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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
06 Oct 1993: Clewlow, Warren
WC. As free as I was, I've got a big legal thing going on.
POM. If you were part of the team that went abroad to try to woo foreign investment to SA what case would you make for doing so, given the alternatives that are open to investors in other countries?
WC. Well it's a difficult case, it would be quite hard to make. If you think back, many of the politicians that are on the stage today were going abroad in recent years to tell people not to invest in this country and to impose sanctions and that sort of thing and whilst their logic now is that times have changed and what was considered then to be the obstacles, or what was then considered to be the reasons why sanctions should take place suddenly disappeared. When it gets to businessmen and bankers they don't chop and change just as quick as that. My personal contact with some important potential or business leaders in other parts of the world, they were confused the first time when sanctions were imposed. They couldn't understand what it was supposed to achieve and to many people the view was, well, if you're using sanctions as a means of putting political pressure on those that were in power at that time, aren't you using the wrong tool? Are there not other ways of doing it because once you start fiddling or touching things like sanctions, economics, the questions that were posed to me in those years were, "Do you understand, has it been properly thought through what the repercussions could be?" And if you look back with hindsight the repercussions were, I think, that the burden fell on the wrong shoulders and I personally don't think it made a difference to putting pressure on the people who were pushing for change. In the business community we were pushing for change as hard as anybody else. So that sort of thing comes.
. The next thing, as you say, take sanctions off. Now if you recall, if you think that most people in the world don't get up every morning and rush to their TV sets to hear what Mr so-and-so in SA has said about so-and-so. SA is not quite on the world stage as many of our leaders think it is. It's somewhat down on the priority list and I think far further down on the back burner than most people would like to believe. And so suddenly when the tune now switches and it comes to investment they say, "Well, does this country really know what it's doing? Has it got a long term strategy in place as far as economics are concerned? Is it the sort of place that we wish to invest in?" And the questions that are now coming up, we're delighted at the progress that's being made but we'd like to see a few more important issues in place before we make that step. They say they don't like the violence. Nor do we here. What sort of government are we going to have? What sort of utterances are the government going to make? Because they're saying, "We're quite pleased to hear what certain people say but we've also heard what that group used to say. Is the change for real or is it cosmetic or whatever?" There's a degree of uncertainty so if you at this stage are going over to put the case you actually have many hurdles to overcome and I think what's really going to happen is it's going to take quite a while before the country settles down and people regain confidence.
POM. I've been struck by the euphoria that seems to be in the news media over the IMF and World Fund and I don't get it.
WC. Complete overreaction just like there is also overreaction on some of the negative views. SA seems to suffer from what seems to be an inability to get it balanced. It's either too much the one way or too much the other. I was delighted to see the euphoria because I've seen many years of such negative news which also wasn't quite so warranted, so I thought on balance people are getting the right answer but they're not of course, they're just getting confused. I think it was a little bit over done.
POM. If the violence continues at its present level do you think this would have a debilitating effect both on domestic investment and again on foreign investment?
WC. It will. There just won't be any, or very little. There's always something. It's too big an economy. Let's get it in perspective in world terms, but nevertheless it's still very big and there will always be something to hit the headlines but when you read between the lines nothing effective will be done if the violence continues. But I don't think the violence will continue. The violence is terrible, let's put that in, but I think the perception that the whole country is violent every day is also wrong. There are areas where it is in and there are more areas that are violent today than there were say a year ago and the year before that. There are different types of violence now, there's crime violence, there's politically orientated violence, there's genuine tribal violence. It's all mixed up now.
POM. What evidence would you point to in 1993 going into 1994 that the economy is picking up?
WC. The first thing is I don't see a lot of evidence of picking up. I think there may be the first signs but to me I haven't, I certainly don't believe it's enough to get too excited about. In world terms in certain areas where we depend on exports and whatnot, those economies are starting to show a little more getting back to where they were before but even so it's not that marked yet. So the best thing is we rely on a better world climate. The second thing is we also rely on getting our act together in this country which is basically to move away from the emphasis of everything being politicised to getting down to just normal business decisions. It's only when that comes back that we will really start picking up.
POM. Why is there this kind of implicit belief that you have a new government, interim government or whatever in place, somehow a master plan for the economy will be produced that will create jobs?
WC. I don't believe that. Politicians say that. Everybody now is trying to imply that they are the answer to the future but that's just pure politicking. I don't see that. There are very sound business and economic plans available anyhow. It's just a question of implementation which requires financing, it requires lack of violence, it requires co-operation from better understanding by the people. One must get away from this idea that solutions are being imposed on the masses. In other words the solutions are coming out of the masses which is the right way to go. Once that mindset has changed we will start seeing the thing coming. No, you don't have to be clever to say that the day you say you lift sanctions there will be a complete mind change in world opinion on investment. Those people knew that would not happen.
