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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

09 Nov 1994: Eglin, Colin

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POM     Six or seven months into the government of national unity, how would you rate its performance - if 1 is very unsatisfactory and 10 is very satisfactory?

CE     I would put it in three categories. If I take what I call leadership and largely because of the personality of Mr Mandela I would rate it in the high 90's. If I took management, I would rate it a little bit over 50. If I take delivery, I put it down to about 10 percent. I am not saying it is 10 percent because they should have had more, but given the realities of the time it's taking to get into the system, to rationalise the service, design new programmes and things like this, the delivery hasn't really started, so I can't give them marks for delivery at this stage. When I look at the direction and thrust of the leadership I think it's very good. When I look at management, I can't say it's very good; and when I look at delivery, it hasn't started yet.

POM     So in a way you are saying that Mr Mandela is the glue that holds this ...

CE     No, no, I'm dealing with three separate issues. I don't say that Mandela is brilliant on management or delivery either. I'm just saying that the leadership, there's no doubt that there's a commonality of thrust and purpose which I think is very good. The leadership, how it comes across to the public, to individual citizens, to the outside world, I think they would rate highly in terms of what I would call directional leadership. Then managing the process becomes more complicated and delivery becomes even more complicated. So you must ask me in a year's time, when it may well be that management and delivery will move up. But you're asking me after seven months. If I was a frustrated member of the formerly oppressed group and I voted for them in the election, I would also say delivery is taking longer than I expected or hoped for.

POM     Could this prove to be a problem; are there still high expectations out there?

CE     There certainly are, but I think because of the thrust of the leadership, I think that frustrated people are containing their frustration reasonably well. But that isn't a permanent state of affairs. If you don't start in the term of this office (which is a five year span) delivering in a way that makes ordinary people feel that their personal lot is being improved, then I think you've got two possible results; you can either have political instability of a structural kind, revolts or challenging of the government, or you can have a political revolution of what I call a party political kind. In other words, you would turn against and reconstruct the political parties. So all I'm saying is that at the moment it's going well because of the overwhelming thrust of the direction of the leadership. That's keeping it on track.

POM     I was out of the country for four months, having been here for the previous eight, and when I came back I went through newspapers and magazines for the previous four months and these things kind of struck me as happening over and over again: that you had part of the MK in rebellion, an incredible level of violence and a serious crime every seventeen seconds, the SDUs still running amok in the townships, Mandela made an accusation that the SAP had declared war on the ANC, huge pay demands, taxi wars, random strikes. It was very easy to get the impression that no-one was in real control, that the country was still teetering some way between stability and anarchy.

CE     I don't think it's reached that level, but I think that, to me, the main problem about the degree of instability that there is in these particular fields is that it hampers the whole question of getting the economy going again; because I think you can endure that kind of instability if you don't need economic growth; but where economic growth is the key to getting the RDP and stability going, then I think you cannot afford this kind of what I call visual instability that is taking place. This is a matter of concern. I think it's one of the reasons, inter alia, why the economy is not moving ahead as fast as it should do. I don't think it reflects, at the moment at any rate, a fundamental threat to what I call real stability. I think these are fringe areas of discontent which are manifesting themselves; but I don't think they are either large enough or spontaneous enough or structural enough to be a challenge to the status quo. But they certainly are visible signs of discontent.

POM     If I were sitting here as a foreign businessman, would you be able to make a case for me investing in South Africa now or would you have to say wait a while and let's see?

CE     Well I would tend to be a gambler. If you asked me why I stay on in South Africa and make a go of it, it's because I believe it's going to work. But in the end, he's got to make his own judgement. I can give him advice but I think he will make his own judgement on this thing. I would have it easier if I were sitting in London persuading two investors. And if one was an extraordinarily wealthy person who said, "I'd like to put 10% of my assets in South Africa, what do you think?" I'd say, "Fine, do it tomorrow". Another chap says, "I'm a trustee for a widows' and orphans' fund"', I would say, "Perhaps you had better wait and see". It depends on the style of it. But if you ask me, investors make money. OK, they also lose money, but the investors who make money are those who get in ahead of other people. It's not clever to come in when the Japanese are here, the Germans are here and suddenly the Xs say we'd also better follow. But if you ask me, I think, first of all, delivery is slower than it would be for comfort and ... this is why you get these areas of discontent. The other one is, I think, people have got to understand that we have gone through a major political revolution; there's been a fundamental transfer of political power. And political revolutions are only relevant to the extent that they are part of a whole process of revolution. You can't have a political revolution at constitutional level and say that everything else stays as it is; and so you are now having all kinds of pressures to get a redistribution of economic empowerment and access to resources and things like that. Clearly one of the ways of getting this, managing this, is to get the RDP programme going properly. But equally, there are many people who say we're not going to wait for that, so you will find that trade unions and other people are going to say, not in defiance of the RDP, but "our contribution towards this process of redistribution is to apply certain pressures". I think it's a pity about some of the pressures, although they are understandable, because of their manifestation get out of hand and look like industrial anarchy, because I think it creates the wrong kind of impression. But I think one must assume that, with a fundamental transfer of power, not just from white to black if I may put it that way, but actually from 'the haves' to the 'have nots', that transfer of political power is going to be reflected in a demand and pressures to see that a comparable transfer takes place in the socio-economic field as well. As I say, if the RDP goes ahead, they can absorb those pressures via the RDP. If it doesn't go ahead, those pressures will manifest themselves in another way.

