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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

02 May 1995: Du Plessis, Barend

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POM     To take off perhaps for a moment where we stopped last December, you had talked about the difficulty in the delivery of services, the over-restructuring, the building of the wheel from scratch resulting in poor delivery of services, slow devolution of powers to the provinces and so forth. Do you think things have changed if you look now at the first year of the current administration? Do you think it is getting on top of some of those problems or that they are still systemic?

BDP     Well I have no privileged position in terms of being close to anybody or close to the system to be able to say what is going on on the inside, but from my position I don't really see any improvement. No houses have been built, many other services are still lacking, the devolution of power to the provinces is still a tremendous problem. In fact I heard only yesterday about, for instance, this kind of anomaly where a Premier of a province is empowered to allow international trips for his ministers to attend conferences and so on but that he was told by the central Cabinet that if he wants to go overseas to attend a conference or to do something constructive for his province then he has to apply for permission to the central Cabinet. Now this is completely ridiculous. He just told them where to go, where it's nice and warm. And this clash resulting from poorly defined powers is obviously still going on. I may be able to quote even better examples. Since I saw you last I've been in touch with at least one other Premier as well and I have good information about two more, that they are terribly frustrated. For instance, the Wagering Act, which should be something which is quite clear in terms of previous guidelines, that also is not being resolved properly.

POM     And there has been some talk since we last talked to you about there being a gravy train. Do you think that's an unfair accusation particularly given the fact that one could argue that the previous government, the National Party government, for forty years was on a gravy train of sorts?

BDP     Well it all depends what kind of gravy train one talks about. I find it just amazing to hear about all these special advisors in the various ministries and departments and all the legal advisors all of a sudden. A legal advisor was a luxury that only the President had in the previous dispensation. Special advisors were restricted to only a few ministries, the Ministry of Finance had one, but now they just abound and there are all sorts of people sitting on committees, strategic management teams and so on. They are all drawing salaries, they did not exist before. Now I can understand that if it's your policy to involve the people and to get democratic decision making right down to grassroots level that you have to have all these instruments, but that certainly requires an awfully large number of people and it also delays the decision making process tremendously, and that's why nothing happens.

POM     But do you think that one could say, well they spent the first year restructuring, they had to get rid of old systems because old systems were there essentially to serve apartheid, apartheid goes and the necessity for those kind of structures, or the need for those kind of structures goes with it, and you have got to not only abolish them but put something in their place, now that's done and they can move on to the delivery of services?

BDP     I think that's a nice rationalisation. That's what I would have said if I had to answer to that as well. I think it's a way to explain it. But in the apartheid structure if you had to build houses for the people, and we had structures in place and we did build houses, you needn't abolish all those structures in order to really build houses. The functions remain the same. Structuring it geographically or administratively differently shouldn't have been so inordinate a delay.

POM     What's going on? What is the problem?

BDP     I think that will require a very deep analysis, but maybe I'll give you a very superficial reply. It would seem to me that in the first place they overestimated their own abilities in order to deliver. Secondly, they underestimated the complexity of government, they have had no government experience before. And thirdly, getting rid of experienced people to replace them by completely inexperienced people is a long process in itself and having done that then you have people that must really begin to design the wheel all over again and I think this is taking very much longer than they thought. It's good for the taxpayer because at least the overspending is not as high as it could have been otherwise. Now maybe they will get the machine going. I don't know really what is going on inside. I've heard very many nasty remarks but that's not to be repeated unless one can substantiate it. You know, that it's nice to be there and there's a perception that if you sit in an office and you've got a secretary then things happen by themselves. In the meantime there is only one way to do it and that's to get the rubber on the road and to get the wheels turning.

POM     I think we often found that impression by going along the ministerial corridors at 120 Plein Street and you look into an office either on the right or the left and there's nothing happening. It could be nobody there or just somebody behind a desk doing nothing. There is no buzz of activity as though everyone were very, very busy.

