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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

14 Mar 1995: Shilowa, Sam

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POM     Mr Shilowa, let me start with asking you about the position of Secretary General of COSATU, the fact that you were elected to the National Executive Council of the ANC. I saw from reports in the papers that COSATU were asking you to choose one or the other, that you shouldn't be occupying both positions. What would be your rationale for holding on to both?

SS     Well just the fact that the record is straight, there has been no decision that says I should choose either of the two. The discussion was about the Executive wanting to know what discussion if any took place within the COSATU National Office Bearers prior to the ANC conference in particular, whether either myself or the President knew of this in which case the comments in the Executive by the General Secretary to the effect that there was no prior discussion, that neither myself nor President Gumomo were present in the conference during the elections and that an attempt had been made at withdrawing our two names during the nominations but that that was not possible primarily because I was abroad at that time and he had left the conference; that they had had discussions with the office bearers after the nominations and that the President had already withdrawn his name from the Executive, from that side, and that I had indicated to the national office bearers that it was not a matter of principle but that my approach was that the organisation itself needed to discuss what our approach should be to the overall strengthening of the ANC and based on that explanation it was then suggested that the office bearers should have further discussions so that we are able to deal with the issue.

     I have subsequently indicated to the organisation, rather let me put it this way, also in that meeting it was also agreed that it is not in contravention of any COSATU policy because COSATU policy is one that says you can't hold two full time positions, rather than that you can hold any favoured position in any of the alliance partners. I indicated to the office bearers that my approach to the issue is that I will withdraw my name, not so much because of the discussions in COSATU, but so that I am better able to represent the views of labour in NEDLAC taking into account that I sometimes speak on behalf of both FEDSWA and NACTU, that I wouldn't want them to actually feel that at times I was espousing what they believe may be ANC policy, so it was really in terms of that particular direction.

POM     So you were saying that you would step down from the ANC?

SS     Yes.

POM     Do you intend to do that in the near future or whenever?

SS     Whenever.

POM     Could we speak a bit about the relationship between COSATU as a trade union organisation and the ANC and the national liberation movements made up of a number of organisations, and the government of national unity? How do you distinguish between the ANC and the government of national unity, do you see them as two distinct things?

SS     Yes, they are two distinct things in the sense that - I mean I know what the political orders of the ANC are and that it is them that take positions around which the liberation movement would then base its actions, that there are alliance meetings that take place from time to time. Indeed we meet every second week as the Alliance Secretariat, Ramaphosa, myself, Cheryl, Charles and my deputy, to look at the challenges facing the broad liberation movements and what areas that are being handled by various ministers or premiers from the ANC that we would need to strengthen or find a way of helping run the process. So I am saying that we see it as being different in the sense that the ANC policies are really based on what it's own members are looking at and we work with policies together. We differentiate that from the government of national unity because the government of national unity is not only the ANC but obviously we hope and wish that ANC ministers or premiers will not submit to government or to governing areas which may be totally flouting the policies and aspirations of the ANC, that a way will be found of ensuring there are discussions. But the challenge lies not so much with the government of national unity and those ministers but by how the ANC works out its approach. We have our own relations with the government as a government, and we have our own relations with the ANC as the ANC, and our relationship with the government is really based on the fact that all our unions deal with the various ministers or departments on issues that impact on those unions in whichever area they find themselves in; that in COSATU we deal with the government in terms of specific ministries but whether those dealing with socio-economic issues, whether it's labour, trade and industry and so forth on those various issues and that where the need arises we meet with President Mandela in his capacity as the president of the country to share and look at issues that all of us are encountering.

POM     I think I asked you this last year and you may have some more insight into it, when you see COSATU and the unions nominate a number of people for seats in parliament and they won, you have got 62 persons in the labour movement who are MPs or MECs or whatever, are those there to represent the interests of labour or are they there as members of the ANC supporting what policies would be made in the government of national unity?

