About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, 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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

27 Jul 1992: Mbeki, Govan

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POM     In preparation for coming here, of course I ran around, tried to lay my hands on everything you had written and I noticed some of the things that you said that in the struggle for liberation in South Africa you referred to PW Botha's famous speech at Upington where he said, "We must adapt or die". Is it your belief that the de Klerk regime is still essentially following some kind of a modification of this adapt or die scenario?

GM     He is trying to bring about reforms as he says and he has done that, bringing about some reforms.

POM     But do you see these reforms as being part of a formula at the end of which the National Party would still hang on to as much power as possible?

GM     I think it will be expecting too much to think that they would readily hand over power and part with power which they have enjoyed for so long and I would expect that they would do everything, while bringing about reform, to ensure that at the end of it all much of the power which they have enjoyed will still be in their hands. That's what I would expect.

POM     You pose a series of questions. You say, "What are the forces that play today which will determine whether de Klerk is pushed forward not only along the reforms he has promised or implemented but to bring about fundamental change in the country?" What forces are playing on his side? What forces are pushing the country towards fundamental change to which he will have to react?

GM     There is the Nationalist Party itself. It's the major force on their side. And secondly there are those forces which have benefited from apartheid. This I deal with in the other book, which is my writings on Robben Island. I deal with these other forces which have benefited from apartheid. Now what are these forces that have benefited from apartheid? That's probably all the Bantustans and the Bantustan administrations. There are others who would probably not readily admit that they benefited from apartheid but who consciously or unconsciously did benefit from apartheid, but the question is now, the situation is so fluid, where would they be choosing to stand those forces?

POM     What forces are they? Would you identify them?

GM     I will refer to them just now.

POM     Well the Bantustans I understand, but who are those who would benefit indirectly?

GM     From amongst the oppressed people, take the medical practitioners, take business people. Now the medical practitioners have a vast market, let's call it, which has been created by apartheid and when the government, the Nationalist Party government, says keep them there, that is the Africans, on their side that left that market entirely in the hands of African practitioners. When I left for instance, this city, in the beginning, very early in 1962 I was recounting with a doctor, a friend of mine only yesterday, there were only five African General Practitioners in the townships then and today there are something like eighty. And the government in terms of its own policies, the Group Areas and things like that virtually excluded the whites from practising there. Africans had to come to town to them. But now that the African doctors developed and they went into the townships here it was no longer so pressing for the Africans except those who were specially choosy wanting to see either a specialist or some doctor or other. They went to the practitioners in the townships and because the population is so big for those practitioners that more often than not they get tired by the end of the day if they are called out, they will rather hide away, find an excuse for not responding to the call. So that is the sort of situation. But I wouldn't be saying, I'm not wanting to be interpreted as saying that those doctors who would rather see that market preserved for them and that therefore they are on the side of the forces that are supporting the Nationalist Party government.

POM     But indirectly they haven't been the beneficiaries, there would be other kind of professional classes that would also have been beneficiaries in much the same way. And in reverse, certain sectors of the white population have also benefited to the extent, for instance, that the labour market, portions of the labour market which have been the preserve of the whites not because they had any particular skills but because they were white. So these forces may be borderline cases and we can't very well say they are on one side or the other but they have benefited and if in the process of the situation as it is developing one way or the other, they may probably want to lean one way or the other. That's the point I'm trying to make. On the side of the people, what are the forces which may see to it that de Klerk and the NP lose their grip on the levers of power? On the side of the people what are the forces that may see to it that de Klerk and the National Party lose their grip on the levers of power, so that power actually passes into the hands of the people?

GM     Well firstly the political organisations, we don't have to mention them. At the head of the political organisations is the African National Congress and then there is the working class generally. It has no reason to want the Nationalist Party to remain in power, because the Nationalist Party has done so much injustice towards the working class, going back to the 1920s when in 1924 when the first industrial relations law was passed in this country the Africans were kept out and around an issue which was merely used as an excuse to say that pass bearing natives, pass bearing people should not be allowed to be members of a trade union. And that meant the Africans, they were the only people who were pass bearers. And that situation continued over years until the Wiehahn Commission in 1979. And even after they have been allowed to have their trade unions recognised, the government has not hesitated, for instance, to use the police to break down trade unions and I say that's part of the forces that will be on the side of the forces against, that will be keen to have the Nationalist Party removed.

