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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

28 Feb 1995: Ramaphosa, Cyril

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POM     Anyway, how are you keeping? It's been a very long and arduous year to say the least.

CR     Fun and games.

POM     Fun and games.

CR     It's been an eventful year?

POM     Let me take you back to before the elections in April. You had a situation where Buthelezi pulled out, Lord Carrington and Henry Kissinger arrived at the Carlton Hotel, came out, packed their bags, there was nothing to mediate and went home. It looked for a while that the country was slowly sliding into anarchy. There was more violence in KwaZulu Natal, more on the Reef, and the abrupt change on Buthelezi's part. Overnight almost all the violence ceases and the elections go ahead all over the country and the international press and monitoring teams and observers all say, "Free and fair elections, hooray, it's a miracle." And then you get into the counting, the whole damn thing gets bogged down and it turns out millions of votes are missing and can't be accounted for so Kriegler says, "Stop counting", and then a result emerges. The ANC are the clear victors but not quite two thirds so they can't run things alone, Buthelezi, he gets all the odds, he gets KwaZulu Natal, the Nats get the Western Cape, so everybody was a winner. My question is, in the end, not was it a fixed result but did the question of legitimacy become more important than the question of whether the election was free and fair?

CR     There was legitimacy. The hiatus during the counting process seemed to observers to suggest that everything would just collapse once again and we would be thrown into the conflicts of the past again and anarchy, but somehow everything did hang together even as the results were finally announced, as you correctly say, everyone emerged a winner. There was no outright loser who would have wanted to take up arms to destabilise everything and the miracle was in the end properly packaged and that in itself gave legitimacy to the processes that we have gone through. In the end one can say that the end in a way justified the means through which we got where we were. So it's all well and good that ends well, so everything ended well. The ANC was a little bruised in the Western Cape and Natal. We had expected to win Natal but as it turned out it was not to be.

POM     Harry Gwala was going to court.

CR     Yes.

POM     It seemed that the national leadership said, "Let's forget it, there are larger interests, let's take care of that."

CR     That's right, because if we had challenged that in Natal it would have opened a much bigger Pandora's box and the glue that was keeping everything together would have come unstuck, it could have fallen apart again. So it was important to have some political foresight and know that what we had lost as the ANC we had lost in the interests of the country as a whole.

POM     Looking at the upcoming local elections, everybody I have talked to thinks there are a host of problems now. On the one hand how do you in such a short period of time ameliorate these structural problems and if the delivery is going to be so dependent upon those proper local government structures being in place, there's even an added hazard of not being able to deliver services.

CR     I think we have it in us as South Africans to overcome what may seem to be insurmountable difficulties. Everything is rather gloomy for the forthcoming local government elections. Political parties are not entirely ready, the structures of government are not yet in place in terms of running and managing this whole local government election and time is running out and there's a great deal of apathy and lack of information amongst the population. What accounts for it is that after having spent years and years of focusing on the real enemy in our campaign, the real enemy was to dislodge the Pretoria regime from power, all energies were directed at achieving that object. That objective having been achieved there is quite a lot of fatigue, election fatigue amongst many people and there isn't clear understanding that the democratisation process is not complete, has to move a little further to local government level as well and one has to stimulate the interest of people at a local level and bring some understanding of what local government elections are all about because we spent many, many years campaigning against local government elections or local government and in a way they were relegated to the back of our struggle. The sharp edge of the struggle was Pretoria and not so much where people lived. That is where ungovernability was at its most effective level but then we have not been able to have that mindset changed.

POM     Better unlearn their behaviours.

CR     Change that mindset to get people to, as you say, unlearn what has been the major thrust of the struggle. It will take time but I think we will achieve some success. I guess as we move closer to the cut off date, the 27th April, we will see quite a number of people moving forward to register.

POM     Looking at the RDP, we have been travelling around the country for the last six weeks and have been asking what people understand about it, and this is in government. One, their eyes kind of glaze over, three letters, they can hardly say it stands for Reconstruction and Development Programme. Those who have some understanding of it, but not much, there is disagreement between people of what it means and there is also the big question mark, everyone I ask says who will pay for it? It doesn't seem to me that domestic savings plus budgetary shifts will be enough to finance a project of this magnitude where costs vary from 11 billion to 30 billion. Why has the concept of the RDP not been sold more to people? Two, where will the money come from?