POM     Going around the country for the last three weeks, two things stood out. One was that most of the regional premiers complained about the lack of devolution of real power and therefore their capacity to get their jobs done. The second was a lack of familiarity with the RDP, not only on the part of ordinary people, but extending into the government departments of different regions. The RDP did not seem to have marketed ...

CE     OK. I agree with that view, although I see it from a different point of view. The RDP at the moment has been a very top down operation. Basically it has been designed by I'm not saying there hasn't been consultation but basically it is designed and it is going to flow down to the people. I don't think the people feel they are part of RDP. In one of my comments I made to Jay Naidoo in an informal conversation, I really compared it with Kenya in its post independence period, when they had Jomo Kenyatta there and they had the slogan 'Harambe' or 'pull together'. (I go in and out of Kenya; I've got a sister who is a missionary cum teacher there). This caught the whole community. They were building schools and houses and doing things with the minimum of government assistance, and the government just gave them the OK and enough assistance to spark off this thing; but for the rest it was really a self help programme of the people which is largely what RDP is going to do. If I was down at the far end of the tracks and I tried to make out what the RDP is; if I looked at the press and the press reports, it looks like a handout from the government. "We need more millions for RDP", Mandela announces, "another fifty million rand for RDP programme". So-and-so says we're going to have another programme of R120 million. Now I look at this thing it's some kind of government handout. Whereas, in fact, to make it work, all the government should do is create the opportunities for people to become self-reliant. I don't think that message has got through at all. I even said to Jay Naidoo, "You know, I don't believe that indigenous people sitting in the townships and the rural areas can actually emote about the initials RDP". I said, "Find an African slogan, find a jingle or something that says it's people's power or whatever it is. RDP is a non-starter as an emotional issue and, yet, if the programme hasn't got an emotional content, forget about it. It's going to be another African exercise where you will pump money in and find that a small group of people will benefit but it won't filter down."

POM     Is this connected in any sense perhaps to a culture of dependency that is the legacy of apartheid?

CE     The point is this: the colonial exploitation, the colonial economic system, followed by the apartheid exclusion system in the economic sense, created, I believe, a psychology of dependency which has now developed into a psychology of entitlement. What it hasn't developed is a philosophy of self-fulfilment. I hope that with independence, with it now being "our country", if ordinary people say it's our government, it's our country, it's our responsibility, you will get rid of the psychology of dependency and entitlement. I don't think one has yet and I think there's still too much of it, but I don't know whether government is giving sufficient of a lead in that particular field. But it's not an easy thing to take a society that's been under certain emotion forming influences for 300 years and say, "Well it's different now". What may happen is you might have almost an American kind of syndrome here, and that is that a certain segment of the oppressed people will actually understand this and move out of it and you will start getting a new elite, but you will also have people who are locked into a culture of poverty at the other end. So unless it goes right through and filters right down, I think it's going to be very bad for this society.

POM     This sounds very much like American inner cities where ... economic upliftment for blacks, they simply moved out. What they left behind ...

CE     I don't say that this is the intention. If you read the White Paper, it's not the intention. If Jay Naidoo were sitting here, he would say, "Well no, that's not what we're after". All I'm telling Jay Naidoo and I'm telling you is that, at this moment, I don't think that the people who have got the psychology of dependency or of entitlement have embraced the psychology underlying the RDP. And unless the government can sell it in that way and get people using the opportunities and creating a new mood of self reliance we're going to waste our money.

POM     I suppose that's at the root of my question, because the government was very successful in selling the idea of elections and what to elect somebody meant and how you went about it and the fundamentals of democracy. They used the mass media; they used television. There seems to be no comparable effort of that kind of education when it comes to the RDP.

CE     Maybe it is still coming, but we are dealing with the present situation. It worries me that RDP is not an exciting slogan that's ripped through the nation, saying we're going to be a new nation as well. It is: when are they going to give us houses? When are they going to improve the schools? Whatever it may be, I don't think it's moved down to this whole question of what I call self empowerment. There still is a dependency syndrome.

POM     Two years ago in an interview with Derek Keys, he said quite categorically that the best this economy could do between now and the end of the century would be to increase employment by 1% a year. I met him again a couple of weeks ago and asked him the same question, and he stood by his analysis that the economy at best could generate 1% increase in employment. This really means that, with new entrants into the labour market, the total level of unemployment will be going up and not down. If that is true, how can the country generate the resources and give people the purchasing power that will be necessary, say for example, for them to buy their own houses or to better themselves.

