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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
30 Nov 1994: Moosa, Mohammed Valli
POM The transition, or the political transition, is now in its seventh month. How would you evaluate it? Has it done very well, well enough, just fairly or not that well at all?
MVM I think it has done very well. If I take my mind back to a year ago or even less than a year ago, to January this year, February this year, I can't think now of anything I would have wanted to happen that hasn't happened, or anything serious, that is to say. The most important objective in my mind that we had prior to the elections and prior to the final settlement was to be able to govern the country in the transition period. That was the most important, overriding objective and since the elections we have been able to make the government of national unity work. Of course everything could have happened better, one allows for that, but it has worked. We have been able to set up the new systems. The provinces are functioning. There is some degree of administrative difficulties in many of the provinces but nothing that one could describe as chaos which is the biggest concern that many of us had especially those of us who were involved in designing the new system, we were never absolutely certain as to whether it would work. There were many things, theoretical, that were in our imaginations and we have seen that it can work.
The government of national unity is functioning, it governs the country. The provinces have been set up, they are functioning. The local government transition is taking place, it's under way. The area that I am involved in very much now, we have about 70% of the local authority areas have already entered into an agreement to set up non-racial transitional councils. The security forces are not doing anything to destabilise the new democracy. There is every sign of cooperation on their part. There is of course much work that needs to be done in terms of reorienting the security forces, ridding it of rogue elements, hit squads, etc., in the past and that will of course be an ongoing task, but by and large in general the security forces are cooperative. The civil service by and large is cooperative and those were great concerns. So I think it's going very well. The economy hasn't collapsed, not that we have seen any signs of economic growth as yet but things are functioning. People can go about their day to day work and the white community, in my view, is generally supportive of the new system. They may not necessarily like the ANC but I think they generally support the new system. There isn't a general sort of move amongst whites that they should attempt to return to the old ways of apartheid.
POM I want to talk about some particular points. We have spent the last month and a half going around the country, we've met most of the Premiers, and the MECs and MPs and interviewed ordinary people and a couple of things came across strongly. One was on the question of devolution. All the Premiers were complaining about the lack of devolution of power, it prevented them from carrying out their functions, it was moving much too slowly. Let's talk about that one first.
MVM What you say is true but many of the provincial governments were unhappy about the perceived slowness with which powers were being assigned to the provinces. Now from where I sit, I obviously have a different perspective from a provincial politician. The provincial politician is under pressure to do something, to deliver some goods, to be seen to be doing something to address a perceived crisis in some or other area of government in the province. They are definitely under those sorts of pressures. I am talking with the perspective of a person who for the past few years has been seeing to the question of how to set up a system that can work. How do you transform the entire apartheid state into a democratic state? And presently I'm still very much part of implementing the transition and making the transition work. So that's the slightly different perspective I would have from somebody who is in the province and I can understand and relate very well to the concerns and the protests that are coming through from some of the provinces.
Specifically on the question of assigning powers to the provinces, let me start off by saying we had a meeting of the inter-governmental forums at which all the Premiers are represented last week, Thursday, that was the 23rd I think, and at that meeting we went through in detailed form the line functions, all the scheduled functions, to do an audit of what powers have now been assigned to the provinces and what have not been assigned to the provinces. I must say that at that meeting the provinces were not complaining about the situation. By and large the powers have been assigned to the provinces. The real problem, of course, is an administrative problem, that's the real problem, that the nine provinces are completely new entities and because they are new entities they start off with no administrations whatsoever and the administration has to be set up by the Public Service Commission from scratch in all of the provinces. They had no Director Generals, they had no directors, nothing when they started off. Establishing a whole new administration and in that process rationalising the old administration, there were fifteen old administrations, into the nine administrations that we now have at provincial level is a mammoth task in itself and I think that is really one of the great frustrations for provincial governments as such.
At central government level it has been much easier because it's really the same administration, the administration has been in place. The only thing that we've had to do is to try to make the administration, the whole bureaucracy, more representative of South African society. At the provincial level it has been a different kind of thing. I think that's really the problem as such. I don't think that we could have done any better than has happened up to now. I think that things have been going marvellously well, marvellously well in the sense that we have avoided absolute breakdown of administration in the provinces and that has been avoided by ensuring that the first thing that we do is that we centralise all of the powers in order to ensure that things work. And as the administrations in the provinces begin to get set up we then devolve that because one cannot simply allocate functions and powers to the provinces if they are not going to be able to do it because that would be a recipe for chaos. It would mean that the administration of education, for example, could break down or health services could break down very easily.
POM Do you devolve on the basis of capacity, so that there won't be an equal distribution of powers in the regions? When these regions are ready for it the powers are devolved to them? Some are better situated than others are placed.
MVM We have been taking the approach that unless the provinces have the administrative capacity the powers would not be devolved. The constitution in fact requires of the President when assigning powers to the provinces, because the President on the proclamation to assign powers to the provinces, requires the President to satisfy himself that the province has sufficient administrative capacity to execute the functions which flow out of those powers. The allocation of powers has been linked to administrative capacity.
POM The local elections of October of 1995, again there seems to be a widespread agreement across the country that the country will not be ready for the local elections by next October, that voters' rolls have yet to be compiled, boundaries have to be delimited and wards given, and that it's just simply too much and that it would be rushed into at a pace which is beyond the capacity of the regions to administer them.