SS     I think we need to differentiate between parliament and the government. The government is those members of parliament who hold ministerial positions, so that is the one I was talking about. Members of parliament, all of them, in our view, they are there under the banner of the ANC and therefore they work under the strict mandate of the ANC caucus in parliament. They are not there representing COSATU in the same way that Communist Party members are not there representing the Communist Party. The way in which we look at how best to utilise them is not based on saying that because they are coming formally from COSATU that therefore they represent the workers' interests there, but to move from the premise that says that COSATU ought to make to all members of parliament from the ANC what our positions are, what discussions are taking place through the Alliance and meetings which I was talking about earlier, through meetings with the Chief Whip of the ANC, the Leader of the House, through discussions with the various standing committees in parliament, and indeed we are going to open in April an office in Cape Town where we will be able to station a person who will then liase with the various standing committees and various other organs of the ANC in there.

     So for us that's the best way of dealing with the issue, so it's not based on expecting them to represent us, but it is based on the fact that we consult from time to time with them and outline where we stand on certain areas, but that we accept that the ANC may take a position in parliament which we don't necessarily agree upon and we are not asking them to vote in parliament with us, whatever the number, they will have to vote in parliament. If it's a free vote they will have to see how they vote, if it's a vote in terms of what the party decision has been they will have to vote in terms of the party position, but we would expect them, on issues where they know the COSATU policy, in the same way that they know the ANC policies or party policy or any other organisational policy, to during discussion put those ideas and positions. But we can't accept a situation where once defeated and a majority view is taken that they then went against that particular position. We cannot afford to do so because we are an independent entity from the African National Congress, they are not an independent entity. They are there as ANC members accountable to the ANC policy and we will hold them to those positions.

POM     In the wake of the elections last year I think I mentioned in the questionnaire, there were a series of strikes and continued labour unrest in various sectors around the country. How do you reconcile this with the goals and objectives of the RDP? It seems to me that Mr Mandela in a number of statements has just pointed out to unions that the kitty is bare and that increasing wages at this point in time is going to do more damage to the economy in the long run. One, do you accept what he says, and, two, how do you exercise constraint on individual unions taking matters into their own hands?

SS     No we don't exercise constraints on unions as a federation. We move from a point that says that the RDP does not perpetuate or propose low wages, it doesn't propose cheap labour systems. That was the starting point, that therefore the need for the democratisation of the workplace, there is a call for the closing of the wage gap. Saying that you must do away with the apartheid wage gap is not incompatible with the goals of the RDP. We move also from the premise that says, what statements has the president outlined? The president has said that, one, we can't as a country accept anarchy, looting, the taking of hostages. We agree with that principle and we have condemned as an organisation from time to time when such things have happened. So no problem. He has said that the security forces and state organs have been asked to deal very harshly with that question. We think, in our view, it is not as simple as sending out a message that because we don't agree with hostage taking, looting and whatever else, shoot on sight. But for us that the police still have a responsibility, even when they go in to deal with those issues, to still use, one, negotiations and persuasion, that it is in their interests as police because they have to themselves build their own credibility to approach such situations from a point that says that they want to meet with the leadership of the unions or whatever grouping of people that they may be dealing with, that it is in their interests to resolve the conflict without bloodshed and use of any force.

     Indeed the ANC's National Executive two weeks ago issued a statement that says that even on such matters the police should intervene only to restore order but that the resolution of the problems remained purely an industrial relations matter. So we agree with that particular aspect. And I think we need to draw a distinction that he hasn't called on workers in the private sector not to demand high wages. He has indicated the fact that in terms of what the state as an employer is able to offer to state employees that they are willing to make those available to the unions so that together the unions can be able to reformulate its position. He has indicated that he is willing to enter into a free agreement in terms of how to bring up the wages of those workers and the rest of the conditions.

POM     That's in the public sector?