CE     I don't know. You had your interview with Derek Keys. I don't know it in terms of percentages at all. I would be very surprised, and it is certainly not his intention that the increase in the unemployment rate should be still lower than increase in access to the market place. I think that's got a flip side. But once again I think we've got to have a different view as to what constitutes employment. Once again, even this Keys syndrome is based on the presumption that the only way you make money is by working for somebody else. There's no what I call self initiative, no entrepreneurial spirit, no creativity about it at all. It is how much can we give jobs to other people; and I think successful societies have not sat back and said, "What work can we do for other people?" It's about how can we actually create employment for ourselves. I think that whole spirit of what can we do to improve our lot, not what other people can do for us, that isn't right yet. Oddly enough, it is right in the political sense. There was a fundamental change on how you could deal with the political ... It hasn't yet permeated down to the other. I don't know what Derek told you the growth rate is going to be. In fact, he isn't here, he's going to England. He's gone to England so it's not relevant. It's interesting what he's said, but he's not going to be a functionary to make it better or worse. It's an observation. You don't know what the population growth is going to be and therefore how many people are going to come on to the market. There might be a slump or a turn round in the population growth.

POM     It struck me that, looking at economic policy over the last number of years, there has been very little attention paid to population and to ways of reducing it.

CE     In theory, there is all the time, but one of your problems about that one is that society only feels the success of that programme in a generation's time, therefore there is no urgency. If you said, if we did this and tomorrow it would be better, it actually makes no difference tomorrow. In terms of coming on to the labour market, that's already been decided for the next fifteen years and therefore you wait, because it doesn't seem to be a priority, like planting a tree, it's only going to grow, a tree that will grow quickly not slowly. If you ask me if it should be a major matter of national concern, yes, it should be, but there is a Minister of Population Development and I don't think that it's taken very seriously.

POM     Turning for a moment to something else more recent, two things that are more recent. One is the headlines one sees about the gravy train and the editorials about increases that MPs and MECs award themselves by accepting what the Commission recommended. Do you think it was politically naive of the government, of the ANC in particular, to come into power and one of the first things they were perceived to do ...

CE     Let me just tell you that, some time before the election, one of my colleagues who was likely to be re-elected said to me, "You know, what salaries do you think we will get if we come back to Parliament?" And I said, "I'll tell you, you won't get less than what you got before". And so I think there is a kind of political feeling that if the whiteys in the last Parliament could get so much, why shouldn't we get that now? In other words, why should we downgrade ourselves? I think that was the first one. The other one is a practical one. I think we are creating too many functionaries. Parliament is actually too big, especially for a Parliament which hasn't got MPs with constituency responsibilities.

POM     Coming in here, I went through four people, one person who took my particulars ...

CE     There are too many. I think there is what I call a societal problem about this. MPs before got much the same salaries. I think I was getting R182 000 and now I'm getting R193 000, it's within R10 000; the perks have changed slightly, slightly downgraded, but I think most of the MPs in the old Parliament, and I'm talking of the white part of the old Parliament, were probably earning that or could have earned more or less than that if they were using their normal skills in the ordinary market, if they were attorneys or advocates or farmers. I was a quantity surveyor. And so that kind of salary was not an unusual salary for a person with that educational background and that opportunity in the economic professional field. Nobody said MPs were overpaid before; we're not getting any more and suddenly one is overpaid. But what you had in practice is that, of the MPs here, and more particularly the MPs in the provinces, I would presume that 75% of them are earning five or ten times as much as they were earning before: R2000, R3000 a month. I understand that with the ANC when it was out of office that their senior executives were not allowed to be paid more than R3000 a month, that's R36 000 a year. There may have been a car or something like that thrown in. That was Joe Slovo; that was Mac Maharaj; that was X, Y, Z. They are now earning half a million rand a year. They are now earning R470 000 plus a pension which will make it over half a million. Now I don't say they are not entitled. MPs, a lot of them were not earning, they were spouses of people who were earning, so now there are two people who are earning at the level of R190 000, whereas most of those people I suppose were earning on an average R40 000 maybe R60 000 which is more than an average teacher would be getting in their schools. Now your problem is this, suddenly the legislators come into this new bracket. I wonder what moral authority they have over the trade unions. If the trade unions say we're going to strike, we want a wage of R3000 a month; it's very difficult for the Minister of Labour. He can advise them not to, but the moral authority that he had when he was one of them, also earning the same kind of salary in that same kind of bracket; he had an authority over those particular people. I think as soon as you remove yourself financially, you lose that moral authority. That's not the fault of the salary; it's the whole environment in which you live. If I think of the friends and relations of most of the MPs today with the same qualifications but living in their particular environment, they are earning a quarter. I think this is your problem. Once again, I come to the Kenyan illustration in that very soon, a few months, a few years after the independence, instead of the white settlers and the expatriates all having money you had two categories of blacks. You had the Momanshe(?) who are the people and you had the Wabenzis, they drove the Mercedes Benz. So that you will get. You will get the people and the Wabenzis and I think you are getting that. It's not that the MPs in terms of a market orientated salary in that kind of field are getting too much. But in relation to the people they normally serve, the community in which they live, there is an enormous disparity. I think this is where the tension really arises.

POM     As I understand it, most ministers when they come from Pretoria live in a kind of walled estate called Walmer, where each one has a house of his own.