     I want to go back a bit in time to the elections last year and I have asked a number of people this question and the answer is always speculative because there is no ultimate hard evidence one way or another to prove anything. You had a situation in April where ten or twelve days before the election Lord Carrington and Henry Kissinger had packed their bags and left and said there was nothing to mediate. You had this slow drift into the violence getting more intense, more people being killed. It looked as though KwaZulu/Natal was going to explode, the situation was very tense and people were stocking up on supplies and, hallelujah, Buthelezi suddenly decides to contest the elections, the violence overnight almost ceases, you have an election which is called by almost every international observer as soon as the ballots are finished as free and fair and then you begin on this counting process and it emerges that millions of votes are missing and that the collection and analysis of the data is just one big mess. Judge Kriegler has got to call a stop to the whole thing and then there's a result announced and, hallelujah, it's a miraculous result. Everybody comes out a winner. Buthelezi gets KwaZulu/Natal, the National Party gets the Western Cape and the ANC get a large majority but not quite the two thirds they might have wished for. It all seems too neat. I won't say was there a brokered result, but in the end do you think there was some kind of informal understanding that the country couldn't afford to go through the long process either of a new election for validation of vote rigging and that a settlement was, I won't say arranged, but arrived at almost by osmosis but nevertheless it was understood that everyone had to be a winner?

BDP     I don't think that one can say that it's a completely cynical response that ultimately they got together and they said, listen fellows we know that you won, you had a landslide victory, but that ultimately the last few hundred thousand or million or whatever votes were apportioned on the basis of a compromise. I mean that is the general perception because Kriegler made an awful mess of this thing. If you want to use judges and legal people for something let them stick to what they are taught to do but if you want an election run then you must get people who are competent in elections and legal people by their very nature are very seldom openly identified with a certain political party or a process. They never take part in elections unless they have ambitions to go into politics. So in other words it is a completely foreign territory and that resulted in the mess and ultimately it is believed that it is a compromise. But on the basis of, or the final minute result is a compromise on the basis that it would not have made a very material difference. I think the only difference that could have been made had it been possible to count the votes to the very last one is that the ANC might have got their two thirds majority.

POM     I know, for example, in KwaZulu/Natal Harry Gwala was all prepared to go to court and have the results declared invalid and he was more or less told by the leadership to cut it, leave all the results as they are, which in itself suggested something.

     I want to go back to something else, and I'm sorry for leap-frogging, but something you said earlier and that is the relationship between the provincial government and the centre. I want to talk about the relationship between the provincial government, the centre and the ANC as an organisation. At the time that Popo Molefe fired Rocky Malebane-Metsing, he was more or less told by the ANC National Executive to reinstate him, to find a way of reinstating him. Now I would think that as a Premier one of your God-given rights is to hire and to fire without even having to rationalise how you are doing so, that you can do so almost at whim, and here you had the national organisation stepping in above the elected government and saying no, that you cannot do, or you must also consult about this before you can take that kind of decision. I put that on the one hand. Two, this tendency in the government, or the ANC, to be hyper-critical of people who criticise them, that they are not very open to any kind of - that's it's a disloyalty to the party to criticise the President, the government or anybody in the administration. It seems to me it doesn't augur very well for the development towards democracy that in one sense already one party, the party appears to be more important than the government. Do you think that's a fair observation?

BDP     Yes I think it's fair. You must remember the roots of the people in government. The roots of the people in government can be found in the Eastern bloc and very much, in the case of many of them, they have a communist type education where the Politburo is the ultimate power, or the political power is supreme over the government structures. Now the strange thing is that the same obtained in the case of the National Party. We had our structures within which we could criticise our leaders but once we left that caucus room we were supposed to be one. In my interaction with a few former colleagues that I do see from time to time is that the National Party caucus is also adjusting very rapidly to a completely new culture where they can get up in parliament, provincial or national and criticise ministers. So that is changing also from the National Party side. But the ANC seems to have a very, very real problem getting criticised in public and that case of Popo Molefe is a very pertinent one where a decision was overruled. I think ultimately he prevailed but after a lot of agony.