SS     Yes. He has indicated that they are willing to involve the unions into the various standing committees, including the ones that are looking at working for the budget, in particular the 1996/97, 97/98 and 98/99. Our starting point is that NEHAWU has made a singular position to the government. We have said, one, we don't agree with the rest of the public servants position of saying R1500 across the board plus 15% increase across the board. We have rejected that. We have put a proposal that says, R1500 in 1997, that's our position and I have agreed with that position. R1500 in 1997, R1300 in 1996, R1200 in 1995, so the slow increase, this could be in terms of a three year process. We have also said to the president he must freeze or cut the wages of those who are in the top echelons; that for us the issue is to increase those who are in the bottom rung of the situation and we believe that based on that position of NEHAWU and based on the position of the president we can be able to find a resolution, one, to the president's negotiations and the impact that is taking place, but also in terms of the Wage Board in terms of that particular situation. So that's where we leave from. But we are very clear that the RDP does not envisage low wages. Indeed we have also said that there needs to be regrading in the public sector, they must do away with the 380 category that exists presently and that we are willing to engage in such processes. We are through broad standing, we are able to shorten the grades and through a regrading exercise we are able to reallocate wages, that we are looking at new career paths in the public service which is able to make clear career paths for Africans, for blacks in general, and those workers who in the past have been kept at the bottom. So we are not looking at it from the point that says that the state has got a bottomless pit in terms of its funds but we believe that we can through reorganisation of those funds be able to pay a living wage to those who are in the lower rungs, begin to close the wage gap in the public sector and work out a process over three to five years of the restructuring in general of the public service.

POM     A number of ANC members have said to me that they were genuinely surprised when they took over to find how broke the actual government was, that they had nothing to work with and they had committed themselves to reducing expenditure, at the same time creating another 200,000 jobs and at the same time to cutting or eliminating the wage gap. Some of these figures seem rather contradictory and Chris Liebenberg ... just to balance the budget. Where does the money come from?

SS     Well I don't know if he has got a 2.5 budget, I can't comment on that. For me it really depends on the government how it chooses to govern. If it chooses to say that the budget is 145 billion, that we are going to spend it like as happened in the past, then they will run into problems. So we are not asking for an increase in the overall budget and that's the point which whoever you may have spoken to may miss. What we are saying is that you have got a budget of 25 billion in education which is bigger than the budget in Namibia combined, but for us the issue is not the size of the education budget, it is where is the money being used. The government needs to say that in terms of white schools, or previously white schools, the ratio there was one teacher to twenty, but in black schools the ratio ranges from anything from 1:60, from 1:100. But the issue is not the shortage of teachers, it's how you then reallocate teachers away from white schools into black schools, how you allocate children away from black schools into white schools. For us that is the issue. That's what the budget needs to be looking at. And through that we are able to fashion the issue of payment because the issue is not lack of resources for salaries, it is who is earning what.

     The same thing would apply to hospitals. I don't know if you have been to Cape Town? In Cape Town you have got the Groote Schuur Hospital which is a tertiary hospital. Twenty minutes drive away from there is the Tygerberg Hospital which is also a tertiary hospital. Both service white Cape Town. When you move to the Coloured townships and to the African townships there is no hospital. Therefore the issue is not funds in Cape Town it is how do we move resources away from Groote Schuur Hospital so that Groote Schuur Hospital either works as a tertiary hospital for the entire Western Cape, but there is no duplication between what the Groote Schuur is doing as a hospital to that which UCT and Stellenbosch may be doing. They are also doing training of tertiary education and so forth. You need to eliminate that duplication. You need to begin to say that Tygerberg should rather be a referral hospital, a referral hospital for the entire Western Cape. But you are going to build these big hospitals in black townships and in the coloured areas and outside in the rural areas.