CE     Walmer Estate is up here. But the ministers can get government accommodation and they've got to pay for it. I don't know what they are paying for it, whether it's a commercial rent. Whether they have got too big a car or too small a car is irrelevant. There is a reality that the new elite, the elite which is in power, is earning salaries which may be appropriate to the job in terms of what I call a first world economy. It is completely out of kilter with the mass of their supporters who are actually part of a third world economy. I think this is where the emotionalism arises. I never heard any real argument that MPs were paid too much before, because their constituency was earning the same amount of money; nobody was jealous of their MP because he was getting more than they were getting. A MP got, give or take the same as they would get for the same qualification. Now they see in the paper, R200 000 a year [... R200 000 in ten years.] The problem is not so much the quantum on its own in isolation; it's the quantum in relation to the broader community. If you have to compare that with rural peasants and see what's happening there, that's where the tension is. If the RDP works and everybody becomes more prosperous and the poor are earning more and the average salary is increasing, then I think the tension about what MPs and other functionaries are earning will be reduced. From the state's side, I think there are just too many. There are too many MPs, too many Cabinet Ministers, too many advisers. It's just proliferating. It isn't just the actual salary; it's how do you curb the appointment of a new adviser here and a second adviser there. In a sense, it's almost an extended family system developing within the bureaucracy.

POM     Would this redound in some way on attempts to curb the growth of the civil service, where jobs are entrenched on the one hand and on the other hand you have the necessity ...?

CE     Well you've got the problem in the civil service as well, exactly the same problem well not exactly the same, there is a vast range. Within the civil service, if you go from the director to the menial labourer, the gap between the two was too large possibly. Now if you take the civil service and they are going now, say, to employ 11 000 new people under affirmative action, if you could just ignore the present civil service salaries, the top ones, you could probably employ all of those people at about two thirds of the existing civil service salaries, and that would be seen to be an adequate salary. But when you have already got the other third employed at the higher one, you are actually going to give it more than the market will bear. If you had to add another 11 000 people to the civil service and, on a competitive basis, you said what will that market bear in terms of, how do you set the salaries in terms of supply and demand, that would come way down. But it isn't a supply and demand situation. You are locked into a status quo and everybody is aspiring to the highest one that there is. During the period of the Transitional Executive Council, we had the question of the national peacekeeping force: they had arranged for the salaries of the soldiers, and seven different forces were involved, including one from Ciskei. And what happened there is, Oupa Gqozo, to stop a rebellion amongst his troops had doubled the salaries of the private soldiers [because there were more of them], so when you got the list you suddenly found that the private soldiers on the Ciskei force were getting twice as much as the South African Defence Force or Police Force, but everybody now said you've got to raise it to that level. Nobody says, what is the average? You say you raise it to the highest. So you are locked into a highest situation. Let's take it that your existing top senior civil servants are basically whites and all the rest of it; they have been there, they are functionaries, they haven't had a pay increase for some time and they are now negotiating, cost of living ... we want a pay increase of 15%. Let's say normally the government would settle for 9% or 8% or something like that. But that is adding 8% on to a figure which, in terms of the new intake, was higher than they would get in any case. So how do you keep the ones that would ordinarily get an increase, how do you give them an increase but then not make it more difficult for everybody else in terms of the social relationship or social scale? So I think the problem of what is perceived to be the new rich (I'm not saying they are rich, but perceived to be the new rich), I think must certainly create problems in terms of what I call moral political authority. It's all very well for you, we say tighten our belts, don't go on strike, work harder, whatever it may be, but you aren't one of us any more. I may be overstating it but I think it is a problem.

POM     Would that make it difficult to make real cuts in the civil service?

CE     I don't say you make cuts in the civil service, I mean what you can do is you needn't increase the pay of existing civil servants; that would have the affect of having a cut, but I don't think there is any way you can just cut the civil service. First of all, there's a whole process of industrial relationships. The government in respect of the civil service is the employer, so you've got an employer/employee relationship and there are contracts and there are pension funds and all the rest of it, so you can't just say we're going to cut the civil service. What you can say for new posts is that we're going to have a different kind of wage structure or we're not going to agree to the increases that people are wanting and you cut them by not replacing people who become redundant. It is said there's wastage: even in a healthy kind of civil service there would be wastage of 8% per year: people retiring, people die, whatever it is. Well cuts really mean, don't employ more people. But I promise you, if you're going to employ more people, you're going to pay more money. You are not going to cut the individual salary in any effective way. What you can do is reduce the number of people and make them more productive, but you're not going to cut on salaries. You can cut on total costs ...

POM     I'm talking with Colin Eglin on the 10th November.

POM     If I asked you this yesterday, just say so. Was a deal struck around KwaZulu; was KwaZulu kind of given to Buthelezi to prevent a civil war from happening?

CE     We ended up talking about Parliament and marks for the government in terms of its performance. We were in that area. If you ask me this next question, just try to put it in perspective.

POM     Back at the elections of last April, where Inkatha emerged with 50.3% of the vote ...

CE     Sorry, 50.3% in KwaZulu/Natal, 10.3% ...

POM     Sorry, I meant KwaZulu/Natal. Given the fact that the Electoral Commission said all the votes weren't counted, said millions of votes may have been missing, do you think that Buthelezi was given Natal/KwaZulu with a small margin in order to prevent a civil war from breaking out in that province?

CE     I have got no knowledge about that. I don't know what they did. I don't know whether all the votes were counted. I don't know whether that would have changed the percentage at all. If it was so close, I don't think it matters if the percentage was 10% out: it would still have been close.