POM. Have you looked at the ANC's economic policy documents?
WC. I have.
POM. It goes through redistribution.
WC. I've seen it just recently.
POM. At the time you read it did you find it to be sound or did you find it to be built on a series of what could be very faulty assumptions?
WC. I actually didn't find it to be too different to what, if you cut out what I would classify is the type of statements that you do have to direct to make sure your supporters are going along with you. In other words shall we say when you get to the hard core of the thing it fitted very much with what most people were saying anyhow. It's the fringes that differ and the fringes are often put in to placate opinions.
POM. One of the big metamorphoses of the last three years has been the ANC's almost complete turn around on economic policy, policy that was tied to the Freedom Charter, that advanced socialism, that called for a command economy, mass scale nationalisation, to one now where you can scan their literature and never find - or listen to speeches on the economy and you never heard the word mentioned. Do you think they can be trusted on this or do they know that?
WC. The first thing, it goes back over a number of years, I don't think the ANC had formulated its policy, it was in the early stages. So I think many utterances which were made by, which were attributed as ANC policies, I think were a little bit wrong, I would say badly reported or sensationally reported or we were in the era where someone might talk sensibly, put up a sensible speech and one or two paragraphs taken out of it and read out a consensus. So I think a lot of what was attributed to this ANC economic policy in the past wasn't actually their policy, it was the policy that they were formulating and various people were having their inputs and you might think something and I might think something else but finally it ends up as a sensible thing but your particular input might have been considered to have been a little extreme, mine could have been extreme. Then that is seized upon and implied that that's the direction that they're going. Now as the years have gone by that policy has been more and more formulated and thought out, changed. It's not set in concrete, it's a moving target anyhow. What you say economically today doesn't mean to say it's going to apply for five years. Circumstances might change in a month's time. What has happened is it's been crystallised, it's been tested on wider arenas, it's been taken out of ANC think tanks exclusively, tested in world arenas, tested in business arenas, tested in a whole lot of other arenas and been remoulded. I don't think it's crystallised yet, it's not finalised yet but it's moving in that direction. Now the direction of extremes where it was attributable to be a little bit extreme, a little bit left or socialistic or a little bit out of date, it's moved away from that to, I think, to more main stream economic thinking.
POM. Does the fact that many of the key positions in the ANC are held by members of the Communist Party who still adhere to having a SA that is socialist, you have a trade union movement, a strong trade union movement in COSATU that is also committed to achieving a socialist state. Do you see things getting very fractious? One sees elements in government coming into competition with each other with regard to what their real ideological principles are.
WC. With government comes responsibility. You first of all don't test a person, I don't test a politician on what he says when he's trying to get elected. I test the politician when I see him actually in action, and we haven't seen people in action yet, and just like any other people once you get into power or sharing power, once you have a responsibility for what you say, then I think you start seeing a different thing. So I don't treat that with a great deal of trepidation. I think the checks and balances which have come into the system, I'm quite encouraged to see them and I would believe that it's quite right that there's a labour voice in there. How can you ignore it? It exists. The voices of all legitimate constituencies have to be put in and I believe there will be sufficient checks and balances to ensure that one doesn't necessarily dominate to the detriment of another. I think it will work that way.
. I think it's going to be quite difficult to run a government. It's like a coalition government, it will be quite difficult to run it but to me it's the only way in which we can get it going and after settling the whole thing down then we will see in five years time how it all pans out.
. As for the communists they are, well I think they really are a dying breed. I think it's a group of people, perhaps they cling to their particular party otherwise they would be swamped by another one. I rather look at it as being their means of seeing that they have some sort of say otherwise if they gave up their base they would lose out.
POM. What about the unions? Do they have a particular role, a difficult role to play?
WC. They have a very difficult role to play because the unions in this country are representing many of the people who are unskilled maybe or don't have the skills that they would like to have. They do represent that section of the population who's looking for lots of gains in the future and the unions are probably the direction in which they're looking for those gains to be delivered and it's not going to be easy to deliver them in the first place. I think when one gets a unified government there will be a strong union voice in that but it won't be the dominant voice, it will be one of many voices. So I think the unions have quite a difficult job in selling the decisions of the new government to their constituency, probably more difficult than anybody else. But you've got to have it. It would be very wrong, I mean one must have that voice, that legitimate voice. But like everybody else they have to take their voice and what they want and tailor-make it to the overall demands.