CR     I think you are raising a very important point. The RDP has not been properly explained to our people to a point where in some areas people think that the RDP is an organisation, that you join it. So, there is a lack of understanding also on what the RDP is. We have fallen short in terms of propagating what the RDP is and having our people have a common understanding of what the programme is all about. The other problem is that the message has not gone out more forcefully that in the end essentially the RDP is about what government is doing in many ministries. The school feeding programme, the nutrition programme, is RDP. Water projects that Kader Asmal is busy with is about the RDP. The problem is the RDP faces the danger of being what we would call ghettoised. Ghettoised in the sense that it is seen in a parochial sense as the preserve of Jay Naidoo, the Minister Without Portfolio, that he is Mr RDP in that ministry, that ministry is all about what the RDP stands for. And it isn't so. The RDP is all-encompassing starting with constitution making.

     The writing of the new constitution is really about reconstruction and development. In a constitutional sense you want to have a constitution that is going to go about or set out principles that will enhance the reconstruction and development of the country right through too what should happen with the creation of jobs, the growth of the economy, minerals and energy, everything. It is all-encompassing, over-arching and should impact on everything, but that has not been properly explained to the people.

     Where will the money come from? As Clement Atlee said when he became Prime Minister of Britain in 1945, "I don't know." But like hell we shouldn't let our people live in shacks for the rest of their lives. We shouldn't let people in the rural areas go without clean water for the rest of their lives and that in itself sends out a challenge that we have to meet and therefore it all means that we've got to find the money and the money should and must be found through budgetary reallocations, it must be found through promoting the growth of the economy and it must also be found by cutting excessive and unnecessary public expenditure. That has to be done. The budget that we're going to have in March is going to go quite a long way in terms of trying to achieve that, it will scale down a number of other expenses and to reallocate that money, not necessarily to the RDP office but to the various other ministries where things have to be done in an effective way, but in the end to make sure that allocation also goes right down to the areas that matter at local government level. Real development should start at local government level and that the local government must act as the real vehicles that are going to lead to the attainment of the objectives that are set out in the RDP. On that note, can I just check what's happening?

POM     Can we just move on to the constitution? Do you see the Constituent Assembly writing a constitution from scratch or will it make changes around the interim constitution?

CR     The interim constitution is a product of negotiation which was underpinned by the need to set our country upon the road to democracy and as a result a lot of compromises had to be reached to move our country from apartheid to where we are now from where we started the full democratisation process of our country. The objective that the ANC always had, which I think is also shared by many other parties, is that we have to dismantle apartheid, to transform our country to a democratic state, non-racism, non-sexism. In terms of writing the new constitution we are acutely aware of the fact that we need to deepen the democratisation allied to the constitution. It has to be a legitimate process that will be embarked upon by legitimately elected people. As we write the constitution we obviously will take care not to reinvent the wheel, but at the same time we cannot just take everything that is in the interim constitution as it stands and put it in the new constitution. Therefore we are using the interim constitution as a reference document and will start from scratch. We will have always it at the back of our minds as we write the new constitution. We are bound by the constitutional principles that are enshrined in it. It is there for reference. Because you have parties that participated in the negotiation process playing an important role in writing a new constitution no doubt what you have in the interim constitution in certain areas will be inserted into the new constitution. So while you are writing a new constitution from scratch you are not just completely going to ignore what is in the interim constitution.

POM     Do you, just through mediation sit around the table and say, "There's nothing to negotiate." Have you kept your obligation?

CR     International mediation, it should act in a particular context. Since the elections when the agreement was made things have changed in the country. The constitution has a number of mechanisms to deal with the issues that continuously must be dealt with at provincial level.

POM     The provincial constitution?

CR     Yes, the constitution allows that, to draft their own provincial constitution so long as that constitution is not in conflict with the national constitution. The present constitution specifically provides that when they draft their constitution they should also make provision for the position the state has and the role of the Zulu monarchy in KwaZulu/Natal. So that is provided for. The proposals on his role and position still need to be put forward in a draft constitution. Hence international mediation would seem to be pre-empting the discussion, the debate, the negotiations that need to take place. We should only go to mediation of any sort once we have reached a deadlock and there is no deadlock at the moment. The competencies and powers of provincial governments is a matter that should be dealt with, articulated in the Constitutional Assembly where the IFP sits, or sat before they walked out. Then it should come forward with real proposals in the whole constitution making process, enrich the process by putting forward their own views and ideas.

