was systemic. Government's good intentions (generous budgetary outlays) & outcomes (how the outlays were spent) did not converge. Government departments at all levels of did not have the capacity to spend their budget allocations. Thus the ironic twist: addressing social problems was hampered not by a lack of available resources but by the institutional incapacity to spend.
The foreign investment the government craved never materialized. Even Madiba's magic could not move foreign companies to set foot in SA. From a business point of view it made no sense. In business sentiment does not translate into profit. The new democracy had to earn its way into the investment leagues. The risks were too high, the labor force too strike prone, the climate too anti business, crime & lawlessness too pervasive, the government itself too new, skills in too short supply, race relations too tenuous, political violence, especially in ZKN too problematic. And SA was no longer the international flavour of anything.
Apartheid gave SA significance in the west. Without apartheid it was just one more struggling developing country competing with others for aid & investment. It ceased to have a special status. To reassure the "market" & show that SA was not going to surrender itself into the hands of former communists who might still harbour dreams of a socialist SA, Mandela reappointed the conservative Derek Keys as Minister of Finance and later replaced him with the equally conservative Chris Liebenberg. To round off his credentials as a man the markets could trust Mandela reappointed the conservative Chris Stals the Governor of the Reserve Bank.
For the duration of the GNU, clashes between Mandela & De Klerk, although only occasional, always made the headlines. On 18th January 1995 Mandela and de Klerk clashed at a cabinet meeting during which de Klerk was attacked by several ANC ministers. De Klerk strongly defended his right as leader of the NP to oppose and criticise decisions of the ANC. The ANC argued that he could not as a member of the government & thus part of the cabinet decision making process that agreed government policy step outside the cabinet office, don the hat of the leader of the NP & criticize the policy he had been a party to making.
The issue festered for the duration of the GNU. DE Klerk found himself in a bind. On the one hand he wanted to be part of government. On the other, he wanted to assert the differences between the NP & the ANC in terms of the economic & social policies the NP advocated, which he hoped would ensure that the NP got a larger slice of the vote both in forthcoming local elections & for party building purposes.
Mandela maintained that that de Klerk did support the RDP program. On the contrary de Klerk maintained that he supported the program but not the ineffective manner of its implementation. On 19th January, De Klerk informed the Executive Council of the NP that the NP was seriously thinking about withdrawing from the GNU. Thus, at an early point in the new dispensation De Klerk was ruminating on things to come.
It would take time for the country to settle down after the trauma of the previous four years, four decades of apartheid and for Blacks a history of dispossession, oppression, humiliation & indignity. The newly free had to learn what freedom was about, that although it brought rights it also brought responsibilities. Suddenly, the law, which they had been encouraged to break because it was the law of an illegitimate regime, was now the law of their own government. Rent & electricity charges, which they had been encouraged to withhold, suddenly became due. But after years of non payment, most township residents thought that such things as housing & electricity were free commodities & they took umbrage when their own government told them to pay up – not just the current charges but for the amounts they were in arrears. They were used to ignoring government edicts, so they ignored the edicts of their own government. The government launched the Masakhane in late February, an attempt to "educate" the people to an understanding that government & the masses were partners, not adversaries and that the 'national democratic revolution,' the new parlance was only beginning. All had a role to play. All had to carry their load. But the culture of non-payment was deeply entrenched that appeals to patriotism & the common good fell on deaf ears.
Payment arrears from the start of the boycott in 1984 until the end of January 1994 amounted to R1.8 billion, of which R1.5billion was in the PWV region. Between February 1994 and the end of October 1994, a further R325million in arrears had accumulated. A confidential government investigation by a technical committee established after talks between the minister for provincial affairs and constitutional development, Roelf Meyer, and the deputy minister of finance, Alec Erwin, had found that it would cost R10billion to write off service and rental backlogs and provide services to African townships in the 1995/96 financial year.
Eskom announced in October 1994 that it would switch off the electricity supply to about 40 000 of its 127 000 Soweto customers before the end of December 1994. In November 1994 Eskom reported that it had switched off the supply to about 18 000 defaulters in Soweto who had never paid their bills. Between March 1992 and July 1994 Eskom had accumulated a debt of about R874m and faced monthly outstanding accounts of about R45million. About 32% of the electricity connections in Soweto were made illegally to backyard shacks.