POM     Did you ever hear of a political party that got 50.3% of the vote and where the opposition party didn't challenge it for a recount?

CE     Well they didn't challenge it. You asked me what deal was struck. I'm not doing this. Ask the ANC why they didn't challenge. But if you ask me, I've got no knowledge of a deal being struck. I would presume that the ANC decided it was better to leave it as it was; but I don't know whether that was to stop a civil or war because they said, if there was a recount and a re-election, there might be a worse result for the ANC. I don't know.

POM     Just moving on to a question about local government structures and the elections next year: going around the country I found most regional premiers saying that they were unprepared: no voter rolls have been compiled, no constituencies have been delimited, no voter education is going on. Do you think it is realistic to think in terms of those elections taking place in October 1995?

CE     Well I think obviously under pressure it can be done. I spoke to the Minister two days ago and he said he still believes it can be done. You must go and speak to Slabbert now. Slabbert and Shubane are heading the task force to plan the election and they must tell you whether they think they can achieve it or not. It gets tighter but I don't know whether it will be done or not. But I can understand the provincial people. Clearly, there aren't constituencies. You haven't even got the final electoral act prepared. You haven't got the boundaries: not only have you not got the boundaries of the wards, you haven't got the boundaries of the local authorities yet. That doesn't mean to say you can't have one in October of next year. If you ask me, it's going to be very, very tight. You must go and ask Roelf Meyer and you must ask Van Zyl Slabbert and they must tell you.

POM     I'll be seeing both of them.

CE     One is the Minister in charge overall, and the other one has been asked to head up a task force to supervise the regulations, the process and everything. They must know.

POM     Will it be possible in many places to draw boundaries that won't be racial?

CE     In America now, you have actually got to draw racial boundaries, so I don't know what the issue is. In many places you will not be able to. If you divide Khayelitsha into six wards, how many blacks and how many whites are there going to be? There will be very few white areas, but there would be quite a few exclusive black areas. You take Cape Town, take Sea Point which is seen to be a white residential suburb, I suppose that if you drew a ward election there, physically there are probably more people who aren't white than white. But you are aware that, if you divide Soweto into ten wards, there won't be many whites there.

POM     What I'm getting at I suppose is, the closer you get to the grass roots, the more governmental bodies will be composed on a racial basis.

CE     Now you're talking of wards: that's not the same as parties. You can have parties raised on a racial basis even if you don't have wards. But at the last election it happened that way. In the far north, 96.8% of the people were black and they voted for the ANC. If you look at the last election without having wards and you actually start saying how many people who didn't belong to a particular racial group voted differently, it would be very small. So, I think you would know that you've got an historical factor which is very close to ethnicity, maybe for historical reasons or maybe for ethnic reasons. By and large, ethnic communities have tended to vote for particular parties.

POM     Why is this word 'ethnicity' kind of frowned upon in liberal circles? I've talked to a number of people over the years, particularly academics, and I ask them, "Is there an ethnic factor in South African politics?" and they would say yes ...

CE     I'm a liberal and I've just used the word 'ethnic'.

POM     They wouldn't use it or write about it because it would appear that they were saying that the government got it right, they only used it the wrong way, so to speak.

CE     If you ask me do you write ethnicity or race or language or religion into a constitution, I would say no. But to say you ignore it as a factor in the community is absurd. Why do you have an organisation called The Black Lawyers' Association which by very definition has got an ethnic component to it? So I don't quite understand; if you're saying, should you make ethnicity a formal factor by which you give people rights or privileges or disadvantages, obviously no.

POM     I mean in terms of Zulu, Xhosa ...

CE     What is ethnicity? It's a combination of things. In the non-black community, what is ethnicity? Is it English, is it Afrikaans, is it Coloured, is it language or is it a religion or is it a combination of these things?

POM     How would you define it?

CE     As a mixture. I'm not going to say any one society if I was living in Northern Ireland I would say the predominant thing would be religion. Living in Belgium, I would say the predominant thing is language. So I don't think there is any one factor which constitutes ethnicity. It's a combination of social factors which cause a certain political behaviour.

POM     Has Constand Viljoen effectively co-opted the following of the Conservative Party, rendering the Conservative Party more or totally marginalised?

CE     I'm not aware whether he's co-opted them. I think they marginalised themselves by not participating in the election. But I don't know how many of them are just lurking around doing nothing and how many have joined Constand Viljoen, or how many may be in the National Party. I don't know. But the real problem for the Conservative Party is that they lost a formal political power base by not being in Parliament or not having representatives and I think this is their problem with local government. Are they going in there or not? As I read their Congress, they say they are leaving it to their head committee to decide. So once you play opting out politics, while it's fine for declaring what you can call a moral political position, it also removes you from the mainstream of power, so they are all sitting with no representative clout. And I think that's the real advantage that Viljoen has; he is in Parliament; he's close to the corridors of power, and they are all sitting there sulking. But whether they've joined him or not I don't know, I have my doubts. Viljoen, I find him a very attractive person who really is an endearing factor. He gives the impression that what he wants to do is get as much as he can on the volkstaat and then get out. Most people aren't in politics for such a limited objective. They say we want to go there to take power. So there you are. Major tactical blunder from the CP was not to get involved in the election.