     That's how you move resources. We are not asking for more resources, even when you would need to have some within there because you have to begin to move money away from wasteful expenditure and you can get it from the army, you can do that, and you can get it from a number of other areas. For us that's the issue [so that anyone saying that they realised that the caucus did not have ... their rights] but the issue is not money, the issue is how that money has been spent. And that's what the RDP envisages. The RDP envisages that we should have a zero-based budget and zero-based budgeting is that departments should not say we used to have 2.5 billion, that we want 2% over and above that. They must begin to justify why they need whatever amount of money based on problems that they are able to really justify through which there has been participation.

     There is going to be a fiscal and monetary chamber in NEDLAC. It is through that chamber, not the budget, that the framework for the budget would maybe be worked out and it is in that chamber that we need to work out that reprioritisation exercise, that we are able to then say we want to lead the resources away from the following areas into the following areas so you will have an increase in spending in housing, in water, electricity and so forth but it does not mean an increase in the overall budget but it means a decrease in certain departments and that is based not because you don't like this department or that department but what is your priority as a government, prioritise the issue.

POM     You mentioned a couple of times, are you genuinely enthusiastic about capacity of this body to have labour and management and government working together?

SS     You see we are going into NEDLAC with an understanding that says that as labour, COSATU and NACTU, we have for years been calling for an end to unilateral restructuring of the economy by the previous government and by employers, that we had structures such as the National Manpower Commission and lately the Economic Forum, but these were looking at issues of overlapping without proper co-ordination and therefore we called and envisaged in the RDP to establish a forum that brings in labour, management and government together. Having worked out what is possible in NEDLAC, we don't want to underestimate its capacity but we also don't want to overestimate its capacity. We see it as but one terrain of engagement between our business and the government, that indeed there are other areas where we are going to engage with business through collective bargaining, through other forums there on the shop floor and through our interaction with parliament and wherever else.

     For us the key issue that NEDLAC should be looking at is what are the key priorities for the country; jobs, jobs, jobs. How should we do it? We need to work at it. We are able to begin to look at what is the performance of the economy as a whole because I am convinced that the South African economy as a whole is performing below its own capacity and that it's nonsense to blame it on the productivity level of the workers because it's not workers who manage the economy, or who managed the economy. It is the previous National Party government and the present employers, the present business has been doing that. It is them who set the production levels. It is not workers who set the production levels and the targets. It is them who invest in the stock exchange rather than investing in the productive capacity in the country. It is them who, unlike the Asian tigers who they usually quote, invest not in the human potential of our own people, it is not an investment in human resources, development and training.

     It has not been helping that the people are jobless, therefore for us those sort of issues would need to be dealt with then. But the implementation can't happen at NEDLAC. NEDLAC can agree on a national framework, some issues that the government will have to implement, some the government departments, some labour will have to implement as well. So we are going in terms of those areas, but we genuinely believe that there are areas of possibility that NEDLAC can be able to achieve and to control but it is going to depend on what extent is the government willing to make money available, not to build certain structures but to build the capacity of labour to be able to respond urgently to whatever research that may be necessary there. Because if they are not able to make that necessary aspect then what you have is that we will take time to develop our policies and will take time to respond because of the capacity that we may be having. So it is in the interests of the government to develop the capacity of labour, to set up new institutions of research which labour and business can use and whose credibility is out of question, that we will see them as management tools, as government tools and the other way round. We need to stand side by side with them, go ahead with the agreement between us and the Minister of Labour's studies and training institutes or labour colleges and so forth and through that we are also able to begin to build the capacity that employers should make the same facilities that they are willing to make available to workplace forums [for the training of shop ... presently] that all of those things begin to happen and also the training and the human resources work should be taking place on the shop floors that workers are able to respond to whatever demands that their various employers are putting on them.

POM     Do you generally find business responsive to suggestions like this and the need for new structures and the change, or do you find that you are having to go them alone and not bringing them with you?