POM     I want to jump forward and then go back a bit. I interviewed Mr Slovo in April and in the course of the interview he said that if someone had said to him two years ago, when Mr Mandela was released and the ANC and SACP were unbanned, that if somebody had said to him at that point that the process would as far advanced as it was, or appeared to be, in April he would have been surprised. Since your own release and your watching the process of reform and the changes, are things living up to your expectations of what the pace of change should be or are they seriously below what you think should have been achieved at this point in time?

GM     If they were living up to expectations CODESA would not have broken down and the talks between the ANC and the government would not have broken down. What I'm saying, therefore, in other words is that they are certainly not living up to expectations. Whatever movement is taking place on the side of government is slow but on this particular occasion not only slow, it is seen by the other side, that is by the oppressed people in this country, by those who are seeking to bring about change in this country, it is seen as not only being slow but as the government attempting to stall it for as long as possible.

POM     You were almost being prescient when you said that by engaging in negotiations the government hopes to perpetuate a situation where they can continue to exercise power while the oppressed people are lulled into a sense of security, so while CODESA went on you were supposed to believe something was happening but nothing really was happening. Let me ask you, because you made a couple of remarks that I will get back to because they were very prescient, very on the mark in view of what's happened in the last couple of months. Were you surprised when the ANC/SACP (I'll just say ANC when I mean ANC/SACP/COSATU) when their negotiators offered a veto threshold of 75% for the inclusion of an item in the Bill of Rights and of a 70% threshold for the inclusion of a point in the constitution? Were you surprised that the negotiators were offered such high thresholds, one, and two, if the government had said they accept would the ANC have had trouble selling that package to the rank and file, to its membership?

GM     Now when the ANC made those offers it hadn't come back to the people, or to what is regarded as its constituency. But I would say it was a sort of knee jerk reaction to a stand which had been taken by the government to require that high figure, 75%, and because the ANC was so serious about the negotiations, so serious about getting to a position where there would be an interim government put in place, that it thought it should proceed some way from its own base line which was sixty six and two thirds percent towards satisfying the government's need and of course it didn't work out.

POM     But this is where I think you were so prescient. This is why I want to talk a little bit more it because you said one of the key elements of de Klerk's formula of reform is to disrupt this process so that the ANC might be brought into government without this strong support from the oppressed people of South Africa and if the government had accepted a number from the ANC on the 75% veto threshold and the 70% veto threshold to me it would appear that the ANC would have been co-opted in some way, that they would have gone into a government without that strong base of support that you spoke about.

GM     They would certainly have been in a weak position and it's good that the ANC saw it and they quickly retracted what it had offered as a compromise and the government is not going to get it again, it's not going to get it.

POM     So the government in a way turned down the best offer it would ever get?

GM     They were stupid.

POM     They were stupid? I think we could say they realised that in very short order. Do you think this signals now, and I'll read your other statements because it comes back to the campaign for mass mobilisation that's going on now where you talk of, "Because the ANC was banned and forced to operate from outside the country it lost contact with the oppressed people at home. The ANC must of necessity create the machinery in the country which ensures that it gets the maximum support of the people." How successful, in your view, has the ANC been in getting that maximum support? Can you distinguish between a committed membership on the one hand and people who turn up at a rally on the other, that you mustn't confuse those who turn up at a rally with your committed membership? Do you think that the proper structures in the ANC on the ground are in place or that a lot more work needs to be done?

GM     Our problem starts earlier than you did and I have often said this. At the end of the fifties the ANC was strong. With the beginning of the sixties the ANC was strong. It was well organised. Even after it was banned it was able to adapt to the new conditions of illegality and especially an area like this simply because it has been harassed as from 1953, meetings not allowed, so that it started operating under semi-illegal conditions so that when the ANC was banned in 1960 this area was hardly affected by that, but other areas were. Now I am saying that by the beginning of the sixties the ANC was strong but it was largely strong with its own membership, its own structures. We did have an influence on the people as, for instance, when we called for stay at homes who were not necessarily members of the ANC. But when we came out of jail, when I came out of jail it was a different thing. I came out towards the tail end of the period of unrest, that is at the end of 1987, and here now I saw not the ANC but I saw the whole people in motion, marching forward and taking whatever punishment had to be taken from the government. Now this was the difference from when the ANC was still illegal in the country.