POM     When you look at the last several months, what accomplishment do you think the government can be most proud of having achieved?

CE     I think they have achieved putting together the government of national unity and to get it, what I call, functioning on a national level in a way that has a unifying effect within South Africa and a unifying message to the outside. I think that's what it is, putting it together. As I said to you yesterday, I don't think much has happened on the delivery side. That's because they're still in that whole process of ... If you look at the specific processes, I would say that Joe Slovo's housing effort has been the most significant of the ... In terms of achievement, in terms of putting something new in the place of something old, I think Slovo has gone further down the track to actually put together something new. The rest have all declared policies, but declaring a policy does not yet put it in place. OK, so I would put that in the area of achievement. The rest is white papers on RDP, white papers on education, intentions of implementation, but I don't see any of that implementation yet.

POM     Is that because of the lack of administrative skills?

CE     It's a new government getting into place. It's new ministries working with old officials. The ANC had policies and the Nats had policies and the IFP, but none of them have been converted into legislation, and it is the process of taking policy intentions as designed in an election and converting them into action. It doesn't happen overnight.

POM     I was talking to some senior people at the University of the Western Cape yesterday and they were insistent that elements of the civil service were hi-jacking government policy; that they were developing obstacles; they were delaying the implementation of the whole process.

CE     Well you must go and speak to Ministers. I have not heard any of this. The Ministers that I have listened to have all said that they've found that their departments are co-operating with them. Now I've not heard this. But you must decide which department you are talking about and go to the Minister and say, "I believe you've got a problem". But I'm not impressed by people who are sitting at a university pronouncing on what is happening in a government. I would rather go to the members of the government to find out. Whether all of them are enthusiastic or not I don't know, but I've listened to the government ministers handling their votes and, almost to a man they have said, "well our people recognise that there's going to have to be a change; it's too white, it's too Afrikaner; we want to pay a tribute to the way they are co-operating". So if you've got evidence of that then you must follow it up but I've not got any.

POM     I was asking them about that question.

CE     I've got no knowledge of them. I'm not saying it's not there, but I've not heard of that as a complaint in Parliament; that I haven't heard of.

POM     What role do you think the traditional leaders should play in restructured local government authorities?

CE     I don't know enough about them and I think they are a strange mix. They are called traditional leaders and a part of them are traditional in the sense that they are hereditary chiefs and people like that. The other half was just government functionaries created by the apartheid system to make the apartheid system work. So if you look at the early history of Transkei and things like that, in order to manufacture a majority of representatives the government of the day just announced that you're a chief and you're a chief and you're a chief, and the result is that, when it came to the Transkei's first government, half of them were chiefs and half of them were elected and the half that were chiefs were all supporting the bantustan. So I think that's got to be sorted out. We have tried to ascertain what a traditional leader or chief is, and if there is a schedule of these people and a schedule from which they derive their authority. At the moment nobody knows and it is told to me that, in fact, individual Chiefs are now proliferating all over the show because, as it appears that there's going to be a new status cum gravy train, then more and more people are suddenly finding themselves traditional chiefs. Now I'm not anti a genuine indigenous system of government, but I think there has got to be a formal definition as to what is a traditional chief. There must be a register kept and there must be a register of how that person arrived at the status he has, otherwise anybody anywhere can say "I'm now a traditional chief". So I think, to the extent that there are traditional chiefs who are genuinely representative of an indigenous community, then clearly they have got some role to play in rural local government, but I think it is a very small role once you come into the urban areas.

POM     Could you take me through the process a piece of legislation goes through in Parliament? I want to introduce a Bill, where do I start?

CE     You can't introduce a Bill. There's a thing called a Private Members' Bill. I've got one on the Order Paper: that is unique and it's extraordinary but that would be almost a freak circumstance. Normally the legislation comes from the Executive. There is now a provision that the Standing Committees are going to be able, on a certain basis, to be able to introduce legislation but at the moment all legislation comes from the Cabinet.

POM     And it starts there?

CE     They've got to hand it over to Parliament, so that it is tabled in Parliament, which means presented to the Speaker and published. Thereafter it would then go to a standing committee who would process it and then either reject the Bill or endorse the Bill or produce it in an alternative form. Thereafter, it would go to Parliament as a whole and Parliament at that stage can approve it. If there are people who want further amendments, they can put them on the Order Paper and go back to the Standing Committee which will consider the subsequent amendments and then it comes back to Parliament.

POM     The way I've been hearing it from people like Jakes Gerwel is that there are three cabinet committees and a number of sub-committees and, by the time a Bill reaches the floor, a consensus has already been achieved.

CE     Within the Cabinet, yes, but we're talking about Parliament.

POM     Well within Parliament too, has there been legislation where there were no major disagreements between the National Party and the ANC ...?

CE     Parliament doesn't discuss it until it comes to Parliament.

POM     Are both taken in Parliament where ...

CE     I'm trying to explain. It comes from the Cabinet; the Cabinet tables it in Parliament; it then goes to the Standing Committee and that's where there will be negotiation between the parties. But I'm not saying that if it goes to a Cabinet committee, that's nothing to do with Parliament. To the extent that there's the National Party, the ANC and the government, then I presume negotiation takes place within the executive, but it isn't negotiation within Parliament.