SS     I deal with business at different levels and the levels that I deal with there is less resistance and less agreement. The question is to what extent are they able to deliver from their constituency in the sense that whatever we agree, and if we agree on centralised bargaining then it means that you can't have in the retail sector Pick 'n Pay moving in a different direction or Spar moving in a different direction. So what we presently have is different responses from the management and employers' side. They need to be pushed at plant level, at industry level in certain areas. In certain areas they are willing and for us there is just one saying that it's one area of engagement because there are other areas where we will have to engage them.

POM     Since the April elections that there has been a hardening of attitudes on the part of workers towards management, that they expect more and they expect their point of view to receive better attention.

SS     I don't think there has been hardening of attitudes on the side of workers. Indeed, President Mandela in both his speeches to parliament last year and this year raised the point that while there have been changes in the political arena there have been very little changes at the workplace. He has raised that twice because he understands the aspirations and expectations of our own members and indeed there will be something wrong with workers if they did not have high expectations after elections. It would suggest that it was only the leadership that was interested in change. Therefore for us the key issue is not these expectations, it is what is management prepared to do to address its expectations because expectations are not only about high wages. The issue is, is management ready to close the gap between the low paid workers and the high paid workers? If they are not willing then they are actually saying that those who benefited from apartheid must continue to benefit into the new dispensation and workers who say that's nonsense have got my full support as General Secretary and I will go out and lead those workers because they are saying that we need to do away with apartheid wages and that we need to do, so they have got my support.

     What I say, we were not saying simply because of the colour of our skins, whether we are African, coloured or Indian, that we need to be paid, they have got my support but management needs to commit money to the training of workers. Workers are saying that companies need to have a special responsibility and reimburse their workers in the sense that the present situation is one in which companies do have special responsibilities to the well-being of white workers. They have provided them with housing, in certain instances with free housing, and yet how mine workers in bunkers, how that can be accepted, it can't be justified. It's not based on any hardening of attitude or expectation, it's because it just has to change. It may take a year to do it, it may take two years, it may take three years, it may take five years, but workers are saying that let's agree on a framework around which these things are going to take place, let's agree on targets both in terms of people and ... Those managements who refuse to commit themselves to this, are unwilling to negotiate with us, out into the street until they are able to agree to those sort of situations and I do that with no apologies.

POM     I noticed this time, I came back two months ago, that the newspapers carried reports of taxis blockading downtown Johannesburg, I seem to remember this happening in Durban and in Soweto. What kind of case would you make for me to invest my capital in this country, particularly since the outflow of capital is greater than the income?

SS     It will be entirely up to you. If you feel your coming to South Africa will be on the understanding that you are coming in to invest and that in any situation that there are risks politically, socially and economically, and that you are willing to take those risks, as long as you understand the underlying causes of those, then come in and invest. If you approach it that you are looking for a strike free society, I suggest you take your money and go away because you won't get it in any country, especially not here. But if you are looking for cheap labour I would say to you that you are looking at the wrong place. But if you are looking at a situation that says that I want to invest because, as I have said, based on a number of areas, that South Africa can be growing economy, you would invest, but you would believe that there is consensus between the leadership at the political level on how to handle things, between the trade union leadership, business and government on how to handle certain things.

     Even in Germany where they have had social contracts for many years they still go out on strike. I mean their workers were out on strike two weeks ago in Germany. Their workers almost every year go out into the street, but what it depends on is the structure and the leadership capable of handling that particular situation and I would say for me that's really the issue around which any person should look and it should also be understood that those things are not new, they have been happening, they have just been under-shadowed by the political situation and political violence. There have always been strikes but strikes won't happen because people don't want to go to work, they happen because they have got legitimate demands which they believe can be met. Where management is not willing to make available information to workers you can't expect workers to then agree to those aspects. Any manager who says we can't afford the wage demands must be able to put on the table what those issues and areas are and through that workers should be able to decide what is the best situation.