POM     It was discovered that Rocky had made off or given a loan of 15 million rand over the phone.

BDP     So anyway I think they will find a continuous clash between the way that they thought that they would govern the country in terms of that strict straitjacket as it were, that the National Party had and which they were taught, the clash between that on the one hand and on the other hand the statements in the constitution and the Bill of Rights and so on, of transparency and all these lofty ideals. It will be a challenge for them to stick to that. But I'm not very concerned that it augurs badly for the future that that criticism comes out because they have been in government for a year, they have to learn to accept that kind of criticism.

POM     Looking at the constitution, it seemed while it was being finalised that you had two kind of separate strategies taking place, that on the side of the National Party and perhaps even the IFP, what they wanted was as much of the constitution in place before the election as possible and that the Constituent Assembly would amend or refine areas of the constitution according to these constitutional guidelines but it wouldn't start the whole task again, re-inventing the wheel. And then you had the ANC I think which said if we have to make compromises let's make them now because what we want to do is get our hands on power and once we have our hands on power we can do more or less what we want as long as we stick within certain parameters. And now you have a situation prevailing of where the ANC is saying we're going to have a constitution from scratch, a new constitution, the interim constitution is merely a guide it's not the constitution in itself. Do you think the ANC are going to go down the road of building a new constitution where the interim constitution becomes like a piece of history, or do you think that what you will end up with is the interim constitution being amended here and amended there, refined here and refined there but for all intents and purposes the constitution of the future will not differ very much from the interim constitution?

BDP     Not being a daily student and follower of what happened I don't think that I can give you in the least an authoritative reply. I can give you just the response of an interested bystander. It would seem to me that the ANC would like to get rid of certain of the uncomfortable things which they allowed themselves to be talked into or to be compromised into like the virtually structured sharing of power and so on. I think they want to get rid of that. But in the process they will not be allowed, internationally I believe, to violate any of the fundamental principles that they had agreed to in the previous constitution and I think the way out will be to be vague and to avoid specifics and this is a frustration that I found within another discussion which I have been involved in a few times on certain aspects of what's happening now. My conclusion there was the compromises are so vague that each one can go back to its own constituency and say that I have achieved my goals. But how ultimately it will be interpreted by courts of law, by the Constitutional Court, by the Truth Commission, by whichever, that cannot be correctly forecast at this particular stage.

     So I don't think therefore, to try and answer your question, that the constitution will necessarily deviate very substantially from the previous one but the ANC I think (a) will get their way, and (b) they will probably get rid of what they don't like, like for instance the structured government of national unity. Ultimately, my impression is that the ANC wants a centrally governed country with as little interference from provinces as possible, where a single word will prevail. Mr Mandela gave no uncertain indication of that yesterday by threatening to cut off KwaZulu/Natal's money if they persist with their demand that there must be international mediation. That is a very, very drastic statement. That is provocative in the extreme.

POM     In fact his statements with regard to KwaZulu/Natal have become increasingly provocative over the last number of months. Why is there this reluctance on behalf of, not reluctance, the downright unwillingness on the part of the ANC to go into international mediation if only on the basis that they sign a document which says they would? It's reneging on - they could call international mediation and the international mediators could sit around the table, hear all three sides and say there's nothing to mediate, we'll go home. And he can then say we've done our part, we've had international mediation.

BDP     I share your view. That's exactly what I've said many times in conversations. Why don't you go through the motions, satisfy the details of an agreement that you entered into, satisfy that and let the international mediators to say, well there's nothing actually to mediate on. What you achieve then is a major victory over the proponents, over these people like Buthelezi who try to make out such a strong case for mediation as if that was going to be the answer. I can't understand the ANC's strategy. I don't know what their hang-up is. In other instances they have been extremely diplomatic and very cleverly, strategically planned certain actions of theirs but they are handling this one almost as badly as they handled Winnie and Boesak.