MVM It is exactly the same concerns that were raised when we said national elections would take place on 27th April. Many people said were we not rushing it too much, will it happen and it will be chaotic, etc., etc. And I think those were real concerns people had. We, of course, had taken a political decision that it had to take place in April because politically it would be untenable if we didn't have the elections at that time. But the local government elections, we have said that they should take place in October 1995, those elections have to take place in October 1995. If they don't take place in October 1995 they would then be postponed until February or March 1996. That has very serious implications for the RDP because as you know the RDP is by and large implemented at local government level. Therefore the RDP programme might be destroyed within the ambit of local authorities. Also there is a growing dissatisfaction at local government level, especially among those who have not been part of the system up till now, about the slowness of the transition of local government. Then there will be a continuous degeneration and breakdown of administration at local government level. More and more people are not paying for services and the administration in the black areas particularly has all but collapsed up to now. Any further delay would cause a greater collapse in administration. So we are experiencing a real financial and administrative and government crisis at local authority level. So we say it's got to happen and we therefore have to make it happen. I don't think we are being reckless about it.
As I told you the majority of the negotiating forums at local authority level have already arrived at agreement in setting up transitional councils. The President signed a proclamation today in terms of which those negotiating forums which have not arrived at agreements will now have an agreement imposed upon them by provincial governments so that by January we will have transitional appointed members on the transitional councils throughout the country. Some time ago we had already set up special Task Group to coordinate the election headed by Van Zyl Slabbert and Khehla Shubane. The election regulations have already been compiled and agreed upon by all of the provinces and by next December the provinces will be publishing the election regulations and by the end of January voter registration will begin. There is a period of 90 days for voter registration to be completed, we did a careful assessment and we are pretty certain that in that period we will be able to register, in 90 days, all the voters throughout the country. So things are really in place at this stage, things are in place and there is no reason for us to believe that the elections will not take place in October.
POM You made reference to the elections on the 27th April having to be met. Van Zyl Slabbert, when we were talking to him, would always remember that this was a deal-driven process. You had a situation where seven or eight days before the election Lord Carrington and Henry Kissinger packed their bags and headed out of the Carlton Hotel saying there was nothing to negotiate, and there was escalation of violence between the IFP and the ANC and great uncertainty. And then Buthelezi said, "I'll come in and take part in the elections", and the violence practically stopped overnight. Then you had elections that were judged to be violence free and free of intimidation and judged by UN observers to be free and fair and by the international community to be free and fair. Then you had the counting process which kind of broke down with the result that at the end you had the result announced, where they had literally stopped counting, there were votes missing, votes hanging around. What struck me about the result is that not only was there agreement on the elections but that there was agreement on the results. Buthelezi got Natal, the National Party got the Western Cape, the ANC got a large majority but not more than two thirds which essentially would have made a one-party state. So I'm not asking was there a conspiracy where everyone got around the table and kind of chivvied the thing up, but when the broad trends were known, did the parties undertake to accept the results which gave them all something, so that everybody was a winner and nobody was a loser?
MVM I think at first hand the election results were a reasonable reflection of voter preference in the country as a whole and at the end of the day democracy really means that you've got to get government which must reflect the voter preference. So it was a reasonable reflection. We also had to take into account that this was a transitional election, not a normal election as such. One has to take into account that it was taking place on the basis of no voters' roll, that it was being conducted in circumstances where there was possibility for a certain margin of error. Now, there were certainly no deals about the election results. I think that those who suspected there was some sort of deal about OK you take this, you take this, etc., etc., are wrong, but fortunately from the ANC point of view in Natal our people were saying that there was more than ample evidence of irregularities in the elections than in the counting in KwaZulu/Natal and that the election irregularities were all in favour of the IFP and that the IFP would not have received that kind of majority had there not been irregularities. Many of our people, especially those in Natal, wanted it to be challenged, the election result to be challenged. If you are going to challenge the result you can either challenge it successfully or not successfully, you can never say before that if it is challenged with the IEC what would happen. We have to then take into account also what it would mean for the transition. You have to accept it, it is part of the transition and we wanted to make the transition work. If a challenge from our side resulted in the elections being declared null and void, as the elections in Natal could have been declared null and void, it could result in the collapse of the entire transition. So from that point of view you had to say, well, perhaps it's in the better interests of the country as a whole if you leave it as it is even though you may be quite convinced that the elections there were highly irregular. Does that answer your question?
POM Is the need for perceived legitimacy of the process and stable government more important than the imperative of something being free and fair?
MVM I think we have to take into account a result which the people of this country would accept. If they were completely irregular and De Klerk emerged with 72% of the national vote, the country would have broken down and then ultimately one would have to challenge and say it was irregular in that direction, for example. But if it was a general sort of estimation of voter preference then of course that would make it acceptable to people and I think one has to take that into account. One also has to take into account the needs of real change but also the objectiveness of transition. The objective of transition is to try and transform the society and what would be in the interests of transforming the society in the new South Africa; to challenge the irregularities here and there or to accept it and preach reconciliation and go forward? You have to balance all of those things and I think we did the right thing.