     When the ANC was unbanned at the beginning of 1990 it would take some time before it established firmly its structures amongst the people. It would take some time. Taking into account, for instance, the fact that the present membership of the ANC, probably about 90% to 95% of it are people who are up to 40 years of age and when the ANC was banned in 1960 none of these people knew the ANC, to say nothing of those who were born from 1960 on. But even those who were born as far back as 1950, when the ANC was banned they were only 10, they hadn't begun to understand what happened. So to build structures for those people is going to mean some work. We've got to get them to understand and appreciate the history of the ANC, its promises, and they don't. That's why I have had to write books like this one you are referring to, Struggle for Liberation in South Africa and I've written another one in Xhosa to make it easy for those who are not in a position to effectively understand English so that they can read from the Xhosa version. What I am saying, therefore, is that building the structures is not something that can take place over a short period of time, but the ANC has tremendous influence amongst the oppressed today and whether they are purely drawn into it emotionally because people are saying, down with apartheid, or what, it has support and that support has gone further. It has gone beyond what would normally be regarded as the oppressed. There are quite some numbers among the whites who have joined the ANC and they are coming in and they are coming and they are coming, not as fast as from the oppressed. And of the oppressed too, from the Africans. The membership of the ANC is largely African but we are bringing in from the Coloureds, from the Indians and from the whites, something that was unthinkable only a few years back.

POM     But I want you to come back to this thing about elitism and keeping in touch with the masses, empowering the masses. Tell me if I'm wrong, if I'm interpreting you wrongly, but it seems to me that you are saying in a sense that in CODESA the leadership lost touch with the grassroots and there was no feedback, the grassroots didn't know what was going on, it just seemed like an elite little club of people who met behind closed doors. Do you think that while there has been a period in the last couple of years when the leadership did get out of touch with the nature of the organisation, with the fact that it does depend upon this huge pool of people power and that it has now in the wake of the collapse of CODESA had to rethink its strategy and to rethink it in terms of consultation with the people who are at the base of their support?

GM     There is no deliberate loss of contact. There is nothing deliberate on the part of the leadership to move away or to cut away the grassroots and concentrate on a decision being taken by the elite. If at any stage there has been action on the part of leadership without taking into account the views of the lower strata of the organisation, it was not deliberate. But what has happened is precisely what I've already referred to, that after so many years the ANC has not yet succeeded to build the structures, effective structures right from the bottom up to the top. That's what happens. You still get a situation where, and especially during the negotiations, where the top leadership arrives at certain positions with those with whom it is negotiating and that message doesn't go quickly to the grassroots because the structures have not yet been successfully established. And there are also problems that even if the National Executive gets a report from those who are in the negotiation process to say, "Here is what ground we have covered today", it means the National Executive has to get quick to type, to use videos, to use faxes, fax these things down to lower structures, to the regions and the region in turn has to turn out, make photocopies and send them to the branches and the branches - these things are couched in good English and that means way down that's not understood. So that is going to take time before at the branch level this is translated into the language which is spoken in that particular area before the debate starts. Now there is this, but there is no deliberate action on the part of the top to say we can carry on without the bottom. No.

POM     Just in view of what you've said, what do you think has accounted for what would appear to be the relative failure of the National Peace Accord? It was signed with great fanfare less than a year ago yet the violence this year has been increasing, not decreasing, despite the existence of regional resolution committees. What do you think has happened there to render it so largely ineffective?