POM. I suppose what I'm getting to is it struck me that the only thing that has been learned here in the last decade or so is of mass participation, demonstrations, tools down, out on strike, rather than direct negotiations all the time, people turn to more agitative forms of action. Would you agree with that?
WC. I don't quite follow you.
POM. Where in other countries many disputes would be settled by bargaining here the first move always appears to be to get people on the street.
WC. No, no, in many years the bargaining process has come out tops and it's well established. Perhaps the fact that a union and a company have sat round a table and bargained a solution, perhaps it's not interesting enough to make headlines, what's preferred is some of the isolated cases where it went the other way. I mean I think in our group we haven't had a major industrial dispute for a long time, the reason being because of the bargaining process, the understanding of unions' role, the role they're playing in the company it's well entrenched and it works quite well. In fact it works pretty well. If it didn't work we would have had all these problems and why haven't we had the problems? Because there's a full understanding. So I think the bargaining process in this country is well established. When one thinks back it's been well established for a long time.
POM. Federalism versus a unified state. In general has business a position?
WC. I don't think business has a position, I think that becomes how you feel personally. I personally feel that in SA the pendulum needs to swing towards a type of federal style state. We've got to accept that there are many different groupings in this country and the best way, I believe, is that I'd like to see SA called The Federal Republic of SA because I think a degree of federal power is needed to run this country properly. That's my strong belief.
POM. I know that one of the arguments that I've heard from members of the ANC against federalism is that they want to start with a plan that will jump start the economy. They came to the States last year, we had a programme for them and it was on the New Deal and how Roosevelt got the New Deal to jump start the economy. Of course the New Deal didn't jump start the economy, the war did.
WC. You can't jump start an economy. You can start it and you may be able to give a bit of jumping to it but that's only a temporary thing. The way to do it is to do it on a sound, sensible basis. I don't see how that ties in with federalism, in fact I think when you say federal you can't be completely federal and I don't believe you can be completely unified. Everyone, I think, agrees that neither are the answers. Everyone agrees that the answer lies somewhere in between with certain parties moving more one way and others moving the other way. My personal belief is if I had to draw the line I would draw the line to a little bit more of a federal type of constitution for this country to one that is less because I believe that the differences that we have in this country, have proved time and time again in world events and we've got to make note of them. I think that the easiest and best way to run this country is to have a degree of federal power. But the real thing with federal, to me the acid test is the raising of taxes. If you have some type of federal power you must also have a degree of federal taxation.
POM. And that would concern you in what sense?
POM. You said that would concern you.
WC. People talk federal, I don't even know what you mean by it because it's a term like democracy in this country, everybody talks about democracy but they don't always act that way and everyone talks about federalism or lack of it and frankly just use it as a nice term, the nice thing to say. To me the acid test of federalism is how much economic clout will an area have and what will be its ability to raise its own source of revenue versus state revenue. That to me will be the true measurement of how federal or unfederal we become.
POM. Do you think that in that sense regions should be demarcated in terms of some degree of economic balance, that you don't have one region substantially poorer than another?
WC. You can't do that because the wealth in this country, you can't say that there are no gold mines in Cape Town so let's put one down there. They all happen to exist up here. There it is. If you do have it the areas will - but that's why you need a very strong, you still need a strong unitary input.
POM. Economic priorities for a new government?
POM. The West has been so derelict in being able to increase employment in their own countries whether it's the EEC or the US, why should SA be able to succeed where these other more sophisticated economies have failed?
WC. Well I can't answer for the lack of progress elsewhere but in this country if you just look at the basic facts we've got many people in this country, too many people in this country who are unskilled and unemployed, therefore a future government as part of its economic plan, part of its financial plan, will have to provide for employment for a lot of people and that's why everyone has different views on these sorts of things but my view is quite strongly towards large labour employment-giving projects which can easily be shut down from being financially sound but I don't care about that. I just think we're going to have put up with a lot of labour saving, we're going to have to implement a lot of labour saving schemes to give people just basic employment. The Chinese do it. You talk about the West but the Chinese, I've seen with my own eyes how they keep their people employed on jobs which machines and that could easily do better, their objective is to keep the people employed. What you can't do is when you employ people in those type of schemes and then demand wages which are through the roof. It's more a question of survival employment. Our problem, the violence in this country has got a lot of political overtones to it but it's also a fact that a lot of people are hungry and the violence is because people are out of work, haven't got a home and haven't got enough food. It's very hard to say to a person who's hungry, homeless and with no prospects, don't worry.
POM. If you had the head of the new government in this room today and you were to give him or her advice what advice would you give?