POM     I was going to bring those up anyway, just two examples of what on the surface appears to be relatively easy situations to deal with, i.e. a president can hire and fire, if he doesn't have that right , what right does he have? And with Dr Boesak the evidence at least as outlined in the Danaid (Danchurch) report and other reports seemed quite conclusive at least to the extent that he had borrowed huge sums of money from the fund, and yet the ANC in both cases seemed to have leaned over not only backwards but to have fallen down in their efforts to

BDP     If they fluff in this manner as far as open things are concerned, what happens inside the smoke filled rooms where decisions are made without public awareness? That worries me. Coming from government myself I would say that that means that there isn't a concentration on the situation, that there is an extremely superficial dealing with matters from the side of the government and maybe incompetence on the side of the advisors.

POM     When we came back here in February, in fact for the last several months, we have been struck by the way things are happening. You have unions taking hostages, you have taxis blockading the city of Johannesburg, you have all kinds of dire threats of strikes, you have elements in the police rebelling against their senior officers, you have elements in the army becoming mutinous. One would get the impression very easily that the political situation was very unstable, but is that just a superficial impression in the sense that all of these tensions that have existed post-election must be worked out somehow and in a way they are all part of the normal process of democratising?

BDP     That may be so but I think there are many other factors as well. The fact that the government hasn't delivered and the fact that the government can never deliver in certain respects. There is no way that every person in South Africa can have a house, where every person in South Africa can have a job. There is no such thing. It will never happen. There is no such country, not this side of the grave anyway, and that was indeed the expectation. But I think there is a reluctance, I believe on the side of the government to act as a result of the tensions inside the ANC. I still believe the most important thing that is going to happen in the near future is not what happens between the ANC and the National Party and the IFP or whoever; the most important thing that is going to happen politically is what is going to happen inside the ANC. That alliance is a fragile one, it's being kept alive artificially to retain power and there are tremendous tensions inside the government philosophically. You need strong action against these unions. It's barbaric to do what they did. If you have a frustration you break windows and that kind of thing. It happened again over the weekend and you take hostages. I can't understand why the government hasn't got the guts to act. They should have the guts to act.

     On the one hand they have the international criticism or critical eye on them all the time whether they are going to allow South Africa just to become another African failure or third world failure, but particularly African failure. They would like to perform because they know that they have got a responsibility as individuals but also towards the country. They have got a responsibility to prove that they are the first really competent African government but they are not doing that yet.

     And I believe, from my political experience, if that happens there is something holding you back inside your structures. We all know about this Truth Commission, the tension between the freedom fighters and the Dullah Omars, the academics who didn't fight, and the cabals. We know all about that and we see it happening, the discomfort on the one side of the freedom fighters. The interesting thing in my view is the following, that in the case of the National Party members of government, be it at national or provincial level, members of the former government, they were not the ones at coalface level where atrocities took place. It has never happened that there was even a discussion on that, about the elimination of individuals or whatever. There was, for instance, discussion on cross border strikes. If a neighbouring country harboured ANC then we had no qualms whatsoever agreeing that that kind of activity should be eradicated. But removing a person like Goniwe permanently from society, forget it.

     However, in the case of the ANC top people in government today, they were in the bush, they were at the planning sessions of bombing Wimpy Bars and bombing in Church Street in Pretoria. They were there. But others in the ANC government were not there in the real struggle, and they have got this holier than thou attitude of everybody must now come and confess. All right. I am sure that a policeman will come and confess eventually and say that he eliminated Goniwe, but what about the stories that we hear about the direct involvement of Thabo Mbeki himself, the late Joe Slovo, Joe Modise, Jacob Zuma and so on and so on? There appear to be tensions there inside the ANC not only in terms of basic philosophies but also tensions in terms of the leadership power struggle. And until such time as there is a total realignment of parties in South Africa and you have a government elected on the basis of those new lines I don't think that it is possible to see strong action against police rebellion and so on. You will have to go through a period of extremely strict discipline in South Africa otherwise this country will disintegrate in the next five to ten years.