GM     Now here there is deliberate action on the part of those who are leading the violence. It's deliberate. How do you bring about reform? Here you are a government and at some stage you realise that it is important to bring about some reforms in order to bring about a situation in which those who suffer from your policies may say something is being done, a sense of security. But in this case that's one way and in another way the government may want to impose and to say if we are imposing and you do this, for being a big force that is coercing forces of the police and the army, and the government has used this but it has now come to realise that that alone doesn't work and it's therefore tried to couple it with the reforms, which it is talking about. But when it has reached a stage when the other side is saying, now we are serious about these reforms and we want this change, now those who have the power in their hands, who do not want to part with the power, will resort to violence as is happening in this case. And there are others who have been given the impression that they are a big force in the country and who find that in reality they are not the big force that they have been claiming, that there were 7 million people, 8 million people and led the world to believe that.

POM     I take it you're referring to Inkatha.

GM     Yes, yes. And let the world believe that and the world acted accordingly, when Inkatha was feted in Britain and it got all the funding in Germany and other countries and in your own country and it was invited to the White House, things like that.

POM     Do you think CODESA 2 was flawed in the way it was set up? That it was a flawed negotiating structure. Do you think CODESA, as a negotiating forum, was flawed in its structure itself? The fact that you had people who had constituencies like the PAC and the Conservative Party not taking part in it, on the other hand you had some parties that must consist of somebody and all their relatives taking part in it and that the whole concept of what is sufficient consensus is really very vague and not very helpful if you reach a point of cleavage.

GM     I wouldn't say it was flawed because the conservatives kept out of it.

POM     No, no I'm not saying that either.

GM     Or that the PAC kept out of it, because those for their own reasons, I mean the Conservative Party thought any concession to the oppressed was wrong. Today if they had an opportunity they would blow up the whole thing. But it was flawed in certain respects. We take now a situation where the leaders of the Bantustans were brought into CODESA and by a strange twist of logic they became the representatives of those areas of the Bantustans in CODESA whereas the people who were opposed to them were kept out of CODESA. Take the case of Brigadier Gqozo of the Ciskei who just has no following and yet he is the voice of the Ciskei in CODESA and to the extent that when decisions are taken he counts this is what the Ciskei says. When the Nationalist Party government takes its supporters to meet the United Nations it takes Gqozo, Gqozo who just has no support at all to the extent that his own people whom he appoints into the ministry just fall away like the fingers of a leper and yet he is the man who is said to be representative of the Ciskei. And that happens in the other Bantustans except with this difference that the other Bantustans have decided to fall in with the people, now with the exception of Gqozo, with the exception of Mangope of Bophuthatswana and Mangosuthu Buthelezi. These are the three main Bantustans who cling to positions of recognition and authority in CODESA even though it is known they haven't got that support at all.

POM     Buthelezi says all the time that the Zulu nation, KwaZulu preceded any Bantustan arrangements, preceded apartheid therefore it is not to be treated the same as any other Bantustan, it is not the creation of the apartheid government.

GM     None of these came after the Bantustan scheme of things. They were all there before. That's why we talk of wars of dispossession. Those wars of dispossession were led by the Chiefs of each of these particular ethnic groups so that he can't boast of that. He can't boast of that. Even then he is trying to think in ethnic terms as if he's the only good that ever fought against it. I mean take here, here in the Eastern Cape, in the Eastern Cape the struggle against colonisation took a hundred years. A hundred years of fighting here in the Eastern Cape before they were finally subdued. And you are not going to tell me that these people were any different from the others. Zulus fought short wars and lots of blood was lost, but that doesn't place them in a position to claim more than the others do.

POM     But do you think that Buthelezi has the capacity to be a spoiler? Let's assume somehow that the government and the ANC and the other parties got around the negotiating table again tomorrow and reached some kind of accommodation and if that were not to Buthelezi's liking, if he used the King and the concept of the Zulu nation and said we will oppose the implementation of this settlement, could he be a real spoiler? Could he pose a threat?

GM     How is he going to do it? All these things he has been doing is because he had the support of the government and because the government gave him the financial muscle to do these things. Now if the government stops that how is he going to do it? If the foreign governments, like the British government, the German government and your government ...?

POM     I'm Irish. I'm still an Irish citizen. I'm not an American citizen. I live there but I'm Irish.

GM     All right. Stop that support, how is he going to do it?