     But as I am saying, in all strikes that have taken place, what the National Productivity Institute, and that's not a COSATU institute, it's a national institute, the government actually, has found is that anything between 50% and 60% of the wage goes to management in whatever formation, that workers in general consume 40% of the wage bill and in terms of numbers workers are much more than the management structure, then there is something wrong with that particular situation and that's what an investor needs to ask themselves; they need to say that in dollar terms workers in Asia, workers in Taiwan for instance in dollar terms, they earn higher than production workers in dollar terms. But the wage gap between the manager in Taiwan and the worker is narrower than the one that is there between the South African manager and that of the worker in Taiwan. There is more involvement in decision making with a worker in Japan than a worker here in terms of those areas. It is up to them to actually be ready and willing to introduce those sort of mechanisms. That is a ploy to undermine the trade union movement but to introduce general democracy on the shop floor. For me that's the approach.

     So as I have said publicly, an investor would pretend that it's only what we learned at Jan Smuts Airport that he has heard the word strike, I don't need in South Africa. But an investor who says there are risks in investments but that the question is, is there a deal in the political leadership, in the union leadership, to deal with those sorts of issues, is the one that is making the investment. The issue of taxi violence is not new but the issue is what are the politicians doing to deal with it. The issue of blockages by workers is not new but it is a rare event. Is this the first time that workers have blockaded the highway? No. In France farmers blockaded the freeways, not for a day but for days. So I am saying that anybody who uses those as excuses not to invest I don't need in our country. A serious investor will then look at all of those things into a proper context of in relation to the rest of the work force what has been the situation.

     In the mines, in general, even though there have been strikes in the mines, there have been settlements with the National Union of Mineworkers. Where there has been conflict it's in Goldfields which is not willing to change. And I'm not going to say to NUM treat Goldfields with kid gloves. I can't go that route. In the clothing industry there has been relative settlement. Where there have been problems it is with those employers who have refused to pay workers for the 28th April when workers had gone out to vote and on the 10th when it was declared a public holiday and the inauguration day of the president. In the metalwork industry there has been related settlement except in the auto assembly. I was involved in those negotiations. Thabo Mbeki was involved in the negotiations. Tito Mboweni was involved and all those people will tell you that we could have settled but that management said to us that the issue is not settlement, the issue is that if they settle they will set a precedent. They said the issue is not affordability, they could afford it. So I am not interested in dealing with those sorts of people. So I am saying any investor must take that into account. So that's what my message would be. I would not say to you invest, invest, invest against your will, but I would give you that picture and you would have to make a decision. [If you are looking for extra ... I would say don't come in.]

POM     Let's talk about the RDP for a couple of minutes. Again, going around the country and talking to the regional premiers right down to ordinary people, I found when I mentioned the word RDP there was a kind of blank glaze which would come into people's eyes and by and large they were not very aware of it and even the different premiers had different understandings of it and that it hadn't been sold in a way where the ordinary person understood it. Do you perceive problems in the way it is being sold to the people? They don't see it as their plan. They don't feel ownership of it? They feel it's from the top down.

SS     I think we need to differentiate between RDP as a concept from a people not aware of the need for houses, water, electricity and all of those things in the way that the RDP envisaged. I think people are aware in terms of those. It will be in relation to how it has been packaged into a government programme that they are not aware, that they may not be happy in all of those areas. I don't blame those people. The premiers I blame because they should understand because they themselves are supposed to, in consultation with communities, to sit down and work out a plan and that anybody who sees the RDP as here and here in the government department, the government departments have got their own day to day work and as an afterthought they have got the RDP, if that's the approach the premiers are taking it's the wrong approach. What the premiers should be doing is in their own provinces sitting down and saying, the government says it wants to build one million houses over five years, what is the quota for our province? Then if we want to build those houses, where are the resources? Because you can't just plunge in and build a new house where the only road available is the one that the trucks used to use to take the bricks and building material to that area. You need to sit down as a government in that province and say 1000 houses over the five year period, this is how we are going to do it, these are the areas. You need to sit down and then look at in terms of the industrial development where are the potential growth points where there is going to be growing industry so that you link industrial building, the building of houses to the provision of water, of electricity, transport and a whole range of things. In that way you are then able to implement it.