The townships were beyond governance. Peoples' courts still took precedence over the justice system. Taxi violence became pervasive, as taxi groups competed among each other for routes & passengers. The absence of responsive and legitimate local government until elections late in the year created obstacles for the 'people driven' RDP that were virtually insurmountable. Crime soared. In places like Tembisa, Katlehong and Tokoza on the east Rand residents former SDUs had become crime gangs. Communities mounted their own crimes watches. Tensions between hostel dwellers & township continued to simmer & violence interactions were frequent & sometimes fatal. In ZKN the situation was worse, more like the aftermath of a civil war in many areas in the Midlands. Warlords, accustomed to autonomy, were not about to become choirboys. Law was made by those who could enforce it. In February 1995 Mandela ordered the deployment of extra security forces in the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, Kwazulu/Natal and the Northern Cape to combat political violence and lawlessness.
The Constitutional Assembly CA) got down to substantive work and the first four months were spent with theme committees producing reports and analysing more than 22, 000 submissions in response to an advertising campaign. In mid-February 1995 talks between the ANC, NP and IFP regarding international mediation broke down. A furious Buthelezi withdrew the IFP from the CA, feeling that he had been duped, that the ANC had acted dishonestly & dishonourably, that he had been suckered into participating in the 1994 elections. The IFP never returned to the CA. Later in the year de Klerk tried to intervene on Buthelezi's behalf with Mandela, reminding him that the NP, too, had been a party to the agreement on 19 September 1994, which provided for the international mediation Buthelezi now sought as his right.
Undeterred by the IFP's absence, the CA established a ten member subcommittee in July chaired by Cyril Ramaphosa and Leon Wessels with the task of trying to break deadlocks and negotiate unresolved matters. There were at least 12 contentious issues including the role of traditional leaders, whether a federal or centralised state; whether 18 as the voting age. By August the form of state remained the most pressing matter and a document was to be drawn up by four legal experts including Professor Dennis Davis of the Centre for Applied Legal Studies at Univ. of Wits. At month's end a preliminary draft text on provincial powers was accepted by the facilitation committee. It allowed provincial law to prevail over national law if required. On 19th September the first consolidated Draft of the Constitution was made public.
In June the SA rugby team (the Springboks) beat New Zealand (the All Blacks) to win the World Cup final in Johannesburg. Before the match Mandela, wearing a Springbok jersey & cap attended the match. Before it started he walked onto the pitch to encourage the players assuring them that all South Africans were behind them. Their victory united all South Africans in celebration. Many whites, long suspicious of Mandela, his gesture on going on field & the authenticity of his delight in the Springboks win, were persuaded for the first time that Mandela was indeed their president, too, one in whom they could be justifiably proud. As an exercise in nation building Mandela's actions were unsurpassable. Ironically, Mandela also admitted that month that he had instructed ANC security guards to shoot in order to defend the ANC offices in Shell House against an attack from marchers.
Another milestone on the road to making creating an inclusive SA was achieved when legislation to establish the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was signed in July. And in December the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was appointed. Mandela designated Archbishop Desmond Tutu as chairman, Alex Boraine as Deputy Chair. Mandela also appointed 17 members to the commission.
The trial of former commander of the C10 unit based at Vlakplaas, near Pretoria, Col. Eugene de Kock opened a window into the past offering the first glimpses of apartheid's dark & evil secrets. There were revelations that police assassination squads existed and other stories of hit squad activities including gun-running. The window was never closed.
In November 5.3 million people -- a quarter of the number voting in the 1994 election -- went to the polls for the second time in 18 months to vote for 700 local councils. The ANC won 61.73% of the 7,381 local government seats and the National Party won 15.74%. Elections were held countrywide except for Kwazulu/Natal & the Western Cape.
Mandela visited ex-President Botha at the Wilderness in November, two old men getting together. Did they exchange war stories?
A commission inquiring into witchcraft violence and ritual murder in the Northern Province gave some perspective to the strange combination of virtue & vicissitude that manifested themselves in the first year of the new order. It published an interim report confirming that over 250 people accused of witchcraft had been killed in the province in the previous year. It recommended a code of conduct for traditional healers. The report did not receive much attention in the corridor of commerce and politics along the N1, where glittering advertisements offering a kaleidoscope of electronic goods showcased First World SA. Within a few hundred kilometres there was another world, where the primitive & the mysterious attributes of muti and the sangoma imbued belief and sanctioned actions. Here no Gini coefficient could measure the difference between the two.