POM     So in essence you're saying his support, his apparent power is a function of the financial support he receives from the South African government and the governments of other countries. If you take that away ...?

GM     It's just like, here you walk on toes. Just imagine somebody with a sharp scythe across your legs and you collapse. That's what would happen.

POM     I'd like to hear your evaluation of de Klerk, your observations on him since the time he became first of all Leader of the National Party and then took over as State President. I remember when I came here in 1990 an extraordinary number of people from both ANC, government and wherever put an lot of stress on the particular chemistry that seemed to exist between Mr Mandela and Mr de Klerk and said that that personal chemistry was the glue that would hold the process together if it got into difficulty. Now in recent weeks we've witnessed a situation where Mr Mandela has said their relationship never counted for that much in the first place and he's made some fairly personal attacks on Mr de Klerk in the sense of holding him personally responsible or to be directly involved in the killings. How do you read, (i) the development of de Klerk himself as this process has moved on, and (ii) the relationship between himself and Mr Mandela which went from this apparent chemistry to this apparent disillusionment?

GM     Now I think some of the statements that were made by the press of the ANC depicting de Klerk, when he (Mandela) came out of jail, as a sincere man and what he said. I'm not happy with putting it this way, but I was going to say it's this sort of, type of confidence that Chamberlain had in Hitler when he started talking to him and Chamberlain came out saying that we have now peace in our time. He comes out of Munich saying this, which means that Chamberlain never quite understood why he had to negotiate with Hitler. And I think here, my comrades, it was not necessary for him to say he's a sincere man and all that because it's not a question of de Klerk's sincerity. The question was why is he now talking of reforms, was he prepared to throw away all the advantages he had enjoyed since his party got into office? It should have been looked at from that angle then he would or we would have been saved disillusionment if he didn't measure up to what we expected of him because we would have allowed ourselves a little bit of elbow room in negotiating with him.

POM     So you would think that in a certain sense de Klerk was successful in creating that false sense of security, that he was genuine about real change and that the ANC bought into it for a while, maybe up to Boipatong and the collapse of the talks? So in a certain sense the old National Party stratagems of trying to outwit your opponent succeeded?

GM     Came up to the fore. I mean, you take for instance what I call Inkathagate scandals, how often has the Nationalist Party to be shown to have been funding Inkatha, Gatsha Buthelezi, in all those activities which involved a loss of lives? How often should it have been exposed to be doing that before we realised that de Klerk was not in this thing out of a good heart. There's nothing like a good heart in politics. There's nothing like that. It's the advantage, what you can get out the position which you are taking and, talk of a good heart, the racist has a good heart ?

POM     Ten more minutes. So what's your own evaluation as you watch de Klerk progress from first tentative steps as reformer to his acceptance on the world stage, his reception at the Kremlin. He managed very adroitly to get himself portrayed as the man of peace, the man of change, the man of reform, the man who was moving the process along all the time. Right?

GM     I wonder if today, after Boipatong, and what happened after he had been to Boipatong and driven out of Boipatong by the residents of that place, what the police did the moment he turned his back. I wonder if those - I was in Europe May, June and I realised to what extent he had got the governments to accept that he was a wonderful man who was doing wonderful things in South Africa, but I wonder after these two events what they still think of him.

POM     Many people that I've talked to have said that if you look at the Security Council debate purely in political terms of who was the winner, who got the advantage, who got the relative disadvantage, more people would have given it to the government saying they got a weakened down - like normally the South African government would have been kicked all around the place with the United Nations and would have to go home with its tail between its legs. That didn't happen. There was a general urge to go back to negotiations, representations were being sent that nobody would be objected to, homeland leaders were allowed to make statements even though they were allowed to make it only in their personal capacity, but the feeling was that in terms of international diplomacy and the way that it's played that the government probably got slightly the better of the occasion. Would you agree with that? What would your assessment of it be?