POM     So if you had somebody who was interested in investing in South Africa now sitting here at the table with you, what kind of a case would you make for my investing my capital here?

BDP     I will be fair with you, I will tell you what the risks are and you will have to compare it with other countries. Until six weeks ago I had hopes that our son living in New Zealand now as a doctor would come back. He sent me a fax and he said, "Dad, I won't come back. Sorry I have to tell you I will never come back to South Africa. I am reading all kinds of things about the education system being too Euro-centric and too great an accent on mathematics and I don't want my children to have an Afrocentric education. What has Africa contributed to the world?" And you must just look at the emigration figures. There is hardly an Afrikaans speaking family left that hasn't got children overseas now and they won't come back.

     So how can I say to any investor with an absolutely clear conscience, bring all the money that you have my friend, it will be absolutely safe from the point of view that there will be a sustainable growing economy. How can there be a growing economy if your police force rebels against itself? How can there be a growing economy if this huge clash inside the ANC about privatisation has not been resolved? I don't know. At this moment in time I am like a teenager, I oscillate like a sine curve between plus one and minus one. Sometimes I get up in the morning and I hear news and I live through a day and I end it on a plus one. And then something happens on the eight o'clock news tonight and I am in a minus one cycle for the next forty eight hours. I don't know what to think about my own country. After yesterday's pronouncements by Mr Mandela that a province can be cut off like that, I know that Buthelezi is one of the most difficult people and if he wants to walk over Buthelezi that's certainly not the way to do it like he did yesterday. He should have been much better advised than that.

POM     Just picking up on a couple of things. One is the Truth Commission. Are you in favour of that?

BDP     I am not in the least in favour of that, as proposed.

POM     Do you think if I was Matthew Goniwe's mother that I should have the right to know what in fact happened to him?

BDP     I think there should be a mechanism where Matthew Goniwe's family can come and say, listen, we want to know, and then if the system says, if the structure can be such to say OK fine, that was nothing else but an elimination by some state connected officials and that they will then be compensated. But to go on a witch hunt and have a string of confessions. I mean let's look at the mechanical or the technical aspects of it. Suppose I eliminated Goniwe, there is no way in the world that I will go and confess before a commission like that unless I have (i) complete assurance of compulsory (from the side of the state) indemnification, it must be guaranteed, and secondly, complete confidentiality which I believe is impossible to achieve. Suppose I go and confess and I subsequently read in the Sunday Times that I had confessed having killed so-and-so in a personal misinterpretation of the total onslaught or whatever. I won't be safe for the rest of my life. Somebody will try to eliminate me in revenge. Similarly if X, Y, Z today in government, provincial or otherwise, or in a senior position in the ANC, confesses to involvement in the Church Street bombing, some right wing person who may have lost a family member or a friend, or just in principle, will just go and eliminate him. It's absolutely naive in the real world to think that such a process will bring about reconciliation if issues are taken down to that level of detail.

     My firm conviction is, yes there must be remedies for the Goniwe family and there must be an acceptance of that guilt. But then acceptance must come from the whole Cabinet for their policy involvement at that stage, and all the top officials saying that they accept responsibility and accountability for what happened at that level. The basis of our view is that there may have been misinterpretation of what was meant by the 'total onslaught' and that everything in our power must be done to oppose the enemy, especially as interpreted at lower levels. They may have understood that they should go to certain activists and actually kill them instead of using legal methods. It's like Julius Caesar's murder, there are just too many knives to take one man and hang him. And the only remedy then is to compensate the family and for all involved to say we're sorry. This approach, but to go to individuals is wrong. This is exactly also the problem that the ANC has, because their top people who did things like that or who approved killings, sit in terribly important positions today.

POM     They are not all that much enthused about the prospect of a Truth Commission that would inevitably lead to themselves.