WC. Tackle unemployment. Put that right to the top of your priorities. But there are a lot of other things to do. You don't do that, with respect it's not a very good question because you can't just do one thing, it's a question that you've got to put twenty or thirty priorities down and tackle them all simultaneously. There's no one answer to this, like a Bishop or something.
POM. What would those priorities be? You have the obvious ones of employment, education, housing.
WC. Well I think you would separate them between now-now things and long term. Education falls more into the long term, the longer term effects. Short term is employment as I've just said. Getting to the root of violence as well as you've got to provide stability. Confidence in the country, everyone knows that's what's lacking. Credibility. I think many of our politicians haven't got credibility and I think it's going to take quite a while, one's going to have to see quite a lot of people in action before their credibility factor rises. That's my opinion. A lot of people don't have negative credibility but they don't have any until I see them actually performing.
POM. Is there white flight? Is this becoming an increasingly significant factor?
WC. I don't think it's as great a factor as it's made out to be. I think there are enough people in this country who will give it a full go and if someone isn't dedicated in this country then maybe it's a good idea that they go to Australia.
POM. What do you think an average resident of a township has a right to expect from the government after five years?
WC. Well he certainly wants stability, he wants the fear of violence taken out. It's the township people that have suffered terribly under this strain to such a point that I think many black people are not buying goods that they would normally buy because they fear them being stolen, confiscated or whatever. I think they want to see stability. They want to see employment. They want to see their children educated. Those are the three, they want to see stability, employment and their children educated. I would say those, in my questioning of those people, those are the factors that seem to come out at the top. And, as I said before, they want confidence that everything is going. Everybody wants to be, everyone wants confidence that the future is there. I think a lot of people can put up with day to day problems if they are confident that they will go away. That's where the credibility of the government of national unity is very much at stake. If they fail then you will see a completely different type of government in five years time. So the task which they set themselves is a very heavy one. They're not going to succeed unless they really get the full co-operation of all sectors of the population.
POM. You talked about sanctions a little while ago and the euphoria that seemed to attend the lifting of sanctions and yet from all the talks that I've had with people over the years the only evidence of sanctions hurting the economy was in the financial sector where the country had to run a surplus in its balance of payments in order to meet its short term debt. That's the way the growth was constrained. In your view what impact did sanctions have? Can one say the lifting of sanctions is going to create a different climate for investment in this country or will allow us to take advantage of opportunities and grow?
WC. It will but it will take time. It won't be an instant thing. It's again a question of rebuilding confidence. My thing is that, my point was that the lifting of sanctions per se doesn't mean an immediate transformation. It's merely saying right, from now onwards one will see a gradual transformation.
POM. This goes back to the imbalances between the different population groups and I have seen nothing that suggests to me that somebody has a real viable plan to address these imbalances.
WC. I don't think that's true. I don't think it's a question of planning, it's a question of implementation. I don't think there's a lack of ideas and a lack of which direction to go but it's a question of how do you implement it and that's why I'm reasonably confident. I think when one gets a government of national unity one will see implementation of plans.
POM. What kind of plan would you like to see implemented that would start ...?
WC. Getting employment going on all mass schemes, building houses, taking the politics out of the housing arena and getting the politics out of the way, the violence out of the way and getting down to the real issues of building houses. If one can argue that we need a lot more educational facilities but with all the boycotts that are going on at the moment we're not even using the ones we have got. We need lots more money for building an infrastructure in housing but there is quite a lot of money already earmarked, let's get the thing going.
POM. The civil service. An ANC led government will be under a lot of pressure to put many of its own people in the civil service and I assume that people in the civil service will have been given guarantees regarding their employment.
WC. Not guarantees, how do you mean guarantees?
POM. Well they won't be fired when the new government takes over.
WC. I suppose it's a question of are there people to take the place of the people that are doing the jobs already. That's the one thing. I don't think there are any guarantees.
POM. I meant a guarantee that if I was a civil servant today that any negotiated settlement would say that my position was safe, that I would keep my job.
WC. I don't think that's happening. I don't know, probably because I'm not familiar with it, but to my knowledge I don't know of anybody that's been said, a civil servant who's said, "Don't worry, whatever happens you've got a job for the next twenty years." I don't think that's right at all. I think what you will find is that the civil service will slowly change its nature, be more representative of the population.
POM. If the country has to choose between equity and efficiency which would get the greater support?