POM     What role do you think the Democratic Party has to play, not just in this transitional period but in the longer term?

CE     Well I would like to confine it mainly to the transitional period because that's five years at least, and I think to presume the longer term is a long time to go. If you ask about the longer term, a considerable factor will be the realignment of political parties which I think is a more natural thing to happen down the track. But until that happens I think it's got to play its role as a liberal democratic force in South African politics, both looking at government performance in particular areas of civil liberties, of transparency, corruption, things like that, and at the same time looking at socio-economic issues like the RDP and produce formulae for making them work other than going to command economy systems or printing money to make them work.

POM     And what realignments would you foresee down the road?

CE     That's the area you don't want to get to: that's after the transition. But I would say basically not on the present lines which are all historical. I take the ANC and you look at them: they range from Stalinist communists like Bunting (who is still says Stalin was actually a great guy) through to really conservative homelands leaders who are rural conservatives and in between you've got Cosatu which is a socialist labour movement; you've got Mandela and Thabo Mbeki looking more and more like social democrats, liberal democrats in the centre; you've clearly got some ethnic elements within the thing, the traditional leaders would form an ethnic lobby. You would find conservative Christian national groups around the National Party. I'd find a range of people with socio-economic views from far left to far right and I think with a strong interplay of ethnic factors, regional factors thrown in. I think you will start getting the emergence of regional factors in national politics as your provinces become stronger. But what it won't be is just the simple, you're either on the side of the liberation or the struggle or the other. That will be gone by then. And you're going to have interest groups developing around perceived interests at that time and not around an historical struggle that took place.

POM     So in that scenario, it would not follow the path of Namibia which essentially is divided into SWAPO and the rest?

CE     Well that's what we are now. It's not what's going to happen in Namibia in twenty years time, but that was SWAPO versus the rest. At the moment it's the ANC versus the rest. SWAPO may be more socio-economically homogeneous than the ANC. The ANC doesn't even claim to be a party. It claims to be an umbrella movement of the liberation struggle. One of these days there will be differences of opinion between the workless and the capitalists, between the socialists and the free marketeers. That will happen, but it won't happen until the struggle recedes and people like Mandela, father figures like that, leave the scene.

POM     There has been a considerable lobby that future elections, and even the local government elections, should be supervised by a permanent independent electoral commission rather than by either the provinces or by the Minister of Home Affairs. Is it likely that this will happen?

CE     I think it's a novel idea which people float; academics like writing about it because they might be right or wrong, and the press like speculating. Last time we had a unique situation because clearly the government of the day could not manage that election, because two thirds of the people had no access to the government of the day. Whether in the end it's run at local government level by local and provincial governments on their own, or whether there is a supervisory body, a commission which can investigate, I would be extremely surprised if they create a whole new civil service for running an election. So if you're suggesting that you should have a department for elections, which is what one is talking about, you can't have independence in that sense. If you're going to keep people ready and available all the time, they are going to have to be busy doing it. So the idea of having some more neutral supervision of the process I think is probably likely to be moved still further. But the idea that we should keep a new civil service of neutral people ... if you have a by-election what do you do? Would you keep these people permanently in place, not doing other work?

POM     You mentioned yesterday about a civil society and the role they had to play in the socio-economic ...

CE     The RDP process.

POM      and you were worried about its weakness, that it doesn't have much depth. In what way is it weakened, what do you think?

CE     If I look at the RDP: it involves the government doing its bit, it involves the private business sector and it also involves the community and the civil society becoming involved on a basis of we all have got to make a contribution. We haven't got to wait for handouts or for others to help. If you ask me at the moment, I don't think the RDP, the socio-economic reconstruction, is seen as part of a people's movement. There's still too much of a dependency upon the government to do something. So, I thought I had made it clear, I don't think that's the government's intention but I don't think they are selling it down to grass roots at this stage. Maybe next year when they start the process they'll be better.

POM     What I'm asking, I suppose, is: is there an institutional framework in place that can sustain democracy, or do those structures have to be built from the ground up?

CE     Well you come to democracy, you're talking of socio-economic development, if you want to talk of democracy you can certainly. I think South Africa has got a proliferation of NGOs and I think they can form a very important part of the whole process because the more the selling of democracy is just seen to be a governmental agency once again, the less people's involvement is crucial, so the concept of selling democracy at grass roots level means I think that (a) the constitution has got to be part of the process of selling, (b) the behaviour of government has got to be part of the process of selling. If a government behaves transparently and openly and if the people administering the law realise that other people have got rights, gradually a culture develops, but in the end you've got to harness the society and so the role of the universities, the churches, the press and the NGOs, both at regional and I think at grass roots level, are critical in this. There may be some NGOs already there. I was up at a meeting with Legal Resources Centres from all around Southern Africa and apparently this is part of a thing that they are doing in their own countries, making people aware of their rights, making people aware of their responsibilities. But the government's got to play its role; it's a process that's got to permeate the society and I think NGOs are very important in that process.

POM     Looking at the Parliament as it is constituted today and the way it was constituted in the apartheid period, are their any differences procedurally in the way legislation is managed?