BDP     Correct. And what interests me tremendously because, I have said to you before that I believe that there are some of us who were the victims of abuse of our own judicial system in the power struggle inside the National Party, and what interests me is the extent to which this Truth Commission will be used inside the ANC to further the ambitions of certain individuals.

POM     You talked about how ultimately stability will depend upon a realignment of politics within the ANC. One question I've been asking people in the NP is, who are you? You are the junior partner in a coalition, you are part of the government and you also like to call yourselves the opposition. Well that's kind of moving between your minus one and your plus one on a daily basis. What do you see happening within the National Party itself?

BDP     Well when I talk about the realignment, my own view of it, and really I say this in all humility because I'm not close enough, I'm just an observer, I said to you before that I have severed all ties with party politics. I don't even take part in any real political discussions as such, I don't go to conferences, meetings or whatever. But I believe the realignment will not only affect the ANC, the realignment will be across the board. It will affect the National Party very dramatically. It should, hopefully, affect the IFP equally dramatically. That we will as soon as possible drift into the classic alignments or the classic divisions of more socialist and more capitalist, because that really is the only aspect of difference that we should have. Now maturing into that situation can be rather painful like any puberty period as a child. I often said from the stage that we go through a long period of puberty and if you are frustrated with your child you can't take your child and plug it in and accelerate its puberty period, you have to sweat it out. So we will have to sweat it out but that realignment will be different and the National Party has at this moment, at best, now and again as a result of international pressure abroad in terms of their threat to leave the government of national unity, only one publicly visible power. Also they have been able to improve legislation here and there, but they are not generally perceived to be a strength to be reckoned with otherwise.

POM     Is their power then a negative power, that if we pull out this will have international repercussions and will raise all the questions about the economic stability of the country and foreign capital will just dry up?

BDP     Yes, yes, absolutely. If the National Party walks out there will be a major drain on South African investments.

POM     I hear you saying two things. One is that in order for there to be some kind of normalisation of politics this radical realignment must take place and that's a slow process and a difficult process and a painful process, but that would at the same time send signals to foreign investors to hold off and wait to see what happens. But the longer they hold off

BDP     It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

POM     - the less the government can achieve because it is quite openly saying that without foreign investment we are not going to be able to achieve very much, so the thing starts to feed on itself.

BDP     But foreign investors are holding off anyway. We're not being flooded with long term foreign investment right now. It's not visible. There's a greater deal of optimism inside the country and we are achieving a positive growth rate but a very modest one, 3%.

POM     And offset against the population growth that really is?

BDP     And the backlog that we have. In my time it was a terrifically difficult challenge to try and convince South Africans to invest their money. What happens is your huge financial institutions with billions and billions of investment rands, they become paper chasers on the Stock Exchange and so on, and the business of moving money became a greater activity than the business of using money for production. Now this ISCOR issue, that's a local investment. There are a few of these investments, but certainly we are not seeing the kind of international investment that we had hoped for. So, why is that? Because everybody is taking a wait and see attitude. If a country can't make up its mind, if a party can't make up its mind about selling off a portion of Telkom and if important elements inside that ANC alliance come and say that the privatisation of ISCOR was a mistake and that there is no way that Transnet or sections or subsidiaries of it can be privatised, then you are not dealing with a free market situation. So I don't see the kind of investment anyway and until that realignment does take place I don't think that we will have it on sufficiently large scale.

BDP     And also, if I can add another thing, there is no such thing as government by the people for the people. A country is governed by two or three people. I don't know if I mentioned it to you before, I don't remember. I had long discussions professionally, or as a consultant almost, privately and on a basis of real confidentiality and that's why if you are going to publish only in a few years time then I can talk about it, with top people in the ANC up to shortly before the election.  We talked about the wonderful idea of government by the people for the people and I will be very brief on this. I said to them in my experience there is no such thing and I don't believe it obtains in any democracy in the world where you can say there is real government by the people for the people. A country is governed by an inner circle consisting of two or three people. Now was it Marx who said religion is the opium of the people? It's not religion that's the opium of the people, it's democracy that's the opium of the people and the art of creating a so-called democratic state is in the hands of two or three people with their vision, because they are elected as very special people, and with the intelligence that they can gather and the advice that they can get, they know what direction must be taken. The art of democratic government is to sell it through all those circles down to the ground and to translate their idea into an instruction by their conferences and their congresses coming back to them as an instruction. That is the art of government. Not to consult every John Citizen on whether there should be a hospital in Pretoria or not, just like Joe Soap around the corner, he will know nothing about a hospital in Pretoria if he is concerned with his little supermarket.