WC. Well obviously, well efficiency is the ideal aim but I think for a period of time we might not necessarily need the most efficient country because we have to handle a backlog of problems and I think some of those solutions are not necessarily the most efficient solutions. To handle the backlog of unemployment you might have employment schemes which are not necessarily efficient but if you weigh up the advantage of employing people versus the inefficiency of the scheme that you're going, the scale will probably weigh in many instances towards employ the people and a somewhat inefficient project. To use a simple analogy, do you build a road with one man on a machine or 150 people with shovels and the answer is it's much more efficient to use the machine but on the other hand 150 people doing it that way solves a lot of problems and I think we live in an era where we're going to have to be more conscious of how to solve the people's problems. So maybe SA won't be the most efficiently run country for a long time but if the price for that inefficiency is getting on top of some of the basic problems then I think that's the right way to go. That's the way I would go anyway.
POM. What do you think are the key conditions that must be met to ensure that a stable SA emerges out of this whole negotiating process?
WC. We need to have a good election. We need to have an election that takes place and it's fair and it's free. If we have an election which is highly controversial then it puts the result of that election still into the melting pot.
POM. Do you think just today that a fair and free election could be held across the country?
WC. I think so, yes I think so.
POM. Despite the level of the violence?
WC. Yes. It certainly is a negative against that thing but not all parts of the country are violent so there would be certain areas where I would have a doubt, I would say in certain areas regrettably violence has played a greater role in the election than it should do. But I think on balance we could have it and I hope by the time we do have it that those negative areas would have changed nature that enable them to have that.
POM. In relation to that do you think there can be a lasting and stable settlement that doesn't include Buthelezi? Can he play a spoiler's role?
WC. I think it would be quite foolish to pursue one that excludes him because he's there and he's representative of, in my opinion, a much larger section of the population than newspaper reports seem to credit him with. If we want a government of national unity it means a government of national unity so you can't ignore, you can't leave out major players. I think every effort will be made to ensure that by the time we get to the election that all parties and all population groups are properly represented and I believe that will happen. If it doesn't happen it will certainly be a great negative on it but one can't hold the show up until everybody accepts the invitation. It will be a tragedy if somebody, a major player doesn't come to the party but I don't think the party must be postponed because of that.
POM. We were talking about the civil service.
WC. I personally think far too much emphasis is on the fact that there are certain people not coming to the talks and a little bit more emphasis should be placed on why they're not there. I think if one reads why they're not coming I think you're getting closer to the answer to the thing. I don't believe it's just histrionics. One should really get to the underlying reasons why they're not there and try and see whether those demands or those reasons are genuine or not or could be negotiated or bridged. In my opinion the most underlying reason for people keeping out of it is a lack of trust whether it's correct or not, I believe the trust factor is the most important.
POM. Is this trust factor due in some way to the fairly widespread belief among parties other than the ANC and the government that the ANC and the government basically cut a deal?
WC. No I don't think that's true. No, it's not. Again, that sells newspapers. I think the government and the ANC have worked extremely hard to see each other's point of view and more than any other section or any other party or section of the population they have been most successful in bridging some differences, accepting where other differences still lie and it's not a question of a merging of views to such a point that they're indistinguishable. You will see the differences quite clearly when we get into full election mode but what they've both done, they've both realised that if we're going to get this show going let's see where we agree and then let's see where we disagree and see if we can bridge those differences. And of all the negative things that have been written about SA very few people have dwelt on the positives as to how well this negotiation process has in fact gone, what it has succeeded in doing.
POM. I've been astounded by what I would call a very successful negotiation process where you look at where the parties began from and where they have come to.
WC. Well you shouldn't have been astounded if you'd read your notes from earlier on because I remember talking to you some time ago, and I'm sure other people had the same view that lived here, that the differences in this country were always exaggerated and the common ground was always underestimated. It doesn't astound me that we've done it because I've always believed and I still believe that the common ground between all major parties and all major groupings, parties taking it from NP, IFP, ANC and groupings English speaking, Afrikaans speaking, Xhosas, Zulus, Coloureds, Indians, I've always believed that the common ground between all those people and all those political parties has been far greater than was generally acknowledged. All that's been concentrated upon has been the differences and the emphasis has been too much on the differences in this country and not what is common ground. The nice stories have been racial stories as if race is something which dominates everything in this country. It sure was a great negative but it didn't dominate to the extent to which it was perceived.
POM. OK. Thank you.
WC. Nice talking to you again. I'm sorry we're a bit rushed.
POM. OK. I'll be back.
WC. When you live here it will be much easier to talk to you.
POM. I am living here so it will be easier. I'll call you more frequently.
WC. Always a pleasure to talk to you. Next time you must make an appointment at the beginning of the day or the end of the day where we will have more time.