     Yes, you are able to do that, so I am saying you can't go in and build houses and then so, oh-oh we need roads. We go for ... and there are no telephones. It must be a common agreed-to approach. You need to work out your own priorities as a programme so that for the Northern Transvaal it may say, for them, rural development is water, electricity. It doesn't mean they don't have to build houses, it doesn't mean they can't do the rest, but that's their priority, light and health, to reduce the impact of disease in that region, to begin to say that we don't want cholera in that area. That's why it's in their interests to provide clean water. For the Western Cape it may be a different thing altogether, they may have certain different priorities.

     So I am saying that, yes, there has been a problem around which people have gone about the implementation of the RDP, but in certain instances structures have not been put in place that make workers feel, or people feel that they are part to deciding on the implementation of RDP programmes. That indeed we don't know what is the rationale about certain presidential projects because where they have been implemented there are other similar areas where we don't have presidential support so you don't know what it is about.

     So people have a genuine complaint and concern and COSATU has made a similar approach. But that does not mean that people have not been doing anything. In the Northern Transvaal people have taken it upon themselves to start repairing and cleaning of schools without government involvement, but the government is now on board in that particular situation. In another place people took it upon themselves to organise for themselves new taxes and to bring about their infrastructure and the government has now come on board. There are areas where women have come together and say we want to train ourselves to build houses, bricklaying, and that we are going to do it, and they have approached the government to be able to want to do that. So I am saying that the picture is not as gloomy as it may seem but what has not been there is the involvement of the people in decision making around those proposals. And it's areas which have been pointed out to the government and there are ongoing discussions between us, through the RDP council and the RDP ministry about how best to re-focus the implementation of the RDP.

POM      We have found going around the grassroots that they blame the government for spending too much of its time in the first nine months of office pandering to the fears or alleviating the fears of white people and not doing enough for blacks.

SS     That's unfounded because the government has not spent money on whites. What has happened is that the president has done what I agree with. Mandela would be wrong not to reassure South Africans that they have a future in this country, but blacks know that they have a future in this country, they know that. It is whites who fear that they don't have a future in this country and therefore he is within his rights to actually go out of his way to reassure whites. Indeed the establishment of the government of national unity is itself an argument to those critics on the need to reassure whites and other stakeholders. So I am saying that those allegations are really unfounded and mysterious because the ANC as a political party, as a liberation movement, it is up to it, it is not up to Mandela, he is the president of the country on the other hand, and it's only about - there are 27 ministries of which a particular percentage is ANC. The rest of members of parliament are not in government, not as they have been doing. The ANC itself as a liberation movement, what has it been doing? So I think that those allegations are unfounded because they are focused on the efforts of the president.

POM      What about allegations of the gravy train, of corruption, driving around in flashy cars?

SS     Let me give you a concrete example of the good government decisions which have not gained any positive reporting from the press. The government decides that pregnant women will now have free medical care in state institutions. That's a very important decision from the government because many African women have had to give birth in their own houses, in the rural areas, because some could not afford whatever medical assistance, because of the obvious situation financially. What did the media report? The media reported on the fact that suddenly health workers are complaining because more people are now coming into the hospital instead of reporting on the positive aspect of the fact that now African women, black women and all women, pregnant women can have medical attention. Second point, children of under six years can have free health care in state institutions. It is an important step because the infant mortality rate in Africa is very high. Now if we have free care it means mothers are now encouraged to, during pregnancy, go to hospital, after birth up to six years take their children to hospital. What does the media report on? It is in terms of the fact that there are now long queues and many health workers are complaining. People won't know about that decision by the president in general. Pregnant women would know it but people in general don't know it. That has not been to pander to the whims of whites, if indeed it has been to pander to the whims of blacks. But it's not pandering, it's delivery of the promises of the government.