CE     No, at the moment the rules have only been changed marginally in terms of the actual procedures. In terms of style and the character, it looks very different. There always were standing committees and they were always looking at legislation, but basically they were closed to the public and the press except on such occasions when they were open, which was very rare. Now the whole procedure, even at that level where there's a certain amount of negotiation taking place, is a transparent procedure. So while there's no fundamental change to the procedure, the whole way in which it's conducted is different.

POM     Do you envisage the final constitution that will emerge to be significantly different from the current constitution?

CE     I don't know how it's going to emerge. To the extent that the next constitution has got to comply with the 34 constitutional principles in the present constitution, that means you can't move outside of that ambit in any case, so it's within that context that it's going to be different. But you know this says, that there shall be free and fair elections and proportionality and everybody shall have a vote and government shall be structured at three levels and there should be separation of power between executive and legislative and judiciary with checks and balances. There shall be open and accountable government. There shall be a Bill of Rights. All of those features are going to be there. You can then argue, how detailed should the Bill of Rights be? OK, that will be where the area will be. "You shall have a non-racial, common roll franchise and in general proportional representation." You're going to have to look at various electoral systems which give effect to that. But it will be that style. A separate executive, legislative and judiciary are required. It doesn't say that there should be both a senate and a lower house. You can say we don't want a senate or we want a better senate or something else. But there shall be a Constitutional Court. If you ask me, the principles in the present constitution already define the basic character and structure of the new constitution. Within that, it says that there should be powers, the allocation of powers should emerge from central government into the provinces and then it gives a tabulation not of the powers but of things you shall take into account. So there has to be an allocation of powers. You can then argue how far do they go and how much concurrency there is and how much override.

POM     Is that still one of the major issues?

CE     That will obviously be one of the issues. Whether it's going to be major by then perhaps the ANC at provincial level are so strong in demanding more powers that it won't be an issue. I don't know.

POM     What would you think are the major constitutional issues that are outstanding, that will give rise to passionate discussion and disagreement?

CE     At the moment, everybody is getting on such much with trying to make the present one work; I can't see many at the moment. And then the issue of the separation of powers, where there was a very significant gap between those who wanted an almost orthodox federation to those who wanted a unitary system with regions, already it's gone half way between those two, so there's not much passion about that any more. Even some of the people who argue for increased federal powers are also wondering whether in fact the provinces can absorb those powers. The question of the allocation of powers is one. The question of the transitional features, the nature of the executive which is an enforced coalition executive which has to last for five years, but who knows whether that I think the electoral system, because I think there's a common view that while you want proportionality to give you the overall fairness, you also need constituencies in order to make people directly accountable, which we don't have at the moment. And then there's the question of the executive in the Cabinet, the executive, the President in particular and Parliament. Should he be separately elected or should he be elected on the present route? Should he be outside of Parliament entirely, with a Cabinet outside, or should he have the present one: while they have executive functions, they also serve in Parliament. So there is that kind of argument about what kind of executive we should have. Should there be specific provision for minority participation in executive structures? Allocation of powers to the regions and particularly the fiscal arrangements between the provinces? Those I think are the issues.

POM     On the fiscal issue, there is the question of the ability of the regional governments to develop their own tax systems, collect taxes.

CE     I would say about the fiscal relationship between the centre and the other [the simplistic thing comes], I'm basically a federalist but I get angry with them. They say, "We want the power to tax". I say, "Well, right you are, if every province had to rely on its own power to tax, the PWV would get richer, the Western Cape would get by and all the others would go down the drain. If you've got to rely on your own resources, and that's what you're asking for, you haven't got enough wealth in that society to generate taxes which will meet your needs." So then immediately you will say, "Well how do I get other money?" And the strong argument then is that if you get other money just by way of a handout from the presidency or the executive, you lose some of your autonomy. And, therefore, there's got to be a constitutional formula by which you get money which is not the same as getting money by way of a grant from the government. So that whole question of the relationship between taxes: it's not only taxes, it's a question of raising loans and also guaranteeing loans a whole range of things. Just to think simply in terms of taxing is only a very small part of the totality of the package that's got to be negotiated between the centre and the government. And then you've got the question of local authorities. One tends to talk of the provinces and, in a good old fashioned middle income group kind of society, you can sustain municipal services on the basis of a property tax. You can't do that when you're coming into a third world society. There's not a property tax base on which to derive it, so you've now got to find other resources. Do you get that from the province; do you get that from the centre? Once again, is it dependent upon a handout or do you have, as in Germany, a system where X% of national revenue has to go to local government? So the question of the fiscal arrangements between the levels of government I would think are going to be as important and as tense as arranging the distribution of legislative and executive power.

POM     Finally, on the first day this government met, would you have envisaged that it would work so smoothly and so seemingly effectively?

CE     Well, it's certainly done better in that than one would have anticipated at the time. I don't know how long that will continue; but certainly it wasn't just establishing the government on 10th May, it has actually been the way the government has meshed into a single entity for the purposes of government. I think it has been quite remarkable and I wouldn't have presumed it would work as well as that. A little bit better than I thought it would be.

POM     OK. Thank you.

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.