POM     Do you think Buthelezi is playing a game of brinkmanship or that he is serious when he talks about local elections not being held in KwaZulu/Natal?

CR     They are serious about wanting to prevent local government elections in KwaZulu/Natal. They see the local government elections as eroding the power of the chiefs in the rural areas and it is for this reason they have come out openly to say that we can have democratic representation at national and provincial level and at local level so long as it is not in the traditional areas. They have a principled opposition to democratic government at local level in the traditional areas and it is therefore convenient for them ...

POM     So you say they have a commitment to principles?

CR     No, they have a principled opposition to democratic elections in traditional areas because they see those elections as eroding the power of the chiefs. The present constitution provides that you will have democratic government at all levels of government, including the rural areas, and where there are traditional leaders or chiefs they would sit on elected local government structures in an ex officio capacity. Now you have a form of male chauvinism being stretched to the very limit in that in the rural traditional areas most of the people who live there, the people is largely made up of women and the chiefs sit as overlords in these areas and they don't want to subject themselves to elections. They want half of the representatives in whatever structure as put up in the local traditional areas to be elected and the other half to be appointed and that will largely be chiefs. So, they do have opposition to this and they are using international mediation as a convenience. It's very convenient for them.

POM     If you look at the local elections in October, this was a poll carried out by the Institute for Democracy in South Africa which indicated that only 26% of all respondents were prepared to allow activity by political opponents in their town or neighbourhood. Most party members, that is between 60% and 80%, would not allow opposition parties into their areas. Now since the local elections would be fought over literally small areas of territory, unlike the general election, is there still potential there for an explosion in violence and notice that it is going up?

CR     Tremendous, particularly if you are dealing with parties that are opposed to the full democratisation of our country. There is potential for a great deal of violence.

POM     I want to talk for a moment about the sleaze factor, what the media call the sleaze factor where you have the case of Dr Boesak, you have Peter Mokaba and you have whatever his name is, that their appears to be a lack of willingness on the part of the government to act decisively. Anyone in a democracy like Britain would say that what Winnie Mandela did, i.e. defied the President, would be out of the Cabinet by the time she was in mid air. It wouldn't be a matter of looking for an explanation, it would be "You're gone." Would you comment on that and on her in particular? Does she need delicate handling because she has a major political constituency? Lyndon Johnson used to have a phrase that it's better to keep somebody who is liable to be a particular problem in the tent.

CR     Well a number of things have to be given serious consideration, but all I can say is the government and the President is serious about bringing more and more discipline and order within the ranks of high government officials.

POM     The outrage, I was stupefied when I read of all the parties being held at the official residences when the President was not in town. Is that regarded as small scale stuff or just something that shouldn't happen, period?

CR     Yes, it is something that shouldn't happen. We just had one person doing that sort of thing and he's been dealt with and without the knowledge and consent of the President. This was blown completely out of proportion. It's like having an errant child at home who just decides to throw a big party for friends and so forth when you are out of town, but that cannot be allowed to take place.

POM     As you look down the road, the government having been in place for nine months, if you had to objectively rate it where one would be a very poor performance and ten would be very satisfactory performance, where at this point would you put it, the government?

CR     I think the government has been doing relatively well. In terms of the rating that you put forward, I would put it at seven. A government of many people who have never been in government, people who have had to deal with the legacy of apartheid, not only policies but structures, and also to balance that with expectations; they have done a hell of a lot.

POM     There has also been the suggestion that people at the grassroots were upset at what they saw as too much attention being paid to appeasing white fears and not enough attention being given to their concerns and interests. Is that a valid assessment?

CR     No it isn't valid. It has to do with perceptions, perceptions of people on the ground and of course we have to heed and be sensitive to those perceptions, because perceptions more often than not become regarded as reality and the truth. The government has done quite a lot in terms of trying to address people who are suffering most and it's a pity you have a press that is largely concentrating on the negative aspects. But in response to that perception one cannot obviously be defensive. You have got to heed that and demonstrate even more that your objective is not just to address fears. There has to be a balance. But you've got to move more firmly in terms of having affirmative action in all spheres of life.