     Education, the decision taken that no children must be turned away from school simply because of the colour of their skin. The reports have not been about the fact that the majority, 90% of children who would not have been able to gain entry to school have gained entry. The report has been of overcrowding, has been of the 10% that may not have gained entry. But it's not like nothing has been done about it. There have been false reports that teachers have been retrenched whereas in actual fact it may be that teachers have to be re-employed and where those teachers refuse they don't have my support.

     So I am saying in answer to your question why is that currency, because that's what's reported on radio, on television and in the papers would be about rather than on all of those areas. Which is not to say that I am saying that we should condone corruption but we must put it in its proper context. What is the press saying about the fact that De Klerk is getting a pension and drawing a salary at the same time? That all of his members of parliament who were in the National Party parliament before, whether they are coloured, Indian or whatever else, who were members of the Cabinet, that they are drawing a pension at the same time that they are drawing a salary. That's what the Nats were drubbing Peter Mokaba for. It wasn't corruption. They were saying it must be checked whether he did not draw the salary twice from the National Tourism Forum and from parliament. What is the media saying about that? Nothing.

     So I am not saying we should condone the wrongdoings people have done but I am saying that they are unfair about Peter because they always see him as a political operator. Tony Leon, what is he saying about all of these things? Nothing. What he is saying is that the police must investigate Winnie Mandela for 1976. That's a vendetta, it has got nothing to do with the current situation that she finds herself in in which she needs to be dealt with in terms of how the present political situation demands of the ANC, but it's become a witch hunt on her, so that it's not done as a vendetta against her.

     So it is those sort of areas, that's really what's really going on currently in which we, we are the first ones to issue a statement around the gravy train and the impression given is that it is the ANC people who are earning higher salaries but people from the rest of the political parties are earning less but that's not the issue. Therefore it has some racist connotation that for Africans to earn better wages is a sin and therefore they must get less because they come from dispossessed and under-privileged communities. That it is correct for the same whites doing the same job in parliament to earn a particular salary because they happen to be coming from the more affluent aspects. I think the correct solution is that outlined by Mandela but the country must not be living beyond its means and that means in terms of the cheapest wages in this country, in terms of the politicians, in terms of workers, but your wage policy must be looking at all of those sort of areas. For me that's the approach, and I'm not in parliament so I am not earning a high salary, but I have got that particular approach.

POM      Now the local elections, again going around I see widespread apathy, people don't want to register, they don't know why they should vote, it was only last April that they voted. Very complicated ballot procedure in terms of two votes. One, do you think that it would seem to be impossible to register sufficient voters by 26 April? Do you think that there will be a close down of registration on that date and that the elections will go ahead or whether or not people have registered?

SS     The elections will go ahead and should go ahead but it needs to go ahead this year so that we are able to ensure that we can't say we can't deliver because there are no local government structures; that we put them in place that you are able to complete the process of delivery. There is no national department of refuse removal, it has to be done at the local level. Secondly, that there should be flexibility on the closing date in terms of the registration, flexibility must be given to that. But there seems to be a problem of outlining to people why they should register. So the issue is not that they won't vote, people will go to vote, but they don't know why they should register for this election when they did not register for the last election and that the machinery needs to be swung to outlining to people why that should be the case and that people need to then explain the importance of local government elections. If you avoid a situation where it is uncommon for low voter turnout in local government elections, it is in almost all countries, you have got low turnout, the challenge is to ensure that as many people who want to vote are registered and that as many people who are able to go and vote on that day and that the percentage of those who register and those who vote is high enough not to undermine the legitimacy of those structures that are going to come into being.

POM     One last question as I go out the door. I cannot understand how Saatchi & Saatchi got the exclusive contract, marketing and advertising, $43 million. Their last client was the National Party.

SS     I don't know, I don't understand. Some things have to be looked into.

POM     Thank you very, very much.

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.