POM     The other element which ties in in a way to what you have said is regarding the RDP. All we've heard for the last three months is RDP, RDP, RDP, but when we go to the provinces and talk to Premiers, they all have a slightly different notion of what the RDP is about, sometimes they are directly contradictory to each other. Department heads have the same attitude, they just stare when we say, "What is it?" They say "Well it's not worked out yet". The ordinary person just glazes over the eye and looks at you. It was Mac Maharaj who told me after going into a township and spending an hour telling people why they should register for elections and the importance of the RDP, one or two people came up to him and said, "Now is the RDP a new political party?" and the other said, "Now these elections in November are they to vote Mr Mandela out of office?" So he gave up. It's like a blueprint which I understand, sort of like a wish list, but one question that no-one can answer for me satisfactorily is where does the money come from to fund it? It's certainly not going to come from cuts in the budget or domestic savings, that's just bull. This is one of the lowest domestic saving rates of developing countries in the world.

BDP     Absolutely. Well they've got a little bit of money, dedicated money, and then as I understood it, the idea was in each of the various departmental budgets to identify which of those expenditures can be redirected towards achieving the goals of the RDP. In other words instead of this department deciding on its own to build 1000 houses in location A the RDP says, "No, location Z is really the priority", and the houses must be such that that can then be redirected. That's why Jay Naidoo is the Minister without Portfolio so that he can negotiate with each and every minister to swing their expenditure patterns towards the RDP. That is how I understood the thing to happen and nothing has happened.

     You see in this country we have not had the ability in our time, nor in the present time, and I concede that it is only a year, to get all ministers to really understand what the importance of fiscal matters is and that if there is a directive from the RDP that your expenditure must be structured in this way, it just doesn't happen because the ministers don't understand it and they don't have accountability to do that or otherwise get fired. And the best example I can take is, some ministers regarded it as politically advantageous to overspend and nothing happened to them, you see? Whereas I think if Margaret Thatcher, with her Thatcherism, if a minister didn't perform according to Thatcherism's guidelines he was out. So if he wanted to retain his job it was his job to find out what contribution he can make, not Jay Naidoo to come and tell him what contribution should be made. I think it's a style of government, it's a style of fiscally disciplined government that was lacking in our time and it's lacking now and it's one that is based on the expenditure side. Ministers like to talk about what they are going to do for the public but in order to see that the mechanism really does achieve it is a different story and many of these departments do not have the officials that can do that properly and the officials are not that well informed, they don't attend Cabinet meetings. So it's a style of management that also lacks.

POM     What about the local government elections? At one level they are supposed to be the vehicle through which the RDP would be administered. On the other hand there is a distinct lack of enthusiasm on the part of the electorate to participate in them with the result that what you will get is maybe third tier government with third level people filling important positions with regard to the implementation of the RDP. Again there's a kind of contradiction between the tasks they will be asked to carry out and the calibre of the personnel that will be available to carry these tasks out.

BDP     I think there is truth in what you say, but if we talk about calibre of people it's not necessarily so that people are insufficiently educated for first, second or third level government, but it's a matter of experience and how to go about it. It's one thing to have a degree, to have an MBA, but it's another thing to run a company successfully. An MBA doesn't come out of university, walk into a company and create miracles. It doesn't work like that. So I don't know whether we will have successful third level elections and who will be elected and also it not only depends on the elected officials or elected representatives, it also depends on your bureaucracy and if you do affirmative action there and even if you get well qualified people through your affirmative action then you get people that were not really involved before and they will have to learn from scratch.