POM     Looking at the Truth Commission, some argue that the perpetrators of crimes during the apartheid years must confess and publicly identify which crimes they have committed. Some people say, well if you did that we seep into very high places, that a General is going to say, "Listen, I was just a General, I got an order from above and I followed it." Then you have those who say if that situation develops then it could break down any process of healing and reconciliation. Where do you think the line should be drawn?

CR     The line should really be drawn not there but when it comes to seeking vengeance. When it comes to revealing the truth I think our people are entitled to know the truth, what really happened, and it is going to hurt. The truth often hurts. Our maturity as a nation in terms of dealing with our past is going to be demonstrated in our ability to deal with some of the most unpleasant revelations that will come through. It is going to cut on both sides. It will affect people in the ANC at a fairly high level who also offended. All that, I think, should not be done with vengeance but should also be seen as part of the healing process.

POM     Should such people have to stand down if they are in public office?

CR     Well it depends what they have done.

POM     A minister, say, who gave an order for a number of particular individuals to be murdered, that's a crime.

CR     Where there are gross violations of human rights obviously action has to depend on exactly - I think every case has to be taken on its merits and it would be incorrect for anyone now to stand on a platform and say anybody who did or committed this particular crime should apply to every case.

POM     The question that was in the North West with Popo Molefe and Rocky who was fired, and then the ANC National Executive met and said that he should be reinstalled in some position, if not as Minister for Agriculture, and what struck me was that the basic right of a Premier is to hire and fire people he wants to do so and yet the ANC kind of came in on top of him and kind of said, no, he can't just fire him, he must find a way of accommodating him.

CR     That was noted with a view of maintaining the unity of our organisation. The actions that had occurred there, the NEC looked at it within a political context and sought to address it in that way. But as it has turned out, it's been proven that we are dealing with a very difficult customer and the NEC reversed its initial decision that he should be accommodated.

POM     Is this not a case of where the ANC in effect overrode the interim constitution because the interim constitution says it is the prerogative of the Prime Minister?

CR     No, I wouldn't say it overruled or overrode the constitution. It was an internal party matter and the NEC can give advice to the President with regard to whatever minister he may want to appoint or fire, so that was like advice that was given to Popo, not to undermine his power. It was realised that as a Premier he does have power to hire or to appoint and fire.

POM     If you look at what the greatest obstacles are to the implementation of the RDP, which ones pose the greatest threats?

CR     Lack of resources I think is the greatest threat. Not so much the aspirations of our people because those aspirations and expectations are legitimate. [... to be a person who has too high expectations because that is ...] And also establishing very good and effective delivery methods.

POM     The other question deals partly with that of Cape Town, what the President called anarchy, that is public hostage taking, blocking the city with taxis, kids on the rampage. Does that not give the appearance of ...? When I read in the paper today that troops would be called in to deal with crime, it seemed to be going the other way, using security forces to deal with civil problems.

CR     We are dealing with a problem which is getting out of hand and the state, the government, has to use the powers and the structures at hand to deal with the situation, to bring the message home to South Africans that this government is not soft on crime or anarchy, that it will take firm steps. In the end the army will just come in and be supportive to the police, they don't have the powers of arrest and all that, unless they are given those powers. The President wants to put this country on the road to order, to have integrity and to progress. Actions that were taken in the Transkei I think have gone a long way to communicate that message across and also to instil confidence.

POM     What accounts for what appears to be this continuing antagonism between Mr de Klerk and President Mandela?

CR     It's been an ongoing type of duel between them. De Klerk has not yet finally and fully accepted events. It has remnants of apartheid attitudes towards the ANC on his part, so there is fairly fertile ground for the conflicts that are there.

POM     It's a personal thing. It seems more personal than parties, that Mr Mandela moves from being able to praise him to actually disliking him.

CR     That is so. Of course the way that he deports himself ...

POM     Four years ago, since Mandela was released and you were up there in Cape Town, head of the reception committee, how has your life changed in those four years?

CR     I've become a lot busier than I have been, taken on too much work, got three positions: chairperson of the Constitutional Assembly, member of parliament and Secretary General. In terms of work, I don't know what will happen towards the end of the year, towards the end of last year I was rather tired.

POM     I can't see you quitting.

CR     You can't?

POM     No. You notice I didn't ask the Thabo question.

CR     I hear 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.