GM     Yes I think de Klerk has gained ground internationally. He has gained considerable ground. But I don't know whether we should attribute that to his diplomatic skills so much as to the fact that especially governments in the western world, Britain, Europe, America, if in fact what de Klerk has gained is not merely a reflection of what those governments wanted the situation to be so that the investments by those countries in this country should be safe. It seems to me, therefore, that what happened was - one hears now what de Klerk is saying, our investments are safe, opportunities are open for us to invest more and I think that's what happened. So that when he went to the United Nations they were saying already the fact that he has said he is going to bring about reforms in the implementation of racism, of apartheid, that alone is enough, de Klerk is a brave man.

POM     So do you think when you look at the strategy that's emerging now, that from this point forward mass mobilisation, mass action has to be an integral part of the overall strategy? That you can't have negotiations going on and turn mobilisation on and off but that you've got to have negotiations going on, on the one track and on a parallel track you've got to keep up.

GM     It should never stop. You take the situation such as we found, for instance, in Vietnam, they were having negotiations in Paris, the two sides the Americans and the Vietnamese, and the war was carrying on way back in Vietnam.

POM     Even more intensely.

GM     Right. Now that should be a lesson to us, that's something that should be expected by everybody, that while the negotiations are carrying on the masses of the people should not, should not be allowed to go to sleep and say, "Oh things are carrying on".

POM     That is what you would call lowering your guard, being lulled into a false sense of security, they seem to be negotiating, we needn't bother ourselves about that.

GM     That's right. They should not be demobilised because of what is happening up top.

POM     Before I go, and thank you for the time, I'd like to ask you just a few general questions. You must have been asked this about a thousand times, when you came out of prison after such a long period what struck you as having changed most in the South Africa you came into? What struck you as having changed the least? What surprised you and what didn't surprise you?

GM     What surprised me or what struck me the most was what I've already referred to, how the people have taken up the struggle themselves and were marching forward. That struck me most. And something else that struck me was the growth of the cities, the townships. The townships had grown into vast sprawling shack lands, something that was not there before I went to jail. And those shack lands in every city, I don't know if you have been taken around, in every city you go into those shack areas then you realise that if that situation is not corrected we're still going to have a lot of trouble in this country. We're going to have a lot of trouble in this country. You can't get people being forced to stay in those conditions and expect that they are going to take that sort of thing lying down. They will not.

POM     A new government must?

GM     A new government ...

POM     Just on that, what do you think a person in a shack has the right to expect after a new government is in power for say four or five years?

GM     They will be expecting things which if the ANC became the government tomorrow would not be able themselves to carry out. They will be expecting houses. They will be expecting schools and when you see the position in the townships, schools. Now they will be expecting health standards. These three areas, education, housing, health, they are so way down below what people would expect. I mean if people have accepted living in the matchbox houses, if they have accepted that, it will take this country years before you can bring those shacks to the level of the matchbox houses and those matchbox houses are bad. It will take years and therefore even if, as I say, the ANC were to take over tonight it would find it difficult to correct that sort of situation.

POM     Does this pose a real problem in terms of the new government elected, expectations are high, they expect all kinds of good things to happen and then change is ever so slow and then even more people flood into the cities because they hear changes are taking places so that problems could even grow worse and then there's a perception that the government is doing nothing, then there is disillusionment. How do you develop a process to bring the expectations of the people into line with what is possible?

GM     We have to go out to them. We would have to go out to the people to explain to the people and to make them realise, and they do now, but to realise all the more that this situation has been created by apartheid itself. It's not been created by the ANC. The ANC has been fighting all along the line. To say to them, all right here is where we are, we are not promising you the moon. All we are saying is fight, support the ANC so that we get to where we are so that all of us together try to improve the situation. But no government is going to do it alone. No government is going to do it without the active support and participation of the people to improve these conditions and when the people get to understand that they will come along and walk along to go and do the work to improve the conditions. Instead of waiting for the government to go and buy bricks from somewhere they will make the bricks themselves, which is what has got to be driven into the people. They have got to be educated into that.

POM     They must empower themselves.

GM     Yes. And then the government must give them all the assistance to enable them to do that for themselves. The schools ...

POM     I've looked at them. Have you been reading Huntington?

GM     Yes. I find him ...