POM     Two more questions. They are both very brief. On a scale of one to ten where one would be very unsatisfactory and ten would be very satisfactory, how would you rate the performance of the government over the last year?

BDP     I would say a maximum of six.

POM     How would you rate the performance of President Mandela?

BDP     Eight and a half.

POM     Is he the glue that holds the whole thing together in a sense?

BDP     Yes. Yes, he holds it together, not through his chairmanship of Cabinet committees because I believe he is very seldom there, but Mr Mandela is the international figure. He is certainly the most popular, and I'm talking about whites as well, and respected President that South Africa has ever had.

POM     Not just South Africa. I think he occupies, he has world stature and a moral authority that

BDP     I really got a lump in my throat once when we had a one on one conversation. I said to him, "Mr Mandela I just want to tell you that I think" (English is not my first language so forgive me if I use the wrong words - I also said that to him) "but you are a God-gifted person, you are very special. You have been blessed beyond what any ordinary human being can every think. After 27 years in jail to come out and phase into life just like that and do everything with the kind of wisdom and dignity and aplomb that you have been doing it, it is just amazing."

     But I am afraid that he is a kind of a king and he severely lacks coalface people right there when you stand drilling the coal, where the action is. I'm an ex miner. I worked in the gold mines in my student days to earn pocket money. And I'm talking about there where the action is. He needs somebody to drive. And I come back to my previous point, if you don't have power you can't govern and if you have to seek your power right through the structures down to Joe Block and Philemon Mazamba every time, you can't make decisions and go ahead with the country and it's a race out there in the world, it's a race and all these other people that are running against you in the international economies and so on, they are not bogged down by all these decision making structures. I'm not saying that you must ignore the people down there, but the art of democratic government is to do the one, as the Bible says, and not neglect the other one. You must have power to decide and to discipline your ministers and if a guy doesn't perform, fire him, if he doesn't bring his contribution to the RDP. But on your major decisions get your people down there to give you a broad mandate and then you report back to them and say, well I'm within my mandate, and teach them because in this country the crucial thing is economics and if you consult with people, if you communicate with people 90% of your time with them is spent on educating them and only 10% is getting some intelligent feedback. So, I may be idealistic.

POM     One very last question and that is on economics. Again there is a kind of a conundrum, it seems to me, at work that if this country say begins to grow at 5% or 6% a year you would have a situation where imports will increase more quickly than exports, so you are running into a balance of trade problem or balance of payments problem which means you have to cut back on growth in order to protect your foreign

BDP     Not necessarily this time. That was with me because I had no access to foreign debt. There are IMF stand-by facilities for a balance of payments problem during a growth period and we have a tremendously large facility there. I think we will be able to sustain growth as far as the balance is concerned but we will not be able to sustain growth for an extended period of time yet without very real immigration of skills or a very rapid automation of processes because of our lack of skills and lack of work ethic.

POM     But you could have a situation as exists in many countries where you could have a relatively good rate of growth but a relatively good rate of growth has got nothing per se to do with increasing the number of jobs?

BDP     Yes, sure, but that's exactly what happens. It happens in hi-tech manufacturing and services, certain specialised services. And then your distribution of your growth is also a tremendous problem. But with trade unions doing what they are doing to this country, there is only one way out and that is if they demand all those salary increases the rand will pay the price. There is nothing so cruel as the process of economics. There is no free lunch in economics. If there isn't a direct relationship between the calluses on the inside of your hand and the value of the money that you put in your pocket then one of two things will happen. Either you will have to increase the calluses by increasing your productivity or the value of your money will go down, but that equilibrium will be restored and that equilibrium will be restored in South Africa by having a useless currency in terms of foreign exchange. That is what is going to happen. If salaries are demanded way in excess of increases in productivity, don't talk to unions about productivity, forget it.

POM     Thanks very much. You're a terrific interview.

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.