POM     One last question, again it's of interest, I was born Irish in the Republic of Ireland, I was born Catholic. I suppose since then I would be called a lapsed Catholic, but religion till I was 17 or 18 played a very important part in my life. It was like my belief system. Then I lost faith in the belief system, and I know that you have been a dedicated communist all your life, a communist intellectual, theoretician, a writer and all of it collapses or appears to collapse in the space of a couple of years in that you come out of jail, the people in all of Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union torn apart, the system itself gets banned in Russia, it's out as totalitarianism of the worst kind. Where has this left your own belief system? Do you still say I am a communist and do you, being a communist now, is that different from what you would have been as a communist ten years ago or whatever? Why did it take the movement so long to gather on to some of the horrible injustices that were being carried out in places in East Germany and the Soviet Union and the manner in which people were being oppressed by the bosses when it was in fact communism, but a very elite kind of communism? That's a big question.

GM     Where do I begin? Where must I begin? There you get to a factory, there's a boss, a foreman or something there who uses a whip on the workers and if you have been convinced about a system that has produced a factory where that happens are you going to say when you see those excesses committed like that foreman, are you going to say the system that has produced the factories is bad because there is a bad foreman? Is the starting point not going to be, where does the fault lie? Is it in the training of that foreman or in setting up machinery to monitor the behaviour of foremen over the workers? Now here Eastern Europe falls apart. The Soviet Union itself. Where does my thinking begin about that situation? I say these countries were following the teachings of Karl Marx, of Engels, learnings. I say let me go back to that. Where are they wrong? Are the teachings of Karl Marx wrong and where are they wrong? Did he teach or did he prescribe in his teaching the sort of things that Stalin is accused of? Did he prescribe this? And if he then did not prescribe those where then did the mistake occur? Is it in his teachings or in the practice of those who claim to be following his teachings? When I'm looking back and I think without saying capitalism or communism, I think the teachings of Karl Marx stand good to this day. There may be things here and there, he talks for instance of a dictatorship of the proletariat, those are things that change with time. If he advanced that at the time, certainly that can change without affecting the basic principles which he later made his teachings. And I still believe capitalism has got cruel aspects in his teachings. I mean if you go through the period of the industrial revolution and see the excesses that were committed there, exploitation of women and children, and children being pushed into chimneys and their bones coming out at the bottom at a later stage, that's what happens in the course of the development of capitalism. And yet when it happened, say, as they say in English 'throw the baby out with the bath water'. And I think that's what social science should advance. I'm not led by slogans in my own organisation today.

POM     Does it pain you in any way to see the ANC move away from concepts such as nationalisation? Does the fact that there appears to be ...?

GM     They didn't do it because it believed in communism. When they drew up the Freedom Charter, the Freedom Charter was not influenced by communism.

POM     Oh I know that, but nationalisation of certain industries was a key of ANC/SACP economic policy for a long, long time and since 1990 the word itself has become more marginal in successive ANC policy documents.

GM     But we can go further. Let's take during the last twenty years the theory of development. Some of the leading economists world-wide, they will say there are certain areas where the government must intervene because those in private business would not be willing to wait for as long a period as forty years of gestation before they got any returns from capital. Like when you undertake afforestation schemes, these afforestation schemes, that oak is not going to take five years before you get it. It will take forty, fifty years before you cut it and you get your return on your capital. And so, therefore, these are capitalist economic theorists who say, what is private enterprise going to benefit by investing in education except in the education of those who can pay for it? What is private enterprise going to benefit by taking up the health system of the country? They are not going to do it. Some of the diseases in the health system are from the operations of private capital.

POM     What about something like the mines?

GM     Take the mines. How long has it taken the mines to try to develop safety measures for its workers? You take workers in a leather factory, without the trade unions the owners of capital would rather let those fellows walk barefoot there. Or in a gem factory, they will make them walk barefoot and the next thing they will bring in a doctor for the factory, but that doctor will speak the same language as the man who has created those conditions that make the worker suffer because he is paid to do that. What can we do?

POM     Thank you ever so much. When I come back do you think everyone will be back at the negotiating table?

GM     I think they will go back. I think they will go back because there isn't much any other way. They'll go back.

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